This Friday night: Resonances

Join Marilyn Nonken this Friday night at Brooklyn’s Spectrum for Resonances: Music for Piano. The program features two world premieres from Philadelphia composers Joshua Hey and Ingrid Arauco, as well as pieces by Christopher Trapani, Richard Carrick, Michael Levinas, and Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marilyn takes the stage at 7.00pm, and tickets will run you $20 ($10 for students). Spectrum is located at 70 Flushing Avenue, Garage A, in Brooklyn; the program itself is being presented in association with the American Composers Forum Philadelphia. More information at this Facebook page. Bundle up; see you there.

There, now doesn’t that feel better?

When you’re the parent of young children, your entertainment options are usually limited to family-oriented films like Coco and Kubo and the Two Strings — and they deserve all of the praise that they attract. They’re visually beautiful and deal with fairly complex emotions in a way that both children and adults find affecting. But they’re missing just one thing: Obscenity-laced diatribes directed at the idiots of the world. I don’t know what’s so appealing about these; I suppose it’s like having some kind of psychic boil lanced.

Fortunately the folks at The Onion and Clickhole have been working overtime this week to provide just those obscenity-laced diatribes missing from many Disney and Pixar films. Below you’ll find two; turn up the volume and enjoy them. I’ll be delivering my own later this afternoon at Cafe Katja. Prost!

December books

Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings by Mark Twain, edited by Bernard DeVoto. “The brilliant parts are compressed and savage — and we are beginning to understand at long last that Mark Twain was, or could be, a savage man. The brilliance arises from the fact that they were written when he had become master of clear, flexible prose and was no longer the journalist or the platform lecturer. The bitterness is a function of his indignation against man and God for the cruelties and injustices they practice. The attitude is that of Swift, the intellectual contempt is that of Voltaire, and the imagination is that of one of the great masters of American writing. … Bible Christians will necessarily find the book utterly blasphemous … . Better informed readers will wonder at the imaginative power of the greater passages in this volume, and ponder a view of man’s capacity to be cruel that, after the horrors of Buchenwald and Hiroshima, has more relevance to the modern ethical problem than ever Twain anticipated.” — Howard Mumford Jones, The New York Times, September 23, 1962

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb. “It’s a cartoonist’s equivalent of the Sistine Chapel, and it’s awesome. Crumb has done a real artist’s turn here — he’s challenged himself and defied all expectation. … You expect it to be sardonic, but it is not. You may expect it to be psychedelically spiritual — it’s not that, either. Rather, it’s humanizing. Crumb takes the sacred and makes it more accessible, more down-to-earth, less idealized. And this may be a blessing, or it may be subversion itself.” — Susan Jane Gilman, All Things Considered (NPR), October 16, 2009

Mark Twain: God’s Fool by Hamlin Hill. “One of the best and most scholarly writers on the subject of that puzzling and paradoxical genius Samuel Clemens is Hamlin Hill. His book … is certainly one of the most reliable and readable books in the whole huge library of Twain biographical studies. … Hill makes sense of a confusing and often contradictory set of data. This is a notable, graceful, convincing book.” — The New Republic

American Humor: A Study of the National Character by Constance Rourke. “The most original piece of investigation and interpretation that has appeared in American cultural history. It is in every way a brilliant book.” — Lewis Mumford

The Country Blues by Samuel Charters. “In [The Country Blues], Charters recreates the special world of the country bluesman — that lone black performer accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar, his music a rich reflection of his own emotional life. Virtually rewriting the history of the blues, Charters reconstructs its evolution and dissemination, from the first tentative soundings on the Mississippi Delta through the emergence, with Elvis Presley, of rock and roll. His carefully-researched biographies of near-legendary performers like Lonnie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, and Tampa Red — coupled with his perceptive discussions of their recordings — pay tribute to a kind of artistry that will never be seen or heard again.” — From the book jacket


This week I took a look at what you can and can’t put on a subway ad, and looked back to Richard Foreman (not to mention his new film, available now). And don’t forget — tonight’s the night to get schooled (Second Viennese Schooled, that is) by Marilyn Nonken and friends at NYU.

If you need a little palate cleanser before indulging in Schoenberg and Webern’s depths, why not try “Take a Look at that Baby,” from the same-titled 2013 album by Eden & John’s East River String Band? The video below is a loving homage to the Keystone comedies of 100 years ago, featuring Eden Brower in the Mabel Normand role, John Heneghan as Fatty Arbuckle, and Robert Crumb as Al St. John. Their new album, Coney Island Baby, is due shortly, and rumor has it that John and Eden will be joined by Crumb for an appearance at the Brooklyn Folk Festival next year. Get yer feets tappin’, people! And see you at Cafe Katja this afternoon. Prost!

Now you can see it

Following my republication of an earlier essay about Richard Foreman today, I came across — tucked into a corner of the PennSound web site — his new 70-minute film Now You See It Now You Don’t. A production of Bridge Films, Sophie Haviland, and Richard Foreman and the Ontological Hysteric Theater, it is, as usual for a Foreman production, packed with mystery. The film is released and exclusively distributed by PennSound Cinema.

I haven’t had the chance to watch the entire film yet, but don’t let me stop you. You can find it here.