Listening to music while the world slowly bleeds

This is Lucia Micarelli, whose violin is a favourite attraction of the HBO television series Treme (available on DVD any minute now…). There’s a lot of soul in that playing, isn’t there? That violin appears on a couple of tunes on the Treme soundtrack, which has been on high rotation here while outside the house the world continues to find its own little slices of hell: floods, fires, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis — and that’s just in our little corner of the globe.

treme soundtrackIt’s a grand soundtrack, lifted from the first series, with an eye focused on post-Katrina New Orleans, one blink blame, one long stare at recovery and pride, and plenty of winks at simply enjoying life, whatever may come. The album’s resonance reaches further than Louisiana, right across the Pacific to rubble and mud and houses and lives thrown asunder. There’s comfort in the fact that American’s inability to care for their own (cf Steve Zahn’s ‘Shame Shame Shame‘) isn’t replicated on the grander scale; that citizens and nations rally in support of those in need. Japan and the Pacific: it’s your turn now, and how sorry are we that you need it?

I realise that tectonic plates are one thing and global warming is another, but honestly, would it really hurt us to take a little better care of Spaceship Earth, even if — egads — its passengers might have to tolerate a little inconvenience? There’s nothing quite like a natural disaster to remind you just how delicate an ecosystem is, especially when it’s the one you rely on to keep you breathing.

Also playing…

Inspired by The Runaways movie, I finally added some serious Joan Jett to the CD collection and haven’t been disappointed — great rock ‘n’ roll to bop away at the keyboard to. Hard to go past ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me (Yeah)’!

Also making noise is the latest from Theatres des Vampires, Mephisto Waltz. The Italian outfit don’t quite scale the same symphonic heights as Nightwish, but their tunes are lush and grand; Sonya Scarlet’s voice offers distinctive warmth and wide range, a real femme fatale feel, with her accent to the fore. Buzzing guitars, thumping drums, strings and piano: all the bases are covered in a theatrical but not overblown presentation.

Rounding out the play deck is an oldie but a goodie from Velvet Acid Christ, lust for blood. This synth-driven industrial/EBM album is perfect accompaniment for editing and, turned up, urban action scenes of the spooky noir variety, but damn me if the door bell sound on one track isn’t STILL fooling me every time…

Here’s ‘Carmilla’, from Theatre des Vampires: probably not what Sheridan Le Fanu had in mind, but I’m not going to disapprove.

Treme: the power of music to heal

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina ripped across the Gulf coast of the USA, taking a terrible toll on the city of New Orleans.

I’ve been taking a great deal of heart, particularly in light of the devastating floods hitting Australia at this time, from a HBO program called Treme (trem-ay), set in a neighbourhood of New Orleans where it’s all about the music, man.

There are a couple of things that make this show exceptional.

For starters, it’s so understated. There is no melodrama, no great conspiracies or car chases. It follows the lives of various residents trying to cope in post-Katrina New Orleans. A bar owner trying to get repairs made on her club. A restaurateur trying to keep her head above the financial waters. A uni professor struggling to deal with the reality of the destruction and the general poorness of the nation’s response. Musicians, trying to make a living in the empty city. And so on. It rings true. Victory is not guaranteed.

I love the way the lives of these people intersect, by circumstance and by happenstance. I love the way the story can move me to tears in one beat and have me laughing out loud in the next. I love the compassion. I love the way it deals, from a street level, with government inaction, corruption and ineptitude, and yet, it’s pretty even-handed, showing the good and the bad of the NOPD, for instance.

The acting from the main players is superb, so natural and measured, so dignified in the face of nightmare and frustration. When they blow, you feel it.

And there’s the music, of course; unifying and restoring pride, an anchor when all else is swirling. It’s not by chance the series opens and ends with second lines (funeral processions led by bands). Jazz, jazz and jazz, a touch of Cajun, but it’s the brass and the bass that’s driving this beat, with plenty of identities (Dr John, Elvis Costello, Kermit Ruffins and more) sprinkled in the mix.

It’s simply some of the best television I’ve seen: no vampires, no explosions, just … real.

New Orleans is one of my favourite cities, one I’ve visited most often: one that does indeed live in the heart and mind. It’s so refreshing to see such a portrait on the TV. I hope all of America is watching.