On October 18, 2019, Stephen Rush mined the depths of his artistry to create the Invisible Quartet. The University of Michigan professor of performing arts technology debuted this new project in the Quincy Mine, in the Upper Peninsula town of Hancock, as part of a concert organized by Michigan Tech. But unless you lived up there, you couldn't see the concert; it wasn't streamed or recorded (or if it was, it hasn't been posted).
Because of Covid, this year's Music in the Mine concert on October 18 was a virtual event, which means not only was it livestreamed, it was archived on the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts
Visual and Performing Arts' YouTube channel.
Works by six composers, including John Cage, were performed at the concert—you can read the program to find out more—but since we're all about Washtenaw creatives here at Pulp, we'll focus on Rush's piece, "Tattiriya Upanishad (excerpt)*."
For many years, Rush has been studied Indian music, and led trips to the country for his students, and the piece he debuted in the mine is based on the Hindu sacred text Upanishads. Dressed in hardhats and worker jumpsuits, the 24-voice conScience: Michigan Tech Chamber Singers sang the song of joy that Rush used as his inspiration for the piece. As he describes in the concert program:
The Genesis of "Abiro": Ben Willis and Dr. Pete Larson discuss the new animated video for the Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band
This post contains mature content.
In Genesis 3:5, the snake convinced Eve to eat forbidden fruit: "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
Then God punished the snake for telling the truth and sharing the knowledge.
But according to Larson 10:27:2020, a different story is told: And the man said of the serpent, "Snakes are just really cool."
And rather than kill the serpent, Dr. Pete Larson celebrated it.
He asked Detroit bassist and illustrator Ben Willis to animate a video featuring the slinky reptiles for "Abiro," a song off last summer's radiant, joyful, self-titled album by Dr. Pete Larson and His Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band, which mixes hypnotic Kenyan folk music with psychedelic rock.
"There's not a culture on the planet—at least in temperate zones—that doesn't include snakes in its legends and folklore," said Larson, an epidemiologist with the University of Michigan who also runs the Dagoretti Records label. "Snakes are just this odd, mythical, and fantastic animal that's associated with evil and malevolence, but actually plays an incredibly important role in maintaining the balance of ecologies around the world."
Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County artists.
This week we feature rapper Prhyme Rhyme Boss, jazz-tinged singer-songwriter Lily Talmers, Celtic-y folk from The Portingales, neo-R&B by The DayNites, and electronic weirdness courtesy JDSY.
The Blind Pig is a renown rock club these days—especially after the ad that went viral last weekend—but for a long time it was also known as home of a blues label that shares the name. Blind Pig Records was sold and is now based in California, but the label's about page wrongly lists when it started: "From our humble beginnings in the basement of an Ann Arbor, Michigan blues club in 1977, Blind Pig Records has grown into one of the premier blues labels in the world."
The basement part is right, but as you can see below in the ad from the December 14, 1973, edition of the Ann Arbor Sun, Blind Pig Records debuted four years prior with a 7-inch single by the short-lived jump-blues band The Vipers.
An occasional series highlighting live recordings made in Washtenaw County.
You may not know the music of cult group Wipers, but you've definitely heard songs by one of the group's biggest fans: Kurt Cobain.
In fact, you may even know two Wipers tunes through Nirvana covers: The 1992 tribute comp Eight Songs for Greg Sage and the Wipers (later expanded to Fourteen Songs ...) featured Cobain & Co. covering "Return of the Rat," while the Nirvana tour EP Hormoaning from the same year featured "D-7." Both songs come from Wipers' 1980 debut, Is This Real, which Sub Pop reissued in 1993.
The Wipers' tour that brought the trio to The Blind Pig on July 7, 1987, was for their fifth album, Follow Blind. The group would record one more record, 1988's The Circle, before calling it quits for six years. With the buzz created by Nirvana, Greg Sage reconvened the band for three more albums in the 1990s before stopping again—still a cult band.
Like Cobain, Sage was a left-handed guitarist who mixed distorted chords and dexterous lead lines. But where Cobain dealt with huge dynamics, Sage tended toward a nervy slow burn, with his hazy guitar sound—achieved through tube amps he built himself—providing a noise bed to support his wailing but distant vocals.
Wipers started in Portland, Oregon, but Sage has lived in Arizona for some time now, where he runs a recording studio and the Zeno Records label, which sells all the Wipers' albums plus two Sage solo LPs.
The Blind Pig recording sounds like an audience tape rather than from the soundboard, but it's pretty good quality.
Setlist and audio:
When he's not playing bass in his Worlds band—or any number of other jazz and world-music groups in the Southeast Michigan area—Dave Sharp books the talent at Blue LLama Jazz Club on Main Street in Ann Arbor.
Based on his own music and the groups he has play Blue LLama, you can tell Sharp has big ears and catholic tastes.
But if you ever wondered what records influenced his own musical journey, Sharp talked to the Analog Attack vlog out of Japan for its new series, Leaders and Sidemen.
In just under 35 minutes, Sharp picked out five albums from his collection that made a big impact on him and talked about why. But the twist with this process is that Analog Attack's host then has to find LPs from his own collection that feature sidemen from the records his guest picks:
U-M prof wins SMTD award and produces shortened, virtual version of Giacomo Puccini’s opera "La bohème"
There's no doubt the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance's Stephen Lusmann loves opera in its original, unadulterated form.
After all, he's a voice professor who has taught for nearly 20 years at SMTD.
But Lusmann is also cognizant of the time-crunched—and, now, the sequestered, pandemic'd world—we live in. Those are two of the reasons why he created a shortened version of Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera La bohème, whose two-hour running time is cut in half.
Plus, the original has eight soloists whereas most young-artists programs only have four, and throwing a student singer—or even an audience member new to the genre—into a two- or three-hour opera performance might be overwhelming.
But the main reason why Lusmann made an abbreviated version of The Bohemians is that his SMTD colleagues gave him the 2020 Harold Haugh Award, which was founded in 1975 and named after the U-M professor and oratorio soloist. The honor is given to an SMTD professor to recognize his or her excellence in studio teaching. Recipients are awarded $5,000 and they're usually honored with a public event that includes a lecture and a performance. Lusmann had to make do with our current situation, so he and his SMTD students staged his version of The Bohemians sans audience and posted the performance to YouTube:
Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County artists.
This week we start in the club, head down some dark country lanes, then head back to the dancefloor with new music by Tadd Mullinix's JTC, The Kelseys, Diesel Marine, Lily Milo, and DJ FLP.
Someone recently uploaded Nirvana's April 10, 1990, show at The Blind Pig to YouTube for the umpteenth time with the bad audio and wonky video.
Why bother when there's the version above, which has been online since 2012 and it sounds pretty good? It also boasts the following: "New Custom 2-Camera Mix/Deshaked with synced Audio (Aud1 JWB remaster)."
"Deshaked" is a shaky but accurate technical term, and for that alone, I'm entering this version of the video onto the record as the definitive edition of this bootleg.
Since the pandemic forced WCBN's DJs out of the studio, the station has run a mix of previously aired shows and, as time has progressed, gradually added programs that the hosts record at home. Shelley Salant, who helms The Local Music Show, is one of those folks who has provided home-recorded shows the past few months, but she's also had some friends DJ from their pads. A few weeks ago, Ypsilanti's Isaac Levine—he of numerous bands and the Fish People Birds label—programmed a setlist dubbed "Summer Is Over and I Feel It" for The Local Music Show, and it's an excellent cross section of indie rock, hip-hop, electronica, and general weirdness from Washtenaw County artists.
Not every Local Music Show is posted to the archival Soundcloud page immediately, so the only other pandemic-era program on there right now is from July 22. But it's a prime example on how wide open The Local Music Show is to styles: the show features Dr. Pete Larson—a U-M epidemiologist by day; a nyatiti player and Dagoretti Records chief at night—along with Dr. Tiffany Ng's carillon concert in solidarity with Black Lives Matters.
I've embedded these two Local Music Shows below, but there's a weath of great shows going back years over on the Soundcloud.