Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Go visit Dave

He's got a great Piaf clip from Youtube up on Perambulating the Bounds today, along with one of some Balkan singer he and his pal Brady have the hots for. I think she's so bad it makes my teeth hurt. If you scroll past her (trust me, you'll want to) you'll a find a touching little rant about Dave's hero, Pete Seeger.

“When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?”

18 comments:

Renee said...

*grimace* That Balkan er uh skinny biatch in a really short skirt ... I 'bout took my ears off ripping the headphones out of my ears. OH LORD, THAT WAS BAD. That was just a whole new dimension in bad. Was Dave listening with his eyes? I mean, I thought you said he was a musician ...

BitterGrace said...

Not his eyes, Renee...

Bozo said...

I'm not sure this is what Dolly had in mind when she wrote it.

Renee said...

I do love Pete Seeger, though. Here's Pete and Tom Paxton singing "Ramblin' Boy."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yNfnqueYQY

You will need this as an antidote if you listened to the Balkan biatch.

David Maddox said...

OK, in defense of me and Brady, let me quote a couple of things from Brady: “Check out her mix of Mariah-esque and quarter-tone Balkan milismas.” And “I looked up her other songs on YouTube, and for all the people in the comments section who say her voice is terrible on that one, she's really good at both the traditional strong "Yelling" Bulgarian malismas and "yodelling" (not really yodelling, more like "intentional voice-cracking", a la the pipes she is playing with on this one. http://youtube.com/watch?v=PWPTqdT79Rs). It's cool to hear her go back and forth. It's interesting how even the "pop culture" of so many other countries are tied to their roots, and how our pop culture is so far removed from ours. Could you imagine an American Idol where they sang Appalachian folk songs? I think not!”

What interests me here are a couple of things—the vocal style is very much in line with traditional Balkan folk singing as I understand it. The accompaniment is brilliant – a pure village brass band. American Idol is this homogenizing monoculture juggernaut (albeit an entertaining one that I watch with pleasure), but here you see the appropriation going the other way. This is intransigently ¬not American. The set looks the same, it’s a Dolly Parton song, but the singer and producers and whoever else is responsible take the music someplace else.

Brady’s point about the narrow gauge of American Idol is well taken. One of the singers who made it into the round of 16 or 24 last year was the daughter of an avant garde jazz drummer I’ve played with in Chicago. She sang in a very jazz-based style, with scat vocals. She was voted off early, and in her final sound she scatted the question “why did I decide to scat.” She figured her jazz style killed her chances. She didn’t have the best voice, but neither do most of the contestants, and she’s a fine looking young woman – not over the top sexy, but it’s not like you’d say she got voted off because she wasn’t pretty enough. This makes it interesting to see what happens here. I think there are similar things happening in some of the other international Idol versions.

As for Bozo’s comments about Dolly’s intentions. Based on some interviews I’d heard where she talked about Whitney’s version, I think that as long as the royalties get paid, Dolly’s cool with it. Laughing or crying all the way to the bank.

Renee said...

That's about the most frighteningly intellectual critique of a piece I've ever read. No visceral response whatsoever? I mean, at some point, doesn't "I can't listen to this shit" enter into the equation? Bulgarian milismas and hemi-demi-semiquavers notwithstanding...

BitterGrace said...

See, now y'all have got Dave all riled up, picking on his new girlfriend. For the record, I like the brass band, and I'd take the Balkan cutie over Whitney Houston or American Idol any day. But she still makes my teeth hurt.

Brady said...

Not knowing Dolly personally, (although I know people that know her), I would say it's obvious she probably didn't "intend" for her song to be sung like this, but I'd bet she'd dig it all the same, royalties aside. Dolly is the genuine article, IMHO!

"Balkan Biatch"? She's the Bulgarian Idol champion, and has a technically amazing voice and definite talent, regardless of if it is your personal preference. Doesn't that count for something other than sexist remarks? ;^)

You could play the best Peking Opera singer in the world to me, and I would probably hate it, but I wouldn't say it isn't musical and I wouldn't say they didn't have talent.

When American Idol performers start playing field hollers, spirituals, or old-timey songs, then we might be able to compete with the Bulgarians in the Idol Culture Wars, but god forbid someone tries scatting, a profoundly American style of vocal, and expects to advance any further in the rounds!

Renee said...

That's an amazing voice, all right.

When American Idol performers start playing field hollers, spirituals, or old-timey songs, then we might be able to compete with the Bulgarians in the Idol Culture Wars, but god forbid someone tries scatting, a profoundly American style of vocal, and expects to advance any further in the rounds!

Um ... why? to either the old-timey songs, field hollers, or scat. Hardly anybody wants to listen to that. Besides the fact that while it may have all originated here, it's not everybody's folk music. I'm saying, most Bulgarians have probably heard their folk music; most Americans probably have not, if it consists of field hollers and scat.

What we all do have in common is the commercial, homogeneous stuff.

BitterGrace said...

Renee said: "What we all do have in common is the commercial, homogeneous stuff."

So, is that a good thing? I'm inclined to agree with Brady that it isn't, and it's too bad that music is the only kind available to most people.

I have to say that what bugs me about the Balkan singer here is that she's neither fish nor fowl. I mean, gimme American pop or Balkan folk, but not both at once. Of course, I realize that's aesthetic narrowness on my part.

Renee said...

It's a fact, is all. I can't say whether it's good or bad. I just think that field hollers don't represent us. And yes, if roots music is the criteria, why is she not actually singing a native folk song rather than an American hit?

All of which is to say, she's cute, and I think that skewed you boys' perception. :-D

Bozo said...

Duke Ellington (and a lot of other people) said there are only two kinds of music: good and bad. Well, this chick is BAD, BAD, BAD. Maybe someone should bring her to the attention of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Music (actually, I just made that up, but somebody really ought to form an SPCM, give out awards and stuff).

David Maddox said...

I wanted to get back to get back to the visceral response comment. Snickers aside about what I might be responding to viscerally (I don't deny any of it), I like this kind of incantory singing. The singer lets her voice get lost in these close little intervals, creating many tiny points of tension. The notes scrape each other, and carry small gestures of pain and struggle. It's like food that contains bitter notes. Or perfume with a bit of musk.

And I just enjoy the hell out of the brass band, with those field drums.

There is a kind of ferocity to this performance. The appropriation of the pop song into a heavily Balkan rendition seems like more than a neutral aesthetic choice. It seems defiant -- you will never make us be like you. We will always be who we are, always singular.

And as I said above, I in no way deny other appeals, like her little dance, especially at the end where she's standing sideways and flicks her hips. The come-on is an important part of music. Always meant to skew your perception.

Brady said...

Renee said "I'm saying, most Bulgarians have probably heard their folk music; most Americans probably have not"

And that's the point I'm making. It's too bad that Americans can't have more of an appreciation for their cultural roots than other countries do. When you are at the Top of the Heap (or at least behaving as if you are), there is little need for preserving culture, or any introspection into where your culture came from.

Yes, tracing the roots of Whitney and Mariah... it goes back to blues and jazz, and way before that to slave songs, field hollers, primitive gospel songs, which probably came from Ireland, etc. etc! IANAEM (I Am Not An EthoMusicologist), but you get my point!

While I can appreciate Pop stuff, and it's offshoot from those roots, I get more fun out of hearing the individual roots, so yes, I'd rather listen to the other stuff!

As to Bozo's opinion, I guess I find it hard to have definitive opinions on most types of music (ie. GOOD or BAD). I can hear the best Peking Opera singer in the world, and hate to listen to it initially, but I find discomfort in calling a nations musical heritage "BAD" and writing it off completely. Instead I look for what a whole lot of people must like about it and try to broaden my understanding of it. Sometimes I'm successful and I learn to have a big appreciation for it, sometimes not, but not much is "BAD" in my opinion, and I happened to really dig the "Bulgarian Biatch"!

I realize that many may not have the "patience" (or interest) for music appreciation that Dave and I have, and I don't think that type of a patience is always necessarily a virtue, and possibly even a curse, especially when you try to convince others how good this girl really is!

BitterGrace said...

Okay, since I started this, I felt duty-bound to go back and watch the vid again--and I just have to say, whatever her vocal idiosyncracies (ahem) that girl has got it goin' on. I was hot for her myself by the end.

I realize this doesn't really further the musical discussion, but I feel I must give credit where credit is due.

Brady said...

And that's where it begins... You're repelled by it at first, then the second and third listen. Before you know, you're digging it!
...or maybe not!

Renee said...

I'm not that bi.

chayaruchama said...

Oh, Renee !
I'm SO hurt...especially, because I just love your warm, big voice.
It fills my heart.

I'm adding my centime, or shekel, or whatever, here-

I love it ALL.
Can't get enough.
Bring it on.
AND I hanker for archival recordings of EVERYTHING, including
field hollers, Peking Opera, Gregorian chant.

I took a LOT of heat, when I was 5, because my girlfriend's uncle brought back recordings of African drums, and I was delirious about them.

So don't cry to me !