Program notes for If There Were No Sun, You Would Have This Song

Strange collection, but that's the point. How do you categorize that which is beyond category? Of course, Wittgenstein said, " Whereof one cannot speak, thereon one must remain silent." I say, "Eff off, Ludwig."

This disc's title comes from the lyrics to "Theme For the Eulipions": "If there were no sun / You would have this song." I have never been able to figure out why Rahsaan Roland Kirk is not universally acknowledged as one of America's greatest musicians ever. People think that playing multiple reeds simultaneously was some kind of gimmick, but he was creating real honest to god chords—and his melodies sounded like you'd known them forever the minute you heard them. This one, for instance. Plus, he could play everything from Jellyroll Morton to waaay out there. If I was hip, I'd probably have to be too hip to dig Rahsaan. Yeesh.

"Caravanesque" is obviously Jon Hassell's nod to Ellington. Fascinoma is a beautiful, dreamy, deep recording. You can't go wrong..

"When I reviewed ¡Jacaras! as an ROTM, I called it Baroque rock'n'roll. It doesn't hurt that Paul O'Dette actually played in a rock band as a teen and has that whole jam mentality down. My friend (and fellow coop member) Pat O'Brien is one of the other lutenists here.

Hans Reichel is simply one of the most amazing guitarists I have ever heard. He's also pretty singular.

And then there's Bjork. I came to her late and I understand why some folks can't stand her, but I'm pretty awestruck by the singularity of her vision. If I were her Daddy, I'd be proud of the way she does things her way. And I admire her willingness to PO China by screaming "Free Tibet" at her concert there.

Begonia Olavide and Mudejar: I have no idea how Todd Garfinkel discovered these folks, but she has a voice that's warmer than a wet tongue in your ear. Todd got so far below the noise floor on this disc that you can hear the dust motes jumping when Mudejar whacks that bass drum. It was on vinyl, too—at least for a while.

Jarrett is always amazing. The best part of this live track is that I didn't have to be in the same room as him—he's pretty unsufferable in person.

Eddie Vedder and Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn from the Dead Man Walking soundtrack.

Duda de Pasira plays forro, a very working-class Brazilian music. My ethnomusicologist friend Tom Turino once described the west coast of Africa, Brazil, and Louisiana as the "accordion/triangle triangle"—three points connecting music that utilized both triangles and squeezeboxes. I like that image. One collection of forro (in fact, the one from which I discovered this song) is entitled Music for Maids and Taxi Drivers, an accurate, if pejorative, description. Just try to frown while listening to "Casa de Tauba." Bet you can't.

Lebanese composer Claude Chalhoob, violin, with guitarist Michael Brooke. I guess an East/West fusion, but not sappy World music by any measure.

Ry Cooder and Manuel Galbon cook up a mighty tasty mambo. I think you have to hear pretty deep into music to connect to the rather massive groove this piece is mining. Or maybe not.

Dengue Fever is spaghetti western surf music with a Khmer-singing beauty queen up front. Drives my wife batshit, but I love it.

Sera una Noche is another of those Todd Garfinkle it-shouldn't-work-but-it-does discs where he gather a bunch of musicians with no common musical language and then records their attempt to forge one. There's such a gulf between Todd's seeming what-me-worry persona and the perfectionism of his recordings—I'd love to see him put one together sometime. More accordion, which seems a turn off to many of my friends.

Okay, now here's one from left field: a noisy, clangorous version of Christina Rosetti's "In the Bleak Midwinter," performed by gravel-voiced Ed Harcourt. But somehow, after the feedback and foundry sounds, the beauty of that third verse turns me into a puddle every time:
Enough for him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day
A breast full of milk
And a manger full of hay.
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

After Astor Piazzolla, the rest is silence.

Al Marcy's picture

Hip? When I was young, I was sure some things were. Now, I am sure I am not. And nobody cares, either way. And, yes, I even listened to the "How to be hip" album, once. It sucked ;) And I met some leftover beatniks, back when. They were sure somebody must be hip. Wild eyed optomists ...