Performance: Greek Islands Hafla

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Greek Islands Restaurant in Indianapolis when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with is one I co-founded with vocalist and mandolinist, Robert Bruce Scott, in May of 2004, il Troubadore.  Rather than give you my bad prose description of us or repost our bio from the website url I just linked, the image below, from the Indianapolis Star written by David Lindquist could just as easily condense what we’re about.

il Troubadore in the Indianapolis Star

We will be hosting our monthly World Music and Dance night at the Greek Islands Restaurant in Indianapolis, a business run by the Stergiopoulos family since 1987.  We call the monthly event the Greek Islands Hafla.  The Arabic word, hafla, means “party” but in connection with bellydance communities it has taken on a life of its own.  This is a description from Shira.net website:

Hafla. (Pronounced “HAHF lah”.) This basically refers to a party. A private hafla thrown by a belly dancer usually involves Middle Eastern music (sometimes live musicians jamming, sometimes just taped music), dancers taking turns performing for each other, and some open-floor dancing for everyone to get up and enjoy the music. A more public hafla may be effectively a full belly dance festival, with vendors selling their wares and a more formalized stage show.

The local bellydancers in the Central Indiana area know the Greek Islands Hafla as a bellydance night though we do occasionally have some folk dancers that pop in from time to time.

I’ll probably be there until about midnight or so so won’t get a chance to post today hence the autopost.  And for you perusal, here’s a video of us performing at Kira’s Oasis in the Dayton, Ohio area (11 September 2009) for a fabulous dancer, Sherena, who used to be a member of the internationally touring Bellydance Superstars.  The tune is a Greek Laika by Manos Hadjidakis called Milise Mou (“Talk to Me”) and a favorite of our bellydancers.

Le Violon d’Ingres

Man Ray's Le Violon d'Ingres. Gelatin silver print (1924)

This is probably the single most recognizable “cello” images to be found anywhere.  I remember first studying Man Ray and the New York Dada in Art History Class and then later as I got into performing Dada and Fluxus works and doing performance art.  In fact, it was one of the inspirations for an experimental cello video I did as part of a video collage component of a multi-media Performance Art performance I did at DePauw University back in 2002.

The Getty Museum has a very nice and concise description of the work:

Man Ray
American, 1924
Gelatin silver print
11 5/8 x 8 15/16 in.
86.XM.626.10

Man Ray was an admirer of the paintings of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and made a series of photographs, inspired by Ingres’s languorous nudes, of the model Kiki in a turban. Painting the f-holes of a stringed instrument onto the photographic print and then rephotographing the print, Man Ray altered what was originally a classical nude. He also added the title Le Violon d’Ingres, a French idiom that means “hobby.” The transformation of Kiki’s body into a musical instrument with the crude addition of a few brushstrokes makes this a humorous image, but her armless form is also disturbing to contemplate. The title seems to suggest that, while playing the violin was Ingres’s hobby, toying with Kiki was a pastime of Man Ray. The picture maintains a tension between objectification and appreciation of the female form.

The video piece I did, titled le violoncelle de Silpayamanant, was simply a video of me ‘shaving’ one of my cellos.  The title of the video fading into view at the end of the act and before the fade out the word “rase” (shaved) appears onscreen in my attempt to invoke Marcel Duchamp‘s “shaved Mona Lisa” series.  Here’s a still from the video:

still from the video, le violoncelle de Silpayamanant (2002)

 

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CelloBello

 

CelloBello

 

Just a quick note. Paul Katz has started a website titled CelloBello which is a fantastic resource for all things cello. I watched all of his videos regarding bowing technique and it’s so nice to know that what I’ve been teaching my students is something that is accepted as the “norm” with this fantastic and distinguished cellist!

As some of you have noticed, I missed another day of blogging yesterday – the second I’ve missed in over a month of blogging at my new site.  I apologize but I’ve been working on a Klingon Costume–pretty much spent all night last night working on this, but more about that later.  For now, just enjoy CelloBello–and don’t forget to check out the blog–it’s a multi-user blog with posts by some international cello stars like Yeesun Kim (of the Borromeo String Quartet with whom I’ve played a masterclass), Alicia Weilerstein and Paul Katz himself amongst many others!

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Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: Chinese Cellos

Chinese gehu
Chinese géhú (革胡)

In China, there have been many attempts at creating variations on the cello (and bass) to fill out the string section of traditional Chinese Orchestras.  The èrhú (二胡), an ancient instrument that likely originated in Central Asia nearly a millenea ago, probably has the quintessential “Chinese sound” that Westerners imagine when they think of Chinese music though I’m sure a close tie would be the sound of the gǔzhēng (古箏).

The instrument in the photo to the left is a géhú (革胡).  As Brandon Voo states:

The Gehu comes in two sizes, the Da-Gehu (large) and the Diyin Gehu (bass). In a Chinese orchestra, they take the same roles as the cello and double bass in a Western symphony orchestra. The four strings of both sizes are tuned exactly like the cello and double bass and are attached to a machine head with gears.

The wikipedia article for the géhú states that it was “developed in the 20th century by the Chinese musician Yang Yusen (, 1926-1980)” which I’ll have to confirm once I do some research but given the time frame referenced by Brandon Voo in his article regarding the changes undergoing Chinese Orchestras during the 1950s, Yang Yusen’s dates would fit in fine.

Here’s what the géhú sounds like:

Continue reading “Sunday Spotlight on the Non-Western Cello: Chinese Cellos”

SoundCloud and a new look for the blog

SoundCloud Logo
SoundCloud Logo

So as some of you have noticed, I switched themes for the blog.  I’m not entirely sold on this one, but I wante something with a bit more color but similar functionality to the previous theme.  This was about as close as I could get.  Some things are a bit more clear in this template, but I don’t particularly like that there’s so much space in the header above.  If I ever feel inclined I might go into the template and see if I can’t modify it some, but for now it will suffice.

And Ive been toying around with SoundCloud ever since I noticed it on Tony Woodcock’s recent blog post about Pushing Boundaries.  I’ve noticed it around some sites before but it wasn’t until listening to some of the tracks he had posted by New England Conservatory students (in particular Goodbye Ben Ali by Yasmine Azalez) that I realized how it works.

Basically the track itself becomes a social networking system by allowing folks (who have an account) to make comments at specific points on the track much like how Youtube allows comments to be embedded into the videos now.

The best thing is the ability to  embed the track onto websites individually which makes it much more useful (for me) than the more traditional artist audio sites out there right now.

Continue reading “SoundCloud and a new look for the blog”