24 May 2001 - Interviewed Fon-Lin Nyeu, bassist for a women's pop-punk trio, called the Hissyfits. They hail from NY and were in Baltimore to kick off a national, 3-week tour. They sounded rather muddy, although there was evidence of some structure in their songwriting, like a change of tempo and deliberate pauses. I wish Fon-Lin would've sang (sung?) more and jumped around.
26 May 2001 -- As part of a series of performances called, DC Vision Festival, I saw Vattel Cherry, Joseph Jarman, and Sabu Toyozumi play at Gallery 505 (7th & E Streets). Vattel Cherry lives in Baltimore, and I'd seen him twice before. He opened with a solo.
Joseph Jarman was the best known musician, having been a cofounder of AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) in Chicago and having played in the Art Ensemble of Chicago. He read poetry and played flutes and a saxophone (alto?). He also sang in a high, smooth voice, lines like:
As we float through the universe we go
(Note: Jarman is a Buddhist priest and runs an Aikido dojo in New York City.)
Find the Buddha way and let your sorrows go
As we float through the universe we go
Find the Guru that will show you how to blow...
He was joined by Toyozumi, who seems to be considered the dean of improv musicians in Japan. The latter played a traditional trap drum set, found objects and percussive elements. (Oh, and even a flute.) According to the program notes, Toyozumi taught Toshi Makihara, the Philadelphia-based percussionist I've seen several times.
28 May - This morning on Morning Edition (NPR), there was a report on a suite of works to be premiered this Thursday by the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota. The works have been composed by Hi Kyung Kim, Michio Mamiya, Chen Yi, and Andrew Imbrie. Together, they form Hún Qiáo (Bridge of Souls); a Concert of Remembrance and Reconciliation.
1 June - Tried to make it for a Smithsonian-sponsored evening panel discussion on Chinatowns. For many reasons (some beyond my control, like bad traffic), I arrived as the session ended. So the most I can say about it was that it was nice to see the faces of community activists like Ron Chew of Seattle and Debby Wei of Philly, since last I saw them was at least 4 or 5 years ago. (Maybe more.)
Had dinner with some folks who'd attended. One of them used to work for a club in DC, that features a very popular weekly dance/rave with many big-name DJ's. About 3,000 people attend each Friday night, some coming from as far away as North Carolina (!) This person mentioned that ecstasy cost $25 a pill. (I didn't realize that it was so expensive... which only goes to show how little I know about the cost of drugs.)
2 June - Only 2 of the improv bass quartet, Bass Respänse, made it to the gig at the Mseum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Georgetown. They'd played the night before in Baltimore, but one had to return to Philadelphia and another had to travel to Florida to adopt a Guatemalan child. So it was just Vattel Cherry and Jane Wang.
Jane noticed me stretching my arms and shoulders as I went up to talk to her, and commented about certain exercises. (She mentioned yoga. Was she, perhaps, referring to tantric yoga?) Perhaps I should investigate what kind of exercises musicians favor.
When I asked her about an Asian female jazz group she was in, Who She Be, she said that she didn't know what would become of them. The vocalist, Grace Chung, recently finished her dissertation and graduated from MIT. She landed a job in the DC area, so she'll be leaving Boston.
10 June - I caught Emm Gryner, once again at the Metro Cafe in DC. She's performed there several times since I first saw her, there in February.
I was bummed out that my interview of her was not printed in either of the recent issues of Rice Paper, the Asian Canadian arts magazine from Vancouver. (I received #'s 6.3 and 6.4 in the mail, yesterday.)
She confessed to the audience that she was not at the peak of her form, although you almost couldn't tell. Her voice was strong and smooth. She gave her usual passionate performance, writhing at the keyboard, swaying and swiveling when wielding the guitar and electric bass.
For one of her encores, she came out carrying a spray bottle of Choraseptic in one hand (how old-fashioned!) and a glass of Southern Comfort in the other (how decadent!). She said that's what nursed her to be able
to do tonight's show. Apparently, she'd been partying heartily in New York City. In fact, for her birthday a couple days ago, she'd gone to see an Oasis concert at Radio City Music Hall. I guess she'd tried to hang out with the Oasis lads afterwards, because she made a cryptic comment that she realized that sometimes it was better to listen to music than to get to know the people behind the music. (Was she hinting at the brutal world of the rock star social scene?)
16 June - At the opening reception for a small exhibit at the Smitsonian Arts & Industry building, I saw troubadour Charlie Chin do his thing. His songs and storytelling center around early Chinese immigrants and New York Chinatown, while the exhibit, titled "Fly to Freedom" featured folded paper sculpture by illegal immigrant inmates of the Golden Venture ship. (The ship ran ground in New York City (Rockaway Beach?) several years ago, and the human cargo was detained for several years in a prison in York, Pa.)
24 June - I checked out the music performance acts at the Philippine Independence Sportsfest at Tucker Road Recreational Park in Fort Washington, Maryland. Except for the lounge music duo known as Cigarbox Planetarium, there seemed to be no overlap from last year. This year's acts seemed a little less accomplished. I saw mostly locals like Silvertotes (alt rock), Flipside (rock), Diane Eclar (dance music diva wannabe), Elise & Ferdie Eclar (karaoke crooners), and Marie (country).
It was nice to hear the bands do some Tagalog songs.
My general conclusion (with minor exceptions) -- the bands should take singing lessons and the singers should include original songs.
Midway through the afternoon, some students from a Washington area Pilipino cultural school rendered folk songs in excrutiating fashion. Well, I could accept the little kids looking cute, gesturing imprecisely with loose coordination while singing way off-key. But when joined by a couple teens, the cuteness factor recedes as a major criterion for enjoyment, and one expects a minimum tunefulness. Alas! Tunefulness was not improved (although one of the teen girls was rather cute).
26 June - Chatting online exposes the phenomena of overlapping that occurs in normal spoken conversation. Indeed, it probably exaggerates it. People starting new threads, as others answer and respond to current ones. Furthermore, you get new people entering the chat room and interrupting the flow and trains of thought.
Well, such was the case tonight during a chat I participated in at the MadChinaman's (a.k.a., Jeff Lee) Yahoo club. The subject was the state of Asian American music. Principals included Phil Kim (N'Soul Records), Isaac Liu (Bay area hip hop production), and Tony Kwon (?) (hip hop activist)... One of the useful ideas to arise from the discussion was idea that Asian American filmmakers might be interested in using works by Asian American musicians.
30 June - At a church-owned meeting hall in Severna Park, Md., I heard hapa Teresa Hayden perform several songs as part of a CD-release recital. I only stayed for about half of the acts. It seemed everyone, besides T.H. were bands performing varieties of a certain style of rock. (No bluesiness.) Hayden sang with a strong voice, accompanying herself on keyboard. Unfortunately, her songs were not well developed, although she did exploit some interesting settings on the keyboard which generated sequences of notes.
1 July 2001 - I caught the end of a performance by two members of Music from China at the Smithsonian's annual Folklife Festival on the Mall in DC. Susan Cheng played the hammered dulcimer (yang chin) and Wang Guowei alternated between 2-stringed, Chinese fiddles (hu-chin) of slightly different sizes.
They were followed by a traditional Albanian band from New York. (The band members are originally from Albania and Kosovo.) They got a boisterous response from the audience. (No doubt, many were fellow expatriates.)
15 July - At Baltimore's arts festival, Artscape, I saw a local (DC?) Cambodian music ensemble, Mohori, perform on traditional instruments. Their music seemed very sedate and quaint.
After they finished, I walked to another stage, and heard a bit of playing by a contemporary group called, Touching Grace. This seems to be local sitarist, Jay Kishor's latest endeavor. He was backed by flute, electric bass, and (electric) drums. He seemed to have amplified and modified his sitar sound, probably attaching a pickup to it that connected to the sound processing box lying beside him. I'm afraid all these potential enhancements did little to hide the inertness of the music.
I decided to leave the music for a book reading. In a small indoor auditorium, near the stage, the literature program was going on. The reading I attended was by local author (and math professor) Manil Suri. His novel, The Death of Vishnu, seems to have garnered favorable critical attention over the past year. It has also attracted the attention of a musician in Flanders (Belgium), who specializes in synthesizing Indian (both Hindustani and Carnatic) and Western instruments into an ensemble called, Rajhan's Orchestra.
Suri said he'd been informed by the orchestra leader that the latter had composed a 3-part piece based on the novel.
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