Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.
The weather in Little Rock in December of 1997 was quotidian and averaged a temperature of 53°. It rained all of 4.38 inches that month, an unremarkable month weather-wise for Little Rock. At that time, I believe I was in the San Joaquin Valley preparing to head off to art school. It was likely dry and mildly cold with a fair bit of fog all month. Blah. Composer Michael Gordon was quite possibly up to his neck recording his stunning four part project called "Weather" with the Ensemble Resonanz, which would be toured and then released in November of 1998 on Nonesuch Records.
"Weather" has four lengthy pieces: "Weather One," "Weather Two," "Weather Three," and "Weather Four." It may be a matter of creative interpretation as to whether or not each is supposed to represent a season. However, each piece has moments that seem to emulate characteristics of particular seasons like the oppressive heat of summer, blustery winter snow, and most obviously the strings that mimic tornado sirens on "Weather Three." Gordon also complemented the ensemble with various natural sounds like thunder and wind, as well as some mild beats, like in "Weather Two," but not in a heavy-handed sort of way. Grab a copy or queue it up on Spotify. Best, of course, with headphones or good speakers and a quiet room. There are a lot of details to this music and plenty of quiet moments. It also has one of my favorite album covers in my collection.
All I ever wanted was to grow up to be Hayley Mills. Remember her? As a little girl I could imagine no one more beautiful (that hair! that porcelain-doll face!), more clever (remember her pranks in The Parent Trap?), or more good-hearted (um, Polly-friggin-Anna) than Hayley Mills, and I hunted down all of her films and then read all of the books they were based on.
The best, by far, was "In Search of the Castaways," based on a Jules Verne novel, in which Hayley and a motley crew go searching for her lost mariner father in the Andes and astoundingly shortly after, New Zealand. Along for the ride are her little brother, their professorial old French caretaker (one of those amazing characters who is totally hilarious to little kids but turns out to be kind of creepy when you’re a grown-up), a grumpy sea captain, and even a shiny-shoed young English gent as Hayley’s love interest. Most of their struggles result from extravagant acts of nature like earthquakes and floods, though at one point they are taken hostage by an indigenous tribe. Whether you’re an adult or a kid, "In Search of the Castaways" is lots of fun, if a little geographically and culturally sensitively suspect. Hayley will win you right over, just as she does her young paramour in this scene.
When it is too hot to think, turn to another brain. So here’s my offering, from Ogden Nash:
When the thunder stalks the sky,
When tickle-footed walks the fly,
When shirt is wet and throat is dry,
Look, my darling, that’s July.
Through the grassy lawn be leather,
And prickly temper tug the tether,
Shall we postpone our love for weather
If we must melt, let's melt together!
Leslie picked a poem, so I'll pick a poem too. We're a long ways away from both fall and the coast, I realize, but my mood is better summed up by this buzzkill from Robert Frost:
Bereft Where had I heard this wind before
Change like this to a deeper roar?
What would it take my standing there for,
Holding open a restive door,
Looking down hill to a frothy shore?
Summer was past and the day was past.
Sombre clouds in the west were massed.
Out on the porch's sagging floor,
Leaves got up in a coil and hissed,
Blindly struck at my knee and missed.
Something sinister in the tone
Told me my secret must be known:
Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God.
In May 1984, a slightly out-of-control version of myself and a much less adventurous friend split the cost of a pair of Clash tickets at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. The seats were in the balcony at the rail, and if there was any air-conditioning on in the auditorium, it was completely isolated to the lower levels. (My friend found himself sitting next to a self-proclaimed pimp and several of his…..associates, a fact he complained endlessly about at the time and brags about to this day.)
The only Clash song he was familiar with was “Rock the Casbah,” which was probably the only song this newer version of the Clash (minus Mick Jones and Topper Headon) did not play in an evening filled with much of their older work. He would later describe as “one long song.” But, in a sweat-filled smoky room (smoking was not yet prohibited at concert halls) in what is still—for me—one of the peaks of my exploration beyond anthem rock, Strummer croaked in a thick London accent, “and now we’re in the pouring, pouring mother fucking rain, you fucking assholes.”
Here is "Lightning Will Find You," one of eight home recordings from Tristen Gaspadarek's first album, "Teardrops and Lollipops," which she created on a $200 Mbox Mini, posted to MySpace, packed up in handsewn sleeves, and distributed around Nashville before she went on to make some of the most biting pop in the Gulf Coastal Plains. Viva lo-fi!
Tristen's glossier and much more lavishly orchestrated "Caves" is worth your attention too, and she's broken away from her gig playing synth and singing backup for Jenny Lewis long enough to come visit us here in Little Rock next Sunday. Take heed.