Friday, August 28, 2009

Meta Haiku

Check out the very cool "meta haiku" by Heather McDougal. Happy clicking!

If a Clown

I don't think I've ever read a Stephen Dunn poem before that I really, truly liked (and many of them I really, truly dislike)—but I like this one, from the August 24, 2009, issue of The New Yorker: "If a Clown."

Ordinarily, I don't like poems that overflow with questions like this, but here, the shift to the kid at the end gives the poem the extra propulsion it needs to lift off.

Basel Lyrikfestival

The 7th Basel Poetry Festival will take place on September 5 and 6 at the Literaturhaus Basel. It includes readings by Peter Waterhouse and Ron Winkler, among others, and the awarding of the Basel Lyrikpreis. The full program is here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Advertisement in Basel

This poster is an ad campaign in Basel to get people to use sunscreen. It's also a lesson German modal verbs:

"I know how little I should."

"I know how much I can."

"I know how much I may."


By the way, I noticed that people generally say "sunscreen" these days, rather than "suntan lotion," as people said when I was growing up in the 70s. A sign that the reason to use the stuff has changed ...

Jazz artists I have heard live

So my concert list was just about pop-rock-folk-reggae-country-bluegrass bands. Here's a list of jazz artists I have heard:

1. Ralph Towner
2. John Abercrombie (those two as a duo: my first jazz concert; JA also in various other formats)
3. Oregon (1984 was a Towner-intensive year!)
4. Miles Davis (twice, once with Scofield)
5. World Saxophone Quartet (several times)
6. David Murray (with WSQ, with Jack DeJohnette, as a leader of quartet and octet)
7. Dave Holland (with the Wheeler-Coleman quintet, with the Potter-Eubanks-Nelson quintet, solo, and in various other groupings)
8. Sonny Rollins
9. Dizzy Gillespie
10. Max Roach
11. Sun Ra (twice, perhaps even three times?)
12. Cecil Taylor
13. Mark Feldman (with New and Used, with Sylvie Courvoisier, with Zorn)
14. Dave Douglas (as leader, with New and Used)
15. Bill Frisell (in all sorts of settings)
16. Paul Motian (with the Frisell-Lovano trio, and with Konitz-Swallow)
17. Joe Lovano (with Motian, as a leader with Hank Jones)
18. Lee Konitz
19. Steve Swallow
20. Charlie Mariano
21. Jasper Van't Hof
22. Hank Jones
23. George Mraz
24. Marc Ribot (in all kinds of settings, and with Tom Waits and Elvis Costello)
25. Julius Hemphill (with WSQ, with his Sextet)
26. Charlie Haden (with Quartet West, with Metheny, with Kenny Barron)
27. Pat Metheny (with the Group, with the Grenadier-Stewart trio, with Hancock-Holland-DeJohnette)
28. Herbie Hancock
29. Jack DeJohnette (in all sorts of settings)
30. John Surman (with DeJohnette, with Anouar Brahem and Holland)
31. Anouar Brahem
32. Kenny Wheeler (with Holland)
33. Robin Eubanks (with Holland)
34. Chris Potter (with Holland)
35. Steve Coleman (with Holland)
36. Steve Nelson (with Holland)
37. John Purcell (with DeJohnette)
38. Howard Johnson (with DeJohnette)
39. Cecil McBee (with DeJohnette)
40. Billy Hart (in various settings)
41. Larry Coryell
42. John Scofield (with Miles, as a leader)
43. Tom Harrell
44. Larry Grenadier (with Harrell, Henderson, Metheny, Mehldau)
45. Joshua Redman
46. Brad Mehldau
47. Jorge Rossy
48. Jeff Ballard (Mehldau's drummers)
49. Bill Stewart (with Scofield, Metheny)
50. Paquito D'Rivera
51. Mark Walker (with D'Rivera)
52. Billy Cobham
53. Denny Zeitlin (duo with Haden)
54. John Zorn (with Naked City, Cobra, Bar Kokhba)
55. Fred Frith (with Naked City, as a leader)
56. Wayne Horvitz (with Naked City, as a leader)
57. Joey Baron (with Naked City and elsewhere)
58. Kermit Driscoll (with New and Used, with Frisell)
59. Jan Garbarek
60. Eberhard Weber
61. Rainer Brüninghaus
62. Marilyn Mazur (the last three with Garbarek)
63. Marc Copland (duo with Abercrombie)
64. Philip Catherine
65. Richard Galliano
66. Bireli Lagrene
67. James Blood Ulmer
68. Hans Feigenwinter
69. Art Ensemble of Chicago
70. The Leaders (Lester Bowie, Chico Freeman, Kenny Barron, etc.)
71. Ornette Coleman
72. Barbara Hendricks (singing Gershwin with a jazz quartet)
73. Wayne Shorter (as a leader, with Santana)
74. Brian Blade (with Redman, Shorter)
75. McCoy Tyner
76. Michael Brecker (with Tyner)
77. Dave Liebman (with Lovano, would have been with Brecker but he was sick)
78. Billy Higgins (with Haden)
79. Alan Broadbent (with Haden)
80. Ernie Watts (with Haden)
81. Ron Carter
82. Don Pullen
83. George Adams
84. Cameron Brown
85. Dannie Richmond (the last four = the Pullen-Adams Quartet; Richmond died a week or ten days after the show I saw at Yoshi's)
86. Leroy Jenkins (another Yoshi's show)
87. Phil Woods (in Santa Cruz)
88. John Carter
89. Bobby Bradford
90. Richard Davis
91. Andrew Cyrille (the last four as a quartet in Santa Cruz)
92. Wynton Marsalis (with the Lincoln Center Orchestra, and maybe once with a sextet with Marcus Roberts?)
93. David Torn (with Bill Bruford on drums!)
94. Adam Nussbaum (several times)
95. Marc Johnson (in a nonce band with Sco and Nussbaum and Lovano and Jim McNeely)
96. Jim McNeely
97. Geri Allen
98. Roy Anderson
99. Steve Lacy (solo and as leader)
100. Steve Potts (with Lacy)
101. Bobby Few (with Lacy)
102. Henry Threadgill (Sextett)
103. Fred Hopkins (with Threadgill)
104. Don Cherry
105. Steve Morse (solo, opening for ...)
106. John McLaughlin
107. Al DiMeola
108. Paco DeLucia
109. Louis Sclavis
110. George Gruntz
111. Fritz Hauser (solo, in a concert for kids!)
112. Rory Stuart
113. Lounge Lizards
114. Colin Vallon
115. Egberto Gismonti (solo)
116. Evan Parker (solo)
117. Joe Henderson (at Pearl's in San Fran with a very young Grenadier on bass)
118. Abdullah Ibrahim
119. Diana Krall
120. Russel Malone (with Krall, Ron Carter)
121. James Carter
122. Jazz Passengers (with Debbie Harry)
123. Curtis Fowlkes (with JP, Frisell)
124. Ron Miles (with Frisell)
125. Eyvand Kang (with Frisell)
126. Stanley Jordan
127. Koch-Schütz-Studer
128. Charlie Hunter (duo with Previte)
129. Bobby Previte
130. Greg Osby (with DeJohnette, with Hunter and Previte as special guest)
131. Gary Thomas (with DeJohnette)
132. Mick Goodrick (with DeJohnette)

I'm sure I'm forgetting at least a couple of dozen more (sidemen for the above at least), but that'll do as my second bit of self-exposure.

Concerts I've attended

So there have been some lists being posted in various places about concerts you've attended. Here's my contribution to this bit of self-exposure.

1. The Grateful Dead (80+ shows)
2. Jerry Garcia Band (dozens more, including the acoustic band and the acoustic duo with John Kahn)
3. Linda Ronstadt (my first concert)
4. Livingston Taylor (opened for Linda)
5. James Taylor (years after Livingston)
6. Kansas
7. Boston
8. Billy Joel
9. Sammy Hager (opening for Boston; 3-9 are still in the 70s)
10. The Police (now we're in the 80s)
11. Laurie Anderson
12. The Who
13. The Clash (opened for The Who and blew them away)
14. T-Bone Burnett (opened for The Who)
15. Santana (five or six times)
16. The Fabulous Thunderbirds (opened for Santana once)
17. Stevie Ray Vaughan (four or five times)
18. Talking Heads (twice)
19. B-52s
20. English Beat
21. The Blasters
22. The Bangles
23. Los Lobos
24. Asleep at the Wheel
25. John Hartford
26. The Seldom Scene
27. Sweet Honey in the Rock
28. David Lindley (opened for Santana and the Grateful Dead at Angel's Camp)
29. The Neville Bros. (opening for the Grateful Dead a few times)
30. Penelope Houston (a few times in Germany)
31. Lou Reed (in Berlin, but not performing Berlin)
32. Bonnie Raitt (opening for Lou and once for Jerry Garcia)
33. Violent Femmes (opening for Lou; Gordon Gano and Bonnie did the "colored girls" bit on "Walk on the Wild Side")
34. Lyle Lovett (also opening for Lou)
35. 17 Hippies
36. Oingo Boingo
37. The Vapors
38. Bob Dylan (eight or nine times)
39. Neil Young (about the same)
40. The Minutemen
41. The Meat Puppets
42. Van Morrison
43. Joni Mitchell
44. Leonard Cohen
45. Tom Waits (just before Big Time was filmed in LA)
46. Elvis Costello
47. Michelle Shocked
48. Billy Bragg (with Michelle opening for him)
49. Richard Thompson ("Pump It Up" on solo acoustic, rocking as hard as the Attractions)
50. Greg Brown (sadly, only twice)
51. Chris Smither
52. Alison Brown
53. David-Jacobs Strain
54. Northern Lights (the last four all at a festival where I went to see Greg Brown)
55. Arlo Guthrie
56. Wenzel
57. Al Stewart
58. Doc Watson
59. The Dinosaurs (not Dinosaur, Jr., but a band with Barry Melton, John Cipollina, and Robert Hunter)
60. Black Uhuru
61. King Sunny Adé (with Black Uhuru opening)
62. Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman
63. Tuck and Patti
64. Michael Hedges
65. Eric Clapton
66. Joe Cocker
67. Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers
68. Ronnie Lane (these last four at the Cow Palace)
69. Pink Floyd (in Hannover in the post-Roger Waters era)
70. Phish (sadly, only twice, in Paris and Strasbourg)
71. Henry Kaiser
72. Peter Gabriel
73. Glass Eye
74. John Wesley Harding (opening for somebody, but I don't remember who it was)
75. Varmint (Wayne Horvitz's cover band)
76. Jefferson Starship
77. Kaki King
78. Dream Syndicate
79. Dave Matthews (opening for Dylan once)

Then I'll add in local bands in places I have lived (and post a separate list of jazz artists I have heard):

80. Union Soul
81. The Verre Perdu
82. The Druids
83. Phil Dolby
84. Zsa Zsa House
85. The Heptiles
86. Missy and the Boogiemen
87. Walking Down Brenton Road
88. Natterjack and the Lost Passengers
89. Fucking Beautiful
90. Pseudo Boys
91. Robert Rich
92. Eliana Burki
93. Markus Bachmann
94. Basement Bros.
95. Blues Nettwork
96. Debonair
97. Handsome Hank and His Lonesome Boys
98. Seraina
99. Leonti
100. Arf
101. Cloudride
102. Mañana
103. Crop Circles

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Idleness, defiance

Somewhere (where? I don't remember, and my internet searches have not been successful; perhaps in his diaries?), Franz Kafka wrote that it is only our moments of idleness that count.

That crossed my mind when I started re-reading Mark Rowlands's The Philosopher and the Wolf and noticed the clear statement of the book's thesis that appears at the end of the acknowledgments: "... it is only our defiance that redeems us."

When I first read the book, I even read the acknowledgments, but the thesis did not jump out at me—perhaps because it is only the whole book that makes it seem like a general statement, and not Rowlands's own peculiar take on things.

But which is it that redeems us: idleness or defiance?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It says here you're 27

Here's the song going through my head today (my 45th birthday):

Dig David Lindley's finger-picked violin solo!

It says here you're 27, but that's impossible.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

1952 Vincent Black Lightning

A wonderful view of Richard Thompson's fingers as he plays one of his most brilliant songs:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Philosopher and the Wolf

I'm reading The Philosopher and the Wolf, by Mark Rowlands. A truly exhilarating book, sort of a cross between J. M. Coetzee on animals and Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals. I'll probably say something more explicit about it later, but right now I am reading it with the Cartesian approach: read it first like a novel, then read it again and start really thinking about it. (For the full description of his reading method, see the end of my post from February about Descartes.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sugar Snow

It's amazing how vivid a 30-plus-year-old memory of something I read can be:

"It's a sugar snow," he said.

Laura put her tongue quickly to a little bit of the white snow that lay in a fold of his sleeve. It was nothing but wet on her tongue, like any snow. She was glad that nobody had seen her taste it.

What was even more remarkable about my memory of this passage from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods, which I have been reading to Miles and (mostly) to Luisa bit by bit over the past few weeks, is that I felt it coming: as the passage came closer, I knew that something was about to be described that I had been fascinated by as a child, even though I had never thought of it in the meantime.

Subway Moon

I saw Roy Nathanson's book Subway Moon in the "new arrivals" list on Poetry Daily, and as I am a fan of his music, I thought I'd check out his poetry. It's a beautifully done book (apart from the sans serif font), with lots of photos, and the poems are worth a look, especially if you're into a more relaxed, "improvisational" free verse. But the prose piece at the end is what really moved me, a recollection of Roy's father in the nursing home, still (or again) playing his sax, all the old beautiful tunes he used to play in all-white bands in the 20s and 30s. (It hit close to home, as my father recently moved into assisted living.)

What I did not know until I just did a search for Subway Moon is that it is also a CD.

I know of a few rock and pop and folk musicians who also publish poetry, but Nathanson is the first jazz musician I've come across who does. Or have I missed someone?

Origin of Species

The absolutely spectacular Chris Smither. A very funny song with utterly brilliant guitar playing!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Miles on his favorite bands

While we were on vacation in the U.S., Miles told someone about his favorite bands: The Who for something violent, XTC for something cool, and Phish for something beautiful.


Why should poets try to find a "voice" when there are so many voices in our heads? And mostly it is the welter of other people's voices that speaks to us most truly. (Insert Borges reference here.) Something overheard in a bar, something murmured and misunderstood, something someone didn't mean to say. — Just a few thoughts after re-reading this poem, "Voices," (the first of the two at the link). It's from Rob A. Mackenzie's The Opposite of Cabbage.

(And once you've read it, too, get yourself a copy of Rob's book here!)

Six Fragments from Johannes Kepler's Last Letter to Galileo

The last of George Keithley's "Six Fragments from Johannes Kepler's Last Letter to Galileo" begins as follows:

Like all men who think, I struggle
against my nature.

The enjambment gives this an extra twist, allowing for two readings of Kepler's struggle, one general, the second a more specific "struggle / against my nature."

But I disagree with the more specific reading: for me, thinking can be a struggle, but not one "against my nature"!

Keithley does not leave it at that, of course. Here's the whole sixth "fragment":

Like all men who think, I struggle
against my nature. Wherein
I acknowledge what I hear
or dream is but the ghost
of those heavenly harmonics
that move the mind to dance:
Why not, then, call it music
and admit our souls are lost?

I struggle to think about those lines, about how to comment on them—but I don't struggle to feel them.

(Still, "just because you feel it doesn't mean it's there," as the Radiohead song goes ...)

What the Mind's Eye Sees

In Der fliegende Berg, Christoph Ransmayr juxtaposes two different ways of looking at the things of this world:

Was bedeute eine Gestalt denn schon?
Es könne doch auch eine Nebelkrähe
bloß als kluger Vogel erscheinen
und zugleich ein Bote des Himmels sein—

ebenso wie das über einen Grat ins Tal einfallende

Morgenlicht zugleich den Sonnenstand
den Lidschlag eines Gottes anzeigen könne,

und erst recht erscheine etwa ein Firnfeld,
das hoch oben unter den Gletschern den Mondschein spiegele,
einem schlaflosen Hirten als ein silbernes Tor in den Felsen
oder als ein Stück offenen Himmels!

und sei
in Wahrheit? eben doch nur Schnee,
Schnee vom vergangenen Jahr. (198)

A crow can be just a clever bird as well as a messenger from heaven; the morning light on a ridge can tell you where the sun is and also be the blinking of a God; a field of snow in the moonlight can be a silver gate in the cliffs or, "in truth?", just snow from last year. (See here for a discussion of this passage in German.)

For the narrator's brother Liam, only one of these perspectives is valid, while Ransmayr's Tibetan nomads are able to accept both of them at the same time.

George Keithley's The Starry Messenger, his sequence of poems about Galileo Galilei, makes clear, in the poem "What the Mind's Eye Sees," that Liam's perspective can be called "scientific." Keithley's Galileo determines what the Milky Way is (a huge swathe of invididual stars) to the exclusion of other understandings of it:

He reports the Milky Way is not a vaporous river.
Nor is it a stream of milk from Hera's breast.

Nor is it the spine of the sky—the pale backbone

of the black beast whose belly is our home.

Nor is it the ancient route of a raven's flight
through a night of snow.

Nor is it the path of souls descending from heaven to earth.

Nor the spirits of the dead departing to the other world.

The poet in me is inclined to accept the double perspective of Ransmayr's nomads and to defend the images that Keithley's Galileo refutes. But the materialist in me protests that metaphors and symbolism do not describe the world. Then the poet in me asks, "What do metaphors and symbols do to the world then?"

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Chimes (Adam Fieled)

The relationship between words and music is something I ponder often, as someone who writes both poems and songs. John Gallaher wrote sometime on his blog that "poetry is as good as music," and of course I agree. Here's the beginning of #26 in Adam Fieled's prose-poem sequence Chimes, capturing beautifully how the words associated with music can provide motivation for hearing words on their own as an art form:

Through music, words emerged in my consciousness as another thing. There were musicians who used words and they showed me. I saw that combinations of words could be molten and that the fires they ignited could be contagious. They could be a door that one could break through into another reality: a place hyper-real, full of things that had the palpable reality of what is called real, but were nonetheless better than real: voices channeled from ether, expounding heroic worlds of oceanic expansive experience.

Songs that did that for me when I was in my early teens: Bob Seger, "Turn the Page" (though I never owned it); Aerosmith, "Dream On"; Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody"; Dire Straits, "In the Gallery" (starting to move away from singles here!); Steely Dan, "Home at Last." I'd say it's when I started getting more into the last two that I began to move from pop to poetry.