Monthly Archives: November 2009

Vijay Iyer's 'Historicity'

Good review today at Pitchfork on the Vijay Iyer Trio’s new CD ‘Historicity’.  I first saw pianist Iyer in NYC a few years back, and he’s been making some excellent modern jazz recordings.  This one features a number of cover tunes.  From the review:

The Vijay Iyer Trio, with Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums, is almost a negative image of the old Bill Evans Trio. The sense of telepathic interplay is there, but it’s put toward different ends. If Portrait in Jazz is the sound of aloneness, Historicity is the sound of crowds, a heaving, seething swirl of cross-talk, phrases meeting in often unexpected combinations. It reflects how far both jazz and our world have come in the last 50-odd years. Today, we’re never far from information and chatter, and Iyer uses both his own compositions and those of others to stir conversation with his bandmates.

My green painting

I’m taking a beginning class in oil painting this fall.  Above is the first actual painting I’ve produced.  The assignment here was to stay essentially monochromatic, and I was working in greens, with a bit of blue-ish gray thrown in.  Obviously my depiction is a little off, and that’s just one factor you have to keep in mind – there’s also the light-dark tone, and the saturation of the color, and lots of other things!  I’m finding the most interesting things happen when you don’t try to completely control things, and go with a somewhat impressionistic approach.

What color are you?

In today’s NYT Business Section, in a story on the Jobs page titled “Workplace Gossip? Keep It To Yourself” by Shayla McKnight, I found this bit about an online printing company quite interesting:

When employees are hired here, they’re given a communications assessment, a commercial program that the company uses to pinpoint a person’s dominant communications style. The styles are linked to colors that identify how each employee likes to communicate.

If someone is a “red,” for example, he or she appreciates when others are direct and state the facts quickly. A person who’s a “blue” enjoys having all the details, and time to process them. A “yellow” is spontaneous and likes a personal connection.

I’m a “green.” That means I’m sensitive and like to be approached as courteously as possible; greens tend to be compassionate and supportive.

Nameplates on our desks have a color bar to identify our styles, or we can easily find them in a company database. This system lets everyone know how co-workers prefer to be approached, and it goes a long way in promoting harmony. If I don’t know someone’s style, I check before I visit his or her office or send an e-mail message.

I’ve never seen a company that does this, but it’s intriguing.  Do people actually adjust their own style of communication when speaking to someone self-identified as another color?  From this description, I’d have to go with  blue for myself, with a little red mixed in… does that make me a purple?

'Orphee' by Philip Glass

Yesterday I made it to the Portland Opera’s production of the Philip Glass opera ‘Orphee’ based on the 1949 film by Jean Cocteau (and of course much further back into the myth of Orpheus).  I was mostly interested in hearing the music played live, but enjoyed the show.  The stage set was a modernist apartment, the singing was in French, much taken directly from the film script apparently.

Here’s a bit of the review by David Stabler from the Oregonian:

If you think all Philip Glass music sounds the same – rush-hour traffic for the ear – Portland Opera would like you to meet “Orphée,” a French twist on the Orpheus myth.

Glass’ operatic riff opened at the Keller Auditorium, Friday, in a stylish production that will almost make you take back those awful things you said about him.

I found the music quite nice – the opening incorporates many sounds from early silent film scores, and I liked the ebb and flow of his rhythms.  (I actually like Glass music, though I can understand the feeling that he repeats many patterns.)  They were recording the show, and so a commercial release of the opera should be available next year sometime.

The Early Sixties

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time lately in the fictional early sixties – through two different media – books and tv.  I hadn’t read any James Ellroy for quite a few years, but with the appearance of the last part of his Underworld U.S.A. trilogy I decided it was time to re-acquaint myself with his recent work.

The starting volume is American Tabloid, published in 1995, covering the time period from the late 1950s to Nov 22, 1963.  As the name of the trilogy implies, Ellroy is interested in the low-life, the secret history of the period.  This is obviously fiction, but he weaves in plenty of real-life characters, including the Kennedy brothers, J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes, Jimmy Hoffa and many others.  Much of the story focuses on the clandestine efforts to unseat Fidel Castro, involving ties between the FBI, CIA, the Mob, Cuban exiles, and others.  Ellroy uses a stripped down style that keeps things moving right along, to the fateful day in Dallas.

Ellroy credits Don DeLillo’s Libra for a good amount of inspiration for the trilogy.  Here’s a part of a 1997 interview where he discusses it:

I wrote him a letter thanking him for writing his novel Libra, and I sent him a copy of American Tabloid when it was first published. American Tabloid was spawned by his novel which is a great book specifically about the Kennedy assassination. I read that book and got hooked on the Kennedy assassination. I had never been interested in it before.

I read a lot of Kennedy assassination theory books and so on and saw DeLillo had co-opted it all into the most plausible theories, the most interesting real life characters and perspectives. I saw that this book was so great that I could write a book about the Kennedy assassination. Then I began to see that I could write a book about, as I stated, the five years preceding it. So for attribution I give Don DeLillo every credit every chance I get.

Now I’m into the second volume, The Cold Six Thousand (dollars, that is), dealing with the years after Dallas to 1968, in the aftermath of the assassination and the beginnings of Vietnam.  It’s even more stripped down in style, to the point that it’s so choppy it’s almost hard to read.  Many paragraphs consist of about 5 sentences, each no more than 5 words long.  Per wikipedia, here’s what he said about it:

The style I developed for The Cold Six Thousand is a direct, shorter-rather-than-longer sentence style that’s declarative and ugly and right there, punching you in the nards. It was appropriate for that book, and that book only, because it’s the 1960s. It’s largely the story of reactionaries in America during that time, largely a novel of racism and thus the racial invective, and the overall bluntness and ugliness of the language.

Along with Ellroy, I’ve been catching up with season 3 of ‘Mad Men’ which happens to be set in 1963, and appears to be leading to a finale on the days just after Nov 22 as well.  I’ve been very impressed with a number of the episodes, which achieve a very nice touch with the characters that we’ve gotten to know – each seems to have a public side and a private side, and we see a little of each, where they mesh and where they collide.  If anything there are just too many interesting characters and not enough time to cover them all!  Tomorrow night the finale of the season is on AMC, and I look forward to it.

If you are a fan of the show but miss an episode, here’s the place to look for (very detailed) recaps – Television Without Pity on Mad Men.

update:  I enjoyed last night’s season 3 finale.  Directed with an especially dark tone it seemed to me, but it gives a certain upbeat spin to season 4.  It looks to me like a few characters may drift out of the show, which is probably a good thing in order to focus on the group above.