Music Mondays: El Grito

Contentious Centrist writes:

In the art of poetry, silence is usually a fraction of a void, an emptiness, a pause, between words that sound and resound. And for some poets, the silence can only be contrasted by a great scream of emotion or anguish or joy.

Lorca was such a poet.

None understand better the meaning of the cry (“el grito”) — the scream, the howl, that is punctuated by short, stylized silences — than the Spaniards, with their Flamenco, their duende, and the immensity of feeling they funnel through their poetry and music.

“Not unlike the guitar, in fact, the voice of the cantator is considered an instrument of the cry, the cry that dares to break the silence, just as the hands are an instrument to break the stillness, and the feet. ”

The Cry

The ellipse of a cry
echoes from mountain
to mountain.

From the olive trees
a black rainbow
veils the blue night.

Ay!

Like the bow of a viola
the cry vibrates long strings
of wind.

(Translated by Ralph Angel)

There are two different choral settings of El Grito, one by Argentinian composer Maria de los Angeles cuca Esteves (here) and one by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (below). To be honest, I don’t much like either one. Although they do use silence and are powerfully unsettling, they lack duende. Would you agree?

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Music Mondays: Enrique Morente

In Orihuela, his town and mine, Ramon Sije, whom I loved so much, has been taken from me like a flash of lightening.

I want to be the crying gardener of the earth
you occupy and nourish,
comrade of my soul, all too soon.

Feeding the rains, the snail-shells
and organs, my grief without purpose
gives your heart to feed

to the desolate poppies.

The great Enrique Morente is dead. He was one of the giants of Spanish flamenco, born in the slums of the Albacin, Granada’s old gitano quarter in the shadow the Alhambra. His second album, Homenaje flamenco a Miguel Hernández, was inspired by the working class Valencian anti-fascist poet Miguel Hernández, who died of consumption in Franco’s prisons while in his early thirties. Just making this record, was an act of defiance against the aging dictator and an auger of the re-birth of democracy later in the decade.

Morente was deeply rooted in the ancient vernacular culture of flamenco, the underground soul music which had been suppressed under the dictatorship  in favour of a plastic tourist kitsch version, and, with Cameron de la Isla and others, brought this rebel music out of the shadows in the dying years of the fascist regime. Later, however, he earned the disapproval of the increasingly conservative flamenco purists by his increasingly innovative work, such as collaborations with Maghrebi artists and thrash punk bands.

Here is one of his Miguel Hernández songs, “Elegía a Ramón Sijé”. Ramón Sijé was a Catholic poet and very close friend of Hernández, who died very young. The opening words in English are at the start of this post; the whole text can be found here.

Here is Morente in 1981, singing a granaína, one of the song forms of his Albacin ghetto youth.

Here he is with Lagartija Nick performing Lorca’s “Ciudad sin sueño” from the 1995 Lorca/Leonard Cohen tribute Omega.

The pairing of Garcia Lorca and Cohen is sort of obvious, given Leonard Cohen’s debt to the poet, but the musical setting is highly original. Here is “First We Take Manhattan”:

Finally, here is a more schmaltzy but still lovely version of the elegy to Ramón Sijé, by JM Serrat. Serrat is a Catalan singer and songwriter of Morente’s generation. His defiance of Franco came in 1968 when he was selected to represent Spain in the Eurovision song contest, but insisted on singing in Spanish and was replaced and his records banned.

In 1969, Serrat released Com ho fa el vent, a tribute to Antonio Machado, the Republican poet who died in 1938 fleeing Franco’s Spain. (His death is one of the stories told in Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas, which I may write about some time.) Serrat was soon exiled from Spain, but because he chose to sing in Spanish, he was condemned by the Catalan nationalists. “I sing better in the language they forbid me”, he said.

On this day: 19 August

From The Daily Bleed:

Federico García Lorca

1864 — Spain: Juan (also spelled Joan) Montseny (aka Federico Urales) lives (1864-1942), Reus, Catalonia. Teacher, novelist, publisher, anarchist militant, companion of Teresa Mañé (Soledad Gustavo) & father of Federica Montseny. [Details / context]
Pierre Jules Ruff, anarchiste
1877 — Algeria: Pierre Jules Ruff lives (1877-1942), Algiers. Militant anarchist & antimilitarist. Arrested & perished in a Nazi concentration camp.
[Details / context]

book cover1888 — Spain: In Seville, Ricardo Mella republishes the newspaper “Solidaridad” which is, as Max Nettlau characterizes it, one of the last ramparts of anarcho-collectivism in Spain. On January 12, 1889 it publishes his article, “La Anarquía no admite adjetivos” (Anarchy needs no adjectives).  [Source: L’Ephéméride Anarchiste] http://www.hetera.org/mella.html

1892: A young Italian woman, Maria Roda, crossed the Atlantic & settled in Paterson in 1892 after dedicating several years of activism to militant workers’ struggles in Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, & England.Garment WorkersShe arrived with her partner, the prominent Spanish anarcho-syndicalist Pedro Esteve, & immediately impressed seasoned radicals & rank-&-file workers with her ability to rouse the masses with the spoken word. While raising eight children & laboring in the silk mills, Maria & Pedro became intellectual leaders within the Paterson circolo & led efforts to organize Italian textile workers into the industrial union movement that was rapidly spreading throughout the country. A charismatic & powerful speaker, Maria regularly accompanied Pedro to Tampa & New York City to assist & support the collective struggles of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban, Spanish, & Italian textile, cigar, & dock workers.

In 1906 she began a series of essays with the title “Alle Donne, Emancipiamoci!” (To the Women: Let’s Emancipate Ourselves!) See Jennifer Guglielmo’s article, archived at the Stan Iverson Memorial Library, Donne Sovversive: The History of Italian-American Women’s Radicalism /library/DonneSovversive.htm

1909 — Jerzy Andrzejewski lives. Polish novelist, short-story writer, & political dissident.

Portrayed in Czeslaw Milosz’s Captive Mind (1953), which revealed the problems of intellectuals living under Stalinism.

In the 1950s & ’60s Andrzejewski moved towards more or less open criticism of the government, starting from the novel The Inquisitors (tr. 1960). His ambiguities of style & thought eluded simplistic interpretation & several of his works went unpublished. In 1979 he helped found the workers’ defence committee (KOR) to aid families of striking workers, who were jailed or dismissed from their jobs.


IWW black cat1909 — First edition of The Little Red Songbook published.

http://www.bloomington.in.us/~mitch/iww/lrs.html

1911 — Source=Robert Braunwart Mexico: Huerta’s troops battle the anarchist Zapatistas, El Texcal & Tetillas.

1920 — Russia: Start of peasant insurrection in Tambov; Bolsheviks unable to suppress the revolt until May 1921. Similar problems had arisen in 1917, when peasants seized land from the gentry, reaching the level of near insurrection in Tambov.


http://www.spunk.org/texts/places/russia/sp001861/bolintro.html
http://www.angelfire.com/nb/revhist17/

1936 — USSR: Purge Trials begin, “Darkness at Noon”. August 19-25, Trial of the Sixteen in Moscow. Convicted of high treason in the first of the Moscow show trials, the old Bolsheviks Kamenev & Zinoviev (former pals of Stalin & Trotsky) are executed. Smirnov executed. Radek placed under arrest.
http://fbuch.com/posters.htm

1936 — Federico García Lorca dies. Andalusian poet/dramatist/artist. Murdered by Franco’s fascists. Accused of subversive activity, however evidence today suggests that it was a hate crime in response to his homosexuality. His writings remained censored until Franco died in 1975. Despite this, Lorca became one of the most widely read writers in the world.

Garcia Lorca

Gacela of the Dark Death

I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to withdraw from the tumult of cemeteries,
I want to sleep the dream of that child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.
I don't want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood,
that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water.
I don't want to learn of the tortures of the grass,
nor of the moon with a serpent's mouth
that labors before dawn.
I want to sleep awhile,
awhile, a minute, a century;
but all must know that i have not died;
that there is a stable of gold in my lips;
that i am the small friend of the West wing;
that i am the intense shadow of my tears.
Cover me at dawn with a veil.
because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me.
and wet with hard water my shoes
so that the pincers of the scorpion slide.
For i want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to learn a lament that will cleanse me of the earth;
for i want to live with that dark child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.

1936 — Spain: Camillo Berneri, after organizing an Italian anarchist column within the Francisco Ascaso Column in the Pedralbes barracks (renamed “Bakunin”), with Angeloni & de Santillán (from the CNTFAI), leaves Barcelona for the Aragonese front.

Berneri landed in Catalonia on July 25 with a cargo of rifles & ammunition. Berneri hosted a rally before 100,000 people in Plaza de los Toros in Barcelona before departing for the front. His unit engages the attacking Nationalist army on the 23rd of this month & drove them back. Because of problems with his vision & hearing, Berneri was sent back to Barcelona. There he worked to warn people about the important implications of the imminent fascist landings in the Balearic Isles, did propaganda work, attacked the Madrid government for its politics of compromise which were damaging Catalan autonomy, & criticized the ambiguous behaviour of the French & English governments. He wrote for ‘Guerra di Classe’, & often visited the ‘Amigos de Durruti ‘ (Friends of Durutti) before Communist agents murdered him in 1937.

http://www.municipio.re.it/manifestazioni/berneri/dopo.htm
http://www.uncwil.edu/hst/homepage/faculty/Seidman2.htm

2000 — Luce Fabbri, (1908-2000) dies. A life-long anarchist thinker, writer & activist.

Luce FabbriLuce died of a heart attack in Montevideo, Uruguay at the age of 92. She wrote many books, including biographies of her father, the famed Italian anarchist Luigi Fabbri, Elisée Reclus, & Machiavelli. She lectured widely & produced numerous books on anarchism, as well as collections of poetry (La poesìa de Leopardi (1971)). Wrote Influenza della letteratura italiana sulla cultura rioplatense (two volumesHer latest book was La Libertad entre la Historia y la Utopia: Tres Ensayos y Otros Textos del Siglo XX (Freedom in History & Utopia; Three Essays & Other Texts of the 20th Century [REA, 1998, 145 pages]). Her life will be documented in a forthcoming biography by Margareth Rago.
http://www.anarchist-studies.org/8whatshappening.htm
http://ytak.club.fr/juillet4.html#25

Seven songs for Spring

I’ve been quite a reticent blogger until recently, but seem to have got it more or less worked out now, although I’m not as sociable as a good blogger should be. Nonetheless, I seem to have arrived in the ‘sphere, by being tagged for a meme by someone I consider a fairly big league blogger, Roland of But I Am A Liberal. The instructions are this:

“List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.”

Well, here we go. Not very spring-like, I know.

1. Leonard Cohen “The Partisan”
Here’s two versions from YouTube – poor quality live, with Spanish subtitles, or good quality from the record, with cool slide show. Here’s the story of the song, originally “La complainte du partisan”, written in London during 1943, by Emmanuel D’Astier de la Vigerie (called “Bernard” in the French Resistance, a Stalinist til 1956, then an anti-Stalinist) and Anna Marly. (Here‘s Marly’s version.)

2. The Pogues “Lorca’s Novena”

YouTube here, last.fm here, homepage here.

Ignacio lay dying in the sand
A single red rose clutched in a dying hand
The women wept to see their hero die
And the big black birds gathered in the sky

Mother of all our joys, mother of all our sorrows
Intercede with him tonight
For all of our tomorrows

The years went by and then the killers came
And took the men and marched them up the hill of pain
And Lorca the faggot poet they left till last
Blew his brains out with a pistol up his arse

Mother of all our joys….

The killers came to mutilate the dead
But ran away in terror to search the town instead
But Lorca’s corpse, as he had prophesied, just walked away
And the only sound was the women in the chapel praying

Mother of all our joys….

I was tempted to pick “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn”,  some of the backstory here.

3. Victor Jara “Luchin”

See also two other songs I love: Arlo Guthrie’s “Victor Jara” (words by the late Adrian Mitchell), and Calexico’s “Victor Jara’s Hands”. [Download mps of last from HaHa Music, Captains Dead, Tonegents.]

4. Manu Chao “Desaparecido”

Last.fm/YouTube; homepage.

I carry on me a pain and sorrow,
that doesn’t let me breathe,
I carry on me a final sentence,
That’s always pushing me along

They call me the disappearer
when they come I’ve already gone,
Flying I come, flying I go
Quickly, quickly on a lost course.

5. Gotan Project “Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)”

YouTube/Last.fm; MySpace. Everyone knows this I guess. It’s a bit too ubiquitous, on loads of TV ads, but it’s still great.

6. Woody Guthrie “Hard Travellin'”

I wanted to pick something by Woody, as I’ve been listening to him a lot recently. Browsing through YouTube, I found a slightly lame Klezmatics version of “Mermaid Avenue”, some live footage of “Ranger’s Command” from 1945, and “All You Fascist’s Are Bound To Lose” with Sonny Terry from a (WWII-era?) radio show. However, “Hard Travellin'” is the Woody song I first fell in love with, many years ago.

7. The Durutti Column “Homage To Catalonea

Lovely summery Spanish guitar from my favourite post-punk proto-glitch outfit. On album Vini Reilly. Included in a great playlist here.

I’m tagging: Renegade Eye, Fat Man on a Keyboard, Terry Glavin, Francis Sedgemore, Hak Mao, History is Made at Night and (why not?) Nick Cohen.