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Well Yank Frankly's Crank: Junot Diaz Gets a Genius Grant: Romney Will Win

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Junot Diaz receptionTiny Town, USA – I interviewed Junot Diaz for the Cornell Alumni Magazine a few years back when he won the Pulitzer.

Sullen? Yes.

Talented? He has some serious pizzazz.

A prick? Most certainly -- but what writer isn't prickly? It's Macho to be a Prick.

Genius? Hell NO.

No more than Grandma Moses or if you prefer a dark-skinned person, Jamaica Kincaid. O yeh. I got to take a picture of his picture, too. With a point n shoot. Have at:

But first, check out this email from a concerned intellectual in Tempe, AZ.:
Dear tinytowntimes.com:
Knows who's good?
Junot Diaz.
I read a story where he has sex with a girl and uses a bad word.
I see why they are all saying FORGET Gilgamesh. FORGET Fleur de Mal and Zarathustra and Malone Dies and The Garden of Forking Paths and Pale Fire  and Last Year at Marienbad.
ForGET the Standard of UR, Hammurabi's Law Code and The Castle.
Junot Diaz---have you heard of him??? AMAZING!!
He fucks this girl and writes a story about it! About how it made him FEEL frankie!!!
We are lucky as SHIT to have a genius on our hands.
Look him up. He's from the Dominican Republic.
Junot Diaz.
– Yversson Mixwell, filling-in for Franklin Crawford as Franklin Crawford
We thank the Cornell Alumni Magazine (CAM) in advance for allowing tinytowntimes.com reuse of Franklin Crawford's photo. CAM is owned and published by the Cornell Alumni Association and editorially independent of Cornell University.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 19:18
 

What the heckfire is this "New Music" stuff?

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FLCE in dress rehearsal

Tiny Town Satellite of Lodi, NY – Sunday's performance by the Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble (FLCE) at the Lodi Historical Society was predictably top-notch. The Mozart flute quartet in D that opened the show was sweetly rendered, with flautist Elizabeth Shuhan peeling and flitting over a soft bedding of strings, then, occasionally swooping alongside the accompaniment like a bird joining a flock in gregarious assembly.

The Dvorzak Dumky in E minor that closed the show was equally delightful – at times somber, in a nod to autumn – with sudden breaks into carousels of dance, dervishing spirals, stomps and quasi-marches.

Exactly what a Dumky should be: Stylishly carried out by violinist Shannon Nance, cellist Stefan Reuss and pianist, Michael Salmirs.

But what was that thing in middle they played, you know? That monstrosity that left us wondering why we were born? That thing that made us think about life, that the group we love so dearly and trust indulged in for more than 20 minutes, prior intermission. What was the heckfire was that thing?

The simple answer: New Music. And spanking good stuff it was.

Much to their credit the Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble advocates New Music via competition and in Sunday's case, a commission.

That arresting thing in the middle of the program was a World Premiere of Andy Waggoner's "An Oracle Unheard: Ten Dramatic Movements after (stories by) Herodotus." It is written for two narrators, clarinet and piano quartet (violin, viola and cello).

William McAnenyThe piece was commissioned by William McAneny (prounced Mah-KENnen-nee), who, like his wife Shirley, is a lifelong devotee of classical music. They are residents of Trumansburg, NY. The piece is a birthday gift for Shirley.

Forgive my departure to the informal here: It was learned during a tinytowntimes.com interview with the couple that both hail from this writer's hometown of Bay Shore, NY – also the hometown of Roberta Crawford, FLCE violist. This is mentioned only because of its haunting – or to the less dazzled, parochial – synchronicity: No one involved knew this fact until the commission was well underway – a Tiny Town it is indeed!. Neither Bill nor Shirley had been exposed to a note of the work prior to Sunday's concert.

These people are avid fans of the Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble and love the Lodi Historical Society setting. Mr. McAneny was determined to commission a piece of New Music, he said, because he didn’t want something to "just hang on a wall,” he told tinytowntimes.com. He sought a Fine Art that had the power to attract younger people to the classical arts and to educate as well as entertain. In his case music, that invisible Art, met his gold standard criteria.

Mr. McAneny's request was general. He wanted something "dramatic," yet lyrical. The couple both said their taste for modern music slowed to a stop somewhere nears the works of Leonard Bernstein (think Bernstein's Mass and the Chichester Psalms, not West Side Story). Roberta Crawford (not knowing she was in business with a hometown fan) and Michael Salmirs accepted Mr. McAneny's request and chose Andy Waggoner as the composer best suited for this job.

You can learn all this at the Finger Lakes Chamber Ensemble site, as real estate is tight and best you cut to the background stuff there. This family-connection business ends here: Salmirs has known Waggoner since 1982. The rest are details you may learn for your own edification at the FLCE site. One last co-inkydink: McAneny got the idea for a music commission from Maurice Barbash of Brightwaters, NY, the town nextdoor to the McAnenys. Mr. Barbash has commissioned at least two new pieces of music, one for the Long Island Symphony and another for his wife Lilian Barbash, the latter for cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the New York Philharmonic. Yours truly was at that world premiere by mere accident: Mr. Barbash's son is one of his best friends from high school and a fellow writer.

Mr. Waggoner's work (Cornell University composition Ph.D, '82) is dramatic in extemis; at times profoundly touching, beautifully weird, and here and there annoying (as intended) irritating (as intended, for dramatic effect) and thoroughly modern, Millie. Today I hear it in my head: The mule calls of Cyrus – "mule"  a euphemism for this Persian king of mixed blood. For those unfamiliar with animal husbandry (horse sense), a mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Its braying is a sound like no other. Willie, my favorite Donkey in the whole wide world, is reported to bray crazily every time a minister comes to the farm where he lives. (Sorry, non-sequitors are my thing).

Richard McDowellFor more info on the story/myth of Cryus, look him up. I'm not as learned as Mr. Waggoner, who took a bit too long Sunday, methinks, giving the story away prior to performance. However, he did explain how a music commission works and that was cool. In Waggoner's world he lucked-out with a commission from William McAneny: No hard and fast rules were applied. Instead he was provided with a rough outline of Mr. Aneney's wishes for the piece and informed that it be suitable to young listeners and usable as an educational tool. Waggoner has worked a lot with children and says that in his experience, you can run the thorniest piece of New Music by them and they soak it up. Good on ya, the wee bods. As for those of us who have grooves in our musical templates that date back to madrigals and troubadours, this New Music can be rough stuff. But I am open to it and ever since composers tried to break out of the death-grip of our Euro-centric idea of musical composition, Aristotelian, Cartesian and orderly, there's been a war in the music halls. Blame it on the scientists and metaphysician's who discovered we are composed largely ... of ... "nothing," did you say?

McAneny is a forward-looking man. He wanted some fresh stuff. New Music! Cash on the barrelhead. He was ready for an "ear-opener" and on that score, Waggoner's work excelled itself.

Right now I can hear Waggoner's brooding, sentimental, true and cathartic closing movement of the piece, "Epilogue: For Mothers and Fathers," where a motif referred to earlier is mulled, held in the arms of fate (Góreki's 3rd Symphony flashes across the news crawl in my brainpan – only as a stretch to help the reader understand it is aggrieved ), mourned and buried in rich sonorities (nod to Messaien), with the embedded melody winding down the centuries, sinking ever sinking, to rest there, on that Sunday, in Lodi NY. In its sweep it was symphonic, Richard McDowell on clarinet was extraordinary throughout the work. The entire group outdid itself. McAneny was right in choosing them as his pioneer players.

The closing is a very sad but refreshing lamentation, as the story is about war, redemption, forgiveness, rash decision-making by leaders who think they hear the voice of God speaking to them, fathers burying sons, and much weeping and gnashing of teeth. In other words, the piece is topical and belongs not only to the Greeks and Persians, but to our present era and our own nation. Now, how do you like them apples?

Gala

That header appears only because local Gala apples were served at the reception of Sunday's premiere of the Waggoner piece. Thanks to the hostesses and hosts of this affair. The mini-lemon tarts were especially pleasing and the red juice - the Falkerson Rosette, alcohol-free – was an ambrosia.

The People of Tiny Town: "Please! Shuddup and get to the Point! What the heckfire is this New Music stuff?"

bust of herodotusGosh, I am reminding myself of Me -- why do I always muddle about?

The People: "Just GET to the Point. And spare us the personal stuff. Time is Life."

As we all learned yesterday, whether we cared for Mr. Waggoner's piece or broke into a rash when it seemed a cacophonous beehive of disorganized sound (it wasn't), new music is just that! NEW MUSIC!!!

The People: "And for this I put down my sandwich and so I wouldn't smear my keyboard scanning these Fidelity and TIAA-CREFF portfolios of mine with mayo (lite)."

New Music, in general can be anything – my own noodlings at the piano, hastily composed and posted to The Cloud and uploaded to YouTube and reposted here, there and everywhere. That's a kind of new music.

Folk and Rock musicians churn out new music as we speak – Imagine that noise? Put your ears to the rails of infinity and have a listen. You won't be the same afterwards, promise.

NPR makes a business of broadcasting, at arm's length, New Music, dedicating a whole segment to discussion of it (short form) with the motto: "Remember All Music Was Once New Music." A rather limp wrapper when they've just been playing Beethoven on his birthday (birthdate? same as the square root of 2). Perhaps listener's leave the room on Olivier Messiaen's birthday (French, not as pretty as Ravel). Old Romantics must rattle the morning New York Times furiously on Arnold Schoenberg's birthday (Godfather of 12-tone music and good riddens).

For regular attendees of classical concerts, many in their senescence, those old worthies who keep today's music halls in business, New Music remains a conundrum – intimidating, surprisingly "okay" when it doesn't raise their hackles but generally untrustworthy. Sure-sure: a John Adams or John Cage sneak into the repertoire, but Charles Ives is as old and dead as a Roman Senator now, and is performed but rarely. The McAnenys, for instance, are happy in their comfort zones. They put in their time and deserve to remain comfortable if that is what they wish. But Mr. McAneny is a man of courage and was willing to risk leaving his cozy nest to offer a composer he did not know a shot at making some New Music.

Stefan ReussOther older concert-goers prefer the 18th, 19th and 20th-century war horses and can't be budged past Sibelius. Even Stravinsky and all those other Russians are too much for them, with the exception of Peter Illyich, Rachmaninoff and Borodin (remember, Tchaichovsky composed well into the 20th century). Mussororsky comes thundering down from his bald Mountain now and then, the great glacial erratic that he is and Kodaly deserves more attention than Bruckner, who seems to have emerged like a giant primeval forest ready to be clear-cut by American programmers as keen on Euro fundaments as foodies are of the last shellfish in the sea.

Then again, should the old guard be rudely awakened from their warm memories? Mozart still catches me (at 54) by surprise now and then with his tangents. And Haydn, with his lovable predictability cultivated from the lush gardens of Prince Esterhazy, a patron to the arts if ever there was one is a balm. Alban Berg kept his minimalist 12-tones pieces short. Bless him: They are excellent brain teasers but offer scant good news.

Even Stravinsky proclaimed that good old Ludwig's "music is sober because it must be sober" – in his autobiography. Only later in life did Stravinsky acknowledge how much he owed to that  crunch-browed God-fighter Beethoven. Hamlet the Dane is Hamlet the Dane. Beethoven is Beethoven.

Andy Waggoner is Andy Waggoner. Roll over, Elliot Carter.

Waggoner is a marvelous composer and critically acclaimed by reviewers in highbrow hipster pubs the like of The New Yorker and Sunday New York Times. His latest work, profound if tough on first go-round, is a challenging landscape to traverse. Yet the McAneneys were pleased! Well they should be, having paid for the honor. Many others in the audience were less enthusiastic, but even the sticklers for old war horses acknowledged that  that thing surrounded by Mozart and Dvorzak had some strange organizational power.

The answer is Waggoner's smart use of Herodotus's story of what might be called, The Fractured Fairy Tale of King Croesus (Herodotus is considered the father of history, his histories are so darn chock full of lovely interventions by gods and demons – a regular pantheon – that they are often sniffed at as myths. But such was the nature of his time Greece, BC 484-425). But credit Herodotus with following a systematic approach to note-taking and double-checking his research for veracity (by his own light and that of others in his time). He chronicled the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars and supplied a lot of geographical and ethnographical detail that stands the test of time.

This ancient and abiding story of King Croesus, the Oracle and the forgiving King Cyrus, aided by text copied for the entire audience and distinctively narrated by Malcolm and Elizabeth Ingram and – well, I can't say enough about the musicianship, filial piety and all – oh, to hell with it: They played the Greeks and Persians right out of this demanding work under a strict schedule with just a couple rehearsals with the narrators (critical: the timing between narrator and ensemble was at key moments ... a bit loose, shall we say).

That is fixable. The score was delivered to Bill McAeneny by Mr. Salmirs, the man who navigated and accompanied everyone through the work. Professional to say the least. The premiere itself did not evince a standing-O – the audience saved their bravos for the end, where they all stood, average age range 65-70, applauding the high caliber of musicianship displayed throughout the afternoon's concert.

As for that thing in middle. Remember, it was a birthday gift for someone.

FLCE premiere

"I loved it," said Shirkey McAneny, clasping the large envelope containing the fresh score.

Need I say more?

The People: "By the great horns of the Minotaur, by Isis and Osiris, we bid you not!"

You mix your civilizations, dear reader. See, Isis and Osiris were Egyptian goddesses and while some argue that the Greeks stole their knowledge –

The People: *Doof!*

Egads. I do believe The People just farted in my general direction. Enuf said. Time for another Dumky, then off to work.

– Franklin Crawford, Ithaca College School of Music, '85

Images: Top, from left, Malcolm and Elizabeth Ingram, narrators, Richard McDowell, clarinet, Shannon Nance, violin, Micahael Salmirs, piano, Roberta Crawford, viola and Stefan Reuss, cellist, in dress rehearsal for "An Oracle Unheard," by Andy Waggoner, who appears with the same grouping (bottom) after the premiere on Sunday, Sept 23, 2012, in the Lodi Historical Society. Next: William McAeneny offers the peace sign after hearing his commissioned work, a gift for his wife, Shirley (not pictured). Below that: Clarinetist Richard McDowell in rehearsal for the new work; Next right: A bust of Herodotus, provided; Right again: Cellist Stefan Reuss shoots for the high note on a glissandi ... The bottom image includes Mr. Waggoner wearing a purple shirt. All images credited to Franklin Crawford, with the exception of the bust of Herodotus.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2012 04:15
 

Tiny Town Events Incoming, Outgoing, Overflowing

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WHY DO WE DO IT THIS WAY? Why don't we just print an events calendar? Are you stark raving? Did you just eat cat feces? Do you know how much work goes into one of those things? This is really a continuing saga of the Ecology of Tiny Town Bulletin Boards: What lives, what dies, what co-exists, what gets usurped, bullied, obscured, suffocated in this ever-constant Darwinian struggle to advertize one's goods and services and talents on a public bulletin board in a city hell bent on suppressing this kind of promotion, the kind of promotion that are the eyesores and soul scabs of every Collegetown. If you can't read it, enjoy the pretty colors and the design the random hangings make. Or zoom in, get a magnifying glass, get up off your ass and go read the damn board for yourself. It's right outside the Greenstar Satellite of Oasis inside the D-Witt Mall. Thank you for your support and that will be $5 please. 

UPDATE: Our cultural events team took a beating on this today and for most part, none of the items listed above appeared at all. Something to do with solar flares and Republicanism. At any rate, there's a 10-Minute playfest, don't miss it. It's only 10-minutes long. I was in it once and it changed my life. In fact, I broke a leg AFTER the production. Truth! So help these poor people will you? Apple Harvest Festival shouldn't be hard to miss, just take Route 81 south from Binghamton and get off at Whitney Point, I'm sure you'll find apples somewhere along 79. There's something about farms and forks but we can barely read it even on our giant screen, but it sounds like you won't need to bring your own silverware. Ah, yes. There's a beautiful smiling child up to something healthy and life-enhancing down middle left, and beside her what looks like a runway model with a sort of golden lizard draped over her shoulder -- should be a something else again to see. On the far right, we see something for Urban Col Ni September 10% 30% – that's a puzzler, ey?Do be cautious walking about this weekend as apparently the very streets are coming to life -- stay on the grassy median and behave while the concrete and tarmac heaves and does its animated thing ... there is a very good event that allows no children and seems to be surrounded by barbed wire fencing ... Might have a go at that ... Porch Festivals will be held on the city's Southside this year. Yes, most of the porches in the 2nd Ward will be unoccupied. If you want noisy raucous musical porches it is suggested you go to Fall Creek on Sunday where there will be boatloads of them. 

That's about all we can see from here. Just grab one of the local papers and look in the events section, if they have one, and if worse comes to worse, there's always a crowd at Wegmans. 

– C. Penbroke Handy, out of sorts and all the better for it 

Last Updated on Friday, 14 September 2012 17:27
 

Premiering: "Poems Tinee" ... Versifying at tinytowntimes

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"My How Times Fly"
 
the pointless point
that we pursue
these flies encased in amber knew:
one mishap
and you're a sap
stuck in golden goo
[there for the eons to review].
 
and yet the crass fair bipeds who
pawn your fortunes off as jewels
miss the point tho' its aim be true
and so are damned
to land
in the same place, too.

– F. Al-58, translated from the Siliconese by Barbara Broome

 
Last Updated on Monday, 03 September 2012 15:38
 

21 Artists Salute the Utility Boxes Famous for their Uniformity with PAINT! In effort to Nab Vandals

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21 box project

Tiny Town, USA – In an effort to snag gang taggers and the infamous "Monster Head" graffitavista, The City of Ithaca Pubic Art Commission (PAC) has enlisted 21 "artists" to deface 21 large electrical boxes in Tiny Town. The thinly veiled effort to nab local spray paint and stencil artists has already transformed at least a dozen unobtrusive, inoffensive, utilitarian boxes into eyesores under the rubric of "public art."


The 21 Boxes Art Project is designed to enhance the City of Ithaca by adding works of art to the downtown street-scape on surfaces that are often overlooked or vandalized, [itals ours] according to PAC statement.

 

"Artwork displayed on electrical boxes functions as a form of communication to a moving audience with the goal of creating a safe, inclusive and inspired urban environment," so the story goes by someone with a useless degree. "Successful proposals are fostering community good will ... and neighborhood pride.

 

Bojo Washington of S. Plain Street said the one he saw "gimme the heeber gibeties. I had a knocker too much of ol' Ni-Train enna thot 'you dun dunnit this time Bojo.' Buddit watten nuffin but a white guy makin a mess of crazy shit."

 

Unbelievably there's money involved.

 

Hand-picked cozy-uppers to the PAC board get primo spots and a stipend of $100 in addition to a $25 credit for supplies at participating art supply and hardware stores. 


So far, the 21 delegated artists met for informational sessions, decided on how best to mimic the works of vandals from out of town and strategized about how to keep The Man confused by the fluidity and redundancy of lines that look a lot like the same stuff the cops have been trying to stop all century long.


Some artists have teamed up -- as once did the Vandal Squad to make a box look like a mausoleum for old comic books and alien cadaver studies. 

 

So far, no arrests have been made. The artist pictured was brushing up between downpours this past Sunday at the corner of S. Plain and W. Mahatma Ghandi Blvd.

 

Don't work too hard, there buddy. The PAC cannot guarantee how long each mural will last.

 

"We gots a half-black prez'dint and a half-white mayor and still it be white people slumming up the dangit place," Mr. Washington said. "Dey cums here and next thing, you cain't 'ford to get into nuffin but trubble. Ain't no pride in that shee-it."

 

– Audrey Burbage, new to the tinytowntimes.com team

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 August 2012 10:41
 


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