reconstruct an extinct ancestral music genre
Monday, August 7 2006
Since just before I left on the trip to Virginia I've been listening to music from a Catalan band called L'ham de Foc (which means "fishhook of fire" in Catalan). I'd learned about them by listeing to The World, "a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston." Recently I took delivery of L'ham de Foc's CD Cor de Por ("Pig Heart"), which I've been listening to nonstop. They're a duo who play music that might best be described as "Mediterranean Folk," and all of it is sung in Catalan. The core of the music is, I have to assume, Catalan folk, which lies somewhere on the spectrum between more the familiar folks of Celtic and Arabic. Part of the beauty and interest of the music is the way it can veer back and forth along this spectrum from one moment to the next. The musicians, though, are literate in a wide swath of music traditions stretching from India to Turkey to Greece and back to Spain. Given this musical scholarship and the sound of the music itself, it might well be an attempt to reconstruct an extinct ancestral music genre, much as Indo-European is a reconstruction resulting from analyses of Slavic, Celtic, Iranian, Indian, Romance, and Germanic languages.
The male half of the band never sings, but he can play a whole Turkish bazaar of instruments. The female half of the band is responsible for all the singing, often with choral overdubs. Her voice is high and pure and she does interesting things with it, sometimes employing a subtle nasal effect I can't say I've ever heard before. The cross-cultural Arabic-by-way-of-Celtic quality can have a dark quality reminiscent of Dead Can Dance, especially in the song "Angels de Menta" (Mint Angels). Other times it has the lightness of folksier Jethro Tull material, but with better, less-nerdy vocals. (However, judging from his picture I'd wager that if the non-singing musician of L'ham de Foc did any singing it would stink of 20-sided die and monogrammed slide rule cases.)
Interestingly, Gretchen doesn't like this music whatsoever. The closest music to this that I definitely know she likes is, well, Bluegrass.
The kitchen counter project continued apace today, necessitating at least one errand to various hardware store. I discovered the power and fuckup-fixing superpowers of epoxy putty, which can be kneaded mess-free into a hardening glob using just your bare hands. The stuff I was using must have been the five minute variety because it became almost too hot to hold as I worked it, and then, a minute later, it had stiffened beyond workability. Luckily I'd used half of it by that point.
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