Sunday, May 28. 2006
i'm trying to squeeze as much of avignon as i can into the little time remaining. something i've done a bunch here is going to see classical music. i was dabbling with it some in portland before i left, but it feels really natural here. maybe it's living next to the bourgeois ladies. probably moreso the ancient european setting. the same thing wouldn't feel the same in portland so i have to get it out of my system now.
i was raised in the public school music program, so i had a little history to go on. mostly it counted for getting my ears prepped to receive the music some time in the future. i'm actually paying attention to it now, and learning what i like and hate. interesting to see what's changed over time. it's nice to focus on the traditional aspects of composition and performance for a change. stuff my ears haven't been excercised in in a long time. you have to listen for different things and you can hold everyone to much higher standards in a lot of areas (and relax them in some others).
i'm really jazzed on art that can't be done properly unless you've been at it for thirty years. material that you need to have spent lots of time with to get inside, performed by people who have decades of emotional maturity and philosophical development behind them. i guess part of it reflects an ongoing crisis with programming, a general annoyance with the cult of the New Idea, and the desire for good workmanship (which usually falls by the wayside when New Ideas take precedence).
so anyways, brahms' "a german requiem" with two pianists and a choir was saturday night. sunday day was a last run through the calvet museum, which is painting and some sculpture from the 15th to 19th centuries (including the best joke romantic painting i've ever seen*). sunday evening was a string trio alternating with pipe organ doing a mix of bach and mozart in avignon's snazziest church. boy, that's enough for me for a while. i had to come home and play some 30 second long punk songs to clear my mind.
*long setup: joseph vernet was a famous local painter known for his romantic period canvases of epic scenes of nature destroying man. our street, the same one the calvet museum is on, is named after him. his son took up his father's style and has a large scene of a small sailboat getting tossed around in a pounding sea, about to founder on the rocks. very menacing. there's a couple people on board: one guy at the tiller losing his hat in the gale, a bare-bosomed woman just looking wretched, and a dude with a small notepad and brush tied to the mast. the title reads "joseph vernet studying firsthand the effects of nature." hah!
Tuesday, February 7. 2006
i'm getting a little behind here. so many great stories stored up, but january's been a busy month. let's start at the start - 1 janvier 2006, 0h00!
backstory: i've had some good new year's eves. i had a string of them over a decade ago (ugh, that long?) that got me to appreciate the holiday. it's a rolling global party! miss thinks i have a special connection to it and is a little leery of the nostalgia i have sometimes. but really it's nothing mystical.
the last couple have been of the wrong kind of silliness. some growing pains (sorry about the furniture, travis) and some misplaced bad energy at times. this year i was definitely not excited for it. i was in a winter funk, feeling very introverted and not of the necessary gregarity.
we'd had a club recommended to us a while ago. from what we heard (and were able to understand) le délirium was decorated with secondhand furniture, no two chairs alike, had lots of couches and cushions, was dimly lit, and regularly had live gypsy music. this was in direct contrast to (what corey's well described as) most french bars, which are overly-lit standing room only places for people to smoke heavily, drink bad french beer and watch television.
live gypsy music? that strikes a deep chord. when i was in high school, the family went into Boston for First Night one year. aside from the big red plastic horn i bought (*bad* thing to give to a trumpet player that knows how to use it), the highlight was stumbling on a klezmer concert. an "i had no idea music could be like this" moment. fantastic. and i've been a fan of the movie/soundtrack latcho drom and the director emir kusturica for a long time. to an uncultured american like me, they're all operating in roughly the same sonic and emotional territory. fiery passionate rooted colors.
so that's kind of a draw. but i don't have anything to wear. i brought only like four short sleeve shirts hoping to get some french swag when i arrived, but never did. a last minute shopping run doesn't net anything but frustration. so now i'm going to stand out even more in a fancy crowd. and reservations were recommended, but i was too nervous to call and make them. ugh.
i was all set to stay in, call it a night, and fall alseep before the embarassment of being lame at exactly midnight could hit. luckily, missy was in no mood for that. she had her good lipstick on already, and i learned long ago that that represents an unstoppable force. so out the door we go.
délirium is down a side alley, through an improbable door, up strange steps, down a dark hallway, and into a short line. peering through the door crack i can see folks in their 50's in tuxes and gowns, a well-stocked hors d'oeuvres table, and champagne glasses everywhere. a bouncer type peers out and announces something to the line. something about cards. oh, you're supposed to be a card-carrying member. 6'4" and american is the wrong size for right now.
well, missy's in charge and so we make it to the door, where a nice woman takes our names, (cash), and issues us cards and drink tickets for free champagne. ?? it worked!
it's nowhere near as nice as in the picture. it's not all tuxes. it's all ages (i mean from age five to 75). and most of the snacks are gone already. and it's comfortable! bianca's very much at home here. missy's not as content as i am to stand in the back corner, so she finds two cushions right up by the stage while i get our champagne.
one of my favorite games is to imagine the possibilities of the instruments on a stage waiting for the musicians to arrive. on this one there's three accordions, some with pieces off of them, a mandolin, classical guitar, a small jazz-style drum kit, and a tuba with a mic duct-tape-suspended in the bell. outstanding!
the night is billed as a cabaret. throughout the evening the attention shifts between dancers, various musical groups, projection, and jugglers. i almost don't want to call them jugglers. it's not the same activity as in even the best circuses, in the way that playing fiddle and playing classical violin are not the same. different art forms entirely. it's as much modern dance as brute mechanics. it actually made me question whether mimes might be equally misunderstood.
the music is wonderful. powerful dark dissonant uplifting stuff. the main band, est à l'ouest, plays tzigane (gypsy) flavors in the jazz format of head, solos, head, with lots of great wandering in the middle. the mandolin player encourages miss to dance, but there are enough tipsy couples doing just that in the small space, knocking over champagne flutes with flying hems.
i couldn't be happier. it's not the kind of place i could ever hope to stumble on, or even guess about the existence of. what a gift. when the countdown happens, it's rushed, disorderly, and almost an intrusion into the evening. but quick as it appears, the music flows back in after it, returning us to the unreality and time suspension that lasts for a few more hours, until the transition to the new year is smoothed permanent.
Friday, September 30. 2005
this morning we got into our place, but for only an hour while the electric man came to turn on the power and the realtor did the inspection. i see for the first time, under light, that the bathroom is a pretty beat. years of grime have found their way deep into the grout work of the little pink tiles, in fact, it's seems that under light there is dirt cakes on all the tiles in the house. and in the toilet room (the bathroom and wc are often in separate rooms here; this is a good thing for us), well, there is a rusty patina etched so strongly in the bowl as if someone dropped a bunch of pennies in there decades ago and they decayed in there. this dampened my enthusiasm for the place somewhat, i must admit. were we too hasty? are we paying too much?
tonight we saw a debussy & shostakovitch quartet at the chapelle des pénitents blancs (church of guilty white people?). though everyone but us was decked up and over 60, it was only 6 euros (we claimed the student rate) to get in. seth enjoyed himself immensely, but while i found the musicians to be amazing, and the chapel a perfect venue for the quartet, the music's dichromatic tones gave me anxiety and i left needing therapy.
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short accounts by missy and seth, at least tangentially relating to life in avignon, france.