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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog


Archives for October, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

THE ARK CATCHES THE WAVE, by James M. Manheim

Kim Richey's show at the Ark on Sunday, October 17, marked a small milestone for people who keep track of such things: it was notable for its thoroughgoing inclusion of electronic sounds, provided by a keyboardist. Richey came out of country music, had some hits in that genre in the 1990s, and still writes lyrics informed by country conventions and ideas.

But she's always been on the music's progressive edge, and now she's in middle age and no longer the going thing. What does a musician with an innovative nature hear when she looks out into the world, opens her ears to new sounds, and tries to find the important kernel in current trends? It's the collection of techniques that are called electronica when they're banged out in a dance club and avant-garde when they're stripped down to chamber pop dimensions.

Richey doesn't just dress up her country tunes with electronic beats but has begun to write songs around those beats, including a lovely one about going for a walk in the snow at midnight in London that would have lost something if played by just guitars and drums. The onstage manipulation of electronic sound is already quite common in music made by young people, and it's finding its way into broader popular traditions as well. It's the wave of the future.


posted by John Hilton at 1:29 p.m. | 0 comments


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

FOOTBALL ATHEISTS, by Bert Stratton

Jack Stratton with the U-M women's basketball band, 2008

A simple fall pleasure in suburban Cleveland is walking around Shaker Lakes listening to Michigan football on the radio.

I came by this diversion fairly recently. My older kids went to liberal arts colleges with no football teams. I figured my youngest child would too. I took him to Oberlin on a college tour and said, "Can you see yourself here?"

"In a word, Dad, no," he said. "There's not enough sports talk." Jack, the youngest, wanted rah-rah.

He went to Michigan and got rah-rah. We rehashed the football games his freshman year.

I monitored the university's Web site like a helicopter parent. I told my son to audition for the pep band, the Hillel a cappella group, the school's percussion group and anything else he could think of. I wanted him to find a niche at the Big U.

And I wanted Michigan to win at football, because my son was so rah-rah.

I followed the football games on the Internet my son's first year. I didn't know about the games on Cleveland radio. That was stupefying -- the Internet -- like staring at a tickertape: Joe Blow . . . 3 yards . . . 3rd and 5 . . . M 46 yard line."

Then I serendipitously found Michigan football on Cleveland radio. No more squinting at the computer. The announcer promoted Detroit pizza parlors and grocery stores. I felt like a ham operator picking up an exotic locale. "Gratiot at 8 Mile." CKLW radio -- the border blaster -- was sending out the Wolvervine word from Windsor.

Michigan football isn't on CKLW this year. It's only on a weak FM station from Detroit. End of my fall bliss.

The team used to be good, then suddenly stunk. The university hired a new coach.

I asked my son what he thought of the new guy.

He said, "Who is it?"

He didn't know about Rich Rod! Jack had fallen under the sway of the football atheists at the Residential College and music school.

I knew more Michigan football than my son. I was now rah-rah and he was so-so. Odd.

Reposted with permission from "Klezmer Guy" Stratton's website, www.yiddishecup.com


posted by John Hilton at 5:01 p.m. | 0 comments


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