… on… unmatched [pt 2]

 

For the second review in this (hopefully) ongoing series.  I’d like to draw your attention to a relatively new recording by Icelandic composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson, titled Orphée.    Jóhannsson has composed for numerous films including the recent ARRIVAL and upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2024 as well as many solo studio recordings….. But of all his work so far the one that really stands out as a pinnacle in his oeuvre is this “solo” recording exploring the myth of Orphée/Orpheus.

The second track on the album:

This recording for Deutsche Grammophon records can, at first listen,  be compared to Samuel Barber’s ADAGIO – but that is only in mood and temperament.   When listening to this masterwork  by Jóhannsson I find so many rich and wonderful feelings and ideas.   I can feel like I’m wandering through a darkened hallway, arms outstretched, moving slow and gently feeling my way around the space.   With continued listening I also feel a sense of gravity a tension that a very large bird may feel as it starts out in flight and slowly lifts itself from the earth.  And in its flight feels the constant pull of the earth again even in it’s supposed freedom of soaring on the winds.  Maybe it’s the speed at which the musical themes evolve throughout this 47 minute composition.

When thinking about this music, and the ideas, of Orpheus in the underworld wanting to bring back his love.  I also begin to muse on the “warning” he is given to not look back and trust that his love Eurydice is behind him.  And when he does look back – she is lost to him forever.   This notion of not looking back is also found in the Bible story (Genesis 19) of Lot and his family as they flee Sodom and Gomorrah who were also warned to not look back.  When Lot’s wife looks back she is turned into a pillar of salt.   I further begin to wonder, what is this problem with looking back?  It seems to be something we as humans do all the time.  It is the cornerstone of memory.  We don’t have memories of the future, do we? Or maybe we just haven’t learned to access those future memories.  And looking back isn’t really all that bad.   In the case of Orpheus the underworld can be compared to underground that where things are rooted – for plants literally.  Underground is the foundation upon which we build our buildings and other man-made structures.   It is not only a place for the dead.   It seems that one could make the argument that Orpheus was looking back to his roots and very foundation for his wife – the gods had tricked him.   In the case of lot with his wife turning to a pillar of salt.   Salt is beneficial and necessary in all our diets it is also a preservative.  So maybe her looking back actually made it possible for the rest of her family to be saved/preserved.   These two examples may relate to the sense of gravity that I hear and feel in this music under the earth there is no escape from gravity and a pillar of rock/salt is so completely connected to the rest of the rock it cannot escape.

We all look back at some point in our lives.  It is not a weakness.  It is only human nature and inevitable.  Orpheus, like Lot’s wife HAD to look back.  And that may be the tension I hear and feel in the music – the desire to only look forward while feeling the pull to look back that is ultimately irresistible.   So maybe the problem isn’t the looking back; as the warnings imply (and many bible scholars will try to teach), maybe these myths simply teach us of the cost.  There is a cost and consequence to everything.   It’s not a matter of good or bad but simply an understanding of exchange.   And that thought is freeing and non-condemning like a bird in flight.

The final and only genuinely vocal track on the album:

These are the many things that drifted through my listening of this excellent album.  All that being said, this music simply stops me in my tracks and forces me to listen, think, dream.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

TRACK LIST
1. Flight From The City
2. A Song For Europa
3. The Drowned World
4. A Deal With Chaos
5. A Pile Of Dust
6. A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder
7. Fragment I
8. By The Roes, And By The Hinds Of The Field
9. The Radiant City
10. Fragment II
11. The Burning Mountain
12. De Luce Et Umbra
13. Good Morning, Midnight
14. Good Night, Day
15. Orphic Hymn

Follow the link for more info:

http://www.johannjohannsson.com

….on…. take me to church….

It’s been a long time since I listened to Sinead O’Connor. I loved every track on her very first album. But everything after that was sort of hit-n-miss and I eventually lost touch with her career.

I recently came across this wonderful song from 2014 album I’M NOT BOSSY, I’M THE BOSS. It seems to have the same kind of edgy energy that I liked in her first album. The Chorus hits home for me and highlights the need for pure love and how the institutions of today fail to provide it – which is highlighted in the lyrically sharp chorus,

“Oh take me to church
I’ve done so many bad things it hurts
Yeah take me to church
But not the ones that hurt
‘Cause that aint the truth
And that’s not what it’s for”

….on….. fear…..

Highlining 2800m in winter.’Hayley’- 90 seconds about fear. (Dir. Stian Smestad Music by Nils Frahm) from Stian Smestad on Vimeo.

Before walking a 52 meter highline at 2800 altitude in midst winter, I asked Hayley about fear. She replied with her favorite quote from Frank Herbert’s “Dune”. A short film about Hayley Ashburn, filmed in the Torri del Vajolet, set to the hypnotizing soundtrack Tristana by Nils Frahm.

Directed by Stian Smestad (www.hellostian.com)
Athlete Hayley Ashburn
Music Nils Frahm «Tristana»

…..on….campaigns

November 8 – will we drown in hatred, fear, and misery?

Trump without a “T” is just a rump.

RUMP
noun \ˈrəmp\
Definition of rump
: the back part of an animal’s body where the thighs join the hips
: a piece of meat that comes from the rump of a cow
: the part of the body you sit on

Synonym:
butt, ass

….on…. beauty of imperfection

Autumn is the season of imperfection. Yet it is also, strangely enough many people’s favorite season. I say “strangely enough” because most people are resistant to change, yet in Autumn, there are more changes crammed into a short time span than any other season. We may see summer temps, foliage color changes, rain, and even freezing snow. It is one of the most difficult times to forecast the weather because of these rapid changes. Even scents change; the autumn flowers carry a dryer less sweet scent and there is the scent of fruit and harvest. In the cooling air sounds themselves seem to have more clarity….
Perhaps it is these rapid changes that cause us to really sit up and take note of natures beauty. So maybe Autumn is truly an “awakening season” for many (even though many see Spring as a season of awakening).

fallen-angel-evn-smlr

If we look closer at what makes Autumn so beautiful we will see it is full of imperfections. In fact nature seems to celebrate these imperfections. A yellow leaf is never truly a solid yellow and a red leaf is never a solid shade of red. There are subtleties and flaws in all these changes that occur. Leaves are mottled or spotted and eventually fall from the trees as they lose their ability to cling to life. They clutter and clog our drains and gutters. Branches become brittle and break off from their life source. Fruit that is being harvested is rarely perfect; it is not uniformly colored and is filled with the scars or bruises caused by hard weather, insects, birds etc. The changing weather requires us to be more aware and dress accordingly. Yet this is often declared the most beautiful season of the year. Why are we more accepting of imperfections in the natural world outdoors than we are of the imperfections in each other? What would happen if we would accept the imperfections we perceive in others and accept those imperfections as part of what makes that person beautiful? Has the quest for perfection and comfort made us completely intolerant to the beauty of imperfection? Have we finally become at odds with nature and our own mortality?

The image above is titled “FALLEN ANGEL” and is simply a photograph of autumn leaves on a hiking trail. I loved how the large leaf seemed to be in the shape of an angel.

…on …laundry…

laundry

The early morning had an autumnal chill in the air and was overcast like so many clouded minds waking to the new day.

I was at the laundromat; not one of my favorite things. I go early, making every attempt to avoid the greedy rush of individuals jockeying for machines.

This morning eight other people had the same idea.

I had a book by Peter Handke that I was reading – ON A DARK NIGHT I LEFT MY SILENT HOUSE. It’s a short novel with prose that reads like poetry. It travels the razors edge of reality and dreams, so-much-so that, at times, I wasn’t sure if I was reading a really great story or if I was dreaming of reading. As I slipped farther and farther into the world of the story the sounds of the laundromat seemed more distant, muffled, even murky.

My quiet reading repose was interrupted by the RAT-A-TAT-TAT of machine gun fire – the sound of death – blasting from the mobile device of a seventy-year-old gray-haired grandmother playing an obviously violent video game and sitting near, too near me, lost in her own oblivion.
Annoyed by the cruel aural assault I just closed my eyes and let the sounds of the laundromat merge into a cacophonous free-jazz experiment; Albert King was playing on the overhead sound system swinging with updates about Hurricane Matthew, on the television, merging with the friendly chatter of others who seem to enjoy laundry – and company. Suddenly, a searing break of five washing machines whirring and buzzing, in their wild interlude, on the spin cycle in complete synchrony eventually to subside and merge with the rest of the sounds in this social sound-fest ending with the click click click click click of the same five machines stopping, signaling the cycle was over.

After drinking in all the sounds it was time to dry out, fluff and fold. The feeling of warm, fresh softness carried out to the car. Another week has ended. Now ready to start a new week, clean and clear. Ready to carry-on after this unpleasant sensorial massage. Ultimately satisfied. Paradox of mundanity.