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Posts Tagged ‘Music’


“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power


I paused a little bit before using this quote from Nietzsche this morning. The use of anything from a philosopher whose work, and the book from which this excerpt has been taken, had been appropriated and distorted to justify their own ends , by the Nazis is a little risky, especially in this time of rising authoritarianism here and around the world. For many of us, just the title, The Will to Power, immediately conjures up imagery of invading Nazis goose-stepping through conquered cities in their quest for more and more power.

People naturally assume that that the power to which he is referring is ultimate power, ruling power to be  exercised over others. That is how the Hitler and his ilk interpreted it. But Nietzsche was talking about two separate forms of power which are expressed in German as the words Kraft and Macht. Kraft refers to brute force, both physical and mental, while Macht refers to true power. Kraft is the animal force, that primal element that is possessed in all of us. Macht, on the other hand, is the power to control one’s own kraft and use it in positive ways.

Macht is the overcoming and controlling of the kraft within us.

And that’s where we are now. We have two elements within this nation, one who see the power of this nation as pure animal power, and another who recognizes our power– our kraft— but understands that it cannot solely guide our actions and future. It is unsustainable. History shows that clearly. 

So, the question is how do we emerge from this? Do we have the fortitude to endure this tug of war between these two concepts?

Though I have my doubts on some days, in the long run I think we do have the ability to endure, actually.

And as Nietzsche expresses above, perhaps this struggle is just what we need to really move forward. Maybe we need some real hardship and suffering to understand the responsibility of our power. Maybe we need it to finally recognize that we must at some point sacrifice something of ourselves to a greater good, that our bounty does not come without a price.

Many of us have never had real hardship. I am not talking about normal loss and suffering that comes with being a human being. I am talking about widespread hurt that runs through the nation and touches most every citizen. Most of us have never had to sacrifice much for anyone.

Maybe we need the hurt and the humbling. While nobody wants to willingly take on great suffering, there are lessons to be learned from it. Perhaps that one can overcome and endure great hardship is the greatest of these. That and allowing more of us to develop a greater sense of empathy with those who continue to suffer around us.

Maybe we need to simply learn that we can endure.

Maybe then we can cross the divide between us and work together for some greater good.

Let’s hope, okay? 

Hey, here’s some old Canned Heat from about 50 years back with a fitting message for any time. It’s Let’s Work Together. Now, have a good day.


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“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

― Martin Luther


Martin Luther wrote the words above in 1521 in his defense against the Papal Bull from Pope Leo X that excommunicated Luther, condemning him as a heretic for his Theses. They were applicable then as they certainly are today.

He had a clear understanding that we are ever-evolving creatures, that our purpose is to attain depth as humans. To continue to grow and learn. 

To follow a road, even as we know that we will never reach a final destination.

I am not a religious person  so, for me, the purification of which he writes is not a religious thing. I see it more as an attainment of wisdom as one travels their road through life. The purification comes in discarding those negative traits that have been doggedly held close during the whole journey. There is a lot of energy expended in maintaining these negative feelings and losing them allows a shift of energy towards more positive thoughts and feelings.

That sounds like an easy thing to do. But those darker negatives stick tight to us, digging in until they appear as part of us. They won’t be tossed aside easily. 

But it is a noble task for us to consider as we travel our endless roads. 

Here’s a lovely version of the great traditional song, The Wayfaring Stranger. There aren’t many bad versions of this song, it’s that  great a song. I’ve played several here over the years. But for today, I thought I’d share this version from the Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra. Listening to their version, it’s hard to believe they are a Norwegian band and not right out of the Appalachians. Lead singer Rebekka Nilsson has that wonderful plaintiveness in her voice that defines this type of music. Just a great version. 

Enjoy and have a good day on your road.


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Bring tea for the Tillerman
Steak for the sun
Wine for the woman who made the rain come
Seagulls sing your hearts away
‘Cause while the sinners sin, the children play
Oh Lord, how they play and play
For that happy day, for that happy day

–Tea For the Tillerman, Cat Stevens


This was one of those days when I had to go against my instincts in choosing a song for my  Sunday Morning Music selection. I came into the studio early this morning and I wanted to hear something louder and more raucous. Not necessarily angry though that wasn’t out of the question.

I first thought of an old Del Fuegos song from the mid-80’s, Nervous and Shaky. It’s a song from a Boston based garage-rock band that had a brief burst of notoriety, looking for a bit like they could be a next big thing. I liked their stuff a lot and this song still pops in my head every so often. I tried finding a YouTube video that captured the sonic boom of the vinyl version but it just doesn’t come through well enough so I moved on.

Then it was Jack White (not quite right today) then late bluesman John Campbell who I featured here ten years ago, writing about being wowed by him in a tiny club opening for the legendary Buddy Guy. Then it the Clash and Little Willie John and on and on. 

Nothing felt right to share.

Then I came across a version of Wild World, the old Cat Stevens song– it’s fifty years old!— performed as a duet by him with the late Chris Cornell.

It instantly felt right. It felt nostalgic since the Cat Stevens albums of that time were among the first I bought for myself as a pre-teen and remained on my playlist for quite a few years after. Plus, being aware that it is indeed a wild world out there is a good bit of advice for anyone. So here is that performance with Chris Cornell plus I threw in the very short title track from the album that it was on, Tea For the Tillerman. It’s a song that always strikes a vibrant chord within me.

By the way, the image at the top is the album cover art for that album, created by Cat Stevens. Most folks who grew up in that time will recognize it immediately.

So, give a listen and have a good day. But remember, it’s a wild world out there.

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Leaving


“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

Beryl Markham, West with the Night


Spent some time listening to music from the late Chet Baker this morning. There’s always an abundance of raw emotion in his playing and one selection felt right this morning as I watch the leaves falling outside my studio window. Something quite sad and wistful in seeing the leaves drop on this gray morning, much like the feel of much of Baker’s music.

The song is Leaving from a relatively little known album with the same title from 1980. The photo of Baker that accompanies the track below shows him at a late stage of his life when he was showing the ravages of his drug addiction and a few violent episodes. It’s quite a face.

So, settle back in, sip your coffee, let your mind go and give a listen. Then have a good Sunday.


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“Song of Silence”- at Principle Gallery, Alexandria


All your silver, all your gold
Won’t shine brighter than your soul

Rhiannon Giddens, He Will See You Through


Just want to play some music this Sunday morning and not make commentary on anything. Just let it be for the moment.

These are two songs from one of my favorites, Rhiannon Giddens, who never fails to deliver incredible performances.

The first is a new version of her powerful song Cry No More, which was written in response to the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC in 2015. This new version and video reflects the distancing of current days and is as emotionally charged in its messaging as the first.

The second song is He Will See You Through from a collaboration last year with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. that resulted in a wonderful album, There Is No Other. I love the spare beauty of this song. If you get a chance, give a listen to the rest of the album. Great stuff.

Have a good day.


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Dr. Seuss Slaying "America First" 1941

Dr. Seuss Slaying “America First” 1941

I don’t fear the dark.

I don’t fear the forest or the city.

I don’t fear being alone.

I don’t fear losing everything or being without.

I do not fear the rain or snow or wind.

I do not fear god.

And I don’t fear terrorists.

And I don’t fear criminals.

And I don’t fear missiles raining down from the sky.

And I don’t fear foreign nations invading this country.

And I sure as hell don’t fear any child or mother or father who flees to this nation to escape war and death.

But what I do fear is your fear.

I fear your cowardice and indifference.

I fear your apathy and distraction.

I fear your tiny attention span and your short-sightedness.

I fear your willingness to accept an evil done in your name.

I fear your preference for dividing people into us and them.

I fear your lack of empathy and compassion.

I fear how you mask your prejudices.

I fear the cruelty of your greed.

I fear your ignorance of your civic responsibilities.

I fear your sense of entitlement.

I fear your indifference to education, history or knowledge.

I fear the blatant stupidity and gullibility you proudly display like a new tattoo.

Don’t mistake this as attack on others– I am as much the you in this as anyone else.

And that is to my great shame.

Our great shame.

Enough is Enough.

************************

When I came into the studio early this morning and flipped on my phone, the first notification on it that jumped out at me was one from Pinterest that said:

Darkness started following you.

That was not the first thing I wanted to see this morning.

After a day spent on a death vigil for my dad and a night spent watching a pathetic creature who resembles someone midway through their transition to orangutan squeal and fling their poo on the debate stage, I wasn’t feeling too upbeat this morning as it was.

Pinterest, in its infinite wisdom, just confirmed what I thought might be the case.

Of course, I am kidding. Not about the Pinterest part. Yes, Darkness is, indeed, following me, whoever this Darkness person is.

But I don’t believe in being trapped under a cloud of bad luck, don’t believe in curses or spells. I don’t believe in anything or anyone that discounts my ability to overcome it.

I believe in my own determination and that of others like me. People who will not live under the darkness cast by a cloud of fear and stupidity any longer.

Now, the cartoon at the top and the words below it are from a post that first ran here back in January of 2017, just as the would-be-king took the reins of power and started his division of America.  The cartoon is from Dr. Seuss in 1941 when he took on the America First crowd of that era, a group of American isolationists and Hitler appeasers who would feel right at home in the MAGA world that cheers as the ghoul-in-chief gleefully breaks our bonds with longtime allies and kisses Putin’s Russian ass.

I felt that nothing in the message of both the cartoon and the accompanying words had changed in the nearly four years. In fact, it has become worst, as has almost every aspect of our nation and its culture. I can’t think of one solitary thing, one metric of any quality of life, that has improved in this nation over the past four years. People are still cowed by fears and division stoked by their ingrained prejudices, their own ignorance of the facts, and in believing the constant stream of misinformation and outright lies that fuel alternative media sources.

These people seek the darkness.

And I see that darkness but I also see the light shining through it. And I will march through the darkness until I reach that light.

Okay, enough for such a morning. In the original post four years ago, I ran the terrific Johnny Cash version of the song I See a Darkness from Bonnie “Prince” Billy  aka Will Oldham with the following as part of its chorus:

Oh, no, I see a darkness.
Did you know how much I love you?
Is a hope that somehow you,
Can save me from this darkness.

Here’s Bonnie “Prince’ Billy’s original version.

Have a day. And if you run into Darkness, tell him that I am looking for him.


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One of the very few surviving drawings from the Warsaw Ghetto


“Zog Nit Keynmol (Song of the Warsaw Ghetto)”

Never say that you have reached the very end,
When leaden skies a bitter future may portend;
For sure the hour for which we yearn will yet arrive,
And our marching step will thunder: we survive!

From green palm trees to the land of distant snow,
We are here with our sorrow, our woe,
And wherever our blood was shed in pain,
Our fighting spirits now will resurrect again.

The golden rays of morning sun will dry our tears,
Dispelling bitter agony of yesteryears,
But if the sun and dawn with us will be delayed,
Then let this song ring out to you the call, instead.

Not lead, but blood inscribed this bitter song we sing,
It’s not a caroling of birds upon the wing,
But ’twas a people midst the crashing fires of hell
That sang this song and fought courageous till it fell.

So never say that you have reached the very end
Though leaden skies a bitter future may portend
Because the hour which we yearn for will arrive
And our marching step will thunder: We survive!


I like history and am a fan of World War II movies. Now when I say that, I don’t mean the combat films, though there are many fine examples. My favorites are those that focus on the people who fought as Partisans against the fascist forces of that time. Movies like Hangmen Also Die!, The Seventh Cross and Watch on the Rhine are such examples and favorites of mine. Casablanca, at its core, is also such a film.

There is something in these films that goes beyond the horror and stupidity of war and brings a very human element into the conversation. For me, it is the portrayal of common people fighting for their freedom and dignity in any way they can against brutal and overwhelmingly oppressive forces that I find so appealing. They often band together in covert underground organizations to form a network that attempts to stymie their oppressors expansive desires.

Many of these groups of partisans had rallying songs that they used to unite themselves and to shore up their strength and courage. In Watch on the Rhine, one of my favorite characters in all filmdom, a Resistance leader played to perfection by Paul Lukas, sings a song that he sang as a German soldier returning from WW I that had been adapted as a song of resistance to the Nazis. Very powerful stuff.

The song below (with lyrics above) is such a song. It is Zog Nit Keynmol which is sometimes called The Song of the Partisans or The Song of the Warsaw Ghetto. It was sung during the siege of the Warsaw Ghetto and is still sung today as an anthem of defiance and perseverance.

And survival.

Most versions of this song are in Yiddish or Hebrew but I am sharing the version of this song from the great Paul Robeson that integrates both an English translation along with the original Yiddish lyrics.

If you need to shore up your own courage and strength in the iffy days ahead, give a listen. Powerful stuff, indeed. Have a good day and stay aware.


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The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?

‘No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


Thought I’d kick off the first day of autumn by sharing a painting, And the Glimmer Comes, which I look at from my chair now, a few words from the always inspiring Viktor Frankl on finding meaning in one’s life and a piece of music that brings it all together for me, as someone just in the autumn of his life. Well, I say just but I guess that would be based on a lifespan of 120 years.

High hopes, I suppose.

The music is an atmospheric piece, Good Night, Day, from the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018) who was best known for his scores for films such as Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and The Theory of Everything.

I am going to leave it at that. Have a good first day of fall.

 


 

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Bill Evans a


Busy this morning and this week with some much needed projects around the studio and the home. But I thought that this morning I would feature the piano of the great Bill Evans (1929-1980) and the song My Foolish Heart. It’s a song that I featured here about four years back

As I said then, I chose this song because it’s a fairly good live recording and I like watching the hands of musicians, especially guitarists and pianists, when they play. I don’t know much about music in technical terms but the differences in the way musicians play is striking to me, adding a whole new dimension to the work. For example, when I watch legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson play I am struck by the fluidity and nimbleness of his hands. They have an extremely delicate and graceful bounce, especially for a large man.

But watching Evans perform this song is, to me, more about those unplayed parts of the music– the pauses and silences that fill the air of the piece. Couple this with his body movements and positions and it makes for a mesmerizing performance.

So take a look and give listen.  Hope you have a great day…


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Kurt Weill. Who Wrote “September Song” with Maxwell Anderson


 

The summer ended. Day by day, and taking its time, the summer ended. The noises in the street began to change, diminish, voices became fewer, the music sparse. Daily, blocks and blocks of children were spirited away. Grownups retreated from the streets, into the houses. Adolescents moved from the sidewalk to the stoop to the hallway to the stairs, and rooftops were abandoned. Such trees as there were allowed their leaves to fall – they fell unnoticed – seeming to promise, not without bitterness, to endure another year. At night, from a distance, the parks and playgrounds seemed inhabited by fireflies, and the night came sooner, inched in closer, fell with a greater weight. The sound of the alarm clock conquered the sound of the tambourine, the houses put on their winter faces. The houses stared down a bitter landscape, seeming, not without bitterness, to have resolved to endure another year.”

― James Baldwin, Just Above My Head


In this strangest of years, September has crept in without barely any notice for me. Much in the way August departed. I barely noticed the comings and goings, even though time seems to drag in these days of waiting for what might come next.

In doing so, I have neglected playing what might be my favorite song as I do every year at this time. The son is September Song, written by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson for the 1938 Broadway show Knickerbocker Holiday. It was written in just a few hours after the show’s star, Walter Huston, requested that he have a solo  song in the show.

Of course, in doing so, the composers had to account for Huston’s limited vocal range. The result though is a song that has become one of the great standards, covered by an incredibly wide range of artists. I have played versions from Willie Nelson, Bryan Ferry and Lou Reed along with the more well known jazz vocalists.

The song is just lovely in a most wistful way and these days we can all use something lovely and even wistful. Here’s such a version from the great Sarah Vaughan.

Have a good day.

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