Now and again in Manhattan

Yes sometimes I do go over the borders to Manhattan and Brooklyn. This has been a busy week and I have mainly been away from LIC. It’s also been a New Zealand week, with a session of poetry with a group of NZ poets, sponsored by Saatchi and Saatchi and Phantom Billstickers; and also a showing of Taika Waititi‘s movie, “Boy” (http://www.boythemovie.co.nz/ ) – (check out Angelika and Lincoln Center movie times) – together with his Oscar nominated short “Two cars, one night.” Also a T.S.Eliot event in West Village.

“Boy”

Taika Waititi’s Oscar nominated short film: “Two cars one night” stands as a companion to this full length story about a boy’s relationship with his father. Both are written and filmed  with a sharp eye for the world of the child;  both are set, like “The Whale Rider” in East Cape New Zealand rural Māori communities and both touch the balance between bravado and intimacy; themes which transcend the New Zealand setting and touch us with humour and pathos.
In some ways this movie portrays an idyllic kind of childhood, away from the “dangers” of the city. Yet it also deals with the challenges of parental absence, in this case through the mother’s death in childhood and the father’s incarceration. It understands how children fantasize about absent figures, how they take on blame and how they struggle when their fantasy meets reality; in this case when the father (played by Waititi) returns home. The boy faces his father’s own childlike nature, his foolishness and his avoidance of responsibility. All this at a time when he is facing his own prepubescent challenges of developing manhood and sexuality.
It would be easy to view this movie with a western adult’s eye that judges the family and community; a family of children left to fend for themselves in the absence of their father (in prison) and their grandmother (gone to a funeral 300 miles away in her battered Hillman car). The setting of this movie is, in fact a small community where most will be related to each other and the children, although seemingly running free will have the watchful eye of the adults, including the marginal “mad” man on the beach.

That said, this is not a film where adult males get a good press.  The “Boy” (played superbly by James Rolleston) is let down by a father and male teachers. Apart from the “gentle, foolish giant” on the beach the other men are either gang members, stupid petty criminals or tired cynical teachers. They are triumphs of bravado, self interest and insensitivity. The only real authority figure is a woman, Boy’s aunt. Against this background Boy’s processing of his “coming of age’ experiences offer (to quote NZ Band Fat Freddy’s Drop) “Hope for a New Generation” .

 http://www.myspace.com/music/player?song=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.myspace.com%2Ffatfreddysdropnz%2Fmusic%2Fsongs%2Fhope-1173912) .

The balance of the child in the man and the man in the child is played out beautifully in the characters of Boy and his father, Alamein.
It’s not surprising to learn that Waititi is also a comedian, he skillfully exercises his own “child in the man” and  points his wit-loaded finger at some of the idiocies of life in this world of “civilised” adults. ( I found myself wondering whether “”Boy” is to some extent autobiographical, after all it was filmed inthe community where Waititi grew up). He has a keen and compassionate eye, and knows how to entertain.

See his recent appearance on US TV station WPIX http://www.wpix.com/news/morningnews/wpix-ff-taikiki-waititi,0,6279282.story.

A word for the music, excellently composed by Wellington band “The Phoenix Foundation”, who also provided music for Eagle vs Shark. (http://www.thephoenixfoundation.tumblr.com/).
Watch this movie, laugh, remember your own innocence and those of people around you and laugh again. And if you are a man, think about it and reflect on your own “child/man” balance.

Poets

Grand Central Station

New Zealand has a strong literary tradition, writers such as Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame stand high in the pantheon of western writing. A group of New Zealand poets were in New York over the past week appearing with some US poets in a performance evening at the offices of Saatchi and Saatchi, promoted by Kiwi company Phantom Billstickers (http://www.0800phantom.co.nz/), who have spent the past few weeks posting New Zealand Poetry in locations around New York. I like poetry captured in this way, when it comes unexpected in the middle of a journey, unplanned and unsought. A long set of performances can lose me, a kind of poetic gluttony which leaves one full but unsatisfied, because the taste is drowned in the volume.

Janet Frame's Poem "The End" in Times Square

I know Hinemoana Baker from my incarnation as a World Music radio presenter in New Zealand. I had interviewed her at a WOMAD (www.womad.org.nz) festival in New Plymouth and had also heard her partner Christine White perform a very moving piece about her grandmother in a composition competition at Victoria University in Wellington. Hinemoana is both a singer and a poet. She writes intelligent, moving and intelligent poems and lyrics and is a natural unselfconscious performer. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjZsIaDE0tY&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19DBiLIEOUE . I was pleased to hear her in performance at the beginning of what was, for me, quite a long night of poetry, interspersed with a little music.

Another high point was hearing Pamela Gordon reading her aunt Janet Frame’s poetry, once again early on in the evening. Some of you may know Frame’s work as an author of fiction, or through the film of her autobiography, “An Angel at my Table”, by NZ director Jane Campion (“The Piano”, “In the Cut”, “Sweetie”, Portrait of a Lady”).

If you have read her fiction you will be aware of her sense of the essential nature of things, at times like a childs eye finely crafted into sparingly beautiful words.

For example: “Electricity, the peril the wind sings to in the wires on a gray day”

Her poetry is less well known and, like poetry must be, is similarly crafted – in fact to the finest degree. I find it hard to read, or hear, her poetry in more than short doses. Not because I don’t like it, it’s just because it strikes so deep that, like caviar or oysters, it must be digested in small morsels. Pamela Gordon is Frame’s literary custodian. In some ways she reminded me of her aunt, in manner and looks as well as her voice. I was impressed by the way she allowed her aunt to speak again here in New York, a city she had visited when she was alive.

Check out this rare TV appearance  http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/holmes—janet-frame-2000 .

Others appearing at the poetry fest included Kiwi musician-living-in-nyc Hamish Kilgour, (“The Clean”); American poet Gerald Stern, Jay Clarkson, Sandra Bell, David Eggleton, Tusiata Avia, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Otis Mace and (The “Bard of  Cookeville Tennessee“) Jeffery D McCaleb.

T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets – an unexpected direction

As many of you will know, I take a lot of photographs of musicians around New York. Nearly all the photos on my blog are mine (not the two above – they are from Phantom Billstickers). These often take me in to unexpected places. In fact New York is best appreciated from these unexpected directions, when you allow chance meetings to take you to unplanned destinations. In my last blog (the “Jazz Virgin” one) I talked about a band that I had heard at LIC Bar, The Black Butterflies. I usually put a selection of my photos on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100001041228357) and often “friend” the artists to draw their attention to the photos and so that they can keep me in touch with gigs etc. Merecedes Figueras is the sax player in The Black Butterflies and this Facebook connection took me in an unexpected direction last week: a collaborative venture created and curated by Brasilian musician Mossa Bildner (http://www.myspace.com/mossabildnermusic  and http://mossabildner.wordpress.com) of extracts from Eliot’s “Four Quartets” at the Cordelia Street Cafe in the West Village.(http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com/)

I hadn’t been to this venue before. The performance space is downstairs in what is basically a cellar bar. It is small and intimate, with tables and a small bar area. Small enough that the instruments used in this performance hardly required amplification.

The Four Quartets were Eliot’s pathway to the Nobel Prize for Literature. They have contributed to our language –

“We shall not cease from exploration,

And the end of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time”

The title “Four Quartets” lends itself to musical adaptation, in other settings the poems have been paired with existing compositions (for example Beethoven’s final Op 132 string quartet), but I do not know of any other musical interpretation that involves, as this did, extemporisation around written musical pathways – here written and led by Mossa Bildner.

Mossa Bildner

I became immersed in this performance very quickly. The character of Mossa Bildner, standing in front of four musicians (five for the last section) stands strong, but does not dominate; attracts but does not detract. She leads but does not impose her will in ways that are detrimental to the creative process. Mossa had brought together a group of skilled musicians who were well versed in improvisation: Bass player Ken Filiano, guitarist Charlie Rauh, Drummer Christine Bard, Saxophonista Mercedes Figueras and violinist Frederika Krier. Together they each played their own parts in the various sections of the poems selected by Bildner, playing both with her singing and in extended improvisational sections that allowed each to express within the structure that Bildner (and Eliot) has created.

This was a memorable occasion. I was reminded of music I heard in London in the early seventies, Luciano Berio in particular, and appreciated that the differences between “Classical” and “Jazz” compositions might differ only the degree of improvisation involved and the training of the performers.

Improvisational works are essentially “of the moment”, and recordings are thus almost paradoxical to the intent and energy of the extemporised moments. However, they can stand in ther own right, both as mementoes and, perhaps more importantly, as opportunities to hear new ideas, to listen again with diferent ears – for we do listen differently again when we already have some familiarity, we hear new ideas, nuances, links, repetitions and references that were not apparent when we were faced with the newness at first listening. I hope, then, that Mossa may bring a recording of this event to the public at some time in the near future.

Frederika Krier

Mercedes Figueras

Ken Filiano

Charlie Rauh


 

 
(my apologies that I do not have a photo of Christine Bard, the drummer. I try to be inconspicous at gigs and the layout of the room made it impossible for me to take her photo without walking to the other side of the room)

Next week Check out:

at LIC Bar (www.licbar.com):

Saturday, March 3rd 11pm-1am
2/3 Goat

Sunday, March 4th 5-8pm
Big City Folk Sunday Social
Niall Connolly
Kevin Goldhahn

Monday, March 5th
8pm Tim Porter
9pm Xavier Cardriche
10pm Sam McTavey

Wednesday, March 7th
8pm The Stone Lonesome
9pm Michael Louis
10pm Brandywine Creek Boys March residency

Saturday, March 10th 11pm
Shut The Front Door Dance Party!
Dancing and live bands!

LIC artists:

Sky Captains of Industry

Saturday 3rd March 8pm, Bar 4, Brooklyn

Michele Riganese:

Saturday March 3rd Rockwood Music Hall 6pm, 196 Allen Street

Little Embers

Mercury Lounge 8th March at 7pm

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