A Week With Ned Corman: Day Three

Paleo Retiree writes:

Welcome to the third episode of my q&a with first-class jazzman and music-educator extraordinaire Ned Corman. On day one, we discussed his early years; day two covered some of Ned’s teaching and gigging adventures. Today we talk about some spectacularly talented musicians and the guidance they needed; the secrets to keeping a band swinging; and Ned’s battles with school administrators.

Be sure to check out “Now’s the Time,” Ned’s recently-published autobiography, which he wrote with Rob Enslin. At this link you can buy a copy of the book or download a free PDF of it.

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omg…it’s a twitter essay!

Glynn Marshes writes:

And I didn’t even know twitter essays were a thing.

Topic: social contracts, protests, and whether contemporary police theories about crowd control are a throwback to 19th century mob violence literature.

In seventeen numbered 140-character tweets.

With references!

5. The scholarly literature I’m thinking of comes from E.P. Thompson, Hobsbawm, George Rudes, Natalie Zemon Davis & many others.

Posted in Politics and Economics | 3 Comments

A Week With Ned Corman: Day Two

Paleo Retiree writes:

In this posting, I introduced the inspiring jazz musician and music educator Ned Corman. Ned and I talked about his life as a Pennsylvania farm boy, then as a young musician, then as a student at Eastman School of Music, and we covered some of his early jobs as a professional musician. Today we yak about the beginnings of his work as a fulltime music educator as well as his ongoing adventures as a professional gigging musician. Be sure to check out “Now’s the Time,” Ned’s recently-published autobiography, which he wrote with Rob Enslin. At this link you can buy a copy of the book or download a free PDF of it.

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Notes on “Every-Night Dreams”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

silent-naruse-every-night_420

There’s an almost cubist visual sensibility at work in this 1933 silent from director Mikio Naruse. Scenes are fractured into barrages of angles, the camera sometimes moving in on its subjects in kamikaze fashion. Many of the shots are composed on diagonals, their planes bridged via rack focusing, as though Naruse wants to provide a visual corollary for the characters’ struggle to find common ground. These stylistic curlicues seem part of an attempt, perhaps somewhat naive, to communicate the complexity of the relationships being mapped. Later, in Naruse’s mature works, that complexity is subsumed, communicated primarily through structure rather than editing and style.

At the turbulent center of the plot is Omitsu, played by Sumiko Kurishima, one of Japan’s first movie stars. She’s a geisha whose husband, Mizuhara, is absent for unspecified reasons. Presented right at the start of the film, that absence is suggestive. We naturally assume Mizuhara is a cad or a lowlife. What else would explain Omitsu’s clearly expressed hatred of him? Later, when Mizuhara resurfaces, it becomes apparent that he’s a weakling, a sad-sack, and that Omitsu’s disgust derives not from an unfaithfulness on his part but from a lack of attraction on hers. She chastises Mizuhara for abandoning her, yet we wonder: Did he leave of his own accord or did she chase him away?

Unable to find work even after Omitsu welcomes him back, Mizuhara is sweet but so fragile that you worry he’ll break into pieces given the slightest nudge. Perhaps in order to underscore Mizuhara’s subservience, Naruse employs a running motif concerning his feet. His shoes and socks have holes in them, and when he plays baseball with the neighborhood kids — an embarrassingly juvenile moment — he gingerly runs the bases in stockings, embarrassing his son in the process. Omitsu, too, has a signature motif: She likes to smoke cigarettes, usually procured from clients and males with whom she flirts. The device highlights her lingering coquettishness as well as her willfulness. It also helps to banish any suggestion of nobility from Kurishima’s portrayal.

Omitsu is a fascinatingly ambiguous figure. Though she occupies a place in the scheme normally reserved for either a villain or a saint, Naruse refuses to pigeonhole her. Like the Takamine character in “Untamed,” it’s hard to determine how you feel about her even after the movie ends. We see that she’s on tentative terms with nearly everyone in her orbit; even her doting neighbors, who are inclined to treat her favorably, often seem at a loss to explain her attitudes, especially her unwillingness to find a job that’s more socially acceptable. (There are hints that she enjoys being a geisha.) And she’s cold: When Mizuhara commits suicide, her main reaction is to denounce his weakness, and to goad her son to grow into more of a man than his father.

Where Mizoguchi would undoubtedly treat such a heroine as a martyr, Naruse — perhaps the most Hobbesian of major film directors — sees her in a more practical light. Omitsu’s behavior seems intended not to appeal to our sympathies but to force us to reckon with the strength of her survival instincts. The characterization wouldn’t be so interesting absent Kurishima, whose performance lets you see the contradictory planes of Omitsu’s personality, often all at once.

I love the ending: A weirdly brief, almost arrhythmic series of shots that punctures the bubble of melodrama that occasionally inflates around the narrative. It’s almost like a parody of those picturesque summing-it-all-up shots on which Ozu liked to end his movies.

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A Kipling for Our Times

Fenster writes:

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs . . .

Posted in Photography, Technology | 2 Comments

A Week With Ned Corman: Day One

Paleo Retiree writes:

When I was a 14 year old student in Penfield, New York, my school’s music teacher and bandleader died unexpectedly midway through the year. The young hotshot who was brought in to fill the post faced numerous challenges: a grieving town, skeptical students, and parents who were quarreling amongst themselves about whether to prioritize sports or music. But he also had a lot to work with. Penfield is on the outskirts of Rochester, N.Y., a city made prosperous by Eastman Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb, and the area had one of the richer music scenes among American small cities. Rochester is the home of the well-regarded Eastman School of Music; it sponsored a surprisingly fizzy live-music world; and the Penfield school district itself had a long tradition of commitment to culture.

Ned Corman was the name of that new teacher and bandleader, and he not only won over the town and its schools, he became a major cultural figure in the Rochester area generally. A topflight professional musician who continued working as a sideman in numerous outfits even as he taught fulltime, Ned wasn’t like much we middle-class kids had seen up close before. He was more colorful than any other teacher, for one thing. But he was no mere hippie: wisecracking and sharp but also encouraging and kind, he made working hard, swinging hard, getting better and pitching in together seem like the best use you could make of your adolescent energy and talents. He shook up the squareness and uptightness many of us had been raised with; he showed that discipline and wildness didn’t have to be at war; and that neither did fun and learning. He opened brains and ears, he suggested new ways to learn and live, and he became an inspirational teacher and figure to several generations of kids. When he wasn’t lending his own talents to whip-smart local bands or to firing local kids up, he became a major local activist and catalyst, promoting a deeper, richer musical culture in the Rochester area.

I ran into Ned during a recent visit to Penfield. As we sat and reminisced, it occurred to me that a q&a with Ned should interest a lot of people. The thousands who have known Ned deserve to know a lot more about him, for one thing. And those to whom he’s new will enjoy hearing about a heroic life in the trenches of the arts. Our view of the arts life is distorted by an overfocus on superstars, after all. What of the equally-talented hard-working pros who are the real backbone and lifeblood of the arts? Aren’t they really the people who keep our cultural life vital, on its feet and growing? We don’t know nearly enough about them.

Ned agreed to be interviewed, and he and I spent a number of hours on the phone. If I may say so myself, the result isn’t just a tribute to a beloved artist and teacher. It also provides a lot of fresh looks at a fascinating era (the regimented 1950s as they evolved into the zany ‘70s and beyond), as well as a fistful of evocative snapshots of a culturally fascinating and impressive little corner of the country. Social history to the max, y’all. And Ned’s a great character I’m certain you’ll enjoy meeting.

I hope everyone who’s intrigued and tickled by this interview will read “Now’s the Time,” Ned’s recently-published autobiography, which he wrote with Rob Enslin; at this page you can purchase the book as a hardcover or a paperback, or download it as a free PDF. “Now’s the Time” is a smart and lovely read that adds a huge amount to what Ned and I were only able to sketch in here.

Many thanks to Ned for consenting to the interview and for pitching in generously and patiently. Thanks as well to Ned and Rob for giving me permission to use many visuals from their book. Ned is now 76 and retired. He and his wife Linda, a wonderful painter, continue to be based in Penfield. As you read the interview, imagine Ned’s voice, the voice of a heartland farmboy who grew up to become a be-bopping jazzman.

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Posted in Art, Education, Interviews, Music | 4 Comments

Sunday Jazz Selection

Fenster writes:

Ruby, My Dear.  Thelonius Monk.  And thanks, Libby for turning me on to this and much else back when.

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