domingo, marzo 31, 2013

Un lujo


Martín Caparrós asegura que al argentino le gusta hablar. Y tiene razón: en los meses que tengo viviendo en Buenos Aires he tenido la oportunidad de escuchar conversaciones gloriosas. En colectivos, en el subte, en recitales y en cualquier ocasión donde se puedan dar diálogos públicos he tenido el privilegio de ser testigo del genial verbo argentino. En estos días, en un Starbucks, tuve el lujo de escuchar a dos chicas hablar de sexo. (Sí, soy hombre, y para nosotros escuchar a mujeres hablar de sexo es un lujo.)

A: Vengo de casa de Manuel.

B: Ah, por eso la carita…

A: ¿La carita? ¿Qué carita?

B: La carita de putita que acaba de coger.

A: Y sí, de eso vengo.

B: ¿Y qué tal?

A: Y, regular. Como amante, Manuel es un tipo regular.

B: Qué embole… Si más bien el loco se la pasa hablando de sexo… qué sé yo, que siempre pensé que Manuel era bueno en la cama.

A: Pues no, los que se la pasan hablando de eso son los peores.

B: Eh, tiene sentido…

A: Aunque bueno, viste que está bueno tener amantes regulares. Si no los tuvieses, no te darías cuenta de lo bueno que son los demás.

B: No, yo preferiría tener amantes buenos siempre.

A: Nah, te aburrís. ¿Conocés a Adrián?

B: Claro.

A: Adrián es un excelente amante. El loco te garcha posta. Es un groso: buen tamaño, dura mucho y tenés orgasmos, loca, pero viste, uno tras otro tras otro. Es increíble.

B: ¿Ah sí?

A: Sí, pero garchar así es extenuante. Después de hacerlo con Adrián quedaba exhausta. Viste que primero no dormía nada y luego cuando tenía que ir al laburo andaba al pedo, toda lenta, sin ganas de nada.

B: Bueno chabona, pero al menos la pasaste bien, ¿de qué te quejás?

A: ¡Si yo no me quejo de nada! Lo que pasa es que luego, viste, te acostumbrás. Y
cuando te acostumbrás a algo, sea bueno o malo, se hace aburrido. Con él garché bastante, pero viste que a veces tampoco quería largarme una hora garchando con el loco. Es agotador, boluda. Quedás como muerta. Y sí, está bueno hacerlo algunas veces así, pero no siempre tenés las ganas de hacerlo así, ¿me entendés?

B: Y, no sé, más bien me dieron ganas de llamarlo al Adrián para ver qué se siente eso que me contás.

A: Sí, las primeras veces es re bien, la novedad, las sensaciones, todo eso. Pero luego te aburrís. Por eso es que es bueno tener amantes regulares, porque entonces luego podés sentir la diferencia. Viste que el contraste le quita aburrimiento a las cosas.

B: ¿Pero qué carajo decís, Marcela? ¿Vos escuchás lo que estás diciendo? Si prácticamente estás diciendo que está mal que te garchen bien y que está bueno que te garchen mal. ¡Y no tiene sentido! ¡No hinches, boluda!

A: Que no, que te digo que hasta los buenos garches aburren.

B: ¿Y no será que la aburrida sos vos?

A: Andate a cagar, nena. No sabés lo que estás diciendo.

B: Yo sí sé lo que estoy diciendo, Marcela.

A: ¿Ah sí? ¿Y cómo te garcha el Esteban?

B: Mirá que lo hace muy bien, ¿eh?

A: ¿Ah sí? ¿Me vas a decir que no te aburre? ¿Cuánto tiempo llevan ya de novios? ¿Cuatro, cinco años?

B: Cinco, recién cumplidos.

A: Qué bajón.

B: Ningún bajón, Marcela: es una relación estable.

A: ¡Pero si eso ya suena re aburrido!

B: Quizá para ti, boluda. Lo que pasa es que no has tenido una relación seria, entonces ¿qué carajos vas a saber?

A: Que son aburridas.

B: No, es distinto, nena. Es distinto, y no lo vas a comprender.

A: ¿Pero qué tengo que comprender? Es re sencillo: o garcha bien el Esteban o garcha mal, ¿cuál de las dos?

B: Bien, ¿y vos sabés por qué?

A: Decime.

B: Porque cuando estás bien en una relación, así como la que tengo con Esteban, sos capaz de elegir lo que quieras en el sexo.

A: ¿Como qué? Dame un ejemplo.

B: Bueno, ¿querés un ejemplo? Que yo al Esteban hoy le puedo pedir que me garche o que me haga el amor. Ya fue.

A: ¡Qué ñoña!

B: No, fijate que no. Ahí está la clave para las relaciones, lo que vos llamás el contraste. Si quiero que Esteban me garche posta, así a lo animal, venite gorda que te voy a hacer de todo, pues se lo digo. Pero si ando más ñoña, y sí, porque soy mina y me pega la ñoñez de vez en cuando, le digo que me haga el amor despacito, así rico, y que me diga boludeces al oído.

A: No tenés remedio, boluda. Si vos misma no podés creer lo que estás contando.

B: Por eso te aburrís, Marcela, porque sólo andás garchando. Hacer el amor es otro tema. Y sí, suena ñoño, pero es lo mejor del mundo.

A: Sí, sí, seguro.

B: Enamorate, nena, enamorate.

domingo, marzo 24, 2013

Bilal: a loyal server to authenticity

 
Bilal has one of the most distinctive voices in R&B. He handles his singing almost like a jazz musician: unpredictable, yet wisely. That being said, Bilal is a singer with a masterful domain of rhythm. His music is highly respected by critics, but he doesn’t possess a massive audience. Just by listening to his consistently solid efforts, one can almost assure that he is not aiming at getting popular acclaim; he is just concerned with delivering good music. A love surreal (2013) confirms his talent at crafting some sort of an exclusive R&B: his songs have a little bit of experimental edge while offering at the same time exquisite melodies. Bilal is one of those few artists that have managed to stay relevant without falling to the always-alluring temptation to jump into mainstream waters. With his latest and wonderful record, Bilal succeeds at nurturing his well-deserved stature as a cult figure.

This is the video for Back to love

sábado, marzo 23, 2013

Picasso and ballet: The making of dancing pictures



Ballet is a collective endeavor. Besides the obvious elements of dance and music, many other aspects are involved in producing a ballet performance. Paradoxically, two of those often-overlooked components are also notorious: the scenery and the costumes. As an audience member, one can’t miss these couple of elements, but neither does one really have a strong idea of the work behind them and the effort in connecting them with the other ingredients to ensemble a cultural spectacle.

Pablo Picasso is considered by many as the most important painter of the first half of the twentieth century –he changed the meaning of painting forever. Picasso was a restless artist. Painting is a category that falls short to describe his vast oeuvre. He also made marvelous sculptures, mesmerizing drawings and he even dared to write a couple of plays. However, his real contribution for the theater is represented by the astonishing work he did for some of the most imaginative and influential ballets ever created.

His collaboration with remarkable artists like Léonide Massine, Erik Satie, Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, Coco Chanel and Manuel de Falla, propelled him as one the artists who best envisaged works of art for the stage.

Parade

Picasso was a very sociable figure. He preferred to work in solitude, but he definitely enjoyed hanging out with his colleagues –a group of individuals that happened to be among the greatest artists of their time. After working in the afternoons, Picasso enjoyed his leisure time in Paris by going to the cafés and sharing with fellow artists like the writer Jean Cocteau and composer Erik Satie: two of the most renowned members of French Bohemia.

Cocteau devised Parade, ballet réaliste, based on a music-hall performance that included a group of extravagant characters. Cocteau intended to have the settings and the costumes designed by Picasso and the score written by Satie. Picasso had never seen a ballet, but he was very familiar with music halls and circuses. The trio of collaborators then travelled to Rome to meet with Sergei Diaghilev who would supervise the production, presented by his troupe Les Ballets Russes.

Parade, choreographed by Léonide Massine, was not a classical ballet. In fact its mission consisted of tearing down the conventionalisms of traditional ballet, a decision that belonged to the strategic programming of the groundbreaking Russian ballet company. Rather than designing costumes, Picasso devised sculptural figures for the dancers to wear: they were very large and imposing, setting a Cubist atmosphere along with the sets, the curtain and the background. The “costumes” were very similar to many of the circus characters Picasso drew at the early stages of his careers.

Parade was harshly criticized. For many of the critics the costumes were not adequate for dancers, who seemed more like dynamic entities that tried really hard to convey some sort of motion. The audience also expressed its discomfort loudly. Nonetheless, many experts have recognized this groundbreaking work as a genuine landmark of modernism.

El sombrero de tres picos

Spanish composer Manuel de Falla had written a pantomime ballet during World War I under the title of El corregidor y la molinera, a work scored for a chamber orchestra. Diaghilev assisted to its premiere in 1917 and commissioned Falla to rewrite it into a two-act ballet scored for large orchestra entitled El sombrero de tres picos, with choreography by Massine; and sets, costumes and curtain by Picasso.

The ballet tells the story of a magistrate who attempts to seduce a miller’s wife maiden that was engaged to a miller. The curtain depicts a group of people wearing traditional costumes that watch a bullring from a box, while the set shows the view from an arch of a village that has a bridge at its center. The overall look of the picture has a somber mood, perhaps due to the choice of just three colors: pink, blue and black, all of them arranged in a gloomy tone. For the design of the costumes, Picasso showed an impressive loyalty to the Spanish tradition. Picasso worked on the costumes until the last minute. He was even reported to paint some of the dresses on to the dancers before getting onstage.

In the end, the hard work paid off: the ballet was considered a triumph, receiving standing ovations wherever it was performed. El sombrero de tres picos was one of those rare gems Les ballet russes produced that was celebrated unanimously.

Pulcinella

Pulcinella was a ballet based on a story of eighteenth-century commedia dell’arte. Diaghilev commissioned the production, with choreography by Léonide Massine and music by Igor Stravinsky. With this work, the Russian composer would enter into the second phase of his career: neo-classicism. Picasso designed the sets and costumes.

The set consisted of an eighteenth-century Italian theater within the theater that has in its center an enigmatic image of a village bathed by the warms colors of night. The theater also shows some balconies occupied by members of the bourgeoisie. The setting offers some sort of provincial luxury: a golden roof and golden walls adorned in an almost rudimentary way. These features match appropriately the music of Stravinsky, which consisted of a re-interpretation of pieces written by Italian composer Pergolesi.

Pulcinella would have its debut at the Paris Opera, but the scenery that Picasso had made was in Italy and there was no time to bring it to the French capital. Picasso had to frantically create, under great amounts of pressure and stress, a new scenery which, given the circumstances, ended up being severely reduced. Nonetheless, the ballet was a great success. Stravinsky, known for being a harsh critic to the work of his creative partners, acknowledged that he felt satisfied thanks to the strong marriage of all the elements of the production. He even referred to the work by Picasso as a “miracle”.

The sequence of successes of El sombrero de tres picos and Pulcinella gave Picasso a well-deserved notoriety among the theater circles of Paris. With his extraordinary talent at devising art for the stage, the Spanish painter was able to prove to the critics and the audience that he was not just one of the greatest names in the world of galleries and museums: he was also an exceptional man of theater.

Cuadro flamenco

Picasso was commissioned by Diaghilev to create the setting and costumes for Cuadro Flamenco, a suite of traditional Andalusian pieces arranged by Manuel de Falla. Picasso worked once again on the idea of a theater within the theater. Hence, he painted what looks like a nineteenth-century theater lavishly decorated with red and golden tones. Rich women expose their sophisticated attires from her balconies. The proscenium, the curtain and the ceiling were designed to convey some sort of grandiloquence. The whole picture radiates luxury. Since the choreography consisted of traditional Spanish dances that were performed by real Gypsies from Sevilla and the score also paid homage to Spanish folklore, Picasso had to design traditional costumes as well. These pieces were built with an impressive amount of detail and an astute arrangement of colors that instill them vivacious and graceful features.

Le train bleu

Le train bleu was the last production of Les Ballets Russes Picasso worked for. Its libretto was written by Jean Cocteau and choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska. Picasso’s involvement in this ballet meant the creation of the largest piece of that bears his signature: a backdrop measuring ten meters high by twelve meters wide. Diaghilev was confident that a small painting (measuring merely 34 x 42 cm) and entitled Deux femmes courant sur la plage, made by Picasso in 1922, had a huge potential for the theater in the form of a huge stage curtain. The Russian impresario, a true master in the art of persuasion, convinced Picasso to reproduce the painting on a large scale. Alexandre Schervahidze was given the task of enlarging it. The final result paid so much loyalty to the original that Picasso gave his approval by signing the backdrop with his name, and dedicating it to Diaghilev.

The best way to describe the ballet is by quoting Diaghilev on the subject, in which he highlighted the many contradictions that enrich this production: “This ballet isn’t a ballet –it’s an operetta to be danced. The music is composed by Darius Milhaud, but it is nothing like the music he usually makes. It is danced by the real Ballets Russes, but it has nothing to do with a Russian ballet. It was created for Anton Dolin, a classical dancer who had never done anything classical. The sets are painted by a sculptor (Henri Laurens) and the costumes are by a famous fashion designer (Coco Chanel) who has never designed theatre costumes. The stage curtain is one of the greatest artworks of Picasso. It is an introduction to the ballet, but it was never painted with that purpose in mind. So as you can see, there are many contradictions, but despite it all that, the ballet is one of the most charming pieces you can imagine”.

Antigone

Antigone was not a ballet per se; it was more a proper theater play. But Picasso’s involvement in this production followed a similar pattern and made him share with the usual suspects he had worked with previously: Cocteau wrote the play, Honegger wrote the incidental music and Coco Chanel designed the costumes. Picasso’s role consisted of providing the décor.

Picasso disposed of a white wooden panel that acted as the background. Cocteau impelled him to use that surface “to bring to mind a sunny day”. The account given by the people who were present that day is nothing but fascinating: “Picasso walked to and fro upon the stage, then began to rub the rough white boards with a stick of sanguine: they assumed the appearance of marble. Then, holding a bottle of ink, he swept out some masterly lines: and then all at once he blackened a few blank places and three columns started into sight. Their appearance was so sudden, so astonishing, that we all burst out clapping”.

Mercure

Jean Cocteau and his influential friend Count Etienne de Beaumont conceived Mercure, a work that isn’t properly a ballet, but one that in many ways resembles it. Picasso, as the designer of scenery and costumes, then joined the roster of artists solicited to craft the elements of the production: Satie wrote the music and Massine did the choreography. According to his close friends, Picasso was very excited to return to work on a ballet. The curtain was conceived in a rather soft tone, and it shows two musicians painted by only two colors with an emphasis on silhouette and form, established by the use of curves. In the background lay a mountain under a subdued sky. The atmosphere hints to a setting that doesn’t belong to reality –it’s actually dreamy.

Rather than dancers, the ballet called for the performance of mobiles, evidence that the main ambition of Cocteau and Beaumont’s creation was a tribute to motion. With Mercure, Picasso said goodbye to the magnificent world of ballet. Public and critics alike received Mercure reservedly. The Surrealist painters, many of them friends of Picasso, did not approve of his participation in the production. However, they admired him for never ceasing “in his perpetual creation of the disquiet, the searching anxiety of our modern days nor in giving it the highest form of expression”.

domingo, marzo 17, 2013

Scott Walker: music as a fulfilling challenge

 
Scott Walker is a cult figure –the kind of musician Brian Eno, David Bowie and Jarvis Cocker look up to. Walker’s career has been anything but traditional: from being a pop sensation in his 20’s he evolved to become a revered avant-garde composer. Walker is the type of artist who is constantly mesmerizing fans and critics alike. Bish Bosch (2012) is an obscure, difficult and even frightening record. The thing is that Walker makes intricate and complex music that pays its reward if you are willing to put some time and effort onto it. You don’t just listen to his music: you explore it. And in that experience of discovery, many sentiments –not all of them pleasant- will arise. Bish Bosch puts music back to the category of art: one that stirs you inside, one that disturbs you and ultimately makes you a different person after you experience it.

This is the trailer for Bish Bosch

domingo, marzo 10, 2013

Tegan and Sara: music for when your heart beats fast


There’s something about Tegan and Sara’s music that I can’t resist, but I don’t know why. It might be the lyrics, the harmony of their voices, the catchy pulse of their tunes; I really have no idea, but you know what? It doesn’t really matters. What’s important is that their latest record, Heartthrob (2013), has the attributes of a triumph: captivating, powerful, glorious. Tegan and Sara’s songwriting abilities have reached a new level, the songs are impressively well crafted: they are precise and surprising, yet also predictably pleasing. Many critics have referred to this work as a departure, which is a fair thing to say considering the shift in regards to the new sound they have now embraced. Nonetheless, it stays loyal to their essence. And I still find, more than ever, Tegan and Sara’s music irresistible. This music is a joy –which often comes close to greatness.

This is the video for Closer

sábado, marzo 09, 2013

Plaza Altamira, un domingo a las tres de la tarde


claridad

azul

brillantez

esplendor

blanco

suspiro

cepillados

niña con crinejas que corre

señor que pasea su perro negro

banderas que se menean

fresco

sombra

viento

chicas que van a trotar

gordito con gorra de la vinotinto con manos metidas en los bolsillos

gente vestida de atuendo dominguero que sale de la estación de Metro

chama que dice por el celular estoy por la parte de la plaza que baja

hojas de árboles que vibran con el viento

Tío Rico

gente que suspende el tiempo sentados en bancos

Metrobus

chica en patineta

yo no quiero ir a McDonald’s

paloma negra y su cuello de vaivén

bolsos cruzados

bebé sudoroso que duerme en brazos

gente que se para de los bancos y reanuda sus vidas

chamos emo

chamos comiendo pizza

chica que se toma una foto con su celular

haitianos que venden helado y hablan en francés

chamos con ademanes femeninos

novios que se miran enamorados

solitarios que ven al suelo

solitario que mira alrededor y anota lo que ve en su libreta

sábado, marzo 02, 2013

Flying colors: the virtue of melody


I have always admired Mike Portnoy. Not only he is one of the greatest drummers of his generation, but also he is overwhelmingly restless. He has not stopped working on numerous projects, even after his painful departure from the band he founded and gave him notoriety in the progressive metal scene: Dream Theater. It’s even absurd trying to list all of the projects he is currently involved with. However, if I had to pinpoint the most relevant, that would definitely be Flying Colors, a band that includes guitar legend Steve Morse -among other luminaries- and what I consider the true revelation: vocalist Casey McPherson. What McPherson brings to the table is some sort of freshness, I would even say naïveté, which is what makes Flying Colors (2012) such a thrilling record. You will find plenty of instrumental proficiency, that’s a given –but you will also encounter various melodic treats.

This is the EPK for the album

viernes, marzo 01, 2013

Girls: una inconsistencia amada y odiada en exceso


Si pudiera sintetizar en una sola palabra mi opinión sobre el show Girls utilizaría ‘exceso’: de expectativa, de adulación, de condena. Al saberse que una serie creada y protagonizada por la joven y prometedora Lena Dunham -y producida por el gurú de la comedia Judd Apatow- sería estrenada por HBO, una creciente ola de entusiasmo se evidenció a través de redes sociales y blogs. Dunham, que ganó cierta notoriedad en la escena del cine independiente tras haber escrito, dirigido y protagonizado el film
Tiny furniture, en pocas semanas se convirtió en una figura de culto.

Girls debutó en abril del 2012 con un aceptable nivel de audiencia. Críticas tanto positivas como negativas sumergieron a la serie en aguas de celebración y de rechazo, alcanzando extremos absurdos respectivamente. Si por un lado se aplaudía la “genialidad” precoz de Dunham, por el otro se criticaba lo elitista de la historia (centrada en cuatro chicas blancas de clase media alta), la ventajista condición de privilegiadas de algunas actrices (hijas de destacadas personalidades mediáticas) y la exclusión racial en los personajes (en la primera temporada no hubo personajes de color).

La receptividad de Girls no pareciera conocer medias tintas: la amas y piensas que Lena Dunham es una chica prodigio, o la detestas y te parece que es un show sobrestimado. Permítanme situarme en el medio: yo veo Girls y lo disfruto en suficiente medida como para estar al día con la trama. En otras palabras, me gusta, pero me gusta como me gustó Tiny Furniture: a niveles moderados. Admiro muchísimo a Lena Dunham como creativa, pero sinceramente me parece exagerado considerar su trabajo como “genial”. Y tampoco odio el show; si ése fuera el caso simplemente habría dejado de verlo (algo que al parecer no hacen muchas de las personas que aman odiarlo). Ahora, eso no significa que no pueda criticarlo. Críticas le tengo, y muchas.

Comencemos por lo general: en mi opinión Girls es insoportablemente inconsistente. A mí la serie sí me ha ofrecido momentos brillantes; lo que pasa es que esos picos suelen verse derrumbados por veleidades presentes a lo largo de casi todos los episodios: fallas que se encuentran en la construcción de algunos personajes y en el hilo narrativo de la historia. Lo cual me lleva a lo específico: si bien Dunham ha sido capaz de crear llamativos e interesantes personajes como Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) y Jessa (Jemima Kirke), también nos presenta a otros con marcados flancos como Adam (Adam Driver), Marnie (Allison Williams) y la misma Hannah. (Vale destacar que la calidad actoral de Lena Dunham también deja mucho que decir: un patrón que uno también encuentra en comediantes que crean sus propios personajes como Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K. y Tina Fey).

Así como no me pareció justo criticar a Dunham por la ausencia de personajes negros (¿acaso está obligada a ello?), tampoco me gustó cómo resolvió el incidente al comienzo de la segunda temporada con la inclusión de Sandy, interpretado por Donald Glover: un hipster republicano. Su perfil contradictorio me pareció poco original y el fin de la relación que sostenía con Hannah también se me hizo un tanto intempestivo: una tendencia que se repite de manera incesante en varios quiebres importantes de la trama.

Otro punto álgido que también reprocho es el manejo de la desnudez de Hannah: es posible que Dunham aspire con ello exaltar los cuerpos de las mujeres que según los cánones de la televisión no son perfectos (a mí me gustan las gorditas, si es por eso), lo que pasa es que cuando un recurso como ese se exagera tiende a distorsionarse, y esa distorsión termina entonces en caricatura: algo que difícilmente pueda ser tomado en serio.

La manera en la que Dunham tiende a retratar a la gente de (y por extensión a) la Ciudad de Nueva York también es otro aspecto que me parece que no está bien llevado. Yo amo a Nueva York y también estoy consciente de sus defectos, pero temo que el que no conozca la ciudad (o su gente) pueda llevarse una negativa (e injusta) impresión de ella si se le juzga por el tipo de personas que retrata Dunham: individuos detestables que quizá existan, pero que al inundar el hábitat de la serie pueda terminar por ofrecer una lectura quizá no errada, pero sí incompleta, de La Gran Manzana. Y tampoco se trata de que, como la misma Dunham haya aclarado en diversas oportunidades, se esté describiendo un micro-mundo: una visión de un plano acotado, específico. En tal caso, el micro-mundo termina siendo impreciso dada la homogeneidad negativa de sus integrantes.

Ahora bien, cabría preguntarse (y créanme que lo he hecho): ¿por qué sigo viendo este show si he enumerado tantas fallas? En estos días di con una posible respuesta: porque también Dunham es capaz de ofrecernos momentos de buena televisión. El cuarto capítulo de la segunda temporada es uno de los mejores que he visto, y no fue difícil ilusionarse con que el show siguiera siendo así de bueno. Ahora, ¿qué fue lo que pasó en el capítulo siguiente?, que esa lucidez volvió a desvanecerse: es el peor que he visto.

De todas formas, no pude evitar alegrarme por los recientes Emmy que ganó Dunham y su equipo de trabajo en la serie. Insisto, como intento de escritor que soy, y en consecuencia un individuo con ambiciones creativas, tengo mucho que admirarle a (y aprender de) Dunham. Y si a veces sueno vehemente en mis apreciaciones es simple y llanamente porque me gustaría que la serie fuera mejor. Uno sólo se decepciona de personas, o en este caso obras, que a uno le importan. Y por eso la inconsistencia que he percibido en esta serie me resulta tan incómoda.

A Lena Dunham se le podrá odiar o amar, pero no se le puede dejar de respetar. Con tan sólo 26 años ha sido capaz de ensamblar un catálogo creativo impresionante. No hay que olvidar que los primeros capítulos de series exitosas como Seinfeld y 30 Rock no fueron muy buenos que digamos; sólo con el tiempo sus creadores pudieron mejorarlos y adquirir su estatus de legendarios. Y creo que esa es otra razón por la que sigo viendo Girls: porque mantengo la esperanza de que mejore y porque me hace ilusión seguir siendo testigo cercano de la prometedora carrera de una chama talentosa, ambiciosa y valiente.