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Theo Bleckmann: Duet for One

I heard Theo Bleckmann perform Duet For One at a Bar Mitzvah, his gift to the initiate.  He is both performer and composer here; the music displays his extraordinary vocal range, not to mention stamina.  Earlier today I played the Duet for Aleba Gartner, who remarked that it reminded her of my own Trapset for alto flute, both in that the notes of different registers occupy different sound worlds, and in that there is a percussive quality to those worlds.  In both cases, certainly, the low notes have a hollow, drum-with-a-skin quality.  And in both cases there is disbelief that the sounds are produced by a single human performing live.

Duet for One, Theo Bleckmann

Phil Kline: Been to Hell

I’m including a Zippo Song for sentimental reasons—Phil Kline and I met via this album in 2004, when I was publicizing Bang on a Can and its record label Cantaloupe, which put out a lot of Phil’s music. We married a year later. Zippo Songs simply blew my mind. A poet at heart and by training, Phil spliced together by theme real slogans that American soldiers engraved on their Zippo lighters in Vietnam. Phil says there were hundreds of poems to work with, since military issue Zippos are highly collectible and easy to find. He culled them to create seven Zippo Songs, from the very moving to the raunchy. Throughout is Theo Bleckmann’s spare vibrato-less voice, like a ghost, or an angel. WNYC’s John Schaefer wrote that in these songs, “Kline channels both Franz Schubert and Jim Morrison” in “a psychedelic haze of love, loss, lust, drugs, war and more drugs.”

The songs speak for themselves. They don’t bash one over the head with their anti-war message. One of my favorite lines:

WE ARE THE UNWILLING
LED BY THE UNQUALIFIED

Here is his Zippo Song “Been to Hell” (for the text, see below):

BEEN TO HELL
LIVED TO TELL

YEA THOUGH I WALK
THROUGH THE VALLEY OF
THE SHADOW OF DEATH
I FEAR NO EVIL FOR
I¹M THE EVILEST SON OF
A BITCH IN THE VALLEY

DEATH IS MY
BUSINESS
AND BUSINESS
HAS BEEN GOOD

IF YOU DON¹T
KNOW WHAT
HELL IS LIKE
FUCK WITH
ME AND YOU¹LL
FIND OUT

LET ME WIN YOUR
HEART AND MIND
OR I¹LL BURN
YOUR HUT DOWN

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