Chile Rising

I follow Estudiantes Informados (Informed Students) on Facebook, and earlier today they posted this video, created by Fault Lines, an English language news source from the Middle East. It beautifully describes the education conflict in Chile that I experienced, synthesizing facts, the history of Chile’s politics since the coup d’etat on September 11th, 1973, and interviews with leaders in both arenas.

The video opens with marchers playing a simple rhythm on metal fencing, an infectious pattern that became familiar while walking through Valparaíso in the middle of the day.

A group of parents and adults banging pots and pans in front of each red light.

Students, teachers, taxpayers; in small huddles or large masses; all would chant and cheer and this rhythm was the heartbeat of their collective energy.

Outside of the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso.

Lemons - to reduce the effects of tear gas.

At the end of the video, you hear the song “Shock” by singer Ana Tijoux. I’ve posted and translated the lyrics at the end of this post. The song is centered around the idea of the Shock Doctrine, a term coined by author and journalist Naomi Klein in her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

A “Shock Doctrine” is the employment of economist Milton Friedman’s free market economic plan during times of great turmoil and upheaval. This is what was referred to in the Fault Lines video when the Chicago Boys were sent from Chile to study economics with Friedman in the 1970s, and employ his Regean-era policies in the fresh dictatorship.

(Haz clic acá para leer las letras en español.)

Chorus:
Your monologues are poison,
Your discussions colorless,
You don’t see that we’re not alone.
Thousands pole to pole!

At the sound of one choir,
We will march to the tune,
To the conviction, “stop the robbery!”

Your state of control,
Your rotten throne of gold,
Your politics and your wealth,
And your treasure, no.

The hour sounded, the hour sounded.
We won’t permit any more, any more of your Shock Doctrine.

The hour sounded, the hour sounded. (x4)

Verse:
No countries, only corporations
That have more, more action,
Fat slices, powerful decisions by the few.

Pinochetist constitution,
Opus dei rights, Fascist books.
Coup supporter dressed by an elitist pardon.
Drop the drops, drop the purse,
The takeover takes the broken machine.
The street won’t quiet, the street is scratched,
The street isn’t quiet, debate that explodes.

Everything leaves, everything’s sold,
Everything profits life and death,
Everything’s business, like you,
Seeds, Pascuala, methods, and choirs.

(Chorus)

Coup to coup, kiss to kiss.
With desire and breath,
With ashes, with fire,
From the present with remembrance,
With certainty and with bleeding,
With a clear objective,
With memory and with history,
The future is now!

This whole test tube,
This whole laboratory every day,
All of this failure, all of this economic model
Doomed like the dinosaur.

Everything’s criminalized,
Everything’s justified in the news,
Everything leaves, everything’s trampled,
Everything’s filed and classified.

But… your politics and tactics,
Your typical laugh and ethnicity,
Your manipulated communication,
How many were those that were silenced?

Cops, water tanks, and nightsticks,
Cops, water tanks, and tuna,
Cops, water tanks don’t add up.
How many were those that robbed the fortunes?

Chorus


Happy Hump Day!

Thought I would bring you more music away from the weekend, to brighten your long week (or darken it, whatever kind of person you are).

This is an Argentian group called Bersuit Vergarabat, performing the politically-heated song Sr. Cabranza, from 1998. The chorus goes, “En la selva se escuchan tiros. Son las armas de los pobres, son los gritos de Latino,” which means, “In the jungle, shots are heard. They’re the firearms of the poor and the cries of Latino.” He talks about the problems with government generalizations and those stuck in drug trafficking, in a nutshell.

Next up is Moby (back to ‘Merrica, y’all), an electronica artist. This is such a great song, and I’m happy when it’s stuck in my head. Fun fact: He chose the stage name “Moby” after the novel Moby Dick, because supposedly the author Herman Melville is his great-great-great-granduncle.

Happy Weekend! Los Tres

¡Feliz Fin de Semana!

Enjoy this bit of Chilean music by Los Tres. They were formed in the late 80’s and are considered one of the most influential bands of rock chileno since the 90s. My brief explanation is not worth much, but I encourage you to look into them if you enjoy it!

Quien es la que viene allí — “Who goes there”

Their music videos are pretty great as well.

La Torre de Babel

Happy Weekend! Tall Men and Wailin’ Women

I once heard a musician say that a lot of folk dribbles into the music of Minnesota. I, a homegrown Minnesotan no less, have taken notice of the dribble and its satisfying sound. The voices of musicians and their guitars, like a thick powder, fell from the small radio in the corner of the kitchen while dinner was being cooked on Saturday nights both dreary and sunlit. I’ll spare more words so you can hear more music.

The Tallest Man on Earth, a soloist originally from Sweden. I will always practice my instruments, listen to others, and try to sing, so that one day, maybe, I will be as tall as he is.

This is a recording of the Wailin’ Jennys, a female trio, as they sing in Portland, Oregon. As pure as music comes.

Steve Reich: “the restless search of exploring new ground”

See this article in Deceptive Cadence via NPR.

There is no reason to think that creativity and musicianship is dying. Composers still composes, perform, premier, and scandalize. Enjoy.

Steve Reich At (Nearly) 75

by ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS

Steve Reich takes a bow at his 75th birthday concert at Carnegie Hall alongside members of the Kronos Quartet and So Percussion.

Steve Reich takes a bow at his 75th birthday concert at Carnegie Hall alongside members of the Kronos Quartet and So Percussion.

This October, composer Steve Reich is turning 75 — an age that for many other artists, especially ones as widely adored as Reich, wouldn’t be marked by much more than a few valedictory laps. Instead, he continues to make innovative music and is still one of the most important and influential voices of our era.

That fact became vivid reality this past Saturday evening at Carnegie Hall, when Reich was feted with a concert that was not at all a retrospective. Instead, it was comprised entirely of works Reich has written only within the last four years, performed by artists who have become Reich colleagues as well as fans: the Kronos Quartet, longstanding partners of Reich, all the way back to 1988’s Different Trains; the downtown denizens of Bang on a Can; So Percussion; and the sextet eighth blackbird.

As much as any other contemporary composer, Reich has become an icon to mainstream music fans and musicians like Thurston Moore or Sufjan Stevens. At the same time, though, a number of audience members stalked out of Carnegie angrily mid-concert. Here’s a composer who still wields the power to infuriate some, just as he did when his Four Organs was booed at Boston’s Symphony Hall 40 years ago.

Idol though Reich is, however, his music of the past few years has posed more questions than answers — and maybe that’s exactly what makes his voice so relevant in our own age of anxiety.

The early birthday celebration began with Reich’s Mallet Quartet, a piece for two vibraphones and two marimbas. As with Reich’s previous music for percussion, I’ve been drawn to the nearly pointillistic quality of the rhythmic play, as you can hear in this performance by So Percussion:

So Percussion plays Reich’s Mallet Quartet.
Source: YouTube

But the acoustics of Carnegie Hall revealed other qualities in this piece entirely. The slow middle section — a meditation on space and stillness — offers a real contrast to the kineticism of so much else of Reich’s work. The warm, low woods of the marimbas played in canon against the ringing of the vibes, which in the resonance of Carnegie’s Isaac Stern Auditorium pealed as brightly as church bells.

WTC 9/11: A piece that Reich calls addressing “unfinished business” — the business, perhaps, of being human, of struggling mightily through personal and communal loss. Unlike, say, John Adams‘ On the Transmigration of Souls — a piece written in the year following 9/11, and which movingly memorializes the astonishing toll of lives lost and lives shattered — Reich’s WTC 9/11 distills the existential issues of the past decade: What is to come now?

The Kronos Quartet plays Steve Reich's 'WTC 9/11.'l

The Kronos Quartet plays Steve Reich’s ‘WTC 9/11.’

Reich’s piece crystallizes some of the anxiety and searching that characterized not just the chaos and pain of the attack and its immediate aftermath, but the great unknowns that have characterized the last decade for all of us, last night’s Osama bin Laden news notwithstanding.

WTC 9/11 weaves in the voices of NORAD workers and NYFD firefighters as well as interviews with some of those who, like Reich himself and his family, lived and worked in the shadows of the Twin Towers. (Reich and his wife, video artist, Beryl Korot, were in Vermont on September 11th, but their son, granddaughter, and daughter-in-law were at Reich and Korot’s apartment four blocks away from the WTC on that dazzlingly bright September morning.)

In WTC 9/11, Reich returns to a form that he has long used so effectively in such pieces as It’s Gonna Rain and Different Train,blending recorded and manipulated speech with music. One of the most effective instants of Reich’s textual interlaying of spoken word and music comes in the moment we hear a man, recorded eight years after 9/11, recounting the day. His voice strained and tight with emotion, he says, “It was chaos,” against frantic, harrowing close intervals played by the strings rubbing up against each other. We can hear the anxiety in the man’s voice as he relives that terrible day; the experience is still so close and real — both to him, and to us.

Reich opens up a second meaning of the initials “WTC,” as the World to Come. He draws in the voices of some of those who attended to the Jewish obligation of shmira in the days after 9/11: sitting near the bodies of victims before their burial, reciting and singing Psalms and other Biblical passages ceaselessly. In Reich’s treatment, shmira is almost is an act of willing a new reality into being, though none of us is sure what actually is to be: “The world to come,” as one of Reich’s interviewees muses, “I don’t really know what that means.”

The second half of the concert opened up another channel of Reich’s output, one that again belies any hoary Grand Elder Statesman aura. The piece 2X5 places two quintets of electric bass, piano, drums, and two electric guitars against each other; its world premiere in 2008 fixed Kraftwerk up with some of the Bang on a Can musicians.

There’s often a lot of talk about how Reich marries classical paradigms to pop and rock aesthetics. Some of that crossover is quite real — one of the musicians playing in this performance of 2X5 was Bryce Dressner from The National, and another was Mark Stewart, who on other nights directs Paul Simon‘s band; a third was Glenn Kotche of Wilco.

In pieces like 2X5, however, you hear Reich using the musculature of the electric guitar in a very different context than most rock or pop artists. It’s in the service of techniques like hocketing, the “hiccuping” effect of instruments trading playing and silence to create one bigger musical line. The result is ten musicians bobbing up and down and swaying together that might, in high-handed terms, be called a joyous communion; in simpler terms, it’s ten artists just totally rocking out.

The Carnegie Hall concert ended with Reich’s Double Sextet, which earned the composer a Pulitzer Prize in 2009. Written in 2007 for eighth blackbird (who originally played against a recordings of themselves, but here faced Bang on a Can musicians), Double Sextet is a tightly coiled thing that positively vibrates with an inner energy, yet has lyricism at its core, and a sense of space and line thanks to harmonies that constantly shift and are reshuffled within a larger form. Such lacunae and harmonic movements are rather new in Reich’s music, but that’s such a large part of the pleasure of his recent work, the restless search of exploring new ground.