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Back to Sequenza21
Saturday, January 21, 2006

Yesterday's discussion about Golijov and the mention of Gaddis got me thinking about who I, and others, consider the best unknown contemporary author, Donald Harington. With is simply one of the most accomplished, complex, straightforward, generous, spiritual, and lovely novels I've ever read. I have literally worn out two copies loaning it to friends, all of whom have adored the novel, some of them English teachers I had at Georgetown, and one of them, who delights in finding some flaw in a novel that spoils the whole, totally succumbed to the book. It's that good.

What I find intriguing about Harington is the utter ease he has in using postmodern techniques - magical realism, metafictive dialogue with the reader, multiple narrators, displayed scaffolding - to invite an intimacy with the reader. So often in pomo, frustrating the reader's apprehension of reality is a theme unto itself, and yet in Harington the reader is invited - and "invited" is a key word in Harington - to see the gears and joists and widgets that undergird contemporary postmodern culture, not to overcome them or subjugate them or even comprehend them but to understand, at least a little comfortably if wobbily, one's place and stake in the world. Unlike many pomos, Harington doesn't believe you have to confront complexity with either impenetrability or forlorn chaos to tenuously apprehend and portray the world, and this artistic generosity reflects, I hope and believe, a generosity in the author himself.

That the novels are set in the fictional Ozark town of Stay More Arkansas, many of them in decades past, and are peopled by plain folk who speak in plain talk, is a major part of the charm of the project. The novels are all related to each other and yet each distinct and separate. The first one I read, The Choiring of the Trees is perhaps the most somber, and after With I'd recommend The Archetecture of the Arkansas Ozarks, which serves as the backbone from which the other novels spin. All are wonderful. Start with With.


Via All Things Considered, two audio articles of note. First, Bebo Valdez. Second, cellist Matt Haimovitz has a new album out. The article tease claims that the album "touches on an ongoing debate about the future of classical music." And I must admit I'm intrigued by what snippets I heard in the article. And I love the cello. Anyone suggest other cellists and/or particular pieces for cello I should hear?

An article in today's Salon on Osvaldo Golijov, calling him "the best kept secret in contemporary music." I'm listening to his Passion According to St Mark now for the second time (it's on the Georgetown server: I posted how to get to it here), and I like very much. I had never heard of him, which is no surprise, and I'm curious what others think.

So, "best kept secret?" The phrase implies intent (as opposed to "best least known" or "best composer no one's heard"). If the contemporary classical world is like the rock world, it is extremely difficult for Latin American artists in general and South American artists in particular (especially outside of Brazil) to get a hearing in the US. (I posted some songs by an Argentine artist, Juana Molina, here.) What other South American composers should I know about? And is Golijov's relative obscurity more about where he's from than what's he's writing?


Pardon my absense. I work at Georgetown University, and nothing compares to the slogginess of turning over semesters. We have an thirteen year old exchange student from Peru in the house via my daughter's school. A cat is dying, relatively comfortably, slowly. DC United released Dema Kovalenko, a necessary but necessarily sad move. Our government, dishonest in its run-up to a unwarranted war, is preparing its dishonesty for a run-up to what may or may not prove to be a warranted war, though how will we know and who can we believe. Vandals smashed the rear window of my Matrix.

So. I've read there was a generally civil dust-up catalyzed by a posting on Rufus Wainwright, a musician whose music I admire more the earlier it was released. I don't Want Three. Since I don't presume to write about the theory behind the music that interests me to professional musicians and composers, I denied myself the pleasure of indulging in haloscanning - well, not totally, this addict admits - and pondered whether, behind the very real cover of real life's insistent demands for my attention, to continue here. Ultimately, I ask myself, am I having fun? On I go.

Some quick news and items:

Built to Spill and !!! Sonic Youth !!! have albums scheduled for release this year according to Pitchfork.

David Little and his band, The Motion Sick, was Spin's Band of the Day. Check out the Spin link before they change it. Free listens at the band's homepage. Good stuff.

An interesting article in today's New York Times about one Scott Storch, who makes $80,000 to $90,000 per song producing music for the Beyonces and - soon to come - Paris Hiltons of the world. Perhaps some don't need reminding of how that aspect of the business works, but I find it ickily fascinating. There's no mention in the article if Scott is the son of Larry Storch from F-Troop.

I've got tickets to see Chuck Prophet in February, the Royal Philharmonic play Britten and Khatchaturian and Tchaikovsky in March, and I've an offer to see Cyro Baptista with Beat the Donkey. I'd have to rearrange something of relative (pun intended) importance. Worth the grief?

And, a song by South Ambulance, whose sound reminds me of Ride and Kitchens of Distinction walloped upside the head with the harmonies stick of The Beach Boys. No more serious than fun.