Sounds Like NowA blog by saxophonist Brian Sacawa
Archive for November, 2006
“Invok[ing] the soul-killing anonymity of chain hotels, the rooms’ terrible transient sameness: the ubiquitous floral design of the bedspreads, the multiple low-watt lamps, the pallid artwork bolted to the wall, the schizoid whisper of ventilation, the sad shag carpet, the smell of alien cleansers, the Kleenex dispensed from the wall, the automated wake-up call, the lightproof curtains, the windows that do not open—ever. The same TV with the same cable with the same voice saying “Welcome to _________” on its menu channel’s eight-second loop. The sense that everything in the room’s been touched by a thousand hands before. The sounds of others’ plumbing.”
David Foster Wallace, “Up Simba” from Consider the Lobster and Other Essays
Story Of The Day. I was at the Common Ground in Hampden today having a coffee and bagel lunch, when in walked a woman, who I seemed to recognize slightly, with three other peopleâ€”two men and one woman. Although she looked familiar I couldn’t place her and didn’t want to stare. However, when I caught her looking at the poster I had just put up, I stared a little bit. It was Kima from The Wire! One of the characters from my perennial obsession right there before me. I really wanted a picture of/with her and with my polaroid slung over my shoulder it could have, should have been a done deal. Except that I couldn’t remember her real name. See, I didn’t want to be some crazy obsessed fan (ahem…) and say, “Kima! Kima!” No, I’d much prefer to approach her with her real nameâ€”maybe then I’d seem less crazy. But try as I might, I just couldn’t recall it (her name). Then she left. Then I called my friend Loran and asked him to look up her real name from The Wire website just in case I happened to see her on the street later. He found it. Sonja Sohn. I knew that. Didn’t see her again.
I almost abandoned this book several times, especially during the first 100 pages. I had heard good things about itâ€”lot of rave reviews and such. And since I liked Slowness and Identity, The Unbearable Lightness of Being seemed like the logical next step. Maybe it was my state of mind when I started the bookâ€”I’d just come off of Amis’ starkness and rapidityâ€”and maybe all of Kundera’s metaphor, symbolism, and allusion seemed a bit over the top for me. Too much. Actually, it was kind of annoying. I like novels about ideas but I really wasn’t sold on this one. The novel did have its moments for meâ€”I enjoyed seeing new layers of the story revealed back on itself as the book progressed (the future informing the past, and all that)â€”but was mostly disappointed. I’d skip this one. Or maybe it’s one of those that requires a second go around.
I’m glad to be back in Baltimore and I’ve recently been taking advantage of all that I missed while on the road, including:
+ Scoring some new chairs at Avenue Antiques on The Avenue in Hampden
+ Common Ground
+ A new John Waters flick at The Charles
+ The Streets of New York: American Photographs from the Collection, 1938-1958
+ Hearing a piece by Alex in DC
This was the first book by Martin Amis that I’ve read. However, it was not the first book of Martin Amis’ that I had planned to read. I had first desired to read what is considered his most famous, none other than London Fields. But for whatever reason I always put off digging into London Fields (until recently), despite enjoying the first few pages in the bookstore on more than
one two three four occasions. Usually when I read books, I take notes about what strikes me about that particular book, but strangely, I didn’t write any notes about The Rachel Papers. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with what I thought about it. Teenage years. Ackwardness. Hilarity. Obsessive. Hysterical. Yup, that pretty much sums TRP up. And you should read it ASAP.
After 40 days away from home, I’m finally back and readjusting to being stationary for longer than two days at a time. (Which is basically another way of saying it’s my excuse for being absent for a few days.) At any rate, time to catch up. As rumored, Non-Zero made its triumphant return to concert life last weekend, giving folks in Boston a double dose of our new music stylings. First up was the debut concert of the ensemble NotaRiotus, the BMS‘s house band, in which the members of NZ serve as the percussionist and saxophonist. We performed Bob Hasegawa’s Ajax is all about attack. A complete concert of microtonal music might seem like punishment for the ears to some, but rest assured, with a piece by Bob on your program, you are sure to be relieved any monotony you might expect. That was the great thing about Bob’s pieceâ€”it wasn’t about microtones, but rather used them just as part of his compositional language. By not fixating on “microtonalness” of the work, Bob created a work with both expression and intensity and very cool interplay between the instruments.
Next up for NZ, after a feverish Monday of rehearsal, was a noon-time show/lecture/recital at the University of Massachusettsâ€”Dartmouth. (Dig Paul Rudolph‘s futuristic architecture, which is still anticipating widespread helicopter travel.) On the show with Bob’s piece were pieces by Curtis Hughes, James Tenney, Per Bloland, and Hillary Zipper. The room was completely full, which was wonderful. We started the program with Curtis’ Two-Faced, a manically virtuosic piece, before introducing Bob’s play on microtones. Up third was Tim’s big drum soloâ€”actually, Tim’s big tam-tam solo in the form on James Tenney’s Having Never Written a Note for Percussion, which T performed as a 15-minute crescendo and descrescendo. I went to the back of the room to listen to the piece and to observe the students’ reactions. Now, the tam-tam is capable of making a variety of interesting sounds and Tim conjured forth just about all them, which was why I was a little disappointed to see many of the students not paying attention, or talking amongst themselves, or text-messaging, etc. Honestly, I was a little upset. But then I thought, well, we are challenging their ears a great deal here this morning and music and sounds they’ve probably never heard (or considered music) before. So instead of getting angry, I decided to take a different approach, which manifested itself in a short speech after Tim’s solo that went something like this:
[To the students] “Now at this point in the program, you’ve probably realized that we’re playing music by American composers. And at this point in the program, you’ve probably realized that the music we’re playing is not traditional, or at least what you might consider traditional in terms of tonality, timbre, and so on. We’re inviting you to hear music differently this morningâ€”to engage with sound in a way you’re probably not familiar with. What do you do when you’re confronted with a 15-minute tam-tam roll? What sounds do you hear? How do you process and make sense of those sounds? What does it call forth in your mind? You have the ability to make it relevant to yourself in some way. But you also have the choice: you can choose to engage with the music, or you can choose not to. We’re inviting you to engage.”
It was pretty neat. After giving them the choice of listening or not, and not being dogmatic and proclaiming that they MUST engage, it seemed like the majority of the room suddenly warmed up to what we were doing. (It could of also been from the fact that the next piece was Hillary’s, which is absolutely arresting and beautiful.) Although after the show when Wayman Chin came up to me and said, “I’m glad you said what you did. It was perfect,” did the reason for some of the students’ reactions become clear: it was a music 101 class. I’m sure there were some who didn’t enjoy what NZ played, but we got some great reactions from the kids after the show.
“For Franz music was the art that comes closest to Dionysian beauty in the sense of intoxication. No one can get really drunk on a novel or a painting, but who can help getting drunk on Beethoven’s Ninth, Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, or the Beatles’ White Album? Franz made no distinction between ‘classical’ and ‘pop.’ He found the distinction old-fashioned and hypocritical. He loved rock as much as Mozart.”
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
So many things to elucidateâ€”finishing The Rachel Papers, broken saxophone, recap of Sunday’s Microtonal Society concert, manic rehearsing, rainy day in Boston w/o an umbrella, concert tomorrow at UMASS Dartmouth. But it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. I’ve got to go to bed.
NotaRiotus, the Microtonal Society’s house band that I play in, was given a nod by Jeremy Eichler in the Globe‘s “Classical Picks” this weekend.