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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Street arts and smarts

In Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 9, 2016 at 9:02 am

best to concentrate on details at the moment. As soon as I widen the frame, the view gets too depressing. The ugly stuff doesn’t go away, nor does the awareness of it. But the ugliness doesn’t need any help from me in its propagation.

The noise from the late-night band ended past one AM. Basic chords repeated ad nauseam to a pounding drum beat. The audience loved it and kept asking for more. Not the finest moment in the history of this town’s street festival.

There’s an off-festival venue this year, in the inner courtyard of one of the schools where I do (or did?*) coaching. A group of caravans, a large she-goat, Celtic music, puppetry – from the most elementary to the more accomplished. In the more polished category, Rêves d’une poule ridicule gets my vote. I’ve seen the show evolve from its first – hm – embryo? The mock strip-tease of a chicken getting plucked and groomed for the plunge into the stew pot is now the pièce de résistance in a thirty-minute show with great miming and acting by the three comedians and great musical support from their accordionist. A show that works for kids and grown-ups alike.

***

*When your friends get ostracized, you can’t help wondering when your turn will show up. I hate it when people reveal a seamy side I only imagined they had in the fictional renditions I’d done of them. Local people. People I meet on the street and with whom the simple exchange of pleasantries isn’t possible anymore. Some line has been crossed where being right is the same as being wrong. You weren’t supposed to question the treatment delivered to kids who deserved better. You did. So much for genial hand waves and kiss-kiss at the local market. If it stopped there, it wouldn’t matter much – plenty of other people to wave at and chat up. But the back-room maneuvers to destroy people’s reputations and professional standing? Unsavory, to say the least.

***

Details. An empty water bottle where none stood before you left the house. A door double-locked where you only turn the key once because the door is so flimsy the lock is the only part of it that might sustain a direct kick.

Signs of someone else’s presence. Someone who comes and goes. Lets me know where he’s going, then goes there. Eats the food but leaves the dirty dishes (in a clever way: by leaving a few uneaten bites in the dish). A teenager in other words.

He’ll be away for a week, and replaced by a grown-up.

***

As for single or double-locking of a door: with summer windows wide open and the gitano community grilling meat, drinking beer and playing the flamenco between parked cars on Place du Château, there’s no need of locks or keys. You go by your reputation in this part of town. That’s just fine by me, no matter what local back room boys and girls dream up as put-downs to justify their part in la comédie humaine.

Yes and no

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Dance, Film, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts on July 8, 2016 at 8:11 am

If writing is something like your first responder on the scene, resisting the urge takes some doing. Resisting the urge to identify. But aren’t you supposed to identify. Aren’t you supposed to put the pen to paper or the fingers to the keyboard the second the urge to do so shows up?

Answer: as the title says. Yes, for the small nugget you may find in the reams of repetitious bilge a body can produce over time. Or for a try at another angle on some obsession of yours. Some need to know that won’t go away, no matter how often you tell  yourself you’ll never get an answer other than: that’s life or who knows or some other pat formula designed to chase away the pesky fly.

Except the fly keeps on coming back.

Resisting the urge? Yes. Forever? No.

***

A phone call in all the din out on Place du Jourdain last night during pre-opening events to the annual street arts festival. A woman whose voice I can barely make out. Someone I know told her to call me. New family in town, maybe I can help. She’ll call back this morning.

***

Unanswerables. France won a soccer game against Germany last night. Honking cars streamed by with folks hanging out the windows waving flags, way past midnight. In the afternoon, an eleven-year old American boy by the name of Omar asked me – if I had a choice – what French name I would give my lodger from Mali. I’d never given the matter even the edge of a thought but the boy answered for me. “Hassan would be nice,” he said.

***

The gulf between the virtual and the real, the article says in The New York Times over one of the shootings in the States,   recorded live as-it-happened.

Unanswerables piling up like overdue bills. “Tenir debout dans le chaos” – the title to a piece published in a temporary paper put out during Aurillac’s street arts festival last year. A swirl of unanswerables, like so many pieces of confetti. Catching some of the patterns they make – is that the best a body can achieve?

The fine edge. Collective joy, collective grief, sadness, anger, rage, panic. Collective. Private. The edge where one emotional state tips over into another.

***

A total change in eating habits isn’t a full-time occupation? Yes and no, when you’re out in public places with food and drink provided by others.

***

Allez, I’ve used up this morning’s musing time.

 

While a silly tune plays havoc with my head

In Absurdlandia, Artists, Circus, Dance, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 3, 2016 at 8:35 am

This is serious. Come on. Look at the mess on your desk. Look at everything you must get done before nightfall. Plus, the horrors, the miseries, the emergencies. Plus, you must take some time for yourself, as they say. Relax. Wind down. But Think Of Others! But don’t stress out. But…! and so on.

Tragedy/Comedy. An impossible balancing act? But so is the simple act of walking.

Few of us will ever push the act of walking up to the level of walking on point, one foot at a time, on overturned glasses. And, indeed, what is the use or the purpose of achieving such a level of strength, grace and daring? No purpose. The notion must have appealed to the circus artist* the same way a crawling baby decides he’s going to manage that trick of walking on his hind legs no matter how many times he lands on his bum.

Impossible. The tragedies, too deep. The comedies, too superficial. “Not funny,” say the mourners, and of course, they’re right. Except for the fact laughter doesn’t ask anybody’s permission to show up, even at a funeral. Laughter breaks forth – in churches, in schools, in hospitals. It can even break forth while having sex or visiting a sorely afflicted friend stranded in dire circumstances. How? Why? Because of something incongruous. Something that breaks the solemnity. A fly on the solemn speaker’s nose. A piece of savage wit. Anything, anything at all that interrupts the narrative and sends it spinning off in another direction.

Something silly enough to interrupt even horror?I don’t know, although some of my characters keep on trying to break through that barrier too.

For now they’ll have to take the back seat while I tackle another bout of paper sorting, laundry and house-cleaning, prior to various visits – official and otherwise –  to my humble home. (The official part happens on Tuesday. Can I greet two persons from Aide Sociale à l’Enfance with my living-room in this condition? And my kitchen? And – gad – the bathroom. Will you look at this mess in the office? )

and so on.

*La danseuse sur verre (Lucie Boulay). You can see her performance on youtube or visit this page of Le Boustrophedon’s website.

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…”

In Artists, coffee, Film, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, or juice, photography, proto drafts, Tea, Wine on June 30, 2016 at 8:47 am

Those are the first words I speak in Ed Maurer’s composition, Pérégrinations. Yesterday, I spoke them – and other bits used in the score – while the camera rolled. Others did the same. The shots will provide material for a clip. We laughed a lot – including after others helped me off the floor when a chair broke under me. Because of my weight? I doubt it, heavier bodies than mine occupied it first. No real harm done  but maybe I should take a refresher course in shoulder rolls and tumbles, as learned years ago in a judo class.

“I was walking down the road, minding my own business…” And then? A cat dashed across the path? A cop car appeared? A group of marchers? No one other than a buzzing fly? A squadron of stingers? Had it rained during the night? Were the fields and spider webs covered with dew? Or was this a path through a forest? What kind? A path well-trodden or a push through scrub and thorny bushes? A street? Industrial, residential…

Characters, take your pick.

***

Behavior modification. Basic observation: you can’t modify eating habits the same way you quit smoking because you can quit smoking altogether but you can’t quit eating. Obvious? Yes. Not so obvious: the how-to. A trip to the small downtown supermarket now involves a mental blanking out of some nine-tenth of the displayed food stuff. Some of those I ignored already, some I bought on occasion, some I considered staples. I won’t be counting grams of ingested protein or salt forever but I’m doing so now to get the notions straight – including when eating out with friends.

I’ve reactivated a long-time companion for this purpose: a notebook I’d bought in Montreal a month before leaving for Europe. Jottings, drawings, notions about food. Fancy meals, simple ones. One recent entry shows cartoon figures at a café table in Gruissan. Date: May 28 of this year when I went to the seashore with friends. Comment added yesterday: “I didn’t know it but I was eating my last hamburger with fries. Delicious, luckily.” Better to end something on a great memory than on a lousy one.

So. Re-training the taste buds. Including when the jollity of a morning photo shoot peaks over wine and pasta with home-made pesto.

Yes, stomach? What’s that you said? ’tis time, I agree. I’ll have breakfast now.

Moving stuff around

In Absurdlandia, and other spirits, Animals, Current reading, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, news coverage, proto drafts, Theater on June 27, 2016 at 8:26 am

I’m not personally acquainted with toads. They have an unattractive appearance which leads to negative symbolic representations. But I’ve never met a toad in any significant way so I don’t see why I should insult the species by comparing the squishy and repulsive double-speak of a Boris Johnson to that of the warty amphibian.

Not that Monsieur Johnson is alone in his pond of squishiness. “Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises…” Caliban says in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Not all of the noises are sweet airs, nor are they restricted to the isle. Given the cacophonies reported in various media outlets, a healthy and varied reading diet comes high on my personal sanity scale. While I’d like longer stretches of time in which to concentrate on my proto draft, varied sources of activity aren’t a bad idea either.

The title summarizes what’s going on over here, both in general living and in writing terms. Housecleaning, exchanging a fridge with a freezer compartment against the current one going as a donation to the street festival. Freezer compartments are nice to have if you plan to organize meals in a less chaotic way.

Back to toads for a second because there is something toadish about Johnson. In the literary sense:

“Meanwhile, Toad, gay and irresponsible, was walking briskly along the high road, some miles from home. At first he had taken bypaths , and crossed many fields, and changed his course several times, in case of pursuit; but now, by this time feeling safe from recapture, and the sun smiling brightly on him, and all nature joining in a chorus of approval to the song of self-praise that his own heart was singing to him, he almost danced along the road in his satisfaction and conceit.” (Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows).

As reported in The Guardian, Johnson wrote the following in his column at the Telegraph : “There were more than 16 million who wanted to remain.They are our neighbours, brothers and sisters who did what they passionately believe was right. In a democracy majorities may decide but everyone is of equal value.We who are part of this narrow majority must do everything we can to reassure the remainers.We must reach out, we must heal, we must build bridges – because it is clear that some have feelings of dismay, and of loss, and confusion.”

Brave new world, and the dawning of a gentler, kinder Boris. Yes, all of us lowly non-elected ones are well-served by our champions in the political arena, these days. I have to wonder what a Rabelais or a Jonathan Swift would have made of it all.

For now: windows open to air that’s still cool. The sound of pigeons flapping their wings above the rooftops. Oh yes, and the small lizard that’s taken shelter under my bed. He(she) comes out at times. Slithers up onto the mattress or freezes on the floor. I’d hate to squish it by accident. Plus, living under a human’s bed must make for a solitary life and a limited diet too.

But how to get the message across the species barrier? Fear not, I come in friendship, little lizzy, and wish to point you to the exit. The window, see? Open. Freedom. Escape.The great outdoors. (I’ve tried this approach. Last night, I even extended an old world wall map as a carrier. No go. When my sister comes visiting, I’ll have to explain about the lizard under her bed.)

Hard to beat

In and other spirits, Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, news coverage, photography, proto drafts, Sundays on June 26, 2016 at 9:45 am

A few scenes stand out from last night’s outing. The ones that linger the most after less than four hours’ sleep have little to do with the purpose of the outing: a private party for a first presentation of a musical work by a friend. I provided some words and some voice to Ed Maurer’s fifty-minute composition called Pérégrination. The sixty or so guests enjoyed the performance, the food, the drinks and each others’ company.

Two of the kids held my attention most while I did my best to ignore the groaning board of forbidden goodies, the rum punch, the raspberry tiramisu etc. (Flash exposé: I blinked and faltered over the tiramisu.)

Back to the two kids who were both there and not there. The first, a girl of about ten, sat on the ground next to a vertical rack of sausage grilling by an open flame. While I worked on the experiment devised by the Greek gods – i.e. the mortals eat the meat, the gods get their fill from the smell of the roast – the girl peered down into her lit-up phone, oblivious to everything around her.

The second, a boy of about the same age, held my attention longer. In fact, we established the kind of relationship an adult and a youngster manage sometimes. One where neither party intrudes on the other’s privacy but a bond occurs. The boy’s attention was taken up by four activities: attempts at sketching a lighted sculpture while listening to the music (didn’t work, too many people milled around); lying on his back, staring up at the stars while listening to the music; sitting at the table, observing the patterns made by wax dripping from the candles (and attempting predictions as to which would drip next); and, finally – somewhere between one and two AM, sitting on the grass again, near the pool, playing a game on an electronic device.

He left with his parents just before we did. Looked my way and sent me a brief one-finger wave. I reciprocated.

***

Faces. Photos of. Plus titles such as TNYT The Woman Who ‘Totally Understands’ Donald Trump. As irresistible as a serving of that devilish tiramisu.

***

But hark! what light breaks beyond that yonder window?  ’tis the sun, and I’d better get a move-on if I hope to work a nap into the day’s proceedings.

Another bit of folk wisdom for the ages?*

In Absurdlandia, Fun, Games, Local projects, Music on June 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

Didn’t they warn me over and over and over again? Waste not, want not.  A stitch in time. Not to mention: be careful what you wish for.

Ah yes. They were right. Be careful. Given the universe’s  irrepressible sense of fun, you’ll get “it” and curse through your teeth. The timing will be off. The constraints on your life, on your time, on your personal space: enough to set up a wail to the heavens. But you wished for a break in the logjam, didn’t you? Ha-ha, personable one, smile to the camera now. Looks like you and your buddies won this round. Und now: never mind the parlor, says the spider, let’s move along and find  you a snug little cocoon to sleep in.

Brief factual translation of the above: a combination of phone calls, emails and registered letters has tipped the scales of justice into the proper alignment. Almost two months after the court decision, Child Protection Services (with help from the friendly reminders mentioned in the previous sentence), “accede to the minors’ wishes”. After suitable interviews and home visits, the four minors will be sheltered in private homes, their benefactors paid for the privilege of doing the work of sheltering, feeding, clothing, insuring proper schooling etc. Said benefactors will have signing authority for all medical and educational needs.

Right here, I break out into a lusty rendition of Viva mi patria Bolivia as a suitable hymn to my foolishness. Why?** Because I’m one of the lucky four. The thought of sharing my living quarters for an indefinite period with a seventeen year-old given to bouts of panic and… well, of seventeen year-oldedness combined with cultural cluelessness?  Leaves me with the choice of cursing or of singing. As usual, given a choice, I do both.

However. Apart from the possible benefits accruing to the four minors, two considerations stand out this morning: 1) I cherish my sanity, and my privacy too. 2)Coping with discomfort has a marvelous way of speeding up the process called On to the Next Thing. I don’t intend to become anyone‘s surrogate parent for any length of time. Ergo, somebody’s wish for the fast track to independence has more than my full support. Good luck to him, and to me.

* As a further bit of wisdom for the ages, I suggest: While skittering across the landslide, don’t forget to enjoy the view.

**Yes but: why Viva mi patria Bolivia? Am I Bolivian? No. The song landed in my life at some point. It tends to crop up in my head when the universe’s peculiar sense of humor so decides.

No trace of vestibular plagorism in my upper bile duct

In Absurdlandia, Music on June 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm

First, a word to the spammer, asking for advice concerning copyright violations and “plagorism” of his/her writing: Yes, spammer, I’ve seen a lot of your poor spelling around the internet but…was it yours or someone else’s? I can’t say. Good luck in all your endeavors.

***

After the ultrasound, the pleasant doctor wanted to send me over to the scanner but it was down for maintenance. Meaning I’ll have to book another appointment and locate another kind soul to bring me to the clinic and back. Considering the pleasant doctor found no trace of vestibular plagorism or plagiarism in my upper bile duct, I’m assuming the exams will turn up some minor, if annoying condition. Or one of those aches no one has worked into a compendium of ills yet – the perfect candidate for a pharma corp’s ad agency.

(Squeaky disquieting soundtrack. Dark bedroom, curtains flutter at the window. Camera pans in on a woman lying in bed with an anxious face. Close-up on the eyes. Concerned voice :” Do you sometimes wake at night with the certainty something is weighing down on your lower body? Do you sometimes experience sharp stabbing pains no one can explain? You may have plagorism of the lower intestinal tract. Ask your doctor about Plagorex and re-discover true well-being both day and night….Product appears on screen in a pretty blue and white bottle…Shot of same bedroom in soft evening light. A laughing woman in a negligee, laughing male partner – no worries, both wearing wedding bands – pleasant, light-hearted romantic music and final voice-over: With Plagorex, be plagued no more.”)

***

Next : I go to the doctor’s office so he can admire ultrasound pics of my innards and book me another appointment. Then traipse home again and find transportation back to Albi for this evening’s concert.

Ordinary doesn’t come close to describing this day.

***

(For the record in the absurdlandia category: the gentleman shuffling out to the benches outside the clinic, holding on to the pole from which a bag of milky-white liquid spouted down into a number of plastic tubes leading to the side of his neck. Sitting down with precautions that made me wince. Then, pulling out his pack of cigs and his lighter in order to add an extra layer of soot in his lungs, and a deeper tinge of grey to his skin. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if he had aggravated plagorism of the upper bile duct).

Whatever you do, make sure you re-arrange the truth

In Artists, Current reading, dreams, Hautvoir, Music, notes, photography, proto drafts, Theater on June 20, 2016 at 7:00 am

The estrangement is subtle. Subtler things are easy to pass by. When you do, they leave an impression, a dis-ease with no clear name stamped on it, except that of estrangement.

A group of people. Some you like more, some less, but you are linked together by a common task. At some point, one of them evokes a childhood memory – a song, a popular figure or even, the names of Snow White’s seven dwarves in their childhood recollections. The stories tumble out – first one, then another, in the usual way groups react to something meaningful. To some of the memories you wish to react with your own, except…

Except you know you’ll interrupt the flow. Why? Because you’ll need to provide context – another country, another culture, a different way of relating to what the group is sharing. Sometimes, you join in with this bit of yours and modify the flow. More often than not, you don’t. A camera’s a good thing to have in those moments. You’re the one in the group who clicks the shutter every so often, the way one of the dwarves is called Sleepy and another…whatever – the names of the seven dwarves never meant that much to me.

Meanwhile, it’s Act Three in the days before King Arthur’s time (at least, in Shakespeare’s play) and King Lear feels his sanity reel and sway. He counted on Regan after Goneril’s betrayal and lo – here they are, his two daughters, joining hands against him while he’s cast away the third.

Of course, once the betrayals begin they won’t stop until the play ends. The play isn’t called a tragedy for nothing and good king Lear could be called But, I thought

I wake from the dream with thoughts of James Joyce’s The Dubliners this morning. Of all those real-life encounters you can’t tell without at least a smidge of transmogrification.  Finding the one thread to pull so as to get away from what really happened: not always obvious.

Late morning. A young man lies in the grass, complaining that his head hurts. The story tumbles out of why he and the group leader arrived so late.

Medicinal, my dear Watson

In and other spirits, Animals, Artists, Current reading, Music, notes, proto drafts, Sundays on June 19, 2016 at 3:58 pm

I suspect we were the grungiest bunch of people seen in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges in recent times. Traveling in the grungiest jalopies seen (or heard) in its vicinities too. For one, the pilgrims travel on foot (with excellent walking shoes and telescopic walking sticks). Their rain gear and backpacks: first rate. From what we saw of the locals, some favored traipses through the village with a faithful dog and a flock of sheep or resided inside medieval homes in a state of impeccable upkeep and drove cars better described as recent-model vehicles.

The music took them by surprise too. Many of the older residents who came to the concert looked stunned and attentive during the first set. But since they called in some friends to join them for the second set, I gather they found the experience a change from the usual Occitanian choir group or the classical ensemble in from Toulouse. (Although we discovered a fabulous gospel choir during the after-hours part of the evening).

The highlight, singing-wise: two songs inside the cathedral during an improvised stop (too windy and rainy outside, a few pilgrims followed us inside). Exceptional acoustics. For once, we could hear each and every one of the voices. Total harmony.

Four of us left the all night after-hour early (i.e. two AM).  For the time being, words fail in describing the home in which we slept – something like a museum, with the old woman who lives there in the role of caretaker of her family’s history.

She was born in that house, she told me as we left. Both she and her husband trained as pharmacists – the source of one of the collections in her  home. The old apothecary jars have names like laudanum or ipeca but also opium, cocaine or haschish “*but those were strictly for medicinal purposes then,” she said. This goes without saying.

For non-medicinal purposes, some of the singers brought bottles of rum and I lugged a large six-pack of mineral water. The rest of the spirits were free of charge – which goes part of the way in explaining why musicians may be poor but poor or not, they’re usually well soused and pickled by early morning.

My upstairs neighbor is singing right now. Off-key, as usual. I have some photos to download, some reading in want of doing, some laundry and some scribbled notes to sort through.

Next concert: Tuesday night in Albi. Final week of school coaching for this year.

*Almost forgot: and arsenic too.