recent “kaddish” recordings

It’s been a while since I last documented what’s been going on in the recording world of this project. A reminder: see “to listen” if you’d like to join our virtual, asynchronous minyan and listen to the daily recordings.

Last Monday on her way home from work, my wife got rear-ended while sitting at a stop light for the second time this year. Once again both she and her car are in need of bodywork thanks to the carelessness of others who told her all about the bad days they were having. So kaddish_2010.12.07_vkw was, at her request, a Kaddish for “other people’s [messed up stuff] ending up in [her] rear bumper.”

Mary Elizabeth Anania Edwards died last Tuesday. I recorded kaddish_2010.12.08_elizEdwards for her the next day and wrote “a kaddish for elizabeth edwards” after taking a week to figure out what to say about her.

Mira saw the following, while listening to my kaddish for Edwards:

She’s far away — where did she go?
Dog drinking in the background?
I’m distracted by the background
Elizabeth was in the background.
She was the distraction — cancer —
She became more interesting than John Edwards
She became clearer, as we go
She comes into focus
It’s more about her now

Now it’s him rattling in the background, instead, rattling for attention
Oh no, here we go again — (that section again)
But she holds her own
And  he — he’s barking for attention
Just like a dog

Curious switch there! Where the background sounds become part of the midrash of what I’m seeing — become part of the story, their story. I wouldn’t have wanted the recording without all the ‘noise’ — the noise turned out to be part of the telling of the story here.
She starts out in the background, he in the foreground, but at a certain point there’s that reversal. The bark at the end is perfect here!! a well-attuned collaborator you’ve got there!  — mira

Frequent commenter and friend of the project David Mostardi shared his yizkor for Mark de Lemos, who was among other things a mathematician. I thought Mark might enjoy the math-y trick of “Kaddish” heard in retrograde inversion—which is a fancy way of saying I turned the page upside-down and played it backwards. To keep the tessitura manageable, I decided to read it as if in bass clef, up an octave. I found it difficult to interpret the accidentals before notes, since they appear after the notes when you have the page upside-down, and things like B♯ and E♯ alternating with C♮ and F♮ (their enharmonic equivalents) didn’t make modal sense. It’s also difficult to follow dynamic and other expression markings when they appear above instead of below the staff. That might explain why kaddish_2010.12.09_mark sounds a bit labored.

While listening to the kaddish for Mark, Mira wrote:

oops. no. School play
Yah. Opera. Operatic desires
But they’re not really happening
Oh this is so very hard work
The breathing comes hard
Is this from someone’s suffering?

Must have lost my way — missed the far away part?

Attempt at revival and jauntiness
Like, “I can DO this”
Too tired out
Mournful. Disappointed.

After she wrote this, I pointed Mira to David’s description of Mark, and she added:

Blew me away!!!!
Mark being born for the stage —
I wonder if his temperament was as ‘operatic’ as I received.

Project rebbe Deb Gordon requested a Kaddish for human rights, which Kjersti accompanied with dog collar percussion in kaddish_2010.12.10_humanRights&DogCollar:

Patrick Stewart (Sir! Who knew?) on WAMC RoundTable this morning: Repressive regimes are always afraid of the free expression of opinions/ideas, gamut from artistic to political to social & I would add, of course, intellectual.

In support of free expression? Grief for those whose expression is/was/has been cut off? Wild joy in your/our freedom to express all this stuff? The freedom of the grave? I think for me, maybe, none of those, but the undying eternal nature of ideas. Words are as close to eternity as I expect to come, tho I hope I’m wrong, sort of.

And a few days later, this sermon on human rights appeared on the rebbe’s blog.

Last Saturday, the Quadre horn quartet had a rehearsal at our house in preparation for upcoming Christmas performances on which I’m subbing. After rehearsal was over and Daniel had rushed off to his next gig, Lindsay and Rachel stayed behind to play some trios. Victoria suggested that I rope them into joining me for the daily “Kaddish” recording. Rachel made an interesting suggestion that we explore some microtonal harmonies. Our two renditions are kaddish_2010.12.11_hnTrio.

Victoria and I recently became honorary aunts to a sweet eight-year-old boy whose grandparents live in our neighborhood. His childhood has been complicated by the incredibly rough journey his mother has been on, and as a result, he spends a lot of time at his grandparents’ house. We know them from the many times we’ve bumped into them while walking Kjersten. He spent last Sunday afternoon at our house—mostly playing cardgames with V while I was meeting with a client—and V made the suggestion of a Kaddish for the lost innocence of a young woman’s life gone so horribly wrong that she barely even knew this great little guy until recently: kaddish_2010.12.12_lostInnocence. The ending (the part I’ve been calling “the affirmation”) is my seeing the faltering promise of a great little guy emerging out of such a mess anyway—the triumph of the human spirit, and the hope that his mom will continue to hold it together for him. We are happy to join his village.

On Monday I decided to break up the routine a bit by improvising on the interval of a perfect fourth, kaddish_2010.12.13_perfect4th. This improvisation idea comes from my colleague and friend Jeffrey Agrell‘s excellent book, Improv Games for One. I had the privilege of spending a week playing improv games with Jeff in his studio last spring, and I can’t wait for our next horn-geek-week. (His horn blog is great reading for musicians and pedagogues of all stripes.)

While listening to our Improv, Mira wrote:

Huh? You can DO that?
Oh. Of course you can. You’re a musician, you can do whatever you like

The Doors, after all, transposed not one but TWO Coltraine pieces, shifted key and tempo and stuck them BOTH into Light my Fire and nobody noticed.

Ok. I’m totally lost.
Except the part that I usually hate, I like this time
Oh never mind. My mistake.
It’s your playfulness BEFORE that part that I like.
… I’m lost…

My collaborator Mira has been fighting a hideous cold-flu plague thing and not getting nearly enough sleep, so Tuesday’s Kaddish was a lullaby for her: kaddish_2010.12.14_lullaby.

Mira resisted the whole lullaby thing as hard as she could:

Makes me want to resist.
Speed it up!
Kick my feet and scream NO!
Even if it’s finally LOVELY
Just lovely!
Beautiful. And Jewish sounding too.

Notice that since David’s CURSE
I don’t see anything at all

My friend David Mostardi lost his beautiful tabby cat Fuller after a short battle with cancer last Friday. He wrote the guest kaddish “a kaddish for mr. one-paw” on Wednesday and also came over that evening to record a guest “Kaddish” (kaddish_2010.12.15_fuller) on accordion. David’s accordion was also heard on our Thanksgiving “Kaddish” jam.

Mira wrote about Terry Dobson in “a kaddish for terry dobson,” and I recorded kaddish_2010.12.16_tDobson with his teaching in mind. I tried thinking of my horn and the music as the uke whose power I need to respect and redirect, standing slightly off-line and facing them with integrity. I tried to find the stillness in myself that enables me to hear this differently—more gently. I tried to feel like he looks on that book cover, anchored on his feet but ready to make a subtle move.

Mira still couldn’t see as much as before, but could feel his presence — and then suddenly the Shinto spirits descended:

dark sweetness
mellow and rich
he shakes my hand [I can see him there in the dojo, on the edge of the mat]
it’s neither hot nor cold
he bows, eyes closed
“onegaishimasu” he says

the kami begin to move
in the moonlight

I recorded kaddish_2010.12.17_tamales last night after returning from a tamale-making and -eating party hosted by my wife Victoria’s friend Billy from UC-B. It was a lot of fun to roll sleeves up (or in my case take Norwegian sweater off and wish I’d worn something other than a [ribbed tank top] underneath) to assemble tamales with Billy’s mom and other expert tamale-making friends. Devouring a whole mess of them hot out of the steamer was even more fun. I didn’t have the skills to make a mariachi version of the Kaddish upon our return home, so I did this quick jazzy take instead.

Dad requested a Kaddish for Bob LaBrie:

Before playing bridge today I went to a meeting of the Burros Club (Dems program group), and the speakers were the co-directors of the Butte Food Bank. It’s a husband/wife time of Jim and Joanne Cortese, who have been running it as volunteers since 2002. They’re now retiring and moving—probably the only way they could retire.

In Joanne’s part of the presentation she related a number of anecdotes about their time as directors and fondly told of Bob LaBrie, who, until his health didn’t permit it, was a regular volunteer at the Food Bank. Several times ended up giving his coat to somebody.

When I got to bridge, Bob’s widow, Ann, was at my table and I told her about Joanne’s story and she said, “That happened four times; he gave his coat to somebody with a hard luck story. I finally had to buy him a new coat.” Then she got this wistful look and added, “Tomorrow will be one year from when he died.”

So, I’d suggest a kaddish for the Jahrzeit of Bob’s death. Bob was a devout Catholic, but that’s okay.

I recorded kaddish_2010.12.18_bobLaBrie for Bob today, thinking about that kind of selflessness and how it feels to be out in the cold without a coat. I’ve noticed that some not-entirely-welcome vibrato has been creeping into my playing lately, but for this one, a little shivering seemed appropriate. Running out in the rainy cold with Kjersti several times this week has made me plenty familiar with the sensation of being inadequately dressed.

About erin

Erin Vang, PMP, BMus, MMus, is Owner and Principal Pragmatist of the consultancy Global Pragmatica LLC®, offering custom JMP scripting, localization program management, and facilitative leadership services. She is also an orchestral horn player who freelances in the San Francisco Bay Area and plays assorted brass for the celebrated dance bands Midnight Smørgåsbord and contraPtion. More about Erin…
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1 Response to recent “kaddish” recordings

  1. mira says:

    I remain astonished by the variations displayed in each day’s kaddish, as you shift your intentionality for the piece each time. I have experienced each one of them differently — and even after diligently listening (I still do not know how to hear), I cannot grasp the piece itself!

    It reminds me of swordwork. My swordmistress would tell me one must do 1,000 cuts a day — this was for what is known as a ’40 year technique,’ but I think it applied universally. Practice (verb). PRACTICE (noun). And every cut felt different. And not once was I bored. And then, somehow, I stopped. And I was done. It didn’t turn me into a swordmistress myself — but I learned what the next step needed to be.

    Will be curious to what degree the kaddish you play will have changed / changed you / changed me / changed all those who listen with regularity (or better yet, hear) after another 335 listenings or so…

    It is, as all good things, a PRACTICE.

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