So what's the
main problem with authorized biographies? Well they're authorized. This means
certain vital facts may be left out due to jealousies, estate disputes, etc.
Such is the case with the long-awaited Moondog by Robert Scotto on, get this,
Progress Press. But if you're a fan like I am you will overlook this simply
stated bio's one oversight which are his many years spent in Germany part
of which was spent with 2 now-dear friends of mine. After being stolen away
from them by his last companion Ilona Goebel who helped him set up Managarm
(Norse for Moondog) which became the primary holding company for Thomas Hardin
Jr.'s (Moondog's real name) artistic endeavors. She now controls the estate
& for some unknown reason has decided to obliterate my friends Norbert
Nowotch and Tom Glott from the Moondog history, a hard thing to do since rewriting
history ain't always easy when there's enough proof to sink a ship.
Well aside from
this grave omission & a mislabeled photo that Norbert actually took and
is not credited for (it's in Muenster not Ricklinhausen), the book is a vital
addition to the Moondog cannon covering his entire life & music up to
his death, with a small mention of his German years & a wonderful cd sampler.
I give this piece about a great underrated artist's life in sound & art
of a sound art, there's a fantastic new book by Alan Licht on the subject
aptly titled, you guessed it, Sound Art, with a forward by Jim O'Rourke, who
now lives in Japan, containing a great compilation cd with the likes of DuBuffet
& Charles Curtis. It is beyond a must. It's a veritable bible on the subject
with explanations & examples from the past to the present & an abundance
of color & b & w illustrations & photos. It's 300 plus pages are
rich with detail & rather than it be a cumbersome coffee table book it
is normal reading size but a bit pricey at $55. I highly recommend this to
connoisseurs as well as novices as a learning tool. A+.
Yet another book
I suggest music, as well as art lovers try to find, in these trying times
more than ever, is a book that somehow slipped thru the cracks after its publication
by Rizzoli almost 2 years ago. It is Woody Guthrie, Art Works, by Steven Brower
and Woody's daughter Nora Guthrie,a marvelous, warm book with facsimiles of
Woody's drawings, journals & sketchbooks.
Now on to a few
recent concerts that I saw & almost completely loved, to end 2007 &
1. Harry Partch's
Delusion of the Fury (like Moondog, an underrated outsider & completely
unique individual) at Japan Society. Though I found a lot of the acting, singing,
choreography, story & distracting, unnecessary ceiling projections in
the Partch piece somewhat hokey, just the thrill of seeing the instruments
& hearing they're incredible percussive & ringingly Partch brand of
microtonal melodious sounds (a haunting zither tune throughout) & composition
was enough to sustain me thru the 90 minutes. Based on Noh theatre & African
folklore it's use of the orchestra as an integral part of the stage both musically
& vocally ? la Greek chorus was astounding.
going into the details of the somewhat tragic-comical story, its message at
the end still resounds in my ears; ··Oh how did we ever get
by without justice? Pray for me. Oh pray for me.·?
2. Bill Frisell,
Ron Carter & Paul Motian at the Blue Note. I couldn't have been happier
when it came to hearing such well executed ··inside·?
music by this stellar trio. Frisell kicked butt taking us thru everything
from Hank Williams to Monk. Ron Carter played more than I've seen him play
in years (though that's not saying much) & Paul Motian proved that besides
being one of the most innovative drummers he is also, as shown years ago with
Bill Evans, one of the best time keepers & backbones of any combo using
primary brush strokes to paint a gorgeous landscape for Frisell & Carter
to walk thru with luxurious, austere, quiet, spacious, elegant & esthetically
pleasing tones by all.
3. At her recent
concert at Roulette, Okkyung Lee presented a full length, 4 part composition
entitled ··then, there, that corner...·? which, except
for some tottering moments in part 3, I found masterful. I've watched her
growth as a musician since her arrival in New York a few years ago & cannot
be happier with the better part of her daring & forthrightness.
Here she played
the role of conductor, never once touching her cello. It is rare, however,
to see a score so well navigated by the crew the captain has chosen to lead
toward shore. The piece contained aspects of hemi-(spherical) circulation.
An oral history of encapsulating biographies sans conventional melody structures,
in fact a condition where melody plays second fiddle to form so to speak.
Where formula is apparent but obfuscated & subjugated by ideas & where
the goal is the whole of its sums. Melodies are rooted in dislocation. Sound
mingles with rhythm. A piece showing how space is treated & mistreated/handled.
Where one wonders about where the solo begins & the ensemble ··ends.·?
How notation is fractured & marginalized. Moon's face caught in the violin
strings. That rare twist when the navigator allows herself to be navigated.
Where sometimes we get lost in the changes & sometimes the changes themselves
get lost. Where one man's ultimate passion is set in motion thru the articulation
of his many voices (the outstanding solo by trumpeter Peter Evans). Where
invention surpasses intention & uniqueness is not something strove for
but something unavoidable. What we have is a collision with the self &
its need to BE, its need to supercede its own superficiality at all costs
outside & aside from its creator's own domesticity. Let's hope this reaches
the cd audience one day.
& now for
my first music listening of 2008, 2 of which I've managed to come away from
with my first newly written poems of this, what seems to be, great beginning
1. Matthew Shipp's
solo concert at the Rubin Museum proved once again that Shipp is still one
of the most daring and individual voices on the scene. This was Shipp's first
concert since the passing of his mother & some of that raw emotion he
still felt shone through. The evening consisted of 2 completely different
sets presented in Shipp's signature fashion of continuous loops, each lasting
about 35 minutes. The first started out a bit choppy and uneven, as do most
Shipp sets, not so much because of musical instability but almost because
of a deliberate need to throw us off balance with his own brand of disjointed
almost sloppy drunk off-kilter banging in the low register opening up the
Scriabinesque color field with a seemingly imbalance of form that he is a
master of. The set was vibrant, alive, and rhapsodically abstract with the
usual Shipp imprint of repetition, pounding low register left hand to midrange
right hand tenderness. In this case he repeated throughout a boppish riff
he had written years ago for the cd Gravitational Systems called ··Knots.·?
His second set
was sweeter, quieter, and stayed mostly mid-range. It came replete with a
backdrop of slides Shipp had picked from the museum's fantastic holdings of
Tibetan art. The tunes repeated most here were the Shipp original Module and
a creative dissection of the old favorite, ··My Funny Valentine.·?
(Shipp, over the years, has frequented standards and cubed them in his own
very personal way.) About 2/3rds through the set he threw in a hint of ··As
Time Goes By.·? When I asked him afterward why he didn't continue with
it, he said it happened by accident, then shrugged saying it felt too mushy.
Well all I can say is ··PLAY IT AGAIN SHIPP.·?
My second concert
of the New Year was at John Zorn's club, The Stone, curated this month by
Hal Willner. It was by one of my all time favorite musicians Charles Gayle,
leading a trio consisting of Hill Greene (a long time associate of Gayle's)
on bass & Ryan Sawyer (a newcomer to Gayle's trio) on drums.
black and playing a white alto came out screeching in a strange intervalic
way that I never quite heard him do before. The music went from intense to
extremely tender when by the fourth selection he played a lilting catchy ··medley·?
of which he told me later was a variation on 2 folk songs he had learned as
a kid. Almost everything he played throughout the night, as with Shipp in
his gig, sounded like dissected recognizables, though like Shipp he does plan
in advance what he will play & too like Shipp he never brings any written
music to a gig, it all being completely spontaneous and improvised. Though
unlike Shipp there is very little repetition from one session to the next.
For his last tune, Gayle played the piano and for the second time in public,
did so, blindfolded and wearing a laughing clown mask. He explained, as he
did the first time I saw him do this, that it's easy to play the sax withut
looking but not so with the piano, hence the handicap. And he played his heart
out starting sweetly and then erupting into a chaotic flurry. Throught the
entire set, Greene & Sawyer did not miss a beat, both using impeccable
timing and intuition while following Gayle's every move.
Also saw a great
Zeena Parkins, George Lewis, John King, Fast Forward concert at the Merce
Cunnigham Dance Studio, all composed works by the 4 filled with both acoustic
and electronics elements with great moment by all especially the witty musicality
of Fast Forward's percussion work on spoon, forks, bags, pots or as they say
everything but the kitchen sink.
for me in the New Year will be Vision Festival collaboration, David Murray,
Boulez and Elliott Carter to name a few and that's just in January. But for
now I will leave you with these words: ··LISTEN.·?
I am an insomniac.
Every nite when I go to bed I sing a song in my head over & over again.
The last one was ·?Idiot Wind·? after seeing the Dylanesque
bio-flick I'm Not There. This past month it's been ··Peace Train·?
after seeing Cat Stevens sing it at the Nobel Prize concert on Ovation, a
great channel for music & art docs·? ··I've been
ridin' on the peace train·? etc. Don't we all wish in this new year
with this new administration that we'll all be riding that train soon? Don't
we just wish?
version of this article originally appeared in the Brooklyn Rail.