LIKE A ROLLING STONE – BOB DYLAN AT THE CROSSROADS by Greil Marcus (Faber & Faber, 2006)
Greil Marcus is a man of many words. His verbosity is not to everyone’s taste. Many readers have, with just cause, accused him of being deliberately obtuse and willfully pretentious.
At the same time, his scholarly writings on music and cultural history are well worth the effort since they are frequently illuminating and consistently insightful.
Bob Dylan, the man and his music, is a subject he comes back to time and time again; taking fresh aims at a moving target he knows will never be fully defined.
It is the very elusiveness of Dylan that makes him so intriguing.
In this book, Marcus tells the story of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, charting the song’s origins and impact. He rightly identifies this as being more than just another rock song but, rather, a unique work of art more akin to an event. It may not have changed the world but it certainly set a new benchmark for what could be achieved in popular music. Continue reading
I’ve been test driving Booktrack on my ipad – a free app marketed as a revolutionary new reading / listening experience.
How it works is that selected titles are downloaded to your chosen device complete with a built in synchronized soundtrack. You can set specially composed music to play at the same pace as your reading speed.
The website assures us that “Unlike listening to random music, this music is scored to accompany the text and make sense to the story, helping to further the imagination and the story telling. The sound does not take away from the reading experience; it enhances it”.
I sampled the whole of The Ugly Duckling and the preview copies of stories by Salman Rushdie and Edgar Allan Poe.
The ‘sound designers’ combine ambient effects and field recordings like quacks and gunfire for Hans Christian Anderson’s tale. Initially it felt quite distracting but it is quite cleverly done and by no means as kitschy as it sounds. The site is clean, well designed and easy to navigate. Continue reading
In 2006, a Dutch filmmaker named David Kleijwegt made a TV documentary called ‘The Eternal Children‘ about the kooky sisters CocoRosie . It connected their music and petulant refusal to behave like sensible grownups with other musicians, including Devendra Banhart, William Basinski and Anthony & The Johnsons.
Six years on, something of the innocence and freshness of the New Weird America has faded but it seems to me that there are many artists who still want to preserve and promote a sense of childlike wonder both in the music they make and the tie-in visuals they commission. This is not so surprising when the alternative is the cynical adult marketing behind the crude bump and grind of MTV videos.
This fact struck me again when watching the beautiful animation by Crush Creative to Jónsi‘s Gathering Stories, a song from the latest Cameron Crowe movie We Bought A Zoo.
You can see the same spirit pervading the images in Ólafur Arnalds’ Hægt, kemur ljósið (directed by Esteban Diácono) from the Icelander’s 2010 album: ‘…and they have escaped the weight of darkness’.
You can then compare these with an older tune – The Lake by Antony and the Johnsons, a wonderful tune based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe and animated by Adam Shecter.
A nice initiative in my local town (Cesena) was to have a film night with selected piazzas and other open air venues given over to free movies and cinema talks. I chose to see Jean Epstein’s 1928 silent film of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher (La Chute de la maison Usher).
One reason was because I had never seen it, although I have since discovered that you can see the movie at the Internet archive.
The other reason was that I was intrigued by the fact that there was a live soundtrack by a three-piece Bolognese rock band Massimo Volume.
This was probably a one-off commission but they did a great job bringing out the gothic drama and not trying to impose their style on the film . Their soundtrack was certainly an improvement on the medieval music by Rolande de Cande which you hear on the online version.
The fim itself retains its gothic power and creates a surreal world of its own (helped in part by contribution of Luis Bunuel).
Jean Debucourt as Roderick Usher has mesmerising eyes that make him look either mad or high on some illicit substance. Madeline flops about in a distracted state. She is his wife in the movie (she was his sister in Poe’s short story) and for some reason Epstein decided on a feel good ending where they both survive the destruction of the house. It would have made more sense for them to be consumed within the crumbling mansion but perhaps even in 1928 the general public didn’t like to see the protagonists meeting a sticky end.
Review on Roger Ebert’s Great Movies