Bertolt Brecht’s canonical 1944 text The Caucasian Chalk Circle is the kind of play that many of us read in a college course but rarely see produced.
So it’s worth noting that locals will have the opportunity to see Circle on the stage when Ellipsis Theatre Company presents it at the Yellow Barn from May 4-21.
“Ellipsis is always very interested in the act of storytelling … so the fact that it’s so explicit in this play was appealing to us,” said Ellipsis co-founder Joanna Hastings, who’s both playing a role in and co-directing Circle with Scott Screws. “Plus, (Circle’s) so flexible. You can do it in all sorts of ways.”
As a member of pianist Vijay Iyer’s trio -- one of the most acclaimed groups in modern jazz -- bassist Stephan Crump gets to play with a great drummer, Marcus Gilmore, all the time. But for his own music, the New York City-based Crump avoided drummers for more than 10 years.
“I love playing with great drummers -- only great drummers,” laughed Crump. But, he said, “with the acoustic bass, there are a lot of expressive areas of the sonic range of the instrument that get covered up really quickly in more traditional lineups, particularly with drums or piano.”
It wasn’t until Crump formed his Rhombal quartet in 2015, which released its self-titled debut last year, that the bassist hooked up with a drummer -- the remarkable Tyshawn Sorey, another frequent Iyer collaborator -- for his own jams. Before that, Crump released a series of duo albums, including two with guitarist Mary Halvorson as Secret Keeper and one each with saxophonist Steve Lehman and pianist James Carney. He also released the trio record Planktonic Finales with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and pianist Cory Smythe, and three with Rosetta Trio, featuring Liberty Ellman on acoustic guitar and Jamie Fox on electric, which makes beautiful chamber jazz with touches of folk and blues. (Rosetta Trio plays Kerrytown Concert House on Thursday, May 4.)
But rather amazingly, Walter heard Eno's pioneering music only recently.
"That is true. So, I listened to a couple of his albums, one of which I liked a lot, Discreet Music," Walter said. "For me, it pointed to the beginnings of Boards of Canada, especially that opening number on Music Has the Right to Children. It also sounded like something I might come up with and I realized that my exploration into the world of ambient electronic music probably would have been very different had I heard this record at an earlier date. Seems like he makes amazing music."
So does Walter, whether he's playing trumpet with the avant-Afro-funk collective Nomo, sitting in with Ann Arbor jazz bands, or wielding the EVI, a wind-controlled synthesizer. His first recording featuring the instrument was 2009's Music for Science Film Strips EP; 2017's Unseen Forces is his sixth. They're all gorgeous, too, featuring languid melody lines hovering over clouds of harmony.
Walter's EVI music is improvised and the songs are selections from those free recordings, which are edited and treated in the studio. "I like to use the unique structure of the instrument to explore how a melody can be created using intuition," Walter said, "which is to say that most of the time I really have no idea what I'm doing."
Well, it sure sounds like he knows what he's doing and we wanted to find out more, so we talked to Walter about improvisation, the influence of trumpeter Louis Smith, and all things EVI.
Libraries, schools, and bookstores have celebrated Children’s Book Week for almost 100 years. The weeklong celebration began with a librarian’s belief that literacy and children’s books can be saviors for kids. While the things we read and the way we read have changed over the years, books remain life-changers for kids. Several local events will honor Children’s Book Week, which takes place May 1-7.
“It is so important for children to have a book in their hand and to read it, sleep with it, carry it around, have it with them," said Lynn Pellerito Riehl, events manager for Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. "Many of us still harken back to the childhood books we read that fostered our love for reading and opened our minds to different ideas."
What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?
Authors. Lots and lots of authors.
In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of May 2017 author events.
Every article about Musica Nuda talks about how vocalist Petra Magoni and double bassist Ferruccio Spinetti formed their unique duo in 2003. It was all because a guitarist Magoni was supposed to play a concert with cancelled at the last minute, so she asked Spinetti to fill in -- and they’ve been making music ever since.
This guitar player is never named, but he haunts every article like a ghost.
“His name is Paolo Fazzi. He’s still a guitarist. He has another job,” Magoni laughed. “No, we never played together -- never, ever. But he’s very funny because each time he reads the story in an interview he says, in a way, he’s happy because me and Ferruccio would have never played together otherwise.”
Fazzi’s loss was Spinetti’s eternal gain: Magoni has an amazing voice that fits in any setting, from jazz to French pop to disco -- all of which are in Musica Nuda’s vast repertoire. The duo has released 11 wide-ranging albums, including 2017’s Leggera, but on stage is where Musica Nuda shows its chops and charm. (See the Tuscany, Italy-based group at Kerrytown Concert House on April 29.)
Kitty Donohoe's sixth album, The Irishman's Daughter, was a long time in the making for a variety of reasons: financial, personal, artistic. But the finished result is a testament to her perseverance and talent.
The CD's 12 songs swing from the instrumentals "Leaving the Land / Ships Are Sailing," "Chicago Jig / Chicago Reel," and "Star of the County Down" to the mostly instrumental "Sneaking Up the Hill" and the primarily a capella original "Working for Mrs. O'Leary. "Fish on Fridays" is her humorous ode to growing up in a non-Catholic Irish-American household, and there are also full-bodied interpretations of Irish classics "The Lark in the Morning" (featuring her daughter Callie on harmonies), "Bold Jack Donohoe," and "Bonny Blue-Eyed Nancy" (with her son Jesse singing lead).
Donohoe closes the album with four originals, including "Abe Lincoln's Army," "Sneaking Up the Hill," and "Ireland Song," but it's the closing title track that really marks "The Irishman's Daughter" as a highly personal project.
"This song kind of sums up for me what it was like to be raised by a maverick man, an original thinker, and a truly proud Irish American," Donohoe writes in the liner notes about her dad.
Despite this third generation Irish-American's connection to her ancestral homeland, Donohoe's influences aren't strictly from the Emerald Isle. There are elements of French-Canadian music, with its button accordions and rhythmic rushes, as well as American folk and country woven into her songs and arrangements. Her voice is bell clear, too, with an occasional twang.
Conor O'Neill's Irish Pub & Restaurant in Ann Arbor will host the official release party for The Irishman's Daughter on Sunday, April 30, at 5:30 pm. We talked to Donohoe about the album, her guided trips to Ireland, and The Yellow Room Gang songwriting collective.
It's hard not to get caught up in Rich Fahle's enthusiasm for the Midwest Literary Walk, which strolls through downtown Chelsea on Saturday, April 29, offering readings and author meet-and-greets.
"The lineup for the Midwest Literary Walk this year is one of our very best, and this year represents an amazing array of authors who work or live in Michigan," said Fahle, a member of the festival's organizing committee and the executive producer of PBS's Book View Now.
The free event also includes Washington, D.C.-area poet, author, and former Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander, but the majority of the Midwest Literary Walk's roster lives in The Mitten and has a connection to the University of Michigan.
"That lineup includes Peter Ho Davies and Derek Palacio, both of whom teach at the University of Michigan and have books that appeared on many best-of 2016 lists, including The New York Times," Fahle said. "Heather Ann Thompson is a professor of history at the University of Michigan, a National Book Award finalist, and Pulitzer Prize winner. And Airea D. Matthews lives in Detroit but she is the former assistant director of the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan where she also earned her M.F.A."
The five author events are all within walking distance of one another, and there's time between events to duck in and out of Chelsea's downtown stores. The event wraps up at 5 pm, which is the perfect time to grab dinner at one of the town's restaurants, or you can continue the literary chat session at the Chelsea Alehouse, which is hosting the afterparty.
We interviewed Fahle about the Midwest Literary Walk's history, its spirit, and other things to look out for in downtown Chelsea.
It's hard to believe FoolMoon 2017 took place a few weeks ago; we're still glowing from the April 7 event and it has nothing to do with the neon paint we still can't get off our bodies.
To keep the FoolMoon vibes illuminated a bit longer, our talented photographer and videographer Tom Smith combined some images from the event with the techno track "bland western charm" from the album chromedecay tracks pt. 2: 2001-2005 by Bill Van Loo. (The Ypsilanti-based Van Loo also did one of our Tools Crew Live performances; check out the videos here.)
As the FoolMoon afterglow begins to fade, keep this page bookmarked for emergency illumination.
Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.
Peter Mulvey is a monster guitar player, able to coax supple, intricate, highly ornamented melodies out of his acoustic six-string as well as spiky, serrated harmonies. He’s equally adept at pinging out soft, atmospheric harmonics or pounding rapid, rhythmic riffs and percussive, danceable grooves that make you crane to see where the bass player and drummer are hiding. His guitar does not merely accompany his singing, it also dialogs with it.
And then there’s his way with words.