Saturday concert: Vieux Farka Touré

This is a music video for a song from the first, self-titled album by Vieux Farka Touré. He’s the acclaimed musician son of the great Ali Farka Touré. Both hail from the town of Niakunké, Mali, west Africa. (Not far from Timbuktu, actually.) The video seems to have been shot in Niafunké, and maybe in […]

A song of insufficiency

In honor of the United States Congress, I’d like to present Bertolt Brecht’s acerbic little song with the grand title of “The Song about the Insufficiency of Human Striving.”

The video is followed by the German text, with my own loose translation after each stanza.1

Das Lied von der Unzulänglichkeit menschlichen Strebens Continue reading “A song of insufficiency”

Saturday baroque, feat. the baryton

Following on last Saturday’s videos, here are some Haydn trios for the baryton, viola, and cello. The baryton is a bass viola da gamba with plucked strings concealed in the back of the neck. A skilled performer can bow the instrument in the usual way while also plucking the concealed strings with the left thumb.

We’re told that the baryton is also called viola di pardone because of a charming story that the inventor was a condemned prisoner who won a pardon for devising this unusual viol.

The modern revival of the baryton began with the instrument in the following video: a 1934 copy of a richly decorated eighteenth-century original. This baryton is now in the collection of the Orpheon Foundation, Vienna, Austria, and it has its own webpage. It’s one of the best looking instruments, of any kind, that I’ve ever seen. Continue reading “Saturday baroque, feat. the baryton”

Saturday baroque: Les Indes galantes

I’m always interested in European images of American Indians. So this week I have for you a clip from a recent staging of the 1736 opéra-ballet Les Indes galantes, by Jean-Philippe Rameau.

In good orientalist fashion, the work lumps together stories of Turks, Persians, and American Indians under the heading of “the gallant Indies.” This dance is from the fourth and final part, “Les Sauvages,” in which the chief’s daughter, Zima, chooses an Indian called Adario for her lover, rejecting the advances of both a Frenchman and a Spaniard. (You can spot the two European rivals in the background toward the end of the dance.) Continue reading “Saturday baroque: Les Indes galantes”