Lament from Epirus: An Odyssey into Europe’s Oldest Surviving Folk Music
by Christopher C. King
Kitsos Harisiadis: Lament in a Deep Style, 1929–1931
an album produced by Christopher King with Vassilis Georganos
The first thing one notices about Epirotic music from the 1920s and 1930s is that it’s raw. This isn’t just a result of the grainy quality of the recording. The singing is full-throated and passionate; the instruments keen like wolves or flutter and swoop like hummingbirds. The insistent strumming and drumming, the pedal notes, the droning of strings and accompanying voices churn with a primeval energy. Aspects of the music suggest bluegrass, or free jazz, or the Velvet Underground, or the Carnatic music of southern India. But something sounds a bit off.
Alice Coltrane played piano in her husband’s groups from 1966 until his death the following year. Alice recorded a dozen albums under her own name, ranging from straight-ahead jazz to experimental mixtures of orchestral music and improvisation to Hindu chants performed in gospel arrangements. Her corpus remains one of the most varied and underappreciated in jazz.
It’s surprising that Austrian novelist and playwright Thomas Bernhard would agree to star in a documentary about his own life and work, filmed in Hamburg in 1970. (A new book featuring a translated transcript as well as a number of stills has just been released.) By participating in Three Days, Bernhard risked turning himself into writer, not someone who writes.
A month and a half after the opening of its new building, the Whitney Museum is now hosting an eleven-day festival celebrating the work of American expatriate composer Conlon Nancarrow, who is best known for his innovative studies for player piano. Even when you don’t understand what you’re hearing, the sheer energy of Nancarrow’s inventions can be delightful, and watching these piano rolls unfurl provides its own pleasure.