Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Not-So-Ancient Communication Technology, Cherished

I feel compelled to jump on a bandwagon here concerning an interesting book, Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. It's been all over facebook and other spots on the web, most recently because of one of its featured letters, which was written by J.R.R. Tolkien, in 1938, to a publisher (Rütten & Loening) in response to a query concerning his book, The Lord of the Rings. The publisher wanted to buy German rights, but felt obliged (since it was 1938) to enquire whether Tolkien was a member of the Aryan race. The letter quoted was supposed to have been the less diplomatic of the two that Tolkien drafted – a fact that I find charming, because it seems quite restrained to me.

Here is a partial quote from Tolkien's letter: I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that this was not the response the publisher was hoping for. I'm curious to know what the second draft said. I think I'm going to have to add Letters of Note to my bookshelf. It will stand with similar collections. One of the best ways to study history is to read letters written by the people who lived through it.

But our part of history isn't documented that way. We write emails and post comments on social media, many of which have to be less than (x) characters. We may receive eloquent emails from brilliant people: writers, artists, scientists, etc. But the emails that are preserved are the ones from corrupt politicians and businessmen.

I suppose we can argue that our electronic brand of correspondence is in its infancy, and many things could happen to change it. Perhaps it will even be discarded as the social networking sites become too commercialized and controlled. Instant communication is necessary in a society where business is booming and many things have to happen quickly, but we've reached a point where economies are stagnant, resources are strained, and underemployment is the new norm. Our philosophy of tearing up the landscape and tearing out our hair to produce stuff and ship it out as quickly as possible doesn't resonate with young people. And their children may feel that constantly talking to each other on Twitter is old fashioned.

That doesn't mean they'll sit down and write letters to each other. I think if we wanted them to do that, we'd have to insist that schools begin to teach the art of letter-writing from kindergarten through high school. At this point, we don't fund or staff them well enough even to teach basic English, math, and science, and curriculums are under attack from legislatures who are hostile to education in general.

Ironically, this is just the sort of historical event that could be well-documented through letters.

Since we don't have letters to document our age, I'll have to make do with doodles by Ernest Hogan to illustrate this post. He's out of town, at U.C. Riverside, talking about Latino SciFi with other chicanonauts. While he's gone, I'm stealing his art and eating all the ice cream . . .

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Snappin' and Pluckin'

Michael Levy has a couple of new announcements to make –follow the links and discover the beauty of ancient music!

My CD "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" has made it to King David's Lyre...in Israel!

A fan of mine from Australia who bought a copy of my CD, "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" was on a recent vacation in Jerusalem and has just kindly sent me the most utterly awesome photo...of my CD cover on the famous sculpture in Jerusalem, of King David's Lyre - this photo has surely got to be the best tribute to my debut album of 2008 - ever! 

To see the said utterly awesome photo, please click here to see this cryogenically cool news bulletin!

As this may well be about the nearest I may ever get to actually being in "The Promised Land" on my ever-struggling musician's 'income', THIS PHOTO JUST MADE MY DAY!! 

Pluckin' GREAT!!

I have finally got some of my best tracks registered in a new compilation with a genuine Music Library!

The organisation who contacted me was SRL Networks...maybe someday soon a major company like Felt Music might also take a sniff of my niche market releases for solo lyre & then the use of my tracks in every ancient themed movie & historical TV documentary in the known world??? Watch this space!! 

My brand new SRL Networks compilation is also available to hear & share on Spotify:

NB! If there are any more tracks any of you lovely lyre fans out there would like me to add to this existing SLR compilation, do please let me know!! 

This is certainly a step in the right direction in the hope of "living the dream" of someday actually being able to make some sort of living out of my love of lyre pluckin'! 

Indeed, in my daily struggle to 'get my music out there', sometimes I feel the actual anguish of Orpheus...I am but a humble musician and not a salesperson, so when it comes to promoting my musical wares to the rest of the unsuspecting world, (apart from my thankfully ever-growing web presence!), I really haven't a clue who to contact and how!

What I really really need to find, is a specialist music agent, preferably in the UK, but anyone with the necessary know how will do!

Therefore, does anyone out there know anybody who knows anything about how to further my cause? Any help, whatsoever, would be most gratefully appreciated! Many thanks, everyone...

The photo at the top of this post is from Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, offered up because, like Michael, I will likely only visit Israel through books and the internet, and from the photos I've seen of it, parts of Israel look like parts of Utah.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

We Control the Horizontal, We Control the Vertical

When PONTYPOOL begins, you might think it's a noir-style thriller or mystery. It hooks you in much the same way as one of those. Once it takes a sharp turn in the horror direction, you're in for the ride and waiting to see what will happen next. That it manages to go off into an unexpected direction from there is a real treat.

It succeeds as a science fiction movie with some odd twists and turns. But the best thing about it is the radio studio in which most of it is set. They could have performed the story as a stage play (and maybe that's what is was, originally), or even as a radio broadcast. But what I liked most was the studio itself. Something about that place made me think of NASA control rooms. It seemed a place from which the world could be saved. This is probably due to the era in which I was raised -- technology was dials and gauges, pipes and switches. How I would love to work in a place like that. I loved being in that control room with the characters, and damned if they didn't figure out -- well, you'd better watch and see for yourself. It's worth the ride.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Feasting With the Dead

If you're in Chicago this year, don't forget to stop in and see this exhibit (and hear Michael Levy's music). Follow the link . . .

My Music Now Featuring at the University of Chicago Oriental Institute Museum!

Tracks from my 2011 compilation album, "Ancient Landscapes" are being used in the video "Remembering Katumuwa" featured in the Special Exhibit "In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East" at the Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago, between 8th April 2014 to 4th January 2015!

For full details, please read this news update here!

Note – the photo at the top of this post is not from that exhibit – it's from an old ranchero museum in New Mexico. But it kinda sorta fit the theme.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Surfing For Musical History

Michael Levy proves it's possible to find gold online if the right pilgrim looking for it. Follow the links below!

New Archaeological Discoveries - with my Laptop!

Never under estimate the power of Google search - I have recently found the answers to 2 intriguing questions regarding the lyres of antiquity...right here, on my laptop!

For years, I had assumed this vertical ridge must have been some sort of strap to hold the lyre - until I stumbled into this amazing Vimeo video by author and musicologist, Michalis P. Georgiou. It explains some of the obvious differences between the lyre we are familiar with, and the kithara which has a number of special characteristics unique to the instrument. During the course of these explanations, it is mentioned that the ancient Greek Kithara also had a vertical ridge down the back - this was to represent the shape of the spine of a tortoise, as seen in the more archaic ancient Greek "Lyra" - the lyre made with a skin stretched over tortoise shell resonator ...the mystery of the ridge seen down the back of the highly Hellanised evolution of the later versions of the Biblical Kinnor, (which in the 1st century, was almost identical to the ancient Greek Kithara), was finally solved!

The second major discovery I have made on Google, was an ancient description of an actual lyre playing technique which I had previously inferred from illustrations of ancient lyre players and which is featured in all of my albums - alternating between finger plucked and plectrum plucked tones. I found a description of this very same technique in some really interesting text by the ancient Roman poet, Virgil, in his epic poem, "The Aeneid - Book VI, line 645 : 

"...There Orpheus too, the long-robed priest of Thrace, accompanies their voices with the seven-note scale, playing now with fingers, now with the ivory quill" [nec non Threicius longa cum ueste sacerdos obloquitur numeris septem discrimina uocum,iamque eadem digitis, iam pectine pulsat eburno] ...It is amazing what you can find online these days!

And here's a link to his new blog about his findings: