Sunday, March 30, 2008

Record Club core member Nayland Blake received a nice feature in the Sunday NY Times today, in the article on portrayals of racism in contemporary art. The pertinent part:

Ethnically neutral? That’s just a code-term for white, the no-color, the everything-color. For whiteness is as much — or as little — a racial category as blackness, though it is rarely acknowledged as such wherever it is the dominant, default ethnicity. Whiteness is yet another part of the postracial story. Like blackness, it has become a complicated subject for art. And few have explored it more forcefully and intimately than Nayland Blake.

Mr. Blake, 48, is the child of a black father and a white mother. In various performance pieces since the 1990s he has dressed up as a giant rabbit, partly as a reference to Br’er Rabbit of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories, a wily animal who speaks in Southern black dialect and who survives capture by moving fast and against expectations.

In 2001 Mr. Blake appeared in a video with another artist, AA Bronson. Each had his face slathered with cake frosting, chocolate in Mr. Blake’s case, vanilla in Mr. Bronson’s. When then two men exchanged a long kiss, the colors, and presumably the flavors, began to blend. Shared love, the implication was, dissolves distinctions between “black” and “white,” which, as racial categories, are cosmetic, superficial.

Can't believe he couldn't have gotten them to squeeze in mention of Record Club but otherwise, way to go, Nayland! btw, the slyboots mentioned nothing about this on Friday. That's Bronson pictured above, incidentally. Here's a shot of the project's denouement:

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ever exploratory provided it doesn't get too inconvenient, Record Club staged its first video version last evening and it went very well. One of the many fine things about the RC project, for me, is that I get exposed to music (and, here, video) from areas in which I would've thought to have little or no interest. Often I'm pleasantly shocked to find something of unexpected beauty. At the very least, even if I don't become a full fledged fan of a given person or form, I can at least gain a better understanding of why other folk love it.

One aesthetic that has always stuck in my craw is the "musical", especially in terms of Broadway but also in film in its show tune aspect. Well, Nayland brought in two excerpts that, I must admit, caused me to reconsider somewhat. The first was from "Sweet Charity", the 1969 Bob Fosse vehicle with Shirley McLaine based on Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria". The sequence he played was a medley of three dance pieces, "Aloof", one derived from boxing (can't remember the name) and a psychedelic, rocking finale. Really amazing choreography specially, as Nayland noted, in how independently the various parts of the dancers' bodies were coordinated. The second, from which the pic above is taken, was the dance of the exiled instrumentalists from "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T", an extremely weird musical from 1953 based on the Dr. Seuss tale. I'd somehow never seen this, as a child or adult, but it's seriously freaky with astonishing homo-erotic overtones for the time. In excess of 50 green-painted individuals playing a huge range of fantasy instruments with apparently wild abandon but in amazingly interlocking precision. Eye-opening.

Speaking of things I wouldn't have thought I'd like so much, Dan showed Billy Preston's number from the Bangladesh concert, "That's the Way God Planned It". Very nice.

Nina was in bizarro Asian child mode, showing this young Korean girl singing "Hey Jude" and, far more horrfying, this Japanese teen ripping through Kansas' "Carry On" on what I take to be the latest in one-girl-band organ gimmickry. Sca. Ry.

Myself, I went with the great Son House, performing Death Letter from about 1965 and the classic (though, apparently, previously unseen by all present last night) John Cage appearance on "I've Got a Secret" in 1960. If you've never seen it, it's required viewing.

Julia ended the evening with a wonderful video by Spike Jonze of Fatlip from around 2000, I think.

While trawling through You Tube over the last few weeks in prep for this meeting, I was having a great time with older, acoustic blues musicians, finding tons of fantastic music. Spurred me, yesterday, to pick up the Bukka White release on Sonet (on at the moment, sounds great) and "The Definitive Charley Patton" 3-disc set, as well as putting in an ebay bid on Robert Pete Williams 1961 LP on Arhoolie, "Angola Prison"

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I haven't heard this yet, though it arrived yesterday with a couple of other things for review at Squidco (two nice discs, on first blush, one from Brigit Uhler and Ernesto Rodrigues and the other on hat from the Makrokosmos quartet doing Crumb, Gervasoni & Haas). I hope to begin listening tonight--it's a three disc set.

I can't recall ever really hearing Lockwood's work though I must have, on radio, over the years. I know it's always been on the fringe of my mind to do so. Partly, I confess, it's because I find her name rather wonderful. I pronounce it Ah-NEE-uh, by the way; I'm not sure if this is correct. Hope it's not just "Anna".

Then there's this other thing. At two recent concerts I attended, the generally dreadful exhumation of early Bryars pieces at Roulette and the charming Christian Wolff recital, the same chipper, spruce lady was sitting in front of me. From her conversation and the effusive greetings she received from other audience members, including Robert Ashley at both, it was obvious she was a composer of some repute. Bothered the hell out of me that I couldn't put a name to her. I mentally ran through all female composers of her approximate age--she looked in her 60s--but came up empty. Now, of course, I realize it was Ms. Lockwood.

The above assembles field recordings, interviews and other sounds derived from several trips down the Danube river, I guess a bookend of sorts to her similar project on the Hudson from the late 80s. It comes with a fairly large foldout map of the region and translations of the interviews. Nice idea for a piece. I really hope it doesn't suck.


Listening to Disc One and, so far, not so thrilled. The strange thing is that there's a relatively consistent water sound--it comes and goes, but it does so throughout, thus far--and given the nature of the project, it sounds oddly interior, like water being sluiced from one container to another. There's very little air around it. The depth of the piece is surprisingly shallow with only bird and insect chirps and some wind rustle to be heard otherwise (aside from the occasional voice, various interviewees speaking in the languages one encounters along the Danube). You don't get the breadth you do in Tsunoda, for example. Not bad, just a bit arid, ironically enough. We'll see....

still later....

Second disc is better, more varied. Still, even though something with the massiveness of a river would seem to easily deserve the 167 minutes here, I'm not sure this won't end up having been better served at a shorter length.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Yet more

Point4 is a quartet, not surprisingly, made up essentially of two keyboards and two percussionists (Kenneth Karlson, Jon Balke, Bjørn Rabben & Ingar Zach). “Panopticon” (Sofa) contains 19 tracks that tend toward the quiet, sometimes in a Boulezian vein, perhaps often Feldmanesque and not infrequently veering into more customary free improv space. The electronics (Balke) get awkward now and then but there’s a nice overall level of restraint and thoughtfulness. Worth a hearing for those softer, more introspective moments which comprise about half the disc. sofa

The indefatigable Asher sends along several new collections of sound. “Study for Autumn” (available for mp3 download here, is in keeping with some of his previous work wherein gentle piano notes are played singly among field recordings of creaking wood, windswept leaves, etc. Eno-esque, true, but/and beguiling.

“A Map of the Ocean” a piece created in collaboration with Ubeboet (a name new to me), dispenses with the piano and utilizes rougher, more visceral field recordings; even the sloshing water sounds cold. Faint, organ-like tones waft by like so much flotsam. The piece has great breadth over its 40 minutes, almost steady-state but phasing through adjacent fields; fine work (and super cover) Also available as an mp3 at transparent radiation. “Intervals” (thelandof) is composed of 39 fragments spread over about 40 minutes. Given Asher’s normally languid pacing, I wouldn’t have thought this would work as well as it does but despite the variation in sounds, it manages to read pretty strongly as a whole, played as laid out or on shuffle. The sounds are a mix of various approaches he’s used before including the dulcet piano tones, static, the natural world, etc.; another nice one. Asher teams once again with Ubeboet for “cell memory” (winds measure), two tracks that settle into the soft rumble side of things, evoking far off engines heard from deep inside the earth or some massive structure—or maybe from inside an organic cell, hearing the plasma surging by outside. winds measure. There’s a running argument about artists releasing “too much” material. While I tend toward the side that says, “the more the merrier”, obviously there are occasions when the well just runs dry. Asher puts out a lot of music but, thus far, it's been almost always rewarding. A degree of sameness may set in for some listeners but it hasn’t done so for me as yet.

Rossbin’s been baffling me in recent times. Not so much that I have enjoyed a lot of the material over the past couple of years—I haven’t—but more so the rationale behind given projects. In this case it’s a 2001 session by Machine for Making Sense (Jim Denley, Rik Rue, Amanda Stewart, Stevie Wishart), music that might already have been deemed overly fussy and cluttered at the time, certainly more so in the intervening years. Not up my alley, but presumably enjoyable for fans of post-Zorn/Chadbourne style improv.

It’s worth pointing out that Alessandro has instituted a new “payment” policy with Rossbin and an apparently very admirable one: all proceeds going to a Peruvian institution that assists poor and disabled children. Details at rossbin

Two musicians I'd never heard who really impressed me these last couple of weeks have been Esther Venrooy (out of Belgium) and Vanessa Rossetto (from Austin). I'll be writing up both for Bags in upcoming weeks (I knew there'd be an exception to my rule now and then) but in the meantime, I'd strongly recommend checking out Venrooy's work on entr'acte and Rossetto's on 2008 music appreciation

Oh yeah, this one's not half bad either:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Recent pelf

After an initial flurry of recordings sent my way in January, things had quieted down a good bit for a few weeks and I figured the message had gotten out (dammit) that I wasn't going to be doing reviews this year. Then, last week, a whole passel of stuff showed up. Some bore notes to the effect that, "I know you're not writing up these things now but I wanted you to hear this", which sentiment is greatly appreciated, thanks.

Kostis Kilymis - .accumulated & Thessaloniki 1963, a diary from b to c (Organized Music from Thessaloniki) Two very enjoyable sets of collaged sound from Kilymis, each combining field recordings with direct input of an abstract electronic nature, the latter occasionally dipping into the everyday world of ring tones and other detritus. As with much of the better music I’ve heard recently, it’s not so much the newness of the sounds or conception, more the grace (or attractive awkwardness) with which the sounds are deployed. Never forced, moments that initially seem out of place make sense a minute or two onward and the variety of sounds and approaches always keeps things bubbling. Both discs work really well as wholes—nice to see a bunch of good work emanating from IHM denizens in recent months. Plus, the Thessaloniki 1963 disc comes in a lovely cloth disc cozy.

Pascal Battus/Alfredo Costa Monteiro – Ductile (jointly released by OrgThel and A Question of Re_entry—I’m considering a campaign for shorter label names…) Costa Monteiro has issued at least two discs of solely paper-derived sounds; here it’s a duo of same and, as before, the results are strong and somewhat astonishing. Hard to get that “Gee whiz!” kinda thought out of my head, like, “This is paper?!?!”. “Ductile” tends toward the brutal as well, fierce waves of sound scouring one’s speakers clean, rumbling and pealing like nearby thunder. Harsh and then some.

Three fine releases right up front for this label—nice start!

Thessaloniki site

Phill Niblock – Disseminate (Mode) Part of my ongoing, if sporadic, attempt to Phill out my Niblockiana (this I bought). Three steady state works, one for orchestra, one for low winds (contrabasses flute, tuba & saxophone, this one constructed by Niblock from manipulated recording extracts) and one for a quintet of viola, cello, bass clarinet/soprano sax (Lucio Capece), flute and trombone. Fine “blank wall” listening, that is, each sounds like a changeless drone but listening with even a modicum of attention evokes all sorts of detail. Excellent stuff.

Our own Robert Kirkpatrick sent over two very strong works as well: “thaw”, a 3” disc blending water droplets with hyper-clear statics and keening whines, beautifully handled and a compilation of the first three releases on his Hollow Earth label under the title, “Documenting the Decline”. The trio of pieces originally released as “Sounds of the Hollow Earth” are quite good, especially the somewhat terrifying final one, all mutant bird squawks and generally fluttery horror. “Dance of the New Mysterians” is as loopy as its title but oddly hypnotic and fascinating. Order some and force Robert to burn more copies. hollow earth

Things are not so good on the Room40 front. I have nothing inherently against lullaby-pop or even waif-rock (is that a term in use?), but “The Bedtime Beat”, from Lullatone (Shawn Seymour & Yoshimi Tomida), pushed my limits. Kind of like Penguin Café Orchestra for tots, cutesy with the occasional semi-catchy melody, simply constructed, but several shades too saccharine, even with the “quirky” instrumentation, for its own good.

The Rational Academy’s “a heart against your own” harkens back to early 80s art-rock of the Weekend variety, not quite as good, a bit more slick. Lawrence English mans the electronics for this nonet; it might be more or less his band and his pieces, not sure. Very well produced, competently played and sung, but if you heard them over the closing credits of some trust fund indie film, you wouldn’t be surprised. Not unpleasant, but not memorable either.

Jeff Gburek’s “Virtuous Cycles” is an early favorite of mine this year but his concurrent “Red Rose for the Sinking Ship” (Triple Bath) doesn’t quite compare. Some nice sections (the third one, especially, with a subtle mix of street noise, obscure squeaks and faint chimes) but a bit rambling for my taste. It doesn’t gain the traction I wanted to hear, maybe only because I liked his preceding one so much. Not bad at all, but I wants me more meat. (Limited edition of 96, btw) triple bath

More to come a bit later.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

I first heard percussionist Milton Cardona in the context of Kip Hanrahan's work in the early 80s. This album, "Bembe", appeared on American Clave in '86 and it's a beaut. It's entirely devoted to Santeria chants with a group made up of a lead singer and percussionist (Cardona) and an ensemble of response singers and percussionists (the drummers including Hector "Flaco" Hernandez, Steve Berrios and Jose Fernandez). My working knowledge of Santeria music is just above minimal so I can't really say how representative this is, but the impression I get is that Cardona knows what he's doing and it sounds damned real to me. Gorgeous Afro-Cuban melodies, stirring (and rough) choral singing and hypnotic percussion combine for a moving, thrilling recording. I'd appreciate any recommendations along this line.

While researching a bit, I noticed Cardona put out another disc under his name, "Cambucha", in 1999, also on American Clave; interested to hear that. Though Hanrahan-led or produced projects in recent years have left me a bit cold. I picked up Deep Rumba last year and, expecting great things, was let down.


Along with Billie Holiday, Betty Carter has always been my favorite female jazz singer. I bought this recording pretty early in my listening, maybe around '76, rather odd in the context of the other things I was listening to at the time (AACM, Taylor, Ornette, etc.) but Carter's singing inevitably melted me. I have a few other releases but have always enjoyed this one the most. I believe it was something of a comeback record, recorded in 1969 at Judson Hall, NYC with Norman Simmons on piano, the great Lisle Atkinson on bass and Al Harewood on drums. A fantastic series of tunes including "Blue Moon" (taken drastically up tempo), "The Sun Died", "Girl Talk" and a fantabulous rendition of Randy Weston's "Ego". Her elasticity is astonishing, bending and warping the melodies into pure Carteriana.

I never had the occasion to see her perform, which I greatly regret. Everything I've read about her indicates, music aside, she was something special.


There's one other Carter amongst my vinyl, John. Never really explored his work as much as I probably should have, with only this and the follow-up, "Dance of the Love Ghosts" under his name, plus a fine Hat disc with Bobby Bradford, "Movin' On".

I know this Ghana sequence (were there three or four albums in the series? I don't quite recall) is hailed by many as one of the signal achievements of jazz in the 80s. While I enjoy it very much, I've never quite gone that far. It's interesting, listening now, to hear tinges of the same tonalities that Ornette used in his symphonic work, "Skies of America" considering that they grew up together. The title track from this one is something of a monster, especially once Carter's burbling clarinet surfaces alongside Bradford's cornet. The remainder of the album doesn't quite live up to that, though it's fine in a good-Muhal kinda way, even if Terry Jenoure's vocals are a bit woozy.

"Dance of the Love Ghosts" (admittedly, I have a tough time getting past the title) strikes me as less focussed and a tad shrill; not bad at all but not the stuff of legends.

I get the sense that I'd generally have enjoyed Carter in small group settings (like that "Movin' On" date). Recommendations in that vein appreciated.



Knut Hamsun - Hunger

On Deck:

John Crowley - Little, Big

I've been listening to Cardew's recording of "Thälmann Variations" a whole bunch over the last couple of weeks. This is the Matchless recording which seems to be out of print? For some reason, I have it on vinyl, perhaps because it was never issued on disc? In any case, it's my only Cardew in that format, not counting the memorial concert double-LP on Impetus, which I wrote about here

"Thälmann" takes up all of Side One here and must automatically be compared with Rzewski's "¡El Pueble Unido Jamas Sera Vencido!" from around the same time. Indeed, I'm a little curious which came first or how much, if any, communication there was between the two at the time. I assume this and much more will be covered when John Tilbury's Cardew biography sees the light of day (I can't wait--anyone have recent news?). I first heard the Rzewski very soon after its release on Vanguard in, iirc, 1976 with Ursula Oppens at the piano and fell absolutely in love with it. Still am. This is doubtless a major reason why I'm more open to Cardew's worker's song period than many. Especially when divested of the banal lyrical content you find in People's Liberation Music, the melodies and variations stand quite well on their own, making their points all the more forcefully fpr the lack of explicit content.

[I don't know the circumstances of this recording, but it's interesting that one can pick up outside-the-room sounds, especially car horns, periodically. It imparts a real world tinge into the otherwise "classical" and removed situation.]

Like the Rzewski, Cardew's piece is kind of a theme and variations, though not as strict, here incorporating music from several sources including Eisler, Charles Koechlin (a song called, "Let's Free Thälmann"), popular worker's songs and funeral dirges. To my ears, it's not quite as impassioned as the Rzewski, not so brilliantly and intricately wrought, not as "hard fought", but it remains a lovely, moving work, a string of observations that holds together well, offering something of a panoramic view of the working class' struggles and occasional victories through the eyes of one who was fairly deeply involved. Though that goes to a whole other question of just how deeply artists like Cardew (or Rzewski) can really be when, as in his case, they came from extremely high-placed families and knew that there was always, if it came to it, a cushion to fall back on. I get the sense it was something that Cardew struggled with quite a bit and, again, I hope it's gone into by Tilbury.

In purely pianistic terms, I'm not sure that in this kind of music (as opposed to, say, Feldman) Cardew, fine as he is, can hold his own against someone like Rzewski who is simply astounding on a technical level. The romantic drama in his work fits that éclat perfectly. (Wondering if Tilbury ever tackled The People United...) Cardew's a bit more ruminative which works beautifully in the more pastoral sections, maybe a tad less convincingly in the rousing ones. Still, a fine piece deserving of being heard more often. Ironically, it's available these days on the New Albion disc with Rzewski at the keys and I actually prefer the airiness of Cardew's rendition.

The second side of the album contains six short pieces: the joyous march of "Bethanien Song" (interestingly commemorating a change in plans re: the conversion of an old hospital from an artist center to a children's hospital--wonder if the same feeling would hold today?); "The Red Flag", based on the changes to "O Tanenbaum"; "Soon", based on a pamphlet of Mao's from 1930 promising imminent revolution, lovely, quasi-minimalist piece; and a trio of Irish songs, "Croppy Boy", "Father Murphy" and "Four Principles on Ireland". These last seem loaded down with a bit more weight than they're capable of supporting, matters getting a bit sloggy and technique-strewn.

Well worth tracking down on the whole, however.

(I should mention that Robert has a fine review of a very recent Rzewksi concert at his Spiral Cage blog.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Went to Issue Project Room last night to hear an evening of the music of John Cage organized by Kurt Gottschalk and John McDonough. I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually attended an all-Cage performance—technically, this wasn’t either, as we’ll see—and in fact, I can’t remember the last time I heard a Cage piece live at all. Aside from my own continuous renditions of 4’33”, of course.

The current site of IPR is a long, narrow, high-ceilinged room. When Keith and Julien played there in October, they made the wise decision to set up against a wall in its center, somewhat negating the unnecessary audience/performer dynamic (and, indeed, asking people to walk around at will and even question them about the score during the performance). This time, it was a more traditional format with the musicians at one end, for me not the most conducive structure. Too, they chose not to use (or maybe were unable to do so) the sixteen speaker in-house system, something that would have benefited the music greatly, imho.

Four works were presented: “Indeterminacy/Variations I”, “Cartridge Music”, “Radio Music” and a piece by McDonough, “Landscape Under Construction”. The first was for two guitars (Gottschalk and Russell Scholl) and voice (Kristen Persinos), the guitarists performing “Variations I”, the vocalist “Indeterminacy”. She began by asking an audience member to shuffle the several dozen pages of her text and then to “cut” it, as in a deck of cards, the text turning out to be from Gertrude Stein. It was something of a disjunctive performance. When Cage read text, his voice tended to flow at a fairly rapid clip and, while intimating both humor and intelligence, was undramatic enough so as not to stand out from whatever the other sounds were present; you can hear it both as an equal sonic element and as an imparter of verbal information. Persinos’ approach was somewhat more arch, with rather elaborate expressions ranging from wry to exasperated to mocking as well as including numerous physical gestures, all very well done (and with a very nice tonal quality to her voice) but serving to distance herself from the guitars, enough so that it was impossible not to hear the instrumental work as accompaniment rather than on an equal footing, especially as the guitars were almost always quite spare. Maybe the simple expedient of placing her behind the guitarists would have helped even things out but as was, things didn’t quite gel.

"Cartridge Music" involved five players on stereo cartridges and other electronic items. They performed under the steady and commanding gaze of a digital clock which, though I understand it's part of the deal, cast an uncomfortable, managerial aura. The score (I'm presuming, not having seen it, but Kurt could correct me) calls for certain actions to be undertaken at specific times, so the audience is presented with the picture of five guys moving around the stage, constantly looking back and forth at the clock and the small cards they carried containing the score, almost as if for permission to act. A certain sense of constriction comes into play though I suppose in 1960, when the piece was written, that would have been far less the case and would have served to open up previously unheard sound worlds. Today, there's something about it that struck me as oddly dated, the same way a Zorn game piece might. It would be interesting to compare the choices made by various possible musicians given the same constraints (how would Tudor have handled it? How would Rowe?), but those very constraints, in a post-AMM world, seem more binding than liberating.

The second half of the concert proved much more successful. Barry Chabala, one of eight radio operators, showed me his portion of the score beforehand. It runs for six minutes, divided into four 1 1/2 minute segments. Within each of those portions is a listing of AM radio frequencies, ranging (as best I can recall) from about three to maybe a dozen, each of which to be visited during the 90 seconds, I assume in the order listed). The effect was quite wonderful though, again, I would have loved to have heard the speaker system taken advantage of or to have had the radios dispersed among the audience. Even so, the chatter, the snatches of music, the sports play by play and the static or in between-ness (I think the frequencies are set, so that when performed in a given locale, they may or may not coincide with existing on-air stations) created a very enjoyable, absorbing cloud of sound. I've no idea whether or not it was one of Cage's ideas with the piece, but the sensation of understanding that one always dwells in this enormous web of generally unheard sounds was quite strong. Very different (and, for me, perhaps ultimately less rewarding) than what groups like [N:Q] are attempting, but on it own merits, quite fascinating and stimulating.

The highlight of the evening, a very pleasant surprise, was McDonough's own "Landscape Under Construction", for 1 to 42 CD players, here ten. As I understand it (again, Barry or Kurt can correct me), each musician selects a disc of Cage's music from 42 supplied by McDonough. (S)he then follows a time-based score (total time = 34'55") consisting of two columns which contained instructions on starting or pausing the disc (which is played from its beginning) as well as volume increases or decreases. At several points, the player can choose to cross over from one column to another and continue on from there. I'm wondering how much of the "success" of a given performance depends on what combination of discs is chosen, ie, how much variation and/or balance there happens to be. In this case, there were (I think) two that consisted of voice (one Cage's, one in German), a piece for solo cello, one for harp, one that utilized Western operas, one for strings, and other assorted noise, including percussion. Whatever, the result was a beautifully shifting landscape where the listener constantly makes pattern connections between ostensibly unrelated musics, almost all of them seeming to make "sense". It flowed along wonderfully, rarely losing traction, almost always maintaining interest. If I had a quibble, it was that McDonough's own player was a bit loud and that combined with the pieces emanating from it (a clattering percussion work and, I think, one for radios and/or record players--thought I heard snatches of Arthur Blythe and Zorn in there--) it occasionally dominated the proceedings to an untoward degree. As before, I'd love to hear it in a more expansive setting, maybe with more players. Though even as is, it could make a very fine CD on its own and it sounded like Mode is going to do just that in the near future. I suppose one would call this a process piece, and a damned good one.

A lovely evening. Would that this sort of affair was staged more often.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The correlation between love of jazz and love of baseball has, I think, been established in the past, at least among American white guys (Does this hold in Europe, substituting soccer--or, as they insist on calling it, "football"--for baseball?). Established by whom? I've no idea--I don't know of any studies on the subject--but from decades of casual conversation, it's entirely commonplace for serious baseball discussions to sprout at a jazz venue. Less so for eai? Dunno, though we have Mr.'s Abbey and Mitchell around who certainly fit the bill and Tim Albro and I spent many a minute in baseball discussions last year.

I'm wondering if it goes further than that. If we take, as a general rubric, the category "new music fan" (meaning an interest in the avant-garde in jazz, improv, contemporary classical, etc.), I'm betting that the representation of not only baseball fans but the subsection of those fans who whiled away thousands of hours casting pairs of dice on an APBA or Strato-Matic board far, far exceeds the national average. (These thoughts spurred, naturally, by the current thread at Jazz Corner)

I became hooked on the former in early 1973, playing the 1972 season. I've no idea how knowledge of this game entered my consciousness; certainly no one I knew was into it. My brother Drew and I placed the order, he taking the NL, me the AL. Not having a clear idea of the "value" of the cards, we traded a bit willy-nilly. I recall finagling Leron Lee from him, possessor, iirc, of a formidable 1-3-6-6 card. It's interesting that, many years since I last played a game of APBA, number combos like 1-1-4-5, 1-5-6-6 or *gasp* 1-1-4-5-6 can still elicit pangs of tingly nostalgia. It's a bit hard to reconcile the image of my 18-year old self, tossing the dice on the floor of my bedroom and consulting the play charts while the Art Ensemble is blaring from my wretched turntable above.

(I'm amusedly contemplating the doubtless majority of readers here wondering what the the hell I'm going on about).

APBA and the like involved abstracting the game of baseball, codifying a player's season into a concise series of numbers which, when combined with the play boards, yielded a near-infinite number of possible game outcomes, but a bound infinity within the probabilities of the game. Somewhere in there might be the connection to improvised music. Maybe.

Maybe not.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Back from the 31st Annual US Crossword Puzzle Championship, for the first time having been held in Brooklyn, NY after 30 years in Stamford, Connecticut having outgrown that venue. 699 contestants this year.

I was rolling right along through the first six (out of seven) puzzles, all solved on Saturday. When the posting of the standings through that point was made available, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in 21st place as I'd finished 43rd last year and hadn't been that close to the teens in a while. It was partly due to having successfully grappled with Puzzle #5, a vicious beast wherein notes of the solfegge scale that appeared in a phrase were "raised" to the next note and clued appropriately. So "muscle tic" became "muscle doc" and "solo concert" changed to "lao concert". This central theme entirely escaped me but I managed to finish it accurately anyway. The seventh was this morning and I thought I'd aced that one as well, only to come home, check the final posting of scores and discover that I'd made an error. Looking over the puzzle in question, I'm pretty sure that for "Egyptian god" (six letters), I'd blithely written in "Amon Ra" instead of "Amen Ra", without checking the crossing (opes, not "opos"). Dammit. I rarely see or hear "Amen Ra" and almost always encounter either "Amon Ra" or "Amun Ra". *grumble*

This slid me down to 29th, still a very decent placing but the mistake cost me 18th, which would've been really nice.

btw, many visitors here will be amused to know that one puzzle featured, entirely innocently, two crossing clue answers that were each names of ensembles of which Mr. Rowe has been a member: Amalgam and MIMEO. Why they weren't clued as such baffles me.

But, as always, more than half the pleasure of the weekend, substantially more, was getting to hang with an extraordinary group of people like Dan and Larry Okrent, George Rosenfeld, Leigh Newman, Joshua Kosman. (Joshua, who's a classical critic for the SF Chronicle, told me about a composer he's very hot on, Derek Bermel. Anyone heard him?) Just wonderful, wonderful folk.