by carl wilson

December 28, 2007

Quick note

CBC Radio 1's Talking Books show will, I'm told, be having a roundtable discussion about my book (see left) this weekend, Saturday at 4:30 pm (5 pm in Newfoundland).

General | Posted by zoilus on Friday, December 28 at 5:21 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

December 27, 2007

It's a Holiday, Such a Holiday...

That Bee Gees song always seemed so mysterious, Syd Barrett-ish, with its talk of puppets and thrown stones. Take my holiday silence this week in that same spirit and indulge in grand speculations. I'll be back with some year-endish blather next week; I've sent in my Idolator poll ballot hastily and wish I could revise it -even when you don't believe in the list ritual quite so much, there's still a self-portrait self-consciousness to the exercise, and this year I think my lists simply portray a person who was otherwise preoccupied. I was tempted to Bayard it and list some records I haven't gotten around to hearing yet (Robert Wyatt's Comicopera, f'rinstance) but apparently I'm not French enough to balls that through.

More next week.

General | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, December 27 at 11:53 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

December 19, 2007

My Book, but in Iraq
And by GB Trudeau

Two recent Doonesbury strips:




General | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, December 19 at 8:32 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

December 17, 2007

Freakin' is Our Business &
Stock Options Are Peakin':
Fairies, Turtles, Ninjas ... and Me


Matt Collins of Ninja High School, with NHS followers rocking out at rear, at Sneaky Dee's last weekend. Photo by The CJM.

Reviews of le livre (see left) are beginning to trickle in: a hefty one in New York magazine ("this book goes very deeply right") and one in the Gazette in Montreal (I love that they call it "a compulsively quotable book"). The Las Vegas Review-Journal also had a column about it this weekend, coinciding with the last night of Celine's Caesar's Palace run. And I'm honoured to have been "felt" by Simon Reynolds (whom I hope will pursue his asterisk'd caveat too).

Meanwhile, Claire Colley has a cuppa-tea-comfy chat with Robert Wyatt about his recent Comicopera, surely one of the albums of the year, about his "karaoke" songwriting process ("I play really nice records and when the record's over I keep playing, and of course I can't play the tune so I come up with something else, and that's my tune") and other things. Of Comicopera, he says: "The first part, Lost In Noise, is about loss and relationships. The second, The Here And Now, is more objective, about things I like, don't like, don't understand, like religion ... and do understand, like nice cosmopolitan music in a town square. Side 3 is, you know what? I'm fed up with English-speaking people. I'm going to go away with the fairies. I sing in Italian and I do a bit of surrealism, free improvisation, and end up with a romantic revolutionary song of the '60s, a hymn to Che Guevara."

John Turtletop has a long essay in response to Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise. There's a bit of throat-clearing at the top, but it picks up steam around the point he says, "The Rest Is Noise does not subscribe to the outdated theory that popular music is ephemeral while 'classical' ... music is for the ages." John, being generally a pop guy, pays particular attention to the contrasts and parallels and overlaps between 20th-century composers' music and jazz and pop. One strong claim John makes is that there seems to have been no sequel in popular culture to the figures of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin, no one further who's so successfully melded the roles of formal composer and pop musician in recent decades. My impulse is this is because the "classical" realm has lost its special status of ultra-respect, becoming simply one more cultural niche, and so it's not an aspiration in the same way anymore. (Although I'm inclined to say that in a different way, Lennon & McCartney - with or without George Martin? - could claim to be Ellington and Gershwin's heirs; someone [not me] might also point to Philip Glass.) Also, John hints that Alex slants his account toward The Battles of Harmony/Dissonance, wondering what other story might emerge from thinking through 20th century's rhythms, timbres, durations. But mainly it's an appreciation that certainly reminds me that I need to clear some time to finish Alex's book.

I was too swamped last week to pen any sort of eulogy to Ninja High School, which disbanded after four-and-a-half years with a show at Sneaky Dee's last Thursday. But sometime Zoilusian Chris Randle had one over at Eye. The demise of NHS (as well as the apparently stalled Barcelona Pavilion reunion?) does seem to cement the sense that a certain phase of the Torontopian moment has been over for a while now; what follows is perhaps the less starry-eyed, more methodical work of crop rotation and diversification that makes for a sustainable scene. What I'll miss most is NHS's ability to generate slogans that worked as self-fulfilling prophecies - the slogans would come true through the very act of shouting them: "It's gonna be us-us-us-us-us!" "We know we're not the only ones who think this way!" "These ideas kill!" (Or in the case of "It's all right to fight," they would be fulfilled, playfully, in the mosh pit, where the silly-wrestling energy tended to mirror the friendliness-through-mock-aggro mood of the lyrics precisely.) After their follow-up album to Young Adults Against Suicide was lost in a computer-hard-drive incident, and a few of the rounds of interpersonal drama that bigger ensembles are especially vulnerable to, the momentum went out. Fortunately, various fractions of NHS are planning to re-emerge in '08 with new projects (including one from Steve Kado and Matt Collins rumouredly called Serious [or was it Seriously?]). Hey hey, my my, iPod'sitivity will never die, but the way it's seeming right now? It was gonna be us, and then it was us, and then it wasn't. RIP NHS: You always sent us home in a fuckin' ambulance.

General | Posted by zoilus on Monday, December 17 at 1:37 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)

 

December 14, 2007

Christine Fellows:
'They're Just Letting in a Little Light'

Prelims: Today's me-interview on CBC's "Q" should land somewhere 'round here.

Yesterday, I had a feature profile of Christine Fellows in the Globe & Mail. (Transcript to come, Canuckistan-stylee.) Tonight, Christine plays a show at the Music Gallery, showcasing her lovely new album with a title that's one of the ear-ticklingest, bitterest-sweet words in English, Nevertheless. (Borrowed gently from a Marianne Moore poem.) Her voice, ukulele, piano and cetera will be supported by cellist Leanne Zacharias and hand-animated visual projections by the amazing Shary Boyle (who's also collaborated with Feist, Jens Lekman and others). Rather like this:


A songwriter gets intimate with solitude
12/13/07 The Globe and Mail
CARL WILSON

Intimacy is a slippery thing. When it begins it's so hard to be sure of, and when it goes -- worn out by routine, dispersed by separation, brought to a full stop by mortality -- only unreliable memory can vouch it existed, since its traces lie by definition in territory unreachable by any outsider. And the price this most precious human experience exacts is to invent a new kind of emptiness you know you'll plunge into when its tethers break. It's funny that more people don't simply opt out. The ones who do -- the reclusive eccentrics, confirmed bachelors and maiden aunts among us -- seem to be keeping another sort of secret.

The gregarious and thoughtful Winnipeg musician Christine Fellows is, by her own testimony, happily married to John K. Samson, her sounding board and sometime collaborator, as well as the lead singer of flagship 'Peg rock band the Weakerthans. On her superb 2005 album Paper Anniversary -- which led celebrated U.S. songwriter John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats to invite her on tour last year, proclaiming, "Christine Fellows is writing better songs than anybody else. Everybody else is actually quite pathetic next to her" -- partnership and family were conspicuous themes.

She is following up with a set of musical portraits of lives marked by intimacy's apparent banishment.

"At the end of the day you are alone with yourself," she said in a backstage interview when she opened for her husband's band at the Opera House in Toronto in early November. "Yourself is inescapable. Even with Paper Anniversary -- and I know this is kind of a bad way to be -- I had just gotten married but I was thinking, 'What do I do when he dies?' I read Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking," a wrenching chronicle of sudden widowhood, "and I felt like, 'Oh my god, I can't bear the thought.' So I wrote a little sketch of my family coming home after my grandmother's husband, my grandfather, had died." It became that album's gorgeous centrepiece, Vertebrae. "I had to go to that dark place even though I was totally jubilant."

The new album, Fellows' fourth, Nevertheless, began with a commission from Toronto-based dancer and choreographer Susie Burpee, who wanted music for a one-woman show about the concept of the spinster, the solitary woman. She asked not just for an instrumental score of the sort Fellows has composed for many dancers, filmmakers and other cross-disciplinary collaborators, but for a song cycle. Fellows quickly decided to base an album on the same material.

Though the spur may have been a standard feminist inquiry into a scorned stereotype, Fellows' research -- "because I have my own weird little way" -- led her to a "male spinster," American collage-box artist Joseph Cornell (1903-72): "It turned out he lived with his mother his entire life, and was really shy, and fascinated with ballerinas, these archetypes of the female. He's not a bachelor, right? He's a spinster." Next she discovered Cornell's correspondent Marianne Moore, in some ways his opposite number -- though apparently celibate, and renowned for her brainy and unsentimental nature poems, she was a flamboyant presence on the New York literary scene, often clad in a black cape, squiring Paris Review editor George Plimpton to baseball games and known to have a pet alligator in her bathtub.

"I fell in love instantly," Fellows said. "But I wanted to get inside the idea of why her life was that way. Did she ever have relationships? I spent a long time trying to figure out if she was gay, and so on. And why did I want to know? I wanted to know where her passion lay. And finally I realized that her passion was in poetry. It absolutely was her work, and her way of looking at the world. ... I started out trying to figure out why she was alone and then realized there was no need for that."

Much of Nevertheless was written in dialogue with Moore's verses of singularity and resilience (it takes its title from one). It also portrays Cornell-like figures as well as a retired boxer named Cruel Jim, an old lady keeping chickens in the country and a Winnipeg spinster named Betty (based loosely on a clipped-out obituary Fellows rediscovered in the pocket of her winter coat one day) whose pets are a mated pair of Parlour Roller pigeons, a bizarre evolutionary-dead-end breed of racing bird that cannot fly but wildly flaps its wings and turns backward somersaults along the ground. (It's worth a YouTube search for this uncanny and, as the bird-loving Fellows said, "heartbreaking" sight.)

Clearly, all this is not in the usual ambit of a confessional singer-songwriter.

"At a certain point, all your previous life seems to be very inward-focused, directed towards yourself. Then at some point the focus goes outward," said Fellows, a wide-eyed 39-year-old with dramatically white-blonde hair. "That's part of why this poet was so interesting, because her focus was always outward. ... I sneak little bits of myself in -- that's unavoidable, right? ... But it's also, 'What's the rest of the world up to?' "

The effect is far from impersonal, thanks to Fellows' intricate and sensitive writing, "pushed up against" the melodic energy of her piano lines and chamber-string settings, with a few bouncy rock refrains and the occasional choral interlude. Her singing voice skips nimbly over off-rhythms to convey complex thoughts in a disarmingly chatty tone, as if in a phone call with a close friend. Which only makes the poignant twists, when they come, more pulverizing.

Combining commissions, arts grants and the support of her small label, Toronto's Six Shooter Records, she has found a neatly Canadian niche that helps her bypass an entertainment industry "that really has nothing to do with what I do, most of it." Unlike many female singers who aren't famous by their late 30s, she's at no risk of feeling like a music-business spinster. She was so busy last year that at one point she literally broke out in hives.

"I didn't even know that I could sing until I was 24. I went to jazz school when I was younger, but I never sang, I just thought [being a musician] would be a kind of cool job -- my grandfather had played in a big band. So I feel like I'm still kind of young with it."

The scattering of the Winnipeg scene Fellows settled into with early bands Helen and Special Fancy in the 1990s (she grew up mainly in British Columbia) has given her another sort of experience of solitude. Yet while Paper Anniversary was painstakingly patched together alone in a home studio, her suite about loners was recorded very sociably, with one ensemble in a restored 1912 opera house in the small rural town of Manitou and another band assembling in Winnipeg. But to do it, she had to fly most of the players back to Manitoba. Usually Fellows has to leave home now to see musical friends, whether on tours like the one that brings her to Toronto's Music Gallery on Friday, or trips to collaborate with people such as visual artist Shary Boyle, whose magical hand-animated projections were used for the album artwork and will accompany Friday's show.

In Winnipeg, Fellows has a sense of living "a bit off the grid," as she and Samson spend their time mostly on their own, writing. "Both of us have really made an effort to stay there, because everyone leaves. For him it's family, and for me it's a place I chose. So I want to make it work even though technically it doesn't work."

For all the album's empathy for spinsterhood, the earthy Fellows, ever quick with a curious-fact digression or a joke at her own expense, seems unlikely ever to embrace such an ascetic choice. Her heart ultimately is with the pigeons -- awkward, perhaps ill-fated, but paired for life. In the final song, the bluegrass-tinged What Are Years?, she turns a famous Marianne Moore quote into a question: "Is solitude indeed the cure for loneliness?"

And she answers: "Oh, I don't think so: I'd miss you too much."

Read More | General | Posted by zoilus on Friday, December 14 at 3:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

December 12, 2007

Queering the Pitch
(An Expression Whose Literal Meaning
I Have Only Just Now Come To Understand)

3313.jpg

I missed this Freakytrigger post when it first appeared last week. It brings up the most cogent criticism yet of the premise or placement of my book. Tom writes: "The utopian part of me wishes it was coming out as its own thing, not as a 33 1/3 publication. ... [The] choice of this book for this series queers the pitch, creates a structural divide between Dion and all other music covered in the series. These other acts get their albums written about lovingly by fans, Celine's is written about by a non-fan trying to convert themselves and explore ideas of taste. Celine Dion is a perfect subject for a book like that, and I think it'll be a terrific book. But it unlevels the 33 1/3 playing field - it makes Celine a special case."

He makes a sound point about the 33 1/3 meta-narrative. When I pitched the book two years ago, I felt the series inevitably reinscribed the notion of a pop/rock/etc canon. Perhaps that's not true now, though when I was interviewed on the radio this morning that's exactly how the hosts described it: books about "influential, important" albums, except mine. In this sense, it seemed like the right place for an intervention over canon criteria.

While I'd like to imagine the 33 1/3 editors would have accepted a "straight" Celine book from a plausible author with a good angle, "utopian" does seem a good word for the prospect. Likewise I doubt this book would have found a decent publishing berth anywhere else, at least in any version I would have been both willing and able to do. The match of series and book brings it to the most appropriate audience, in the less-than-ideal real world of taste: Pointing out that a field is already massively slanted isn't the same thing as "unlevelling" it.

Frank Kogan extends in the comments: "I like Carl ... but at the same time he may be the epitome of what I was calling 'PBS' in my book, embodying PBS virtues as well as flaws. The concept 'How do people like us come to terms with someone like Celine Dion?' seems almost guaranteed to render Celine lame in the context of 'our' appreciation. ... There can be good reasons to temporarily suspend judgment at times while listening to music, but 'This Is The Album Where We Have To Suspend Judgment' seems awfully condescending."

I'm dealing with my soreness over being called "PBS," however good-naturedly: I am pretending Frank is mistaking for a PBS accent what is actually a Canadian accent. (Frankly I don't see how criticism is ever really not PBS, including Frank's, Lester Bangs's, whoever. And good art is neither PBS nor anti-PBS; good art never heard of PBS.)

Otherwise: I hope that I never in the course of the book address an "us" that is presumed to include me, the reader and some vague group of people, save when that "us" is human beans. (A suspect device, yes, but useful.) Rather, it is about me, her and a range of particular thems. The reader isn't presumed to share my dilemma, just that it might tell us generalizable things about the workings of social aesthetics. The reader is presumed to be like me in that she's interested in knowing those things (in itself a ridiculous presumption).

I'm given pause by the proposal that suspending judgment is condescending. I'd say suspending judgment might be a habit to adopt every time we encounter a new cultural work, whether first-impression simpatico or not. Seeing how long we can leave it suspended. Paying attention to what ends up fraying the thread and causing judgment to come crashing down. There's a lot more about this in the book. But what else do you do to undertake a reconsideration? Is reconsideration inherently condescending? Or is this again more a meta-series issue?

An audio file of my chat this morning with the hosts of NPR's Bryant Project Park project can be found here. I've certainly been fortunate so far in my interviewers and their researchers - good questions all round.

General | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, December 12 at 2:09 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (10)

 

December 10, 2007

I, Mediawhore

Since the book (see left margin) comes out this week, I'll be busy doing a heavy round of media. I'm on today's edition of Fair Game with Faith Salie (a PRI show that airs at various times on various NPR stations) - it looks like you'll be able to listen in their on-line archive later in the week. Faith is a very charming interviewer. I'm also going to be on the Bryant Park Project morning show on Wednesday (probably between 8 and 9 am EST), and on Q with Jian Ghomeshi on the CBC sometime in the next week.

(Why you'd want to know all that, who knows? But posting it here helps me keep track of myself.)

General | Posted by zoilus on Monday, December 10 at 5:48 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

December 7, 2007

So Long, It's Been Good to Know You
Plus: The 'Shoe Fits

shoe.gif
The Horseshoe on Queen St, Toronto, as it looked back in the Stompin' Tom/early-punk era.

This just in: RIP Karlheinz Stockhausen.

The Guardian's "Readers Recommend..." Friday feature of themed song playlists is always a pleasure, and for me today's "... Songs About Other Songs" is crystal meta, although I think they miss a beat by naming "Sweet Home Alabama" itself (more answer song than song-about-a-song) when they could mention the Drive-By Truckers' "Ronnie and Neil," or nearly anything else off of Southern Rock Opera, which is basically music history/criticism set to music. Nick Hornby was amiss in not including the entire 'libretto' in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2001 book. Does the Guardian have a page where you can see the full list of suggestions for the category? Can't seem to find it. I wonder if there were any Destroyer entries. And for some reason as soon as I saw the topic, perhaps my favourite Randy Newman verse from a not-so-great Randy Newman song began running through my head, from "Old Man on the Farm" (Little Criminals, 1977, the album with "Short People" on it):

Goodnight, ladies.
Sorry if I stayed too long -
So long, it's been good to know you ...
I love the way I sing that song.

Elsewhere, both Eye and Now (in several different articles, timelines, etc) toast the 60th anniversary of Toronto's Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, which opened in 1947 and is celebrating this month. Tonight the Waco Bros. (Mekon Jon Langford's country-rock-rave-up band) play, and next week, a six-night stand by the Joel Plaskett Emergency. Joel's going to showcase a different album each night - so Monday it's In Need of Medical Attention, Tuesday it's Down at the Khyber (probably my favourite), Wednesday it's Truthfully Truthfully, Thursday La De Dah and Friday Ashtray Rock. Then on Saturday he plays a whatever-the-hell-he-feels-like setlist. I'd go every night if I could, but it's not exactly a quiet time of year.

Whenever I visited Toronto in the '90s and for the first couple of years after I moved back here, a visit to the Horseshoe was practically obligatory - it was high times for "alt-country" and there were weeks I felt like it was a second home. Since then I've been more of a nomad, having Boat and Lee's Palace and Sneaky Dee's and Tranzac and Silver Dollar phases that have come and gone and come again, and the 'Shoe, for some reason, has become a less frequent stop on my rounds. Yet even this year, when I've been a less rabid concertgoer, there have been memorable 'Shoe occasions such as the show by The Blow and Republic of Safety this summer. I'm not always fond of the sightlines/crowd configuration in the room, but the sound is usually first-rate and the booking is consistent and strong, and above all the place carries a historical whiff (from Stompin' Tom to the Last Pogo to the secret Stones show etc, as Now's articles detail) that you can't overlook. So happy birthday, you dirty old 'Shoe. And keep an eye out for those surprise birthday shows, Torontonians.

General | Posted by zoilus on Friday, December 07 at 3:21 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (2)

 

December 4, 2007

Party!

A friend today pointed out that I've been remiss in not publicizing the launch party for that there book over there in the left margin yet.

The event takes place Wed., Jan. 9, at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, starting at 7:30 pm, as part of the This Is Not A Reading Series (TiNaRS for the cognoscenti).

It features performances of Celine Dion songs and other aesthetic curiosities by 2006 Polaris Prize winner Final Fantasy, Laura Barrett and The Blankket (with perhaps one more performer tba), and an excerpt from the one-woman show Celine Speaks by Laura Landauer aka Gypsy Miller. There will be a short onstage conversation between me and writer/Harper's contributing editor/U of T philosophy professor Mark Kingwell, and DJ'ing by Brian Joseph Davis. The price is nada.

If you're on Facebook, there's an event page here.

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, December 04 at 11:12 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (4)

 

Crossbloggery @ Powells.com

The site for the independent-bookselling juggernaut Powells.com has been hosting a series of posts by authors from the 33 1/3 series, and mine went up a couple of days ago. It's called "In Praise of Distraction," and it's partly a reflection on writing the Celine book for 33 1/3 and partly about the notion that "Being interested in music ... really means being interested in almost everything."

If you're a U.S. reader, in particular, you might be interested in Powell's buy-2-get-1-free sale on the 33 1/3 series.

General | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, December 04 at 11:01 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

Ian Brown's Boy in the Moon

I seldom mention on Zoilus the stories I work on as an editor of The Globe and Mail's Focus section, but I feel compelled to let those of you who've missed it know about the series "The Boy in the Moon" by my colleague and friend Ian Brown, which began this past weekend and continues the next two. It's the story of Ian's life with his son, Walker, who has a rare genetic syndrome called CFC that makes him disabled in a dozen different ways. But it is a tough, curious, humorous and philosophical take on the sort of subject matter that is usually served with a heavy sauce of sentiment. Ian's writing, always strong, is at its best here. It's lengthy (the groundwork for a future book) but incredibly emotionally and intellectually engrossing. The multimedia content on the website is compelling, too.

General | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, December 04 at 4:51 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

December 1, 2007

Sweet Sounds a-Comin' In

Also this weekend, tonight, tomorrow night and in conversation on Monday evening, we're lucky to have baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett from the St. Louis area (best known as a member of the World Saxophone Quartet) and percussionist Kahil El'Zabar from Chicago (leader of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble) to play the Trane Studio. If you missed David Dacks' article on Bluiett in Eye this week, go check it out, and as a supplement, here's a piece (halfway down the post) that I wrote several years ago about El'Zabar.

Via Toronto | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, December 01 at 2:37 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

Taking Liberties with Susan Howe

This weekend, Toronto's lucky to be graced with the presence of Susan Howe, the New England writer whose work since the early 1970s has helped push the intellectual and formal bounds of poetry. Howe's poetry is a notoriously spare and rigorous one, layered with historical and literary allusions, but in a reading yesterday at Ryerson University, hearing her speak it for the first time, the humour and sensuality of it was much clearer - or, to put it in relevant terms for this weekend's events, the music. In a conversation after the reading, Howe noted that she's often regarded as a visually focused poet, but she said that to her, "every mark on a piece of paper, every mark, is acoustic." This auditory awareness is rewarded with the attention of musicians, including Toronto's veteran composer Udo Kasemets (Estonian-born, now in his late 80s, best known by shorthand as one of the most prominent of John Cage's Canadian disciples), who presents his "pOemoPERA" version of her The Liberties tonight and tomorrow afternoon at Ryerson.

Wearing a heavy ceramic-and-wood necklace, black shirt and jacket, beige pants and professorial glasses, with her sparrow face, sprigging grey hair echoed darker in back, Howe read the title poem from her latest book, Souls of the Labadie Tract, an exploration of the abandoned site of a late 17th-century communitarian religious sect (the history of antinomian Protestant groups is a frequent presence in her work), shifting between a sort of cataloguing of fragmentary facts and features of the landscape and a lyric that seems to address history - "with continuous volteface/ in this sense ownerless" - in the tones of a lover: "I think of you as wild and fugitive. Stop awhile." (Part of the backstory is that Wallace Stevens' wife had ancestors from the Labadie group's area, so Stevens is a presence in it too.) The poem has also been musicked by David Grubbs (formerly of Gastr del Sol, Squirrelbait, Bastro) on an album forthcoming from Drag City, David's second collaboration with Howe (the first being 2005's fine Thiefth.)

She also read from the source of Kasemets' new work, a 1980 poem called The Liberties, which plays with the figures of Cordelia from King Lear, the Irish legend of Lir, and Jonathan Swift's "Stella," one of the two young women named Esther (the other he dubbed "Vanessa") with whom the Anglo-Irish satirist was ambiguously entangled. All of which, she explains, connects not only with feminist thinking but with Howe's mother, an Irish writer and actress whose set was preoccupied with the Stella/Vanessa story. "I think Cordelia is an equivalent figure to Stella in her loyalty, erasure, toughness and truth, not saying what she 'should' say." The poem was also influenced by Strindberg, Ibsen, and the feminist performance art she was seeing in New York at the time.

Kasemets didn't drop too many hints about what the "pOemoPERA" will be like, but if it's a match for the multidimensional, sculptured sound of Howe's words it should be a beauty. In their conversation, Howe said, "I'm not a music person, but I've been reading Theodor Adorno on Beethoven, where he said something like, 'In music you have to think verbally': You're making a narrative, and you are describing the music to yourself as you listen. I'm interested in the relation between words and music, or letters and music, or syllables. It interests me so much that Charles Ives wrote essays to go with pieces like his Concord Sonata, as if the essays had to go with the music."

The Liberties of Susan Howe by Udo Kasemets is performed tonight at 8 pm and tomorrow at 3 pm at Ryerson University's Rogers Communication Centre, Eaton Auditorium, 80 Gould Street.

General | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, December 01 at 1:47 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (1)

 

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