Sunday, February 15, 2009

Testosterone Music

Now that I have your attention, we well get to that in a moment.

First, some random comments about Carnevale 2009 which officially began yesterday (Saturday).

1. People walk around in costumes. I'm not referring to the fabulous posers with the extravagant handmade costumes -- they are few and far between this year so far (2007 was the best recent Carnevale for that). I refer to the day trippers in their capes and feathered masks and clown wigs and ready-to-wear 17th c. numbers (powdered white wigs, anyone?). Ordinary folks out for a good time, their faces painted. They are having a fun and it's nice to see.

2. The guy who plays a tableful of crystsal glasses filled with water, whose music is absolutely enchanting at all times, is drawing crowds. That translates into money for him. I'm sure he likes Carnevale. I hope it is good to him. The first time I heard him, years ago, I was crossing the bridge into Campo dei Frari and the music shimmered on the air like sunshine. He was playing the Beatles' "Yesterday." I had to stop, sit, and smile.

3. The lutenist is back! I am a great fan of his. He plays all over Venice, often at the apex of the Rialto Bridge at night, and in Campo San Aponal near the b&b where I work. I've seen him as far afield as Salute. I haven't seen him in a while, but I suppose it's hard to play your lute outside, without gloves, in the rain, cold, and acqua alta! He plays renaissance music, which is about as good as it gets, with total absorption. I hadn't seen him in a while and there he was, in Campo Sant'Angelo.

4. I had a fritelle Venexiane at Rosa e Salve that made my tastebuds sing the Hallelujah Chorus. You can only get fritelle between Christmas and the end of Carnevale. They are to be enjoyed then by all means. I had a pretty good one with the whipped cream filling, and another one, very high grade, filled with zabaglione. But the Venexiane have no filling; they are a puff of dough thrown in hot oil and rolled with sugar and spice and everything nice. It's much better that they are only available for a short time.


I'm talking about the Historical Drum Guild of Conegliano. I was approaching Campo San Moise and could hear martial drum music, serious marching-off -to-battle beats, in the distance. I didn't catch up to them until Campo Francesco Morosini. The oldest of them was thirtyish. For the most part the corps were young, tweens and teens wearing simple medieval costumes. Their sound stirred the blood and spiked the adrenalin. Serious testosterone music. Ear-drum shattering war dance rhythms, like Japanese taiko or traditional African drums. The leader explained that they only play authentic drums, wood and skin, such as you would have found in the 1300s. He said you cannot play medieval music on plastic drums. They strive to be as authentic as possible, but since none of it was written down, nobody really knows what it sounded like. History is always like that; you fill in the blanks. (This is a theme I will return to often!) What they fill in the blanks with is compellingly convincing. They had me ready to march. There is no melody, no harmony, no words; only the beat, and they beat the shit out of those skins.

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