Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus is a slightly disturbing but at the same time fascinating film in which Jim White drives a big old car through the blistered heart of the deep south of the USA. In swamps and backwoods we meet the twisted and paralytic (on God and on dope), grizzled musicians wail and call the blues of the poor and the destitute. The armed biker, the prisoner, the trailer dwellers along the interstate, and many many God fearing salt of the earth types populate this film. Music and the old time religion of snake handlers and practitioners of glossolalia form the backdrop to a musical journey into a violent and intense but so very very alive landscape.

david johansen talks about harry smith and plays in a motel room

The Singing Hall Sisters performing "Knoxville Girl" in a diner in the the docudrama "Searching For The Wrong Eyed Jesus".

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Olivier Messiaen

Messiaen on Birds

Olivier Messiaen (French pronunciation: [mɛsjɑ̃]; December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a French composer, organist, and ornithologist. He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and numbered Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré among his teachers. He was appointed organist at the church of La Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post he held until his death. On the fall of France in 1940 Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, and while incarcerated he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments, piano, violin, cello, and clarinet. The piece was first performed by Messiaen and fellow prisoners to an audience of inmates and prison guards. Messiaen was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. His many distinguished pupils included Pierre Boulez, Yvonne Loriod (who later became Messiaen's second wife), Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and George Benjamin.

Messiaen's music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources), and is harmonically and melodically based on modes of limited transposition, which were Messiaen's own innovation. Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", drawing on his unshakeable Roman Catholicism. He travelled widely, and he wrote works inspired by such diverse influences as Japanese music, the landscape of Bryce Canyon in Utah, and the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Messiaen experienced a mild form of synaesthesia manifested as a perception of colours when he heard certain harmonies, particularly harmonies built from his modes, and he used combinations of these colours in his compositions. For a short period Messiaen experimented with the parametrization associated with "total serialism", in which field he is often cited as an innovator. His style absorbed many exotic musical influences such as Indonesian gamelan (tuned percussion often features prominently in his orchestral works), and he also championed the ondes Martenot.

Messiaen found birdsong fascinating; he believed birds to be the greatest musicians and considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer. He notated birdsongs worldwide, and he incorporated birdsong transcriptions into a majority of his music. His innovative use of colour, his personal conception of the relationship between time and music, his use of birdsong, and his intent to express religious ideas all combine to make Messiaen's musical style notably distinctive.

Messiaen organ improvisation

interprêtation des Feuillets Inedits de Olivier Messiaen (quelques partitions retrouvés par sa femme Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen ), Claude-Samuel Lévine aux Ondes Martenot, Klaus Simon au piano, dans un concert à Bâle le 19 octobre 2003

Olivier Messiaen: Le Merle Noir

In-depth feature on Olivier Messiaen by Radio France International's English service

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to Be Well Groomed (1949)

Do you think Don and Sue look like the sort of people you would like to know? I think they need help.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Could it ever happen again?

I remember when I was about 8 years old a great aunt of mine came back from London and gave me a (fake) gold razor blade on a chain. She said many colorful young people were wearing them in London. I also remember the fear in the air when this group of strange looking people came on TV around the same time. I realized later that it was the Sex Pistols. People in Australia, on the distant side of the globe from Denmark Street, were actually afraid of the Sex Pistols. I don't think there has been a group of musicians who have done that since.

Sex Pistols on the Today show, hosted by Bill Grundy, broadcast 1st December 1976.

Then around 1990 I discovered Public Image Limited. Art meets punk. I liked the Sex Pistols (I actually preferred The Clash), but Pil where poetic genius compared to the three chord assaults of the Pistols.

Part 1

Part 2.
John Lydon and Keith Levene from PIL piss off Tom Snyder.

Pil: Religion (Live in Tokyo)

PiL: Flowers of Romance

PiL: Public Image

PiL: Rise

And then today? What has become of the snarling voice of dissent and anarchy?

Did someone say 'butter'?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Final Music for Today: Anouar Brahem

anouar brahem - kashf

Tribute to Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem (transliteration of the Arabic أنور ابراهم) was born on October 20, 1957 in the town of Halfouine in the Medina of Tunis, Tunisia. He is an oud player and composer, who is widely acclaimed as an innovator in his field. Performing primarily for a jazz audience, he fuses Arab classical music, folk music and jazz and has been recording since at least 1991, after becoming prominent in his own country in the late 1980s.

Encouraged by his father, an engraver and printer, but also a music lover, Brahem began his studies of the oud at the age of 10, at the Tunis National Conservatory of Music, where his principal teacher was the oud master, Ali Sriti. An exceptional student, by the age of 15 Brahem was playing regularly with local orchestras. At 18 he decided to devote himself entirely to music. For four consecutive years Ali Sriti received him at home every day and continued to convey to him the modes, subtleties and secrets of Arab classical music through the traditional master / disciple relationship, particularly in the intricacies of the Maqam system, and taqsim.

Little by little, Brahem began to broaden his field of listening to include other musical expressions from around the Mediterranean, Iran and India, before jazz began to command his attention. According to Brahem, "I enjoyed the change of environment, and discovered the close links that exist between all these musics".

Brahem increasingly distanced himself from an environment largely dominated by entertainment music. He sought to do more than simply perform at weddings, and did not want to join one of the many existing ensembles, in which the oud was little more than an accompanying instrument for singers. Passion for his vocation as an oudist led him to give first place to his preferred instrument of Arab music, and to offer the Tunisian public ensemble and solo concerts. He began writing his own compositions and gave a series of solo concerts in various cultural venues. He also issued a self-produced cassette, on which he was accompanied by percussionist Lassaad Hosni.

A loyal public of connoisseurs gradually rallied around him and the Tunisian press gave enthusiastic support. Reviewing one of Brahem's first performances, critic Hatem Touil wrote: "this talented young player has succeeded not only in overwhelming the audience but also in giving non-vocal music in Tunisia its claim to nobility while at the same time restoring the fortunes of the lute. Indeed, has a lutenist produced such pure sounds or concretised with such power and conviction, the universality of musical experience."

In 1981, he left for Paris in search of new vistas. This enabled him to meet musicians from a variety of genres. He remained there as a composer for four years, notably for Tunisian cinema and theatre. He collaborated with Maurice Béjart for his ballet "Thalassa Mare Nostrum" and with Gabriel Yared as lutist for Costa Gavras’ film "Hanna K".

In 1985 he returned to Tunis, where an invitation to perform at the Carthage festival provided him with the opportunity to bring together for "Liqua 85", outstanding figures of Tunisian and Turkish music, and French jazz. These included Abdelwaheb Berbech, the Erköse brothers, François Jeanneau, Jean-Paul Celea, François Couturier and others. The success of the project earned Brahem Tunisia's Grand National Prize for Music.

In 1987, he was appointed director of the Musical Ensemble of the City of Tunis (EMVT). Instead of keeping the large existing orchestra, he broke it up into formations of variable size, giving it new orientations: one year in the direction of new creations, and the next more towards traditional music. The main productions were "Leïlatou Tayer" (1988) and "El Hizam El Dhahbi" (1989) in line with his early instrumental works and following the main axis of his research. In these compositions, he remained essentially within the traditional modal space, although he transformed its references and upset its hierarchy. Following a natural disposition towards osmosis, which has absorbed the Mediterranean, African and Far-Eastern heritages, he also touched from time to time upon other musical expressions: European music, jazz and other form


MacUmba - Damp Carpet

Live in London

MacUmba are a unique group of musicians based in Scotland who mix the traditional sounds of Scottish bagpipes with the infectious rhythms of Brazilian percussion.

Starting as a batucada (or drumming group) in the early 90's, MacUmba grew out of a series of drumming workshops held at the Glasgow School of Art. Soon after, MacUmba added various combinations of flutes, guitars, bass, voices etc. to the batucada, and performed at many events throughout Scotland.

The inception of the current MacUmba formation happened when they were asked to play at a major Scottish football cup final. It was decided to add bagpipes to the batucada in order to be more in line with the football tradition of pipe bands. This combination proved hugely popular, and as a result MacUmba was born.

Fela Kuti for the Afternoon

Teacher Don't Teach Me (1986)

Rare early footage (shot by Ginger Baker) featuring Fela & Afrika 70 performing in the rainy southeastern town of Calabar, shortly after the the Nigerian civil war.

From his 1973 album "Gentleman". The late great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, (15 October 1938 - 2 August 1997), real name Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, the pioneer of Afrobeat music. A Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, human rights activist, and political maverick.

Regarding his name change. He was known as Fela Ransome-Kuti until about 1978, when he renamed himself Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the middle name meaning 'he who carries death in his pouch'. He was a human-rights revolutionary who started his own political party, Movement Of The People, to protest the kleptocracy in Nigeria. He had his own compound called the Kalakuta Republic, in Lagos, which he declared independent from Nigeria, where he and his uncountable number of wives lived, and were constantly terrorized by the government. His influence on funk and African music is unsurpassed with approximately 77 albums.

The musical style performed by Fela Kuti is called Afrobeat, which is essentially a fusion of jazz, funk, psychedelic rock, and traditional African chants and rhythms. It is characterized by having African-style percussion, vocals, and musical structure, along with jazzy, funky horn sections. The endless groove is also used, in which a base rhythm of drums, shekere, muted guitar, and bass guitar are repeated throughout the song. His band was notable for featuring two baritone saxophones, whereas most groups using this instrument only use one. This is a common technique in African and African-influenced musical styles, and can be seen in funk and hip-hop. Some elements often present in Felas music are the call-and-response within the chorus and figurative but simple lyrics. Felas songs were almost always over 10 minutes in length, some reaching the 20- or even 30-minute marks, while some unreleased tracks would last up to 45 minutes when performed live. This was one of many reasons that his music never reached a substantial degree of popularity outside of Africa. His songs were mostly sung in Nigerian pidgin, although he also performed a few songs in the Yoruba language. Felas main instruments were the saxophone and the keyboards, but he also played the trumpet, guitar, and took the occasional drum solo. Fela refused to perform songs again after he had already recorded them, which also hindered his popularity outside Africa. Fela was known for his showmanship, and his concerts were often quite outlandish and wild. He referred to his stage act as the Underground Spiritual Game.

His album output slowed in the 1990s, and eventually he stopped releasing albums altogether. The battle against military corruption in Nigeria was taking its toll, especially during the rise of dictator Sani Abacha. Rumors were also spreading that he was suffering from an illness for which he was refusing treatment. On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, already a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, stunned the nation by announcing his younger brothers death a day earlier from Kaposis sarcoma brought on by AIDS. (Their younger brother Beko was in jail at this time at the hand of Abacha for political activity). More than a million people attended Felas funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound. A new Africa Shrine has opened since Felas death in a different section of Lagos under the supervision of his son Femi Kuti.

Feryal Öney- Aynalı Körük

Morning music as huge chunks of snow melt and crash to the ground outside my window. drums...crash...drums...crash...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Music from Three Groups

Pocahaunted-Ashes is White
Download Dusk by Pocohaunted

Brain Bombs - Jack the Ripper Lover

Stag Hare @ Kilby Court / July 24, 2008 from Michael Biggs on Vimeo.
Part of Stag Hare's set at Kilby Court in Salt Lake City, July 24 2008

Sally Golding

Film Performance. London. 25 July 2008.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Idrissa Soumaoro - N'badenw

Idrissa Soumaoro
Idrissa Soumaoro

The musical credentials of Idrissa Soumaoro are impeccable. Having learnt his trade with Les Ambassadeurs with Salif Keita in Bamako, he has been a force within Malian music for a number of years, receiving the Knight of the National order of Mali in recognition of his contribution to Malian culture and music. This came to the notice of famed African producer, Ibrahim Sylla (Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, Ismael Lo), who has taken Idrissa and created the beautiful album Köte

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Earth (Gaia) by The Orb (1993)

My epiphany came in late 1993. I was at a rave in the forest outside Sydney. While I was sober at the time, the scene around me resembled a dream by a chemically enhanced Fellini. I was lying on a small foot bridge over a stream enjoying the early morning sunshine (this was a three-day occasion) watching the clouds in the sky floating over me. Suddenly 'Gaia' began on the decks, I realised there was water passing under my body, water passing over my body (as clouds) and my body was largely composed of water. Three in One. Everything was going to be OK.
The mountains shall drop sweet wine, and the hills shall melt....

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Leonard Cohen

Suzanne, At the Isle of Wight 1970

Bird on a Wire

Sisters of Mercy

Hey, thats no way to say goodbye

Great Music to Listen to When One has a Cold and Feels Crap......


BLOGUMENTARY playfully explores the many ways blogs are influencing our media, our politics, and our relationships. Personal political writing is the foundation of our democracy, but mass media has reduced us to passive consumers instead of active citizens. Blogs return us to our roots and re-engage us in democracy. Shot in candid first-person style by director Chuck Olsen.

NOTE: This film is presented here for non-profit, educational use only. You can make a donation at if you're so moved