Just Kids

Patti Smith's book Just Kids

I am just finishing this book, going slowly now to make it last.  I love being in the the late 1960s and early 1970s with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, and their host of friends who are play writes, curators, poets and musicians, hearing about their lives and coincidences, they seem to run into everyone who becomes anyone in the music and art scene in New York at that time.  This book makes me want to watch Godard films, read Rimbaud and buy all of Patti’s poetry books too.  I love how she recognizes auspicious dates, for example she travels to France in October the month of Rimbaud’s birth just to visit his grave and the museum dedicated to him in Charleville.  And fortunately for all of us she’s still around in all her respectful restlessness giving us lessons on how to work hard and try to do what we were born to.  On November 6th she sang a salute to the world of Kubla Khan and the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the Met.  On December 19th she performed a 15 minute set in honor of Jean Genet‘s 100th birthday at MOMA.  I’m sorry I missed them both.  Here’s a link to a review of her speaking at the Whitney Humanities Center.  What’s your favorite Patti Smith song or story? when was the last time you saw her perform?

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Bad Reputation

Pierre De Gaillande's new album of Brassens tunes

I met Pierre De Gaillande last week at The Snow show at Pete’s Candy Store, where he told me about his latest project, an assignment in French translation, the album Bad Reputation, music of the popular French bard from the 1950, 60s and 70s George Brassens.  He grew up listening to George Brassens in France and when he recently came across his father’s record collection he couldn’t resist the idea to create his own versions of those popular tunes.  The songs maintain rhyme scheme in English and the same melodies as much as possible while incorporating new instrumentation and arrangements.  I really liked hearing the track “Public Benches” because I was already familiar with the tune and I like the image it creates  of teenagers making out in public.  My first boyfriend also grew up in France and would sing these songs at top volume regularly, ever successful at making that characteristic gurgle that Brassens has… (and maybe all French speakers have?) that always makes me feel like I am going to disappear in a pool of abundant saliva ….overflowing, overflowing, overflowing.  I also like the dark feeling of the song “Bad Reputation,” orchestrated with clarinets, guitar, and bell set.  Pierre’s voice is simple and clear, his English thankfully lacks the gurgle, and his lyrics give a whole new meaning to the music that I’d never quite understood before.  The word “bawdy” has a whole new meaning.  De Gaillande has a show tomorrow, Friday, December 17 at the 92 Street Y in Tribeca, 9pm.  Read more about him here.

Music Together

Bang that drum!

Have you heard of this program for kids? Well, if you have kids or you’re planning on it, you’ll want to check out this program in your area.  I just came back from three days of training in Oyster Bay, Long Island to become a Music Together registered teacher, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the way this program is taught and run as a business.  Their research considers everything from pre-literacy and a kid’s first sounds, to including songs in different modes (not just major and minor but dorian, mixolydian, pentatonic, etc.), to helping kids achieve basic rhythmic competence and most of all allowing them to have fun with music!  And the songs are mostly original tunes that are inspiring, catchy, well recorded and well produced.  I have vague memories of attending Orff Schulwerk classes at UCLA when I was maybe 4 or 5 but this program advocates starting these classes as soon as 3 month!  Babes can barely hold their heads up, but they are already attempting to sing the dominant of the chord, the easiest pitch for a little one to intone.  Watch out music business, because the next generation is going to be smart, socially networked AND will be able to carry a tune!

Violent Sentiments of Triumph

Kotorino at Barbes

I bought Mac’s Russian Red matte lipstick just before the show and Amy and I had red lips and black vintage dresses, though we didn’t look anything like a Robert Palmer video.  I had my violin and Amy had her claves.  The performance space at Barbes is small.  The stage is at once homey and welcoming and we managed to squeeze all nine members of Kotorino onto the stage after careful placement of stands and holding in of bellies.  We started our set with “Sky’s on Fire,” the only banjo tune for a nice segue from Emily Pinkerton‘s vibrant set of banjo and guitar accompanied Americana originals and Chilean influenced folk tunes.  The set continued and we were really feeling it – in a groove – the room was packed and we were getting good feedback from our friends in the audience and even from folks we didn’t know.  They got a kick out of Jeff’s lengthy instrument change in “Williamsburg Suit,” – that one always throws people.  They don’t know exactly what to think, so they shift uncomfortably in their seats, some laugh, some clap and they are unanimously relieved when Jeff finally resolves the VII chord with the frantic guitar strum that finally ends the uneasiness.  The show ended strong with the last tune “Into the Sky” in which Jeff sings about his devotion to Jesus and the rest of us sing angelic “oooohs” in the background which contrasts with the punchy accordion, horn and violin quarter notes and the violent sentiment of triumph at the end of the song.  Kotorino has certainly triumphed!  The band is entering its third year, about to release it’s first full length CD and continuing to entertain local fans with a different element added for fun on every show.

Getting Started

I decided to start this blog about music because I wanted to have a place to keep track of the music I am excited about, the musicians I meet who are really making things happen for themselves and giving a good name to the field. Yes, music does have a bad rap…. it’s hard to make a living doing it, some people think musicians are all self centered introverts or self aggrandizing business minded extroverts… but the truth is that the world of music is like any other field. It has its heroes, pirates, simpletons, fakirs, shamans and freaks. The thing that binds us together is the artistry of the stuff, the juice we get from making good music, and the hope we have that we can affect others as much as we have been affected by the great music makers of the world.