22 September 2008

Jenny Graf Sheppard Throws a Feast at High Zero

Spent all week here.

Now I feel like I've re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. Headed towards the ocean. Ah, the cool of the ocean.

Surprisingly, ironically, (not really, not around here anyway), I think the best -- really really the best as in one of the best concert experiences I've ever had (and I've had a few) -- was Jenny Sheppard's second performance on Sat afternoon:

2. Threshold for Action and Sound

1 A level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not.
2 The point that must be exceeded to begin producing a given effect or result or to elicit a response.

This piece transforms the audience into creators and the creators into audience. All are involved in the live production of a sound score to which the High Zero musicians respond. Building the piece together, the audience and performers are co-dependent in this improvised composition of sound and activity.

The consumption of a nutritious meal will be central to this composition for sound, instigating action by the group. Those in attendance will be given several menus to choose from. A vegan option will be provided.

Tetuzi Akiyama: acoustic guitar
John Berndt: electronics, reeds, inventions
Tom Boram: synthesizer, voice
Alessandro Bosetti: electronics, voice
Tony Buck: drums
G. Lucas Crane: tapes
John Eaton: alto saxophone, voice
Camel Zekri: oud, guitar, electronics

Basically, Jenny turned the stage into a big dinner for the audience. And in short order it turned as rowdy as a Bad Brains show. There will surely be video coming out documenting this soon, but to put it in perspective, the performance turned into a sort of surreal manifestation of the sort of spirit evoked in the sorted stories of the infamous dinner Picasso and his friends threw in honor of H. Rousseau in 1908, I believe. This is most wonderfully described in Richardson's biography (I think in the first volume). Apparently everyone in attendance -- including Gertrude Stein and Max Jacob and the like -- got completely nuts and by the end of the party, Rousseau wound up sleeping on a makeshift throne wearing a crown of candles dripping down his forehead.

Richardson called it something along the lines of the last optimistic thing to happen in the 20th century. I think Jenny just brought optimism back.

14 September 2008


Thinking about Aeneas.

I've mentioned before on this blog that when Aeneas leaves Troy, the last thing he sees in the flames is the Temple of Ceres, goddess of the grain. When he finally washes up on some godforsaken beach, it is what is left of his crew's meager grain supply that Vergil describes floating up onto the beach and mingling with the sand.

Grain in fire and death; grain in water with potential of life, if not gone to rot.

The ancients understood that at the edges of experience lies sustenance.Everything else flows therein.

10 September 2008

Carmina Burana -- The Tavern Song

Went down to the Maryland Renaissance Festival last weekend. Two day pass - Saturday and Sunday.

Hurricane Hanna hit us on Saturday. It was sublime.

The only folks at the festival are the people who work there, the absolutely freakish die-hards, and MJ and I. So there we are, sitting in a tavern with a few dozen folks tapping feet and mugs and pounding on tables and ladies dancing jigs and men hooting and bagpipes and bass drum blaring out a beat as the clouds circle and wind and rain rip holes in the dirt paths. We are in the 1530's. We are in the tavern.

In taberna quando sumus,
non curamus, quid sit humus,
sed ad ludum properamus,
cui semper insudamus.

When we are in the tavern,
we have no cares, whatever the earth may be,
but let us be hasty to the games,
which always make us break a sweat.

This snippet of a tavern song from the Carmina Burana is an excellent indication that our Medieval forebears knew where to find a little respite from the sludge of life. Written sometime in the 13th century, the Burana manuscript contains love songs as well as admonishing moralistic lyrics, but it's the drinking songs that really bring the period to life.

In the tavern, there's playing and drinking and living indiscreetly...

Quidam ludunt, quidam bibunt,
quidam indiscrete vivunt...

It's a place where nobody's afraid of death because everybody's on the side of good ol' Bacchus.

Ibi nullus timet mortem,
sed pro Baccho mittunt sortem.

This isn't the scary, judgmental Middle Ages... this is the Age of the Gothic -- party time and prep for the coming Renaissance!

This is an age in which tavern goers will raise a glass and sing together:

Bibit hera, bibit herus,
bibit miles, bibit clerus,
bibit ille, bibit illa,
bibit servus cum ancilla,
bibit velox, bibit piger,
bibit albus, bibit niger,
bibit constans, bibit vagus,
bibit rudis, bibit magus.
Bibit pauper et egrotus,
bibit exul et ignotus,
bibit puer, bibit canus,
bibit presul et decanus,
bibit soror, bibit frater,
bibit anus, bibit mater,
bibit ista, bibit ille,
bibunt centum, bibunt mille.

What a night that must have been all those years ago. Drink poor man and rich man, known and unknown, boy and dog, sister and brother, old woman and young mother, this one that one, a hundred, a thousand...

I think it is the sense of being together -- the physicality of community -- that we've steadily been losing to Internets and Skype and iPhones that bodes poorly on our future. Facebook is not a tavern. Of course this has all been said before. But even as I write this post and consider the silliness of what I type, some Gothic or Renaissance DNA-thingie somewhere in my spine compels me to long for song and dance and spitting in the face of a hurricane -- a bunch of friends and strangers alike all bundled together with nowhere else to go. And because there is no where else to go, no webpage to turn to, no text to answer, we turn to one another and address the truth of the short time we all have together.

09 September 2008

Freshening Up the Produce

Just realized that I've been keeping this blog now for some sixteen months. That's like seven years in dog years. Or maybe the half-life of a 15 bean salad.

Anyhow, I am feeling that this blog needs some direction. Been all over the kitchen lately from the presidential campaign to the Olympics to the usual mush I serve here. So it's time to shake loose the hairnet, open up the spice rack, and let it all fly.

And that's why I'm starting here anew.

Let's take a look at food from the historical and literary perspective. See where that gets us, dear readers. Oh, yes, there will still be the Monty Python and Muppet Show songs, the rants about meat-eaters, and the occasional story about a dog eaten by a shark, but let's up the ante a bit. Go big. Make it obvious that our brains serve more purpose than merely a doorstop.

Enter Shakespeare. He, after all, is the guy who put the title of this blog into the mouth of Falstaff. Grumio's "oats have eaten the horses" and Queen Mab drives an empty hazelnut; his Dukes eat venison and his Clowns compare fair maidens to sweet majoram in a salad. The guy knew his food.

And thus a plan becomes obvious. For the next sixteen months or so, it will be my goal several times a week to take into consideration and to discuss food as represented in literature and food as an object of historical significance. I hope I do this job justice. And I hope this blog is renewed with new vigor (or may I live with cheese and garlic in a windmill...)

05 September 2008

MSNBC Countdown : Mousse or Moose?

OK. So, it comes at 2:57 in the clip.

Conspiracy theory: Was this an early Palin hint?!?

And 'Passion-fruit'. Wow.