Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Ephemera And Antiphony

It sounds like a romantic couple from Greek mythology, doesn’t it?

Ephemera and Antiphony.

It’s not though. Not so far as I know.

But, in fact, I only learned the word ‘antiphony’ a few days ago. I’ve known what ephemera means for a long time.

(I even remember that in David Cronenberg’s great 1981 film ‘Scanners,’ the drug that creates scanners is called Ephemerol. It’s ephemera trivia. [!])

Today’s post is just two little parts. First a notebook update (in which I use the word ‘ephemera’) and then a second part about the word ‘antiphony.’

1. A Notebook Update

I mentioned back in March in Ghosts Aren’t What They Used To Be that the notebook I used for everyday notes fell apart. It just ran out of sheets and the spiral binding fell off the cardboard back. So that became a crisis for me. Do I replace the notebook with something identical? Do I get a notebook with heavier paper? Do I go to a watercolor paper notebook?

For me this is a tough issue.

I’ve been using, generally, a big inexpensive notebook I bought at a grocery store until I figure out how to handle this crisis.

But I really enjoyed doing a little illustration to that post about the two women in the parking lot, If I Walk Through I Think. The inexpensive paper didn’t take the watercolor paint very well.

I want to start doing more drawing—I’ve wanted to get back to doing more drawing for a long time (this is a big topic for me, I wrote about it in This Woman From The Canals Of Mars and in The Lost World Of Stacy And The Llama and I am still trying to deal with it)—so I don’t want to keep on using this inexpensive notebook. And just recently I needed to go to something like a business meeting so I needed a “real” notebook—or at least something that looked more like a real notebook than the kind of thing you buy at a local grocery store.

So a few days ago I unwrapped one of those Moleskine notebooks I’ve talked about a couple of times. (This is a tough topic for me—the topic of brand names, I mean—because I still remember someone calling me an asshole because I really like my North Face jacket.)

Anyway, I unwrapped my Moleskine notebook that is a general sketch paper notebook, not the watercolor notebook and not the ruled-line writing notebook. I’m going to be giving this notebook a try. So far I am very happy with it. I especially like that it has a little built-in pocket on the back for little bits of ephemera.

Sometimes I carry around a lot of ephemera. For better and for worse.

So I am making a little progress on the notebook issue.

And, to be honest, I kind of like all the cultural hype around these cool little notebooks.

Cultural hype normally sucks because it’s usually vacuous and, often, even insidious advertising nonsense. But every now and then something that really is cool gets recognized for having good qualities.

For instance, a German camera company named Leica makes a point-and-shoot camera called the M9 that costs almost ten thousand dollars. [!] Only people like supermodels can afford the camera and some people make fun of the camera because, well, it is a point-and-shoot camera that costs almost ten thousand dollars. [!] But, in fact, it is a good camera. If I had ten thousand dollars to throw away, I’d own a Leica M9. Most people who know a bit about photography consider the Leica M9 a great camera—some people call it the best camera in the world—and even though many of the rich people who own it only own it as a status symbol, in fact it is actually a good camera.

So I can’t afford a Leica M9 but I can afford three Moleskine notebooks and I’m giving the sketch paper version a try now.

A Moleskine notebook comes with a little pamphlet telling the Moleskine story, and the story is also available at their website.

This is the Moleskine story:

It all started many years ago, with a pocket-sized black object, the product of a great tradition. The Moleskine notebook is, in fact, the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin. A simple black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal expandable pocket: a nameless object with a spare perfection all its own, produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris, where the artistic and literary avant-gardes of the world browsed and bought them. A trusted and handy travel companion, the notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.

The notebook was Bruce Chatwin's favorite, and it was he who called it "moleskine." In the mid-1980s, these notebooks became increasingly scarce, and then vanished entirely. In his book The Songlines, Chatwin tells the story of the little black notebook: in 1986, the manufacturer, a small family-owned company in the French city of Tours, went out of business. "Le vrai moleskine n'est plus," are the lapidary words he puts into the mouth of the owner of the stationery shop in the Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, where he usually purchased his notebooks. Chatwin set about buying up all the notebooks that he could find before his departure for Australia, but there were still not enough.

In 1997, a small Milanese publisher brought the legendary notebook back to life, and selected this name with a literary pedigree to revive an extraordinary tradition. Following in Chatwin's footsteps, Moleskine notebooks have resumed their travels, providing an indispensable counterpart to the new and portable technology of today. Capturing reality in movement, glimpsing and recording details, inscribing the unique nature of experience on paper: the Moleskine notebook becomes a battery that stores ideas and feelings, releasing its energy over time.

Today, Moleskine brand is synonymous with culture, travel, memory, imagination, and personal identity--in both the real world and the digital world. It is a brand that encompasses a family of nomadic objects: notebooks, diaries, journals, bags, writing instruments and reading accessories, dedicated to our mobile identity. Objects that follow us everywhere we go and identify us wherever we are in the world. Moleskine objects are partners for the creative and imaginative professions of our time. They represent, around the world, a symbol of contemporary nomadism.

2. Antiphony

So I mentioned in a post a long time ago that I like what are normally simply called “boy-girl” songs. Songs that tell a little story and often have verses that alternate between a guy singing one verse followed by a woman singing a verse.

Not too long ago in Thinking About Arranging “Layla” I said that if I were going to make an arrangement of the classic Clapton song “Layla” I would arrange it as a boy-girl song, with a woman singing the verses and a man singing the chorus.

A few days ago it occurred to me that the classic “Layla” guitar lick could be arranged as a duet, and that would reinforce the boy-girl nature of this arrangement. I played it for someone as a duet (on a split keyboard) and I described it as a “call-and-response” pattern, a musical variation of the boy-girl format.

At its simplest, something like this:

And the person I was talking to smiled and said, “Oh, you mean like a little pop antiphony.”

So then I had to bring everything to a big halt and say I didn’t know what ‘antiphony’ meant, and why hadn’t I ever heard the word before, and let’s stop and talk about the classical music usage and that went on for a very long time. A long time. That’s me and new words.

‘Antiphony’ at Wikipedia

But now I know a new word, and it’s a cool one: Antiphony.

It’s a kind of orchestral way of saying boy-girl songs.

(Or, I suppose, this: It’s the way people in North Face jackets with Leica M9 cameras jotting down notes in their Moleskine notebooks and doing little watercolor illustrations with Winsor and Newton paints say boy-girl songs. [sighs] )

Ephemera and Antiphony.

If it were a Greek tragedy, I’d be Ephemera.

And I’d be a good Ephemera, too!

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