Last Wednesday evening, after a long French lunch, I went to the Grand Théâtre in Angers for a night of vocal jazz. You know, away from all the fliers. Anyway, I don’t have much to say about the show; technically, it was quite good - amazing, even - but I don’t know enough about jazz as a style to really say. Really, I want to talk about everything but the show.
Possibly one of the best reasons to come to Europe is that there’s a lot of old stuff here - older than anything you might find back home in the US (except for some faint cultural memories that we’ve been trying to stamp out for centuries and maybe some trees). The Grand Théâtre, while not ancient, still encloses a bit of the past. Sitting in the third balcony, I could practically change the diapers of the cherubs painted on the ceiling… but only if I wanted to risk a four-story vertical drop to the orchestra. Vertigo aside, I was happier in the balcony where I could admire the chandelier as a neighbor, rather than imagine and re-imagine movie scenes where some clever person cuts the chandelier rope.
At theaters like this one, I always feel like I need to know how to behave, and all other (pop) cultural knowledge is practically irrelevant. Maybe that’s why I like going to the theatre. Perhaps it’s the pull of tradition and propriety that creates a sweeping tidal force at the end of a performance; I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I have never ceased to be creeped out by the slow and inevitable metamorphasis of a round of applause from a roar of enthusiastic clapping to a singular rhythm, as if we had been invited to participate in an audience clap for a song no one could hear.
I should also probably mention that, when invited to sing along with the group, everyone in the theater sang on key… and caught onto the melody very quickly. So, really, it could just be that the French, as a culture, are more attuned (haha) to music, more attentive to detail. It could just be that they’re better listeners, and it’s only natural to hear the rhythm of your neighbor’s clapping and catch on. So, I don’t know, maybe we, as Americans, don’t really hear music in the same way.
What’s the best way to show musician’s you care, anyway?
P.S. That was my subtle way of demanding how to tell Seal that he can cry on my shoulder.
As the dawn of the New Year is typically a time for us to lie to ourselves a bit, I figured I would spend my sick-morning working on the first of what I’m sure will be MANY fine contributions to Omnivosaurus Rex in 2012 (why does that number ring a bell?).
So here is my postcard to you from France. You, Walker, and also you, our reading public, whoever you may be at this point.
Since postcards don’t typically have that much space for text, and since Walker loves best-of lists, and since I love lists in general (almost as much as I love foreshadowing), here is a list of the top five ways how, in the last few months of 2011, my time in France has made me a better consumer of pop culture:
5. My friend, in a bout of homesickness, discovered the bluegrass covers playlist on 8tracks.com, and I subsequently discovered the entire website. (8tracks > spotify, in my opinion.)
4. You can buy tickets to basically anything in FNAC. “Oh, I’m just passing by to browse the books…” BAM! Tickets to the next show at the Chabada.
3. France loves fliers. Paperwaste be damned. At LIT-rally any public place in Angers, you can pick up leaflets with information about next week’s new film releases (and timetables), upcoming shows, free events.
2. Speaking of which, I can get into almost anything for free here… either because it is free or because I am under 26. (Suddenly being underage is a good thing?)
1. Facebook lists: more useful than google reader and twitter lists. I’ve become so paranoid about being out of the loop in France that I’ve liked, friended, whathaveyou’d every venue and organization in Angers that has a significant facebook presence… and can now read all their updates in one convenient place. Frankly, I’m a fan of pretty much all the recent additions to facebook.
So, things are going mighty well here in sunny France. Hope you’ve missed me as much as I’ve been missing you. Keep up the good work, Mr. Walker. I’ll be around.
This is a song called “Nantes” by a band name after another city, Beirut. When I studied abroad in Nantes (waaaay back in 2009), people would ask me if I picked Nantes over Paris because of the Beirut song, and I always said yes in response to this cheeky question. Truthfully, though, I didn’t even know there was a song called “Nantes” until I got there. I like to think that I had one up on anyone who asked me about the song because I had actually seen the city, which, for the record, looks like this:
Now, I love the song almost as much as I love the city, especially that opening, “Well, it’s been a long time, long time,” which feels so right now that I’m heading back to France (on Monday!). While the song does a great job of evoking my own personal nostalgia, though, I’m not sure “Nantes” accurately captures the city either musically or lyrically. Of course, I’ve just made an intangible and entirely subjective judgement… but on the other hand, that’s what Omnivosaurus Rex is all about.
It’s probably always been a trend to name songs after cities (or locations in general), but I’ve observed a preponderance of city songs peppered throughout some notable recent releases. Beirut’s recent Rip Tide, for example, calls upon Santa Fe and Goshen, and even highlights New York’s East Harlem neighborhood. ”East Harlem” has wormed its way into my heart, and maybe that’s because I’m a native New Yorker, but I also love “Santa Fe” and “Goshen.” Most revealing of all: “Vagabond” is probably my favorite track on the entire album. The image of a rip tide complements the idea of an itinerant vagabond, which is perhaps what makes the location songs so exciting to listen to; the album sketches a journey for the listener.
But the very suggestion that a song can act as a place is what makes writing place-songs so risky. What exactly are we supposed to understand from a place-song? And please don’t use the word “essence” anywhere in your answer. Is a place-song descriptive? Emotive? Analytical? Editorial? My intense love for Bon Iver’s “Perth” will not necessarily translate to a love for the capital of Australia… or will it? Place-songs, it seems, are not exactly named after places, but seem to be named for places or by places.
Place and song only truly converge in folk music — and I mean real folk music, none of this Mumford & Sons business. While today’s musical innovators attempt to insert place into song, folk music takes the opposite direction. As songs endure and become ubiquitous, they merge with place. ”Perth” will never remind me of Perth; it will only ever evoke memories of early summer in New York and Philadelphia, and when I remember these few days before my trip in a few years’ time, I’ll be thinking of Georges Brassens and Pete Seeger (who will become the definition of America for my students, if I have anything to do with it).
P.S. Realitweets digests will be on hiatus until May 2012 at least because Nicolas Sarkozy doesn’t understand the way the internet generation watches TV.
In our time apart (which has been substantial… my bad), a lot has happened.Google+ came out.I joined Google+.I promptly realized that my operating system is too outdated to take advantage of the coolest feature of Google+ (group video chats).I realized that the financial barriers between me and a new computer are nothing compared to the American debt crisis.Luckily, the new season of Jersey Shore started!Seriously, if you aren’t already watching or have yet to be sold on the concept, stick THIS TRAILER in your pipe and smoke it.(And then watch the first episode!)
Forgive me.What I’m trying to say is, my life has gotten very interesting recently.I’ve changed, and it’s time for us to start changing together because I, like the Jersey kids, am headed to Europe.Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing all those things you’re supposed to do before you move abroad.For everyone, that means applying for a visa.For me that also means starting a blog, switching to an ereader to accommodate all the books I plan to read (in lieu of news and important things), and researching performance venues in Angers, which happens to be the 17th largest city in France.
Yesterday, I found myself sitting at a free concert in Central Park, watching Cults, The Naked and Famous, and Friendly Fires… none of whom I had heard of (by name) before. As I sat there afraid to confess that I recognized the songs without knowing who played them, I understood why I believe myself the philistine of this group.Whenever anyone asks me a “Have you heard of…” question, my answer is almost unfailingly, “No.”I tend to take in media as sensory experience, coming up with my own way to describe what I’ve just seen or heard.I guess I should have been an anthropology major.Or maybe I’m trying to come out as an alien right now.
The point I’m getting at, though, is that I will change when I go to France.You might not even recognize me.I’ll finally be able to embrace my alien identity crisis because, as a cultural outsider, no one will expect me to know or understand any of their references.How refreshing!To finally be treated as who I really am!No question is too inane and every explanation is accessible!I plan to share my discoveries with you, and maybe one day we’ll be equals.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll think of me as you watch this video that was in the French top 40 in November 2009.
P.S. I will obviously be sharing my thoughts on this season of Jersey Shore in my next post.(Teaser: it is the best one yet!)