Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ATH: ITM Team of the Week!

The Ingram Tom Moore football team was named the Army Strong Team of the Week for Class 2A by Dave Campbell's Texas Football on Tuesday.

"The U.S. Army is recognizing the student-athletes at Tom Moore High School for demonstrating qualities similar to those exhibited by its Soldiers. Student-athletes and Soldiers share similar values, but more importantly they must be mentally, emotionally and physically strong," said CPT Keath O. Toney in a press release from Texas Football. "We expect to see some of these young men competing at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the college level, or maybe even professionally in the future."

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ATH: Johnny Manziel for Player of the Week

Vote here

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FAM: Zsa Zsa

Zsa Zsa news . . . http://ping.fm/K7jrC


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GSQ: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on the horizon!

click on poster to see full size . . .

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World Music News Wire #21

Sousaphones, Super Fly, and 7/8: Brass Menažeri’s Bumping Brass Party Grooves from Bosnia to Bollywood


Bosnian gems mingle with Bollywood bangles, while Rromani (Gypsy) hits mix with super-fly funk. Thanks to dreamed melodies and down-and-dirty bass lines, Brass Menažeri has been packing Mission bars with a heady mix of Balkan perfection and Bay Area eccentricity, of serious chops and serious joy, for years.

Now on Vranjski San¸ the brass band with attitude breaks out a fresh vision of how hip Balkan brass can be, while maintaining a rare depth of cultural knowledge. The group puts a new polish on favorite songs from Rromani, Greek, and Slavic masters, while shining light on unexpected sides of Balkan culture: the love of Bollywood, the funky production esthetics, the constant hunger for new sounds to try in old forms.

Brass_CDCover “We like to lay it down,” smiles Peter Jaques, Brass Menažeri director, clarinetist, and horn player. “We bring in elements of rock and funk, but subsume them into the tradition, something parallel to what’s going on in places like Serbia. They aren’t sticking to the sounds of the 1960s. They bring in whatever they hear as new color for their palettes.”

Witness “Opa Cupa Fly,” a funkified take on a classic by the popular Rromani singer and accordionist Šaban Bajramović. After years of playing their brass band arrangement of the song—and starting a minor “Opa Cupa” craze among belly dancers—the band was seriously sick of their big hit. So they reimagined the track, throwing in a heavy Earth, Wind, and Fire-style backbeat and inviting friends from the Afrobeat group Aphrodesia to leap in. The result was “a funk remix of the song, with a nod to Super Fly,” Jaques explains.

Or “Lal Lal Hothon Pe,” a Bollywood number big in the 1990s that somehow lent itself perfectly to Balkan-style brass band, hinting at long-lost ties between the Rroma and their subcontinental kindred. Or “Hassan’s Dream,” a tune by jazz saxophonist Benny Golson that in Brass Menažeri’s hands suddenly intertwines with new modes and scales to become utterly Ottoman.

Yet all this quirky creativity and unbridled innovation rests on a firm foundation of cultural knowledge and strong musicianship that speaks of decades playing and partying to Balkan music.

Jaques, who got into Balkan brass through what he humorously calls “the gateway drug of klezmer,” was mesmerized early on by the complex time signatures characteristic of even the most straightforward Balkan dance music. Fascination led to several stints at a California Balkan music camp and finally to a community band of sorts, made up of fellow fans from camp.

To this strong base, Jaques and his bandmates have added deep musical and cultural knowledge gleaned on extensive trips around the former Yugoslavia, exploring brass festivals, and finding and composing new tunes. The traditions have sunk into Jaques’s bones—and even disturbed his sleep.

One night in the Serbia town of Vranje, after a day at a small brass festival, “I woke up in the middle of the night and I had this melody in head. I wrote it down by flashlight in my music book,” Jaques recalls. “I played through it the next day and was surprised; I didn’t have to change the melody at all.” That melody became “Vranjski San (Vranje’s Dream).”

Like the melody, Brass Menažeri’s big break came from an unexpected quarter: an invitation to play a small bar in San Francisco’s Mission thanks to an unexpectedly enthusiastic booker. They packed the place, and have been filling dance floors with delicious songs in 7/8, fat sousaphone bass lines, and high-speed horn antics ever since.

While many groups in the Bay Area focus on precise recreation of traditional sounds, Brass Menažeri insists on a new twist, even for their straight-ahead Balkan numbers. They often take a song that was originally Bosnian, and give it a Serbian or Macedonian treatment, reflecting the creative process once common in Yugoslavian music, now fraught with bitterness. Jaques muses, “In some tiny way, this is about peacemaking.”

To understand the subtleties, it helps to understand the peculiar lives of songs in the former Yugoslavia. Songs can be dividing lines between people, even for those who share and love another ethnic group’s songs in private. Jaques experienced this situation firsthand while camping with a friend and his father at one of the biggest brass festivals in the Balkans. Jaques had his horn, and his friend’s father kept urging him to play something. Next to them stood a grim group of very unfriendly Serbian nationalists.

“I played what I thought was everybody’s song. I’d heard Serbian bands play it, but it’s a Bosnian-sounding song. The Rroma like it, too. I even heard him singing it just the day before,” Jaques recounts. “He pretended he didn’t know it. He wouldn’t sing along and was stonewalling. I left really frustrated, and my friend said, ‘Sorry, that was a Bosnian song.’ That’s one of the reasons I got into approaching this music as if those boundaries weren’t there—or crossing them.”

The boundaries melt away in Brass Menažeri’s pumping bass and nimble solos, capturing the ethos of the open-minded Bay Area and its Eastern European émigré community that relishes the band’s shows. “We have pan-Balkan fans, and they all hang out together. I don’t know how much credit to take for that,” Jaques laughs. “People who were at war come hear us and realize that they have everything in common, that Serbian versus Bosnian versus Albanian doesn’t matter too much. They all speak the same language and share same tastes. And everybody loves to dance.”

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Monday, August 30, 2010

NAT: Scottish Gaelic

UA Researchers Help Preserve Scottish Gaelic

Andrew Carnie, a UA linguistics professor, is heading a research project to analyze and document Scottish Gaelic, a language that is slowly being lost because natives more readily are learning and speaking English.

Scottish Gaelic, an endangered language, is predicted to fall out of use within the century as a consequence of native speakers turning to English instead.

And those concerned with preserving and advancing the use of Scottish Gaelic face another dilemma – the lack of measures accurately stating what constitutes normative Gaelic speech.

At the University of Arizona, Andrew Carnie is leading a team in an analysis of Scottish Gaelic and its use among native speakers.

The team intends for the research – which involves modern instrumental and experimental measurements – to boost preservation efforts and improve what is understood about the language.

"It is a reasonably well-documented language," said Carnie, a UA linguistics professor whose ancestry is rooted in Scotland "But we now have the equipment to gather more precise data."

One practical goal of the project is to provide a base-line measure of the speech of native speakers to use in creating materials to use in teaching the language to younger people.

Diana Archangeli, a UA linguistics professor and a collaborator on the project, comes with expertise in utilizing ultrasound to study ways native speakers form words in their mouths, offering important insight into articulations of consonants and vowels.

Other team members are: Mike Hammond, who heads the UA linguistics department; Natasha Warner, a UA associate professor of linguistics; native speaker Muriel Fisher, also a UA instructional aide and senior research specialist; and also Colin Gorrie, Lionel Mathieu, Micaya Clymer and Jessamyn Schertz, all gradute students in the linguistic department.

The team also used artificially modified sounds to test the perception of sounds among native speakers.

In studying Scottish Gaelic – the most at-risk of Celtic languages – Carnie and his team are using the equipment and other methods to analyze sentence structure, rare sounds and also perceptions about the language native speakers hold, among other features.

The researchers are incorporating advanced technology previously unavailable in the study of sound systems.

Carnie, who also works on Modern Irish Gaelic, has earned several research grants for his work, including funding from the National Science Foundation.

Today, various estimates suggest between 30,000 and 60,000 people still speak the language, with most native speakers living in the Highlands and Islands region of Scotland.

Carnie also has traveled to Scotland with Fisher, who also teaches Gaelic at the UA, to interview 18 native speakers.

"There are a couple of things about the language that are alien to the English-speaking brain," said Fisher, who teaches with the UA's Critical Languages Program.

"Because Gaelic is a verb-initial language, once you have said the first word of a sentence you often just tend to keep on going," said Fisher, who is currently teaching at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where she was raised.

"You could easily start and, the next thing you know, there is a story involved," she said.

Team members emphasized the difficulty in understanding and researching the language, noting that the elusive nature of Scottish Gaelic is rooted in it being such a rare and unique language.

For instance, it is not uncommon for speakers to change the first consonant of a word depending on the meaning they are trying to convey.

"There are a lot of very strange properties," Archangeli said.

Carnie has been invited to present the team's preliminary findings during the annual Celtic Linguistics Conference to be held in Ireland in September.

Preliminary data suggests broad variation among grammar and word usage. The team has also found that native speakers exhibit inconsistency in spelling and pronunciation of certain words with some speakers being unable to appropriately determine the number of syllables in certain words.

This indicates that it is particularly necessary to develop materials for teaching the language, Carnie said.

In recent years, the Scottish government has boosted efforts to help elevate the status of the language while encouraging citizens to began learning it.

In 2003, the government established a language development agency and, earlier this year, released a plan to educate "a new generation of Gaelic speakers," boosting support of early language instruction.

Yet, while certain Scottish schools do teach the language, the number of students in training tends to be low. Additionally, little research is being conducted on the language abroad, Carnie and Archangeli said.

Archangeli said: "A very highly complex language is what we're dealing with."

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Friday, August 27, 2010

ATH: Ingram Tom Moore Warriors Win!

Ingram Warriors snap one of the nation's longest losing streaks with 8-7 win over Natalia tonight! . . . streak broken at 40 (some publications had it at 56) is the 14th longest in Texas history. Congrats to Cody, Jacob and all the Warriors for overcoming amazing obstacles to be winners!

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MSC: A little Ozzy and Yuto




The Daily Silliness

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.


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The Daily Silliness

No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.


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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

REV: Jacquie's Bye Bye Birdie Review

“Bye Bye Birdie” A Hit
A CURRENT REVIEW by Jacquie Bovée

Playhouse 2000's rendition of “Bye Bye Birdie" is a must see ticket! The direction is excellent, the cast is fabulous, the set is terrific, the songs are outstanding, the orchestra's top notch and the book is hilarious.

The Tony Award winning musical hit “Bye Bye Birdie,” with book by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse, opened on Broadway in April of 1960 and ran 607 performances. It opened on the West End in 1961, and in 1981 Donald O’Connor opened in the sequel “Bring Back Birdie.” The Movie, with Dick Van Dyke, came out in 1963 and the TV adaption aired in 1995.

It is said that the idea for “Bye Bye Birdie” was planted in the mind of Stewart on September 22, 1958 when the drafted rock-and-roll idol Elvis Presley boarded a ship for Germany. Amid a media circus, Presley gave a specially selected WAC his last kiss.

Director Jeffery Brown cast, of almost 3 dozen, is crammed full of talent, and Brown knows just how to stage them. The production number “Honestly Sincere,” pictured above, is absolutely hilarious.

Jeff Cunningham’s Scene Designs are, as always, inventive, functional and a feast for the eyes. Cunningham has even put Musical Director Mike Kasberg and his orchestra, bandstand and all, on stage.

Jeremy Sosa does a top-notch job as Albert, Birdie’s manager (the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke). Albert’s secretary, Rosie O’Leary is beautifully portrayed by Emily Philips. And Carol Maryan is a hoot as Albert’s possessive mother Mae.

Max Smith is awesome as Conrad Birdie and Kim MacAfee (Brandi Neeley), his Sweet Apple, Ohio pick for the last kiss, is terrific. And the lanky Zach Salcich turns in a delightful rendition of Kim’s jealous boyfriend Hugh.

Jerry Mertz’s portrayal of Mr. MacAfee is excellent and you’ll laugh your head off watching him in the “Last Kiss,” the scene on the Ed Sullivan show. The rest of the MacAfee family, Kim’s mother (Krista Turner) and little brother Randolph (Jack interpretation), play their roles perfectly.

Community Theatre veteran and character actress, Joan Bryson, turns in a hysterical bit as Phyllis. Play2k volunteer and player Neill Day does a lot with his small part, and Dowell Mudry is great and certainly memorable as does Conrad's rock n’ roll guitarist.

Teens, Harvey Johnson, Alice and the Sad Girl are exceptionally well played by Jimmy Abbatiello, Emily Eubank and Reilly Downes. As are Suzie, Nancy, Penelope and Deborah Sue by Emily Mudry, Megan Simon, Jeska Sanchez and Andrea DeLeon.

Nicholas Boland’s lighting design is outstanding and the costumes created by Deb Phillips and Carole Weatherred are nifty.

Play2K has not only done two huge musicals this summer, they have done a phenomenal job. First with the Broadway class “Sound of Music” and now with a sensational interpretation of “Bye Bye Bridie.” Kudos to the Cunninghams - their dazzling array of volunteer performers, their formidable crews and amazingly talented directors, musicians, costume designers, choreographers and Play2k Academy students.

See you at the theatre!

From the left; Zach Salcich (Hugo), Brandi Neely (Kim) Reilly Downes (Sad Girl) Jerry Mertz (Mr. MacAfee) Max Smith (Conrad Birdie), Krista Turner (Mrs. MacAfee), Aaron James (Lee), Joan Bryson (Phyllis), Neill Day (Policeman) and Jimmy Abbatiello (Harvey). By the time this production number is over, you’re sure to agree “it” was worth the price of the ticket. - Photo by Jacquie Bovée

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

World Music News Wire #20

The Lone Songbird in the Woods: Michèle Choinière Gives New Voice to Long-Lost Franco-American Songs on La Violette


Along the borderlands between the U.S. and Canada, a lone songbird sings with a voice clear, rich, and distinctly French. Her name is Michèle Choinière, and nestled in the northwestern Vermont woods, she continues a once thriving Franco-American oral tradition that recalls the bright cheer of kitchen parties, the wry pleasures of courtship, and the sway of a waltz.

Known for her originals and her distinctive interpretations of traditional songs, she has returned to her family and cultural roots on La Violette, a tribute to the ties that bind and their musical vitality. Drawing on francophone songs unique to northwestern Vermont, as well as French folk classics and popular gems, Choinière puts a contemporary polish on songs as old as the hills, with a festive tenderness.

MicheleCh_CD Choinière was raised with French as her first language, at a time when many of her peers were no longer learning their parents’ mother tongue. Many Francophones on the American side of the border wanted their children to assimilate. These immigrant families, who came to the U.S. for work during the hard times of the 1920s and 1930s, maintained a quiet presence, farming and working in an area where they were not particularly welcome. But their children, now adults, are frustrated that they were not privy to this Franco-American inheritance.

Choinière’s family was the exception to this rule. Not only did her parents speak French at home, her parents both taught her songs: her mother through the everyday songs sung in the kitchen while preparing meals, and her father through his harmonica playing. But the main venue for the passing of these traditions was the soirée–the kitchen party–where families and friends would gather, push the table to the corner, pull out the harmonica, fiddle, and the accordion, stomp on the table for percussion, dance, drink, and of course, sing.

With this unique background, Choinière often laughs when she is told that she is the only Franco-American singer in the whole state of Vermont, a lone voice recalling a rich and beautiful tradition. Her songs come from a variety of sources beyond her vibrantly musical family.

She’s mined treasured recordings of elderly local singers and turned to dusty cassettes of funky French-Canadian broadcasts from the 1950s and 60s. In a world of chords, sheet music, and fake books, Choinière works almost exclusively off the page, diving into oral traditions and transforming as she goes. It is an organic process of showing the skeleton of a piece to musicians and having them add their own flavors to the song.

For a woman who never set out to be a professional singer, Choinière has slid gracefully into the role, unfolding as a musician as an adult. Singing with her father, she found herself featured on a Smithsonian Folkways recording of Franco-American music from New England, Mademoiselle, Voulez-Vous Danser? (1999)

And soon she began writing her own songs, originals that came together on Coeur Fragile (2003). “My piano became my therapy,” she smiles, “and as for my voice, I never wanted voice lessons. I wanted to sing in my own way.” Her voice embraces a distinctively French sound, yet remains sweet, velvety, and whispery, twisting and twirling the nuanced strands of the language. But Choinière’s voice can pack a potent—and potently upbeat—punch. La Violette is at its heart a dance album.

From the starting notes and percussion of the opening track, “Fue a de Lou,” her voice lilts through waltzes and dance tunes opening into unique musical spaces and images: from the antiquated upright piano emanating a tinkling tone from the corner of the family living room, to the lively musical moments of a soirée.

“Fue a de Lou,” Choinière feels, “has a driving force to it, like you’re on the ocean, in a boat, moving forward.” Its playful movement, and nonsense chorus, add to the festive feel of the song, which is unique to Franco-American Vermont. This is followed by another lively party tune, “La Violette,” and is a shining example of how Choinière creates her own version of traditional tunes.

While some Franco-Americans may insist she adhere strictly to the tradition, Choinière believes strongly in ‘modernizing’ the songs she has learned from her family and her community. Through her own arrangements, she gives fresh voice to the music. “La Bergere Encore,” a jazz arrangement of a traditional children’s song, is a surprising shift in tone and style, yet reveals how flexible and powerful Franco-American music can be.

For Choinière, this album is a living memoir of her family. Several songs, including “Quand le soleil dit bonjour” and “Par un Samedi matin,” were sung by family members frequently throughout her youth, including at her parents’ wedding.

And many illustrate the importance of place in the collective memories of the immigrant experience. “Vive la Rose” draws on the experiences of the Acadians in the Maritime provinces, while “Brind’amour” is a 1920s French café song once popular among Franco-Americans. “Rame, Rame, Rame, Donc” recalls the St. Lawrence seaway in Québec, evoking the repetitive motion of rowing on a river, while the words imagine rowing away from hardship towards a more peaceful place.

The true inspiration for this colorful, poignant collage of distinctively French music, however, lies not with past generations, but with the family’s newest member, Choinière’s daughter Isabella. Each song serves as a momentum of what Choinière hopes to pass on to her little girl, a menagerie of ideas, values, histories, and poetic images of what it means to be Franco- American in 2010. And it’s an album little Isabella can dance her heart out to.

La Violette connects generations to their history in New England, in Quebec, and in France to their history as Franco-Americans. It tells a story of a people connected through musical, linguistic, and cultural traditions, historical snapshots evoking time and place for the nearly lost roots of New England’s Francophones. With sprightly songs, Choinière beckons to audiences to listen to her cultural call, and increasingly, they do.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

COM: Some bizarre coincidences . . .

75-year-old mystery: 2 fetuses wrapped in 1930s California newspapers found in doctor bags
By NARDINE SAAD, The Associated Press, LOS ANGELES

Yiming Xing peeled back the tattered Los Angeles Times pages from the first of two small bundles, hoping to find antiques beneath the 1930s newsprint. Then came the stunning realization that she was staring at tiny human remains.

"When I saw it was something like that I kind of freaked a little bit, so I just left it on the table and then we called the police," Xing said Wednesday, recalling a feeling that perhaps "we kind of disturbed the spirit."

Authorities opened the second bundle and found a larger, more fully developed fetus.

The bundles had been placed in doctor bags inside a green steamer trunk from the 1920s. They had been there for more than 75 years in the basement of the apartment complex, a four-story brick building in the Westlake district of Los Angeles, a once-elegant neighborhood west of downtown.

The 94-unit Glen-Donald building was home to doctors, lawyers, writers and actors when it opened in 1925. It featured a grand lobby and its basement had once been a ballroom and the site of elaborate galas.

Xing was helping her friend Gloria Gomez, the onsite manager, clean out the basement late Tuesday when she made the discovery.

The trunk was inscribed with the initials JMB and also contained a certificate giving Miss Jean Barrie membership in the Peter Pan Woodland Club mountain resort, which burned down in 1948. In addition, there was a typing manual bearing the signature "Jean M. Barrie," ticket stubs from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games, wedding photos and other items.

As coroner's officials began investigating, residents were left to speculate about the owner of the trunk; the possibility of secret abortions in an era before the procedure was legal; and an odd fact: Peter Pan was created by Scottish author James M. Barrie, who died in 1937.

"This building is a historic building. It has a lot of stories there, and now it's getting more interesting," said Xing, 35, a six-year resident and genetics researcher.

No one could immediately say whether there was a connection between the mysterious Jean M. Barrie and the fetuses; whether someone else might have hidden the remains in the trunk; and whether the Peter Pan connection was anything more than a coincidence.

"We're trying to piece all of the parts of the puzzle together," coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter told news radio station KNX-AM. He described the remains as fetuses and said they were wrapped in newspapers dated 1933 and 1935.

While cleaning, Gomez and Xing had tried several keys on the steamer trunk but finally had to pry it open with a screwdriver. Items found in its full drawers included a pearl necklace, girdle, bowl, toilet figurine, books, photos, documents and a cigar box painted with images of saints.

Then they found the two black leather bags.

Xing opened the first soft bundle and found what looked like a piece of brown, dry, very old wood.

Coroner's investigators unwrapped the second bundle to find the larger set of remains.

Xing said those remains "looked exactly like a baby," with hair on its developed head.

Coroner's investigators took the remains, drawers, medical bags, photos, letters and postcards, Gomez said.

Former building manager John Medford, 68, a 22-year resident, was among those speculating that the fetuses were from abortions.

"In 1936, abortion was illegal," he said, recounting the era of back-alley procedures. "Women were in desperate straits then."

Police were awaiting results from the coroner's office.

"We have many more tools and technology available to us than before, which may allow for identification of the victims and closure to any family members," Police Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

FAM: Zsa Zsa going home . . .

Zsa Zsa Gabor to spend final days at home

93-year-old star is in and out of conciousness, declines additional surgery

, updated 8/16/2010 7:31:10 PM ET

Gabor, 93, was given the last rites by a priest in hospital over the weekend after undergoing a series of setbacks following hip replacement surgery a month ago.

Doctors wanted to perform surgery on her liver that would give her a 50-50 chance survival rate, but Gabor and her husband, Frederick Prinz von Anhalt, decided "she wanted to spend her final days at home," publicist John Blanchette said.

"Frederick said he did not want to torture her anymore," Blanchette added. He said the star, who has been a Hollywood fixture for 60 years, "is in and out of consciousness."

She left a Los Angeles hospital on Monday and returned home.

Gabor, whose string of movies, television shows and wealthy husbands dates to the 1950s, was released from hospital last week but was taken back on Friday to treat two blood clots.

She broke her hip on July 17 when she fell out of bed while watching the television game show "Jeopardy." The actress was partially paralyzed in a 2002 car accident.

"She had a great run," Blanchette said. "She's 93. She knew five presidents ... she knew kings and queens, celebrities."

The Hungarian-born Gabor has appeared in more than 30 movies, and her penchant for calling everyone "dah-ling" in her Hungarian accent made her a well-known Hollywood personality.

She, along with her two glamorous sisters Eva and Magda made several appearances on radio and television shows in the 1950s and 1960s. Gabor appeared in movies "Moulin Rouge," followed by "Lili" and later "Touch of Evil."

Gabor was married nine times to a string of husbands that included a Turkish diplomat and the hotel magnate Conrad Hilton. She has been married to von Anhalt for 24 years.

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World Music News Wire #19

Demon Lovers and Household Goddesses: The Apocalyptic Intimacy of Charming Hostess’s Bowls Project


Writhing sea monsters and demon divorces. Magical amulets and secret sexual desires. Black metal and Blind Willie Johnson. The Bowls Project evokes the cosmopolitanism of ancient Babylon with an eerily contemporary weave of war, sex, and supernatural wonder.

This embrace of sophisticated ideas and visceral sounds comes naturally to Jewlia Eisenberg, composer, vocalist and mistress-mind behind the wryly subversive, musically mischievous group Charming Hostess. Their latest endeavor takes inscriptions from earthenware “demon bowls” once buried beneath Babylonian houses, and transforms them into songs that draw on everything from Iraqi pop to American roots music.

Charming_cover As Eisenberg noticed from the first moment she idly opened a seemingly fusty dissertation filled with translations of these Aramaic texts from the time and place of he Talmud, these bowls speak—and loudly. They tell of demons, angels, and gods from a half dozen ancient cultures, all entwined with the secret passions and household heartbreaks of women living 1,500 years ago.

“I was instantly mesmerized by the voices in these bowls. In the entire Talmud, you never hear women talk about themselves in the “we” form; in demon bowls you hear it all the time. I chose to set Jewish bowls, but the form is cosmopolitan and deeply porous—a Jewish bowl might define the Divine as a Bird of Rivers, call out to Dlibat, the Babylonian goddess of love, or cast a spell from a sea monster. Demon bowls contain the greatest supernatural powers right next to small domestic scenes; normal household concerns interact with fiery angels and demons,” Eisenberg recounts. “If you read one bowl text, you see this dynamic; the apocalyptic intimate. You don’t have to be a scholar or read Aramaic.”

Over four years, Eisenberg began putting these texts to music, building on her fascination with the sounds of the female body—breaths, claps, sighs, stomps, and silence. With her fellow members of Charming Hostess, she incorporated elements from the drive and clamor of black metal (the martial exorcism of “Bound and Turned Aside”) to American roots music (“Hangman”) and the devotional songs embraced by Babylonian (Iraqi) Jews (“Yedidi”).

Yet the touchstone remains the bowls. They record a world full of supernatural activity, haunting even the most ho-hum daily grind. Disguised demons afflicted families, and might even trick the unwary into marriage, forcing their unwitting spouses to seek divorces. The Leviathan shakes the earth. Angels march with swords, blocking gossipy neighbors and insuring sexual arousal.

“Demons and angels may seem remote to many of us, but in the world of the bowls, they were experienced as frequent house-guests with supernatural powers. They had rights, too, as members of the community,” notes Eisenberg. “You could try to appease them, cajole them, or bully them with bowl incantations, but whatever you do, they are around, participating in everyday life. This is very clear in the bowls, and in the traditional music I chose for the album.”

The thought of spirits swarming through the home may sound frightening, but their presence can also bring protection, as Eisenberg suggests in her haunting and unexpected transformation of the American religious song “Dying Bed (Khevra Kadisha).” With a nod to both Blind Willie Johnson and the Jewish rituals of keeping watch over the dead, Eisenberg invokes the intimate connection and peace that flows from encounters with forces beyond.

The bowl texts—written down at women’s request by professional scribes—are filled with hybrid deities and syncretic spells, spiraled incantations for health, fidelity, protection, and love.

Christians and Zoroastrians, Animists and Jews all shared gods, demons, and images as they recorded the secrets of their households—and then hid them, silently, in the earth, to protect their homes.

These women’s voices were forgotten as other texts and teachings from the time moved from the margins to the center. “The great canon of Jewish law, the Babylonian Talmud, is from the same era as these demon bowls,” Eisenberg comments, “The Talmud became the shape of post-exilic Judaism. But at the time of its compilation in 200-600 CE, the bowls were the mainstream and the rabbis were at the fringe!”

This absorption of female power into male authority is stated explicitly in some of the texts themselves. “’Smamit’”, Eisenberg explains, “tells how three angels became empowered to protect babies in crib and women in labor. The story unfolds on the body of a woman with her own supernatural powers, which she loses along with her children, but these angels get the power. You rarely get to see the move away from female magic explored so deeply.”

Eisenberg began to break the silence, as war raged in Iraq and a new crop of these artifacts turned up on the world market, due to looting, shelling, and theft. The bowls provided an unexpected entry, a chance for connection not only to women living millennia ago, but also to contemporary Iraqis and the ordinary lives of people often lost behind the civilizational myth of Sumer or the tortures of Falujah.

Eisenberg’s arrangements honor the often broken and fragmented nature of the bowls and their voices. Many of the bowls were found in pieces. And to confuse demons, the incantations would often include unpronounceable names or repeated letters. Eisenberg felt the unpronounceability had to stay: “Some of the text will just have a letter over and over again, a kind of a hissing sound to block a demon. Or it will have the letter ‘H’, a name for the Divine. I wanted to take the text and play with the parts that can’t be pronounced and the fragments,” as she does in “Malakha.”

The heart of the Bowls Project is connection, with a past, with people distant and different, and with a deep aspect of our shared experience. “These bowls are so personal that you can’t not relate to them,” Eisenberg muses. “They are similar to our own experience even though they are phrased in their own apocalyptic intimate way. And if you can relate to woman living 1,500 years ago in what’s today Iraq, you can relate to someone living there now. That’s really central.”

The Bowls Project CD release party will be held July 18 at Yerba Buena Cultural Center for the Arts in San Francisco, as part of programming for The Bowls Project: Secrets of the Apocalyptic Intimate, July 6-August 22.

This interactive sound sculpture/immersive performance installation is an international collaboration created by Jewlia Eisenberg and Charming Hostess with celebrated architect Michael Ramage and videographer Shezad Dawood. Performances will take place within a stunning masterwork of ancient-meets-modern design: a soaring double vaulted dome. The dome is a place to share a secret and listen to the anonymous secrets of others, listen to live music on Thursdays, participate in rituals on Fridays, encounter embodied text on Sundays, and dig on the apocalyptic intimate whenever YBCA is open.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

MRF: Pink Noise filming

A few pics from Saturday's film session for scenes 3 and 4 of Pink Noise . . . photos by Irec Hargrove . . .

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