Moulettes at Centre 64 in Kimberley

On the poster Moulettes describe themselves as a British Touring Electric Art Rock Band. That is quite a mouthful. When I checked out their YouTube video clips I ended up with some sense that the band may be an up dated version of the classic British Folk Rock Band Steel Eyed Span. Now, having seen and heard them perform I don’t think I could have been more wrong. There is almost no element of “folk” in their performance but the concept of “Art Rock” is probably the right descriptor. This is no “lead guitar, rhythm, bass and drums” rock and roll outfit. This is a completely original band with a configuration and a performance that is so completely out of the box that it is outside any of my frames of reference. I am speechless. I overheard a member of the audience suggesting that the performance reminded him of Frank Zappa’s music. Although I am vaguely familiar with Zappa’s music I really can’t authenticate that observation. But he could be right and that may be as good a hook as any on which to hang Tuesday’s night performance. Here is some information from their web site:

What is Moulettes?

  • moulette /ˈmu.lət/ noun
  • 1. (physics) a unit of force exerted by group of small objects/persons- energy exerted results in force disproportionate to their size.
  • 2. (botany, biology) a seed, cell or embryonic vessel containing a hatchling.
  • 3. a type of barnacle or sea mollusk, known for their resilience and traction. Free-swimming as larvae; as adults form a hard shell and live attached to submerged surfaces such as reefs, hulls and wharves.
  • 4. a small morsel of food believed to have aphrodisiac qualities.
  • 5. a short story or song, both factual and fantastical in its themes; a refrain, spell, sound sequence or chorus.

They are not ‘The moulettes’, their songs are ‘Moulettes’. Welcome to the multi-verse of Moulettes.

  • Band Members:Hannah Miller – 5 String Cello, Cellola, Vocals, Guitar, Synths, and Autoharp.
  • Raevennan Husbandes – Electric Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic guitars & Dobro.
  • Ollie Austin – Drums, Guitar, Synth, Vocals.
  • Jim Mortimore – Bass, Double Bass, Moog, Vocals

 Here are some more images from the concert.

                

This was a night of very original music from a band that obviously put a lot of work into their arrangements and performance. I only have one small negative comment. The volume of the sound re-enforcement was too loud  for me to really hear all the nuances of the music.

The band would like to thank Keith and the committee for arranging the concert and they would also like to thank the volunteers and the sponsors, Burrito Grill for the food and Trickle Creek Lodge for the accommodation.

An Art Rock Band deserves an “arty” finale to this blog entry – and here it is – a technicolour abstract photo of Jim Mortimore in full flight on electric bass.

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Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip dies.

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Of course we all knew it was coming but it still seems so sudden. It’s 12 months since that last nation wide televised concert. There have been a lot of tributes on the news last night (Wednesday, 2017/10/18) including a very tearful farewell from the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau. Perhaps among the tributes this one below will rank high on the list.

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YouTube Pick (#18) – THE PARTING GLASS

When it comes to Irish Tenors I tend not to like them. When it comes to the song Danny Boy then Lord spare me enough is enough. And yet when I hear the Irish Ballad The Parting Glass my objections to syrupy Irish Ballads melts away. Here is an exceptional choral version of a song that has been a favorite of Irish Tenors and folk singers for many a year. It is a version done by the UCD Choral Scholars – “The Choral Scholars of University College Dublin, under the artistic direction of Desmond Earley, is Ireland’s leading collegiate choral ensemble. With a large repertoire ranging from art to popular music, and stretching from the medieval to the contemporary in style, this choir gives many concerts throughout the academic year, both in Ireland and abroad. Following a competitive selection process each September, eighteen gifted students are awarded a scholarship, with recipients of the award coming from a range of academic disciplines across the university, from Music to Medicine, Law, Agricultural Science, Commerce and Engineering.”  – Wikipedia

For pure emotion check the following video – Choir singers from University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire Women’s Concert Chorale surprised locals of Peadar O’Donnell’s bar in Derry with their beautiful rendition of The Parting Glass.

And when you remove the syrup from the song this is what you get – Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners.  Remember that before the Pogues there was the Dubliners…….

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Read any Good Books Lately (#9) – Catalonia

Given the current situation in Spain now would be a good time to re-read George Orwell’s HOMAGE TO CATALONIAIt was written almost 80 years ago and recounts George Orwell’s experiences of fighting on the Spanish government’s side in the Spanish civil war. In black and white terms it was “democracy versus fascism”, but as George Orwell explains it was not quite that simple. The same can be said of the current situation in Spain. The book has an immediacy that still feels fresh today. Some readers may think the discussions of the political parties at the time a little tedious but if you are so inclined George gives you the option to skip those parts. It is well worth a revisit to get some understanding of Catalonia.

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AUTUMN TONES

AUTUMN TONES is a chamber music ensemble of local musicians with Nicola Everton on clarinet, Sue Gold on piano and Martine denBok on violin and viola. All three musicians are associated with the Symphony of the Kootenays as either members of the orchestra or as visiting soloists. Nicola and Sue have performed many times in the area, along with cellist Jeff Faragher, in the classical chamber music ensemble THE SELKIRK TRIO. In both the Selkirk Trio and Autumn Tones the intent seems to be to explore the modern edge of classical music as well as excursions into the realms of the traditional classical repertoire, Jazz, Latin, Klezmer or anything else that strikes their fancy. On this beautiful fall afternoon in the lobby of the Key City Theatre that is the musical realms they set out to explore.

They kicked off the afternoon with Darius Milhaud’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano. For me it was a moment of unbelievable synchronicity. On the drive to the theater I had been listening to some Brazilian Choro on the car CD player (yes, some of us still listen to CDs). On this beautiful fall afternoon what could be more appropriate than bouncing down the highway to the warm rhythms of Brazilian Choro. From the opening bars of the Milhaud piece the choro music I had just been listening to immediately came to mind and I began mentally adding in the percussive sounds of the Brazilian Pandeiro to the trio on stage.The Pandeiro is a Brazilian tambourine that is the heart beat of  samba. That mental notion is completely understandable when you consider Darius Milhaud’s musical associations with Jazz and Brazilian music.  He was one of the most prolific modern classical composers of the last century and was influenced by the sounds of Jazz and Brazilian music. While it is not his only claim to fame he was a musical mentor to the Jazz musician Dave Brubeck. So much so that Brubeck named his son Darius after the composer. One of Milhaud’s former students was the popular songwriter  Burt Baccharach. Milhaud is reported to have told Bacharach, “Don’t be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don’t ever feel discomfited by a melody.”.  This Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano lived up to that standard with lots of melody, rhythm and musical interplay between the instruments.

Popularity in music usually means world tours and mega arena performances. Modern classical composers do not rate that sort of popularity or attention and yet, in the realm of classical music, Arvo Part is probably the most popular modern classical composer of the last few years. This Estonian composer of classical and religious music uses self invented compositional techniques in the minimalist style (think Phillip Glass with darker Eastern European overtones). For this afternoon’s performance the trio selected Part’s popular Spiegel im Spiegel written in 1978. “Spiegel im Spiegel” in German literally can mean both “mirror in the mirror” as well as “mirrors in the mirror”, referring to an infinity mirror which produces an infinity of images reflected by parallel plane mirrors: the tonic triads in the composition are endlessly repeated with small variations as if reflected back and forth. The piece was originally written for a single piano and violin. Other versions exist with cello or viola, double bass, clarinet, trombone, flute etc.  This performance is for piano, clarinet and violin and is in F major in 6/4 time.

Aram Il’yich Khachaturian (1903 – 1978) was a Soviet Armenian composer and conductor and is best known for his composition  the Sabre Dance. He was the most renowned Armenian composer of the 20th century and is considered one of Soviet Russia’s  leading composer. While following the established musical traditions of Russia, he broadly used Armenia and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian, Eastern & Central European, and Middle Eastern peoples’ folk music in his works.  His style is “characterized by colorful harmonies, captivating rhythms, virtuosity, improvisations, and sensuous melodies”. The trio performed movements 1 and 3 from his Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano.

In the vernacular the clarinet has been referred to as a liquorice stick. Maybe it is the colour of the instrument but I like to think it is because of the liquid smoothness of the music of Mozart when played on the clarinet. Autumn Tones pulled us away from the “edginess” of contemporary classical music into the smooth mainstream of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio, K498 in E flat Major for piano, clarinet and viola. No composer before Mozart had written for this combination of instruments. The origin of the nickname Kegelstatt is interesting. The German word Kegelstatt means “a place where skittles are played,” akin to a bowling alley. Mozart is reputed to have written this while playing skittles. At the time the clarinet was a relatively new instrument and in the first performance the then vituoso Anton Stadler played clarinet, Mozart the viola, and Franziska von Jacquin the piano. This trio composition, along with his Clarinet Quintet and Clarinet concerto helped increase the instrument’s popularity. The piece is in three movements: Andante /  Menuetto /  Rondeaux: Allegretto

 

For the final piece the trio took us back to the edge for a little slice of Yiddish Klezmer in the tune Moldavanke. This style of music is mostly associated with Eastern European Jewish traditions and is performed in a lively bouncing style with overtones of Jewish humor and melancholy. Nicola has fallen in love with the style and wants to put together a Klezmer band.

  

Autumn Tones would like to thank The Kootenay Cultural Alliance and sponsors that have made this tour possible.

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A BONUS: By it’s very nature music is of the moment. As soon as the musical note leaps into the air it is in the process of dying and until the invention of sound recordings that was it. All we had left were memories.  The recording industry has changed all that and performances can become more permanent if they are recorded. Unfortunately not all performances make it “onto wax”. This concert by Autumn Tones is now but a pleasant memory. Perhaps some day Autumn Tones and The Selkirk Trio can be persuaded to record those musical gems that over recent years they have cast to the winds. To make up for that here is a bonus for you from YouTube –

Darius Milhaud: Suite op.157b for Clarinet, Violin and Piano – Cologne Chamber Soloists

ENJOY

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Vaccines

The implementation of sensible Public Health Policies has always been an uphill battle and the battle never seems to end. The American novelist Sinclair Lewis in his 1925 novel Arrowsmith explored the issues that faced a young idealistic physician in pursuing an ethical career in medicine. In that era American main stream physicians resented Public Health policies that, in their view, threatened to interfere with their ability to make a living. In the course of the novel Lewis describes many aspects of medical training, medical practice, scientific research, scientific fraud, medical ethics, public health, and of personal/professional conflicts that are still relevant today. Thankfully the discussion seems to have moved on and in this modern era the medical professions support evidence based scientific Public Health Policies. Yet despite the over whelming evidence in support of  mass immunization there are continuing efforts to undermine the logic, efficacy and efficiency of modern day programs.  In the past children were at risk from any number of infectious diseases. Modern immunization programs and Public Health policies and initiatives have largely made a significant number of those risks things of the past. Yet we seem to have forgotten that in our life time and in our parent’s life times Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tetanus, Smallpox and Polio and a whole host of infectious disease that were very real problems have now been brought  under control by public health initiatives. We are in awe of the spectacular achievements of modern medical and surgical technology and we seem to forget the less dramatic efforts of the quiet revolution in hygiene, sanitation and public health that are the real medical achievments of the past century.

 One of the casualties of the internet era is the devaluation of the “expert”. Even such august bodies as the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) seem to rate less credibility than the opinion of non-expert  celebrities. At the risk of calling upon the non-expert opinion of a celebrity I suggest that the viewing of the attached video by John Oliver is a worth while exercise in getting a balanced view of the battle over immunization. I also think it is an indictment of the current state of affairs that the programs of comedic social commentators like John Oliver , Stephen Colbert and John Stewart  are more likely to be factual than the “alternate facts” perpetuated by certain politicians.

PS. The Novel Arrowsmith has been compared with The Citadel published by British novelist A.J. Cronin in 1937. The Citadel also deals with the life experiences of a young idealistic doctor who tries to challenge and improve the existing system of medical practice.

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Read any Good Books Lately (#8) – It’s all about water

A solid recommendation from some one whose opinion you trust can help whittle down that long list of books you are going to get around to reading some time. These two books fit into that category and they also come with the recommendation that they both should be read in quick succession in the following order.

CADILLAC DESERT by Marc Reisner is a non fiction book written way back in 1985. Despite the intervening years the self evident truths noted in this book still seem to be valid. “It is the story of the American West and the relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecological and economic disaster. In his landmark book, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city’s growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the competition to transform the West. Based on more than a decade of research, Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic, intriguing history of the creation of an Eden–an Eden that may only be a mirage”  — Amazon

“The definitive work on the West’s water crisis.” –Newsweek

A couple of things that came to mind while reading the book. Number one – Donald Trump may seem to be an aberration on the political landscape but as evidenced in this book, and other examinations of American political history it is obvious that the States is populated by numerous characters and personalities that are just as obnoxious, bizarre and just as destructive of the common good. Number two – Huge bureaucratic public organizations such as the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are susceptible to inappropriate political pressure that result in less than satisfactory outcomes. These two particular agencies have overlapping mandates that have led to massive over building of dams, the destruction of the west coast salmon runs, the depletion of water resources and the massive build up of salt concentrations in the lower reaches of many rivers. Number three – American interests have their eye on acquiring access to Canadian water, particularly free flowing rivers in  British Columbia. This is important to keep in mind during the upcoming North American Free Trade Negotiations and the Renewal of the Columbia River Treaty. Southern California has tried, and failed, to get access to the few remaining free flowing rivers in Northern California, Oregon and Washington State and that should be a lesson for us. Also keep in mind that access to more water isn’t the answer. More access will only continue with the under valuation of the resources and perpetuate the ongoing problems.

The legacy of these some times well intentioned policies and projects is a time bomb just waiting to exploded. It is this time bomb that is explored in the second book —-

THE WATER KNIFE by Paolo Bacigalupi is set in the not to distant future and it is a  dystopian novel of a possible outcome of the water policies out lined in Cadilac Desert. In the novel the south western states, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are entering the end game of past policies and errors and now face serious conflicts over dwindling water resources.

“Three different characters try to navigate a water-starved Southwestern United States. The survival of different cities depends on their political clout and ability to claim senior water rights. Las Vegas is one of the big players, with Catherine Case and her goons destroying nearby competitors by undermining their water supply. Angel is one of those goons, and when someone in the area starts claiming they have traced down a game changing water allocation document, Case send him to investigate. Lucy is a future Pulitzer prize winning journalist who is willing to risk her life to uncover the shady dealings and murders behind the ongoing legal battle for control of the Colorado. It is her friend who initially claimed possession of what might be the most valuable document in America, but when he is found murdered, she has the story of a lifetime in her hands. Maria is a refugee from the now ruined state of Texas who lives hand to mouth, trying to stay out of the way of local gangs and save up enough to escape to one of the more hydrated states.”  – Amazon.

Without giving too much away that is the thumb nail of the story. It is a story well worth reading. Not an absolute page turner but it is a good story with believable characters. The premise is not that much of a science fiction stretch and is entirely believable. The future of the region may not turn out exactly like this but it is sure to be some variant of a number of similar possibilities. I wouldn’t plan on buying real estate or relocating to the region any time in the near future.

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YouTube Pick (#17) – Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem performing ASTRAKAN CAFE

Jazz record labels tend to have a specific persona and ethos that is consistent during their successful years. Verve Records was the brain child of jazz impresario Norman Granz and the recordings the company released in the early years bore his imprimatur. Similarly, the ethos of BlueNote records reflects the founder Alfred Lyons’ view of the jazz soundscape and, along with the masterful sound engineering of Rudy Van Gelder, created the BlueNote sound. On the other side of the Atlantic in Munich, Germany  Manfred Eicher founded the ECM label (Edition of Contemporary Music) that, like Verve and BlueNote, created a specific persona and sound. In this case it was unmistakably a creation of the founder Manfred Eischer. The ECM catalogue is filled with unique and interesting musicians and music. The label marketed, and continues to market, an incredible collection of some of the most significant jazz musicians of the day including Keith Jarret, Ralph Towner, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, etc.   Although,mostly a jazz recording label, it has explored many alternative approaches to music. Most notably in the recordings of Jan Gabarek, L. Shankar,  Steve Tibbetts and, of course the music of the Tunisian Oud player Anouar Brahem. My first encounter with this musician was the ECM recording Astrakan Cafe that, along with the Oud playing of Anauor, also featured the percussion of Lassad Hosni (bendir and darbuka) and the clarinet of Turkish musician Barbaros Erkose. First of all, Anauor Brahem plays the Arab Oud, an instrument that is the ancestor of all guitar like instruments. His approach is a little different from the classic Arab musician in that as well as the folkloric repertoire he explores a number of eclectic musical offerings within a number of unique musical configurations. As mentioned in Wikipedia his playing style is often compared to  the Lebanese musician Rabih Abou-Khalil who is well known for fusing traditional  Arab music with Jazz, European Classical music  and other styles. Anouar’s compositions are considered to be more mellow and spare and this he achieves by utilizing ensembles of three or four musicians and unusual combination of instruments. A quick glance at his ECM discography gives you some idea of his musical approach.

  • Barzakh ECM 1432 (1991) with fellow Tunisian musicians Bechir Selmi on violin and Lassad Hosni on percussion.
  • Conte de L’Incroyable ECM 1457 (1992) with Barbaros Erkose (Turkish) on clarinet, Kudsi Erguner (Turkish) on the Ney Flute and Lassad Hosni (Tunisian) on percussion.
  • The Silences of the Palaces (1994) Film music for the Tunisian movie of the same name.
  • Khomsa ECM 1561 (1995) with Richard Galliano  (French) on accordion; Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and synthesizer; Jean Marc Larche (?) on soprano sax; Bechir Selmi (Tunisian) on violin; Palle Danielsson  (Swedish jazz musician) on double bass; Jon Christensen (Norwegian jazz musician) on drums. The album was recorded in Oslo. Norway 
  • Thimar ECM 1641 (1998) with John Surman (British jazz musician) on soprano sax and bass clarinet; Dave Holland (British jazz musician) on double bass. Also recorded in Oslo, Norway
  • Astrakan Cafe ECM 1718 (2000) with Barbaros Erkose (Turkish) on clarinet and Lassad Hosni (Tunisian) on percussion. Recorded in a monastery in Austria.
  • Le Pas du Chat Noir ECM 1792 (2002) with Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and  Jean-Louis Matinier (French) on accordion recorded in Zurich.
  • Le Voyage de Sahar ECM 1915 (2006) with Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and  Jean-Louis Matinier (French) recorded in Lugano, Switzerland.
  • The Astounding Eyes of Rita ECM 2075 (2009) with Klaus Gesing: bass clarinet; Björn Meyer: bass; Khaled Yassine: darbouka, bendir. Recorded in Udine, Italy.
  • Souvenance  ECM 2423/24 – 2 CDs (2014) with Francois Couturier on piano; Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and soprano sax; Björn Meyer (Swedish) on double bass; and Orchestra della Svizzera italiana / Pietro Mianiti: conductor. Recorded in Lugano, Switzerland

I have been, and still are, completely captivated by ethereal sound of the Astrakan Cafe ECM 1718 (2000) recording and the title track is one of my all time favorite pieces of music. So much so that I got my hands on a Godin MultiOud. This is an instrument manufactured in Quebec and for want of a better description it is a recent attempt to emulate the traditional Oud for a guitar friendly clientele. It is a fret less nylon strung instrument with a single bass string and the remaining 10 strings as 5 courses of unison strings. The strings  can be tuned in a number of traditional systems (Turkish, Turkish/Armenian, Arabic, Syrian or Egyptian). Godin, the manufacturer of the instrument, suggests using the Syrian  system – F A D G C F (low string to high). I believe this is the system Anouar Brahem uses. Because I play a number of other similar instruments I have chose to use a modified Syrian system – D A D G F C). Like the traditional Oud the MultiOud is played with a unique plectrum called a mezraab/mizrap in Farsi and Turkish and Reesha in Arabic. While purists are probably not convinced that the MultiOud is a valid vehicle for authentic Oud music it is, to my ear, pretty convincing. It has a number of advantages over the traditional Oud. The friction tuning pegs have been replaced with the more conventional guitar tuners. The flat backed body is more comfortable for a performer. The cut away body makes it easier to reach higher positions on the neck. The built in Fishman Tuner and pickup has a number of variable parameters to  allow the performer to sculpt a preferable sound. For guitarists one of the major hurdles to playing the Oud or the MultiOud is getting used to the fret less fingerboard. I am still struggling with the MultiOud but my ambition is to one day play a credible version of the Astrakan Cafe.  Check the above link to see and hear the tune in all its glory and revel in the incredible sound and ambience of the music and marvel at Anouar’s snappy syncopation and improvisations.

Below are a couple more links of Anouar in small ensemble environments.

Of the three, the last one Stopover at Djibouti, is my favorite.  I particularly like Björn Meyer tapping five string bass part  and Khaled Yassine adroit combination of of the Turkish darbouka and the bendir (frame drum). I believe the bass clarinet is played by Klaus Gesing. When you stop and think about it. It is an unusual combination of “instruments in the basement”, bass clarinet, electric bass and Oud all way down there with the darbouka and bendir flitting around to provide sonic relief and rhythmic integration. All in all it is very interesting stuff.

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