Sunday, January 29, 2012

 So, I’m looking at the expression of the kid my grandfather’s holding in the photograph, and I’d like to write that there’s nothing in the kid’s expression, nothing in his eyes, that shows that he has any idea, any anticipation of the life of dark and the illusion of light that’s about to grab him and throw him into it’s turbulence.  But, you know, I’m not sure, I’m not convinced it’s not all there, in his eyes.  I mean cold winters with broken glass and an unstable mother, and a father in prison.  I mean the thrill (still resurfacing, constantly in dreams) of thinking with your body while playing soccer, or the girls, of the first kisses, the electricity of the surprise of her tongue in the back of your mouth, of the knife fights and art school and radical politics, and the radical politics in the art, and Algeria, and India, and Mozambique and prison and poetry, Nancy and Leijia and friends for life and music - Jack, Astor, Don, Robby, Milton, Robby, Carlos, Michel, Scott, Negro, Brandon, Fernando, Ritchard, Xio, Triff, more... -  and moments of terror and the constant promise of light and liberation in music.  And the constant promise of an order formed by music re-imagining itself into the aural image of the anger and turbulent, insatiable movement of the heart.  I’m not sure it’s not all there in the kid’s eyes, not only picturing the future events but, without being able to understand it, seeing the events unfold in the oncoming life, as well as seeing his participation, no, really his initiation of most of them...  His comfort in the dark.  I don’t remember being behind those eyes, I just remember the photo being taken on Fordham Road.  

My grandfather’s eyes are a little bit easier for me to read, I lived with him and we lived through each other, in a way, for the strongest periods of my childhood.  In his eyes I can see the Marxist, worker’s utopia he’d worked for all his life recede from the possibility of ever happening in his lifetime - like Jack's memory of his father's eyes? -, I can see his ironic resignation to living in his anger at the way capital mediates human relations and his resignation to living the rest of his life in The Bronx, on the outskirts off the heart of the forces he’d been disgusted by for his whole life.  I don’t see the bitterness of the —— but just of a comfortable home of anger and humor he’d made, and profitable habits he’d built, in his life, and expected death, in perpetual exile.  Well he’d gotten out of Samarkand, the city of his birth and the city of his hated memory of underdevelopment.  The American flag (the photographer gave me as a prop?) must have made him laugh, and there’s a serenity and joy in his comfortable eyes of anger.  

-Kip Hanrahan

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

OK, yeah, I didn't specify which tomorrow....

As the strikingly, relentlessly wonderful Johanna suggested:

She also suggested that I not burden people with difficult links, and just post the texts - although I'm not convinced about the benefit of adding additional blocks of words...  I've got to start the bargaining with that, I think.  But it's so trivial.  No?

Anyway,  a few lifetimes ago, when I was about 17 years younger, I started to wonder about the gender based innovations in the development of microphones, recording machinery, listening hi-fi, etc; whether it was edited to the ears of a male (of what age?  the frequencies that are most pronounced change through the years, right?) and whether the mics we've learned to listen to music, with a sense of correctness, were limited (I won't say distorted - hey, I'm a fucking male...) by the frequencies most viserouly heard, and understood, by males.  I was wondering about how differently the tones, the timbres, would be different if the tube mikes, the ones to close to my understanding of the warmth of listening, of music, of hearing whatever we already know as the tone of the turmoil of the heart (too direct? Too maudlin?  Too close to  what we intuitively know as accurate?), or the sequence of angers and turmoils and disappointments and, well, you know....   As the heart.  Yeah.  That's it.  The Male Heart?  Yeah, sure.  Maybe.

So, following is part of what I had started writing about that gravitational pull of an idea, and was used, kinda', as part of a set of liner notes to a rekid I made a few SHORT years ago, in which, ON WHICH, WITH WHICH, I faced, and made audible, a number of drives, a sequence of angers, longings, oh, again, you must know....  otherwise, why would you be reading this?

OK, part of what I wrote:

I’m guessing that males, or a man, invented and perfected the prototypical microphone      of the last more than 100 years, and we’ve all internalized the vocabulary of frequencies captured and described by that mike as the the absolute model, hard reference of how we hear and understand recordings and reproductions of sounds.  I’m wondering if we’d be at home hearing a different pallet of sounds, an entirely shifted vocabulary of tones if a woman had invented and developed the microphone.  Would be be able to hear the swing of the tone of a tear, a bit of flowing liquid against a young girl’s cheeks? Would it matter as much as it should?  Would the tears of sadness, the tears of laughter, the tears of frustration, the tears of coldness all have different tones?  Would a first mike imagined by woman be oriented towards that oral definition more than towards the current set of accepted frequency definitions?  Fuck, I know as well as I know the words for the set of colors of that sunset over Olinda.  

Make sense? Want the whole rant?
a few notes off to the side:
“about” the first song:

British Leyland busses appeared on the streets and roads of post revolutionary, U.S. embargo hobbled Cuba.  Public Transportation chariots from a far off place, forbidden and unreachable...   Negro claims it was among the most beautifully comic, and comically beautiful images a lifetime could ever hope to be enveloped by...  The Cuban government had decided not to waste the labor, or had the deep sense of humor, not to change the destinations listed on the front of the imported busses, so there, as the busses approached the waiting commuters, were  destinations unobtainable:  East London, Birmingham, Edinburg, LIverpool, Belfast, Roma, Athens, Jerusalem, Delhi, Cordoba, Kyoto...  cities on the other side of the wall of suffocating isolation and poverty (erected by - well?  the U.S. embargo?  the horrors of Communist Party Central Planning?  It depends on whether you talk to Negro or me).   But there were the designated cities on the the front of the busses, and the people, the commuters, the Cubans, would scream for the busses to take them, the unhappy field hand, the ambitious boy and his stunning date, the freightened young father,  to the promised destinations, outside the horizon blurring and collapsing walls of poverty... Man!  Dublin!  Man, Paris!  Man, Yorkshire!   but, of course, they’d end up where they expected, Camaguay, Matanzas, Santiago de Cuba...  You can, of course, laugh off the question of which side of the wall was  heaven, but it’s, as usual, a bitter laugh.  Maybe all laughs are rooted in bitterness.  I don’t know.  Xio and Dafnis claim the momentary approach of the British Leylands with the unobtainable cities were moments of constant delight and a levity constructed among a constantly defiant people...  Yeah, of course...
what the first song/s really “about”:
when it comes down to it, it’s really more about the Blackwater Guards patrolling the transports and gates of heaven than about the imagined night of love, grappa and freedom in Venice that Negro and his girlfriend were denied that evening.  Or maybe I’m off, and the source of Negro’s, Alfredo’s and Yosvanni’s laughter is closer to it...

“about” one, some of the next songs:
In The Bronx, off the Concourse:  The young, ephemeral and serious catholic school girl pulls her knees up, resting her heals on the next step up, and tries to conjure a warmth and calm as she sits in the apartment building stairway.  If you’d have been there, you probably have found yourself focusing on the intense space between her brows as she concentrated.  But that might have been because it seemed to become the center of her body or because she was described as serious in the first sentence and it would confirm the writer’s truthfulness.  Thank you for your immediate faith.  But you’re not there, and in fact, the girl doesn’t exist.  Do you automatically have the same automatic faith and credence tn the sax player at the beginning of the record?  Do you intuitively believe the angle and action / word of the record producer the same way you’d believe the story’s narrator?  I wonder.
The catholic school girl realizes that a light panic, an open unformed fear is starting to settle into the back of her neck, into her shoulders.  She doesn’t remember her mother saying anything about not being home when she got back form school.  She was really startled when there was no answer to the doorbell downstairs.  She didn’t know how many thousands of seconds or millions of minutes she had stood, adrift, in the downstairs hallway before the old man, some old man who lived somewhere on one of the top floors, let her into the building.  She kept seeing the ghost of this one image, the one image superimposed on everything in front of her.  The brass doorknob to the outside door had been polished.  It shown, it sparkled.  She had never seen it polished before.  Who had polished it?  Someone she couldn’t imagine had polished it so it shown for the first time in her life.  She kept seeing the brass as the old man removed his hands after opening the door for her.  There was moisture form his hand that she watched disappear and some oily trace from his hand that stayed.  The image of the oily film remaining on the shiny brass added to her disquiet, to the slight rise of pitch, in sound that flowed through her body.  She listened to every noise in the building for a sign of her mother’s entrance through the large door downstairs.  Her shifting the packages and putting the keys back in her purse.  Please, now.  She listened to the TVs in the apartments and the sirens and the dogs in the building across the airshaft and the low rumble of the hallway itself, and the hiss of the florescent lights.  As the panic settled in her blood, she realized the tone of all the sounds changed.  They raised, some of them, they receded, some of them, they shifted place.  Suddenly there was a bright a moment of stillness, she had heard and could remember a timid sound that was so clear and calm (and accompanied by an image, of all things ) that all the other sounds dissipated, not just for the moment.  She, for the first time, had heard a tear forced from her eye, not by sadness or fear, but by the cold and had heard it roll down her cheeks and into the darkness of the stairway.  There was a quiet in that sound that made her resign herself.  Six minutes later, her mother returned from the store.  Everything returned to it’s place, with small changes.
what the song’s “about”:

-Kip Hanrahan

Anyway, that was the printed (as in liner notes) text.  Reading it again.  Hmm.......  

What I've been thinking about recently:

So, you're supposed to write what you know.  Does that work (in any way, really?) in music?  I was under the impression that the music that intuitively meant the most to me was music that either someone else wrote, or that I wrote, that made audible something I didn't know -well, didn't know as music,  but possibly by heart.  Does that make sense?  So, I guess, the rule could be: write what you don't know, or don't know you know….  

At least until I start in on the difference / distraction made / caused by the digital change....


OK, more tommorrow...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

just to get it started

Yeah, "writing is fighting" as my buddy Ishmael Reed said (wrote) and proves over and over again so splendidly (I'm choosing that word with care.  I don't think I've ever used it before...), and although I really don't love the computer or internet, there's so much that is asking to be said about music, about thinking critically about music, about thinking critically with music...  Well a blog's not as lucid, fluid and breathing as a conversation over a few cachacas during which all the parties to the  exchange share and are affected by the same shifting lights and shadow patterns, and by the white noise outside the circle (sometimes of two..), and by the stories being narrated (counter narrated, I guess) by the facial muscles of the participants as they listen, or interrupt, or are changed, or resist change....  And a blog's not as clear, strongly confirmed and already negotiated as a book (or ever with as much presence or gravity.... yeah, the computer does weigh more, but, aw....), but it's what we have access to right now.  It's only slightly funny but something like the blog of Leon Ichaso (one hell of a film maker, by the way - how many as good as Leon has Hollywood coughed up, through the haze of money expectations, since Cassavettes?  Huh?) is so damn emotionally moving (, but it's still not the book I'm praying he puts together someday.  Between films.  But, again, it's what we have, so...   So I'm starting this tonight mainly just to get it started.  I'll be writing something more substantial tomorrow, maybe having to do with how when you're learning Ga drumming, you're taught with seriousness that in order to solo on the drums, you have to learn, memorize, with accuracy, as many bird songs each morning as you could, and reproduce their cadences, internal rhythms, both calm and tense  silences and breaks as the only way to make solos that the ear understands as musical.  Was it Lars from "Hands across..." in Copenhagen who reminded me of that during a concert in 1998?  Lars, you there?  So, when you hear a drummer run through paradiddles.  Well, yeah, depending on the intent, it might still fabricate a musical story.  Maybe..

Anyway, as examples of my writing before this, two pieces about Astor:

Again, more tomorrow.