UMS announces 2020/21 Season; Ann Arbor Summer Festival calls off Top of the Park

MUSIC THEATER & DANCE

Two major arts presenters in Ann Arbor have announced their upcoming schedules:

The University Music Society (UMS) released its full calendar of 2020/2021 season events and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival (AASF) has canceled all its traditional outdoor Top of the Park events, following the late March announcement terminating all indoor performances.

While UMS's schedule is based on the idea that we'll be able to attend indoor shows by September, AASF's June 12 to July 5 outdoor series is coming up too soon to know if the quarantine will be over. But the AASF is coming up with alternate plans to it traditional fest, "including digital offerings, collaborative art projects, and live music reimagined," it said in a press release. "Today, the public can participate in the first of those programs, Kooky Kreatures, a community art project presented in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library’s Bummer Game. In the coming weeks, the Festival will share additional elements of an adapted season."

UMS's schedule begins September 11, 2020, with a two-night stand by the Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Power Center and ends April 24, 2021, with the Jerusalem Quartet featuring Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth. In between is UMS's usual mix of jazz/classical/world music, dance, and theater. The only obvious things missing are the National Theatre Live series of filmed performances by the British theater group and the big, free, outdoor kick-off event.


Check out UMS's entire 2020-2021 schedule here.
Keep up with the evolving AASF schedule here.

Valencia Robin’s poetry collection "Ridiculous Light" spans time, space, and seasons -- from Milwaukee in the 1960s to Ann Arbor in the 1990s

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Valencia Robin, Ridiculous Light

Author photo by Jennifer Walkowiak.

This story originally ran August 12, 2019.

Valencia Robin’s new poetry collection, Ridiculous Light, spans time, space, and seasons -- from Milwaukee in the 1960s to Ann Arbor -- and offers moments of distinct observations. The speaker invites readers into specific recollections and, within them, shares not just what happened but vivid descriptions and sublime reflections on the natural world, people, identity, and experiences. 

A poet and painter, Robin is one of the founding members of GalleryDAAS at the University of Michigan. She now lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

She will return to Ann Arbor to read at Literati Bookstore on Friday, August 16, at 7 pm, and Pulp interviewed her before her visit.

The short documentary "Five Foot Sandwich Board: The Story of Jerusalem Garden" debuts online

FILM & VIDEO

Donald Harrison's Welcome to Commie High documentary made its debut at this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival, which was held online, but he had another documentary brewing at the same time. Five Foot Sandwich Board: The Story of Jerusalem Garden was released to YouTube on April 26, covering the restaurant's last days at its first home, 307 S. Fifth Ave., which is now home to one of Chela's eateries. In 2015, JGarden moved to the much bigger 314 E. Liberty St. (the former home of Seva), and the 9-minute Five Foot Sandwich offers a brief overview of owner Ali Ramlawi moving the family business, which his father started in 1987.

New Washtenaw music in the time of quarantine: Volume 6

MUSIC

Blue record player

Image by Rahu/Pixabay

Another round of new releases from Washtenaw County musicians in the age of quarantine. (Visit our mini-guide on livestreams by local artists here.)

Volume one is here.

Volume two is here.

Volume three is here.

Volume four is here.

Volume five is here.

Volume six is below and features music/mixes from Jake Reichbart, Dagoretti Records' Arrington de Dionsyo, Sean Curtis Patrick, MEMCO's Chlorine, and Mogi Grumbles.

New Washtenaw music in the time of quarantine: Volume 5

MUSIC

Old piano from Pixa Bay

Another round of new releases from Washtenaw County musicians in the age of quarantine. (Visit our mini-guide on livestreams by local artists here.)

Volume one is here.

Volume two is here.

Volume three is here.

Volume four is here.

Volume five is below and features music/mixes from Silas Green, Ma Baker, Doogatron, Idle Ray (Fred Thomas), Dagoretti Records, and Andy Milne.

Funtime: Photographer Paul McAlpine's "BARE + REAL" captures Iggy Pop at the height of his solo career

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Iggy Pop by Paul McAlpine, Brixton 1986

Iggy Pop at London's Brixton Academy in December 1986. That's steam rising off his body. Photo by Paul McAlpine.

This story originally ran March 11, 2019.

Iggy Pop is a photographer's dream.

The Ann Arbor native's sinewy body, hollow cheeks, intense eyes, and manic contortions make for photos that leap with life.

And that's exactly what photographer Paul McAlpine wanted to convey in his new book of Pop pix.

"BARE + REAL is a book about life -- passion, art, music -- keeping your eyes open and friends near," McAlpine said. "The book is filled with wonderful images that I feel have aged well with time."

McAlpine first shot Pop in 1977 at the first American concert of The Idiot tour in the photographer's native Boston. For the next decade-plus, McAlpine toured with Pop numerous times and amassed a huge collection of concert photographs featuring one of rock 'n' roll's greatest frontmen.

The limited edition BARE + REAL is 236 pages of the best of those photos, plus introductions by McAlpine and Pop, all housed in a 12" x 12" LP-sized slipcase.

I emailed with McAlpine to find out more about BARE + REAL and how he came to be Pop's go-to photographer -- or Jim, as he calls the man born James Newell Osterberg Jr.

Jimi Hendrix's Experience: Jas Obrecht's "Stone Free" goes deep into the guitar great's transformative 10 months in London

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jas Obrecht and Jimi Hendrix

This story originally ran February 11, 2019.

The life of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix has been explored in numerous biographies and documentaries, so you could be forgiven for being skeptical as to why the world needs another book about the man widely considered to be the greatest guitarist of all time and a major influence on the sound of rock music. Jas Obrecht's new offering on the subject, however, takes a much closer look at a specific period in the life of Hendrix.

Stone Free: Jimi Hendrix in London, September 1966-June 1967 is a detailed, day by day look into the guitar great's arrival in England and his rapid rise from obscurity to fame. Obrecht's book puts into perspective just how quickly and completely Hendrix revolutionized pop music. The supporting cast is a who's who of British rock icons including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals, and many others. I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with the author, who has written nearly 200 cover stories for Guitar Player and other music magazines as well as a number of books on blues and rock.

Obrecht will be reading from his new book on Thursday, February 14, 7 pm, at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. Below is the conversation we had, slightly edited for flow.

Interview: U-M Professor Stephen Rush, author of “Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman”

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman, the least understood person in the room.

This story originally ran December 5, 2016.

Ornette Coleman’s music can be inscrutable to unprepared ears. The jazz giant, who died in 2015 at 85, developed a music theory he called “harmolodics.” It’s a style that goes beyond the “free jazz” tag that frequently accompanies Coleman’s name -- even if the alto saxophonist/trumpeter/violinist did release a genre-defining record under that name in 1960 -- and relies as much on a philosophical idea as a musical one. Simply put: Harmolodics is about race.

Harmolodic theory can baffle experienced musicians, too. Even guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer, who played with Coleman for 6 years, said, “I don’t get it!” in a new book called Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman by Stephen Rush, professor of performing arts technology at the University of Michigan.

But Professor Rush, who has taught at U-M for more than 30 years, breaks down Coleman’s complicated theories in a series of free-flowing interviews with the legendary composer that clarify harmolodics’ underlying philosophy. Plus, the book’s in-depth musical examinations will help students absorb the style into their own playing.

In addition to being a U-M prof, keyboardist Rush has a staggeringly wide body of work that includes everything from chamber jazz and opera to digital music and sound installations, and he explores harmolodics (and all sorts of other styles) in his Naked Dance quartet.

To celebrate the release of Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman, Rush is doing two area readings: Wednesday, December 7, at Literati (Ann Arbor) and Sunday, December 11, at Trinosophes (Detroit). Both are at 7 p.m. (For the Literati event, Rush is joined by Jason Corey, associate dean and associate professor of music at the University of Michigan, who just released a new edition of his book Audio Production and Critical Listening: Technical Ear Training.)

Rush answered questions over email about Coleman and the book, and he gave Pulp a list of recommended recordings that illustrate harmolodics at its finest.

New Washtenaw music in the time of quarantine: Volume 4

MUSIC

Radio Cassette from Pixabay

Image by Vectronom Studios from Pixabay.

Another round of new releases from Washtenaw County musicians in the age of quarantine. (These are all studio recordings or professionally shot videos; visit our mini-guide on livestreams by local artists here.)

Volume one is here.

Volume two is here.

Volume three is here.

Volume four is below and features music/videos from Virga, The Kelseys, Dre Dav/Flight Team, Laurel Halo, Tadd Mullinix/JTC, TwoFace Suave, Drew Denton/Druzi Baby, and Sean Curtis Patrick.

Two new books by Ander Monson consider the West, Midwest, gun violence, and extreme situations

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Ander Monson and his books I Will Take the Answer and The Gnome Stories

Author photo by Patri Hadad.

Ander Monson, a native of Michigan who lives in Arizona, has not one but two new books that were published this year.

His book of essays, I Will Take the Answer, begins with an account of exploring storm sewer tunnels underneath Tucson and concludes with a reflection on filming a ceremony with an infrared camera. In between, the essays span gun violence, rivers, mines, the Midwest, the Upper Peninsula, music and mixtapes, a Renaissance festival, a reflection on “I,”, and holiday lawn decorations. There is also a mention of the Sea Shell City Michigan’s Man-Killing Giant Clam.

These essays contemplate our relationship to the past and our memories alongside who we are now, what it all may mean, and what the future may bring. One essay called “Facing the Monolith” reflects on how a palm does not survive when transplanted and determines that:

Removed from our worlds, our histories of self, the things and songs we love, our spectacles or the spectacles we have become, the outlines of our lives -- that constant backward looking, searching for what we might contain or in what we are contained—we might well disappear.

The extent that history and self and the world around us are interconnected shapes our realities, suggests Monson. Yet, despite our reliance on our individual collections of history and memory, they do not guarantee security. Monson writes, “I consider, as if floating above some other northern city, the sprawling of the lit-up interstates as fathers drive their children home through snow on winter nights, thinking themselves safe. What is safety, I wonder, when at any moment our life could be torn apart?”

This idea of upending a life is contextualized by Monson’s discussion of the 2011 Tucson shooting in which US Representative Gabrielle Giffords was injured. At the tragedy’s memorial outside the grocery store where it occurred, one of the essays aptly depicts that, “I find a balled-up piece of lined yellow paper. I do pick it up. I open it. a shopping list with six items: ‘triskets, jello, oranges, mayo, peanut butter, sm. eating apples.’ It’s not a note or prayer. Sometimes it’s not clear what the difference is between these kinds of documents.” While this book just came out this year, I sense these sturdy yet vulnerable essays will hold up over time and that I’ll find myself rereading them or returning to them in thought in the future.

Monson’s other book, The Gnome Stories, is a collection of short stories that are, in some ways, a counterpart to the essays. Reading the two books in quick succession may have influenced me, but the stories do present similar situations examined through the lens of fiction, while also standing alone. They investigate how people will respond to unique circumstances, ranging from shooting a burglar to working in a cryogenic facility or a radical weight-loss clinic. Characters find themselves both at extremes and reaching toward extremes at the same time as wondering what defines them, how they can change, and, “[w]hen will it be enough?” As one character who maps people’s memories reflects, “[m]y father once asked me: What are you willing to wreck to get what you want?” The question moves beyond the hypothetical when this character and others undergo this test. Through clear prose and introspective characters, the stories reveal strengths and weaknesses of these characters, as well as question which is which.

Monson’s reading in Ann Arbor is rescheduled as an At Home with Literati event via Zoom video conferencing on Tuesday, April 14, at 7 pm, when he will speak along with author Deb Olin Unferth. 

I interviewed him by email, and we talked about his books, connection to the Midwest, and how the pandemic has affected his plans.