Read & Listen: White Bicycles

The first in an occasional series in which we pair reviews of music criticism/history books with a list of accompanying albums for your reading and listening pleasure.

READ: Walking off the baseball field of his Connecticut prep school one evening in the late 1950s, Joe Boyd heard the strains of the most recent Fats Domino single and was struck by the sudden realization that he wanted to be a record producer. This epiphany led Boyd down a long and twisting career path in which he discovered some of the most gifted musicians of the 1960s and helped create ground-breaking music that still enthralls listeners today. In White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, Boyd gives a clear-eyed and captivating account of his experiences making music in this tumultuous decade on both sides of the Atlantic. Want to know what really happened when Dylan went electric at Newport in 1965? Or experience the sounds, smells & sights of swinging psychedelic London at its peak in 1967? Perhaps you’re curious about what it was like that day in the studio when Richard Thompson met Nick Drake. Read this book and find the answers to these questions, plus the story of the Blues & Gospel Caravan’s triumphant tour of Europe in 1964, the Incredible String Band’s adventures in Scientology, Pink Floyd’s rapid ascent from the London underground to the pop Continue reading “Read & Listen: White Bicycles”

Sound Before Our Eyes

Researchers have found a song recorded before Edison’s phonograph.

A Frenchman used a phonautograph [a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back] on April 9, 1860. The song is 10 seconds of a crooner singing “Au Clair de la Lune.” Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville went to his grave convinced that Edison had usurped his aural breakthroughs.  Using computers, an American team was able to play the recording of a anonymous vocalist singing over a “lilting 11-note melody.”

Interpretating sound in a different unusual way is also the subject matter of documentary Touch the Sound. German documentarian Thomas Riedelsheimer focuses upon the nearly-deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie and her perceptions of sound.  Evelyn teaches that sound is about touch. A bonus of the feature is an improvisational recording with the musician Fred Frith. By confronting our assumptions of the deaf, the viewer can reach a deeper awareness of a world of sounds.   ~ David P.

Shakespeare Lives!

image-from-shakespeare-behind-barsIt is easy to take Will Shakespeare for granted.  So established is he in the cultural and academic pantheons that even the frequent attempts to update or “jazz up” the plays feel time-honored and traditional.  Two recent movies provide a nice antidote to the standard bardolatry, reminding us just why he is truly immortal. Hank Rogerson’s Shakespeare Behind Bars observes a troupe of hardened criminals grappling with iambic pentameter and inner demons, and Mel Stuart’s The Hobart Shakespeareans takes a similar journey with inner-city youth in L.A.  Even those with an innate aversion to jerkins and tights, thees and thous, image-of-the-hobart-shakespeareanswill be moved by these films, and by how the truths embedded in Shakespeare’s plays provide inspiration and comfort for those in desperate need of a way to make sense of life, and to endure the slings and arrows that fate has sent their way.  Bob Smith’s deeply personal memoir, Hamlet’s Dresser, has a similar feel, showing how Shakespeare’s generous and humane spirit helped the author cope with his own difficult childhood, ultimately inspiring him to share his love for the plays by conducting Shakespeare workshops with a group of seniors in Manhattan, and to work well outside the limelight, dressing performers backstage at the American Shakespeare festival in Stratford. (Oh, he could tell you some stories! And he does).

Just for fans of Sex and the City …

All the hype around Carrie Bradshaw and Big hitting the big screen is giving me happy flashbacks to those weekly Sex and the City get togethers — 30 minutes with the TV and another two hours gabbing and laughing with friends. Sure, reruns are on almost every night of the week (or you can reserve the DVDs at the Library), but I seem to need more than that. What will fill that void after I see the movie? A book, perhaps? Here are a few novels I think Sex and the City fans might like; it’s a list for those of us who know it’s more than just the shoesbook cover of how to be single

How to Be Single by Liz Tuccilllo
Julie Jensen embarks on a tour around the world (France! Bali!) to research a book on single women’s experiences in other cultures, while her friends in New York deal with their own singledom. Tuccillo wrote the nonfiction book He’s Just Not That into You and worked on HBO’s Sex and the City.

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisenberger Continue reading “Just for fans of Sex and the City …”

Read a Movie, See a Book

Image of DVD A Love Song for Bobby Long“See what it is invisible and you will see what to write. That’s how Bobby used to put it. It was the invisible people he wanted to live with. The ones that we walk past everyday, the ones we sometimes become. The ones in books who live only in someones mind’s eye.”

A Love Song for Bobby Long was originally released in 2004, and is to me one of the most overlooked films in our collection. Its screenplay is based on the novel Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capps. Also featured throughout the movie are quotes from some of our most famous writers, and it is filled with themes from the book The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. It’s a movie inundated with the love of literature.

The movie takes place in the heart of New Orleans where both beauty Continue reading “Read a Movie, See a Book”