Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sherman Alexie

A little movie made illustrating one of Alexie's short stories. Even though I much prefer music and art to the written word, the single greatest artistic experience I ever had was hearing Alexie speak at the Union Square Barnes and Noble a few years ago. He read What You Pawn I Will Redeem, a story brimming with affection for it's woefully unlucky protagonist. As with all of the best of his writing, Alexie's words reveal the inherent divinity in these characters to whom we rarely give a second look, but in this reading Alexie did something I've never seen anyone else do: he not only made the audience experience the magical transformation of the main character, but somehow, at the same moment, we all realized that magic was present, in the room with us, and just as those feelings became concrete, the story ended and the whole audience was suspended in holy, silent, rapture followed by the most thunderous applause I've ever heard in my life. That night, that audience didn't just experience art, we were art.

Click here to see part 2.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Farewell to Stromness

Years ago, I fell in love with the music of English composer Peter Maxwell Davies. Like his friend Hans Werner Henze, Davies never forgot that music could touch the mind, soul and heart of the willing listener. Here's a rare gem of Max's: Farewell to Stromness, arranged for guitar by Timothy Walker. Like so many pieces of his compatriot Benjamin Britten, the melody of this work seems unnecessarily simple and maybe even trite, but also like Britten, the work takes quietly takes root in one's imagination long after the first hearing, becoming a constant reminder of how magical the musical experience can be. What I love about this piece is that it's so successful in creating a sense of longing and, dare it say it, homesickness for Stromness, a place most of us have never visited or will ever visit. For all of you social activist types, Davies wrote this work to protest the potential uranium mining in the Orkney islands. A perfect jewel it is, and sorely deserving of more performances.