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LOG - 6

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23 February 2001 -- It was a treat to hear new music with Asian flavors for the piano, although not always easy to follow. Sarah Cahill gave a recital at the Meyer auditorium of the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery in DC. She performed contemporary works influenced by Asia or by composers of Asian descent. Two pieces were commissioned for the concert: a piece by Evan Ziporyn inspired by various excerpts of Balinese music and a work based on the five elements of the Chinese cosmology by Kui Dong (who teaches music at Dartmouth). Other works were by Hyo-Shin Na and Mamoru Fujieda.
At times my attention flagged a bit, probably due to the fact that I'd not yet eaten dinner. I always find that avant garde music can be hard to listen to on an empty stomach. And of course, it depends on the structure and tonality of the particular work. ..

3 March 2001 - I arrived late at the last part of the Virtual City symposium (cosponsored by the Wash. Project for the Arts, Corcoran School of Art, and German Cultural Ctr.). Earlier in the day, I'd been at the Corcoran School's Hammer auditorium (named after the late, somewhat controversial Armand Hammer), watching presentations on art and technology, and how people are approaching, creating, and critiquing media art. After adjourning for lunch a much smaller group met at the Goethe Institute (in DC Chinatown). I took a seat near the door of the conference room. I realized 20 minutes later that I was sitting next to one of the presenters, DJ Spooky (a.k.a. Paul Miller). What an erudite and cool guy he is! Not only does he spin wax and play stand-up bass (something he did later that night at a club gig), but he can refer to Joseph Beuys, the Grateful Dead, Andy Warhol, and the latest cracked software. Earlier in the day, he'd remarked that "electronic music is the new folk culture." From the company he keeps on the internet, that is quite understandable. (I'm still trying to catch up with the old folk culture. One of the latest recordings I've been listening to has been a collection of cuts by various Hungarian folk musicians from the Fono label.)

4 March 2001 - There was a large audience for the performance by the Sawai Koto Ensemble at the Meyer auditorium of the Freer Gallery. I think Kazue Sawai and her ensemble may have performed at the Kennedy Center in years past. Having missed her, then, I was anxious to see what 20th century koto was all about. My reactions to the pieces ranged from profound appreciation to indifference.

10 Mar - Ventured into Baltimore to see Eugene Chadbourne, accompanied by Toshi Makihara play at the Red Room. Chadbourne played guitar and banjo with a highly dexterous technique. According to Makihara, he sang more songs than the night before, in DC. Many were along country and bluegrass lines. Toshi put on his usual visually entertaining show, at one point making use of a chipmunk puppet. Chadbourne and Makihara made a good match.
I asked Toshi, afterwards, about his trip to the Bay area last month. He said he played a whole slew of gigs and found that there were a strong group of "young" (30-ish) players in the improvisational mode. For a touring musician, like himself, he finds the West Coast logistically difficult, because the distances between cities is inconveniently long. And he can't afford to fly up or down the coast.

11 Mar - Heard a discussion by critic Andy Trudeau on NPR (Weekend Edition) about Tan Dun's music in the film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

29 Mar - visited radio station CIUT 89.5 FM, at the University of Toronto. (I was in town for the Asian American studies conference (or AAScon, as I call it)). The Asian Canadian show, Asian Accent, led by Aries Cheung, has a 11am - noon timeslot. (Kiss of death!) It appeared that the whole group was there, [insert names here], to raise money over the air, since the station was in its annual pledge drive. Unfortunately, no one called, but Aries had already solicited contributions beforehand (very smart) so the show's participation was covered. The folks who work on Asian Accent seem pretty community and issues oriented, as far as I can tell. I've very good vibes about the group and the content of their show.   At the conference's Literary Cabaret this evening, I read an essay based on part of my interview with Emm Gryner... the funny part of the interview, where I asked her about beavers and turtles. I think it went over okay, but I couldn't tell if some of the audience found it somewhat tasteless.

30 Mar - interviewed Francis Wong, one of the heads of the Bay-area headquartered AsianImprov record label. I mainly wanted to know about his thoughts on the success of the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, and developing a national Asian American jazz festival tour.

1 Apr - interviewed Toronto-based pianist/performer/composer Lee Pui Ming. We explored the development and directions of her music. It was a great interview, because she's very thoughtful and was able to answer my questions fairly easily.

21 Apr - Visited the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore for the ballyhooed Manet exhibit. I'd not taken art history in college, so I didn't realize that the exhibit (mostly still lifes) did not include some of his most famous works. I knew little about the controversial and pivotal 1863 painting, "Dejeuner sur l'Herbe" (Luncheon on the Grass). After going through the exhibit, I entered the gift shop and discovered a postcard of it. Upon seeing it, I was reminded of an album cover by a rock band. Sure enough, when I did some research on the web, later, I discovered that the British group, Bow Wow Wow, had reprised the famous painting on the cover of their first LP. (The album was released in 1981 and titled, "See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah! City All Over! Go Ape Crazy!") The female lead singer, Annabella Lwin, was all of 15 years old, when she posed in the nude for that tableaux. As one might expect, it caused a bit of a controversy, not the least with the singer's mum. (who found out about her daughter's nudity afterwards). Although her pose is not vulgar, there is an enhanced eroticism over the original painting, probably due to Lwin's more attractive physique.
  By the way, Annabella Lwin is her stage name. She was born in Rangoon as Myant Myant Aye, and is (partially or fully) of Burmese descent.

Returning to the museum... adjoining it is Hackerman House, an old mansion that contains the Asian art collection of Wm. and Henry Walters, the father and son (respectively) who picked up all sorts of Asian stuff in the latter 19th century, particularly at international expositions of the time. In perusing their collection, I came across various musical or musically-inspired artifacts:

  • a 1764 Chinese knee-shaped chime (made of Nephrite, inscribed with gold dragons)
  • a 19th century Japanese incense box made to look like a zither (the koto)
  • a 15th century Chinese horizontal scroll painting that depicted among others, an old man playing a zither (the ch'in)
  • 2 small ivory figures from the late 19th century captioned: "The robber Hakamadare stalks Fujiwara Yasumasa". The former is crouched with sword drawn, while the latter walks along playing a transverse flute.

4 May - An evening of improv... Heard New York - based Kenta Nagai play his fretless guitar at the Red Room in Baltimore. He first played solo and then with Jack Wright, a (retiree?) saxophonist from Boulder. Nagai created an atmosphere of emotional depth, despite the lack of resonance of his guitar. (Is that the drawback to the absence of frets?)

6 May - I saw the film, American Chai, at the Maryland Film Festival screening this morning (Charles Theater, Baltimore). There was a Q&A afterwards with filmmaker, Anurag Mehta, and his brother, the star of the movie, Aalok Mehta.
Good film. I think I liked it better, overall, than American Desi, which also takes place on the campus of a New Jersey college. (Seems like "Joisey" is a hotbed of desi film.)
The film is about an Indian American college student who wants to be a musician, while his father thinks he's pre-med. Several things that struck me were the very natural dialogue, some good acting, and that much of the music was composed and performed by the main actor.
The movie's next screening is in 2 weeks in LA's APA Film Festival.

8 May - At a Capitol Hill reception for the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (held in a small room of the Rayburn House Office Building), I met UCLA college senior, Jen Kuo (a.k.a. "kataklypse"), who's worked on the music section of the UCLA Asian student publication, Pacific Ties. Apparently, she's been periodically checking the Calendar pages of this website. In our conversation, she mentioned the names of some Orange County (Cali) musicians that have been listed. (Being, herself, from O.C., she wanted to know more about them.) She also asked a question or two about a predecessor to Pac Ties, namely the super dooper asian scooper. (A most unfortunate name, if there ever was one.) I fielded her query with aplomb, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, 'Damn! Someone has been digging through the archives!'
  I also found out from an Asian Canadian friend from Vancouver (who was at the reception) that the survival of upcoming issues of the Asian Canadian culture magazine, Rice Paper, depends on their raising $8,000. (I forgot to ask whether that was Canadian or US dollars.) I suppose if they can't come up with the money, then my article on Emm Gryner, the part-Pilipino, Toronto-based singer/songwriter, may not see the light of day.

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