Friday, April 25, 2008

A Visit from Aaron & Megan Continued...

For those looking for a little more detail on Aaron and Megan's stay here in Germany, Aaron's been turning out some very absorbing material on the trip over at his own esteemed blog. So far, he's typed up thoughts and observations on the Dom, the Nippes Markt, kölsch bier and, for our more intrepid readers, even our toilet! And it seems that there are more chapters to come. Happy reading!

He also took some incredible photos with his real-deal film camera while he was here (like the one below). So if you run into him, you should ask to see 'em.
And when you do, try and find out for me how he always manages to find these little kids with teddy bears everywhere he goes. Myself, I'm a little suspicious...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Recently Played: Sibylle Baier

You know what Kelly loves? 70s folk music, that's what.

In fact, that's not true at all. While she tolerates Nick Drake, and her indifference to Vashti Bunyan verges on approval, she generally has little more than antipathy for such things. Don't even get her started on Joni... So when one of those rarely-useful online recommendations tipped me to an entirely lovely album by Sibylle Baier, well, it wasn't exactly a highlight of Kell's day.

But about this particular folk record... From 1970 to 1973, German-born Sibylle Baier made a number of private recordings in her home on a reel-to-reel recorder. If we allow for the possible embellishment of legend, this was done in the evening, after the kids were pj'd and tucked into bed. Although her music featured humbly in a Wim Wenders film, Baier apparently had little ambition for a career in music, and never circulated her home tapes. And so the story might end, if a couple years ago Baier's son Robby hadn't compiled some of these songs onto a CD to give as a gift to family members. He also sent one to J. Mascis (not exactly a name you associate with folk music, I'll grant you), with the end result that Colour Green was commercially released in early 2006 by the elf-powered nouveau-hippies at Orange Twin Records. According to son Robby, Ms. Baier has altogether avoided press associated with this release, but is pleased that they've found an enthusiastic audience.

Fairly free of hippie, psych, or renaissance fair flourishes, the music here keeps its eyes on the small, almost banal events of everyday life. The songs I've posted below capture utterly modest victories, but with a certain weary melancholy that make these small matters feel like victories indeed. An almost inordinate number of them are earnest, appreciative tributes to people who, in some small way, brought some levity or sympathy to a distressing moment – people who, appropriately, probably constituted her music's only audience for years.

Sibylle Baier - Tonight
Sibylle Baier - Forget About
Sibylle Baier - Driving

Anyway, I find this stuff really nice, and have played the hell out of it. If you dig it, you can get it from eMusic. And you can visit her official site (maintained by her son) here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Kyle Stillings: From Copenhagen by Bus

This weekend Kyle Stillings came all the way to Köln by bus from Copenhagen just to see us. If you're not impressed yet, you should consult a map; it's quite a voyage. And just to add insult to injury, for his return home to Seattle, dude had to spend a night in Baltimore. Matter fact, he's still en route as I type this.

Hopefully his European sojourn was worth the effort. We kept it pretty low-key here in Köln, more or less running him through our regular routines. Took him to our coffee joint, visited the Dom, patronized our Belgian grocery store, watched some TV, played a little cribbage, and marched him through more Kölsch brew houses than he'd probably ever wanted to see. However, it must be said, no meter-sausages were harmed during his stay.

Der Alte Friedhof in Bonn

The last day Aaron and Megan were staying with us, we made a brief excursion to Bonn. For the most part we stayed in the center of town, and ticked points of interest off a map of Beethoven-related landmarks. One of which was Bonn's old cemetery. Der Friedhof dates all the way back to 1715, but was redesigned some 200 years later by Peter Joseph Lenné as something closer to a park than a graveyard. Though it wasn't known until some years later, Ludwig van Beethoven's mother, Maria Magdalena Beethoven, was buried here. Also Robert and Clara Schumann.

Now Aaron will happily tell anyone with a couple minutes to spare how, in the recklessness of youth, I once scoffingly dismissed Schumann as trivial and “flowery,” simply for the heinous crime of not being Schubert. I bring this up only because, if I didn't, Aaron would be all up in the Comments with flash-animation derision.

Anyway, on the day of our visit, the sky shifted between light rain and partial clouds, which made the cemetery's weathered grays and bright greens particularly appealing to the camera. I took way too many pictures, but then, how could I not? As Bonn's tourism information literature says,
“The old cemetery, which was redesigned in the 19th century, was supposed to put its visitors in a soft melancholic mood as a so-called “jardin parlant” (“speaking garden”). The harmony of nature and artistic graves impresses the visitors still today. The numerous important people laid to eternal rest here prove Bonn’s position in Germany’s spiritual life of the 19th century.”

Oodles of photos in this Picasa album, for your viewing pleasure. While you're there, why not enjoy a couple choice selections from the Robert Schumann piece that first encouraged me to rethink my position on the man? I'm referring to the Zehetmair Quartett's performance of his third string quartet. ECM put out the CD, and you can find out more about it here.

Robert Schumann – Zehetmair Quartett: Streichquartett Nr. 3: Assai agitato

Robert Schumann – Zehetmair Quartett: Streichquartett Nr. 3: Finale

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Visit from Aaron & Megan

Last Tuesday, Aaron and Megan finished a long, arduous trek from Seattle through Newark to Cologne; we were super glad they did. The four of us trekked about Cologne for a couple days, peeking at the Cathedral (where I lost a hat), visiting the Chocolate Museum, sampling local breads, kölsches, and falafel, and running through a few favorite weekly rituals. Also celebrating my 30th birthday! Then on Thursday we took a train along the Rhein to the small town of Bacharach, where we lodged way up the hill in, ahem, a castle, and explored what turned out to be a very beautiful town (and where I lost, but later recovered, a pair of gloves).
After a couple days of that, we took a short jaunt to St. Goar, and spent most of that visit checking out the 13th Century Rheinfels Castle (and Aaron lost a beloved scarf).
Finally, on Sunday, we did the Beethoven and Schumann tour of Bonn (this time without seriously imperiling any cold weather accessories).

There is lots, lots more to tell, but I'll leave most of the storytelling to the billions of photos we took over the course of the week. Do visit our Picassa page; I've narrowed the selection down to, uh, 70 photos, most with captions. Y'know, since you didn't have anything to do today.