Thursday, March 31, 2011

mmhmmmm . . .

blogs about birds . . .

thanks Lisa . . .

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Antigone opens at Schreiner Thursday for a one weekend run, and the two big theatres are both opening shows this weekend -- Noises Off at Cailloux, and Wright Roussel's Dixie Swim Club

two superb musical events this weekend -- the Carper Family playing at Roddy Tree Ranch Saturday, and Fix the Unbroken at Club808 Saturday

remember Annie callbacks tonight

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

World Music News Wire #49

Cuban Brass, Honey, and the Void: The Sensual, Spiritual World of Pedro Luis Ferrer on Tangible


In the sheltered inner rooms of an old Havana house, an earthy philosopher plucks melodies and rhythms from the air and from Cuban music’s rich soil. Working alone or with close friends and relatives, he turns dances from the sugar cane fields and troubadour trills into magical realist declarations of liberty, as grandchildren dash in and out, and chicken grills out on the veranda.

This is the sensually philosophical world of Cuba’s maverick musician, Pedro Luis Ferrer, whose latest album Tangible continues the renowned singer-songwriter’s transformation of Cuban traditions into a vibrant cry for free thinking and intellectual liberation.

Tangible_Cover2 “When a human being is capable of conceiving the transformation of the surrounding world, an inevitable change begins. The spiritual world is as real as stone,” announces Ferrer.

Though roaming happily in the rarified realm of the spirit, Ferrer keeps his sound and his images firmly planted on traditional ground, drawing inspiration from the changüí of the mountains around Guantanamo, from the ballads of Cuban son, and increasingly on the brass arrangements of jazz masters such as Pérez Prado and Beny Moré.

Ferrer has long relied on guitar and the related Cuban tres as the rough yet resonant heart of his songs. Tangible adds brass sections and sinuous keyboards to Ferrer’s soulful vocals, skillful frets, and Latin percussion. The title track, “Tangible,” sparkles with bursts of horns, inviting listeners to dance while they consider God, innate love, verdant Reason, and the startling void. It’s a mix of the seen and unseen, the abstract and tangible, reflected in the music.

This shifting mix is Ferrer’s specialty. Ferrer, once a major figure in Cuba’s nueva trova of the 1960s, has created his own distinctive and dynamic palette of Cuban sounds, which he has dubbed changüisa, a feminine word playing on changüí and a pithy challenge to Latin musical machismo. It became a vehicle to engage tradition without slavishly following what Ferrer dismisses as “the old formula” in Cuban music.

Changüisa is always changing,” Ferrer explains. “The concept of changüisa presupposes transformation. I created the term to describe the free intention to tackle tradition, the transformative intention. It assumes both closeness to the changui and to creativity, a concept that both unites and reconstructs traditions.”

Always questioning, always advocating new avenues for individual creative expression, Ferrer has been often marginalized in his home country. But there is no bitterness in Ferrer’s music. Instead, he makes a sultry, visceral call to life, with all its entanglements, its longing, its lingering kisses and disappointments.

Even in hymns to the power of human imagination, Ferrer sings of concrete experiences, of sights, tastes, and smells. He draws on his childhood love of Cuban folk poetry, often filled with quirky images and mangled metaphors, and his penchant for Dada-esque playfulness, even in the face of great truths. In “Te hablo de un país (I Tell You About a Country),” cityscapes merge with the aroma of cedar, sweat, and honey, as the mind becomes a chisel knocking holes in walls. “The song speaks of a country that I imagine, a country of my dreams, the country that little by little I am constructing,” Ferrer muses, “and of another country I am going to leave behind.”

The vivid, pulsing moments Ferrer chronicles in his songs find their way very simply and spontaneously to the studio. With minimal overdubs and a relaxed atmosphere, Ferrer and a few friends and relatives gathered regularly to lay down tracks at Ferrer’s home. “I play and sing almost everything, and usually also acted as recording engineer. My brother helped with some choruses,” Ferrer recounts. “The fundamental things we recorded live, the marimbula (bass thumb piano), cajon (wooden percussion box), bongo and clave, and the tres, the guitar, the piano. This way we avoid losing the real spirit of live music.”

This sensuous immediacy, Ferrer insists, is a requisite ingredient for changüisa and an antidote to pop fluff and folklore pedantry. “I do not accept the aesthetic dictator of the past as the present, like a sealed and invariable dogma,” he states. “We forget that much of what today has become traditional and trite, was novel at birth.” Ferrer’s freewheeling songs find this freshness and return simply to the tangible.

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Scouting Report: Paraguay

By Clemente Lisi -- Three days after drawing Argentina at The New Meadowlands Stadium, the USA will face another South American test Tuesday when it takes on Paraguay. The game at LP Field in Nashville will be the final time this Spring that Bob Bradley will get a chance to look at his European-based players ahead of the Gold Cup.

While the National Team had a solid showing versus Argentina, Paraguay had a disappointing outing in Oakland. Paraguay did very little offensively in its 3-1 loss to Mexico, with the team’s lone goal coming three minutes from the end. That goal came from a corner kick that midfielder Cristian Riveros was able to tap in off a deflection in front of the Mexican net.

“What’s worrisome is the Paraguay we had in the first half wasn’t the team I want," Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino told reporters after the game about going down 2-0 at halftime.

The loss stood in stark contrast to just nine months ago when Paraguay turned out to be one of the World Cup’s surprise sides in South Africa, winning its group ahead of Italy, Slovakia and New Zealand. Paraguay lost 1-0 in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Spain.

Paraguay hopes to take that experience and turn it into continental success when it competes in the Copa America this summer. Coached by the Argentine-born Martino since 2007, Paraguay has evolved into one of South America’s most competitive teams. The Copa America, however, will be Martino’s last chance to win something after he confirmed that he would not renewing his contract at the end of July.

With more Paraguayans playing abroad, the team has benefited from those who have left the country’s relatively weak domestic league over the past few years. For the US game, Martino has 21 players at his disposal, including striker Lucas Barrios, the leading scorer for German side Borussia Dortmund and one of 17 players who ply their trade in Europe, South America or Mexico.

The Albirroja are without forwards Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn) and Nelson Haedo Valdez (Hercules) because Martino allowed them to rest given their ongoing club commitments. The decision turned out to be a poor one given Paraguay’s inability to generate any quality scoring chances against Mexico. Nonetheless, this Paraguay side is made up of seasoned players. Seven members of the team played in the last meeting against the USA, a 3-1 win for Paraguay at the 2007 Copa America. Goalkeeper and team captain Justo Villar was in the lineup for that game, while striker Oscar Cardozo scored four years ago in Venezuela.

Martino, who cites former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa as his mentor, generally favors offense. At times, he can employ a defensive 5-3-2 formation that relies on the counterattack, but also likes a 3-5-2 with a midfield that pushes the ball forward along the flanks. No matter what style Martino settles on against the USA, Paraguay doesn’t always score lots of goals. At the World Cup, they won Group F after scoring just three times in as many games and scored no goals in regulation in its two knockout round matches against Japan and Spain.

Offensively, the Paraguayan player to watch against the USA will be Barrios, a 26-year-old forward who has propelled Borussia Dortmund to the top of the Bundesliga this year. The Argentine-born Barrios, who holds dual citizenship because his mother hails from Paraguay, finished as the German league’s top scorer in 2010 with 19 goals in 33 games. This season, Barrios - nicknamed “The Panther” - leads his club in scoring with 11 goals in 23 matches despite having to deal with a nagging calf injury over the past few weeks.

Defensively, Antolin Alcaraz is having a stellar season at English club Wigan, playing in 23 games and scoring a goal. Alcaraz played at the 2010 World Cup, netting the go-ahead goal – his first and only for Paraguay – in a 1-1 draw against Italy in the group stage. He gives Paraguay’s usually disciplined defense experience and likes to push forward on corner kicks and set pieces. His heading abilities are strong. His goal at the World Cup and lone Premier League strike were both headers.

As for the USA, Bradley is expected to experiment with his midfield options after Stuart Holden was ruled out for as much as six months with a knee injury just a week ago. Against Argentina, Stuart’s absence was notable, particularly in the opening half. Bradley has many holding midfielders to choose from - including Maurice Edu – who he may want to try in a more creative role.

With Lionel Messi making runs all night, the Americans spent most of the first half fending off chances. Once again, Tim Howard had another spectacular night. While Argentina employed a Barcelona style predicated on one-touch passing and Messi runs, the USA used the counterattack in the second half to generate offense.

Howard said he was pleased with the draw, but hoped the team could muster more offense.

“Hopefully, against Paraguay we can attack more,” he said. “It won’t be easy.”

Howard said he and his teammates have “watched a lot of film this past week and weekend” and are ready for Paraguay. “Not as good as Argentina, but they are a good team. It will be another challenge for us,” he said.

Super-sub Juan Agudelo, who came in at the start of the second half, scored the tying goal, his second in three National Team appearances. Against Paraguay, Agudelo could get the start as Bradley continues to experiment with his offensive options. The New York Red Bulls striker worked well with Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, while defender Timmy Chandler showed promise when he came on in the second half to earn his first cap.

Asked if he thought he could extend his run of form against Paraguay, Agudelo said, “If I get to play, I’ll do my best once again.”

the Bronx's escaped Cobra has a Twitter feed . . .

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scouting Report: Argentina

By Clemente Lisi – After having their last friendly cancelled due to unrest in Egypt, the United States faces Argentina on Saturday at the New Meadowlands. This is the first time in 2011 we’ll see a first-choice US squad, facing off against a World power they last played in August of 2008.

In that game against the then-No. 1 ranked Argentina, Tim Howard solidified his role as the National Team’s starting goalkeeper ahead of World Cup Qualifying. Howard made seven saves at Giants Stadium that night in a 0-0 draw.

Three years later, the Albicelestes are no longer ranked #1 but remain one of the strongest teams in the World. For the United States, the game at the New Meadowlands Stadium, which replaced the now-demolished Giants Stadium, is coach Bob Bradley’s first real chance this year to test his regular starters after using a predominantly MLS-based squad in a January friendly against Chile that ended 1-1.

The USA will need to repeat the feat of 2008 if it hopes to get past a star-studded Argentine squad led by 2010 FIFA Player of the Year Lionel Messi. In addition to the 23-year-old Messi, Argentina coach Sergio Batista has also called up defender Javier Zanetti and midfielder Esteban Cambiasso (both Champions League winners with Inter Milan last season) and young strikers Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli) and Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid). Serie A fans will recognize most of Batista’s 24-man roster since it includes seven players who are based with Italian clubs, including Catania goalkeeper Mariano Andujar and Roma defender Nicolas Burdisso.

“These games are always vital for us,” Batista said of the US match. “They help us to better prepare for the games that really count. I am very happy with the way the team is progressing and I continue to he hopeful as we come closer to the Copa America.”

The one notable absentee is Carlos Tevez, who was also left off the squad in last month’s friendly against Portugal. The official line is that Tevez is nursing a minor injury, but Argentine FA officials have been quoted saying the exclusion stems from Tevez’s decision last November to pull out of camp ahead of a friendly versus Brazil after claiming to be injured. Four days later, a healthy-looking Tevez scored twice for Manchester City against Fulham in a Premier League game.

Batista, who replaced Diego Maradona following last summer’s World Cup, will start Messi. He is also likely to play veterans Zanetti and Cambiasso - regulars Maradona snubbed when he put together his World Cup roster - along with a slew of young players. The midfield is likely to feature Javier Mascherano in the middle alongside Javier Pastore and Cambiasso. Up front, Messi will be free to roam up field in a quest to emulate the form he has displayed at Barcelona, not Argentina, over the past few years. On attack, Lavezzi and Di Maria form a great tandem. Lavezzi’s speed on the flanks and Di Maria’s finishing could by that one-two punch that gets Argentina’s attack going.

Batista, a former midfielder who won the 1986 World Cup with Argentina, has tried to distinguish himself from his former teammate Maradona since he was appointed interim coach after the World Cup. While Maradona refused to go away quietly (even taking public jabs at Batista), the new Argentina coach was busy experimenting with new lineups. Over the past few weeks alone, he has looked at over 40 players. Two weeks ago, a second-string Argentina made up of domestic-based players downed Venezuela 4-1. None of those players are on the roster that will face the USA.

Batista arrived in the New York-area on Tuesday, a day before his players, and has spent the past three days in his hotel room overlooking the Manhattan skyline studying lineups with his assistants. Batista’s players also trained Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls Under-18 team in preparation for the game.

Under Batista, the two-time World Cup champions – fourth in the latest FIFA rankings - have gone all-out to play an entertaining brand of soccer, while making sure the defense doesn’t crumble, something that crippled Maradona’s side in South Africa. Germany eliminated Argentina 4-0 in the quarterfinals, a sign to Batista that he needs to shore up the back line before the Copa America, which Argentina will host in July.

“Barcelona is always a model to follow,” Batista said last month of the style employed by Messi’s club side.

Batista’s likes to use a 4-3-3 formation that combines quick ball movement in the center of the field with short, triangle pattern passing. Argentina also likes to maintain possession for long stretches, although the physically fit Americans should be able to keep up with their opponents for the duration of the match.

Last month, Messi scored the game-winner on a penalty kick in the 90th minute in a 2-1 victory over Portugal in Geneva, Switzerland. The February 9th friendly looked to be headed to a draw when Fabio Coentrao fouled Pastore in the penalty box and Messi converted from the spot. In that game, Messi, who assisted on the first goal, was a more integral part of the Argentine attack compared to the World Cup, where Maradona had used him in a more withdrawn play maker role that resulted in no goals over five games.

“I’ve played in the same position for Barcelona,” Messi said at a news conference after the Portugal match. “I’ve been very comfortable because I get more of the ball.”

How the USA responds to Messi will be a barometer of how the National Team fares against top-caliber talent. Bradley will have his best players with him, including five who played in every minute at the World Cup: Howard, defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit, and midfielders Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley. Youngsters like Juan Agudelo could get the chance to pair up with Donovan for the first time should Bradley decide to go that route.

“This is an important opportunity to get our core group together along with some relatively newer faces as we consider the roster decisions for the Gold Cup this summer,” said Bradley, who held training camp this week in Cary, NC.

The game is expected to be close to a sellout, with some 60,000 tickets sold. The National Team will make its second appearance at New Meadowlands Stadium, having lost 2-0 Brazil last August before 77,223 fans in the first game after the World Cup.

“Argentina continues to be one of the most talented teams in the world, and we are excited to have the opportunity to compete against them,” Bradley said. “When you talk about the best players around the globe, the Argentines certainly contribute a lot of names to that list.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

World Music News Wire #48

A Hawk and A Hacksaw Take a CERVANTINE Route to Another Place and Time


A broomstick and duct tape. That is what the curious Americans used for a mic stand. In a humble house with no running water deep in the Romanian hinterland, they were recording with Fanfare Ciocarlia, one of the world’s top brass bands. A Hawk and A Hacksaw have also found themselves playing with Roma on the streets of Amsterdam and out on the Jaffa road, performing to both Hassids and Palestinians; in a sculptor’s tree house outside of Budapest; and at a Jewish wedding in Pittsburgh where a young boy stared transfixed at the band, ignoring the party revelers, until—with no explanation—tears streamed down his face.

On first glance, the desert mountains of New Mexico don’t seem like an obvious home for a band that specializes in its own blend of music from the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, and Romania. But as the new album CERVANTINE reveals, there is more to the connection than the untrained eye can see. On the title track, the group explores the mariachi influence on Romany brass that flourished thanks to the Latin American soap operas popular across Eastern Europe. “Europeans inspired Mexican brass and now Mexican brass inspired Europeans,” says band founder, accordionist, and percussionist Jeremy Barnes. “In New Mexico, we grew up hearing all this brass music, hearing mariachis.”

AHAAH_backcover There is something connecting what may seem like distant points on the map: The Balkans and New Mexico, thanks to an odd tie Barnes and band mate and violinist Heather Trost felt on their travels. “Northern New Mexico is a beautiful ecosystem of cultural clashes and mixings, that really remind us of the Balkans and Transylvania,” says Trost. “There are very few ‘cultural climates’ like this in the world, and I think it's something we try to reflect in our songs.”

Whereas other American groups are simply “from the U.S.,” when AHAAH tour in Europe, they are often promoted as being from New Mexico. "Many Europeans think that New Mexico is its own nation, and sometimes I wish it was. It often feels that way,” says Barnes.

While the music comes off sounding rooted and traditional, the treatments simultaneously evoke specific places while bending time. AHAAH uses an old two-track recorder to give their recordings a timelessness; suggesting a historic feel deep in memory, even though the compositions are new or arranged in entirely new ways.

The piece titled “Española Kolo” evokes the kolo, or “circle,” the national dance of the former Yugoslavia, with the ambience of a New Mexico town. “It’s an area with a bad reputation,” says Barnes. But beyond that façade is a town and river valley with a completely unique culture. "There are lots of low riders and they are proud of their identity. Many New Mexicans are afraid to visit Española, just as many Europeans won’t go to Serbia. I thought we should pay homage to the good that comes from both places,” says Barnes. “A lot of these Serbian songs have completely Mexican melodies over the top of a kolo. Sometimes we get the reaction ‘You’re from New Mexico; what are you doing playing this music from Eastern Europe?!’ But there is a connection to be made.”

The AHAAH sound reached many a listener’s ear when they recorded with Beirut on the breakout album Gulag Orkestar in 2006, but their subsequent three recordings (and the new album in particular) is a move further East to the asymmetric rhythms of Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Greece. On “No Rest for the Wicked,” listeners may have trouble distinguishing certain accordion melodies from electronics, or may become intrigued by the desolate sounding string-on-string Roma violin trick that closes the track.

Elsewhere on “Mana Thelo Enan Andra,” listeners are treated to an outsider’s view that breaks down barriers between nationalist distinctions between Greek and Turkish music. The song features the rembetika stylings of Chris “Papalazerescu” Hladowski’s Greek bouzouki (lute) and Issa Malluf’s Turkish doumbek, alongside the voice of Stephanie Hladowski. ”She sounds like she could be from the Smyrna, singing in the 1920s, I don’t know how she does it.”

When AHAAH plays big cities like New York, expect to see a cross-section of Central and Eastern Europe represented in the audience. The Turks will sing along to the classic song “Uskudar,” whose melody has traveled from country to country, so others will hum along too. “It turns up in Greece, in Bosnia, and elsewhere. And as a Klezmer tune, it’s called ‘A Terk in America,’” says Barnes.

A Hawk and a Hacksaw have never been about ethnographic reenactment or folk purity. “We want people to explore further after they hear us,” Trost reflects. “We’re doing what we love, and we want people to like it on its own terms. People are hungry for things beyond Western pop and we are a part of that exploratory process.”

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Boooooo . . .

Holden Out For Six Months

Bolton Wanderers announced on Monday that Stuart Holden’s knee injury will need surgery and six months of recuperation. Holden was injured during Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Manchester United.

"First and foremost our main concern is for Stuart and his recovery. He will get all the time and support that he needs,” Bolton manager Owen Coyle said. “Stuart has been outstanding for me this season and he has shown in his performances that he is one of the best midfielders in the Barclays Premier League. He has such desire, strength of character and a winning mentality, and he will draw on all those attributes in his rehabilitation."
Three Players Out For USA

Steve Cherundolo, Stuart Holden, and Zak Whitbread were removed from the US roster for the Argentina and Paraguay friendlies due to injury. US National Team coach Bob Bradley called in Eric Lichaj as a replacement, with the roster now at 22 players.

ITM's One-Act "Twelfth Night" is at District this Saturday at Fredericksburg High School Auditorium -- shows begin at 1 p.m., ITM is fourth in line, so get there by 3:30 to guarantee you can get in before the doors are hermetically sealed

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lyn Lifshin has a new book out!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mexican Indian Language Appears Headed for Extinction

By Helena Lozano, Latin American Heritage Times

MEXICO CITY – Ayapaneco, one of the 364 Indian languages spoken in Mexico, appears headed for extinction because its last two speakers refuse to communicate with each other due to a long-running feud.

Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez are the last surviving speakers of the language, which has its roots in Jalpa de Mendez, a town in the southern state of Tabasco.

The two elderly men live in the small community of Ayapan, but they have not spoken to each other in years even though their houses are only about 500 meters (some 1,600 feet) apart.

The source of the feud between the 75-year-old Segovia and the 69-year-old Velazquez is not known.

About 8,000 Ayapaneco-speaking families were still around in the mid-20th century, but the construction of the Villahermosa-Comacalco highway prompted many residents to leave the area, putting the language on the path to extinction, Segovia said.

“Time and progress transformed the town, the people went to work in bigger towns and there they started to see and bring back other customs,” Segovia said.

“When the two of us die, it’s over, the language will die,” Segovia said.

A written record of this rich language, however, will survive, thanks to two Stanford University linguists who spent two years recording Segovia pronouncing the thousands of words he knows.

The recordings were used to produce a dictionary that sells in the United States for thousands of dollars, Segovia said.

At least 36 other Indian languages are in danger of disappearing unless efforts are made to save them in Mexico, where 141 native languages have died off since colonial days, experts say.

Potlapigu, Guazapar, Mocorito, Cocoa, Ure, Zacateca, Zuaque, Sabaibo and Ahome are among the Indian languages that have disappeared.

Languages mainly disappear because of the discrimination that members of Indian communities suffer, National Indigenous Languages Institute, or INALI, archaeologist Arnulfo Embriz told Efe.

“After being turned down for jobs, schools ... the Indians have decided to stop speaking them,” Embriz said.

“If you don’t speak Spanish, forget about getting ahead,” the archaeologist said.

The 2010 census completed by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, or INEGI, found nearly 7 million speakers of Indian languages in Mexico, or approximately 1 million more than in 2007.

The increase was the result of efforts by both INALI specialists and Indian communities to teach languages, document them and make people aware of their right to preserve their language.

Schools are now using books translated into Indian languages, the Mexican Constitution has been translated into at least 13 indigenous languages and communities are “raising their voices” to exercise their rights, Embriz said.

“However, the disappearance of some languages is irreversible,” the archaeologist said.

Efforts are being made in Mexico to recognize the nation’s cultural heritage and change the attitude of people about their origins, languages and sociocultural practices.

Some have also called for an academic cataloging of linguistic diversity and campaigns to make people aware of the need to preserve Indian languages.

Roster Announced For Argentina, Paraguay Games

United States National Team coach Bob Bradley released his roster for the Argentina and Paraguay friendlies. "This is an important opportunity to get our core group together along with some relatively newer faces as we consider the roster decisions for the Gold Cup this summer," Bradley said. "We have not had these players together for quite some time, so this is a great chance to get in a solid week of training and then face two quality opponents in Argentina and Paraguay."
GK: Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton), David Yelldell (MSV Duisburg)
DEF: Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Jonathan Bornstein (UANL Tigres), Timothy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Zak Whitbread (Norwich City)
MID: Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Mikkel Diskeruud (Stabaek), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

World Music News Wire #47

Bach’s Lilt, Mystery Melodies, and the Wonders of the World: Banjo Instigator Jayme Stone Whirls and Waltzes on Room of Wonders


As masterful banjo player and musical instigator Jayme Stone was fixing dinner one night, he heard Bach dance. “I was listening to Bach’s French Suites while cooking. The performance had such a lilt to it that I literally wanted to dance,” Stone recalls. “It was an epiphany moment. Bach used European folk dance forms to inform his own music. I realized I could explore folk dances in my own way, but with a worldwide scope.”

With dance as his guide, Stone launched a virtual journey that ended in a new album, Room of Wonders. Stone turned mysterious melodies into rocking tunes and crafted lush, edgy originals, with some of North America’s best acoustic musicians for companions.

JStone11_cover Stone thrives on unexpected inspiration: Japanese poetry, Brazilian literature, instruments he found while traveling in remote Malian villages. He finds it with influences as diverse as Anouar Brahem, Bill Frisell, and Toumani Diabaté. His Juno Award-winning albums, most notably Africa to Appalachia, both defy and honor the banjo’s long role in the world’s music, turning historical connections into compelling music.

Folk dance as a form and inspiration united three diverse currents in Stone’s musical life: the acoustic music scene he loves, a fascination with Nordic music, and a sideline project interpreting Bach on the banjo. “I had three records that I wanted to make,” Stone explains, “and dance was an umbrella that covered all grounds.”

He immersed himself in Nordic culture, watching films, reading novels, and savoring encounters on tour with visionary roots groups like Väsen, whose nyckelharpa whiz, Olov Johansson, contributed to “Troll Kingdom Polska.” Meanwhile, Stone continued to study Bach in his practice room when he had the chance (and he performs the “Allemande” from French Suite No. 6 on the album).

Yet what really set Stone’s dances into motion were his collaborators, acoustic musicians from divergent backgrounds that Stone loved urging in new, unexplored directions: “When I look for musicians to collaborate with, I am looking for people with a certain adventurous sensibility, who have pioneered new ways of playing. I love bringing them into totally different territory.”

Casey Driessen brought lithe, percussive five-string fiddle playing, with an extra low string that expands the violin range, and a sixth sense for music from around the world, thanks in part to trips to China and Tibet with Abigail Washburn’s Sparrow Quartet. “Casey is a master of the chop, using the bow percussively,” notes Stone. “Most of the rhythmic elements you hear are Casey. He’s a drummer living in a fiddler’s body.”

Though guitarist Grant Gordy, who plays with the alt-bluegrass/jazz David Grisman Quintet, has a gift for improvisation, Stone shied away from trading fours: “I wanted to find out what would happen to that energy, if you brought together jazz artists but didn’t give them solos.”

What Stone did give Driessen, Gordy, and former Punch Brother bassist Greg Garrison was space to find their own way into the pieces. The musicians spent days at a lake cabin, working through possibilities and variations, rearranging sections, and trying just about anything. “We took ‘Planinsko Horo’ and played it in every key,” recalls Stone with a laugh. “We made notes of what we liked and didn’t, and then voted on our favorites. It was like an experiment in musical democracy.”

Stone finally had a chance to turn to some favorite musical moments—sometimes mere snatches of melody, of uncertain origin—and set them shimmying, sashaying, and reeling. He had only 45 seconds of a Bulgarian ruchenitsa from an old mix tape to go on (though he eventually traced its history, thanks to several Bulgarian music scholars). “Krasavska Ruchenitsa” became far more than a danceable ditty, opening with a spontaneous burst of fiddle, bass, and cymbal hitting wildly at once, and contrasting crisp, passionate banjo with Driessen’s serpentine fiddle.

“Moresca Nuziale” was also a mystery—and, as it turned out, a potential danger. “I learned this melody from a friend, who didn’t know anything about it,” Stone recounts. “Eventually, I found the composer, renowned Italian button accordionist Riccardo Tesi. He explained that it was composed for the marriage of his two close friends. It was structured on the traditional moresche, a Moorish sword-fighting dance from Southern Italy. Evidently, Riccardo forgot that these were dances of struggle and the couple divorced after six months. He made me promise never to play it at a wedding.”

Stone makes tradition sing, whether barn-burning bluegrass style (“Ways of the World”) or stepping nimbly through tunes from County Clare (“The Reels”). Yet he also reveals a keen sense of coloration, texture, and emotion on original pieces, the pensive and shadowed waltz of “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” and the upbeat funky imagination of “Vinicius,” a samba-inspired shout out to post-Tropicália avant gardist Vinicius Cantuária. The geographical breadth and chronological depth feel natural to Stone, however, as the album’s title quietly suggests.

“The world itself is like one vast room full of all these wonders,” reflects Stone. “That’s perhaps a hallmark of this day and age. The whole world feels open and accessible. And as a musician, you walk into a room—a concert hall or a living room—anywhere in the world and by having instruments there, you can evoke other places, other centuries, and other wonders.”

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

it's the backstory on this one . . .

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Never the Sinner, Cailloux Theatre, 7:30 pm . . . matinee tomorrow, 2:00 pm

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

World Music News Wire #46

A Multitude in Solitude: Master Indian Classical Musician Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh Channels the Multifaceted Voices of the Veena on Mysterious Duality



Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh picked up the phone one day and had an epiphany. “I heard myself responding to different calls differently, using multiple voices and personalities,” the world-class veena player explains. “When you talk to your son, husband, teacher, colleague, or your student, with each role, your intonation changes so much. So I thought, ‘Why not make the veena do this?’”

Jayanthi’s moment of insight became Mysterious Duality: Just Me, an elegant, powerful exploration of the many sides of India’s national instrument, with its overtones, unique resonances, and dozens of strings. A seventh-generation musician with decades of training, performing, and recording of Carnatic (South Indian) classical music to her credit, Jayanthi was perfectly poised to create a set of pieces that allowed the veena’s multiple qualities to emerge.

MysteriousDualitycoverart The urge to show the veena in a new light came when Jayanthi played a festival in France several years ago. The promoter, new to Indian music, listened to a CD of Jayanthi accompanied by traditional percussion and was delighted—but confused. “He said, ‘The music is awesome. Now, which one’s the veena again?’” Jayanthi recalls with a chuckle. “I could relate to where he was coming from. The sitar and tabla have been presented in many beautiful ways, and people worldwide recognize their sound. I knew I needed to present the veena’s grandeur of tone in all its purity. I needed to make an album with just veena.”

Jayanthi understood that a solo veena album would not capture the full breadth of her instrument’s expressive and sonic possibilities—its rich bass, percussive facets, sympathetic strings, and delicate upper range. So she headed to the studio, telling the engineer to brace himself as she laid down track after track of different rhythmic and melodic elements, turning to the two dozen veenas she owns to find just the right sound.

After seven overdubs, she found the perfect balance between the elements, and the process suggested what material she should explore using her newfound approach: “Once I had the formula right, I had to figure out what to play.”

The pieces that emerged once Jayanthi found her footing move from contemplative layered arpeggios to energetic, complex melodies, from percussive bass grooves to dancing, shimmering tones (“Multiple Duality”). The effect is welcoming to the listener unfamiliar with Indian classical music, yet strikingly appropriate to fans of straightforward classical performance.

Jayanthi’s music resonates beautifully in multiple ways thanks to her long experience. “My background helped me approach these pieces with poise and dignity,” she relates. “I didn’t want to rush anything, especially on tracks like ‘Wandering in Dimensions,’ and took them step by step.”

The tracks draw on her deep knowledge of Carnatic music’s system of rhythmic cycles (tala) and melodic patterns (raga). “Indian music has this treasure house of melodies, or ragas that are created using a particular set of notes in particular order. Scales don’t become ragas until they have life breathed into them,” Jayanthi notes. “But that creativity has a boundary, as well as a particular emotion. It’s as if you have three colors to use in a painting. You can still paint anything you want, even if you only use three colors.”

This bounded creativity shines in pieces like “Strings with No Ends,” a slowly accelerating tanam, or improvised work that’s “melodically rhythmic and rhythmically melodic,” as Kumaresh puts it. Or in pieces composed by Jayanthi’s youthful nephew Abhishek Raghuram or by her violinist husband R. Kumaresh. Both work primarily on other instruments, bringing an exciting freshness and challenge to her endeavors. “If I’d had composed everything myself, I would have focused solely on what might sound nice on the veena,” she reflects. “Abishek, for example, composed melodies without thinking at all about my instrument.”

The process of recording also revealed new facets of the veena, something that Jayanthi has relished bringing to her live classical performances. The high-quality recording and mastering uncovered microtones and resonances Jayanthi had never heard so distinctly before, elements she now plays with in concert.

It also brought out a bolder dimension of Jayanthi’s musical personality. “Before this album, I would wonder when I played the bass strings in a particular way if I was sounding too much like an electric guitar,” she muses. “I always felt a bit shy. After making this album, though, I found it was very cool. Now I love it.”

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Language Diversity Index Tracks Global Loss of Mother Tongues
National Geographic, Posted on March 1, 2011

"For the past several years, we had been hearing anecdotal reports about endangered languages--how we're losing languages by the day, how we may lose 50-90 percent of languages before the end of the century. But nobody had any reliable quantitative data to corroborate these claims," says Luisa Maffi, co-founder and director of Terralingua, an international NGO devoted to sustaining the biocultural diversity of life through research, education, policy, and on-the-ground work.

"But now a new Index of Linguistic Diversity (ILD), the first of its kind, shows quantitatively, for the first time, what's really happening with the world's languages," Maffi adds. "The ILD shows in quantitatively rigorous ways what the trends have been over the past 30 years in the numbers of mother-tongue speakers of the world's languages--and the news is not good: an overall decline of more than 20 percent in that period alone."

David Braun of National Geographic News Watch interviewed Luisa Maffi, David Harmon, and Jonathan Loh about the new Index of Linguistic Diversity.

Harmon, of the George Wright Society/Terralingua, and Loh, of the Zoological Society of London/Terralingua, are the co-authors of a paper, Index of Linguistic Diversity, published in the journal Language Documentation & Conservation. Volume 4 of 2010. Their work was underwritten by The Christensen Fund, a nonprofit which supports National Geographic News coverage of biocultural diversity issues.

Braun: What is language diversity, and why are we potentially on the brink of a mass extinction of languages?

Harmon: There are 7,000 languages, but there's more to diversity than just separate languages. There's diversity within languages and structures of languages, and all that.

The reason why we're coming up to the brink of a mass extinction of languages is simply that there are a lot of pressures in the world that are enticing or even forcing people to switch from generally smaller, more geographically restricted languages to larger languages, especially global languages like Mandarin Chinese, English, or Spanish, or even languages more regionally dominant than smaller languages.

So we have 7,000 languages, which is the consensus number of discrete languages that are out there. But most of the people who study endangerment of languages are predicting that there is a potential for a mass extinction of these languages within the 21st Century. By extinction they mean that the languages are no longer going to be spoken by people as mother tongues, their principal languages.

"There is a strong possibility that we'll lose languages that people are using as their main vehicle of expression, which they may regard as one of the linchpins of their self-identity."

Some of these languages might still be spoken after they are lost as mother tongues, in a restricted way, in ceremonies or in special usages like that. But in essence there is a strong possibility that we'll lose languages that people are using as their main vehicle of expression, which they may regard as one of the linchpins of their self-identity.

So all the pressures that are out there in terms of globalization, government policies that may favor certain official languages and actively or at least tacitly suppress smaller languages, economic pressures, all these things come together to put pressure on smaller languages. Therefore the diversity of languages is going to be compressed, from 7,000 separate languages to something much smaller than that.

But it is even more nuanced than that. There is also the factor of distribution of languages and how even that distribution is, and that is part of our conception of linguistic diversity. Most people talk about separate languages and they talk about extinctions. But one of the things that we are doing in this ILD is trying to move the conversation beyond those two factors, to try to get to a richer view of linguistic diversity.

Loh: I want to emphasize one thing here. When a language goes extinct, it does not necessarily mean that the ethnic group that speaks that language has gone extinct.

What often happens is that when a linguistic group is small, when the number of speakers may only be a few hundred or thousand, there is enormous pressure to shift from their native mother tongue to a more dominant language spoken in the country where they live, which could be Spanish or Chinese or Russian or Portuguese or Arabic, or whatever, because of the social and economic advantages of speaking that bigger language.

Photo: Jonathan Loh

When that process happens, perhaps the younger generation starts to become bilingual, and then the next generation has a weaker grasp of its mother tongue, and by the third generation they can no longer speak to or understand their grandparents and great-grandparents. So it can happen quite rapidly, the shift from one language to a larger, dominant language.

Maffi: I would add that in some cases the shift to a dominant language can very much be part of government policy, and it can happen from one generation to the next. That's what happened to native communities in North America, both Canada and the U.S., where the system of residential schools was put in place, and children were consciously taken from their families and communities and put in residential schools far away, where they were forbidden to speak their own language.

When they came home they were not communicating with their parents and grandparents in their own language, they spoke English. For some of them the pain and the shame were such that they didn't want to speak their own language anymore, because they were told it was primitive, and anyway it was associated with all their suffering.

So they didn't transmit their language to their children and grandchildren, and now we are faced with a situation in which many of these communities are beginning major efforts to re-acquire and re-affirm their languages as part of their identity.

So when we focus just on the idea of language extinction, that we are losing individual languages, to some extent we lose sight of the process of how this happens. Extinction is the end point of a long process, and the ILD helps us see that because it helps track the shift from the smaller languages to the larger languages, so it gives us a sense of that process.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

World Music News Wire #45

Sugar Shack Songs and Kitchen Table Romps: Quebec’s De Temps Antan Turns the Past into a Rollicking Party on North American Tour, Feb-April 2011


De Temps Antan will tell you: There’s no right place to learn a song. They’ve picked up tunes in sugar shacks on the U.S.-Canadian border as the maple sap bubbled. They’ve spent weeks digging through tens of thousands of ditties in university archives. They’ve learned ballads from granddads and uncles, in villages where thousands of traditional songs are alive and thriving.

But there is a right way to perform them: with all the foot-stomping, tongue-twisting energy of a good old Quebecois family party. That’s why the trio of veteran French Canadian roots musicians laughs out loud, dashes out a virtuosic stream of mouth music, or clogs for all their worth, as audiences across the U.S. and Canada will in February-April, 2011. The music demands it.

Dta_cover “For us, it’s not only the story of the music we need to tell,” exclaims accordionist Pierre-Luc Dupuis, “but we try to live the story on stage, to really get across what you’d hear and feel and do during a family party.”

All three musicians hail from small Quebecois towns and majorly musical families. They grew up hearing relatives jam on fiddle and guitar, or following their lead on the call-and-response songs common at kitchen parties. The echoes of these good times ring on the fun-loving Cajun-flavored “La maison reenforcée,” learned in a sugar shack, or the onomatopoeic original “Pétipetan,” both from Habits de Papier.

Yet the trio also followed their roots deeper—and further afield—transforming tradition with fresh, technically astute musicianship. These roots extend into the difficult past endured by Francophone communities in North America and show the musical ingenuity of generations of Quebecois.

The fancy footwork the trio does—all three bring their footboards to tap on tour—stems from the days long ago when dance parties, powered by a lone fiddler, needed a good strong beat to keep the couples going. The solution: sit the fiddler on the table and let him tap his feet. “To amplify the foot tapping, the fiddler would get up on the table and tap in middle of kitchen,” Dupuis notes. “That would make it much louder and get everyone in the whole house dancing.”

Festive mouth music numbers like the quicksilver “La turlutte de rotoculteur” also have a long (and tragic) history: “It’s a way to remember a tune, or dance without an instrument,” explains Dupuis. “I’ve heard, for example, that when the French settlers were driven out of the Maritimes centuries ago, they used turlutte to avoid losing their repertoire.”

De Temps Antan, a double-entendre name meaning both “from time to time” and “in olden days,” got together as a side project when Dupuis, guitarist Éric Beaudry, and fiddle player André Brunet were playing with the Quebecois super group La Bottine Souriente. Practicing and performing the occasional gig when they had the time, De Temps Antan honed both their musical bonhomie and their ability to move large crowds. “Our approach has stayed the same in many ways, even though we are a much smaller band,” Dupuis says. “You have to play grooves and have fun on stage. You have to be tight and keep the same energy.”

Now that the time-and-again project has become a full-time deal, the group is on a constant quest for interesting old material. They have scoured archives, uncovering gems like the sorrowful “Jeune et Joli.” They have learned from older musicians, like Gaspé fiddler Édouard Richard sand his reels (one forms part of “Roma au lac bell”). They have heard new songs among friends, relatives, and neighbors: Beaudry’s hometown of Saint-Côme is famous in Quebec traditional music circles as the capital of traditional song, and Beaudry managed to collect more than 1,000 tunes there.

The group loves experimenting with new sounds for these old chestnuts. Take “Dominic a Marcel,” a silly song with some serious grit. “The song comes from Nova Scotia, but we decided to plug the bouzouki into an old amp for this grungy sound,” Dupuis recalls. “We were inspired by the southern musicians we’ve played with over the past few years at festivals, all the bluegrass and old-time and Cajun players we’ve met.”

De Temps Antan are also creating the traditional favorites of the future, like Brunet’s gentle “La fée des dents,” an homage to the tooth fairy’s arrival, following a long line of songwriters and tunesmiths who created Quebec’s rich musical heritage. “You can play traditional tunes all your life, but if you don’t compose new stuff, there won’t be any traditional stuff to play,” Dupuis comments. “We have lots of great composers in Quebec who add new rich tunes to the traditional repertoire. Our grandparents composed, and we’re keeping that tradition alive.”

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