Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The Master
One of the best movie experiences I've had in a long time was seeing The Master in 70mm at the Ziegfeld Theater. I avoided reviews before seeing it, and still haven't caught up with them (so some of my comments may be inadvertently repeating critical conventional wisdom), but I did see some chatter about the 70mm format possibly being a gimmick. Maybe the images on the screen would've been just as impressive in 35, but on the genuinely big screen of the Ziegfeld, this was a flat-out beautiful-looking movie. One particular beauty shot stands out in my memory, of The Master's Fitzcarraldo-looking ship sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Master seemed like a further exploration by Paul Thomas Anderson of some of the themes/conflicts/relationships seen in There Will Be Blood. Some of those themes, and certainly the title character, made me think of Orson Welles. The Master, Lancaster Dodd, would've been a natural role for Welles - a charismatic patriarch with serious flaws and an outsized gift for bullshit (not to mention a somewhat outsized waistline). Philip Seymour Hoffman (who is commanding in the role) and Anderson surely must've had Welles in mind, at least as one reference point. Joaquin Phoenix is captivating and weird and brilliant, and despite a fairly large cast, the movie almost feels like a two-hander between Phoenix and Hoffman, with the other characters receding into the background when these two are in the same scene.

Oliver Lake
If you've been wanting to see Oliver Lake play in NYC, the last couple months (centered around his 70th birthday) have offered plenty of opportunities. During his multi-group run at Jazz Standard, I saw a set of Trio 3 (Lake, Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille) with Geri Allen. This trio, whose combined discographies must be mind-boggling, has a wonderful chemistry, perhaps partly due to their being more-or-less contemporaries, having each made important contributions to the development of the jazz avant-garde. The trio has a strong book of compositions, and Geri Allen was featured effectively, but I was most impressed by Reggie Workman - his sound, his time, and his melodic ideas were all exquisite.

I also saw Lake around the same time with Tarbaby, one of the most exciting groups going, and one Lake has been collaborating with since his appearance on their End of Fear album. Their show at Le Poisson Rouge included a number of compositions from a new, commissioned project inspired by the anti-/post-colonialist writer Frantz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth). I didn't make any notes from which I could try to describe this new music, but there were at least one or two pieces that didn't sound to me like anything this band has done before. The album will definitely be on my must-buy list whenever it appears.

Tarbaby members Orrin Evans and Nasheet Waits were scheduled to be on Oliver Lake's night of improvised duos at Roulette over the weekend, but Waits was apparently under the weather and had to cancel. I only managed to catch one set, but Lake's duo with Evans was a highlight, with the pianist touching on blues, gospel, and what sounded to me like Milton Babbitt. Another of Lake's duo partners, Joe Daley, on tuba, was something of a revelation. I don't have much of a point of comparison for tuba in this context, but Daley seemed to be doing things technically that I hadn't imagined a tuba could do. I missed Lake's Big Band the next night, one of his groups that I have not yet seen, but I did see another excellent big band at Shapeshifter Lab, Andrew D'Angelo's DNA Orchestra. Driven by D'Angelo's charismatic playing, conducting, and composing and a powerful rhythm section of drums and electric bass and guitar, the music embraced relentless rhythm, daunting complexity and unabashed emotion. Both Lake's and D'Angelo's big bands have records on the way, and I'm sure both will be highly worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Patrick Leigh Fermor Glossary

Since completing the first two parts (A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water) of Patrick Leigh Fermor's as-yet unfinished trilogy (the final, posthumous volume is apparently being assembled for publication as early as next year) recounting his journey between Holland and Constantinople in the early 1930s, I've been compiling a list of some of the more unusual and striking words he uses in these books. Many of them come from the worlds of medieval European architecture, horsemanship, agriculture, warfare, and nobility/heraldry, among other more or less arcane subjects, along with Britishisms and a few archaic words that Fermor must've just liked the sound of. It's a tribute to Fermor's writing that somehow these books make for very smooth and enjoyable reading despite being minefields of obscure words.

I'm not sure whether I'll be able to summon the courage to go through this exercise with Between the Woods and the Water, but here are some of the best and, to me, most unusual words I found in A Time of Gifts, presented roughly in the order they were encountered in the text:

impecunious - penniless
teazles - plant, genus Dipsacus
spinney - a small wood with undergrowth or a thorny thicket
pursuivant - officer of arms, ranking below a herald
aedile - type of Roman official
puttee - strip of cloth wound spirally around the lower leg or a leather legging covering the same area
oleograph - color lithograph in imitation of oil paint
jonkheer - Dutch honorific, “young lord”
besom - broom made of bundled twigs
punctilio - minute detail of (often ceremonial) conduct
aurochs - European wild cattle, ancestors of domestic cattle, Bos primigenius
impedimenta - baggage or objects that impede or encumber
gorgeted - wearing a collar-like piece of armour to protect the throat or (on a bird) having differently-colored feathers covering the same area
mangolds - Swiss chard
postilion - rider guiding the horses of a coach
beetle (noun) - heavy, wood-splitting maul
beetle (verb) - to be suspended over or overhang
caracoling - performing a half turn (by a horse and rider)
margravine - female aristocrat w/ military responsiblities in border territory of a kingdom (margrave is male)
ramify - to have complicating consequences or to divide into branchline parts
toper - drinker [interestingly, my search for this word also returned an image of Amy Winehouse]
undercroft - traditionally, a brick cellar, storage room or crypt, often vaulted
shako - tall cylindrical military cap
comitadjis (or komitadjis) - a band of resistance fighters or irregulars
machicolated - having machicolations - openings btwn. corbels of a projecting gallery or battlement through which stones, etc. could be dropped on attackers
velleity - slight or mild wish or inclination
puggaree - light scarf wrapped as a band around a sun helmet
sabretache - flat bag or pouch worn from the belt of a hussar calvary soldier along with the saber
uhlan - Polish or Prussian light cavalry
czapka - Polish cavalry hat
aigrette - tuft or spray of feathers (esp. from an egret) worn as a headdress
bustards - large, terrestrial European birds
capercaillies - large European grouse
roodscreen - ornamental partition separating choir from nave in Medieval churches
brindled - tawny or grayish with obscure streaks or spots of a darker color
fimbria - Latin for fringe, often used in science and medicine
monstrance - vessel for display of the Eucharistic host in Catholic churches
congener - a person or thing like another in character or action
ostler - stableman, esp. at an inn
purulent - suppurating, full of or discharging pus
ewer - vase-shaped pitcher
scumbled - softened or dulled color by application of thin opaque coat
grisaille - decorative painting in shades of gray, often to represent three-dimensional relief
hawser - thick nautical cable or rope for mooring or towing
loden - water-resistant material made from sheep’s wool, usually green and associated with Austrian traditional dress
junkers - landed nobility of Prussia and eastern Germany (perjorative)
mediatization - process by which a lesser state is annexed by a greater state, permitting ruler of lesser state to retain title
hospodar - Slavonic lord or “master”
boyars - Bulgarian or Old Russian aristocrats
quinquereme - ancient Roman galley with five banks of oars
cicerone - a museum or gallery guide for sightseers
pavane - slow, stately dance of the 16th and 17th centuries
baldachino (or baldacchino or baldachin or baldaquin) - canopy of state over an altar or throne (as Bernini’s in St. Peter’s), originally fabric, later of costlier materials
jocund - cheerful and lighthearted
cincture - belt or sash worn as a liturgical vestment
forage-cap - non-dress (“undress”) military cap, originating with the cap worn by 18th-century British cavalry while gathering forage for their horses
pelf - money, esp. acquired by dishonesty
guerdon - reward
fardel - pack or bundle
creel - wicker fisherman’s basket
kepi - cap with a flat circular top and a visor, associated with the French military
crapulous - marked by intemperance in eating/drinking
noctambulism - sleep walking
crosier - stylized pastoral staff carried by high church officials
manege - a riding academy
lavolta - a Renaissance dance
coranto (or courante or corrente) - a triple meter dance of the late Renaissance and Baroque era
limpet - type of gastropod/mollusk/snail
yatagan - Ottoman knife or short saber
damascened - decorated (metal) with patterns of inlay or etching
sapper - combat engineer
spahis - light cavalry of the French army recruited from North Africa
deracination - act or process of uprooting or displacement from native environment
tarn - glacial mountain lake or pool
spoor - track, trail, trace or scent of animal or person being tracked
danegeld - originally a tax raised in Anglo-Saxon England to pay tribute to Danish invaders or finance protection against them
virago - noisy, domineering woman or strong, heroic woman
swart - swarthy
puszta - Hungarian grassland/prairie
crockets - hook-shaped decorative elements in Gothic architecture
diapered (architecture) - decorated w/ geometric patterns
stickle-back - type of scaleless fish
banneret - rank of knight who led troops under his own banner
ogee - architectural molding in the shape of an s-curve
incunables - books printed in Europe before 1501
uncials - Greek and Latin capital-letter script used from 3rd to 8th Century
imberb - beardless [http://obsoleteword.blogspot.com/2008/05/imberb.html]
pargetted - plaster-coated, as a wall or chimney, often ornamental
irrefragable - irrefutable, indisputable
apricocks - apricots (archaic)
twigged - realized, understood
nacreous - pearly, iridescent (esp. of a cloud)
charabanc - open-topped horse-drawn or early motor coach used for sightseeing outings
dolman - Turkish robe-like garment or uniform jacket worn by hussars