Thursday, March 27, 2014

Timo Descamps, Belgian-Dutch artist, sings in a couple of impressive videos; he is known in the US as the "spoiled" character "Shane" from "Judas Kiss"


Timo Descamps, the Belgian-born actor who played the somewhat charismatic character Shane Lyons in the film “Judas Kiss” (Movies, June 4, 2011) has some videos where he sings in a lively manner, and makes an impression comparable to that of artists maybe better known in the US. Note the spelling of his last name'; there is no "h" in it ("Champs" would mean "Fields" in French, but "Camps" is a literal cognate.  But the "Elysian Fields" in Paris could lead one to misspell the name.) 

In many of his web appearances Timo speaks Dutch or German, but can speak English with typical California or British accents in roles. 
  
I’ve picked out his song “Tomorrow I’m Gonna Be a Movie Star”.


The lyrics have lines like “I’m going to get what should have been mine” and “Tomorrow it’s going to be a better day”.  The video has many scenes of people living in poverty in the Third World, possibly in Africa (which has gotten dangerous, as we know,  most of all in Uganda and Nigeria).  One of the scenes may come from the waste dumps in Brazil.  Possibly some scenes come from India (where Rocky Braat volunteered, as in the film "Blood Brother", reviewed on the movies blog, Feb. 16, 2014).  The visitor can parse his message. The music of the video reminds one a bit of "Jai Ho" at the end of the film "Slumdog Millioniare" (Movies, Nov. 30, 2008). 
   
His voice is somewhat nasal but nevertheless effective, combined with an active acting style, with lots of athletic movement but a little more grown up than, say, Justin Bieber.

He has another YouTube video song called “Like It Rough”, marked adult, probably needlessly, as it stays barely within PG-13.  I believe I saw this video in a theater in Minneapolis in 2011 when I saw “Judas Kiss” at the Twin Cities LGBT Film Festival.  Sean Paul Lockhart from that film also appears in the video. The key is odd: F# Minor. 

There is a series of three low-resolution videos from a December 2007 "Steracteur Steratiest" on YouTube, where Timo sings in various idioms and languages, emulating artists ranging from Clay Aiken to Ricky Martin. 
     
I’ve covered two artists named “Timo” on this blog (the other is classical pianist and composer Timo Andres).  It’s a curious nickname, based on one of the New Testament’s most intriguing young adult male characters.  I don’t know if the “I” should be pronounced as a long, short, or “long e” vowel, or if the second syllable should get the accent with a long “Oh” (e.g,, “TimO”).  Perhaps there’s a dynasty, “Timo I” and “Timo II”.  No Pope has taken on that name yet.    

Timo has worked with his father, Luc Descamps, to author a novel "Floating: The Prophecy". I'm not sure when this will show up on Amazon, or whether it has a fast track to become a film in Europe.  I'll keep tabs.

Timo has a Tumblr blog that is definitely visually captivating, here. Note the black-and-white photo (a little over-manipulated with oil and buff) which he says was taken in Russia just before the anti-gay politics in that country started to take hold.  The (color) park bench shot from June 2012 is awesome. Why does his profile picture on Facebook show "Lost Highway"?

Wikipedia attribution link, "Africa at Night", here




Update: May 29, 2014

Well, Happy Birthday, Timo (age 28, as of May 27, according to Wikipedia).  Timo's new Facebook photo (legs crossed) is stunning;  he looks like someone who would be a strikeout pitcher in American Major League Baseball.  I don't know European sports like soccer very well.   But, why did he let Richard Harmon beat him in a sprint race?  Because Richard Harmon (Danny in "Judas Kiss") is "the greatest of all time".  His twitter tagline is "just a big ball of sunshine". 
  
Oh, there's no reason for others to complain on Facebook when he writes postings in Dutch (or any other language).  Just use Google translate.  I don't know European politics very well.  I hope he comments on the EU court's recent ruling on the "right to be forgotten", a real controversy in the Internet world. 

Timo also has a YouTube vidoe for the "Dear Russia" series, concerning Russia's "anti-gay propaganda law".  He had visited the country just before the issue became controversial.  

July 16:

Timo posted a selfie of a California jogging photo that is overpowering in physicality.  His sport would be soccer (Germany is the "greatest of all time" now).  But if it were baseball, you wouldn't hang a changeup to this guy. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Donated iPods used to set up music therapy for Alzheimer's patients

ABC News and Yahoo! report on the use of donated iPods to provide Alzeheimer’s patients a source for music therapy, in this story by Byron Pitts about a project by Dan Cohen, link here
  
There is a short documentary from “Music and Memory Project” called “The Story of Henry” here:
  
A variation of this report on WJLA (ABC affiliate) in Washington DC mentioned a facility in Ashburn VA, but the closest I could find online was a facility that treats learning issues and autism in Middleburg VA, “A Place to Be”, link


There is an article on volunteering with music therapy on a site called “Lots of Helping Hands” here.

This would seem to be a hidden employment or income strategy for some musicians.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Drew Boushka's "Love Without End": Is he a distant relative of mine?

I found a singer online with the same last name as mine.  He is Drew Boushka, a few decades younger than me.  Since my last name is rather unusual, especially with its spelling (based on Bohemian and possibly Russian sources), I wonder if he could be a distant relative on my father’s side of the family.  My father was born in Iowa in 1903.  Most people with this last name lived in Kansas or Iowa in past decades.  I believe that my paternal grandfather had emigrated from what is now the Czech Republic around 1870, and adopted the Baptist faith before coming to the US. 
  
The main course online is a CD or MP3 offering (the latter is $8.99 on Amazon) called “Love Without End”.  I purchased this cloud copy. His singing style is romantic and somewhat resembles Josh Groban, although the levels of passion are not quite as pronounced and the accompaniment is simpler.  The music seems to have Christian lyrics, but only lightly so.  The fifth of the pieces, “The Night You Danced with Me” may be the best known, and sounds familiar already to the ear. 
  
  
Musical genes may well run in the family, both sides. 




Monday, March 17, 2014

"Hero Worship" by Joe Calarco presented in Arlington VA by Signature in the Schools


This past St. Patrick's Day weekend, despite the snow, has been a kind of "New York at Washington" for me.   I feel like I was in the Big Apple with stuff right at home.

Back when I worked as a civilian for the Navy department at the Washington Navy Yard back in 1971, a particular coworker said, “God is my only hero.”  (He was also known for his disdain of “male sex hormones in the blood stream and his tendency to pout if he lost a skittles chess game to me.)  I was known for my upward affiliation, a tendency to hang around the “super ocelots” of the world, whom some could say have clay feet.  My idea of war and military service, despite my own two years in the Army 1968-1970 where my education kept me safely stateside, was that combat involved men making sacrifices.  The worst thing might not be death, but coming home disfigured and maimed, and expecting a spouse to love me intimately anyway.
  
The new play “Hero Worship” by Joe Calarco, touches on that idea, but starts with the more publicly obvious and formerly acceptable notion of the war hero, that military service can give someone a chance to come home a hero.

    
The 70-minute play was put on at the Signature Theater in Arlington VA tonight in a free performance (donations requested) by the Signature in the Schools project, which works with Arlington Public Schools. 
  
The play has an interesting structure, for crossing time, and it uses this structure to cover some ideas that have gotten a lot of attention in my own writings: my own “Do Ask, Do Tell” books (including the latest one, check Amazon) and even a sprawling unpublished novel called “The Proles” that I penned in 1969 while in the Army.  One chapter of that novel is reproduced in my most recent book and I’ll be covering that old manuscript in great detail on another blog soon.  But it was certainly interesting to me how the playwright found a plot that could cover some of this material in little more than an hour.
   
As the play opens, some soldiers are preparing mentally for D-Day in June 1944.  There’s a great optimism that they will be part of history and a great cause.  A black soldier even talks about the separate black Army as if that was OK, given the bigger stakes caused by Nazi Germany.

  
The middle section of the play has a few women working on a memorial on the Mall in Washington to honor soldiers who fell in Iraq and Afghanistan, believing that the new war was a necessary response to 9/11.  Characters from many previous US wars appear, going back to the War Between the States, but actually starting out with the Korean War, “the forgotten war”.  (I have a particular recollection there.  In the summer of 1950, as a boy I was sitting on the porch of my grandmother’s Kipton, Ohio home when my mothers showed me a Cleveland newspaper and said, “there’s war in Korea.  As kids, we would pound out dissonances on bass notes on the upright piano in the den imitating war, but I would asked why men were forced to go to war and sacrifice parts of themselves.)  It seems that the characters are ghosts, so to speak, or men (and one woman who pretended to be a man to volunteer) simply crossing a wormhole in space-time to come back again (that gets closer to a concept in “The Proles”). In the final section the play returns to D-Day and the men now face the real horrors of battle, including not only deaths but maimings and amputations. 
  
The cast comes from three Arlington high schools (Wakefield, Washington-Lee, HB-Woodlawn).  Toward the end of the middle section, Raymond (Zak Gordon) tells of an attempted suicide, and then is called a yellow coward by his commanding officer and sent back to battle.   This sort of thing came up during my own Army Basic at Fort Jackson, SC, especially the time in Special Training Company.
  
Other cast include Sean Balick, Ariel Cadby-Spicer, Max Carruth, Karl Green, Alician Hartz, Usman Ishaq, Brandi Moore, Nancy Robinette, William Westray IV. David Zobell is the director.  The Signature program gives high school students very considerable immersion in theater.

  
There was a Q-A afterward.  I asked about the relation to the attitudes about the draft during Vietnam, and another woman in the audience asked how the crew felt about proposals to reinstitute the draft by some people. Charles Moskos, recall, had argued for resuming the draft after 9-11 and then dropped his support for the restrictions on gays in the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell”. It's important to remember that the controversy over the draft in the 1960s was exacerbated by several factors:  it was male-only (ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1981), there were extensive education deferments until 1969 (when a lottery was introduced), and in practice education could often keep you out of combat;  and at one time there had been a marriage and fatherhood deferment, which ended around 1964.  


The Signature Site for the performance is here. The Signature Max stage was arranged in a conventional format.  But the theater presents some plays in arena layout.  I don't know of any other major theater than can switch formats this way.

The playwright has his own site here, and curiously it does not yet list this play.




There were posters for significant upcoming productions.  One is the musical by Stephen Sondheim, “Sunday in the Park with George” (1984), which I saw in 2003 at the Hey Theater in Minneapolis, a work that has its own kind of time-lapse concept.  There will also be a production of Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera”, of which I believe I have a Phillips CD.  
One other thought:  given the real estate development in Shirlington and an old AMC movie theater nearby, would a modern entertainment complex, offering both stage and film in one connected facility, make sense for the area? 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Arlington Symphony Orchestra (Va) gives major concert at new local high school today: Dvorak is featured

Today the Arlington Symphony Orchestra (Virginia, near Washington DC) put on a meaty concert at Washington-Lee High School auditorium. A. Scott Wood conducted. 
  
The program opened with Samuel Barber’s Esaay #1 for Orchestra, about 10 minutes. The composition is a three-part piece with an opening three-note “bugle” theme and a scherzo middle section.  The motto returns and the post-romantic work (composed around 1934) ends quietly. (Barber's brief and melodarmatic Symphony #1 is worth a hearing; #2 rambles.) 
  
The second piece was the familiar “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, which the conductor notes was orchestrated by Ferde Grofe.  (I presume Gershwin did his own for the Concerto in F).  The famous “rhapsody” melody appears half way through the work.  This jazz-inspired piece was a favorite of my mother and both aunts in Ohio. The pianist was Texas=based Edwin Newman.  The piano, a Yamaha, produced brilliant, almost metallic sound. 

  
After the intermission, the featured work was the familiar “From the New World” Symphony, now the Symphony #9 in E Minor by Antonin Dvorak.  This was number 5 when I was growing up, and I had an inexpensive record of it by eleventh grade.  Wood points out that the work is centered around folk tunes and the pentatonic scale, and to me it has always sounded less subtle than many of Dvorak’s other large works.  The slow movement inspires the familiar spiritual song “Gong Home”, the scherzo was supposed to relate to Longfellow.  The Finale appends a massive coda, which I think Wood takes too fast.  When those rising intervals in the bass near the end are drawn out (as in Maazel’s performance, which I remember hearing in my car when driving in Dallas once) the emotional effect can be overpowering.  The final repeated E Major chords conclude with one final blast that is held sostenuto and allowed to diminish to pianissimo. I don’t know why Dvorak composed the ending this way; no other symphony os his ends quietly.  (Some conductors diminish the final chords of some of Schubert’s movements, such as the first movement of the Eighth and Finale of the Great, but I don’t like that effect.) 
  
Wood also takes the first movement exposition repeat, which I’ve never seen done before.  (A very few conductors will do this with the Schubert Great.)

   
To my ear, the most interesting Dvorak symphonies are the first two, which both have some daring harmonic effects and long and even ponderous Bruckner-like slow movements.  These are more “Germanic” than the more familiar later symphonies.  Dvorak is usually compared to Brahms and Schumann, as composing in a style that is both Germanic and Slavic.  
  
The Symphony #7 (originally #2) was a favorite of a high school chum when I was a graduating senior. I always saw the halting Lydian theme that opens the finale as a “paradox theme” which I privately called “strength in weakness”.  The Seventh (D Minor) turns to Major at the very end and closes with quasi-Bruckner grandeur.

Another little even to report today:  the Ardmore Youth Choir from Pennsylvania visited Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington today and, combined with Trinity’s Jubilate Deo, performed the Cameroon setting of “Praise the Lord”, s Kyrie from a Mass by John Leavitt, “Ubi Caritas” by Audrey Snyder, “Shine on Me” by Rolio Dilworth, “I Will Bless the Lord at All Times” and by Aarom David Miller.  Organist Carol Feather Martin performed Jack C. Cooke’s “Prelude on Llanfyllin” and John Leavitt’s “With High Delight Let Us Unite”.  I gave the people still around a post postlude, about a minute of the conclusion of Havergal Brian’s Third Symphony, played by ear on the piano, with its “Nearer My Got to Thee” setting, culminating in a Beethoven-Fifth like climax (Feb. 15).  Reaction: “It sounds British.” Someone has to perform the “Gothic” some day.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Scriabin's self-indulgent "Mystery"; Bax's triumphant Fifth Symphony


Self-indulgence from composers (when psychologically feminine) is possible, and one particular post-romantic work that may top them all in this regard is Alexander Scriabin’s “Mysterium” (or “Mystery” or “Universe”) project.  Scriabin finished enough of a first act that Soviet Composer Alexander Nemkin could “complete” it, presenting a forty-minute work for orchestra, piano, organ and choir. 
  
I have a “Russian Disc” of the piece with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kiril Konrashin, with Alexei Lyubimov (piano), Irina Orolova (organ), and the Yurkpv Russian Choir.  The performance dates back to the early 1990s, just before the breakup of the Soviet Union.  The sound is a bit tubby.
  
The “Mystery” is thick, dense, and seems stylistically closer to French music than Viennese or what we usually perceive as Russian.  There are lots of massed, smoothed-over passages and whole tone scale effects.  I did not perceive much form in the music, although the chorus doesn’t come in until the end.  The movement does end loudly, on a B Major chord. 
  
The earlier Symphony Poem in D Minor (1897) is relatively lively, rather like a concert overture with a sonata structure, ending loudly in minor chords.
  
The Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra in A Minor (1888) is not as thick as we normally expect with Scriabin, and the effect of the piece is rather like that of Schumann.  
  
To me, Scriabin often seems repetitious.  The third symphony, “The Divine Poem” is a good example.  Yet, the end of that three movement work, in C Minor, is absolutely breathtaking.  The Fifth Symphony, “Prometheus” or “Poem of Fire”, which I have somewhere on an old Vox Turnabout, is somewhat like “Mystery” in style. 
  
I guess when one thinks of self-indulgence in music, one can ponder Gerard Grisey, who offers ruminations on the meaning of civilization in "Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil" (Dec. 9, 2010 here).

I’ve talked about the Symphony #5 in C# Minor by Sir Arnold Bax before, particularly on an Aug. 25, 2013 posting.  I do have the Chandos CD Bryden Thompson performing the work with the London Philharmonic in 1989.  It is paired with the three movement “Russian Suite”, the second movement (“Nocturne”) of which is orchestrated by Graham Parlett.
  
I first got to know Bax on some budget label (was it Nonesuch?) in the 1970s, and had a recording of this work while living in New York City.  I always thought of Bax as “very dour”.  But the Fifth, with the blazing trumph at the end, took hold.  I remember a particularly critical episode in my personal life in 1978, when I put the record on, hoping a particular person would call (at the time we had only landlines and answering machines) and interrupt me. 
  

The CD program notes that the slow introduction echoes the way Sibelius opens the slow movement of his Fifth Symphony (itself a work of significance to me at the time I graduated from high school) .  The main movement, “Allegre con fuoco) does a lot with the Mahlerian idea of major and minor becoming interchangeable, and yet there is always a slightly pastoral air, maybe out of the world of Vaughn Williams, with lots of parallel intervals and other church modes superimposed over the lush harmonies.  This is definitely “English music”.  The Lento continues the same mood, suggesting a wintry landscape, perhaps at a time of life where there is still great aspiration.  The Finale takes on an unusually (for Bax) Russian character, but it is the Epilogue that this crown of the work.  After slowing down, the music presents a majestic, complete with ground bass and lush harmonies, setting of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”.  The theme grows more compact with strettos, until a final release, passing over a couple of subdominant chords and snarling brass, to crash down on C# octaves.  This is both an apocalypse and an affirmation of life.  I wonder if Prince William could have considered this Epilogue as a postlude for his wedding service in 2011. 

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Ohio violinist overcomes autoimmune illness with music, starts foundation (CNN)

Today, CNN introduced the young violinist, Allison Lint, at Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio, founded or “Violinists4Vasculitis”.
     
I couldn’t tell of the exact timing of when these events happened, but Allison describes her battling this auto-immune disease at the college website here.   The disease is called granulomatosis with polyangitis, or Wegener’s Syndrome.  I think I had heard of this only once in someone when I was living in Minneapolis. 
   
    
Lint grew up around the Akron area.  Oberlin is five miles west of Kipton, a little town where I spent my summers as a boy in the 1950s.  She went to high school at the Cleveland Institute for Music.
    
CNN has a report on “The Human Factor” here.
   
Claus Ogermann based on Charlie Chaplin comedies.