Posts Tagged ‘music’

Sing it to me

December 4, 2014

We started talking about love.  I don’t know how we started.  I think it was because he wanted to marry me.  Some days it’s just like that.  You sit on the subway train and somebody proposes.  And then his friend does too.  They had just gotten done singing a song.  The one man stopped to give me a compliment, asked about my marital status.  I lied, because it was funner and because I can’t help it.  I said I’d been married three times.  “Third times a charm,” I said.

He said, “But you’re single now.”  Yes, I’m single.  I’m only a fibber; I can only carry it so far.  He said, “So how about a fourth?”  Well..  And then talk about love… love is a beautiful thing.  “Why yes it is,” I said.  “And everybody has it.”  He agreed.  His friend came up behind him to chime in, “It’s free…  you can give it, share it…”

“And produce it,” I said.

“And reproduce..” he said.

“Whoa!” his friends said from the other side of the car.

“Wow, he’s really cutting to the chase,” I said.  “These are modern times.”  We imagined how beautiful our babies would be.  I said yes, they would be very beautiful.  None more so.  He said, “How about not giving me a fast no, but a slow yes?”

I said, “Who needs reproduction.  How about a number?  I’m a sucker for harmonies…”

So they did this song.  For me.  And for reproduction, I guess.  If it sounds this good, it could be for paper cuts and bikini waxes, whatever.  Sing me the song:

You can hear me on some of the “ah”s and the last “ooo” at the end.  I couldn’t help myself.  Bypassing marriage to sing the harmonies.  It’s a good trade off.  Any day.

Come and hear me and Marlon Cherry play some songs on Friday night as a part of “Call and Response – ‘answer songs’ to the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil by Natalia Zukerman, Susan Hwang, and Ben Arthur.”

Friday, December 5th, 8:30pm
Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3
185 Orchard Street
New York, NY
tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com/event/702367-call-response-answer-songs-new-york/

Still all about Satan – Friday @ Rockwood Music Hall

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Aygo Chamna and Monday Night with Amrams

August 5, 2014

Hi.  I’m writing to you from Cloud 9.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to be up here.  I’m not going to stay.  I don’t think they let you.  You get booted in time, so you can find another way up.  But it’s nice to make it here today.  I got here with the help of Amrams and Dr. Vella.  It’s a pretty potent combination and one that I couldn’t have planned, but glad I fell into.

You know that David Amram has this monthly residency at Cornelia Street…  I saw it for the first time in May after I had moved onto Hart Street.  Actually, the day I moved in.  Adam moved me to the apartment
and then said he was playing with his dad later on Cornelia Street if I wanted to go.  I was dead beat, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the show.  I was charmed and amazed and moved.  David Amram can freestyle.  There’s almost nothing more exciting, right?  It’s like the Cirque du Soleil equivalent of verbal acrobatics.  He’s got all the plates spinning; he’s contorted and balanced and is hanging in impossibly beautiful positions in mid air.  Will he fall?  Will it all come down?  How can this sustain itself?  But instead the contortions continue and now chainsaws are being juggled and then midgets are being balanced on chins, and then he dismounts and lands perfectly on the ground.  It’s like that but with words and singing while playing piano with a 4 piece band.

That night in May, Mr. Amram improvised music to accompany a recited poem.  He followed the story and added drama in whichever way tickled his fingertips, and because of his natural playfulness and musical agility, the accompaniment was as much the story as the words.  It was one of those things I saw and then knew I could do.  There actually aren’t that many things like that.  I mean most things, a lot of things I see, and I think, ‘That looks really hard’ or ‘Not for me in this lifetime.’  Like when I see really good guitar players… really good musicians, any instrument, actually, I kind of know I’m never going to get to that level.  I’m not a virtuoso, not even close, on any instrument.  Honestly, I don’t think it’s in my make-up.  I may not have the head space or the ear or the coordination or the discipline or the, what is that called… talent.   As I explained once, I don’t have any chops.  Maybe one chop on a good day, but plural, never.

But when I saw the poem accompanied by David’s improvisations, I just knew that was something I could do.  So I asked Adam if he thought I could tell a story at the next show.  And he said yes.  And so I had to have a story.

But it was intimidating, as that process often is..  All weekend, I was “writing.”  Which requires all kinds of breaks, like going to pick up my keyboard and eating Chinese food.  There’s lots of time needed for staring off into space.  Suffice to say, it wasn’t exactly flowing.  I thought I could do this.  What the hell?

So the whole weekend, and I’m still confused.. nothing’s clear about the story I want to tell.  Usually it’s pretty obvious to me what I want to say and how I want to say it, but all of a sudden, I’m spewing out things and all kinds of tangents that I’m not sure are interesting…  I’m really wishing I had an editor.  And I mean, this has to be good..  if I’m bad, they might regret letting me do this, and I’ll never be allowed to do anything again ever.  That would be really sad for me.  Very regrettable.  Why did I say I wanted to do this again?

Monday comes, and things are STILL murky.  I can’t do anything but focus on this, but I can’t seem to focus on this…  I’ve got to go to Dr. Vella’s in Queens later…  I’m running late.  He’s running late..  I tell Dr. Vella about my dilemma.  He says he’ll fix me.  He’s a chiropractor, but he’s really not like any chiropractor you’ve ever met.  He just touches little spots on your back and neck and tail bone and then lets you lie face down for a while and then comes back and touches your feet and has you move your head left and right.  And he can check your system to see what it’s compatible with.  I swear, my body never talks to me, but it will talk to Dr. Vella and tell him things.  Answer questions.  Pretty remarkable.  I never knew my feet had so much to say.  Apparently, sugar alcohols are all kryptonite to me.  Who knew.

I leave Dr. Vella’s with that open, mushy liquid feeling… a little vulnerable, but not bad at all…  I work on the piece on train.  I have dread.  I thought maybe I shouldn’t do the show, but the pendulum said I wouldn’t regret it, so I said fine, I’m coming.  I’m writing stuff out by hand, because it’s not like I have a printer.  I’m cutting and re-wording… which sections stay, which sections go?  I’m still writing as the show starts..  I don’t know if this is going to work.  I imagine calling out for the hook to pull me off stage if I get terribly boring.  Can I just carry my own exit hook with me to extract myself out of failing performance situations?  Is that allowed?

But as I start talking (telling the story of the time I dyed my hair blonde and then had to go to my brother’s medical school graduation dinner, so bought a wig to wear so as not to offend my Korean relatives and spirits of my ancestors), I was flanked by Amrams.  I was in their attention.  It was intense.  I had known this before from playing with Adam.  He locks into you, and then whatever you do, he’s already with you; he’s already there.  Now I see where he gets that.  It’s like their whole nervous system takes you in, connects with yours.  You can see it in their eyes, but really it’s their whole being.  And the great thing is, they respond to you with their own creativity and skill.  Which is huge.  I mean, their creativity and skill are huge.  Formidable, really.

So things went where I had no idea they would go.  Some of the parts I doubted the most ended up being the most fun.  The audience responded in ways I hadn’t anticipated which changed what I did, which affected the band, which affected me and then the audience… whoa… we were on this ride.  I was out there on this wave with two Amrams in the Cornelia Street Cafe.  You didn’t even know there was ocean in that basement, did you.

I’ve never actually been surfing in my life, but I can’t imagine it could be more thrilling than that.

I jumped off the stage like I was just delivered to shore.  The rest of that night, I kept thinking, gosh, my parents came to this country.  We had no idea what we were in for.  But look, last night happened.  I did a scary thing that ended up with me surfing with Amrams in a historic venue in New York City.  What a thrill.  Thanks mom and dad for being brave enough to come to this country even though I now can only speak Korean like a three-year-old, and it caused you much heartache because your kids did exactly what you told them not to do–art.

Last night will not be written about except for here.  I don’t think it was recorded.  The memory may please some of the people who were there for a little while.  Certainly, any enjoyment or expansiveness of a shared moment like that does something good to you and adds some measure of joy and connectedness to your store of joy and connectedness.  I think there’s that.  I don’t think any time spent in pleasure and sharing is time wasted.  However, even with the transience of last night’s moment, I count that moment.  I mark it in bold, for myself, because I walked through some dread and uncertainty to arrive on a stage with incredible people, and we created something.  We made something.  Really the whole room made something, because we were informing and affecting each other the whole time.  And me there, who came to this country as a toddler, with parents who never wanted me to sing in public, I got to share that stage and be a part of an American culture of music and performance.  My parents never wanted this, but isn’t it great.  I’m really happy about it.  Sometimes the best things are the things you never could have imagined.  I’m glad for all these moments that don’t last, past and future, doing what my folks never ever imagined, but what makes me happiest.

Look, Amrams have a penchant for musical multi-tasking.  My theory is, you throw an Amram any two things, and he/she will play them at once:

David Amram on flutes (an Egyptian song):

And Adam on drums and trumpet in my room.  That’s me singing along like an idiot (albeit a happy idiot):

See that space, that space between the 2 Amrams?  That’s where I was standing, talking about my hair.  And.. the obligatory selfie in front of Cornelia Street Cafe.  David Amram said, “That was a great story!  Does your mom know you’re telling that story?  I bet she would really like that.”  Well, he obviously doesn’t know my mother, but I called her today and mentioned it.  She was silent mostly in response.  I asked her if she remembered that time with the wig.  She said, of course.  How could she forget?  I asked, what was it that you said when I took off that wig?  She said, “Aygo chamna.”  I asked what exactly that translates into.  I know what it means for me, but I wondered what the exact words were.  She said it translates into “Oh my god.  So awful.”  Oh, I now have the next album title…

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