Posts Tagged ‘Parameters’


Posted: January 26, 2013 in Chat, Parameters

So, it goes like this:

for some mad, far-fetched reason I thought it would be a ‘good idea’ to collect all the PARAMETER stuff together, polish it up a bit, and Lulu it as a full book collection.

PARAMETERS was originally a book, a collection of magazine pieces, printed in book form in 2010. I just couldn’t crack the selling ‘thing’: how to sell it, other than nagging work colleagues (which I did, and they bought).

No, I needed a kind of shop-front approach. But first I needed to re-do it, and re-book it all again.

So, with recommendation I went for Lulu. And it was not as straight forward as I thought: there were still tags in pieces I thought I had ironed out, but didn’t show up in text form. To and fro – but now it’s here.

And so, from book to blog-bits to ebook – where next?

Ok, so it can be read as blogs – ah but, wouldn’t you rather have the whole lot together? Course you would! More browser-friendly for a start.

Rather like the goldy-look cover, too.

The ‘sell’ is:

‘From Argentina to USA, via medieval England, modern Europe, and contemporary Western Europe. Reviews and articles on the Arts and Literature. Idiosyncratic, but also always questioning and exploring.’

Immigrants in Our Own Land & Selected Early Poems
Martin & Meditations on the South Valley
Black Mesa Poems
(all published by New Directions paperbacks)
Healing Earthquakes (Grove Press)

Let’s hear it for Jimmy Santiago Baca!
He put the chicano into American literature; he put the bare-foot street kid into the American Library; he put the ex-con into the Academy.

It started like this: FBI drugs bust, and he in the middle; for once, as the usual story goes, not involved. Ok, a first. No matter, it put him in Maximum Security prison for six and a half years.

By the age of twenty he started to teach himself to read and write. By the time of his Parole Board hearing he had a hand-made attaché case full of poems accepted by magazines to show. Denise Levertov had a hand in this.

From ‘Immigrants in Our Own Land…’


The cell doors racked open, time for work
field crews on the athletic field……….

Inside the walls, main-yard crews
gather up shrivelled leaves, crumbling flowers, scrape
cracked bits of twigs, white powder on their brogan boots

Chain gangs line up, load themselves into the white trucks
The fields we pass along the road
frothy with pungent odours, juices in roots and leaves
evaporate in shimmering heat waves

Cloudy Day

It is windy today. A wall of wind crashing against,
in empty spaces of the cell block.

Immediate; loud; atmospheric; deeply sensual. The hard consonants evoking the dry, hard sounds of New Mexico; the aridity; the timelessness; the detail that nails the scene.

In the same book we come across deeper layers, nocturnal soul-scapes:

I Ask Myself, Should I Cry? Or Laugh?

I am a glossy green leaf, sticking out
in midnight moon, waxy drum-skin the moon pounds with wind….
Guilt itches my heart, as though a grasshopper,
chewing half, or a thick lazy caterpillar spinning silk nets,
hanging blue raindrops, baskets that invisible rocks,
that crack their stomachs, making wings of my eyelids.

I ask you to particularly note the last stanza’s strung-out clauses, reaching out further and further. Do they conclude? Is the sense: ‘Guilt itches my heart, like a grasshopper…’, or is it: ‘Guilt itches my heart…’ and the clauses, that cannot close?

The self is consumed by outside agencies; yet they are natural agencies, transforming the self into like: ‘making wings of my eyelids’. Shamanistic.

This losing of the self is one of Baca’s main themes, to break from the destructiveness of the built-up social, racial, cultural roles one must change the self. In a prison environment there is only the self; four years in solitary for not conforming. He says, “I finally destroyed myself in this huge cemetery called the prisons of America.”

One of the many remarkable things about these poems is their restraint. Born out of extreme adversity, their rancour is subsumed by the need to identify specific Chicano legacies in the lived out lives of the people. It is in the language. Later he incorporates more and more Hispanic phraseology, especially in places of heightened emotion.

The need is to remake the self in an image outside of the one of “oppression and… racism and… indifference and… ignorance and anger that we’ve traditionally been treated with…”

And so he set up youth group projects for dealing with violence. There is a poem in the 1989 book ‘Black Mesa Poems’, called ‘From Violence to Peace’ that illustrates this. It is a poem based around a narrative. He bought a young bull calf, raised it. Then had to have it butchered:

‘Perfecto shot it.
Rasping on a black rope of blood
round its neck,
it gave a tremendous groan, tremendous groan
and I turned and said aloud to myself,
“That’s the moon’s voice.”

“That’s the moon’s voice.”

Full of self-hate for his betrayal, he gets fighting drunk, harasses a neighbour, who shoots him in self defence. Convalescing, he nurses the feud before realising it’s peace he needs, ‘to dismantle the bloody wheel of violence/ I had ridden since childhood.’ This poem to pay the cost of the bull’s death.

‘Interested groups’ had wanted to turn the Black Mesa into a national monument, with fences, rights of way. “No”, Jimmy said: “(it is) a dormant volcano…all the people… before me and lived their lives…have lived in reverence to this volcano…I think…of Rito who was murdered there by the sheriffs, how his blood fell onto the stones and how it…became the minerals of that stone.”

“All the sacrificial victims who gave their blood to the sun, the sun is now giving us back….We are now taking light back to the people.”

He doesn’t just mean the Chicano people; primarily yes, but also all victims, all people.

2004 should have been the year of Germany’s industrial music pioneers Einsturzende Neubauten.
It was the year their trailblazing album Perpetuum Mobile was released. So what went wrong?

History got in the way. Or rather, their history.

Their history stakes their claim on dissonance, on stadium stage-wrecking concerts using road drills, industrial machinery and off cuts, on clanging, banging, headache sounds.
But anyone who heard 1980’s STAHLVERSION, a live recording of rhythmic beats and drumming on the metal casing of an autobahn overpass, will attest to greater things to come.

Ok, it took a long time to come: things had to be done first. But in 2004 the fruits of those earlier plantings bloomed, and bloomed wonderfully. This was a classic album, in every sense of the word.
And not so unprepared for: the earlier two albums, Ende Neu of 2001, and Silence Is Sexy of 2003, lay out new, more generally accessible areas of harmonics and melodies to be explored.
Perpetuum Mobile is at some levels a collaboration between the band and fans: pieces were put out on net pages for dedicated fans to respond to, suggest what worked, what could happen next.
This resulted in a still industry-heavy sound, but one capable of greater subtlety and harmony.

The title-piece an extended exploration of our continually more mobile lifestyle, and its changes and effects on the ways we live and view the world. Still utilising industrial machinery: air compressors, plastic tubes, amplified steel wire, also coming to the fore is greater use of electronic loops, standard guitar and organ.
The piece goes through a number of dramatic tonal shifts, sustained by the same driving rhythm throughout.
Boreas is an ethereally breathy piece, evocative of the strange brittle brilliance of the aurora. Surprised? Oh, yes: greater subtlety, see?

And the more accessible Dead Friends (Around the corner), although no doubt alienating some of the band’s older fans, could not have done better to win more mainstream airplay.
The overall tone is experiment tempered by maturity: industry and melody. And it works.


Posted: August 2, 2011 in Parameters
Tags: , , ,

The Tango (from PARAMETERS, 2010)

The Tango is a passion, a way of life.

Tango was born on the Rio De La Plata delta, when Buenos Aires was a child: holes in pockets, scuffed shoes, a tattered bandanna called Monserrat.

The dance tales a story: In the long struggle between the power of the Rancheros and the centralised State, the Pampas felt the hand of man.
The economy is a snake, it twists and turns, at times it devours its own children. In the 1850s it twisted again. Rural workers made their way to the city, they fetched up in Monserrat.

With them came the old dances, music; the milonga was danced on the street of Corrientes. The music of European immigrants trickled through alleyways; the German religious accordion, the Bandoneon, was prominent. Lutheran austerity met Catholic poverty. Pride was in the mastery of its 71 buttons, in elaboration upon a frugal base. The withheld gesture, syncopation: all the arts of drawing from a 4:4 structure the utmost gestures.

The Tango, the Condorel, the Fandango grew up in the barrio, fostered by uncertainty, fed by hunger, and the bitter herbal tea, Mate, a substitute for coffee. For all the coffee was exported.

As the snake lay glutted in the country’s Golden Age, the Tango grew into its youth: everyone was young again, the future possible. Everyone danced to ‘La Cumparista’s marching tune, tweaked and as polished as patent leather shoes.

Songs added an extra sound. So when a world at war no longer found safe footing, they listened to songs of loss: of pride and confidence, and loss.
The singers held them with a sob in the voice, as the world reeled.

Nothing was the same; the snake turned, and columns shook and crumbled. Argentina became a backward look, a lost glory, the plaster falling from the cornice of the fashionable street, never to be replaced.

The long, troubled look into the dark of La Plata at night; only warships churned, some never to return. Later, the Belgrano, sunk like the fortunes of Presidents, before and after.

To remember the songs. Tango is a passion. At times it shows a light across the delta, a boat perhaps, where fishermen can still make a living.
Tango lives on in the wilderness, far from home. It establishes cult centres: Paris, New Orleans, even Helsinki, Tokyo.

Lately the Paris based performers, dancers, musicians, singers joined in a dance-based beat and rhythm to become ‘The Gotan Project.’

But it always returns home: Buenos Aires, its’ columns and chipped marble, the peeling paint. The passion as strong as ever. Whenever the blood is taxed in its artery, the economy lays its stifling torpid weight on all, bodies can still transport the soul, dance it out into the brag, and the ultimate sacrifice of self, that Tango enacts.

Out of the head of the snake a bird flies, from its body the blood beat and rhythm; its poised draw-back places precisely the footstep of new rhythms.

From SUR (South) 1948, lyrics Homero Manzi:
Ancient San Juan and Boeda street corner, the whole sky,
Pompeya and farther down, the floods
Your loose hair of a bride in my memory
And your name floating in the farewell.
The blacksmith’s corner, mud and pampa,
Our house, our sidewalk, and the ditch
And a scent of weeds and alfalfa
That fills the heart all over again.

Or the accumulation of urban details: witnesses: A MEDIA LUZ (In Half Light), 1925. Lyrics: Carlos Cesar Lenzi

Corrientes three-four-eight
Second floor, elevator.
There are no doorman, nor neighbours.
Inside, cocktail and love.
Loft furnished by Maple:
Piano, rug and nightlamp,
A telephone that answers,
A phonograph that cries
Old tangos of my flower,
And a porcelain cat.

The mystery of: CHARLMOS (Let’s Chat) 1942. Lyrics: Luis Rubinstein

Belgrano 6-0-1-1?
I would like to speak to Renee…
She doesn’t live there?… No, don’t hang up…
Could I talk with you?

Don’t hang up…the afternoon is gloomy.
I feel sentimental.
I know Renee does not exist…
Let’s chat…
…life is so short…
let’s dream, in the grey
rainy afternoon…

From the same period the highly impressionistic, almost surreal: TINTA ROJA (Red Ink) 1942. Lyrics: Catulo Castillo

Thick wall,
Red ink in the
Gray of yesterday…
Your emotion
Of brick, happy
Over my alley.
And a blotch
Painted the corner,
And the cop
That in the wide of the night
Placed to the end of the beat
As a clasp…

And then suddenly, possibly a future: PRELUDIO PARA EL ANO 3001. (Prelude for the year 3001) Lyrics: Horacio Ferrer, and music by the modern master Astor Piazollo.

I’ll be reborn in Buenos Aires in another June afternoon
With a tremendous desire to love and to live.
I’ll be reborn fatally, it will be the year 3001
And there will be an Autumn Sunday at san Martin square
Little stray dogs will bark at my shadow
With my modest baggage I’ll arrive from the beyond
And kneeling down on my dirty and pretty River Plate
I’ll knead me another tireless heart of mud and salt
And three shoe shiners, three clowns and three
Sorcerers will come, my immortal accomplices…..