derivatives

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My favorite (or rather, one among my favorite) non-original work — Leo Masliah #encirc13

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 09/16/2013 - 14:52

It seems I'm catching up with the pace of this course I'm following and that is compelling me to go back to posting on my blog, «Arte y cultura en circulación: crear y compartir en tiempos digitales».

This week's lesson is (again, in Spanish) «Las fronteras del remix» (the boundaries of remixes). An interesting text, open to everybody (regardless of whether you are signed up for the course or, I hope, whether time has passed since the course took place).

And this week's homework is to find "our favorite" non-original work (I picked one among my favorite works — And, yes, this is partly because I am part of the "club" of deniers of true originality: We cannot create anything without being part of a surrounding culture, without a common heritage and language with which we speak to our audience) and to find something about it, anything considered important or significative as to its antecedents. What do I like about this work, what grabs my attention. Do I consider it to be a true new creative work? Why?

I am taking as an example Leo Masliah, an Uruguayan writer and musician (writer and interpreter). I have followed and enjoyed Masliah's work since 1996, and although by far I'm most familiar with his musical works, I have two books (a novel and a series of short stories). Among his facets, I most enjoy the acid, nihilistic/dadaistic streaks. I chose three of his songs to talk about — I am linking to anonline resource where possible, but uploading the three songs to this blog to make his work better known, so that people understand what I talk about, and with my best intentions. Of course, if there is any request to remove the material, I will do it right away. I hope this can be seen as fair/academic use, although this blog is somewhat widely read.

La recuperación del unicornio
This song was in the first Masliah cassette I came across, Although musically it is an original work, the lyrics are a clear, almost line-by-line reply to the ever-repeated Unicornio song, by Silvio Rodríguez. This song (which I'm sure that every Spanish speaker reading this lines knows, like it or not — It defines for me a good deal of Rodríguez hyper-sweetness and clicheness) has been analyzed over and over looking for a meaning. Silvio recorded this song in 1981, and by 1987 Masliah published this answer, mocking each of the lines.
So, this song can be seen as an original creation, as it contains no literal copy neither of the music nor of the lyrics of the original, but it cannot be understood without being familiar with Silvio's lost unicornio. It would just be an almost-dadaistic rant. But every person that has tasted Silvio Rodríguez cloying song will surely laugh with this one.
No necesitamos otro héroe – Balderrama
I find this to be a very unique piece. It bonds together Argentinian folklore and USA pop.
Masliah sings the famous Argentinian song Zamba de Balderrama, (Castilla / Leguizamón), a song lamenting that the very popular bar and artist stage Balderrama, in Salta (North-Western corner of Argentina), seemed to be on the brink of closing. Of course, when Martín, Constanza, Regina and me went to Balderrama in July 2010, the danger of closing this place had long been averted. And basically every Argentinian knows this song by heart.
The interesting part is that Masliah sings this song (as he presents it as the closing piece for one of his concerts) being short on time, and decides to present two acts together: Zamba de Balderrama and We don't need another hero, by Tina Turner, from the Mad Max soundtrack. So, of course, even if it's obvious that Masliah had to stretch bits to make them fit together, he achieved a very funny, interesting and unique blend of two completely unrelated works. He derives from one as well as from the other, but creates something unique and new.
Donna Lee
I was thinking what to write for this assignment , and had already chosen the two other songs. Yesterday, we were visiting our friends Octavio and Claudia, in Guanajuato, and I heard for the first time the original(?) version of Donna Lee, by Miles Davis (although often credited to Charlie Parker). That led me to remember Masliah's interpretation, in his Clásicos album. This album is basically made up with similar excercises: Taking an instrumental piece, with Masliah singing over it. Some of the lyrics follow the story (i.e. the children stories), others just talk nonsense to illustrate a point (i.e. "La voz del medio", "the middle voice") follows the non-protagonist score trying not to grab much attention to the lyrics but to highlight the often ignored melody)... Donna Lee is just a fun excercise on following the melody asking what was in the head of the author that led him to invent such a strange, hard music.

Masliah is a great music performer, although often it seems he tries to hide it (i.e. by abusing the dissonances, ex-profeso singing off-key, etc), and a very funny and crazy author. Most of his works have a deep satirical tone, and it's common to find either simple winks or complete "borrowings" in a clear remix fashion, but nobody will doubt on the originality of his works.

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