Eastern Promises

A very special treat today. The grandfather of one of C.C.’s admirers, Michael Hart, took this photograph of Marylin Monroe when she performed for U.S. troops in 1954. Performance has long been used as both a salve for homesick American troops abroad, as well as, like this week in what is now North Korea, diplomatic exchange. A detailed caption follows.

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TO DO: Nick Hallett

Earl Dax Presents
THE NICK HALLETT SONGBOOK
Joe’s Pub – 425 Lafayette Street
Saturday, March 1 at 9:30 PM
Tickets $20 (Or, use code JPTIXA2 for $5 off!!!)
CLICK FOR TIX

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Pyongyang Interrupted: Part II

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So, once they let all 400 Americans into their country, the largest contingent of U.S. citizens to grace their land since the end of the U.S. invasion some fifty years ago, what did the North Koreans get to hear?

First, the orchestra played both the North Korean national anthem and ours. I love to hear the anthems of those Asian countries who, in attempt to give the appearance that they have joined the modern world, adopted some trashy European-style chorale. North Korea’s was one of these, chock full of brave major chords and triumphal melody (not a pentatonic scale within ear shot), with seldom an excursion into minor areas.

What was lovely, and also honorable to see the North Korean audience remain standing while it was played, was to hear the American national anthem right afterward. I’ll admit, I’ve always been a fan. It has flair. From that awesome plunging arpeggio at the beginning, to the lyrical, sacharrine B section that always receives lovely, light colors in the orchestration, the Star Spangled Banner leaps and meanders, takes its time, then has this crazy build up at the end (2 octave range high note optional, although, thanks to the pop divas, it’s now approaching obligatory). I also love that the melody comes from a British drinking song (duly pointed out by Bob Woodruff), and that there is no mention of G – O – D in the entire thing (personal preference, and, now that I think about it, kinda commie). Continue reading

Pyongyang Interrupted: Part I

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If you opted out of the 4am live internet stream of The New York Philharmonic’s performance in Pyonyang, and waited until 8PM last night for Channel 13’s broadcast of the performance, then you paid the price of having to sit through ABC’s virtual propaganda machine. Now, before you get all pissed off at me, I’m not saying that North Korea isn’t a brainwashed totalitarian society. And I’m not saying that Kim Jong-il isn’t a total asshole dictator. But I am saying, that ABC didn’t need to couch the landmark performance of the orchestra in quasi-journalistic skepticism. We already know North Korea has these problems. The world knows. Continue reading

Notes On A Vanguard: Andrea Maurer, “State of Mine”

Here is a link the most recent essay I have published on Chez Bushwick’s blog, Notes On A Vanguard, hosted on Doug Fox’s Great Dance.

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This Just In

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As we reported before, Daniel J. Wakin has been covering The New York Philharmonic’s East Asian tour for The Times. He just cranked out this interesting article, which The Times online has posted.

If you haven’t gone to check out his ArtsBeat coverage, do so now. It’s kind of unprecedented. There are sound clips from the welcome concert the North Korean government put on for the Phil the night they arrived. There are also clips from a North Korean English class. This, along with a slide show of essentailly forbidden photographs that the North Korean monitors seemed to throw up their hands and allow. Continue reading

Ladies In The Lake, or, Matmos @ The Stone

Music Review: Matmos @ The Stone

I remember the first time I watched electronic performance. It was at The Knitting Factory in 2000. A friend of mine had brought me. And I was amazed that a crowd of people had turned up to watch two guys…DJ. Well, they weren’t just playing one club song after the other, rather, they were live-mixing, a performance practice found commonly today, particularly in New York’s more avant-scene. This kind of performance–and yes, it is performance–requires some adjustment from the audience because of the way the materiality of music is mediated. When the source of the music is digital, and nested somewhere within the hard shell of a Mac laptop, the movements of the performers do not necessarily sync up with what you hear, which really goes against millions of years of our historical relationship with sound and movement. In live-mixing, you can hear sudden jolts of cacophony that may sound as if a building has just been destroyed by a ton of plasticine explosives, but all you see is a person hunched over a mixer, turning a single knob with two fingers. Likewise, the subtlest shift in musical texture may require a performer to leap several feet to one side in order to turn down a level on a different machine that is in operation (usually, there are several). Visually, performances like these are always super informal affairs, and the stage generally looks like some kind of audio mission control, with tens of chords tangling about two or three tables, connecting machines to instruments to microphones via some emphatic necessity to capture sound, manipulate it, and amp it back out into the free air.

Such was the scene on Saturday night, when the digital duo, Matmos, gave two coveted performances at The Stone, John Zorn’s successful and intimate new music venue in the East Village. C.C. was there for the ten o’clock show, where we crowded into the corner building (that may only seat forty or fifty people) along with a mix of phone-heads (you know, those anime-inspired worshipers of electronic music that never take off their headphones) and some civilian admirers. Continue reading

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