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Posts Tagged ‘andrea shea’

At WBUR’s The Artery, Andrea Shea has a story about a composer with a penchant for unusual texts: the package blurbs practically everyone reads at breakfast when the newspaper hasn’t arrived.

“Musicians are always searching for inspiration,” writes Shea, “and sometimes they find it in some unlikely places.

“Take Brian Friedland, a prolific Boston composer and jazz pianist who’s discovered a creative goldmine in his cupboards. He takes words on packaging for products such as granola, mouthwash and tea, then sets them to some pretty sophisticated music. Friedland calls the funny-but-serious project ‘Household Items’ and he has a new CD. …

“Friedland is not a singer, but he sees amusing, absurdist potential in labels featuring characters, quests or ‘extreme’ wording. He started foraging for inspiration about eight years ago and had an epiphany when he read a can of carpet cleaner after his cat missed the litter box.

“It read, ‘Do not. Do not puncture. Do not freeze. Do not incinerate. Do not expose to heat above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not inhale.’ He made them into a percussive, vocally complex work where the singer repeats, ‘Do not! Do not! Do not puncture,’ with urgency.”

Percussionist and singer Laura Grill “performed a few songs, including one about a fragrant skin moisturizer.

“ ‘There’s one benefit of having these sort of accessible lyrics,’Grill said, ‘because people are like, “Oh right — Avon Peach Hand Lotion — I can connect with that.” ’

“Grill, also an [New England Conservatory] alum, says Friedland has found a unique solution to an age-old problem.

“ ‘As someone who enjoys composing and arranging, one of the hardest things is trying to write lyrics,’ she said, ‘so Brian finds them on his coffee packages and appliances.’ ”

Listen to Friedland’s SleepyTime tea music with lyrics taken straight from the box at WBUR, here.

Photo: Andrea Shea/WBUR
Brian Friedland, a composer who puts text from product packaging to music.

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Photo: Andrea Shea/WBUR
Amy Clampitt used her award money to buy a house in Stockbridge, Mass., where today rising poets can have six- to 12-month tuition-free residencies.

When National Public Radio’s Andrea Shea heard about this year’s winners of the MacArthur award, she began to wonder how past recipients had spent the money. Her curiosity led her to 1992 honoree and poet Amy Clampitt.

“The recipients of this year’s MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grants’ will each receive $625,000 over five years, no strings attached,” writes Shea.

“[Clampitt] was on vacation when she heard from her friend, writer Karen Chase, that she had been named a MacArthur genius.

” ‘ She was furious with me because she thought I was teasing her,’ Chase recalls. ‘And by the end of the conversation she said, “I’m gonna buy a house in Lenox!” ‘

“That’s Lenox, Mass., home of Edith Wharton, one of Clampitt’s favorite writers. Chase helped Clampitt find a small, clapboard house that became the 72-year-old poet’s first major purchase. The next year, Clampitt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Chase reads from notes of conversations between Clampitt and her husband, Harold Korn:

” ‘What’s going to happen to the house? I don’t want it broken up,’ Clampitt said. …

“After his wife’s death, and before his own in 2001, Korn dreamed up a fund to benefit poetry and the literary arts. Since 2003, the house Clampitt bought with her MacArthur money has been used to help rising poets by offering six- to 12-month tuition-free residencies.

“Clampitt herself didn’t publish her first volume of poetry until she was 63.”

Her Atlantic Monthly editor, poet Mary Jo Salter, thinks Clampitt “would be delighted that her house is helping give poets the kind of opportunity that she didn’t have when she was coming up. …

“This December, the 19th resident of the house Amy Clampitt purchased with her MacArthur purse will settle in.”

More at NPR, where you also can listen to the audio.

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This story at WBUR radio was fun.

Reporter Andrea Shea says, “It starts off kind-of guerilla with its hand-held camera shots of people in the Museum of Fine Arts’ Shapiro Family Courtyard. But soon the now-trending video captures the swift bloom of a holiday-spirited ‘flash mob.’ At least that’s what the MFA is calling it. It’s actually more of a ‘pop-up’ performance by 50 or so students from Berklee College of Music.

“Music stands appear, followed by a posse of string players and a choir. Their rendition of ‘O Holy Night’ peaks with soloist Mark Joseph. This surprise concert came together on last Saturday. The video was posted Wednesday.”

As of this posting had nearly 182,550 views.

Shea continues, “What’s being dubbed the ‘XMAS flash mob’ was 25-year-old Berklee grad Evan Chapman’s idea. He’s in charge of an organization called the Loft Sessions that showcases up-and-coming artists. …

” ‘It’s a little surreal to be honest,’ he said, ‘I mean, in the back of my head I think I was hoping it would do this well — but I never thought that it would.’ ” More.

A commenter on YouTube says of the video, “OK, so maybe this is a sort of poser version of a flash mob in that it was so incredibly well organized with microphones and folks bringing their instruments and music and such…but it ROCKS nonetheless! Why didn’t I go to Berklee when I had the chance?!?!”

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