Sunday, January 25, 2009


Photo courtesy of Northeast Indie and Okbari.

Last night I had the immense pleasure of attending a concert by Okbari Middle Eastern Ensemble, which presented an evening of Turkish Fasil music. A longtime duo, last night they unveiled their latest line-up of a new ensemble, which features Amos Libby on ud and vocals, Eric LaPerna on percussion, Carl Dimow on flutes and Mike Gallant on violin.

It was a frigid cold night, but not windy, so I didn't mind walking to the yoga studio where the concert was being held. I met my friend Amy there and we sat on a long wooden bench in the back row. It was a packed house in an intimate setting, a studio that contained remnants from the Shoestring Puppet Theater next door, such as two giant female puppet masks and a row of puppets on a high wall that were like a second, mysterious audience.

The music, with its complex, meditative rhythms, made me want to dance, and the musicians, all virtuosos in their fields, played one long set, unbroken by any intermissions, which made for a unified tranced experience.

Some of the songs were poignant, such as Unutturmaz Seni Hic Bir Sey by Ekrem Guyer: "Nothing can make me forget you, even if I am forgotten. My soul is a cloudy Autumn without you, you are everything, I am speechless."

And even the happy, celebratory melodies have a touch of ancient melancholy, which stirs the heart and leads one's thoughts into a deep mosque of the soul. The last part of the program featured dancer Katy McCann, who presented fluid and betwitching gyrations in an exotic costume, enhanced by a gauzy scarf and finger cymbals.

The middle eastern oud (Turkish ud) is an ancient fretless instrument that usually has eleven strings. To me it evokes images of gypsies, deserts and generations of people dancing in cities, around fires and in cafes. Walking home, the churned snow underneath my feet was reminiscent of thick sand.

Okbari has another website here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Un coeur en hiver

Winter in Maine requires forbearance. It is beautiful, but often cold, gray and windy and it lasts well into March and even April. The forecast says we'll be back in the sub-zero temperatures by the end of this weekend. These photos of State Street were taken last weekend after a big storm dropped over seven inches.

Even Longfellow was enshrouded.

It's not the best time of year for bicycling.

Without books, music and movies, I for one would go mad. I moved to a new apartment in December, which was traumatic, but it's nice to be in a cozy warm apartment that does not leak or have a bar downstairs. Plus I have a nice view:

Haven't been doing too much artwork, but I've been reading and working on a big writing project. One thing I'm reading is a set of four books called "The Aegypt Cycle" by John Crowley. There are four books in the cycle: The Solitudes, Love and Sleep (I'm halfway through this one), Demonomania and Endless Things. I got the first volume for a couple of dollars at The Portland Public Library book cart and ordered the second from a local bookstore, determined to read the entire quartet. The books are dense and intriguing. They center around an historian named Pierce, with a narrative that shifts back and forth in time. Pierce Moffett lives in New York but has moved to the country, where an author named Fellowes Kraft lived. Excerpts from Kraft's novels about Shakespeare, the Shakespearean doctor John Dee, and a visionary Italian monk/astrologer named Giordano Bruno are woven throughout the books, which are also about magic, lost worlds and the ways in which childhood becomes translated into the adult world. I'm not usually obsessive enough to read four dense volumes by one writer, but I got hooked by passages like this:

"He told her how, in Kraft's scheme, between the old world of things as they used to be, and the new world of things as they would be instead, there has always fallen a sort of passage time, a chaos of unformed possibility in which all sorts of manifestations could be witnessed. Then safe old theurgies and charms have suddenly turned on their practitioners and destroyed them; then huge celestial beings have been formed, born out of the assembling of smaller ones, who became the larger ones' parts and organs; then great Aegypt has been revealed again, and her children have recognized one another, by signs no one before understand."

And there's plenty of colorful narrative to hold all this together.

Speaking of the Portland Public Library, it's the greatest. Just today I picked up a free New Yorker from last fall on the free shelf outside the inner doors, a copy of The Prestige, a DVD I heard was very good that I ordered from another library branch, and a mystery novel. I don't usually read those, but am doing research and some of them aren't too bad. Perfect for winter. All that bounty for free.

Another thing that helps with the forbearance of winter are animal friends.

Rickey is sixteen.

Lord Byron is an astonishing twenty years old!