Mogi Grumbles, the nom de plume of Alex Taam, sounds like a villain in a Superman comic. But the name's origin story isn't quite so heroic.
"It was a nickname given to me around the time I first started publishing my music," Taam said. "From how I understand it, it was a rap lyric originally from my friend Ian. He came up with the name in the song, but then it got dubbed to me because I was such an 'curmudgeon.' ... The name stuck, my label liked it, so there it is."
Those 2009 releases on Moodgadget -- Revolutions Per Minute and the split Worst Friends vs. Mogi Grumbles -- launched Taam's music career, which has expanded into videogame soundtrack work, rescores of classic movies, and studio recording and mastering for other artists.
The two Mogi Grumbles songs Taam composed for the third installment of the Ann Arbor District Library's Tools Crew Live series are called "Library Jam 1" and "Library Jam 2," but they could have easily been called "Retro-Futuristic Sci-Fi Soundtracks 1 & 2." Taam squeezed all the warmth out of the various keyboards he employed, making for a cozy couple of tunes that could easily accompany a voyage into deep space or a daring escape from a postapocalyptic landscape.
These videos were recorded on February 28, 2017, and a few weeks later, Taam answered questions about how he approached this session and the gear he used.
Despite the journal's name, Great Lakes Review editor John Counts is "wary of getting too deep into whether our region has its own distinct regional voice akin to American Southern literature," he said. "That question is probably best dealt with in academic dissertations. But I will say we believe great writing is something that rises above its setting."
On April 28 at Literati Bookstore, Great Lakes Review will host an event that celebrates the release of a printed collection of 2016 stories and poems that rose above their settings.
We talked to Counts about how independent journals champion “riskier” writing, that elusive Midwest voice, and the role of Great Lakes-area writers during a political climate that could threaten the region's ecosystem.
The Ann Arbor Art Center’s “Whipstitch: The State of Contemporary Textiles” does the rather nifty trick of reimagining yesterday’s art today through a conceptualization of what may be the art of tomorrow.
Granted, this notion may sound convoluted, but it’s really quite simple: Fiber, like architecture, can reasonably vie as the oldest of all arts. The reason for this is quite apparent with little consideration.
Yet the art of fiber (like another such ancient art, ceramics) has been essentially aesthetically dormant for millenniums -- and this is also for the same reason already considered. For as a practical artisan regard, fiber’s use has been largely defined rigidly as either being functional or fashionable with little thought outside of this.
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #634
In Marlena * *, Julie Buntin's "(s)ensitive and smart and arrestingly beautiful debut" (Kirkus Reviews), 15 year-old Cathy (now calling herself Cat), arrived at Silver Lake, a small rural community in Northern Michigan with her newly divorced mother and older brother, determined to shed her good-girl image and reinvent herself, and was immediately drawn to the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena, her next door neighbor.
Over the course of the coming weeks, the girls turned the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground - skipping school, running feral as Marlena introduced Cat to a new world of drinking and pills and sex and also friendship, the depth of which neither girl has experienced before. Within the year, Marlena was dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby.
If saxophonist Avram Fefer can play a compelling duet with a towering wall of sheet metal, chances are good he sounds great improvising with just about anyone. Which sets the bar pretty high for tonight's Kerrytown Concert House performance with longtime collaborator bassist Michael Bisio.
Fefer was recently in London for the latest session in his Resonant Sculpture Project -- which he described by email as "a series of immersive, site-specific performances exploring the relationship between improvisation, space, acoustics, permanence, and sculpture" -- during which the reedman plays at, around, and sometimes within the large-scale, minimalist creations of sculptor Richard Serra.
It's easy to imagine tonight's show going more like a conversation between old friends who happen to be experts in their fields; a two-person TED Talk on intersecting disciplines as told on reeds and strings.
Or as Bisio put it by email, "Both Avram and I tell a good musical story."
The two players, composers, and bandleaders have been telling that story together in some form since the 1990s, either in Bisio's Quartet or as a duo. Fefer's lyrical approach to sax and bass clarinet effortlessly folds in several styles to create an organic, singular sound that pairs perfectly with Bisio's limber double-bass lines and expressive bowing.
We talked with Fefer by email -- with Bisio chiming in, too -- about developing his rich, varied style; composing and tracking the duo's lone solo record in roughly 25 years of playing together; and how he got started jamming with inanimate objects.
Illustrating the principle that an artful passion can arise from the coolest of mediums, Michelle Hegyi’s “Wild Forest” manages to encapsulate both passion and discipline in a further consolidation of aesthetic strategy.
This is the fifth time I’ve caught Hegyi’s art in her WSG context. There was a streak of exhibits—June 2006’s “The shape of the Sky”; August 2008’s “Gardens of Love and Fire”; August 2010’s “Do You Remember the Shape of Trees…”; and November 2012’s “How the Day Changes with the Light”—where it was possible to chart Hegyi’s growth transitioning from old school printmaking to digital printmaking.
It’s been a privilege to see her work advancing technologically even as she consolidated her print expertise. It’s equally good to note that she’s still as restless in her study as she is in her craft.
In this instance—and working happily in the juncture between abstraction and representation—Hegyi continues to craft a hybrid computer-based painting where her abstraction is comingled with her inspiration.
At first listen, Terence Davies' voice seemingly betrays his 71 years. Even with his charming British accent, the Englishman sounds gravelly, like he can't get as much air into his lungs as he might like. But then it takes about 30 seconds of hearing his words to understand age might not explain this condition as well as a literally breathless enthusiasm for whatever topic he's discussing.
I spoke with Davies about his latest film, A Quiet Passion, a biopic about Emily Dickinson that details her complicated family relationships, her unconventional religious beliefs, and her own self-esteem issues in order to celebrate a unique life and illuminate her poetry. The film opens at the Michigan Theater on Friday, April 21.
Youth will be served.
In popular music, movies, and theater, young adults are usually the center of attention. Older actors will land roles as wise elders, cantankerous villains, or doddering comic relief. But the roles are sometimes few and far between.
That’s one reason why Thom Johnson wanted to stage Paul Osborn’s gentle, Midwest 1939 comedy Mornings at Seven for the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.
“I did this play 10 years ago with another group and in the intervening years, looking at shows I wanted to be in, I noticed a real lack of parts for older people,” Johnson said, “and this show except for the two ‘youngsters’ who are in their 40s, it’s all about older people. I think that’s what really sparked me into wanting to do it, an opportunity for older actors to get out there on stage and do their thing.”
Prolific author Roxane Gay returns to Ann Arbor with a Literati Bookstore-hosted event on June 16 at Hill Auditorium. Tickets were just announced in the Literati newsletter, and the seats are likely to fill up fast. If you're wondering why, here's a quick overview of Gay.
When I talked to him on the phone recently, Michigan native Doug Miro was driving around Bogotá, Colombia, looking for a good coffee shop. He was shooting a few episodes for season three of the Netflix show Narcos, which he and collaborator Carlo Bernard created along with their partner and showrunner Eric Newman. Miro and Bernard, along with a team of writers, pen the scripts, and the two take turns filming episodes in Colombia and California.
Miro and Bernard have worked together for years now, writing screenplays for Steven Spielberg, Harvey Weinstein, and Jerry Bruckheimer, scripting films such as Prince of Persia (which starred Jake Gyllenhaal), The Wall (starring Matt Damon), Tintin, The Uninvited, and the television series Narcos, which Miro describes as more of a “20-hour movie."
Miro will give a free talk at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) on Wednesday, April 19, at 7 pm. The event is co-presented by the MOCAD and the University of Michigan's Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series.