Penderecki's Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima

Posted by Whitmore, August 6, 2009 08:15am | Post a Comment
Taking third prize at the prestigious Grzegorz Fitelberg Composers' Competition in 1960, Krzysztof Penderecki burst onto the international scene with Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, scored for 52 string instruments. One of the most harrowing pieces of music ever conceived, Threnody is unforgiving and brutal, horrifying and captivating, solemn and catastrophic.
Its atmospheric dissonance engulfs the listener with tone clusters that are piercing and shrieking at an orchestra’s highest register. Originally entitled 8'37”, Threnody’s score is unorthodox and mostly symbol-based, directing the musicians to play at various vague points on their instruments or to focus on textural effects and extended techniques, like playing on the wrong side of the bridge or slapping the instrument percussively. The piece includes an invisible canon in 36 voices and an overall musical texture that is more important than any individual note. Penderecki sought to heighten the dissonant element of the piece by composing in quarter tones -- hypertonality -- creating a greater reaching elegiac mood than could be found in traditional tonality.

Retribution 叫 sakebi (2006) dir. by 黒沢 清 Kurosawa Kiyoshi -- Touching From a Distance

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 2, 2008 09:33pm | Post a Comment

A grizzled police detective named Yoshioka investigates a murder in a muddy waterfront in Tokyo. The victim, although drowned in a puddle, has lungs full of saltwater. As Yoshioka investigates, all of the clues all seem to point to the him.  In the process, he grows more unhinged and defensive whilst troublingly remaining unable to write himself off as a suspect. His violent, murky memories seem to implicate him as well, and he suffers from insomnia and possible hallucinations.

Soon afterward, more killings occur with the same under similar circumstances. Yet they're easily explained and, in doing so, fail to exonerate Yoshioka in the first case. Kurosawa uses twists and turns not merely to keep the audience guessing about the true nature of the crime, but also to take the viewer somewhere unexpected-- into a feeling of loneliness and a state of guilt about ignoring the plight of others because of our collective societal embrace of insensitivity and deliberate emotional isolation.

Although the cover of Lion's Gate's DVD suggests that the film is merely another "scary hair" ghost story (and in some ways it is), it's mainly an atmospheric mood piece that has more in common with Antonioni and his ilk than horror directors. The title, Sakebi, literally means "Scream," which makes a lot more sense than the English translation of "Retribution," which seems chosen to mislead potential viewers into more false expectations. Anyone expecting horrifying vengeful ghosts will likely be disappointed by the glacially paced and contemplative film, although there are (mostly startling) moments of horror.

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The Latest News from the Wild Kingdom

Posted by Whitmore, May 1, 2008 08:41pm | Post a Comment

I seem to be writing animal obits on a regular basis, I have no idea why, but here is the latest news from the wild kingdom: Japan's oldest Giant Panda, Ling Ling, a favorite at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo, died last week. Ling Ling was 22 years and seven months old, the equivalent to about 70 in human years. According to the autopsy, he died of heart failure. He began losing his appetite and strength last August, but recent heart and kidney problems began to take their toll. Ling Ling died just one day after the zoo withdrew him from public view for veterinary treatment. He was the fifth-oldest known male panda in the world.

Born at China's Beijing Zoo in September, 1985, Ling Ling came to Tokyo in 1992 initially for breeding purposes. Since then he had become one of the most popular attractions at the Ueno Zoo. He was also the only Giant Panda at Tokyo’s largest zoo. In recent years Ling Ling traveled to Mexico three times in an effort to mate, but each attempt, like the attempts in Japan, were unsuccessful.

Over the last week Ling Ling's portrait has been displayed in his cage as visitors come to mourn, leaving bouquets, condolences and offerings of bamboo shoots. Giant pandas are one of the rarest and most endangered species on the planet. Only about 1,600 live in the wild in China, mostly on nature reserves in their native mountains and bamboo forests of the Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces.

May Is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 28, 2008 04:19pm | Post a Comment

Even in a multicultural, polyglot city like Los Angeles (which has the largest population of Asian-Americans (1.4 million) in the country and where the percentage of the population which is Asian-American is roughly twice that which is black) most discussions of race appear continue to be framed in the outmoded, bipolar terms of  black and white.  For example, whereas a lot of people and many organizations honor Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is by comparison almost completely unrecognized except by some Asian-American organization and individuals.

The centuries-long struggle and strife of blacks in America is well-documented and worth honoring -- many have suggested that Black Americans invented the Civil Rights Movement (some Native Americans might take issue with that). Asians, like other non-whites, have also been subjected to legal segregation, racist violence, widespread discrimination and harassment. So why is it that the Asian-American experience is so... obscure? I hadn't even heard of its existence until I was hipped to it by reknowned Asian-American rights activist, Ngoc-thu Thi Nguyen.


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Obi 2

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, March 31, 2008 11:25pm | Post a Comment
Main Entry:
: a broad sash worn especially with a Japanese kimono

OK, part 2 of our trip through Obiland begins with a Boston classic, along with its promo sticker sheet...

A trio of 80's classics. I'm sorry, but Pete Burns was always scary...

This Al Kooper Obi was used in a series of albums related to him via production and such...

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