K is for Klezmer

In August, for Itzhak Perlman’s birthday, I listened to a live album of KLEZMER music that he performed on. Classical violin virtuoso Perlman gives klezmer a certain cache that the music did not have heretofore.

Here he joins four klezmer groups “for a joyous get-together with unforgettable Klezmer melodies.”

But what IS klezmer?

From this source:
Klezmer music originated in the ‘shtetl’ (villages) and the ghettos of Eastern Europe, where itinerant Jewish troubadours, known as ‘klezmorim’, performed at joyful events (‘simkhes’), particularly weddings…It was inspired with secular melodies, popular dances, ‘khazones’ (khazanut, Jewish liturgy) as well as with the ‘nigunim’, the simple and often wordless melodies intended by the ‘Hasidim’ (orthodox Jews) for approaching God in a kind of ecstatic communion. In (mutual) contact with Slavonic, Greek, Ottoman (Turkish), Arabic, Gypsy and -later- American jazz musicians, the ‘klezmorim’ acquired, through numerous tempo changes, irregular rhythms, dissonance and a touch of improvisation, the ability to generate a very diversified music, easily recognizable and widely appreciated all around the world.

The Wikipedia definition of klezmer, and another example.


This article notes the decline of klezmer in the 1950s and 1960s. But the music was “revived on US records in the late 1970s. In San Francisco, the Klezmorim released the earliest klezmer revival album I’ve seen — ‘East Side Wedding’ (1977 on the national Arhoolie label). It’s an eclectic mix of styles from the nearly frantic ‘Trello Hasaposerviko (Crazy Dance)’ to the melancholy ‘Doina’.”

I’m fascinated by this because I OWN ‘East Side Wedding’! I must have bought it at a folk festival in the late 1970s or early 1980s, maybe at the Old Songs Festival that takes place every June in the Albany, NY area.

It’s happy music, yet holds a certain wistfulness. I think that’s why I am attracted to it.

A whole bunch more klezmer music.
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Very seldom do I get to blog about comic books for my work blog. But some legal issues involving the late Jack KIRBY, the artist who created or co-created dozens of famous comic book characters, including Captain America, gave me that rare opportunity. You can read it here.

ROG

September Ramblin’

I wrote recently about music that made me cry, and I left an important piece out.

When I first joined the Trinity UMC choir in the January 1983, the lead soprano was named Arlene Mahigian. She had an amazingly lovely voice, but more than that, she took a liking to me. Though I was almost 30, she, who had a couple grown sons, decided to become my “choir mom”. Among other things, she’d take my robe home when it needed cleaning.

In the winter of 1984-85, she developed cancer. In March 1985, the choir performed the Mozart requiem. Arlene was unable to sing, but she was there in a wheelchair, not only to support the choir, but also her son Peter and her husband Leo as they performed the Adagio by Albinoni (or more likely, Giazotto.) About three weeks later, I visited Arlene in the hospital, her beautiful hair having all fallen out. She looked wan and pale and I don’t even think she opened her eyes. I didn’t know she even knew I was there until she squeezed my fingers; then I knew. She died the next day, and the Adagio reminds me of her.

I hadn’t heard it in quite a long time until it was on public radio one morning in the past 10 days. I heard it, and about 2/3s of the way through, I just wept. Here are three versions; none are as plainspoken as Leo and Peter playing, which I can still hear in my mind’s ear.
Version 1
Version 2
Version 3
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William Safire died, and I’m a bit sad. It’s not that I liked his politics; often, in fact, I loathed them. Nut he at least had some intellect to his position. The current crop of the right-wing, Glenn Beck, et al, are better inciting the crowd, but Safire had miles more candlepower.

But I once appeared in his On Language column. I can’t believe it was so long ago: December 19, 1982. In a piece called Vox of Pop Sixpack, He talked about “Who speaks for the average man? Out of whose mouth comes the voice of the people? A bit of doggerel in the Presidential campaign of 1920, sung by the supporters of James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt, used the Latin term vox populi, for ”voice of the people”: ”Cox or Harding, Harding or Cox?/ You tell us, populi, you got the vox.” At that time, the chorus of voices that intoned ”Harding and Coolidge” went under the name of John Citizen for highbrows, Joe Zilch for lowbrows…” Then he cites my suggestion of Joe Sixpack.

I also wrote to him about my suggestion of the term lunaversary to note the marking of the celebration of a month; e.g., if you were married for a month, you might celebrate your first lunaversary. Far more accurate than “one-month anniversary”, anni- referring to year, and far shorter to boot. Safire did not use it in his column, but he did type me a response suggesting that the idea had merit; I still have that blue postcard somewhere in the attic.
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I find myself agreeing with Mark Evanier over the fate of Roman Polanski. The VICTIM has suffered enough; would it be “justice” if she were forced to testify at a media frenzy of a trial? I find her position paramount. She said six and a half years ago, when Polanski was up for an Oscar: “And, honestly, the publicity surrounding it was so traumatic that what he did to me seemed to pale in comparison.”
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Nova: Darwin’s Darkest Hour – Tues., October 6 at 8 p.m. (but check your local listings)

This two-hour scripted drama presents the remarkable story behind the birth of Darwin’s radically controversial theory of evolution and reveals his deeply personal crisis of whether to publish his earthshaking ideas or to keep quiet to avoid potential backlash from the church.
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How to make a grilled cheese sandwich
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What happens when the world’s most popular comic book company is assimilated by the Mouse Factory

ROG

Roger Answers Your Question, Scott

Our next contestant is Scott, husband of Marcia (no, not my sister), father of Nigel and, since September 22 of Ian:

Who’s going to win the NL pennant, the AL pennant, and eventually the World Series?

I thought in the beginning of the season the Red Sox would be the AL wild card but would get to the Series. Not feeling it any more. While the Angels COULD beat them, I got to think that the Yankees just seem too solid to lose.

Did you happen to read that cover story about Detroit in Sports Illustrated this week? I REALLY will be rooting for the Tigers, but I’m not seeing it happening. If it did, I’d be happy – shades of 1968. (Off topic: BREAK UP THE LIONS!)

I don’t see the NL wild card (probably Colorado, though I’d prefer the Giants) winning the pennant. The Phillies have an unreliable closer and leave too many on base. Certainly can make the case for the Dodgers, but I’ll go with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Want to say Cards win the Series – shades of 1964 – but I think the Yankees, shut out of the postseason last year, are ticked off enough to win it all – shades of 1928 and 1943.

Is there an entertainer (singer, musician, actor, all, etc.) that you first couldn’t understand why they were even in the business, but now admire their work?

Yeah. Almost any singer-songwriter whose singing voice isn’t pretty; the first is Bob Dylan, who I first knew as a singer, long before I heard that he wrote all of those songs that other people performed. Then I thought that he should ONLY be a songwriter. But given the number of Dylan albums in my collection, evidently I’ve changed my mind.

To a lesser degree, Neil Young: his voice wasn’t as harsh as Dylan’s so I did not have as far to travel to get to owning well over a dozen Neil albums, just as I own numerous Dylan discs.

Given how the media has access to so much information and gets to see so much of a famous person’s life, do you think it’s best to always steer clear of them being accepted as role models?

I think young actors and athletes and musicians are ill-served. If there was some sort of mechanism that said that when you reach a certain level of the profession you seek, you need some sort of counseling to make sure your head is on straight. I’m thinking of folks like the Mets’ Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, who had too much money too quickly and screwed themselves up.

But everybody is a role model for someone. One can refuse to accept it – was it Charles Barkley who said that he wasn’t role model for anyone? – but it doesn’t alter the fact that he is. I’m a role model, you’re a role model, even if we’re unaware. And you don’t even know when one’s going to become a role model. The Phillies fan who catches a foul ball, hands the ball to his daughter who throws it back, then hugs his daughter; he’s a role model. Now if he chewed out his daughter instead, he’d STILL be a role model, albeit not a very good one.

On the other side of this, who that is famous do you think is a good example of a good role model?

There are lots of athletes and performers who work for their various charities, sometimes with limited publicity nationally. That said, I’ve always been impressed with Bill Russell (Boston Celtics) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee Bucks, LA Lakers) for the way they carry themselves. Kareem is also a JEOPARDY! winner – actually the week before I won – so that’s also a plus. BTW, he’s going to be on JEOPARDY! this season in a million-dollar celebrity invitational; someone’s favorite charity will receive one million dollars at the end of the season.

What is your favorite show that is not shown on one of the big four networks (and Jeopardy!, though syndicated, counts as a big network show, since it’s always found on one of their local affiliates)?

Scott, with that caveat, you know me too well. Actually, don’t mind watching some of the daughter’s shows such as Jack’s Big Music Show (Noggin). But I suppose I’ll pick The Closer on TNT; once you realize it’s not a whodunit, but rather how the team discerns it, it’s much more interesting. There were a couple particularly moving episodes this summer.

That said, there are SO many shows out there that I might be interested in watching, I pretty much say “no” more often than “yes” lately. Even in this new season, I’ve taped only three new network shows (Glee; The Good Wife – strong cast; and Modern Family) and I haven’t watched ANY of them yet. My wife started watching Glee with Lydia – she mistakenly thought it was child-friendly.

You might have posted this already and I missed it, but had Lydia been a boy, what were your choices for a name?

Had to ask the wife. She claims we agreed on Micah, but I’m not convinced. Sounds too much like the ever-popular Michael. In all likelihood, the child would still be called Male Child Green.

ROG

Roger Answers Your Questions, Jaquandor and Rebecca

Jaquandor of Byzantium Shores, the finest blogger in western New York AND a fashionista ahead of the curve, asks these questions:

Does David Paterson know what he’s doing?

More often than he’s given credit for, I think. On his Day 1, he’s all funny and charming. On Day 2, he admits that both he and his wife were unfaithful, a brilliant move designed to make sure the state was not suddenly surprised by another sex scandal after Eliot Spitzer’s downfall. It was a calculated risk that worked.

He was right to note the fiscal disaster the state was going to be suffering after the Wall Street collapse, as it affected our state disproportionally; not only was the state heavily invested, but a lot of New Yorkers lost their jobs on Wall Street in the market meltdown. Of course, the state, unlike the federal government, cannot operate in a deficit, so cutbacks and layoffs were inevitable. Part of Paterson’s problem is that he was bearer of bad news.

He was also stifled by the second most dysfunctional state legislature in the country – I’m convinced California’s is worse – and threw a Hail Mary by picking his own lieutenant governor in order to break the state Senate deadlock. I found and read the state constitution and decided that the lower court was right; that picking his own replacement, essentially, was beyond the scope of the emergency powers he was citing. I thought they would be used in cases where the legislature was wiped out by war or disaster that the state couldn’t be allowed to flounder. Apparently, the Court of Appeals (which, for you non-New Yorkers, is the state’s highest court) decided that the gridlock that took place for a month beginning June 8 WAS enough of an emergency that picking his own lt gov WAS kosher. So kudos to him.

Now, he royally messed up the appointment of Hillary Clinton’s replacement for the US Senate. Don’t know what that whole Caroline Kennedy dance was. But while Kirsten Gillibrand was not a popular choice downstate at the time, notice how her primary opposition has melted away.

This is not to say that I’ve agreed with all of his decisions. His unilateral decision NOT to tax the rich more, lest they leave the state, seemed tone deaf to me.

So his abysmally low poll numbers surprise me a bit. There is a local public radio force named Alan Chartock of WAMC who believes part of his problem is him being characterized as a bumbler on Saturday Night Live a few times, much the same way that Chevy Chase’s portrayal of Gerald Ford established the President as clumsy. There was a poll a while back (Siena or Marist College ran it) that said that 7% of the population felt negative towards Paterson because of how SNL portrayed him. Wow, didn’t think that SNL still had that much pull, outside of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin last year.

I’ll be curious how he does on Meet the Press today, rerun on other NBC networks during the week. You KNOW that David Gregory has to ask him about the report that the Obama people didn’t want him running for governor in 2010, which would not come from legitimate channels right before the President visited the Capital District on Monday.

Photo by John Hebert

To what degree is the eBook the way of the future? (I assume we all grant that there will be eBooks, but how much will they take over?)

Actually, I’ll ask you this, since you read and watch science fiction: do you EVER see people reading books or newspapers in the futuristic portrayals? I don’t recall any.

I think more the question is how much will paper products stick around? There were a couple pieces in Entertainment Weekly recently – pretty sure Stephen King was one of them – that discussed the visceral pleasure of the book – how it feels in the hand, how it smells, how it is laid out, how you can fan the pages to create a breeze (I’m doing this from memory and may have made up that last one) – that the electronic equivalent can NEVER replicate.

There’s a private high school in New England that in 2009 got rid of all of its books, replaced by eBooks. The headmistress said that the students were thriving. If experiences like that “take”, then the books will become like vinyl records; they’ll still be around, but marginalized. Conversely, if there is a pushback from educators who say our kids NEED the actual manipulation of pages – and, IMO, they do – then the flow will be stemmed, though not stopped.

Of course, eBooks might be replaced by something else – remember how ubiquitous the VCR used to be? – are replaced by some sort of computer chip that goes directly into our brains.

There are, by my rough estimation, about fifty thousand books about the Beatles. Can you recommend a couple, to help narrow it all down?

You are a relative newbie to the Fabs, so I’d start with The Beatles by Hunter Davies, one of the first. It’s pretty thorough without overwhelming (e.g., the Beatles Anthology), though ends before the end of the group, if I remember correctly. Beyond that, it would depend on what you’re really interested in: their songwriting, the recording techniques, their lives, Beatlemania. Many dismiss Philip Norman book Shout! as anti-Paul, but few doubt his thoroughness and it’s a good read; he has a newer book I haven’t read that seems to be better received. Peter Brown’s The Love You Make is “an insider’s story”, and is interesting at that level. There’s a relatively recent book Can’t Buy Me Love that has reviewed really well, but I haven’t actually read.

My personal favorite, actually, is The Beatles: An Illustrated Record by Roy Carr & Tony Tyler. It was about the recordings, and it was at the point where I (thought I ) knew everything about them, but I was basing my knowledge on the US LPs I bought; this book totally upended my understanding. But now the CDs are out in the “British” order, so it wouldn’t have the same effect, I imagine.

I’d love to hear the opinions of sages such as Fred Hembeck and Johnny Bacardi on this topic.

Rebecca from 40 Forever, who is intelligent, attractive and personable – naturally she’s a librarian – asks:

How many guitars are in Rochester’s famous House of Guitars?

37,326.

Actually, the website says “it’s home to an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 guitars and 4 million albums, CDs and tapes.”

Meant to get to Scott’s questions, but I still feel not great and I may be the healthiest of the three of us. Certainly feeling better than the wife, who took a three-hour nap yesterday. Anyway, Scott, before the end of the month. as the J5 title goes, “Maybe tomorrow.”

The Lydster, Part 66: Dead Rock Stars

(I didn’t have a blog in Lydia’s first year; so here are photos from the summer of 2004. Today Lydia is five and a HALF, so here she is a little more than five years ago.)


I try really hard not to indoctrinate my daughter with my music. I want her to find her own way, and then pick and chose which of mine she’s comfortable with.

But when Michael Jackson died, he was on TV ALL OF THE TIME. She inevitably heard some of his songs. ABC by the Jackson Five is immediately infectious for a child. We went on a car trip during July and I played the first disc from the J5 box set in the car. It’s quite danceable, and now she knows who Michael Jackson is – well, usually; sometimes his morphed appearance confused her. She loves to dance in the house and the solo hits such as Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, Rock With You and Beat It will make her want to move her feet.

A fact that will shock you: I’m a big Beatles fan. I was watching lots of Beatles-related items such as some old videos around 09/09/09. Lydia wanted to know all about them. I said, “That’s a group that was very popular when Daddy was growing up.” Her next question: “Are they still alive?” Well, the drummer is still alive; his name is Ringo. And the guy…THERE…his name is Paul.” Since both John (d. 1980) and George (d. 2001) passed away before she was born (2004), it’s all ancient history to her. She asked over and over about their state of mortality – “Is that one dead?”

Subsequently, EVERY group she heard me play was the Beatles. Sometimes, it WAS the Beatles, but more often it was not. I was slow on the uptake as to why she was so honed in on the Fab Four. It was because of the animated program The Wonder Pets.

From the Amazon description: “The Wonder Pets! get groovy in the newest release, ‘Save the Beetles!’ Yes, the Wonder Pets are called up on the ol’ telly with a request for help from four members of a famous rock band, the Beetles, whose yellow submarine has gotten tangled up in kelp. As they journey to rescue them, they’ll dive straight into Beatlemania pop-culture (and reference numerous Beatles song titles and lyrics along the way!)” She saw this episode at least twice on TV – and I watched it myself at least once. THIS was the real jumping off point.

Mary Travers just died, and on ABC World News, what does the daughter here but “Puff, the Magic Dragon”? I’m singing along, and Lydia asks, “How do YOU know that song? I learned it in day care.” Well, dear, long before you heard it at school, I heard it on the radio.

ROG