Survivor’s guilt

The pandemic was good to me.

I thrive alone and so, even as the wife was not in her best place like most others in the world, though I was distraught by what the global “We” were going through, I could deal. Even before the pandemic I worked from home and spent many non-work hours in my office doing non-work things. Not necessarily a very guy thing but just a very introvert thing. I actually have fond memories of the isolation because within that isolation there was, without a better phrase to express it, a warm online camaraderie of artists who gave their time to create that warmth.

The 11th of this month was the four year anniversary of the start (as I noted here when it started).

Continue reading Survivor’s guilt

Suite for Orchestra, “Figures in a Landscape”

Cover: Jim Aitchison Correspondence Fields, oil pastel and graphite on paper, 2021

I finished the novel Figures in a Landscape by Barry England back in 2021 and was captivated throughout. In the story, two men escape from war-time imprisonment and flee across a spare landscape pursued by their previous captors. The younger of the two is the more innocent Ansell, and the older is the callused fighter MacConnachie. The novel, from 1968, has no specifics about who the antagonists were or where the action occurs.

England’s book was a pure and existentialist response to sentiments the late 60s regarding war and the value we put on life, ours and others, and how proximity affects that value. What he wrote transcends the specificity of the events contained; the detailed and exposed psychology of the duo in flight contrasts the ambiguous landscapes. I think of it, imprecisely, as a more “human” companion to Waiting for Godot. Bleak humanism?

I read the book several times and annotated the events and days (approximately 11) when those events occurred, converting what I felt were key moments into specific movements. They are:

  1. march
  2. village I
  3. helicopter I
  4. crawl I
  5. fire
  6. boat
  7. mountain I
  8. village II
  9. mountain II
  10. rain
  11. fissure
  12. crawl II
  13. helicopter II
  14. “we’d never have got”

The movements are generally grouped in threes, with #13 and #14 standalone.

(written from 16 May 2022 to 3 Feb 2024)

Suite for Orchestra, “Figures in a Landscape”–Coda

Slowness has occurred the last few months. Passive voice. I know the cause is that I’ve focused on learning Italian, but a few years ago when I was on a death march at work, every night I still took at least 30 minutes to work on my Symphony No. 1. Those days haunt me for their dedication under stress.

There’s no excuse.

Maybe I need to drink less?
Continue reading Suite for Orchestra, “Figures in a Landscape”–Coda

More 60s Vietnamese rock

There was a commercial that had music I immediately recognized as Vietnamese rock from the 60s (ish) and the music spoke to me–as is always the case when you encounter something familiar and know you can find that thing–so I was on a quest. I remembered it was a travel commercial. Possibly about luggage? After failing on YouTube, which is pretty surprising, I did a full-internet search and finally got to a site that sells commercial viewing metrics called and it has videos of the commercials it tracks.

Behold: Away Luggage TV Spot, ‘Let Travel Happen: Motorcycle’ Song by Phuong Tam

The singer, Phương Tâm, has a few 45s listed on Discogs which I would love to have but none are available. Understandable considering the history:

After the fall of Saigon, this specific genre of music was removed and buried along with any American-influenced culture in the reunification of Vietnam on April 30, 1975. … Piles of vinyl, reel-tapes and cassettes were thrown out, burned or confiscated.

There are a small but passionate group of collectors dedicated to salvaging the recordings from this unique period of Vietnam’s musical history. Most of these original records have been caked with dirt and mud, requiring careful cleaning and repairing before the tracks are even playable.

liner notes by Tâm’s daughter Hannah Hà

The collection that I was able to purchase was released on the Sublime Frequencies label, which I’ve learned guarantees quality restoration and informative liner notes based on the previous albums of theirs I’ve acquired (of Cambodian and Vietnamese music of the same period, covering tragedies of different diasporas). This collection was no different:

Particularly notable, along with Mark Gergis’s liner notes, are the notes written by Tâm’s daughter Hannah Hà telling of how she discovered her mother was a Rock Star decades ago and what she (Hannah) had to do to rally a global community of collectors to gather the source recordings. It’s a beautiful story.

Sublime Frequencies no longer sells it on their web site, but it’s available (albeit a little pricey) on Discogs/eBay/etc.