October 24, 2013 | by Nathan Deuel
There is something brutal about Philip Glass’s opera. The way it stops and starts, the taunting tease of a story, then the way it’s anything but narrative. Composed of nine twenty-minute scenes, the whole of Einstein on the Beach—first produced in 1976 and shown in L.A. for the first time this month—is interspersed by five so-called “knee plays,” in which two women sit or stand or writhe around on plastic platforms, or search dreamily inside gently moving glass boxes. It’s not easy to watch.
“This was a very American month.”
It’s thirty days since we moved to California after five years in the Middle East and in the darkened pavilion I start memorizing lines. I’m sitting beside one of my oldest friends. I am fearful my glasses will fall from my head. I picture my phone tumbling from my hand—possibly injuring Jack Nicholson, who is seated below—and I think about the car I am borrowing from my mom, parked deep underground, at least until the show is over, a car that is mine until we buy one of our own, or decide to go back.
We started eight levels down, in an auxiliary parking lot under a mall. Space for thousands. Walking to the opera, I’m dazzled by simple things, like the cool hush of an elevator, the absence of tanks, and the clothes people in L.A. wear when they aren’t going to a Dodgers game. The lights go down and two women in black suspenders and white shirts begin to murmur about Toyotas and the price and a certain number of coins. I think about our house in Venice, with its brittle wooden walls and a heater the size of a VW, glowing hot under the floorboards. I think about Beirut, and how far we’lve come since a brutal spring. Dancers curl through the smoke, scissoring around on a dimly lit stage. A boy throws paper airplanes from a metal aerie, and a violinist with grey hair scratches across the strings, both as long as it should be, and about as beautiful as it could be. So far.
“Any one asks you please it was trees it it it it it it it it it it is like that.” Read More »
October 23, 2013 | by Aaron Gilbreath
In 1965, celebrated jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan released the song “Speedball” on his album The Gigolo. A year earlier, the title track from his album The Sidewinder had become the biggest hit in Blue Note Records’s history, reaching number twenty-five on the Billboard LP charts, even appearing on a Chrysler TV commercial during the World Series. Although “Speedball” never attained the commercial success of “The Sidewinder,” it endures as one of Morgan’s best-known originals, and, with the possible exception of Art Pepper’s album Smack Up, its title serves as the most barefaced allusion to the monkey on midcentury jazz’s back.
Drugs, risk, rebellion—this unholy trinity seems more evocative of rock-and-roll longhairs than clean cut men in suits, yet these dark elements remain central to the jazzman archetype established by Charlie Parker. Between the midforties and early sixties, tons of talented players were strung out: Art Blakey, Hank Mobley, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Grant Green, Dexter Gordon, Jackie McLean, John Coltrane. If Coltrane later provided a countervailing archetype—the sober, spiritually aware, gentle genius—then Parker embodied creativity’s menacing, consumptive side. Morgan got lost between these poles. A promising, prodigy it-kid, he received his first trumpet at age thirteen. Five years later, he joined the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band. That same year, in 1956, he recorded his first Blue Note album as a leader, and soon after played on now legendary recordings such as Coltrane’s Blue Train, at age nineteen, and Arty Blakey’s Moanin’, at twenty. His own early output ranks as nothing short of astonishing—eleven albums as a leader by age twenty-two—which is why his 1961 departure from Blakey’s Jazz Messengers takes on the sinister weight of an omen. Read More »
October 22, 2013 | by Jason Diamond
I stood up when they called my name, and began to read from the piece of notebook paper in my hands:
Well, I’ve got something to say
I killed your baby today
And it doesn’t matter much to me
As long as it’s dead
Sweet lovely death
I am waiting for your breath
Come sweet death
One last caress
They ate it up; I awed the basement audience in that coffee shop, with its beat-to-hell couches and chairs acquired from the local Salvation Army. My friends and I had driven there that night so we could all participate in the open mic poetry session, because when you’re fifteen or sixteen, you want to be something, and nothing at all, you want to define yourself, but you don’t want to get stuck doing one thing or another. That was the period when we collectively chose poetry, and even though I didn’t deserve it, there was a lot of buzz about my work on that night; for a few hours I was a phenom among the suburban poets. One person told me he heard the pain behind my beautiful words, and that I really had something special; he said I was a natural poet, that I should never stop writing, and that I should close the night out with one more.
I obliged, not telling him, of course, that last poem was actually just Misfits lyrics, and that the one before that, about living in my van, was a Descendents song. I just let them all believe that, at sixteen, I was special, and that my reading, of what inadvertently became the last poem ever read at the Buzz Spot (the place closed a few days later), was a God-given gift. Had I actually read from the spiral notebook filled with my own writings, they’d hardly have been impressed. Read More »
September 26, 2013 | by Matt Domino
Recently, Bill Simmons, the popular sportswriter and editor-in-chief of Grantland, wrote an extended feature about last year’s The History of the Eagles, the two-part documentary chronicling the “legendary” band’s rise, fall, and reunion. In his article, Simmons states that one of the best parts of the film is “The Tao of Joe Walsh,” which basically translates to the hazy, drug-reduced, unintentionally funny, aging-rock-star wisdom of the Eagles’ part-time virtuoso guitarist. As part of his appreciation for Joe Walsh, Simmons highlights the following quote:
You know, there’s a philosopher who says, “As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, non-related events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation, and then, this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on. And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it don’t.”
From the above quote, it’s easy to understand why Joe Walsh is seen in a less than serious light. It is unfortunate that his legacy has become merely one of “rock ’n‘ roll’s survivors.” Though for many, “rock survivor” would not be an accolade to frown at, Walsh should be seen as something more than a former party animal who, though he has turned his life around, is not worth taking seriously. Read More »
July 22, 2013 | by Brian Cullman
Lillian Roxon died forty years ago this August.
Lillian was an Australian journalist who moved to New York in the late 1950s to cover popular culture for the Sydney Morning Herald and who fell madly in love with the city and with the sixties rock scene as it emerged. An unbridled enthusiast, scenemaker, and troublemaker, she was also one of the original Wild Grrrrls: bawdy, carousing, fiercely independent, unashamedly smart women on the town. Together, she, Germaine Greer, and Linda Eastman terrorized the city. At least the parts of the city that men frequented.
I met Lillian when I was about sixteen. She had just published The Rock Encyclopedia, and I devoured it, read it cover to cover. This was pre Creem, and almost all there was for music junkies was Hit Parader, Teen Beat, and 16 Magazine. So of course I bought her book. And corrected it. The spirit of the book was wonderful, but the facts were all askew, and for a young trainspotter that was unforgivable. She had John Stewart from the Kingston Trio listed as a member of Buffalo Springfield. Things like that. I sent her about thirty handwritten pages of corrections, and she sent back a note graciously asking if I’d like to work on the second edition with her.
There was no second edition, but she became my patron, taking me off to Max’s Kansas City and to clubs I never could have gotten into, not to mention taking me to all the back rooms and backstage scenes I didn’t even know existed. Read More »
July 11, 2013 | by James S. Murphy
Six weeks ago, the world celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the premiere of Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) on May 29, 1913, and of the legendary riot that accompanied it. It was the culmination of an ongoing celebration. In the past year, orchestras around the globe performed the piece. Carolina Performing Arts sponsored a symposium featuring leading scholars, a puppetry performance by Basil Twist, and a new reinterpretation of Nijinsky and Stravinsky’s ballet, called A Rite, by Anne Bogart and Bill T. Jones. Mark Morris, too, leapt onto the reboot bandwagon with Spring Spring Spring, danced to a musical reinterpretation of Stravinsky by the jazz group the Bad Plus. So, too, did the German choreographer Sasha Waltz, with her new ballet, performed on May 29 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the very theater in which the original premiered. Indubitably great as Stravinsky’s composition was, there is no doubt that much of the work’s fame and the desire to mark its anniversary rest on the riot. The Rite may have created a riot, but it was the myth of the riot that made The Rite and much attention has been spent in recent months on determining just what the source of the riot was.
If we really want to understand that watershed moment, however, we might do better to recall a different anniversary. A hundred years ago today, on July 11, 1913, the ballet was performed for the first time in London. After the tumult in Paris, what must have happened in the conservative, even staid, cultural climate of England? France, after all, had spawned Baudelaire, the Moulin Rouge, and Ubu Roi. London had sired Tennyson, the pantomime, and H.M.S. Pinafore. If worldly Parisians had rioted, surely parochial Londoners must have rampaged. Read More »