Good Listening: Speaking of Faith

One of my favorite podcasts is Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett from American Public Media. Next month the show's name becomes "Krista Tippett on Being" -- and it sounds like Krista has more good shows planned. This summer, my favorite was her interview with Shane Claiborne, a 30-something social activist you can read about in Esquire magazine accessible in General Reference Center Gold.

Melody Non-Pareil

On a cold January night in Koln, Germany, 1975, jazz pianist Keith Jarrett sat alone on stage before a baby grand piano, with a rapt audience filling the Koln Opera House seats. Non-classical music had rarely been played within the Opera House's utilitarian walls, but this wasn't the only ground-breaking the pianist would accomplish this evening. What became The Koln Concert was the beginning of something much greater.

Jazz-rock fusion had taken over the jazz scene in the '70s after the success of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and the popular Weather Report albums. Jarrett himself was a part of Miles' fusion bands, but after leaving the band, he began forging a new sound, which was more closely tied to the acoustic and melodic roots of jazz, and this concert signaled the re-birth of that sound. Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, and other contemporary jazz performers owe much to Jarrett's return to melody to allow for their success.

Jarrett entered this performance with a few chord progressions in mind, but everything else was improvised. You can hear him playing one melody, then reshaping it, inverting it, and refining it into a line so beautiful you'd swear he spent years writing it. The styles he mines here flow from swing to pop to bebop so effortlessly that it's as much an homage to jazz as it is an original piece.

The album is broken into three parts: Part I, Part II, and encore. Throughout, you can hear Jarrett humming along with the melodies as he invents them, vocally expressing his excitement amidst a line, and pounding out the rhythms on the frame of the piano, all of which add to the sheer joy of this recording. As the bestselling solo jazz recording of all time, this is no secret, but for those who haven't heard it yet, it's an amazing experience. And it's one of my favorite album covers.

Happy Birthday Bono!

Today is the birthday of Paul David Hewson, better known as U2's Bono. Bono is also well known for his humanitarian work, which has spanned causes from world hunger to AIDS to internet access (along with many others).

In honor of Bono's birthday, I have put together a small and hopefully helpful list of items for those of us who would prefer to avoid U2, Bono, and those annoying sunglasses.

If you're looking for something slightly less repetitive than U2, the AADL has a cd of just footstep noises! Actually, we have TWO! They're part of the BBC Sound Effects Library, of which the AADL has about 45 discs. Two of those are just livestock noises, another album I'd be happy to listen to before U2!

Afraid Bono might sneak up on you and try to get you to celebrate with him today? Look to James Watson (of Watson and Crick, describers of the structure of DNA) and his Avoid Boring People and other lessons from a life in science. Library Journal calls it "surprisingly wry, witty, and instructional."

But what if Bono catches you off guard? Hand him our copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting. For the price of free (assuming Bono returns it!), this is an investment you shouldn't pass up.

Finally, if you just can't escape the persistent sounds of Bono echoing through the streets and alleyways of your neighborhood, you may need Neighbor Law: Fences, Trees, Boundaries & Noise to help you understand your rights. What rights do you have to insist that your neighbor turn down the stereo? Can exposure to Bono be considered a danger to children? Who pays to repair your fence if your neighbor's copy of The Joshua Tree falls on it? If you have questions like these, this book may help!BonoBono

Mezzo-soprano Giulietta Simionato has died

Giulietta SimionatoGiulietta Simionato

Italian mezzo-soprano Giulietta Simionato died at the age of 99 died today, a week before her 100th birthday.

Simionato sang in operas such as Aida, Falstaff, and Adriana Lecouvreur.

She worked with other greats like Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, and was featured in an Italian documentary, Il Bacio di Tosca, about retired opera singers.

According to an article on Yahoo! News, "In its tribute, [Milan opera house] La Scala praised her 'expansive, balanced, emotional and recognizable' voice as well as her personal character."

What is The Future of Journalism?

At this National Library Week Director's Program on Mon., April 12 at 7 PM at the Downtown Library, three nationally-known journalists will discuss the future of their field in this era of rapid change. This panel discussion features Franklyn Cater, senior producer at NPR's All Things Considered; Wayne Drehs, three-time Emmy Award-winning sportswriter for and Kyle Poplin, who helped launch Bluffton Today, an interactive, hyper-local newspaper. Cosponsored by Michigan Radio.

The Best Best of Fela Kuti

Allow me a moment to expound on the music of one Fela Kuti. This is Afrobeat par excellence, with endless grooves so dank they even make the drum kit sweat. The horn section cuts harder than Louis vs. Schmeling, playing lines so funky they could make Maceo Parker do the electric boogaloo. If James Brown had Kuti's rhythm section, he wouldn't have been the hardest working man in show business; he'd simply have laid back and worked on his head nod while they shook the worldwide tours. A caution to those throwing on a Kuti record who are afraid to dance until the sun rubs the dawn from its eyes: you might not make it through the work day. Some might say they've heard the finest in smoldering jazz/funk fusion whenever Hugh Masekela's "Grazin' in the Grass" comes on, but prepare to have this notion rectified when Fela Kuti's "Lady" drops in. Fela Kuti? Oh, indeed.

AAFF Announces Special Programs

The 48th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival is just a few weeks away, making this a perfect time to prime yourself for the experimental and avant-garde films awaiting you from March 23-28 at the Festival. A great way to search the AADL catalog for groundbreaking explorations on DVD is to enter the keywords "experimental films" on the Catalog page.

The AAFF recently announced several special programs for this year, including Naomi Uman's personal documentaries, "Ukranian Time Machine," and Daniel Barrow's combination of overhead lamp projection with video and music, "Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry," about a garbage man who wants to create a detailed phone book with the personal history of each member of his community.

For the less daring fans of short film, the Michigan Theater is showing the Oscar Nominated Short Films this Friday. If you can't make this screening, check out the AADL's collection of short film Oscar hopefuls from the last few years.

Record Year for Female Artists

Beyonce and Taylor Swift may have been the stars of this year's Grammy Awards, but they are certainly not the only female artists who released stand-out music this past year. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, featuring the enigmatic Karen O on lead vocals, released an infectiously danceable record It's Blitz, which was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album this year. Although the award went to Phoenix for their indie rock favorite, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, don't miss O's tremendously powerful voice on the top-to-bottom great record, It's Blitz.

Another gifted lead singer (and bandleader) with an absolutely earth shaking voice is Neko Case, who released the album Middle Cyclone last year to the encomium of alt-country audiences across the country. Listeners may recognize Neko Case's melodic turns from many of pop super-group The New Pornographers' best records, which goes to show that her sound can cross genres as quickly as her voice can jump octaves. Check out The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Neko Case from the AADL today.

Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy

There has been a lot of buzz the past year regarding the over-talked-about Millennium Trilogy, which includes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, all bestsellers. The books seem to have shot out of the Scandinavian fiction cannon at high speed and haven’t slowed down. (Larsson was recently named 2009’s most popular author in Europe by the Swedish Newspaper Dagens Nyheter.)

The most recent buzz has been the controversy regarding the deceased author’s estate, a new biography about him, the question of whether additional books exist and will they see the light of day, and finally the debate over whether or not Larsson actually wrote the books. (Larsson died suddenly just after the manuscripts were accepted by the publisher, before they were published.) The Nordic BookBlog (an excellent source of all things Nordic Lit), and other online sources have been talking for months about the author and the series. I’m not saying everything that’s being said is correct or incorrect, or that you shouldn’t read the books, it’s just something for book talkers to chew on.

Slack Off Wisely -- Teen Magazine Update


Students rejoice! Fall semester is over and the glory of Winter Break has begun. But once the first flush of freedom is exhausted, the reality remains that you have three weeks to fill. After all, there is only so much time you can spend watching cartoons in your PJ's. Fortunately, AADL's teen magazine section is here with suggestions to fill your free hours.

1. Catch up on your guilty pleasures -- Alright, maybe you're not guilty about liking pro wrestling. In any case, WWE Magazine is ready for you, bringing you interviews with ten up-and-coming young stars, including Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston and Ted DiBiase, Jr., who, by the way, stars in the recently-released DVD The Marine 2.

2. Practice your rock star skills -- Drum! Magazine also gets in on the "let's make a list of cool people" thing with a feature on drummer, composer and all-around great musician Steve Jordan and another on the "Ten Heaviest Drummers of All Time." The magazine's Practice Pad also contains the drum part to Killswitch Engage's "Starting Over." That'll keep you busy.

3. Catch some air -- Of course, for you outdoorsy, active types we have not one, not two, but three magazines about sports involving boards. Thrasher Magazine documents the Emerica team's trip to Paris, in which they lived on a boat and did a lot of cool things. Transworld Skateboarding, provides a sneak peek at Cliche founder Jeremie Daclin's new book, while Transworld Snowboarding's "Photo Issue" features eye popping shots of even more mind boggling stunts. And, of course interviews with lots of cool people.

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