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Posts Tagged ‘Natalie Merchant’

Natalie Merchant and the 'Flat, Dead Pages'

In Entertainment on April 20, 2010 at 9:02 am
NEW YORK - APRIL 13:  Singer Natalie Merchant ...

Image by Getty Images North America via Daylife

In February, Natalie Merchant appeared at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference where she performed songs from then-upcoming album, Leave Your Sleep.

The album, 26 poems set to music, came out last week and is a delight to listen to. But that’s not why I’m writing about it.

When Merchant performed at TED, she spoke of the joy of taking the poems and setting them to music.

Unfortunately, as Carolyn Kellogg, the smart and talented writer at the LA Times pointed out, Merchant wasn’t all that delicate.

“What I’ve really enjoyed about this project is reviving these people’s words, taking them off the dead flat pages, bringing them to life,” Merchant said.

“What poet sees his or her work as being written for “dead flat pages’?” Kellogg responded.  “Most poems are written for the page, and many poems use the page layout as part of their expression. That would include the work of e.e. cummings, one of the poets whose work Merchant has set to music.

“Seems to me that poems set to music are a nice novelty, but that doesn’t make them new and improved. It transmutes them as lyrics, but it would be a mistake to think this improves on their original form.

“Flat pages? Sure. Dead pages? Maybe not.”

Kellogg is dead on in that regard.

Where I think she is a little off is in her sort of dismissive “seems to me that poems set to music are a nice novelty.”

Without a doubt, setting a poem to be music — no matter how beautiful the result may be — doesn’t mean it’s better.

At the same time, there’s always the chance that the adaptation — which is really what Merchant’s come up with — is quite good in its own right.

My Fair Lady vs. Pygmallion, for instance. Or Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres and King Lear? Emma and Clueless?

The Godfather the movie and The Godfather the book?

Merchant maybe came across as a little full of herself, maybe a little less than elegant. But the thought of adapting a work of art to another medium, adding a little of yourself and exposing a new audience to the original work (and Merchant is selling her album with a 74-page book with the poems and essays on the poets) is an admirable one.

Certainly a little more than a “nice novelty.”

Everyone Say Hello to 'Alex'

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

Think that the E-Reader battle comes down to the iPad vs. the Kindle?

Or maybe the Nook vs. the Sony Reader?

Well, meet Alex from Spring Design who started shipping yesterday.

As cnet pointed out, it probably would have been bigger news had it come out before the IPad. Regardless, it looks like it’s something that deserves notice.

First — take a look at the features and one thing immediately jumps out — the second screen.

It has one for reading and a second, smaller – color — screen that is a fully-enabled, android-powered web browser. So, you’re reading… you want to send an email, no problem. Want to look up movie times and then, maybe take a break from reading? Sure. Watch some videos? Absolutely.

Or maybe you want to listen to music while you read? No problem. Wi-fi? Check. Removable memory? Check.

Laptop Magazine was so impressed with the device, it named it the best E-Reader at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Though, it’s important to point out, that not everyone loves it.

Engadget, in their review,  they point to several shortcomings such as while: “the Alex is chock-full of reading features…we just can’t say the same about its book selection” and “When it came to multitasking, the Alex was just fine for reading a book and listening to some music, but when we threw in web browsing things began to slow to a crawl.”

Endgaget had also taken issue with Alex’s price, which was listed at $399 at the time.

But, now that it’s priced at $359 — right between the Kindle and the IPad — it’s got a good shot at getting attention on the checkout line.

And, as Wired points out, in addition to competing against Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Apple and so forth in the market, Alex is making a point of going after a slice of the market that could prove quite lucrative — Spanish Language E-Books.

So, while a lot of the most creative design work seems to still be being done for IPad, and there’s still the Google Tablet to come, Alex just might be able to find his place in the world.

And, based on their decision to seemingly embrace Spanish-language E-Books, maybe this post should have been “Everyone Say Hola to Alex.”

Anyway, just to give you a heads up about what I’m expecting to make its way from my reading list to news over here… posts about David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer, Natalie Merchant and so much more.

Thanks for reading.