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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

WJAAS' related: traditional Ryokan hosting in Japan - i.e. tasting real Japan

Japanese Ryokan hosting/1

Japanese Ryokan hosting/2

Something to try, also if, sometimes, complimentary kimonos are a little bit downsized for Westerners;-)))

... next September, Japan: I'm coming!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A trip to Athens' (2/2) or the Endless Quest for Musical Enjoyment

On my way from Athen's brand new international airport, my friend Georges brought me to visit Dimitris Rapakosius' luthiery workshop... this young, passionate artisan, builds in downtown Athens among the finest ouds, saz and other stringed traditional instruments, having - among others - customers like David Lindley and Ross Daly.

Dimitris opened his dusty, yet lively and busy, no frills workshop and after some chatting, the three Iraqui and Turkish's traditions ouds he had handy began to spread their ancient voices... my primitive playing wasn't on same par than Dimitris, much more fluid and various than mine - hey, I'm a guitar player;-))) - but nonetheless, after some different tuning troubles, my fingers and myself, relaxed enough to give some enjoyment to listeners in the room.

The Engeleman and German spruce tops, the multi-coloured rounded backs, the pegs, the sound, so powerful and delicate, all hinted of a careful workmanship and care for details and customers wishes, also the fanciest (mother-of-pearl inlays...).

Well folks, we planned to begin with a careful restoring of my old, battered Moroccan oud as the entree... a new top in German spruce, new peg-box and pegs to reach a long-gone playability I tasted in Dimitris' fine instruments.

Can't stand in my shoes waiting for the restoring to be completed.

... ahhh, almost forgetting: Dimitris is left-handed... so he plays Jimi Hendrix' style - i.e. - in his case, oud stringed for right-handed, but as a lefty... amazing guy!

When did you last heard a nose breathing...

... in a disk through your music system?
It's not - maybe - music, BUT sure it improves trueness and sense of "being there", as music was played and recorded... a true masterpiece, vocals, a double-bass to-die-for and crazy details and enjoyment a go-go. Where?
Try ECM's Marc Sinan & Julia Hulsmann "Fasil", folks... great, GREAT music... yes, OK... you'll owe a coffee to me... not a problem: next time.

A trip to Athens' (1/2) or the Endless Quest for Musical Enjoyment

Athens, and cocoon of philosophers and free thinkers, the bridge, the bearing - I'd dare - between Middle East and Europe, culturally, so also musically... but also, and that intrigues me a lot, the New Territory of braveheart audio experimenters music and audio lovers, people attending to symphonic music quite often, not blah-blah guys... but people leaving their own experiences and talking about them.
In my too brief, recent visit to Athens, mostly aimed to finally meet - after years of mails and phone-calls, my dear friend Georges in person, flesh & bones, and, last but not least, to listen to his one-of-a-kind horn system, I had the rare opportunity to enter, red carpet, the Athens' audio community... extremely nice and friendly people, first rate DIYers came from several places to meet, say hello and have a chat.
... and the chatting have been first class, indeed.
The partying involved in meeting at Georges' place was great, pals: surprising the (almost) tuned large system allowed a dozen people crowd to freely have a conversation with music still intelligible and pleasant, not wall paper music... proving that Imay-san of Audio Tekne's fame was SOOOO right, when in an old essay he wrote years ago about music listening at home: "If you feel pain and you can't have a relaxed chat with friends on same sofa, there something wrong in your music system."
The IVIE-IE-30 showed a 78 to 96-98 db peaks from speakers with a noise floor of 53-55db and we had a truly good time, still enjoying music while chatting.
A superb dinner at "da Claudio", an italian restaurant nearby - great food, not tourists stuffs - closed, few hours from my arrival, a memorable day.
The day after... the fine tuning!
Georges allowed and praised for my support and hauling hands and discerning ears, so we sported a very wise approach to improve sound coming from the mighty EMT 927, from Hiraga 20W on 416-8B's large bass baffles with Sony active x-over 24 db/oct. cut-off at 225 hz and Giovanni Riccardi's transformers coupled WE 300B based monoblocks with passive, autoformers based x-overs to RCA 9584 on mid-low, Altec 288-16G on mid-high and Coral H-104 tweeters... I "opened" the speakers, angled a little bit, throwed away absorbing panels which where taming the dipole baffles, raised mid-high horn and used some absorbing panels on floor near mid-low horn mouth which solved a frequency bump visible on IE-30 real-time analyzer... and music flowed like the first day... ONLY BETTER!;-)... much better, and not only my opinion!
More focused, MUCH more natural mid and high and better bass, BUT without any boomyness, with a superb soundstage and details to-die-for.
Yes, quite naive in approach, we mixed IVIE and B&K mike with poetry books;-) to raise horns, waiting for better and sturdier wooden supports, but the results left, both Georges and myself, quite satisfied for a 120 percent cheap fine-tuning session, proving that room placement, that exotic seek for DPoLS' nirvana - i.e. the best sound a room and a speaker and audio combo may reach.
Yes... cables, tweaks and the whole audiophile toys plethora has their weight but taking our time to move around speakers, to find proper volume settings... that's truly important... paramount.
Early that same day afternoon, we met Manolis at his home, where other friends soon enjoyed... and, Holy Shit!!!!
I wasn't prepared to the great, awesome bass horn, about 3 meters high, we had the opportunity to listen to!
Manolis did a great job, designing, measuring, optimizing and building a 40 hz horn using a JBL 15 inchers in a sealed chamber... the whole system is DIY-made, also the El Cheapo DVD/Disk player has been heavily modded... it's still a work in progress, so some inevitable flaws - i.e. - a focus and highs shyness is quite present, BUT the great foundation the bass-horn gives to music is a very solid point to begin with... every record sounded so easy and pleasant and relaxed you could listen to it for hours without pain or listening fatigue.
The grand piano in Manolis' music-room said a lot about his and his wife Masha's love for music and I see and look forward in the very near future a stellar quality music system blossoming from that weird looking audio combo.
... so more chatting... some ouzo on a sea-terrace, and later more listening and chatting again...
The third day, in the morning, we simply, so utterly naturally, had the confirmation of the beautiful, relaxed aequilibrium me and Georges created few hours earlier... also Anne Sophie von Mutter's violin on sometimes clinical Deutsche Gramophone's sounded so nicely we really didn't feel any wish to touch anything... Satori in Athens?
I wish to thanks my Greek friends: Georges for being the gentleman he is, for his exquisite hosting and brotherly friendship, Kostas, George, Manolis, Kostas, Lia, Sofia, Masha, Lorenzo, Dimitris (mo' later...) and all other new friends who joyned us in our music/audio tasting, to the sunny city of Athens and to its beautiful women and fine food and wine.
... some musings, to finish?
"To pedi me to papi" = "Pizza-delivery boys on mopeds" in Athens.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

WJAAS - Tanizaki-san lesson - "In Praise of Shadows" or use your ears like your eyes...

Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965) - written also: Jun'ichiro

Japanese novelist who dealt with the influence of the West on the old cultural heritage of his native country. After publishing novels written in a fairly orthodox style, Tanizaki fused traditional Japanese storytelling and experimental narrative. He emphasized the fabrication as the basis for fiction, stating that in both his reading and his writing he was "uninterested in anything but lies."

"I read somewhere the other day that men who are too fond of the ladies when they're young generally turn into antique-collectors when they get old. Tea sets and paintings take the place of sex." (from Some Prefer Nettles, 1928)

Junichiro Tanizaki was born in Nihombashi, in the commercial district near Tokyo Bay. His family owned a printing press, founded by Tanizaki's grandfather near the rice merchants' quarter. "Grandfather was very fond of me, his last grandchild; and sometimes in later years I suddenly felt I could hear his voice calling my name – "Jun'ichi, Jun'ichi," as he had during my earliest years, while he was still alive. A much-enlarged photograph of him was always prominently displayed in our house, so I got to know his face well, and could call it to mind and so encounter Grandfather whenever I wished." Aften falling on hard times Tanizaki's family had lost much of its former wealth. Tanizaki worshiped his mother who breast-fed him until he was 6. Despite financial problems, his parents pampered him and took him to countless theatrical performances, which early gave birth to the author's passion for drama and the traditional Japanese arts.

Tanizaki's studies at the university of Tokyo ended in 1910 in shortage of money - or according to some sources his nonpayment of fees was an act of rebellion. At the age of 24 he published one of his best short stories, 'The Tattooer', which show influence of Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde and the French Decadents. Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray Tanizaki also translated. In the story the character of a young woman starts to change when she has taken a tattoo. When in Wilde's novel the painting displays the decay of the subject, in Tanizaki's tale the artist's design is the cause of the woman transformation. The theme of feminine beauty and moral integrity marked his following stories, among then 'Whirlpool' in which an evil woman poses as a Buddhist saint for an artist's drawing.

--...Standing aside, he studied the enormous female spider tattooed on the girl's back, and as he gazed it, he realized that in this work he had expressed the essence of his whole life. Now that it was completed, the artist was aware of a great emptiness.
--'To give you beauty I have poured my whole soul into this tattoo,' Seikichi murmured. 'From now on there is not a woman in Japan to rival you! Never again will you know fear. All men, all men will be your victims...'
(from 'Tattoo')

The turning point in Tanizaki's life was the great earthquake in Tokyo region in 1923. His house in the fashionable residential area was leveled by the quake. Tanizaki left his wife and child and moved to the Osaka area which was much more old fashioned. There he stopped using Western models and started to take interest in traditional literature, especially the classical Japanese tale GENJI MONOGATARI (The Tale of Genji), which was written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu (c. 980-1030). Tanizaki'a first novel from this period, serialized in the mid-20's, was Naomi (trans. in English in 1985), in which a 28-year-old engineer, Joji, goes through his love affair with a young femme fatale, who is totally immersed into Western culture. "As Japan grows increasingly cosmopolitan, Japanese and foreigners are eagerly mingling with one another; all sorts of new doctrines and philosophies are being introduced; and both men and women are adopting up-to-date Western fashions. No doubt, the times being what they are, the sort of marital relationship that we've had, unheard of until now, will begin to turn up on all sides." (from Naomi) In TADE KUU MUSHI (Some Prefer Nettles, 1928-29) Tanizaki continued the theme of the clash between traditional values and modern culture and made Tokyo and Osaka symbols of the conflict. The protagonist, Kaname, considers himself a man of his time, but eventually abandons the modern world.

At the time of writing 'Professor Rado' (1925-28), an erotic story about an eccentric bachelor professor, Tanizaki's second marriage was ending. Her third wife, Matsuko, become again for the author a target of worship, as many other women in his life.

Tanizaki's years of immersion in Japanese history produced some of his finest works. The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi (1935) was set in the the 16th-century civil-war period. In the story Lady Kikyo set out to revenge the murder of her father and mutilation of his face. But the culprit is not her won husband, as she thinks, but her lover, the Lord of Mushashi, whose bizarre sexual obsession is behind the whole plot. Tanizaki's admiration for old Osaka is seen in SASAMEYUKI (The Makioka Sisters, 1943-48), a recreation of Osaka family life in the 1930s. The first chapters of the novel appeared during the World War II, but further publication was stopped by censorship of the military government. Tanizaki continued writing and published the first part at his own expense and delivered the copies to his friends. The second part appeared in 1947 and the third part was first printed in a serialized form in a magazine.

Although Tanizaki's used his own wife and her three sisters-in-law as models – and the author himself plays a small part in the middle of the story – it is not a roman à clef. Tanizaki wanted to record the vanishing cultural milieu of Osaka, its dialect, and the daily life of a middle-class family. The story is about four sisters, who are trying to find a suitable husband for Yukiko, the third sister. She is a woman of traditional belief and has rejected several suitors, and remains almost unmarried. Until Yukiko marries, Taeko, the youngest, the most Westernized, must wait for her turn according to the social convention.

His nostalgic love for the traditions and remnants of the past, even rustic and worn-out, Tanizaki expressed in the essay 'In Praise of Shadows' (1933-34). Tanizaki juxtaposed in it Western harsh light and the ''muddy'' Japanese complexion: ''I would call back at least for literature this world of shadows we are losing. In the mansion called literature I would have the eaves deep and the walls dark, I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the useless decoration.''

Tanizaki's characters are often driven by obsessive erotic desires. His famous post-war novels include FUTEN ROJIN NIKKI (1962, Diary of a Mad Old Man), which depicts an aged diarist who is struck down by a stroke caused by an excess of sexual excitement. He records both his past desires and his current efforts to bribe his daughter-in-law to provide sexual favors in return for Western baubles. KAGI (1956, The Key) was a story of dying marriage examined through parallel diaries. "If now, for the first time, my diary becomes chiefly concerned with our sexual life, will she be able to resist the temptation? By nature she is furtive, fond of secrets, constantly holding back and pretending ignorance; worst of all, she regards that as feminine modesty. Even though I have several hiding places for the key to the locked drawer where I keep this book, such a woman may well have searched out all of them." The two protagonists start to use their diaries as a means of communication by tacitly agreeing to read each other's diaries while outwardly pretending that they do not. The diaries reveal their problems of understanding each other and separateness even during the shared activity of sexual union. The Key was adapted into screen by Kon Ichikawa in 1959, and later by Tinto Brass. In the short story 'The Thief' Tanizaki again studied the theme of fabrications and the truth. The narrator is a young student who is suspected of stealing from his comrades. "It also struck me that if even the most virtuous person has criminal tendencies, maybe I wasn't the only one who imagined the possibility of being a thief." Finally the protagonist admits his guilt but defends himself that he told the truth in a roundabout way.

Several of Tanizaki's stories have been made into films, in Japan and in other countries. He received the Imperial Prize in 1949 for The Makioka Sisters. Tanizaki lived his later years mostly in the Kansai, the area around Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe. He died in Yugawara, south of Tokyo, on July 30, 1965. His childhood memoirs appeared serially in a Japanese magazine in 1955-56, and were published in English in 1988.

For further reading: Tanizaki Jun'ichiro ron by Noguchi Takehiko (1973); The Moon in the Water: Understanding Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima by Gwenn Boardman Petersen (1979); Visions of Desire: Tanizaki's Fictional Worlds by Ken K. Ito (1991); Three Modern Novelists: Soseki, Tanizaki, Kawabata by C. Van Gessel (1993); The Secret Window by Anthony Hood Chambers (1994); Tanizaki Jun'ichiro: Kitsune to mazohizumu by Chiba Shunji (1994) - Film adaptations: Oyu-sama, dir. by Kenji Mizouchi, 1951; Okuni to Gohei, dir. by Mikio Naruse, 1952, Akuto, dir. by Kaneto Shido, 1965

Selected works:

* SHISEI, 1910 - The Tattooer - Tatuoija - films: 2006, dir. by Hisayasu Sato; 2007, Shisei: ochita jorôgumo, dir. by Takahisa Zeze
* CHIJIN NO AI, 1924 / NAOMI - A Fool's Love / Naomi (trans. by Anthony H. Chambers) - films: 1949, dir. by Keigo Kimura; 1960, dir. by Keigo Kimura; 1967, dir. by Yasuzo Masumura; 1980, Naomi, dir. by Yoichi Takabayashi
* KOJIN, 1926
* TADE KUU MUSHI, 1928 - Some Prefer Nettles (trans. by Edward G. Seidensticker) - Kukin makunsa mukaan (suom. Yrjö Kivimies, Edward G. Seidenstickerin englanninkielisen ja Sylvie Regnaut-Gatierin ja Kazuo Anzain ranskankielisen käännöksen pohjalta)
* MÕMOKU MONOGATARI, 1931 - Sokean miehen kertomus
* MANJI, 1931 - Quicksand (trans. by Howard Hibbitt) - films: 1964, dir. by Yasuzo Masumura, starring Ayako Wakao, Kyôko Kishida, Yusuke Kawazu, Eiji Funakoshi; 1983, dir. by Hiroto Yokoyama; 2006, dir. by Noboru Iguchi
* ASHIKARI, 1932 - Ashikari (in Ashikari and The story of Shunkin, tr. by Roy Humpherson and Hajime Okita) / The Reed Cutter and Captain Shigemoto's Mother: Two Novellas (tr. by Anthony H. Chambers) - film: Oyû-sama, 1951, Kenji Mizoguchi, starring Kinuyo Tanaka, Nobuko Otowa, Yuji Hori
* IN'EI RAISAN, 1933-34 - In Praise of Shadows - Varjojen ylistys (suom. Jyrki Siukonen)
* BUNSHÕ TOKUHON, 1934 - A Style Reader
* BUSHUKO HIWA, 1935 - The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi; and Arrowroot (tr. by Anthony H. Chambers)
* NEKO TO SHOZO TO FUTARI ONNA, 1936 - A Cat, a Man and Two Women, 1990 (translated by Paul McCarthy) - film 1956, dir. by Shirô Toyoda
* SASAMEYUKI, 1943-48 - The Makioka Sisters (tr. by Edward G. Seidensticker) - Makiokan sisarukset (suom. Kai Nieminen) - films: 1950, dir. by Yutaka Abe; 1983, dir. by Kon Ichikawa, starring Keiko Kishi, Yoshiko Sakuma, Sayuri Yoshinaga, Yûko Kotegawa
* SHÕSÕ SHIGEMOTO NO HAHA, 1949-50 - The Cutter and Captain Shigemoto's Mother (trans. by Anthony H. Chambers)
* KAGI, 1956 - The Key (transl. by Howard Hibbett) - Avain (suom. suomentanut Tuomas Anhava, Howard Hibbetton englanninkielisestä käännöksestä) - films: 1959, dir. by Kon Ichikawa, starring Ganjiro Nakamura, Machiko Kyo, Junko Kano, Tatsuya Nakada; 1974, dir. by Tatsumi Kumashiro; 1983, La Chiave, dir. by Tinto Brass, starring Frank Finlay, Stefania Sandrelli, Franco Branciaroliv, Barbara Cupisti, Armando Marra, Maria Grazia Bon; 1997, dir. by Toshiharu Ikeda, starring Naomi Kawashima, Akira Emoto, Mikio Ôsawa
* YOSHO JIDAI, 1956 - Childhood Years: a Memoir (translated by Paul McCarthy)
* YUME NO UKIHASHI, 1959 - The Bridge of Dreams (trans. in Seven Japanese Tales) - Unien silta (suom. Kai Kaila)
* FUTEN ROJIN NIKKI, 1962 - Diary of an Old Man (tr. by Howard Hibbett) - films: 1962, dir. by Keigo Kimura; 1987, Dagboek van een oude dwaas, dir. by Lili Rademakers, starring Ralph Michael, Beatie Edney, Suzanne Flon
* Seven Japanese Tales, 1963 (tr. by Howard Hibbett)

... the above will sure interest anyone aiming to better understand Japan and the love of Japanese for ALL senses: taste, smelling, tact, hearing AND seeing... but while Western culture (mostly) privileged seeing and its declinations, Japan and Japanese weren't and aren't shy nor fearful in giving same dignity to other senses... a great, GREAT lesson!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Record Store Day 2009 - it's tomorrow, April 18th 2009

Third edition of "Record Store Day"...

... yes, again and again, it's necessary, like book shops, records stores will continue their important role in music & culture spreading vs. cheaper'n'cheaper downloads world.

Maybe discs are out of fashion, outdated media, BUT for me and many others, the disc and disk pusher remains a lighthouse, a counselor, hinting for new music.

Let's support our local record-shops, pals... let's pay them a visit tomorrow, for a chat and some old-timey browsing in the bins and shelves. It's lively music searching, it's culture and good taste.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

WJAAS - Miyajima-san's ETR-800 MC-transformer: the glory of Permalloy.

Today received the superb Miyajima Labs./Otono Edison ETR-800 MC transformer... both Robin Wyatt and Noryuki Miyajima told me: "To properly taste Shilabe MC-cartridge you should use its dedicated transformer"... and so I did!

... and well, pals... must admit I could stop avoiding transformers made after 1970;-))))

I'm currently using my beloved 4 years old Kikuchi-san made Lumiere DST mounted on Ortofon RMG-309, Ikeda headshell and Miyajima's headshell brass rings... when I swapped WE 618-B for ETR-800 I was SOOO sure old, trusty Western Electric would have outperformed the recently made Japanese transformer... I know I sported an idiot smile, a grime, on my face...

For the VERY first time, this 1,3 kilos transformer, 80 percent Permalloy-core in paraphine-filled mu-metal case and teak classy, WAF friendly outfit... WELL, yaws dropped at first few notes... like friends who listen to their beloved arms on my massive bronze armbases;-)))... I simply, strongly wanted to re-listen to ALL my records... right now, an old Wergo's Krautrock "Dharana" by BETWEEN, before on Collin Walcott's "GRAZING DREAMS" on ECM, where an unheard flute, unison to John Abercrombie screaming, dreamy razor-like guitar, between a Collin's sitar and bowed Palle Daniellson's double-bass on high notes, appeared... it's always AMAZING discover something new, not subtleties, in a well-known disc... would be enough, for giving a chance to this MC-iron, don't you?!?!

... BUT, as I love suffering, gave a listen to "HOPE" by Hugh Masekela 45 rpm on Analogue Sounds, and, pals... I'm still recovering from an audio/music/sonic/emotional ejaculation;-))))))))))))))))

... as I previously wrote, during this (maybe) silly but sincere WYAAS' exotic, hand-made cartridges tour-de-force, I was, nor I am looking for "a winner" - i.e. all designs are winners in many aspects, BUT for the best, involving, true-to-life musical rendition of my most beloved discs (many) in my music system... no science, only senses, chance, and open-ears mode...

Can't imagine how I LOVED discovering the old WE's glory gave a chance to a recent design... Noryuki Miyajima-san made something, folks... and, most important, it's universal enough to made "something" with Lumiere DST - a peaceful collaboration instead of war: Nihonjin artisans collaborating in my (humble) music system, in the name of Music;-)))

Will sure give a joyful, yet serious try to ALLNIC Verito Z, using "HIGH" position on ETR-800 in the next hours... without forgetting Shilabe's by Miyajima-san, of course;-)

Love this search for the Holy Matching... now owning nine different MC-transformers, must say I finally found the new King, the one which slightly, but definitely surpasses WE 618B, at last... you wonder its name?!?!

ETR-800 also has a cool feature, seldom seen everywhere, as a plus: a built-in demagnetizer for both trannies AND MC-cartridge - 10 seconds while playing a disc are enough... was unaware of this practice, due to static in irons core accumulating during use, which I first heard about when purchasing Verion/Cotter's irons.

Important or not, will keep you informed if (?!?!) finding any improvements (or difference) in a demagnetized MC cart..


David Munrow lives!

... yes, I know... the risk is being quite annoying - i.e. I have my myths and I cheerish and love talking about them... but please don't blame me for quoting again my beloved David Munrow, a big, BIG inspiration of mine, someone who I love, listen to, collect, read about, write and talk about since my short-trousers days.

I wrote a short, too short appreciation post in my native language some months ago... returning on him is nothing short than an exceptional evenience to me, as I finally had the rare opportunity to enjoy a DVD of the six "Granada Television" half-an-hour TV series programs he shot back in 1976, few months before his untimely death, at 34 superbly spent years.

He was really very young, but seeing him in my large screen tv-set, with his handsome, courtly manners, elegantly dressed, witty, formal, yet happily conducting and playing with his cohort, the Early Music Consort of London, well, I'm not exagerating saying you all tears dropped copiously from my eyes after few minutes.

Reading records liner notes while listening to his music, looking at the studio stills, the expressions of all the musicians, his fiery eyes during rehearsals, the halls and recording venues, the elegance of musicians during recording sessions, lots of ties and jackets... no sweaters, in this (romantic) England, back in the '70s... all and more I already knew and already absorbed, as a plus to his great musicke...

I wasn't prepared to the emotion of seeing him almost alive, spreading his enourmous knowledge and art from the pixels of my screen directly to my heart... utterly moving, entertaining, enriching, so full of academically correct rendering to the ancient artworks - miniatures, paintings, stone carvings, all depicting instruments, dressings, playing positions... a 360 degrees music adventure, a musical travel, something to be shown in schools, indeed!

Words are uneseful and too limited, sometimes... I respectfully hint everyone loving ancient music spending the little bucks - actually about 20 GB Pounds - involved in the purchasing of such a treasure. A true must-have!

... and, no, definitely I'll do not copy the DVD for friends eventually asking for... I owe too much respect to David Griffith's generous, humble, lovingly made work in undusting these great footage and giving them to the World, a value which is far, far greater than the DVD price-tag.

Thanks, dear David, and thanks David.

David Munrow's site - a labour of love

David Munrow's papers at Royal College of Music in London (1)

... also: DM's papers at Royal College of Music in London (2)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eastern Music? Yes, please...

It's someway hard to look at Middle East and Arabic culture and people without a minimum of... well... you know.
But, as an oud player and a long, long term arabic music lover, I'm right now listening to Anouar Brahem music and I see the truth .
He's possibly one of the best new musicians... coming from Tunis, he records since early '80s for Manfred Eicher's ECM.
Since maybe 5 years ago he began to approach arabic non-traditional music composing on piano and performing on oud, with accordion and piano - non played by himself - creating a very unique blend.
Mr. Brahem, who's in his fifties like myself, have been my hero since years ago I saw him alive with his trio... in these days ECM is giving a sale-price on his whole discography for Maestro Brahem's Anniversay ... which I promptly joined to cover some disks gap.

Anouar Brahem on ECM

Arabic music, ancient, deep, complex is so crystal clear coming from people whose proud heritage must be preserved and respected.
Anyone who visited - i.e. Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya - saw that it's not a matter of names, borders... the Arabic culture is everywhere, it's Mediterranean culture... Allah isn't Devil, like Jesus should not be the Devil for Muslims, and people feel same brotherhood from Atlantic Ocean to Aegean Sea.
The whole Western-music, the ancient music coming from Crusades time, which originated the classical music as we know and appreciate... all this, as chess and maths, have in the Middle-Eastern/Muslim/Arabic tradition their truest roots.
In the next centuries, these crazy times, wars, internal fights will possibly be remembered as times of change... but as I feel RIGHT NOW people of Arabic ancestors and heritage aren't all killers and terrorists, I hope that history and future will return the almost lost dignity to them, as Crusaders of 1.000 years ago didn't give to Christianity's violence of the past an eternal hell-shadow for eons to come.
Now, with the hope that Peace will win on Death and War soon, I guess that also "simply" listening to "this" music represent a little, peaceful act... a violin sonata isn't BETTER than an oud masterful variation (and viceversa).
The lesson comes - as always - from music... and as a picture tell us more than 100 words, a single tune says more than a book.

Anyone looking for a first Brahem's disk? Try first "Le Pas du Chat Noir", a masterpiece... then the last "Le Voyage de Sahar" and "Thimar" with Dave Holland - I'll see and listen him alive on next May - and John Surman...


"Thimar" is indeed a superb disk - I saw John Surman in concert twice, last year and - with Anthony Braxton - he is a true genius on saxes - and, ohhhh how I'd wish Brahem's on vinyl - last recordings have a smooth, yet detailed liquidness seldom heard... this eastern-flavoured Surman's soprano sax lead us to Dijvan Gasparjan's duduk, which, like the Mystere des Voix Bulgares, is music from outer space... in fact the Bulgarian female singers where included in the Humankind WunderKammer sent to Jupiter, with Relativity Einstein's formula et al... I wonder if any E.T. will appreciate them, one day... I definitely do...
Returning to Gasparjan's, which is fortunately on vinyl, too, also if slightly overproduced - i.e. the solo instrument is kind-of bigger than life with an unnatural reverberation, well... the music is so exotic and superbly moving... you simply enjoy the disc.
In a stream-of-consciousness, the above reminds me to the superb, fantastic record, a double limited edition produced by Manfred Eicher and Keith Jarrett, of Gurdijeff music arranged by De Hartmann... I already quoted this in the past, BUT make no evil I someway refresh this topic again;-)
Recorded in the '50s, the old analog masters have been relocated, restored and carefully, lovingly pressed by an ECM subsidiary... Gurdijeff was a complex XX century character, a mystic, a teacher, an Holy Man, he was a poor's poor and the richest tycoon, BUT he NEVER was a musician... so, he whistled ancient melodies - heard during his endless travelling from India to Persia, Turkey, Syria, etc. - to De Hartmann, a disciple of his doctrine and a NYC-born musician, who put them on paper and played at the piano.
The result is... awesome... melodies you think you already know... maybe the melodies are in our DNA, who knows?
Beside the hissy recording, the original De Hartmann's piano played music is far superior to the ECM's Gurdjieff homage Keith Jarrett recorded some years ago.
KJ's rendition simply doesn't have the same devastating power of the original.
Both recordings are worth a listen, indeed...
We definitely owe "something" to Middle Eastern and Arabic culture, don't you? ... and I'm not talking (again) only about the usual banality when pub-chatting about Arabic: they gave us (the Western culture...) the chess-game and the math;-)))
I guess I only, humbly, scratched the iceberg tip;-)

Fooling the listener: reproduced vs. live sounds

The above has been done several times in the past... Acoustat demonstrated it back in the mid '70s... B & W with 801's did it again... back and back to Bell Labs' '30s experiments.
Intriguing matter... fooling the listener, I mean... BUT the visual/aural smoothness and involvement of live music... I still remember soooo vividly two live performances in NYC, years ago: David VanTighem at Alice Tully Hall, at Lincoln Center and Meredith Monk at some Lower Manhattan's loft... so deeply moving, soo various and different from other concerts I attended... lots of drama, in their performances.
This is Music: living memory. Soundtrack to travels and life...

Also Sejia Goto always used live sounds compared to the reproduced through his drivers and speakers system: flute, percussions - notably bells and gongs of several sizes - and... insects buzzing!!!

... but that's another matter...

BTW: if you like the drawing of Quad ESL, have a further look here:

... some audio related drawings & watercolours - thanks to Golliver

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ellen Fullman - Longitudinal vibration, an endless glissando

... imagine: a woman with rosin on fingertips who walks along 20 meters long strings, touching them with the flesh-rosin bows, obtaining seldom heard sounds, deep, whale-like... like an huge cello, an alien organ, but producing notes and overtones mostly hinting at Nature and Its sounds...

Ellen Fullman or the miracles of Just Intonation

... you wonder "why?" I'm hinting at Ellen's music and site? I feel it to be appropriate to the period (very private matters)... to me, when I experienced her, a couple years ago, in Turin, I remember I remained zonked for a couple days after the happening... still I remember her walking, misteriously, yet simply, "inside" the instrument she conceived and built...

... the above mentioned, only hinted, "private matters" are related to current month, April... and this remind me to an extra-sensorial experience I had some years ago, when I had the rare opportunity to play a church organ... it was an old organ in an huge old church and I was accompanying a musician for a rehearsal... I simply asked: "May I?"... as I'm not an organist, I did my best, some easy bass drones with feet, some loop-like chords and some simple scales at different time-signatures... side two of Popol Vuh's "In den Garten Pharaos" in mind...

People in the church - I discovered later - tourists from Poland, remained still and in awe, following my Florian Fricke-ish elucubrations... I had great time for about half an hour... I always smile when remembering the episode: what did Polish people guess, as they bowed to me after I finished my extempore improvisation... ehmm... Die Kosmiche Kuriers in a mid-spring italian afternoon... ;-)))

... but most, MOST important than my organ adventure as a player (I'm not...), it was when, that very same afternoon, I get "inside" the organ... my musician friend played some J.S. Bach's masterpiece while I was in the mids and highs sound-chamber, in the very belly of the huge instrument... also if I heard the air-compressor, like a breathing creature, the air where I standed was still, like seconds before it rains, sounds were coming from anywhere around me, at 360 degrees, BUT they were anechoic-like, no ambience given by the church, that happened "later", "outside"... I was IN THE SOUND, swimming among notes and sounds like I never experienced before, while the bass pedal notes arrived from somewhere under and over me...

I remember it was April, and I sweated a lot in the pipes chamber... air smelled of dust, wood and paper, like in an old library... time seemed stopping.

... and life slightly changed for me, that very day of April.

Give a try to some Ellen Fullman's music, folks... it's powerful stuff, too!

Musings - Pomegranate: only a mobile-phone?

The future of the Mobile Phone

... pls, do not get fooled by the topic... just browse, looking at the options...

Thanks to Lorenzo Stella for sharing this;-)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Most Perfect Song Ever - A definition attempt

... it's not a chart, no winner here, BUT sure a topic worth some words...
Merriam-Webster's says:

Middle English, from Old English sang; akin to Old English singan to sing
before 12th century

1: the act or art of singing2: poetical composition3 a: a short musical composition of words and music b: a collection of such compositions4: a distinctive or characteristic sound or series of sounds (as of a bird, insect, or whale)5 a: a melody for a lyric poem or ballad b: a poem easily set to music6 a: a habitual or characteristic manner b: a violent, abusive, or noisy reaction 7: a small amount
— song·like Listen to the pronunciation of songlike \-ˌlīk\ adjective

... what I like best is "A poem easily set to music" - i.e. IMO, the most perfect should be a self-standing, despite a 2/3 minutes lenght, music & words blend, where music AND words are mutually and easily, naturally supporting each other, yet, in the best samplers, music AND words still own a their own dignity when separated... an haunting melody, balanced, not flashy, poetic and a text, often a poem, when blended together give a "song"... the Most perfect Song Ever isn't one... they're several, like several are poets and musical geniuses, BUT when you listen to such a gem, you know you'd better do surrending to the sweet, mellow strenght of art at its highest peak... you know you can only get shivers, goosebumps, tears, BUT the song penetrates you in every cells.
... it's like Creation be condensed in few, long instants, where time collapses... a minute is an year, three minutes are a life, a life is a second... one of the great, little misteries of Creations.

I wrote it's not a matter of lists, chart, winners or losers, but to be better understood, I feel must quote some titles...

"Dedicated to you, but you weren't listening" from "Soft Machine Vol. 2", on side two of this great, underrated disc from 1969, suddenly the hippy, pataphisical;-) atmosphere of side one changes and for slightly more than a couple minutes, the miracle happens... an acoustic 12 strings guitar plucked by Hugh Hopper, an harpsichord played by Michael Ratledge and... Robert Wyatt's angel-like voice... the song has a tension, it's exotic, yet folkish, and stop the clock for eons, like few others...

Quoting this (quite unknown song) only because this morning walking and peeing my dog, I began whistling it and as often happens, I remained puzzled and zonked in remembering the beauty, the simple perfection of this tune, also whistled in an Easter Day, FORTY years after it was recorded...

... but, lucky us, there are more and more... just stay tuned.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ian Carr passed away on Feb. 25th 2009

Ian Carr has been an hero of mine for long years... as a great musician, founder of the jazz-rock group Nucleus at end of Sixties (have a listen with open, loving ears to "Solar Plexus" on Vertigo!!!), he and his pal Paul Buckmaster who collaborated with Carr several times in the decades, are possibly guilty they someway hinted to Miles Himself His electric path, Bitches Brew and before, with John MacLaughlin, Dave Holland, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea... Ian Carr's love for Miles Davis' music made him an authority on the matter and he wrote an essay as deep in information as passionate and lovingly toward Miles and his opus...
His records are, as well, masterpieces beyond their era, far, far beyond others: his "Belladonna" solo on Vertigo, "The Chitinous Ensemble" on Deram, a collaboration with Paul Buckmaster and virtually ALL the creme de la creme in British Jazz: Surman, Oxley, Charig, Tippett, Westbrook, Wheeler, Evans, etc. etc..
I've been very moved, yesterday evening when I read about his untimely death on Mojo's "Real Gone" pages... because, yes men die and musician are men at their best, BUT, nonetheless, his life was flawed by several tragedies: his first wife death, a cancer surgery years ago and, in late years, dementia... a musician lives in his or her music... I hope Ian Carr found his Heaven, at last, after experiencing the Hell on Earth... while for me and everyone knows what I'm talking about, we already knew the Heaven and Bliss in his timeless music.

WJAAS - The Headshells Survey - Part 1: B/A - Bosouem Acoustics' "Big Nose" universal headshell

Despite, or maybe thanks to, being a quite crowdy and overbusy country, Japan is nonetheless the homeland of free-thinkers, out-of-the-choir inventors and humble searchers and craftmen who humbly works in the name of Quality (Hishigawa-san docet...), Music reproduction and... best results also obtained going on the Weird Side of the World, undercurrent.
I learned of B/A - Bosouem Acoustics through a Japanese pen-pal who tried and used it with great satisfaction and hinted it to me.
One of the best dealers around found it for me and, here I am with some thoughts on the matter...
You possibly never saw such a freaky item: obtained from a single aluminium bullion, the trick is in the absolutely gorgeous workmanship and building AND in the "look at me" HUGE probe (Big Nose) in front of the headshell and cartridge mount.
At first sight, like per other revolutionary/evolutionary items (the long, loooong debated Kimura Labs' RS-3 Rotary headshell is the first which comes to my mind...), people "poor" in curiosity more than money-wise sure will not waste their time in experimenting, BUT will be the VERY first to say "It can't work!"... it's old, Flat Earth Syndrome, pals... we already heard this: Galileo and his scope, Leonardo and his several inventions, and down, down in the centuries to these little, insignificant, almost silly audio toys.
My humble hint: simply spitting on anything unknown or weird isn't enough, sorry... a far better approach would be just TRYING IT and judging with your own eyes/ears/wallet/brain/taste&intelligence!!!
You're wrong? To loose! You're right - i.e. it works and finely do it? Yeahhhh!!!
The Bosoeum Acoustics "Big Nose", hand made in Japan in very little quantities and available in both silver and black versions, is giving an extremely clever and audible stabilizing feature to any low compliance cartridge, putting the arm lenght to a virtual longer size, like it would be possible (?!?!) to reach an apparently better, lower error on null-points percentage/ratio;-)
This quite obscure, often debated, pro & con, matter is so easily solved at listening to, say, Otono Edison Shilabe MC cartridge by Miyajima Labs mounted on B/A headshell: it better shines from the first notes playback in resolving also the craziest, most dynamic passages: drums, ottavino flutes, trumpets, voices - all are rendered with a FAR better liquidness and untiring fashion.
Maybe the long probe, as people at the japanese workshop says, stabilize cart and definitely improve trackability... better following the groove, less distorsion, more details, better listening.
Easy, uh?!?
I love this little gizmo;-)
Thanks to Tommy of TopClassAudioArt in Hong Kong for lending the pixes of Bosouem's "Big Nose".

Friday, April 10, 2009

WJAAS - The Cartridges Survey - Part 5 - Mr. K.S. Park's masterpiece (revised): the ALLNIC Verito Z

When you guess you understood ALL, the surprise is behind the door... I already had the Verito, Mr. Kang Su Park's creature, and enjoyed it a lot, also compared with other great designs I had handy, I received yesterday the newly revised ALLNIC "Verito Z" from South Korea... AND, as my friend David Beetles says (again, as I love his sentence...): "Verito Z takes no prisoners!"
It's, truly, so much better in all features the original Verito's already made (and still makes;-)) sooo well: soundstaging, timbre trueness, air among instruments, lysergic and magical special effects, those too rare features often COMPLETELY lacking also in BIG bucks transducers.
The Verito Z is sweet, detailed, liquid, untiring, yet ALWAYS surprising at every disc, always changing, adapting itself to music, instead of having a bulky self-footprint, most of the times annoying... this is utterly important to me: a cartridge and an arm should be as new as new is the music you're listening to... to better understand: EMT 930 with 155st RIAA, EMT 929 and TSD 15 are, among the best, the most personal - i.e. "hey, listen to this EMT's sound!"
My cup of tea is more like this: "Hey, listen to this song!"... that's why I love Lumiere, Schick arms and 301 Shindo and, now on... the Young Princess from Far East, the Verito Z - BTW: did you ever see a more "poetic" jewel-box on any cartridge or audio gear? It reminds me of a 12th Century little treasure from Marco Polo's travels... and someway it is!
You're never alone with a combo (and cartridge...) like this: music first, and musicians and composers are so here, at your side, you're sometimes a crowd... an happy one.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Penguing Cafe Orchestra & Grateful Dead: an impossible parallel and common ground or a group as a body?

There is something which I find as mysterious as rare in music scene... not at every point in time, there is a group or a soloist who shakes the building down to basement, the music is brand new, fresh, unheard, the voice, the instruments blending is simple, yet intriguing, inspiring and seminal... the names which come to mind are several: David Sylvian, John Fahey, Bjork, Third Ear Band, Pentangle, Robert Fripp and King Crimson, Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk...

... in groups something still different happens: the meeting of different human and musical identities combined rarely creates a new creature, where the whole is FAR better than the sum of the parts...

I'm right now listening to some "Penguin Cafe Orchestra" music, from "A History" 4-disks booklet/CD of some time ago... it's music coming from Simon Jeffes' pen, but which also lives in Annie Whitehead and other members sensitivity and musicianship...

It's strange, relaxed, slightly alien music, coming from a "somewhere" which is not on this planet... when Simon Jeffes died in fall of 1997 of brain cancer, there wasn't any discussion among PCO's members... simply they stopped Penguin's as a collective which lived around Simon, the wizard and... well... no commercial involved in re-creating the magic...

... when Jerry Garcia died too many years ago, all Deadheads worldwide knew The Grateful Dead were at a natual point of their history... the end.

I find so mysterious, deep, so full of meanings, yet simple the two above groups so different, both were like an organism built of more bodies and minds...

Jerry and Simon's death was accepted, digested by the rest of the members, who preferred to stop at their zenith... musically and friendly.

... not everyone's will, when the same happened in other groups... a sort of Frankenstein's affaire? More often NME's logic wins... and when "insisting" on a heartless path music loose quality, soul, trueness. Always!

Who am I to judge... BUT being the fatalist, romantic and dreamer I am... definitely not my cup of tea.

Will always be in debt with Jerry and Simon and all those geniuses, known and unknown, who plucked their souls strings, sincerely...

A book is a book... but books, as music, can change a life.

A musical reading you can't miss, pals...

"The Mysticism of Sound" by Hazrat Inayat Khan... written in 1923, it's fresh as written this morning... it (musically) changed my life.

It's not by chance I posted this "here"... it supports ears in relating with Nature and Creation.

A book for life, to be read every 4-5 years, to remember the thuth... and respecting life and its secrets.

Horns and horns

Today my friend Ivan "The (Disc) Pusher" delivered to me an Hugh Masekela's disc " Hope", in the sought-after Analogue Production 45 rpm erotic, premium issue... several friends hinted it as a superb disc, but when I recently listened to it through a top audio system at Mino di Prinzio's den... well, I got trapped, captured in this music!
The Masekela's flugelhorn owns one of the best dynamic renditions I ever heard in my whole life, period! It seems the sound never has limits, go over and over and over... never loosing control: simply amazing in "Gotorama" full bloom.
The music is gorgeous, as well... full of life and of, you'd bet it, "hope"... it's Africa, the Mother and Father of Continents, at Its very Best.
Horns and horns, pals... a dream to listen to, an heavenly marriage on earth.
An interesting interview to Hugh Masekela back in 2002