Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stride to Bop

Listening to the Ultimate Bud Powell, a best-of selection made by Chick Corea. As far as ultimate goes it's a decent attempt, but it's missing classics like "Un Poco Loco" and "Glass Enclosure," and some rare gems like Powell playing Monk tunes.

Is there any such thing as the definitive Bud Powell collection? The thing about Powell recordings is that when he was on he was right on, and when he was off he was way off. From the Blue Note sessions The Amazing Bud Powell is about as good as it gets. On Verve Corea's selection is a fine place to start.

Anyway, every time I listen to Powell I am blown away by the power of his mighty, mighty left hand. Dang. Did anybody have a left hand like that? Mary Lou? James P? Art Tatum? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Powell is not usually regarded as a stride pianist, but that left hand of his sure did stride. One rap against him, unfair in my opinion, is that his left hand was monotonous, or that he was too attached to the drone. Actually his left hand was facile and strong. A lot gets left out, as was the bebop style, but it's unfair to criticize Powell as a "one-handed" pianist. He could play the changes faster than anybody, and when he leaned on the drone, he meant it. The sad fact is that much of the criticism directed at Powell was motivated by envy, because any pianist in that tradition knew for sure that Bud Powell had a mighty, mighty left hand. It's sad because of the effect such criticisms had on Powell, a delicate soul by any account.

posted by Fido the Yak at 12:20 PM. 0 comments

Monday, August 28, 2006

Proper Listening, Melodic Thinking

Now I've got Prez in every cd player, all from The Lester Young Story, a four disc box set from Proper Records. Also from Proper I have Boss Bird, four discs of Charlie Parker. (Thanks again, B.) If you haven't already duplicated or digitized your vinyl and your cassette tapes, check out the box sets from Proper. They're inexpensive and you can get them from Amazon or, naturally, you can ask your favorite retailer. Proper is not the way to go if you want to study all seven out-takes of "Klactoveesedstene." If what you want is a boatload of tunes at a bargain price, look for Proper.

At this very moment I'm listening to the Ray Davies Show on Bluegrass Country. I'm not often in the mood for bluegrass, but when I am I want to hear the real deal.

If you're jonesing for thinking about melody, then go to Dylan Trigg's Side-Effects. Dylan recently followed up his posts on the Dialectic of Duration (1 and 2) with a post on Time and Melody. "Is it possible," he asks, "to think of temporal continuity as tonal and temporal discontinuity as atonal?" Myself, I'm going to listen to Andrew Hill's Time Lines again before I really think about it. I also want to catch up on my Bachelard, since The Poetics of Space is the only book of his own, which is sort of like only owning Hill's Point of Departure, a brilliant album but hardly representive of all the directions Hill's music has taken.

posted by Fido the Yak at 9:48 AM. 0 comments

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Rise, the latest album from sitarist Anoushka Shankar is both fascinating and annoying. The annoying part is the sense of some songs being overproduced pop for aging dullards. But when Anoushka simply plays her sitar the music can be wonderous. Some of her most soulful playing is on the Soleá, essentially a dialogue with pianist Pedro Ricardo Miño.

Miño has expressed the view that there is no Nuevo Flamenco, but rather that all genuine Flamenco is of the moment. Perhaps. But I wonder if recent trends towards rumbas and tangos aren't pushing aside some of the older palos. It seems like I know Nuevo Flamenco when I hear it, and at the same time I can hear a Flamenco artist's deep roots in the tradition. Paco de Lucía's Cositas Buenos (with Javier Limón) provides a ready example.

Maybe I shouldn't be so concerned. The Soleá is still kicking.

p.s. Linux tip of the day: If you're using grip with cdda2wav and it stalls after ripping, send it a SIGALRM. Your favorite process viewer probably has it listed in a menu somewhere. This is a lousy workaround, but it does work. If I ever properly diagnose the problem I'll note it here as p.p.s.

posted by Fido the Yak at 9:40 AM. 0 comments

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An Adequate Consciousness of Being Human

Looking up Einfühlung (empathy) online--because I don't quite agree with Sawicki's characterization of the translation issue and want to explore it further--I stumbled into a biography of Rudolf Steiner, of whom I had been completely ignorant. (NB: The wikipedia entry on Steiner is top notch.)

Yet another item on my to do list. So it goes. I'm especially looking forward to reading Die Philosophie der Freiheit or The Philosophy of Freedom. Both the German and an English translation are available from the Rudolf Steiner Archive.

posted by Fido the Yak at 10:41 AM. 4 comments

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Transcendental Empathy

Marianne Sawicki, commenting on Edith Stein's phenomenology, says that Stein "demonstrates that empathy is not a constituted sense, one among others; rather, empathy is the prior condition of the possibility of any constitution at all." (ht Brandon.) More later.

Later: The empathic subject, thinker, ego. I can observe myself thinking, as it were, take note of habits of thought, influences, moods. Not everything that goes into a thinking event belongs to me--Is it the spontaneous that represenets the truest expression of ipseity? And yet habits of thought. reflections of the way I live from day to day, and over many years, are these not also true to who I am? It seems that I will be responsible for as much as I can comprehend and then some. But my existence is so thoroughly compromised. Were I starting from scratch, would I really chose to be a primate? A yak? A lion, or a lion for real? I have no expectation of justice. If I could content myself with poetry, I would have that at least.

If empathic thinking is allowed to take the place of the transcendental ego in phenomenological description, is there still a need for an ego? What is the entity that is able to observe its own thinking? Is it empathy that enables it to identify (with) itself? Then the empathic subject may be the only subject needed. Yet couldn't the relationship be more inimical? On what ground can we assume the oneness of the reflexive consciousness? Maya.

Just saw Deepa Mehta's Water. Squeezing my wife's hand. Did we cry at the same moments? For the same reasons? It wouldn't be my place to suggest an answer.

posted by Fido the Yak at 5:28 PM. 2 comments

Friday, August 11, 2006

Griot Liberté

I was listening to Rubalcaba's Solo and the inevitable question arose, Is this Jazz? I enjoy solo works by jazz pianists, but I can't shake the feeling of their being haunted by Debussy's Preludes, in spirit if not in any technical sense. Perhaps the impression is largely a question of taste. Bud Powell's "Dusk in Sandi," a personal favorite of mine, is surely haunted by Debussy's Preludes. Fats Waller's "African Ripples" welcomes other ghosts. The problem, common to other musical traditions but acutely present in jazz idioms, is that the music has its source at once in ensemble performance and a call for expressive improvisation. Historically the trend has been towards freer and freer improvisation of solo performers, which also seems to be the trajectory European chamber music has followed. At what point do the ties to the rhythmic ensemble become so attenuated that the music becomes something else? When it no longer swings? And yet swing itself is fluid, improvised. I'd say the ties are broken when the music is no longer understood, when the time is so off it can never get back on. Ultimately the listener rather than the performer is responsible for relating a solo performance to the jazz tradition. (The performer of course is responsible for a kind of ideal listener, a way he wants his music to be understood.) So in the age of digital acoustic reproduction the question "Is this Jazz?" never recieves a definitive answer.

I've had bassist Buster Williams' Griot Liberté in heavy rotation the past few days. It's a great album through and through, but the track that really sold me was Williams' solo performance of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. Ever since Miles first introduced Rodrigo's piece to the jazz world, there have been listeners who wondered, Is this Jazz? It is now. It's also a great piece for classical guitar and orchestra (e.g., Sharon Isbin, whose full-bodied sound is the best thing to happen to her instrument since Andrés Segovia, gave a fine performance of the Concierto with the New York Philharmonic not too long ago). In Williams' hands, one hears echoes of Miles, and the gardens of the Palacio Real de Aranjuez. That Spanish tinge gone wild--not the two-bass players wild of Coltrane's Olé, but wild the way that Spanish tinge goes wild sometimes, more serenely. I wonder what Jelly Roll Morton would make of this music, whether it would sound familiar to him. And I wonder whose ghosts are these?

posted by Fido the Yak at 9:27 AM. 0 comments

Life of the Mind

I've spent most of my life hiding my mental illness from public view, more or less. That's no longer possible. I guess I'm more fragile than I wanted to believe. Today I will begin taking Geodon (ziprasidone) for the treatment of schizophrenia and manic depression. The common side effects should not be as debilitating as with earlier antipsychotic medications. I'm a little worried, but on the bright side I should have an easier time getting through some books I recently picked up:

  • The Life of the Mind, Vols I (Thinking) and II (Willing), by Hannah Arendt,

  • The Primordial Metaphor, by Ernesto Grassi, and

  • Monad and Thou: Phenomenological Ontology of Human Being, by Hiroshi Kojima.

Reading Kojima will mean revisiting themes I've been exploring for many years, roughly centered around the problem of describing the intersubjective constitution of the lifeworld. Is this the sort of work one ever truly finishes? Or should want to finish? Who knows. A couple of months from now maybe I'll have something to say about it.

posted by Fido the Yak at 8:33 AM. 4 comments

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

For the Antipodians

Does paper cover rock?

Imagine if Down Under rock covered paper. I know, I know, but just imagine. Would there be a zone of transition, or an abrupt reversal of fundamental laws of rock, paper, scissors? At the equator. Shouldn't there be some sort of ritual to mark the passage? Could you play rock, paper, scissors with a person on the other side of the equator? This would seem pretty strange, playing rock, paper scissors across the equator, but would it really be any stranger than known phenomena like magnetism?

It's pretty easy to stumble into an imagination of a quantum universe, a naive many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. In this universe, the shirt I want to iron is upstairs. In another universe, it's right here by the ironing board. But where am I in this other universe? Upstairs, perhaps, looking for that shirt I meant to iron. We tend to imagine ourselves as omniscient, or more accurately we imagine the world as if our viewpoint had qualities of omniscience and permanence that no viewpoint can truly possess. Why do we associate our selves with this fixed point? We could concievably wrap this point into our multiplications, but as a matter of habit we don't. Worlds are many, selves are one. For the self that is many, we reserve the term "schizo," which besides implying a pathology, implies that the true nature of self is oneness. This is strange.

I've finally got around to opening up Kristeva's Strangers to Ourselves. It's unsettling. That's as far as I've gotten with it.

posted by Fido the Yak at 8:11 PM. 0 comments