Category Archives: Songs

The sun rises and sets

My father says the Russian prisoner’s song he learned from Mensheviks in Mexico City at the time of the victory of Stalingrad is called “My window” but really I think it is called “The sun rises and sets.” Here are some lyrics for one version of it in Russian but there is a book Russian folk lyric from Indiana University, with a foreword by Vladimir Propp, that has a most beautiful version.

This last version appears in a play by Maxim Gorky called Lower depths, and according to Propp the song was very widely sung in 1905. The final stanza is an exact translation of part of Black raven, a very important song about war and death. Black raven will re-convince you of the horrors of war and the marvels of Russian culture. Our ancestor spoke twelve languages and I would like to learn Russian.

I learned looking for my father’s song that there is a whole genre of prison and criminals’ songs in Russia–as one might have guessed. I learned about the cantautor Mikhail Krug and the important neo-prison song Vladimirskiy central. I have seen photographs and videos of current Russian prisons and they resemble U.S. prisons very greatly.

I also discovered an amazing tenor, Dmitri Smirnov. There is a 1912 recording of him singing a Rachmaninoff song called “My window” and I wonder if it is related.

Axé.

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Hermanos Zaizar

I am in deepest California, which is Mexico, so we will sing. This is the Corrido del norte, in which Mexicanness is asserted:

Nací en la frontera, de acá de este lado,
de acá de este lado puro mexicano,
por más que la gente me juzgue Texano,
yo les aseguro que soy mexicano,
de acá de este lado….

Axé.

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Los Super Seven

It is the weekend, so we will sing! Here is a version of “Plane wreck at Los Gatos” I had not heard before.

It is a very important song by Woody Guthrie, sung here by an important tejano group. The norteño accordeon comes in around 0:47 and surprised me with its combination of appropriateness and ostranenie. Woody sings the song as Woody sings, but the speaker in the song is Mexican-American.

Axé.

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Mary Niall Mitchell, Akala, and more

Δ This blog has few readers but me. It is a reason why I should merge it with my research blog, and work more on my research blog. Or spend more time organizing research notes in other platforms.

Δ In any case, Mary Niall Mitchell at the University of New Orleans has this important project and may know things about New Orleans history that will support my project. I must be inspired.

Δ There is an inspiring British rapper named Akala whom I should use as an inspiration deity. This is his website. He is very intelligent and versatile. He has books, but I am interested in his graphic novel first.

Δ I need to read Ann Twinam’s Purchasing Whiteness and want to buy it, but should look for it in a library first.

Δ Allegory is not about mechanical meanings but about inner life and complex imagery. We are freed to contemplate these things since there is no doubt about theme.

Δ Many works of literature have multifractal structures.

Δ Border Cantosis — an exhibit I will see when I get to San José, which I will do, believe it or not.

Δ A smart, very balanced piece on the Clinton e-mail “scandal.”

Δ A comfortingly pessimistic view of the election and American militarism. Or unsettlingly pessimistic? What should one do (take on the arms industry and the military-prison industrial complex, has typically been my answer)?

Δ I thought steppes were cold Siberian plains with prison camps on them, and I was joking when I said the American prairies and pampas were steppes, but it seems they are. Some steppes are even subtropical. The Silk Road is on steppes, and I have been on one or two.

Axé.

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Eugène Pottier

The original Internationale arose from the Paris Commune and I am going to memorize it as an exercise in history. This is the first stanza.

Debout! les damnés de la terre
Debout! les forçats de la faim
La raison tonne en son cratère,
C’est l’éruption de la fin.
Du passé faisons table rase
Foule esclave, debout! debout!
Le monde va changer de base
Nous ne sommes rien, soyons tout!

Axé.

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Phil Ochs

I am listening to Phil Ochs who died forty years ago this weekend.

I remember that spring so clearly. There was so much foreboding, and there were so many elements and remnants left from a brighter past. These remnants were disappearing and I was a child growing with the sun and rain that filled us all with nostalgia.

Ochs was a generation older than me when he was alive, but he is much younger now. And so much time has passed, and he seemed dated when I last tried out these recordings, but now he seems timeless.

We were too young to go out then and we listened to music in the headphones and pored over liner notes. Dave van Ronk, another player we liked, had this to say about Ochs.

*

I am thinking about affect, how important it is, and love and support and rationality and resources, the difference they make.

Axé.

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On the Rolling Stones in Cuba

I saw Larry Hill of the Guardian say:

The Rolling Stones formed between the Bay of Pigs Invasion and Cuban Missile Crisis. Around the time baby boom kids’ fear of the Cold War was getting in the way of spending their baby boom allowance. I too was conceived and born in this gap between being scared to death of utter nuclear annihilation and not giving a fuck. After this generational shift in consciousness, posture and pose were indistinguishable and interchangeable. The Stone’s entire catalog backs this up, from their empty fascination with American blues to their bland late offerings. Aside from their bad boy portrayals in the media they never really pandered to hippies’ false hopes or stepped on anyone’s toes and never really took a side. Because of this there couldn’t have been a better neutral representation of Western music to open Cuba: once dominant now ineffectual, once muscular now atrophied, once read dangerous and disruptive now read quaintly harmless, once in the moment now unknowingly out of date–living out the fate of any revolution.

There are of course left and also right wing critiques of the fact that the Stones played Cuba. But what about this critique of them? I mean, I think I know these things already and did not expect more, and am not as upset therefore. But what do you think?

Axé.

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