Friday, August 22, 2008

Patricia Barber's Mythologies

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there’s something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It’s the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part...." -Nick Hornby, Songbook

I feel the need to confess that jazz is still something of an acquired taste with me. Maybe it's the snob association of jazz music with "high art" that intimidates the working-class girl in me. I can only say I am trying. This means I'm leaving myself open to recommendations, as well as a willingness to admit when a song eludes me.

By some twist of fate, I found a live-stream of one of the songs on Patricia Barber's album, Mythologies. The theme of the album intrigued me:  each song on Mythologies focuses on a mythological character in Ovid’s Metamorphoses - among them, Morpheus, Pygmalion, Orpheus, Persephone and Narcissus. A blend of mythology and music. So very interesting.

"Imagine if you'd never heard jazz before.... you stumbled in after work for a drink.... you might think that jazz is an Ancient Greek music." ~ Patricia Barber

Granted, I am still not an expert on jazz music, but I really enjoyed listening to "Persephone". I've included a Youtube video of a performance below. Enjoy.

“Persephone” is fun, fun, fun – she’s such a wonderful character. There wasn’t quite enough in Ovid about her. She’s in Book Five – abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld and then in Book Ten as one of the judges of Orpheus’s plea. So I went back to Homer, the origin of the written story of Persephone, and I read Dante because I was curious about Hell. I seized poetic license and created a story in which Persephone ends up liking her power down there. She is the only god who can traverse the upper- and underworlds. She becomes Virgil leading an angel through hell, trying to corrupt her as she is showing signs of weakness. She will use anything at her disposal to get what she wants. It’s a song of seduction. ~ Patricia Barber


Doc Martian said...

just as classical music originated in choral music and folk reels... so jazz originated in the music of the streets of new orleans.

louis armstrong's hot fives and hot sevens

sidney bechet's original american rca masters

the okeh ellington

cab calloway

jsp records django reinhardt box sets (the first 3 are awesome... haven't heard the 4th)

billie holiday (complete verve studio sessions)

art tatum's pablo group (and pablo solo) masterpieces

jazz didn't get really complex until charlie parker, dizzy gillespie, miles davis. before that? it was dance music and blues and honkytonk. today? lotsa snobs in jazz. lotsa snob music... much like classical music or any music that has codified itself. even rock and roll has snobs... but the punk rockers kicked the stuffing out of a bunch of them. where jazz started to get a lil' snobby after charlie parker, rock started to get snobby after sgt. peppers.

a good start would be the fats waller collection. he's pretty hard to dislike... like an uncle that busts into sea shanties to liven things up. try this one.

jazz, like any music has gone through a number of musical identities. it isn't all keith jarrett slamming his head on the keyboard and calling it artismo no. 1

so... go back to the roots of jazz is my advice. there's a lot of real folks there to like... btw. art tatum. as big an impresario as he is... he remains accessible... he's the big guy that someone plays at the club at the beginning of the movie 'ray' sounds like he has seven hands.... you'd probably like his group masterpieces better. they swing more.

darkorpheus said...

Doc - agree with you that there's lots of snobs in jazz music. or rather, lots of snobs who claim to lurve jazz music. which is part of the reason I am so resistant to jazz, I guess.

Going to start with Art Tatum then. Will probably try to find it online first - trying to cut down on the CDs I buy. Can't bring them over to Dubai.

Doc Martian said...

you could put them on your own personal webspace (with password) and download them when you get there. just make sure the originals remain in your legal possession (in storage or something).

you might listen to all of those in sample forms on or or your favorite mercantile. jazz is idiosyncratic. be sure and check louis armstrong's hot fives and hot sevens too. here's an article on just ONE of the songs on it.

like i said though... take jazz far enough back and its speakeasy dance music. and that's something that's really hard to be snobby about.

darkorpheus said...

Doc - listening to "Potato Head Blues" right now :)

darkorpheus said...

Doc - Hmm....Louie may be another acqured taste. :/

Carl V. Anderson said...

Jazz is certainly one of those musical areas in which I am woefully ignorant. I have certainly heard Jazz music that I have liked, but it is not something I have ever thought of purposefully seeking out.

"there’s something in us that is beyond the reach of words"

I soooo agree. I think music is such an amazing way to communicate with the soul, to reach down deep inside and connect in ways that may be beyond easy definition or description.

darkorpheus said...

Carl - if you like this Nick Hornby quote, you may like his book, "Songbook". His love for music just flows.

Doc Martian said...

what drew me to jazz was billie holiday. the rest just came naturally.


darkorpheus said...

Doc - Billie's fine. Nina Simone is fine too. Maybe some of the others, I still need time.

Doc Martian said...

i hear that, there are a couple genres of music that i like but am understudied in. reggae/ska and lounge/exotica... takes time and inclination... but there doesn't seem to be any rush and i might end up able to afford going to kingston and stocking up or something tasty like that someday... so i don't push to get them. don't fight the river... there's always a good place to get out... just try not to get to banged up along the way.


Carl V. Anderson said...

I haven't read any Nick Hornby but that book sounds interesting. One of the things I love about Murakami's work is his love of music which crops up in various stories.