June 14, 2016
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Frederick Reuss's novel Maisie at 8000 Feet is wonderfully evocative of place, specifically New Jersey's Pine Barrens.
Lisa Zeidner wrote of the book:
"Frederick Reuss bestows the Pine Barrens of New Jersey with the gently haunting texture of a French movie. Maisie at 8000 Feet is a supple, moving meditation on landscape, and how place takes up real estate in our imaginations."
Getting off the ground isn't the hardest part about flying. Staying up there is. Same goes for music – which is as indispensable to flight as are the ailerons and roll and lift spoilers on the wing of an airplane. Here, in no special order, is some of the music that provided the lift to get Maisie off the ground.
Andrew Bird's I Want to See Pulaski at Night is the sonic evocation of Maisie's spirit and mood. "Hover I” and "Hover II” might well have been composed at 8000 feet – and by a man named Bird! Fly over the Skyway with it day or night. When I first heard the album I wondered if he had been hovering over my shoulder as I was writing.
Jazz is the true jet age fuel – most especially be-bop. The earlier Bird, Charley Parker, wasn't given that name for no reason. He was all about flying. The many takes of "Leap Frog” on the 1956 album Bird and Diz (also featuring Thelonious Monk and Buddy Rich) show the intense effort of getting off the ground and what its takes to stay there.
It isn't just speed and punch. Once you're up, flying is very much about mood.
"Gloria's Step" from Bill Evans' Sunday At The Village Vanguard (with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian) is to be off the ground, sailing up and down on thermal currents. The whole record is a space-time machine. It lands you at a specific date and time and place – June 25, 1961, 178 7th Ave South, NYC.
Evans also played on Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth. "Stolen Moments” is a glider. Eric Dolphy's flute solo in the middle soars a high thermal current and then Freddie Hubbard takes over and swoops down low for the landing. I saw Roy Haynes play a few years ago – Snap Crackle still flying on the cymbals in his 80s.
John Coltrane - "A Love Supreme.” One of the longest solo flights carrying one of the heaviest payloads, a mastership of jazz flight.
Charles Lloyd's sax is another mastership and a different way of soaring. "Night Jasmine,” a track on A Night in Copenhagen (with Michel Petrucciani, Palle Danielsson and Woody Theus) shows how lift-off isn't always a sudden leap but can also be a long, slow and gentle soaring into flight.
European jazz flies in a slightly different time zone. Two short rides:
"Spam-Boo-Limbo,” on the album Good Morning Susie Soho by the Swedish Esbjörn Svensson Trio (also known as e.s.t): A very catchy melody takes you up and lets you glide merrily along then sputters, seizes up and, damn, lets you fall!
British sax player, Iain Ballamy's Pepper Street Interludes – "Caraway,” with Norma Winstone singing a one word vocal "away” is what one might hear on awakening from a flying dream.
If flying does anything it joins near and far and brings people and places closer together. Some blended air carriers from other musical continents:
"Lili s'en fout” from the album Drab:zeen by Toufic Faroukh, the Lebanese French composer, uses a whole host of instruments and the voice of Tania Saleh singing Lilly Marlene in French and French-sounding German to climb high on a hypnotic blend of styles and forms.
Hamza El Din – A Wish, the title track, is a beautiful flying carpet ride. I can't hear it without choking up. Need to find a good adjective for wistful, sweet melancholy.
Ma Ya – the album by Habib Koité and Bamada which includes the late balafon virtuoso Kélétigui Diabaté – West African pentatonic pop mood music that lifts and sways.
The song "Kamba Kemaziso” by Zimbabwean Louis Mhlanga gets off the ground by helicopter, invocations of Jimi Hendrix, and comes to a helicopter landing place All Along the Watchtower.
L. Shankar, the violin virtuoso, has reconfigured Indian classical music by crossing many continents. The not-so-traditional raga on the 1981 album Who's to Know, Ananda Nadamadum Tillai Sankara, with Zakir Hussein on tabla and Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman on mridangam, the drone instrument essential to Carnatic music, is pure sonic flight.
For Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble journeying is the whole point and takes many forms. On the album New Impossibilities, "Ambush From Ten Sides” - for Pipa, Sheng, Guitar, Cello and Orchestra, a Chinese Traditional, arranged by Li Cang Sang and China Magpie, is an entire squadron of Chinese Valkyries in flight. "Night Of The Flying Horses” by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov, is another fine blend of flying possibilities.
Circling back in time to Europe:
Debussy is great for sonic evocations of flight – though not always gentle landings. Arturo Benedetti Michaelangeli's recordings are gorgeous. Check out "Préludes, Book 1 (Le Vent Dans La Plaine);” and "Children's Corner (Doctor Gradus Ad Parnassum).” The dissonant harmonies and chord progressions were as avant-garde in Debussy's time as aviation. Hard not to see them as emanations of the same zeitgeist.
Stravinsky: "Instrumental Miniatures” – all 8 from Andantino through Tempo Di Tango on Stravinsky Complete Works (Disk 11) – Essences of whimsy, distilled. Good in-flight aids.
The Allegro from Bohuslav Martinu's "Three Madrigals for Violin & Viola” -- for when you have to flap your wings to get off the ground.
Frederick Reuss and Maisie at 8000 Feet links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)