Music

Christopher O'Riley's Prelude, Variation & Hymn "Time of My Time" for 'Reverend America'

Christopher O'Riley

Classical pianist and composer Christopher O'Riley curates Mixed Media selecting favorites of his work and others.

Kris Saknussemm’s new novel of the road and redemption, Reverend America, is centered on the travels and travails of a retired child evangelist albino orphan named Casper (known in his healing days as Reverend America) and his wanderings as guardian angel and inadvertent and occasional avenger. I’d become aware of Kris’ work via his first novel, Zanesville, his subsequent bizarre-noir novel Private Midnight, and his exuberant alt-historical Enigmatic Pilot. We’d become Facebook friends where I found him to be equally knowledgeable and perhaps even more impassioned about things musical more than literary. So when he asked if I would contribute some original work to fill out a CD to accompany the release of Reverend America (I’d not written anything original since high school, being presently and for decades consumed either by interpretations classical or reimaginings on the non-classical side), and with his own keen idea of how music might intersect his prose, I told him I’d have to be an idiot to NOT know how to write something for him.

The book is filled with lonesome sounds, from the distant locomotive horns to the century-plus refugee from an old age home fire tootling wisely on the harmonica. I found MP3 transcriptions of locomotive horns, with their distinctively and plentiful variations of piled thirds, and used some of my faves as the harmonic language of the Prelude and Variation.

The other musical thread of the book has to do with all the hymns and indigenous music surrounding the young Reverend’s revival tours. Most of the titles are fictional. “Time of My Time” seemed to me the most evocative, and so took that as my cue to explore some kind of Southern gospel, “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” piano (and potentially vocal) work. Phil Abrams (an accomplished and celebrated actor; lots of recent TV stuff) made the video after listening to my piece more times than I’ve played it.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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