Archive for the ‘K. Experiments’ Category

Music Covers, Translation, and Perpetuum Jazille

April 23, 2014 1 comment

File:Toto in concert.jpg


chez RT, the muses have been on self-ordered R&R, the Dragons of Grammar have only been occasionally sighted over distant ocean horizons, and RT himself has been attending to such nitty-gritties as the extermination of bed-bugs (victory seems imminent) and the rearrangement of household furniture after knock-down, drag-out fights with the insect world.

Whew! No wonder RT has recently immersed himself in the world of YouTube, listening to old favs and checking out the impressive poetry offerings to be found on that site. But as always, discovery awaits the explorer.

Now for the details: RT has long been a fan of the pop group Toto, a phenom of the 70s and 80s best known for its ballad-style lyrics and dramatic musical arrangements. Love and corn have been the bailiwick of this group, and more power to them: where would poetry be without love and corn?

As a result of this surfing, RT has discovered the field of musical covers, that is, versions of well-known songs performed by musicians other than those who originally created the song. Is the cover better than the original? You the listener decide. The process can’t help but remind RT of literary translations from language to language (and in particular, poetry translations), and so he has decided to volunteer his critical two cents.

Surely, covers as an endeavor are more precise and accurate than poetry translations. Music is the international language, its notation standardized (for the most part) centuries ago. Western staff notation, as it is known, tells the performer the pitchspeedmeter, and individual rhythms of a particular musical work. To balance out this precision in European classical music, improvisation, the practice of creating spontaneous music during a performance, has developed. Together with musical ornamentation, improvisation allows the musician(s) performing a piece to add his, her, or their individual interpretations, greatly enriching the musical possibilities of a particular performance. 

Needless to say, poetry has a far less precise muse, yet produces its own beauty. What is the difference between poetry translation and musical interpretation?  RT has suggested several times that poetry exists in the tension between meaning and music, between the thought and beauty; it grows out of the roots of the spoken word. He will now suggest that music has a similar set of roots,  not in speech, but in movement. To take the argument further, RT thinks that movement is a primary means of remaining connected to the external world;  spatial coordination, overseen by sight, is music’s basic mental function. On the other hand, speech is deeply internal, arising out of inner silence, the stillness that human meaning arises from.  Speech, in contrast, may be rooted in some kind of crisis.

Does tension between movement and music exist? As far as RT can see, the opposite is the case: movement and motion reinforce each other.

So we are looking at what may be two very different ways of creating beauty.


Take it on home, RT! A few nights ago, YouTube introduced RT to Perpetuum Jazille‘s cover of Toto’s hit, Africa. RT was impressed by the degree to which PJ reproduced Africa using an entirely different orchestration. RT will venture that PJ’s approach to the song resembles a pointillist painting. He encourages readers to watch the YouTube videos of Toto’s and PJ’s versions of the song (the links to YouTube are below) and asks his readers to pay attention to the very different motions (and number of musicians) associated with each version. Though the two versions are meant to sound the same, do they? Which approach to the musical notation is better?


1) Toto Africa Link:

2) Perpetuum Jazzile Africa Link:


Photo: Toto in Concert (Trondheim, Norway, 4 August 2007). Author: Milford. Wikimedia; Public Domain.


Field Museum Sketches

April 15, 2013 3 comments


beautiful sketches of nature…  RT

(reposted from raaaaand)


Field Museum Sketches.

A Llama With My Mama

April 12, 2013 1 comment


alpaca yarn and wisconsin cheese…enjoy!   RT

(reposted from The Accidental Cootchie Mama)


A Llama With My Mama.

The Shoulders of Atlas

File:First neutrino observation.jpg


RT has long wanted to post about particle physics, the ultimate black box of truth. He wanted to put up one of those dramatic, colorized images of particles smashed together, breaking apart in spectacular corkscrews of light.

But, Dilbert-like, the above is RT’s contribution to the understanding of something he has only the vaguest notions about. It is, in fact, a historic photo, recording the first observation of a neutrino (and, it turns out, the photo also displays an anti-neutrino).

Cool stuff, but RT admits to being pretty much beyond words.

He will note, however, that neutrino oscillations have flavors and that neutrinos are marked by handedness (specifically, in their helicities). Where else but in the intricate gardens of mathematical formulae would we expect to find blossoms of metaphor? The mind yearns for experience (and for beauty)…   RT


Photograph: First Neutrino Observation (Nov. 13, 1970). Argonne National Laboratory. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


When I Move: Post-It Table

February 11, 2013 Leave a comment


too cool…   RT


When I Move: Post-It Table.

Deep Image

August 17, 2012 2 comments

I am haunted by a chance sighting I had a few months back of a tall black man walking down a local street in the WV panhandle. His complexion and features were striking: he had the angular nose and pronounced cheekbones of an Indian and a skin color that was the richest tone I’ve ever seen: a dark chocolate mixed with a red almost like dry blood.  He struck me as both dignified and totally unexpected, and then I realized that somehow he was emblematic of the area where I live.

I did not meet or speak with him;  I could not really have said anything at the time.

There is something of the deep image or metaphor about this chance encounter. Volumes were divulged in a few seconds, and so I hesitate to write a poem or rely on inspiration in dealing with such a profound subject. Something of the hope for true healing in this country seemed to lie in him, a perspective that is everywhere and yet always just out of sight. So here is a tentative first written response to this moment in prose, a conjecture only. Wish me luck in conveying something of this epiphany:

Dominic Passeul walked down Canal Street amid apricot blossoms. Evening was drawing on, and shadows disguised the tall man’s face as he moved easily past the clapboard houses and brick storefronts towards the bridge over the canal’s waters glinting in streetlight. This was as he wanted it: despite  his overwhelming presence–dark, red-brown complexion, size, nervous energy–he had learned how to slip into the background as a buck hides in the trees or a woman conceals her body behind fabric. But this was more than survival: Passeul was an observer, a listener, a deep actor.

“Hey, Passels!” rang through the air, bringing him up short. It was Asani standing on the wrap-around porch of the Blues and Gravy, the best music gig in town. “Where’s the violin?” “Just piano, tonight.” Passeul replied.


Photo: Portrait, WPA art; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Yellow Tree Cafe silhouette


Hello from Mumbai–& from a blogger who says of his previous life: “I may have been a dog.”       RT

Yellow Tree Cafe silhouette.

The Art of Being Poor

April 12, 2012 11 comments

So this is the deal, folks: I lost my job in fall 2009, and my unemployment benefits ran out at the end of February.

Difficulties pursue me as I try to keep everything in one piece: my apartment, utilities, social network…

As I wrestle with this latest episode of self-definition, I sometimes think of what Jane Jacobs has to say in her great book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities: life is not a work of art. It’s a difficult message for someone who’s an artist, but it reminds me that stuff left over from earlier in my life–i.e., unfinished homework–needs attending to.

And in the meantime, being poor has its lessons to teach, starting with discipline, which I take to mean recognizing and focusing on your unfinished business and living with challenges that might teach me humility and respect–taking a box of charity canned goods home, considering which church-sponsored meal might be ok to attend, trying to plan a career, instead of just taking a job. Wondering what happiness might mean for me…

We need time to process, and we are always getting older…if you’ve got what you need, you know it; if you don’t, find the courage to claim the things you need.

So life is not a work of art, but we need to make *some* sense out of it…like looking at a Pollack drip-painting, there is method (and beauty) in the madness.        RT


Photo: Budget Hotels in Tokyo; WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Unported; Author: Kounso.

Happy 84th, Dad!

March 9, 2011 7 comments


My father passed away on President’s Day, 1997, a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday. He was a Foreign Service Officer who fought in the Black Forest and went to USC on the GI Bill. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, married my mother, and they went to Washington so he could take the Foreign Service Exam.

His birthday was March 6th, so I’m a few days late with this, but it seemed like the right moment to remember my father and his generation. When Dad received his Phi Beta Kappa key, he didn’t know what it was, so Mom told him he had earned a prestigious honor, and bought the key for him for his wedding present.

Soldier, scholar, public servant–we’re all thinking of you, Dad!


P.S. The photo is of Dad holding me when I was about 5 or 6 months old. That’s a proud pappa!


the word is dead; long live the word!

December 5, 2010 7 comments

src: brockhaus&efron; wikicommons

word invention, one of those engines of language creation, seems to be out of fashion. It says weird, why don’t you fit in, normalize your vocabulary. Well, i think english could use some new bells and whistles. So I’ll offer some of the words I’ve made up over the years:

1) Zumi: a bridge

2) Azhoka: one of the languages spoken by centaurs

3) Panat: literally, a fifth; one of the divisions that the city Orrenea is divided into

4) Orrenea: a city of canals lying at the mouth of the Kirruri River. Seat of the Council of Kings and the Safarbin

5) Fire-pearl: a fresh-water pearl harvested from oysters in the silk-grass steppes

6) Zochi: the Dreamer, who made the moon

7) Aruna: the Singer, who made the sun

8) Asmeva: a centaur, what the centaurs call themselves

9) the Hisanzh: the island of the centaurs in Orrenea

10) the Magnaura: the building in Orrenea where the Council of King meets

all of these words from my novel about centaurs, which may eventually take wings and fly…    RT