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October 09, 1986 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-10-09

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The Michigan Daily Thursday, October 9, 1986 Page 7
Roger Miller welcomed home

By Mike Rubin
Tonight at the Blind Pig marks
the solo homecoming of one of
Ann Arbor's favorite native sons,
guitarist/keyboardist Roger Miller.
Miller has spent nearly a decade in
Boston, first as leader of the
influential guitar skronk band
Mission of Burma (who broke up
in 1983 due to Miller's acute
tinnitus, a severe ringing of the ears
caused by prolonged exposure to
loud noise, a condition that began
developing back in his days with
Ann Arbor mid-'70s greats Destroy
All Monsters) and, more recently,
as member of the "compact
people's orchestra" known as
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. Now he
has taken to the road in support of
No Man is Hurting Me, his
first solo album on Ace of Hearts
So how did Miller get from the

loud post-punk R&R to the quieter
experimental piano tinkerings of
his new LP?
"The similarities between what
I'm doing now on keyboards and
what I did on guitar in Mission of
Burma is that I'm trying to explore
unchartered musical territory," he
says. "For example, the song
'Zoemusical Habitats,' features
some material my brothers, Larry
and Ben (of Ann Arbor bands Non
Fiction and the Mortals) recorded in
Ann Arbor without a priori know -
ledge of where they would fit in on
the record, and I tried to figure out
in Boston how and where to
integrate them into my pieces. The
results were pretty surprising and
Other studio hijinks involve
much layering and texturing of
sound, with Miller playing imple -
ments as varied as marbles in a pan
to modified banjos.
Pretty complex, eh? But how to
duplicate this live?

"Well, I use a digital-delay/
looping system into which I record
the material as I go along," he
explained, "part by part, building
up the sound and manipulating the
loops so that I can sound like six
people- all by myself. I don't use
tapes or any prerecorded material. I
also use 'prepared piano' tech -
niques- placing objects on the
piano's strings like alligator clips
and bolts, which makes the piano
sound very percussive and poly -
rhythmic. I also use an amplifier
to add a fuzztone edge to the pieces.
I call these performances 'Maxi -
mum Electric Piano'- no syn -
thesizers. The live material is
mostly vocal, too, unlike the LP. I
think a live audience is much more
appreciatory of the human voice."
Miller feels "pleasurably calm"
about returning to his hometown.
"It's my first time performing by

myself in Ann Arbor. I've been
back here with Mission of Burma
and Birdsongs, but never by myself.
My family and lots of old friends
are here, so it's always great to be
Miller's ears are a little better
too, but the overall atmosphere
will still be much quieter than his
cacaphonic Burmese days. There
are no Burma reunions in the works
either (though there could possibly
be some previously unreleased
demo' tracks unleashed on the
faithful), so this is one of your
only chances to see this talented
musical innovator live.
Roger Miller and his brothers
Larry and Ben will appear tonight at
the Blind Pig. Doors open at 9
p.m.; cover price is $4:00.

Roger Miller comes home to Ann Arbor's Blind Pig after combating
hearing loss and revamping his style.


Crossing the Line:
A year in the land
of apartheid
Harper and Row
William Finnegan did the
morning talk show circuit this
August so he could tell the world
about Crossing the Line, his
first book. As an accomplished
traveler of Asia, Africa, Europe and
Central America, he has already
done pieces for The New Yorker,
Mother Jones, and The New York
Times about his travels.
Crossing the Line looks at
apartheid from the other side, from
the black point of view.
Finnegan is an English teacher
in Grassy Park High, a colored
school in the Cape Flats outside of
Cape Town proper, one of the
settlements where the government
sends displaced blacks. As one of

two white teachers in the school,
Finnegan learns about apartheid's
underlying disruptive influence
upon the lives of his students and
their families by gradually
overcoming the barriers of being
white and an authority figure.
As an American, Finnegan is
outside of the hatred the blacks have
for the white minority rule, but is
also extremely conscious of and
subject to the restrictions put on
his actions by the system of
Most of the novel is about his
students whom he initially he
assumes are politically unaware.
Gradually he realizes that they are
deeply affected by the bitterness of
apartheid. The children's political
idealism emerges during a three-
month long school boycott that
spreads throughout South Africa,
becoming a protest against
apartheid in education.
Finnegan writes of his frustrated
attempts to circumvent apartheid

teachings that are mandated by the
government, only to find that his
behavioris making his position
with his black co-workers more and
more precarious.
The easily digestible political
background covering the

progression of apartheid from the
'40's is woven together with
personal encounters and clear
precise descriptions of daily life for
blacks. The introductory paragraph
to the novel is a sample of the
scenery in South Africa and the
dramatic cloud formations above
Table Mountain outside of Cape
Town. "Soon the cloud will begin
to spill, first in modest cottony
puffs, trickling gently over the
edge, later in huge silent cataracts,
pouring a thousand feet, two
thousand feet down the cliffs, as if
to inundate the city below."
Finnegan vividly evokes the vio -
lence of the police state, the
complacency of the white society
and the roiling emotions of a
suppressed, directionless people in
Crossing the Line, giving a
solid, accurate view of the state of
apartheid in the 80's.
-Rebecca E. Cox
There will be anti-apartheid rally
Friday in the Diag.

The Center for Japanese Studies
Career Planning and Placement
Life After Graduation
Career Options and
the CJSMA Student
A Brown-Bag Lecture by
12 noon
Call 764-6307
for further

Author William Finnegan writes
informatively about the scourge of


A man named Jack has got her Jumpin'
and the world may never be the same!


WHO 0?'


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