Spring break arrives in a week. Boy, did I pick—by pure accident—a good weekend to head for New York. There’s a Kiarostami retrospective at MoMA, and next weekend they’re doing exactly everything I haven’t seen by him—his shorts, dating all the way back to the early 70’s. I hope to take in a half dozen screenings.
Also, there’s an Imamura series at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Cinematheque, and I’m seeing two I’ve been hunting for years: Pigs and Battleships and The Insect Woman. Back at MoMA there’s an Ernie Gehr/Michael Snow program with Still, another film I’ve long heard about but never managed to see. And finally, there’s Inland Empire to (finally) catch up with. At three or four films a day, it’ll be like a film festival.
So, if you have recommendations for other unmissable New York events—films, art exhibits, music—that weekend (of March 9), I’d love to hear about them even if my schedule is rapidly filling up with movies….
Here's a specific dance-pop arranging device I love: twin electric rhythm guitars in interplay, and placed at extremities—hard left and hard right—in the stereo field.
Rita Coolidge’s disco-era hit “You” [mp3] (1978) is a good example. (Coolidge, who was married to Kris Kristofferson, was a folkie and soft-rocker whose sound got more dance- and pop-oriented as the 70’s wore on.) On the verse to the song, one guitar (left) spins rhythmic single-note melody-lines while the other (right) counterpoints with straight, terse chords. On the break (1:40), they ingeniously reverse roles, and invent new parts for themselves. On the choruses, they both chord, but play contrasting figures, and never get in each other’s way.
Madonna’s “Holiday” [mp3], on her terrific, epochal 1983 debut record, uses the same idea, e.g. at 1:33. On the right, we hear brief metallic bursts of melody figures parry against funk-style chording on the left. The two parts intertwine and interact, but also leave lots of space for each other. This version of “Holiday” is off The Immaculate Collection (1990), not the debut album, and is a bit different: the arrangements are slightly (almost sneakily) more elaborate, and the individual instrumental tracks have been tweaked and boosted. I’m normally a bit suspicious of such revisionist attempts at ‘erasure’ of original versions but not here because, let’s face it—there’s absolutely no danger of her debut record ever going out of print, is there?
My favorite tune off that record, “Burnin’ Up” [mp3] also uses a two-guitar sound but very differently. The two guitar parts are: (1) a fire-breathing snarl (so apropos!—given the boiling sexual urgency which is the song’s subject); and (2) a shimmery high-frequency glow of harmonics. You hear both of these in the song's first 15 seconds; all through, they don’t counterpoint each other but instead take turns, calling and responding.
Sonic Youth’s experimental alter-ego Ciccone Youth—named for Madonna—released a weird and wonderful record called The Whitey Album in 1988. (Many of my fellow SY-loving friends think of this record as a self-indulgent ‘wank job’ but I must admit that it had a serious effect on my young and innocent ears at the time; it was the first ‘experimental’ rock record that I truly, viscerally, connected with.) From it, here’s a lo-fi cover of “Burnin’ Up” [mp3] sung, bear-like, by Mike Watt (ex-Minutemen). Legend has it that he phoned in the vocal—literally!—into an answering machine and the recording certainly sounds like it was made on a simple four-track deck. An interesting experiment but no serious threat to Madonna’s original.
I’m getting ready to place my first order with Superhappyfun. I first learned about them through a Jonathan Rosenbaum article in Cinema-scope. Here’s my order list: a gang of Melville (La Silence de la Mer; Les Enfants Terribles; Deux hommes dans Manhattan; Le Deuxième Souffle); a couple of Masumuras (A False Student; A Wife Confesses); Nick Ray (Run for Cover); Edward Yang (A Brighter Summer Day—the long version); and Imamura (Eijanaika).
See any obscure gems you’d recommend I add to my order list…?