Page 8- The Michigan Daily -Wednesday, November 8, 1989
BY MICHAEL PAUL FISCHER
On successive nights last Sunday and Monday, performances by the
American Christopher Parkening and Japan's Kazuhito Yamashita offered
Ann Arbor audiences a remarkable opportunity to view back-to-back two
of the world's greatest classical guitar virtuosos. The inevitable contrasts
showed us two fantastic artists who are taking quite different directions
on the path of popularizing their instrument in the wake of omnipresent
pioneer Andres Segovia.
Parkening's 14-piece Hill Auditorium program, a tribute to the le-
gendary mentor, offered the guitarist an ample range of traditional terri-
tory on which to assay an excellent variety of the elegant, careful
stylings that have made him one of this nation's favorite performers. But
the appearance of young assisting guitarist David Brandon, with whom
Parkening played four exquisite duos and two surprising encores, set off
the gray in the star's hair.
Curiously, then, the gracious Parkening announced a program change
three pieces into his set, replacing Fernando Sor's Allegro from Sonata
No. 2 with the same artist's "Variations on a Theme of Mozart" - the
very same piece to begin Yamashita's concert - as if to assert his au-
thority in the face of the up-and-coming threat. Before his Rackham Au-
ditorium audience, Yamashita wasted no time establishing his extraordi-
nary technical magic; after easing breathlessly into rising and falling
dramatics which distinguish him as a compelling interpretive force, he
astonished all by racing up and down the piece's careening high-string
runs at a blinding speed that simply encroached on the bounds of believ-
ability - like a classical Eddie Van Halen. But in dazzling the curious,
Yamashita allowed his frenzied vibratos to outquicken the touching ca-
resses Parkening coaxed from the instrument; ultimately, it was Parken-
ing's version that was the more accomplished, as his much more deliber-
ate pacing wrought the passage's intricate beauty with more subtle de-
But from here on in, Yamashita left no doubt that he simply is the
man to watch. Where Parkening is steady and eloquently accessible, play-
ing from sheet music throughout, the unassisted Yamashita takes his au-
dience on a roller coaster ride of unprecedented risks and untold rewards.
He is a man possessed, breathing through his instrument, struggling like
a Titan to stretch past its physical limits - crouching intensely around
the guitar as though cradling someone in a romantic dance, levitating it
in hushed silence to draw out a final resonance of decay; urging it up al-
most skyward, in the heaving crescendo of his guitar version of Dvorak's
"New World" Symphony, as if to break into some higher vault.
To his credit, Parkening began to display a fire and intensity of pur-
pose in his fifth-selection rendition of Ruiz-Pipo's "Cancion y Danza,"
his Outer fingers whirling across the low strings in spiraling arpeggios
that were stunning, yet always controlled and tasteful. But quiet touches
like the timed harmonic guide-note of Granados' "Villa Nesca" were al-
most lost in spite of some amplification within the cavernous Hill, a
bigger auditorium than Parkening must be accustomed to playing. His
final "Hymn of Christian Joy" solo encore was noble and touching.
Still, the breadth of Yamashita's thunderous power is matched only
by his visionary expansion of guitar styles; after relaxing the audience
with the smooth, pretty Siciliano movement in his transcription of
Bach's Sonata No. 1 for Unaccompanied Violin, the Japanese virtuoso
reeled off the climactic Presto's cascading Baroque rigidity with a barrage
of domputerized precision, using every fifth finger to create the illusion
of a digital delay. Applying plucked harmonics and shrill picks to conjure
an'isolated Oriental theme in his manic sound-painting presentation of
Takemitsu's oblique "Folios I-III," Yamashita made one wonder how the
exlressive capabilities of the guitar could have been ignored for so long.
But it is his closing "New World" interpretation that is Yamashita's
masterpiece, a Herculean catalogue of breakthrough gestures; after con-
veying richly the heartache of the Largo movement, Yamashita pushed
his fretting right to sound-hole's edge and then pinged strings near the
tuiiing-knobs, also flipping over his thumb in a split-second to get a
fifth fretting finger as he raced toward the train-like wailing of the final
Allegro's climactic strums. Only the intimate, lyrical beauty of the
anonymous piece with which Yamashita answered a desperate standing
ovation could bring down the audience from the thrill of his "New
While Christopher Parkening eloquently keeps the faith, Mr. Ya-
inashita has proven himself to be no less than the pioneer of a thrilling
newreligion all his own.
BY ANNETTE PETRUSSO
Sometimes going to the dentist
to get a cavity filled can only be tol-
erable by your knowing you can
only drink sweet milkshakes for the
rest of the day and your tooth will
never hurt again. But living through
the pain is the hard part.
Camper Van Beethoven's 90-plus
minute, two! encore set at the Nec-
tarine Ballroom Monday night
proved the happy reward for standing
through 2 hours of sheer boredom.
Their opening band, Souled Ameri-
can (or better yet Ssslllooowww
American) proved nothing but that
pseudo-country bands trying to re-
vive the Eagles for the '90s are bor-
ing. With a lead singer who looked
like Corey Feldman and a bassist re-
sembling Horschack from Welcome
Back Kotter, they played 45 min-
utes worth of indistinguishable
songs that seemed to last forever.
Amidst early calls for "Free Bird,"
they droned on and on and on, mak-
ing this reviewer wish they would
play something that upbeat. Their
brand of anthemic flannel shirt rock
harkens back to the worst moments
of the '70s.
And if that wasn't bad enough,
the roadies took over an hour to
change sets. After such mediocrity,
or more correctly the wrong music
for this crowd, anything would have
been better. The music between sets
erased the mellow to almost dead
mood created by the openers. Rang-
ing from typical Eurobeat to new
music fare to hard rock faves the
Cult's "Firewoman" and Guns 'n'
Roses' "Mr. Brownstone" as well as
a stroll down memory lane with "I
Want Candy," the crowd became en-
The Campers came on in their
merry way, very much worth the
wait. Bringing along their new vio-
linist, Morgan Fichter, they played
songs that always at least sound
happy, told a story or two and gener-
ally made the world seem beautiful.
Lyrically, their songs reminded me
of those "half-awake or half-asleep
wacked out-weird-where did this
come from in my subconscious?"
thoughts, products of an active
imagination. Most people, though,
do not remember them as well as
songwriter/lead singer/guitarist Dave
Lowery does. They came across as
down-to-earth people who just hap-
pen to be in a band with no preten-
sions (save the guitarist's refusal to
touch anyone hands because one
could never know what was going
around especially because we were,
after all, college students). Dave's
resemblance to Matthew Modine
heightened the sense of charming
simplicity they constantly projected.
"Lincoln Shrine," a song Dave.
wrote for elementary school children
he played for in high school who had
to take a boring field trip every year
to see Lincoln's shrine, proved to
any remaining doubters in the audi-
ence that not all "rock stars" sell out
when they move to a major label.
Their hootenanny with two man-
dolins, electric bass, acoustic guitar
and violin demonstrated their cool
folkiness in semi-contrast to their
early folk-punk style. An excellent
rendition of "She Divines Water"
was exemplary of their range and-
depth. Morgan's superior violin
playing (as compared to that of their
previous violinist) added texture to
any already great core band. They
made me feel happy to be alive.
And yes, they played "Take the
Skinheads Bowling" as only a truly'
cool (and cute) flannel band could.
Spy Notes on McInery's Bright Lights, Big City, et al.
By the editors of Spy
Maybe we shouldn't be hasty. Maybe greatness always seems like idiocy
at first. Maybe, someday, English students will straight-facedly discuss
characters named "Blaire," "Clarissa," and "Megan."
On the other hand - what if Bret Easton Ellis really does pass himself
off as this generation's F. Scott Fitzgerald? What if your daughter someday
asks you to proofread her paper on Ecstasy as a metaphor for the eucharist in
The Rules of Attraction?
Wonder no more. The editors of Spy magazine have taken 24 examples
of "those hip, urban novels of the 1980s" and dealt them the greatest insult
imaginable - treated them like literature.
"Spy Notes," a take-off on Cliffs' famous Cheaters' Bibles, is not the
first attack on the cocaine-drenched child prodigies of '80s letters, but it is
definitely the funniest, even if you're not a bitter, struggling writer.
The book contains plot synopses and "commentary," in the tradition of
Cliffs', which are hilarious even if you haven't read the books - more so,
actually, since if you've read them all, you're probably no longer capable of
taking pleasure in anything - and cruel as only Spy can be. "In (Less Than
Zero), Clay accompanies Julian to his job as a homosexual prostitute be-
cause he want 'to see the worst,"' it reads. "Like Clay, we must continue
reading because we want 'to see the worst."'
Spy lampoons the "genre" (which it sometimes calls the "and then they
fucked" genre) again and again for its use of shock and gimmicks: the Notes
state that the chapter "Sun Poisoning," from Janowitz's Slaves, "is told in
the second-person narrative voice. Thus, the reader is thrust into the un-
comfortable position of going to Haiti on a vacation that does not go well,
and reading about it also."
The Notes also include: a Master Genre-in-a-Nutshell Comparison Chart,
which catalogs the books by "Reported Publisher's Advance," "Explicit De-
pictions of Drug Use (Ellis' The Rules of Attraction wins, with 42),
"Agent," and "Gimmick"; a 20-step guide to "Becoming the Literary Voice
of a Generation" (Step One: "Believe that your adolescence was more painful
than any other in history"); and suggested theme topics:
3) Contrast any one of the books in the genre with a well-written twenti-
eth-century novel of your own choice.
11) Who's cooler - McInerney or Ellis? Prove it.
12) Try to tell the difference between at least five characters in The Rules
of Attraction or (Lisa Pliscou's) Higher Education.
Maybe the funniest feature of Spy Notes is the "Spy Novel-O-Matic,"
which allows readers to plot their own Great-Selling American Novel by
pulling a sliding card to choose plot elements, all of which, of course, con-
cern students at/graduates of small New England colleges.
The book's publication was almost withheld because of a lawsuit filed
by Cliffs' (one would think the authors of "these notes are not a substitute
for the text" would have more of a sense of humor); Spy, no stranger to
If you can often judge the quality of a satire by the ligitation it engen-
ders, Spy Notes deserves to land in the Supreme Court. -Jim Poniewozik
ITs SLAVES OF
ELLS'S LESS THAN ZERO
.. .A ALL ll TSE TIE IP BAN NOVELS SF TIE 1980$
Continued from page 7
Eventually, we see the harshest
criticism of all is not that the par-
ents don't understand the children or
that the children don't respect the
parents, but that no one really cares
at all and that nothing ever changes.
Like Vera's one sweater, which she
wears in practically every scene in
the film, Pichul is saying that noth-
ing will ever change and that, like,
the apathetic faces in the crowd fight
scene early on, no one will ever care:
LITTLE VERA is playing through'
Sunday at the Michigan Theater. "
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WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU
ON CAMPUS NOVEMBER 15, 1989.
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