Archive for November, 2008

Ain’t No Tellin’

While researching this recent post, I came across this video on YouTube of Eden and John‘s East River String Band playing beloved Mississippi John Hurt‘s “Ain’t No Tellin’.” This video is another angle of the same thing.

From there, connections sent me in multiple directions. Sitting in with them were blogged Robert Crumb and Joe Lauro. Pat Conte is involved somehow. Sunday Morning on CBS profiled him a few years ago. He played on many tracks of Carroll County, Mississippi by three times blogged Harry Bolick. Twice blogged Dom Flemons sometimes plays with the band, too.

In researching this post, I came across this post on MetaFilter. This comment discusses the NuGrape Twins, a wonderful group I blogged a few months ago. I subsequently found this post on the Tofu Hut and this one on ‘Buked & Scorned.

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Michael M. on November 27th 2008 in General, Music

Music Lessons

“Tocatta and Fugue in Me, A-Minor” was Sarah Vowell‘s contribution to Music Lessons, the episode of This American Life that aired this past weekend. I caught it as I listened live on KWMU. She describes playing recorder with musicians of a generation different from hers. It parallels my experiences fiddling at the beloved Folk School where I have made friends across ages. She also captured the thrill of playing music, including unpopular music, with abandon.

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Michael M. on November 27th 2008 in General, Music

Little John

Time magazine published “Little John” about favorite Mississippi John Hurt. It has some inaccuracies, but the story is interesting for its timing. The dateline is September 27, 1963. Hurt was rediscovered in the spring of that year.

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Michael M. on November 27th 2008 in General, Music

That Bad Man

Trouble in River City has this good entry about Stagger Lee. I have a standing interest in the legend. In two posts, I, too, tracked down the house at 911 North Tucker Boulevard. It is always good to learn a little more, and the post includes a podcast with several great versions of the song.

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Michael M. on November 27th 2008 in General, Music, Recorded

Dylan & Cash

I decided to read BoingBoing for the first time in a long time. This post points to a novelty. Occasionally blogged Bob Dylan and mentioned Johnny Cash recorded together a few times in 1969. This post on the music blog Aquarium Drunkard has mp3s. I highly reccomend DownThemAll! for grabbing them.

They performed a combination of their own hits and standards. In my listening so far, the standards are the best. Dylan is a scholar of American music, and Johnny Cash had great knowledge both as a musician and as a person raised in a strong musical tradition. They were just jamming much of the time, and the production on many of the tracks is rough. They pull lines and phrases from all over the place and suggest verses to each other in the middle of songs. Two masters playing off the cuff is worth hearing.

I get my breakfast here, get my dinner down in New Orleans.
I get my breakfast here, get my dinner down in New Orleans.
Right on down through Birmingham.
Gonna get me a mama, Lord, I ain’t never seen.

Cash sang these lines in “Blue Yodel #2.” This version is a collection of floating verses over the same music as “Blue Yodel #1;” blogged Jimmie Rodgers‘ “Blue Yodel #2” is a different song. One MetaFilter user loved it on a mix CD without knowing its origin and posted to query the community. The earliest recording I know with the verse above is favorite Mississippi John Hurt‘s 1928 “Ain’t No Tellin’.”

Eat my breakfast here, my dinner in Tennessee.
Eat my breakfast here, my dinner in Tennessee.
Eat my breakfast here, my dinner in Tennessee.
I told you I was coming. Baby, won’t you look for me?
Hey, hey, that’s scooping the clam.


Michael M. on November 23rd 2008 in General, Music, Recorded


Well, who knows. The good and bad are all tangled up together. American popular music is loved around the world because of its African rhythm. But that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for slavery.

Pitchfork interviewed three times mentioned Pete Seeger. It is funny because Seeger had no idea what Pitchfork is.

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Michael M. on November 22nd 2008 in General, Music


The blogged Dust-to-Digital Blog has this post about “Free Go Lily,” an old song from a field recording that Medeski, Martin and Wood used. You can hear both old and new in the entry. The old performance by Doc and Lucy Barnes, released on the Art of Field Recording: Volume I: 50 Years of Traditional American Music Documented by Art Rosenbaum, reminded me of Moby‘s “Honey.” Moby sampled the old Bessie Jones “Sometimes” recorded by often blogged Alan Lomax. Both appear in the Georgia Folklore Collection Inventory. They have that refrain paired with different verses. I wonder how many other songs have it.

Bessie Jones a participant in tradition, enjoyed some recognition. She was a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow in 1982. I searched for performances on the web. YouTube user peglegsam has an awesome collection that includes this children’s dance, “I’m Gonna Lay Down My Life for My Lord,” “Johnny Brown” and “12 Days of Christmas.” They all come from her appearance on twice blogged Rainbow Quest.

It is funny how often Jones is called a gospel singer. She was, but the classification fails to acknowledge her secular songs. It is especcially funny that “Sometimes” is often called an old gospel song. It is the opposite of gospel.

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Michael M. on November 22nd 2008 in General, Music, Recorded

M for Mississippi

This post on Highway 61 Radio brings up the old question about the viability of blues music. The new movie M for Mississippi spurred it. While corresponding about blogged Bloggers’ Night at the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Dale Fisher also told me about this new movie on Mississippi blues. Soon after, I found this other post about it on Highway 61 Radio. Two trailers are on YouTube. I do not know how long I will have to wait to see it. I am ready now.

The Saint Louis connections are numerous. Three of the five filmmakers of M for Mississippi are from here. Roger Stolle, who runs Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art in Clarksdale, Mississippi, is. Jeff Konkel runs Broke and Hungry Records, a country blues label, here. Joey Grisham is Konkel’s old friend. The others are Kari Jones of Mudpuppy Recordings and Damien Blaylock. Larry Morrisey is a Saint Louisan who has come up here because he works in arts administration in Mississippi. He helped me track down Mississippi fiddling recordings, and his radio show was part of my summer music pilgrimage. He reviewed the documentary for the Jackson Free Press. Vanity Fair, evidently now a blues publication as recently blogged, also interviewed Stolle and Konkel.

This post about Morrisey on Trouble in River City circles back in a few ways. I am pretty sure that Kopper found out about his old friend’s doings via my blog. He, too, attended Bloggers’ Night. His post was linked from the SLSO Blog, as was mine. The edition of the Mississippi Arts Hour that he linked features Bill Abel. Abel talked about mentioned Henry Townsend, a musician with feet in both Saint Louis and Mississippi, Broke and Hungry Records and Cat Head. To wrap it back around, Abel acted as guide to the M for Mississippi filmmakers.

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Michael M. on November 20th 2008 in General, Movies, Music

More WUMS humor

Following up this previous postthe Riverfront Times Stlog has another post about the humor at Washington University Medical School.

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Michael M. on November 20th 2008 in General

A Bloggers’ Night at the Symphony

I have subscribed to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra on and off since moving here, and I have blogged about it on occasion. In the past few years, my schedule has become less flexible, and I failed to set aside the time to attend regularly. I was excited to get messages from SLSO staffers Eddie Silva and Dale Fisher inviting me to Bloggers’ Night for the Saturday performance of Beat Movement, part of the Guitar Festival. The Post-Dispatch published this review of the week.

Eddie posted this preview of Bloggers’ Night on the SLSO Blog. The symphony offered selected bloggers, including me, tickets in exchange for posting about the experience. Inviting bloggers is a clever approach for appealing to a young sophisticated crowd; inviting me is not. This blog is low traffic. It is an exercise of vanity against sense. Most readers are family and friends, and my successes at convincing others to come out for events have been few. I feel lucky to have been included. I know how it happened, and I feel like I slipped into a party of real bloggers through the back door. My thanks go to Dale and Eddie. I understood that I was being offered something wonderful. I did not hesitate when that back door was cracked open for me. My pal and fellow neuroscientist Karla, worthy of a grander entrance, but stuck with me, rushed in, too.

John Patitucci played the United States premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage‘s A Prayer Out of Stillness. The best part was “Call and Response,” the third of four movements. Patitucci played his electric bass guitar in a duet with double bass principal Erik Harris. The two masters wandered and wandered. The audience broke protocol and applauded after it.

The second work was another challenging premiere. During maestro David Robertson‘s lecture before the performance, Steven Mackey came out with his guitar slung around his neck to discuss his work. The pair talked about the tension between his interests in composition and electric guitar. The guitar itself holds a tense position in classical music. It is a wildly popular instrument, and the popularity of classical guitar seems to be largely an extension. It is not part of the symphony, however. The great composers wrote little or none for it, and it had not taken its modern form when they were active. The electric guitar is even more removed, and Mackey spent years keeping the two largely separate. Eventually, he began weaving the them together. I joked to Karla that he must have received tenure by then.

Mackey demonstrated how electric guitar lends itself to playing overtones because the pickups are so sensitive. He adapted this approach to composing for the violin. He talked about the death of his mother, the subject of Beautiful Passing. The previously blogged MacArthur genius grant recipient Leila Josefowicz played the United States premiere. She is an adventurous soloist who often performs new works. She played with vigor, the bow biting down into the strings at the right spots.

In the perfect world, I would have met Josefowicz and played “Magnolia One-Step” by the blogged Nations Brothers on her Guarnerius Del Gesù like when Tommy Jarrell played “CottonEyed Joe” on the Castelbarco Stradivarius at the Library of Congress in the blogged My Old Fiddle. In this world, I saw her from afar as she signed CDs in the lobby during intermission.

The Rite of Spring was the second half. There were no riots. The piece was performed extracted from the ballet. A large screen behind the orchestra displayed stage directions during the performance. Due to my extended education, PowerPoint is a strong hypnotic for me, but I managed to fight it and enjoy the forceful performance.

A good core of bloggers came out. Some came to the Met Bar before the concert. I met the true Jerome of the Daily Jerome. Looking back, I am surprised that I never blogged his comics. They mix daily annoyances, Saint Louis peculiarities and pop culture. His caricature of himself is just right. After the concert, we went to the new Wm. Shakespeare’s Gastropub. Grand Center needs a spot, and I hope it succeeds. The guys from Highway 61 and Jen from Lockwood and Summit, the Euclid Records blog, also came out along with several more that I did not meet. I had a great time talking more with Eddie and Dale who ran this event. They both have great knowledge of the symphony and the larger arts community here.

Such a good night needs a good end. I like to wake up in the morning, stay up late at night and eat breakfast at both. I inherited it. I had not been to City Diner in a couple of years, though. It has been my loss. Karla, new to the place, pronounced her Chorizo Scramble excellent by expatriate Mexican standards, and for me, perfect pancakes put a smile in my belly.


Michael M. on November 17th 2008 in General, Live, Music

Inverting goggles

I have heard for years about experiments with goggles that inverted the image of the world. In the stories I heard, experimental subjects gradually learned to behave normally despite the fact that the light entered their eyes upside down. Thinking about compensation strategies for visual field deficits reminded me about those old experiments. I realized that I only knew a little about them and that much of what I heard is probably distorted. A little searching led me to this message with a link to an old educational film, Living in a Reversed World, on Google Video. Theodor Erismann and Ivo Kohler were the research team behind it. I found references to Snyder and Pronko who made a similar film titled Vision with Spatial Inversion, but I have not located it on the web yet.


Michael M. on November 16th 2008 in General, Movies

Synecdoche, New York

I watched Synecdoche, New York Friday at the Landmark Tivoli. I have been a fan of three times blogged Charlie Kaufman fan for several years now, and I had big expectations. At the same time, this movie is his directorial debut, and I knew that it might not deliver quite what his previous movies have. I understood at some point that the movie could be a framed story within itself. Recursion is a strange and beautiful thing as I know from COMP 210.

I was not as taken by it as by his previous movies, but that criticism is faint. His previous movies are absolute favorites. I found myself enjoying Synecdoche thoroughly. Some parts are pure hilarity. Toward the end when the characters have started their own plays within the play, who is who becomes delightfully confusing. I laughed often with everybody in the theater and a few times by myself. I heard individual laughs during parts that were not so funny to me. The movie is so packed with absurdity and obscurity that I am sure many viewers will have their own experiences of shared humor and other times feeling that nobody else in the theaters gets a particular joke. It is rich.

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Michael M. on November 16th 2008 in General, Movies

Radio Beatle Bob

This story from KWMU about blogged local concert figure Beatle Bob aired during one of the local segments on Morning Edition. It also made Weekend America yesterday. It covered Beatle Bob Sit Down, a site whose title indicates its purpose. Many concertgoers see Beatle Bob as a rude and unwelcome presence. I am not so involved or opinionated. The radio piece did not mention the documentary Superfan. I have not heard anything about the progress of the movie in a long time. For now, Beatle Bob remains a known mystery.

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Michael M. on November 16th 2008 in General, Live, Movies, Music

KDHX blog

This post on the 52nd City Blog alerted me to the new KDHX blog. KDHX is my favorite radio station, and we are lucky to have such a treasure. I expect this new venture to be more of the same in blog form.

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Michael M. on November 16th 2008 in General, Music

New science and old masters

As planned, I attended the discussion of art perception held at the Pulitzer last month. It was interesting and fun. I found myself excited several times to hear the discussion turn toward familiar principles in neurobiology. I just found this photoset of the event on Flickr. A careful eye can spot the back of my head way down at the front edge of the audience. After the event, a few friends went to the always excellent Crown Candy Kitchen to enhance an already great time.

Ideal (Dis-) Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer is the current exhibition. Having had such fun at the opening of the last exhibit, I made my way out for this one. The show pairs overwhelming canvases with the stark modern setting of the Pulitzer. The open structure of the building allows visitors to view the paintings and drawings with natural lighting, just as they were seen when they were new. For opening night, though, they turned the lights on.

The subjects of the paintings made as big an impact as the technique and the viewing environment. Many depict events from mythology and ancient history. Seeing them reminded me of how little I know. The painters clearly employed a body of stories and a vocabulary of symbolism unknown to me. The aspects of the paintings I did understand, though, reminded me of how much of human experience is the same in every generation across centuries. There is much for marvel at the show.

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Michael M. on November 11th 2008 in General

Small towns

City’s just a jungle, more games to play
Trapped in the heart of it, trying to get away.
I was raised in the country, I been workin’ in the town.
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down.

Blogging about “Mississippi” got me to listen to the song on a loop. I was raised out from a small town. While driving from home back in the summer, I listened to this episode of This American Life . The introductory blurb refers to “the claustrophia and freedom people feel in small towns.” Many people, even lifelong urbanites, understand the claustrophobia, but the freedom seems harder to grasp. The danger posed by strangers is rare. Individual space is abundant. Perhaps less obvious, the knowledge that neighbors can call on one another when needed affords a certain adventurousness, even to leave and return, if incompletely.

Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay.
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

Ah, Bob.

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Michael M. on November 11th 2008 in General

MD-PhD women

The WashU Record published this article about gender and MD-PhD programs. Women are more likely to turn off the clinician-scientist path at all points after admission. The gender ratio of my incoming class was fairly even although I do not know how typical it was. I do know that the other statistics of the article ring true with my own educational experience. One obvious problem is the support for children, typically poor, during training. I do not know whether it accounts for all the discrepancies, though.

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Michael M. on November 11th 2008 in General

Med school humor

Stlog, one of the Riverfront Times blogs, has this post about the humor at Washington University Medical School. Each year, the first, second and fourth year classes produce original shows of skits, songs and videos poking fun at the medical school experience. The third year students are too busy. I always had a great time at my class shows, and I have attended many other ones. The post has videos from a few of the recent classes. This Slate article covers the hilarious and strange phenomenon of medical school class shows.

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Michael M. on November 11th 2008 in General

Robert Johnson photograph

I came across this article about a possible photograph of Robert Johnson. Its appearance in Vanity Fair, of all places, is a mystery, too.

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Michael M. on November 11th 2008 in General, Music

Smith, Grisman, Sebastian

I had a great music weekend before hopping down the rabbit hole. As previewed, blogged Big Smith played Lucas Schoolhouse. A good friend manages them now, so I spent a good long time hanging around before and after the show. They are good folks. My attempts to have my local friends come out failed. The debate that night was no help. I managed to catch a little of the debate before they went on, and I made the right choice by going. They played a great show. I also enjoyed Homemade Hillbilly Jam, a documentary movie about the band and the family. I wish I were in a family band.

The next night, I saw David Grisman and twice mentioned John Sebastian play the Sheldon. They opened with “Satisfied,” and I was hooked from there. It was a tour through old folk songs and their own newer creations. Of course they played a few Lovin’ Spoonful songs. The show was so popular that they sold all their CDs. I found out when the person in front of me in line bought the last one. With no CD in hand, I talked to Sebastian briefly after about our shared hero. It was a dense two days.

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Michael M. on November 9th 2008 in General, Live, Music

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.