Preposterous Universe

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
What Chaos when the curtain rises

On the spur of the moment, we went to the Green Mill last night to listen to Patricia Barber. Longtime Preposterous readers already know that she is one of my favorites, but it's worth saying again.

Barber is a pianist, composer, singer, and lyricist, who is accomplished and innovative in all these areas. You'd most likely classify her as a jazz musician, but she happily combines a pop sensibility ("Norwegian Wood" was one of last night's highlights) with classically-influenced structures. She recently won a Guggenheim fellowship to develop Mythologies, a cycle of songs based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, and we got to hear some of the pieces debut last night. It was startling to see these jazz musicians (Michael Arnopol on bass, Eric Montzka on drums, and guest Zach Brock on violin) suddenly pull out these elaborate pieces of sheet music to play the new songs -- they were intricate formal arrangements, enlivened by spaces for improvization within the work.

It's such a pleasure to hear music that is simultaneously gorgeous and challenging, that can be immediately appreciated while repaying close attention. Who says that we can't be passionate and intellectual at the same time? The highlight of last night's show was a rocking rendition of The Moon, from Verse, which starts with some avant-garde squeals and then gets funky.
should i leave Erebus
to his own device?
what Chaos when the curtain rises
and the houselights dim

with whitecake
on my face
the actress backstage
laying a Universal egg

still a broken heart
is a broken heart
and Illumination
is in fact

in the dark
in the cold
in the sky
i can fly

i am old
but i can see
for miles
and miles

i am silver
i am gold
i am white
i am blue

i am rock
i am chaste
i am time
i am truth

when twilight falls
among the stars
i sit and tinker
with your moods
i hear your thoughts
i move the tides
i am your God
i am your Muse
i can be fire
i can be war
i am the daughter
of Zeus
but tonight
there won't be light
cause I can't shine
without you

but tonight
there won't be light
cause I can't shine
without you
You have to hear it, especially the insistent bass line, to get the full effect.

And tonight I will go hear Vonski. Have I mentioned that Chicago is the greatest city in the world?

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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