Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weekend off

I recorded today's round, a muddy six part dirge titled "Oh Poverty!" only to discover a bald and annoying parallel octave in the second bar. I can't go back into the studio until Monday, and besides I'm spending all weekend moving -- so see you then.

If you read this, you probably read Daniel Wolf as well. If not, you missed this:

Friday, June 27, 2008

09 Keep it up Goma!

We made friends with Goma in Siwa. He is 20, and in two years expects to be finished building himself a house. Then he can get married.

He's lucky he can do it himself. In Cairo, many men work their whole lives unable to afford the necessary apartment, and never wed.

Keep it up Goma Goma! Keep working on your house.
When it's done you can get married at last,
married at last.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

08 Doopity Dots

In Aswan we explored the Nubian village on Elephantine Island. We ended up guests at the house of a man who sells local handicrafts. He made us tea and we arranged for Kate to get some henna done. His house was full of crocodiles, most stuffed but one live. But this round is about henna:

Doopity dots and swoopy knots
hey na na na.
Sha na na na Nubia!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

07 If You Want to Ride a Felucca

Oh if you want to ride a felucca out on the Nile,
please share your beer: your captain's waited a while.
Chicken's in the pot, the tea is getting hot and sugary.
I won't sink you and for a good price!

Felucca are the sailboats Egyptians have used on the Nile since antiquity. Sometimes they do sink -- two boys in Aswan took us out for an afternoon, struggled against the wind, and gave up, getting us a cab on the shore. Why? They didn't want to risk it: four other feluccas full of tourists had sunk that day.

I was worried about the A#/A cross relation in the last bar. Not a problem, it turns out. Both are properly generated and the opposition helps too, I'm sure. I should have worried instead about total density.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

06 The Suez Canal is Bluer than the Sky

The Suez Canal is bluer than the sky;
it carries water from Med. to Red, and ships
that carry freight trains.


Monday, June 23, 2008

05 Careful of the Waiter Who is Nice to You

Because there are no fixed prices in Egypt, everyone tries to win your business (or, having won it, your loyalty) with the promise of a discount.

And because Egyptians don't make enough money in their regular jobs, they often do other work on the side. This usually amounts to squeezing in the middle of some existing transaction. Had we gone shopping with this waiter, he would have certainly received some portion of whatever we paid anyone.

The sly turning of a personal relationship into a business relationship was our chief frustration in Egypt.

Careful of the waiter who is nice to you:
He may take you on a shopping trip to the Grim
City of Suez.
Good discount etc.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

04 I Love You Siwa

Siwa is an oasis and town on the Libyan border. Fresh water just comes out of the ground there, irrigating date palm groves and gardens in the sand. Boys from the age of six or seven drive donkey carts and aspire to be tour guides. Children run freely through streets thick with dust. Marriage ceremonies last several days, a full tenth of the town may be invited, and there may be three in one week. They build everything from a mud that has salt in it, and so dissolves in the semicentennial rain; in the 1920s it rained for three days, and the Siwans gathered outside to watch their 400 year old city melt. They are much friendlier than Cairenes, their profit motive present but not dominant. They all tell you they're happy (though we never spoke to a woman). They sugar their tea to a syrup. People like us tend to like it there.

If it comes to pass that I must flee my home,
don't tell them that I am raising children with no shoes,
chasing dates with tea, and leading package tours:
I love you Siwa.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

03 Mish Mish and Hoch

One terrific thing about Egypt is the abundance of inexpensive fresh fruit and juice. Mish mish are apricots, hoch are peaches, and talaata is three pounds Egyptian (60 cents). (Sorry about the mouth noises.)

Mish mish and hoch
just talaata for a kilo.
I'll take a kilo, shukran.
So good; a mess
down my chin.


Friday, June 20, 2008

02 Taxi! Hadiet al-Azhar

Taxi! Hadiet al-Azhar
merges with overpass
karunch! Get out and hail a


Thursday, June 19, 2008

01 Land in Cairo, Hail a Taxi

Land in Cairo,
hail a taxi,
almost die-o,
air is nasty,
eat some fetir,
and run straight into traffic,

(Sharia Talaat Harb; fetir in Luxor)


30 Rounds about Egypt

I spent the last month in Egypt, and set myself the challenge of writing a round a day. I will now spend the next month recording and posting them here.

Why rounds?
I got the bug from my friends at An Exciting Event who started singing Moondog rounds together and have since written many fantastic ones of their own.

Rounds are great to listen to because they guide attention in interesting ways. I can follow one part until a certain a certain threshold in complexity. Then my attention tends to explode into a dizzy, non-linear sampling of everything at once. And then a feature might grab my attention, and I can't help but hear it in the foreground, over and over again, moving around the ensemble. It's a kaleidoscopic Gestalt-grouping experiment. The simplest round can be heard over and over in new and interesting ways.

But most of all I wrote these to be sung. I just graduated from college. My opportunities for free, top quality performances of my music are probably over for a while. I want to be able to make my own music again. Most, I want to make Singing Together a viable way to spend time with my friends.