Monthly Archives: January 2009

Cuban music again

I confess and lament my cluelessness about Cuban music, and I’ve been working at repairing the historical part of the deficiency by a careful reading of Ned Sublette’s Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. It’s a wonderful book on many counts, not least for its careful weaving of history (political, economic, ethnic) with musical disquisition. I (like most Americans) knew very little of Cuba’s history and woes, and little of the importance of Cuban musical ideas in American popular music –some names, but not much of the profound entanglements that are context for the last 50 years (which are not covered in Sublette’s book). I can’t recommend the book highly enough, though I do wish (on practically every page) that recorded snippets were available to illustrate the text. Some bits can be imagined, thanks to Sublette’s felicitous prose:

The intensity of Pérez Prado’s music came not only from its dissonance but from its rhythmic tension, the clarity of his writing, the physical impact of its brilliant, forceful timbre, the discipline of the ensemble, and the leader’s sense of humor. The breaks in Pérez Prado’s tunes were typically silences, punctuated by his sonic signature: a head-resonated grunt that some have romanticized as Ungh! and that sounded rather like someone undergoing a prostate exam. And then the trumpets assaulted again, as if to say: this is serious. (pg. 559)

King Coal

Doc Searls has some great pictures of Powder River coal lands (see his Flickr set), and he points to John McPhee’s 2005 articles in the New Yorker. After I’d read the articles in 2005 I did a bit of link-gathering and Google Earth messing, and it’s still worth a look as an addendum to Doc’s photos. As I updated the links on that page I realized how rusty I am with the mechanics of FTP… and in fact a lot of my former skills seem to have gone walkabout.

links for 2009-01-25

links for 2009-01-24

  • "…analysed basic vocabulary from 400 languages in this database using computational phylogenetic methods to build a set of "family" trees for the languages of the Pacific. The results clearly show that the origin of the entire Austronesian language family can be dated back to Taiwan around 5,200 years ago, and moved through Island South-East Asia, along New Guinea and into Polynesia…"
  • truly astounding. zoom in to various of your favorites, explore the moment on thousands of faces, feel the cold

links for 2009-01-20