wlotus: (Happy)

I saw Janelle Monáe, LIVE!!!!! I can go to sleep a happy woman.

wlotus: (Music)
Remember that pair of serious stereo speakers I inherited from Uncle Alvan? I got them out of the car today and hooked them up to the living room stereo. Here is one of them with the mesh cover off, so you can see the seriousness of them.

stereo speaker

If you need me, I'll be in the living room shaking the plaster off of the seven-foot ceiling.

Now Playing

Jul. 4th, 2010 09:45 pm
wlotus: (Blackberry)
Yesterday I inherited my late uncle's hundreds of vinyl albums. I am enjoying the music and thinking of him as I sort and alphabetize them.


wlotus: (Blackberry)
July 2010 issue of InStyle Magazine: Janelle Monae spread!


wlotus: (Eyes Wide Open)
Janelle Monáe has my brain on fire. For a little while I thought I might be having a celebrity crush on her, but that isn't the case.

The truth is that she inspires me.

She is a 24-year-old African-American woman who is defying the popular definitions of "blackness" in her musical presentation. As a black woman who is old enough to be thrilled by the still too rare appearance of a dark-skinned face in entertainment, yet who is thoroughly tired of the hyper-sexualization of black women in hip-hop culture, I am as refreshed by Ms. Monáe as I am by a cold drink on a hot day. Her style fluidly switches between jazz, classical, pop, electronic, and funk, with only the faintest hint of hip-hop/rap. She dances and dresses in a way that showcases her talent instead of her tits and ass. She speaks proper English, as do the black men she creates music with. When I watched the interviews included on the iTunes LP version of The ArchAndroid, I was proud of and impressed with all of them. Because they spoke intelligently and about topics that did not include "da hood", I could relate to them. That isn't something I can usually say about today's young, black performers.

Even more than being impressed with her presentation, her uniqueness inspires me. She and her partners in music-making are not trying to fit someone else's idea of what music (particularly "black music") should be. They have their own ideas, and they are implementing those ideas without apology or shyness, it seems. That inspires me to continue to do the same with my ideas and my life. And not because I want to "make it to the big time" as they have, but because after an early life of conformity (most of the time, though pieces of the real me still shone through from time to time), I have come to the conclusion life is not worth living, if I cannot live by my own unique convictions and vision and gifts and talents.

I'm trying to find my peace
I was made to believe there's something wrong with me
And it hurts my heart
Lord have mercy ain't it plain to see

That this is a cold war
Do you know what you're fighting for
This is a cold war
You better know what you're fighting for.

~ Janelle Monáe, "Cold War"

Every time I listen to one of her songs--that has been often in the past week, as I have her two albums in almost constant play--I am inspired to be me and to enjoy being me. I enjoy feeling inspired. It makes me feel alive.
wlotus: (Music)
On her first release, Metropolis, Janelle Monae released a mini-movie: Many Moons. The premise (an android auction) is utterly fascinating and gives us a glimpse into this young lady's imagination. Take a look.

Still from Janelle Monae's Many Moons mini-movie
Still from Janelle Monae's "Many Moons" mini-movie.
wlotus: (Music)
What do you mean you haven't yet listened to Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid? Go thou now and do so!

Still shot on location for J. Monae's Tightrope video
Still shot on location for J. Monae's Tightrope video
(From the album photos)

Watch her fancy footwork in the Tightrope video, too.


Some people talk about ya
Like they know all about ya
When you get down they doubt ya
And when you dip it on the scene
Yeah they talkin' bout it
Cause they can't dip on the scene
Whatcha talk about it
T-t-t-talkin' bout it
When you get elevated,
They love it or they hate it
You dance up on them haters
Keep getting funky on the scene
While they jumpin' round ya
They trying to take all your dreams
But you can't allow it

Cause baby whether you're high or low
Whether you're high or low
You gotta tip on the tightrope....
wlotus: (Pannist)
When I lived in Syracuse, NY I met a man in Utica who wanted to start a small steelband. That is where I got my start playing and improvising on six-bass; I consider him my "Pan Daddy". A few years ago he moved back to his hometown in Trinidad. When I called him last year to wish him a happy birthday, his number had been disconnected. Since I don't know his people, I wondered if something had happened to him and no one knew to call me. Awhile back he suffered a serious brain injury, so I tend to worry when I don't hear from him. I tucked his memory away in a warm corner of my mind and hoped he was alright.

This morning an unfamiliar Trinidad 'phone number appeared on my Caller ID. When I heard his voice, I felt as though he had risen from the dead! He had lost his phone with my number saved in it and after months of searching had finally stumbled upon my number in an old telephone book. He was just as glad to hear my voice as I was to hear his.

Now that we have each other's numbers again, we intend to keep in touch. He is working with a fairly young steelband and wants me to come to Trinidad to play bass with them for Carnival. If finances allow, I will do just that. He is one of two, perhaps three people in the world who could get me to re-enter the Trinidadian steelband scene. After all, he's the one who gave me my start.
wlotus: (Music)
I have never been a fan of modern classical music. Aaron Copeland is on the hairy edge; I like parts of some of his pieces--WQXR is playing a recording of the NY Philharmonic performing Copeland's "El Salon Mexico" under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, and it's enjoyable--but I can take or leave his music. Even more modern pieces, like "EXPO" by NY Philharmonic composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg, sound like the musical equivalent of trash cans banging at 2AM to my ears. Where Copeland's music strikes me as harmonic but stop-and-go, very modern music (like Lindberg's piece) sounds like chaotic stop-and-go with little melody and even less rhyme or reason. Even as an artist, it is difficult for me to appreciate it. I prefer the flowing, continuous sounds of Strauss, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and others of their ilk.

I would, however, like to give modern music a fair chance. I understand music is a matter of personal taste, so I may never like modern classical music, but I would like to understand it, at least to the point where I recognize it has structure, even if I don't like the chords and harmonics that make up the piece. Does anyone have any suggestions for modern composers and even written explanations of their music, so I can begin to understand what makes their music enjoyable to others?
wlotus: (Music)
The local classical music station is playing "Rhapsody in Blue". I have known for years that I "don't like" the piece, but I couldn't say why. Today I am sitting through the piece, and now I know why listening to it is very uncomfortable.

From the first wailing notes, the tune invokes a sense of intense, unfulfilled longing, an emotion I am all too familiar with from my past. Later parts of the piece tell of the frustration of chasing fulfillment in vain. It's a painful cycle I would rather not relive.
wlotus: (Music)
I'm listening to Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, and I'm transported back to the day I first heard it. It was the end of the Summer of 2008. The New York Philharmonic was having their free, open rehearsal for their opening night gala, and I decided to take advantage of my freedom from punching a clock to attend. I was excited about seeing James Galway; he was the featured soloist, and I'd always admired his playing. Of course I would jump at the chance to see him for free!

Unless I look it up I cannot tell you what piece Galway played, though I remember seeing him walk merrily onstage in jeans and put the orchestra through its paces. All memory of Galway with his magical flute was erased from my mind by the first notes of the trumpet fanfare that began the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Fourth. By the time the strings soared through the end of the movement, I was completely swept away by the music. The second movement had me swaying in time, eyes closed, hands over my heart. I had never heard anything like the precise, rapid pizzicato of the third movement. (I had no idea one could play pizzicato on a double bass at that speed!) The exciting finale raised the short hairs on the back of my neck and chased me out of my seat to join in the rousing standing ovation we gave the orchestra. I may have even sent several breathless text messages to friends as I headed for the subway.

When I arrived at home I immediately searched iTunes Music Store for a recording. The first one I purchased (Berliner Philharmoniker & Herbert Von Karajan, from 2003) was great...except for an obvious error in the trumpet fanfare in the opening seconds of the piece. Later I replaced it with a 1990 recording by Igor Markevitch and The London Symphony Orchestra. That is the recording that is setting the tone for this latter part of my Saturday morning. May you shape your Saturday into something as enjoyable as I am shaping mine to be.

Beautiful Music 1
wlotus: (Blackberry)
I have been looking forward to this album's release date since last year, and today is the day!



Dec. 27th, 2009 02:35 pm
wlotus: (Photography II)
There's nothing like taking care of some unfinished photo editing to bring one's year to a fulfilling close.

In addition to catching up on a family project, I've finally edited and posted the rest of the photos I made during this year's Music Under the Bridge drum & bugle corps concert.

Vulcan Society Drumline
Vulcan Society Drumline

New York Skyliners Alumni
New York Skyliners Alumni

See the rest...
wlotus: (Violin II)
Last night I dreamed I was playing cello. The instrument had a rich sound, and the strings felt smooth under my fingertips when I performed a skilled vibrato. I could even feel the coolness of the scroll as I leaned into it during a particularly moving part of the piece I was playing.

I have never played cello in my life.
wlotus: (Music)
Have you seen Google's logo today, in honor of Michael Jackson's birthday?

Michael Jackson tribute from Google

I approve.
wlotus: (Photography)
On 11 July 2009, the Central Park Conservancy and Jazzmobile, Inc. put on a three-hour jazz program called "Great Jazz on the Great Hill". T and I took our cameras, lounge chairs, and snacks and made ourselves comfortable. It was a marvelous way to spend the afternoon.

Brass Section
The brass section of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.

Adam O'Farrill, bandleader Arturo's son, played with the trumpets for the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra's entire set. He is standing in the back row, on the far right.


I Remember

Sep. 15th, 2008 08:21 am
wlotus: (Pannist)
First Posted 19 December 2005. I do not currently participate in the steelpan fraternity of New York City or Trinidad, because the negative human element I describe in this post became too much for me to tolerate.

I'm listening to a recording of Carib Pan Jammers playing "One for De Savannah," their 1997 Panorama tune. It's bringing back a feeling of nostalgia from the days when I knew nothing about the inner workings of the pan fraternity: the trash-talking, the womanizing, the politics, the favoritism, the controversies, or any of that. I can remember spending hours watching my '97 Panorama video and being amazed at the pannists, especially the basses. It wasn't about watching the guys...it was about the amazing passion the players showed, the marvelous music, and the synchronization of the bass players' hands as they did their thing.

Back then I wanted to be part of a steelband so bad, I ached for it. My hands itched to play. But I also wanted to be part of a band's "in" crowd, respected by some of the people in authority in a band. I wanted to be taken under someone's wings as "special" and "talented," and I wanted to have some influence on what was done. I wanted to be a part of the inner workings.

Don't sit too close at the ballet: it spoils the illusion.

For the past couple of years I have been trying to recapture that sense of awe in pan, an awe which has been replaced by increasing disillusionment at all of the negative things going on in the pan fraternity. I have talked, I have listened to others talk, and things have remained the same all over. The same politics happen. The same trash-talking happens. The same favoritism happens. Horning (adultery and cheating on one's supposedly committed relationship) is rampant all the way up the chain of authority, even to a band's arranger in some cases, and people turn a blind eye to it. The same the same the same... It's tiring and disgusting and almost ruins what would otherwise be a glorious musical experience for me. (Because of all of this, I was *happy* to miss T&T Panorama 2004, to spend that night enjoying the final night performances from the comfort of my living room, instead of being back in Trinidad. If I hadn't had to cancel due to financial constraints, I probably would have chosen to miss it, anyway.) But somehow, underneath all of that garbage, the MUSICAL passion is still in me, and that is what keeps me coming back despite all of the mess and unnecessary drama.

You know what would help? Here it is: not knowing what is going on in a band outside of what notes to play, the names of my fellow players, what time to report to the yard, and whom I can go to for help when I am struggling with a part. The pan articles and band meetings and online forums are so much repetitive talking with no action behind it, it isn't even funny. In general, they waste my time. People lay down the law, others break the law, and absolutely nothing is done. "But THIS time will be different!" I have been told, but it never is. People cry out for unification with one side of their mouths, then with the other side they put down someone's arranging as "not real music" and other arrogant declarations. Using the media and online forums as their pulpit, sore losers trash-talk others' achievements, and sore winners all but spit on everyone else's heads...and they would actually spit, if they thought they could get away with it. The politics and all inside and outside the bands remain the same. That's why I've mostly stopped following individual band news and pan news worldwide. I don't want to know what's going on, because what's said is often either biased and incomplete (if not an outright lie) or unrealistically optimistic and head-in-the-sand-ish. It's enough to give me indigestion.

Yet, when I remove all of that from my mind and just lose myself in the music, no matter what band is playing it, no matter who likes who and who dislikes the other and whose scoresheet doesn't add up and who slants the competition results in this, that, or the other one's favor, when I am able to filter out the harsh human voices and focus solely on the instrument's voice, I feel that passion, once more. I remember the vibrations that called to me from thousands of miles away during a lunchtime picnic in Syracuse, NY. I remember following those vibes to Port of Spain for Panorama Finals 1998 on the evening of my 29th birthday. I remember pushing the bright, yellow bass pans of Trinidad All Stars through the streets that Carnival Tuesday on a freshly-sprained ankle, knowing nothing about the band except that they were the band which raised my pores a few nights prior, and I wanted to hear them play, again. I remember making up my mind to learn to play, returning 3 years later with bass sticks in hand, and, against all odds, making All Stars' Panorama side. I remember feeling the music from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, no matter which band I was listening to. I remember...

I don't want to just remember. I want to live it, again.

Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish it's source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.
~Anais Nin


wlotus: (Default)

October 2010



RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 20th, 2017 09:43 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios