Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Catholic Church: A Short History - Hans Küng

Personal politics is of decisive importance for longer-term changes for the Vatican as for any political system.

Quite succinctly, The Catholic Church: A Short History is exactly that: a brief summary of the Catholic Church's History. From the beginning Küng is quite transparent regarding his background and his intentions: he is a catholic trying, at the same time, to demistify Catholicisim and to describe the good things that, despite all its failure, the Catholic Church has given to the West and to the World. Throughout the book, Kung also mentions specific doctrinary and practical aspects in which Catholicism has either misinterpreted Christ's word or has departed from his teaching or from Christianity as practiced by the first communities. For the general public, a selected list of examples provided by Küng is available at the end of this post.

One thing that Küng says loud and clear from the beginning, and that the reader (particularly Catholic readers) should come to terms with is that the Vatican and Catholicism are human creations, hence with errors in design and institutional patches, and hence perfectible. Küng is a reformer of Catholicism, not a rupturist or even a revolutionary. This is actually a good thing: instead of a rosy or manichean picture of History, Küng provides well-balanced opinions and uses concepts such as Realpolitik quite masterfully. He is not naive or condescendent with the Curia's atrocities. As Matthew says that Jesus Christ said , Küng is as shrewd as a snake and as innocent as a dove. 

The book is really well crafted: it is not easy to summarize 2,000 years of History and a prospective (wishful) panorama in less than 300 pages. The book, however, could do a better job trying to explain the theological debates that have ravaged Christianity throughout History. The non-specialist will have to look on Google why not allowing laymen to drink from the chalice during the mass is such a big thing.

And this brings me to my overarching comment of the book. Towards the end, Küng shows his worry about Catholicism survival prospects in the medium term. Quoting declining attendancy rates and trust on religious institutions, he suggests that two reforms can save Catholicism: reform the law of celibacy, a measure that in theory would reduce pedophilia, and reform the episcopal ministry, a rather dry topic for outsiders. Küng is wrong. Catholicism will not disappear: despite all its failure, the longest-living institution of Earth is still the only hope of many dispossesed around the Earth with the exception of Europe, where Welfare State has taken up the social activities formerly performed by the Catholic Church. For some people, especially in the Third World, and thanks partly to the vocation of some priests, the Church is still the patrimony of the poor, a term used extensively by priests during the social revolutions of the mid-19th century.

I always hate when somebody quotes Marx's famous dictum "religion is the opium of the people:" quoters usually just stay with the Jacobin part of Marx's line of thought. But, in what is probably the most scandalous case of decontextualization in History, people forget the first part of the dictum, which explains why the Catholic Church will never disappear, or will morph quite successively into something equally hierarchical with some cosmetic touches: people need religioin. Marx's full quote is:
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The biggest problem of this book is that Küng doesn't take into account the specific weight of Catholicism in the developing World -something Küng himself acknowledges and is a. Of course, if one focuses on Europe and even with the United States, Catholicism and religions in general are likely to perish. But if one leaves the old ruminating West, Catholicism is still quite vibrant. It should come as no surprise that Francis, the pope at the time this post was written, comes from Latin America, a place where the Church has traditionally been close to its people, sometimes despite policies coming from the Vatican.

In a recent interview, 12 years after the publication of The Catholic Church, Küng has acknowledged that Francis "embodies my hopes for the Church" (this link reporting the same news is quite hilarious).

Catholicism will be there for a long time. As long as people need a religion, the institutional supply will be there. This doesn't dismiss the value of this book. It is actually a quite good volume and I recommend it for everybody, including the general public.

Specific examples where the Catholic church deviated from the original doctrine or misconceptions about Catholicism as mentioned by Küng
"(...) according to all the evidence Jesus did not found a church in his lifetime."
"The original meaning of ekklesia, 'church', was not a hyperorganization of spiritual functionaries, detached from the concrete assembly. It denoted a community gathering at a particular place at a particular time for a particular action."
"Be it as it may, it is no anachronism to claim that Jesus was anything but the representative of a patriarchal hierarchy."
"[T]oday even Catholic exegetes accept that the famous saying about Peter as the rock on which Jesus will build his church (Matthew 16.18-19; the statement is in the future tense)-of which the other gospels know nothing-is not a saying of the earthly Jesus but was composed after Easter by the Palestinian community, or later by Matthew's community."
"In the earliest church Peter doubtless had a special authority; however, he did not possess it alone, but always collegially with others. He was far removed from being a spiritual monarch, even a sole ruler. There is no trace of any exclusive, quasimonarchical authority as leader (jurisdiction)."
"There is no reliable evidence that Peter was ever in charge of the church of Rome as supreme head or bishop."
"The earliest Christian community did not want in any way to part company with the Jewish community or nation, but to remain integrated into Judaism."
"[I]t must also be said quite inmistakably that the anti-Judaism which can already be found among the Jewish Christians, and which in a lamentable way is already recorded in the gospels of Matthew and John, had its decisive roots in the peersecution of Christians and their exclusion from the syangogue."
"The word 'catholic' (Greek katholikos, 'related to the whole', 'general') is not used anywhere in the New Testament. Nowhere is the 'church' called 'catholic'. The expression 'catholic church' was used for the first time by Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, in his letter to the community in Smyrna."
"Paul was not the real founder of Christianity-though this is constatly asserted by those who will not be taught."
"The presbyteral-episcopal constitution of the church is said to have been instituted by Jesus Christ, even to be a divine institution and therefore unchangeable divine law (iuris divini). However, it is not as simple as that. A careful investigation of the New Testament sources in the last hundred years has shown that this church constitution, centered on the bishop, is by no means directly willed by God or even by Christ, but is the result of a long and problematical historical development. It is human work and therefore in principle can be changed."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Global Cold War - Odd Arne Westad

The Cold War was a continuation of colonialism through slightly different means

"Truly seminal", "eye-opening", "sharply observed and deeply researched", "excellent book". Those are some of the definitions provided by some reviews of The Global Cold War by Odd Arne Westad. For some reason, the book-review industry is full of laudatory expressions, and this blog is not the exception. In this post, and to the extent of my abilities, I will try to write a review without adjectives and completely fact-based:

  • Westad does an extracts a lot of information from the Soviet archives. In fact, this was one of the first books ever to do it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the American archives, even though they have clearly been open to the public for longer.
  • The first two chapters of the book summarize the founding ideologies of the USA and the USSR and their changes throughout history. I recommend this part to all readers.
  • The rest of the book is recommended mostly to European and American readers, who obviously have an Euro-centric view of the Cold War. Enlightened audiences from the developing World (or, as people used to call it before, the Third World) should be well aware that the main scenario of the fight between the USA and the USSR was not Europe, but the rest of the World.
  • In a context where the cinicism and simplism of the so-called Realist theory permeates academia, it is quite refreshing to read Westad's argument that USA and USSR interventions throughout their History have been at least partly driven by ideologies. 

Rest determine - Bruno Raya

I've devoted my last two posts about Mauritius to talk about the dark side of the island. This post follows the same line: in addition of being a fantastic place for vacations, Mauritius is also a place where identity issues, AIDS, and cannabis-related imprisonments permeate society. Rest determine by Bruno Raya serves as a reminder that Mauritius is connected with the rest of the planet.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Insan - Twais

Insan (Human, in Arabic) is a great album recorded by Twais, a Syrian quartet belonging to the musical movement that permeated Damascus in the first decade of this century. At the time, every foreign policy wonk and practitioner thought that Bashar Al-Assad would be the guy who'd bring democracy and prosperity to Syria and would influence the rest of the Arab World. Few remember it now, but Barack Obama even tried to broker an Israel-Palestine agreement through Al-Assad. Today, it is clear that we were all wrong (in fairness, it was clear that Obama was wrong on Bashar and Palestine even back in 2008).

Predictably, the band dismembered. Based on the information available online, Essam Rafea (oud) is now touring around the World. It is unclear what happened with Firas Charestan (Qanoon) and with Muslem Rahal (nay). In the case of Rahal, the latest youtube clips date from 2010. There is no presence online of Ragheb Jbel (percussions).

You can still buy the album online on the traditional retail stores, but for all practical purposes, the presence of Twais online has vanished almost completely. This blog lists all the tracks of the album and presents a broken link where the tracks could be download. The website presented on the album's booklet is now full with what I think are Chinese characters. In 2009, shortly after the album went out, some enlightened soul, posted all the tracks on youtube. I can't recommend you enough to take a look at them.

In order to keep the band's memory alive, I can only copy the description available on the booklet:

Twais was the first singer of the Islamic era, and was praised both for the beauty of his voice and his originality, as he introduced Iqaa (beats) into singing in the 7th century. It is Twais' spirit of innovation and originality that the Quartet aspires to and strives to reproduce. The musicians' aim is to create a unique style of music, by investigating the roots of Arab and Oriental Music, with specific focu on instrumental music, and integrating these traditional standards within contemporary forms, by using different musical schools and contemporary compositions. Following the tradition of the classical takht (oriental quartet), the musicians' instruments of choice include the Oud, the Qanoon, the Nay, and percussions.
Created in 2004 by Essam Rafea, the Twais ensemble gathers some of the best musicians of their generation in Syria. It has performed in Syria, the Arab countries, and Europe, and has contributed to records by German accordion player Manfred Leuchter, and the French Baroque music group, Musiques des Lumières XVIII-21, led by Jean-Christophe Frisch.

I sincerely hope the band members haven't been bombed or killed. They are quite good musicians and they are, after all, humans.

This is the last Arabic/Sephardic/Oriental music album I will review in a while. It's time to close the cycle and travel elsewhere...

Kant: Political Writings - H. S. Reiss

When the first edition of this book was published (1970), Kant's political thinking was mostly overlooked by the experts. Twenty-one years later, and after the Rawlsian revolution of political science, Kant: Political Writings became a reference text for undergraduate and experts alike.

As H. S. Reiss, the editor of this volume summarizes in the postscript (p. 272), "Kant's political principles (...) express basic human aspirations". Do you want to know how George W. Bush perverted the idea of democratic peace? You only need to know Kant's Perpetual Peace. Do you know that Ghandi's idea of civil disobedience is partly based on Kant's ideas?

As great and influential as Kant's thoughts are today, I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, and as a matter of principle, I am against the idea of "selected works" volumes. If you want to know about an author's ideas, you should really read everything that person wrote. There is no escape around that. However, academics can do a pretty decent job summarizing and picking up pieces of an author's work for general and mid-level expert consumption. And they are partly paid for that. In other words, if you want to get an idea about an author's view of the World, go for this kind of books.

Experts on Kant's ideas may also want to read the introduction and the postscript of this book, which are basically Reiss' interpretation of Kant's works. I found particularly interesting his opinions about Kant and the right to rebellion, a topic Reiss wrote about and about which I would like to talk about for the remainder of this blog.

Democratic transitions were one of the most important subjects of study in political science in the second half of the 20th century. Samuel Huntington, Barrington Moore, Francis Fukuyama, Juan Linz, and more recently Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, just to mention a few, devoted at least part of their to study how one country goes from autocracy to democracy. All the democracy theoricians were, whether they admit it or not, influenced by Immanuel Kant, whose biggest contribution to political science was the idea that democracy (he called it republicanism) would bring perpetual peace and that democracy was inevitable. Kant, however, opposed the idea that democracy could be brought from abroad -and that's why Bush's Iraq War is a travesty of Kant's original theory- and he also opposed rebellion against government.

The reason why this is important is because, in practice, democracy has always been copied or implanted by some external power; the only country that was born fully democratic was the United States. Also, democracy has never been brought about peacefully by a benevolent dictator, as Kant wished. Democracy theoricians and practicioners like Freedom House, the Open Society, and NGOs like HRW or Amnesty International before they were coopted by communists, base their action plans on a theory that works magnificently on paper but has barely worked as expected in reality. Does this hinder Kant's contribution to political science?

The answer is complex. On the one hand, Kant could never foresee things like a dictator gazing his own people, or the degree of surveillance and repression exercised by modern totalitarian regimes. Kant lived before the Industrial Revolution; Hitler, Lenin, Saddam Hussein, and all the dictators of the 20th century were a direct product of industrialization and modernization. On the other hand, one could argue with some legitimacy and a high degree of speculation that the logical modern corollary of Kant's politica thought would be a rejection of totalitarianism and even some vindication of the right of rebellion.

Kant's political ideas became obsolete with the passing of time. That's the fate of most ideas, when you think about it. However, if we want to understand why we are where we are today, we need some minimal understanding of the ideas that brought us here. Two hundred years after Kantt, Rawls vindicated republicanism and the categorical imperative, and Michael Walzer tried to square the Kantian circle of democratic transition by force. Civilization is nothing else but a set of building bricks...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

De una orilla a la otra - Samira Kadiri

En De una orilla a la otra, Samira Kadiri nos presenta canciones de los períodos musulmán y morisco de España. Alguien ya se tomó la molestia de copiar el contenido del booklet aquí.

Como todas las producciones de música sefardí y musulmana que se han reseñado en este blog, De una orilla a la otra es una producción independiente, hecha de manera casi artesanal. Esto no quiere decir, sin embargo, que el material sea de baja calidad; todo lo contrario: acaso porque saben que se juegan el todo por el todo en cada canción, tanto Kadiri como el ensamble Arabesque, todo el disco es de muy alta calidad. Así lo atestigua, por ejemplo, el inicio de "Li Habibi".

De una orilla a la otra es un disco sumamente recomendable, pero tras haber escuchado y reseñado alrededor de diez discos del género sefardí/arabesco, debo aceptar que lo empiezo a encontrar repetitivo y cansino. Ojalá más grupos redefinan la música sefardí como lo hace Arkul. Ojalá también la música que se hace en lo que todavía se conoce como mundo árabe finalmente se reconcilie con la modernidad como lo hace Oum y dejen de lado, aunque sea por un momento, el folklore.

Mientras tanto, no nos quedará más que disfrutar, hasta que, literalmente, nos hartemos, refritos de canciones hechas hace más de mil años...

Carbon for Water - Evan Abramson & Carmen Elsa Lopez

Carbon for Water is a movie about a project aiming to make Kenyans from the Western Province boil water using plastic filters donated by Vestergaard, a company manufacturing public health tools such as mosquito nets and water filters.

Though the project may sound like charity, Vestergaard would make money in the carbon finance market: Vestergaard PR team was smart enough to convince the Gold Standard Foundation (one of the two major accrediting bodies) that the carbon dioxide issued by Kenyans was enough to be offset by issuing carbon permits.

Carbon for Water won the Best International Short Film Award in the Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival (2011), Best Short Documentary in the California International Short Festival (2011), was picked as the official selection of the Festival international du film d'environnement (2012), and was "highly commended" at the Development & Climate Days Film Competition, a side event at COP 17 in Durban, South Africa. The film and the project were also praised by the good-doers of the World Bank.

From a public relations point of view, Vestergaard's project was tremendously successful: a movie, kudos from development partners, and carbon-finance money. The development community, in its relentless search for funds, and in the context of has been recently joined by NGO people and other kind of characters with people skills who are very good at marketing ideas and concepts -Carbon for Water is a sign of the things to come...

However, from a public policy perspective, it is unclear whether Carbon for Water had any significant impact on the lives of the people this project was supposed to help. To begin with, this project is one more in the long list of well-intentioned initiatives that compete with the State as a provider of public services. There is a reason why "public services" are called that way, and ample evidence indicates that public services tend to be under-provided by the private sector. Water being the ultimate public good, I am afraid that Vestergaard's project will eventually fail.

Also, a quick google search shows a tremendously high number of laudatory comments from NGO people and only two critical comments by a guy named Kevin Starr. I was unable to find any impact evaluation, peer-reviewed article, or anything that really tells me whether this was a good idea. I personally don't think it is, but beyond my personal preferences, I would really like to see anything measuring the impact of this initiative on the Kenyans' living standards, not on the pockets of Vestergaard's shareholders -I'm sure they made a lot of money out of this.

Journal articles, randomized trials, and impact evaluations are boring and imperfect. They are also the kind of things that NGO people (mostly school dropouts or people with the white man's guilt) and donors (bureaucrats who actually hate under-developed countries) hate. But they are a better tool to know what works than a movie.

I am unable to recommend this movie until I get some serious evidence about the benefits it brought to the Kenyans in the long run.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Aliens - James Cameron

Commando movies were very popular in the U.S. in the late 70's and throughout the 80's. Movies were the main way the U.S. dealt with the Vietnam War trauma. When you really think about it, making entertainment movies is a very weird catharsis, but I guess different peoples deal with their tragedies in different ways.

Aliens is, among other things, a metaphore about Vietnam: a group of elite soldiers with sophisticated technology enter a hostile territory thinking they will wipe out the enemy in less than 5 minutes, just to discover that their rival is infinitely superior to them.

So, according to that, and contrary to its predecesor, Aliens is an action movie, though the horror component is still there. Aliens has rightfully been praised as a 2-hours shot of action, and is actually one of the best movies of the genre. The negative side is that Aliens banalized the omnipresent and ruthless monster of the first part. In the first part, one alien killed seven people in less than 24 hours; in this part, an entire army of aliens were not able to enter a compound defended by 5 people, one of which was a little girl.

Aliens (and its behind-the-scenes) is a movie worth watching mostly for prospective movie-makers. In light of the special effects available today, modern audiences may not feel as thrilled about its action scenes, and the gore scenes, though impacting back in the day, would make it to a PG-13 movie today.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lizard - King Crimson

Lizard is probably the most experimental rock album ever made: A combination of baroque, classical music, jazz, and progressive rock. Robert Fripp used to dislike this album, though apparently he has come to terms with it.

Though the prog community King Crimson hardcore fans were divided about it at the time of its release, most have also agreed that it's a good album (did anyone hear the word "groupies"?). Back in the day, some people thought Lizard was a deviation from the band's style -as if they ever had one other than taking music to its limits; others disliked it because it was too brain-ish. People who like Lizard argue that it deserves respect and praises as an experiment, though divisions remain on whether the experiment was successful or not...

I guess this discussion should at least wake up the curiosity of those who don't know Lizard and come up with an opinion of their own.

I personally think Lizard is the best album King Crimson has ever made, and an interesting window of what the band and rock and roll in general could have become in a parallel world with less drugs, more time to create, and less pressure from music companies to produce albums every year.

This is the last King Crimson album I will write about in a long time. I need to de-tox a little bit. After revewing a couple of albums (and listening a few more I didn't get to talk about), I would like to close this cycle by quoting the following definition of King Crimson from Fripp's text in Lizard's 40th anniversayr edition booklet:

What is King Crimson? Several approaches:
the individuals in the group/s;
the group/s of individuals;
a society in microcosm;
a business structure;
a musical repertorie;
a way of doing things; 
a place where the conditioned and unconditioned meet;
a school of practical learning;
a business opportunity for King Crimson's professional advisers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Epitaph. Volumes One and Two - King Crimson

For me, the 1969 King Crimson was the best version of the band ever. That formation basically defined what we know today as progressive rock, and got rock and roll closer to blues and, to some extent, to classical music. The eubsequent formations of King Crimson are nothing else but Robert Fripp’s personal projects and expressions of his inner trips.

Epitaph presents the very first and the very last live performances of the 1969 King Crimson, and only because of that, Epitaph is a great album. The versions of the song that gives its name to the album are simply fantastic, and worth the 15 dollars of the disc.

I totally recommend this album for all publics. The 1969 King Crimson is too important in the History of modern music to ignore them.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Alien - Ridley Scott

There are at least two reasons why it's worth watching Alien today, almost 35 years after its original release:

  • It offers a very sand view of the future. Humankind is finally able to travel across the Universe, but social inequalities are still there: the movie is nothing else but the story of a group of miners who have to risk their lives at the orders of their employer.
  • It reminds us that a good horror movie is the one where you barely see the threat. At one point in time, directors of horror movies got the idea that their job was to do fancy stuff with special effects. They're wrong, and they should watch Alien over and over until they understand why.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Great Deceiver: Part Two - King Crimson

The Great Deceiver: Part Two is three hours of King Crimson. In his very particulary style, Robert Fripp himself says this is not for everybody at the beginning of the booklet:
I have anticipated not many Crimheads having Great Deceiver parties and listening to the box set in its entirety. A genuine Crimhead would in any case revel in the repetition, and annotate the variations, discrepancies and addenda. For them, this is a bonus.

Dodo: The Bird behind the Legend - Alan Grihault

Mauritius is one of the best places on Earth. I love it: music is great, people are fantastic, and its cultural diversity is a glimmer of hope in a World increasingly divided along sectarian an ethnic lines. In Mauritius, Blacks, Muslims, Chinese, Indians, French, and other groups have learned to live next to each other.

But, as usual, there is a dark side to it: Mauritius is the first documented humankind-made ecocide. The Dodo is the most famous character of this tragedy, in great part thanks to Lewis Carroll.

Dodo: The Bird behind the Legend is a monography written by Alan Grihault, a former British overseas cooperation worker. Grihault's biography is fantastic. And this is a great book, too. With a lot of pictures (most of which were taken from the items in the private collection of Ralfe Whistler), and extremely didactic explanations, this is a book for children and for adults who'd like to learn more about the dodo.

After writing the book, Grihault set up a website dedicated to the dodo and to the solitaire (dodo's cousin from Rodrigues). Unfortunately, it looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, but it's worth checking out if you can't get the book.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Gold Rush - Charles Chaplin

How far is tragedy from ridiculousness? Throughout his entire career, Chaplin showed that they are not very far away from each other. Most of the times, he succeeded in enjoying and making people enjoy the funny side of sad things. Only once he regreted that: after World War II, he stated that had he known the true conditions in Nazi Germany, he would never have filmed The Great Dictator.

Far from the disaster of Nazism, The Gold Rush is based on the true story of a group of gold miners who starved at such point that they had to eat their own shoes and incurred in cannibalism. You obviously have to be a genious to make a funny story out of that. As Wikipedia and other chronicles say, Chaplin said this was the movie for which he wanted to be remembered. The New York Times' chronicle at the time (1925) is an eloquent praise.

There are three reasons why this movie is still worth watching:

  1. At a time when filming is understood as an exercise of big budgets and mind-boggling special effects, The Gold Rush is a reminder that ingeniosity is all a film-maker needs to make cool things happen.
  2. You do see Chaplin at his best. The Great Dictator is too political and there are so many direct or indirect remakes of Modern Times, that it is no longer surpising.
  3. Obviously, this scene:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

En Tránsito - Joan Manuel Serrat

En Tránsito es, como otros discos producidos por Joan Manuel Serrat en los años 1980, una producción musical sin grandes momentos memorables. En Tránsito no es un disco desagradable; a diferencia de otros discos de Serrat de la época, los arreglos son relativamente decentes (a excepción, quizá, de “Las malas compañías”, cuya trompetita entre estrofa y estrofa es un auténtico martirio).  En épocas recientes, Serrat ha intentado reciclar “Esos locos bajitos”, “Hoy puede ser ungran día”, y, en dueto con Joaquín Sabina, “No hago otra cosa que pensar enti”.

Salvo algunos destellos como El Sur También Existe, la trayectoria de Serrat en los 80 y 90 es tan triste que es realmente sorprendente que tenga una base de seguidores tan sólida. En algún momento pensé que se trataba de nostálgicos de los “discos buenos” de Serrat (los de fines de los 60 e inicios de los 70), pero no, el fenómeno es más profundo. Me imagino que, para alguna gente, mucha gente, Serrat simplemente llega al corazón.

En Tránsito no es un disco recomendable. Las versiones actuales de las tres canciones que mencioné arriba son mucho mejores que las originales. De todos los demás temas, quizá el único que valga la pena es “A quien corresponda”. Quizá. 

L'Île Mystérieuse - Jules Verne

Je vais redémarrer ma série de textes sur le sujet des naufrages, dont le premier texte a été sur Lord of the Flies. La thématique de L’Île Mystérieuse  est complètement opposée à celle de Lord of the Flies : le texte de Jules Verne donne au lecteur de l’espoir à l’avenir et à la technologie ; elle est aussi une histoire sur la rédemption humaine. Le message principal de Lord of the Flies est, par contre, que tout est perdu dès l’origine de l’humanité.

L’Île Mystérieuse représente pour les lecteurs avides de Jules Verne la fin de l’enfance. La repentance et mort du Capitaine Nemo, ce anti-héros qu’on voulait tous émuler, met en évidence son humanité et, d’ailleurs, la nôtre. La mort de Nemo représente notre passage à l’âge adulte. On ne peut pas pleurer avec le décès de Nemo comme on pleure quand Jean Valjean meurt: on sait très bien que nos larmes seraient la honte pour Nemo : quand le Nautilus devient un cercueil qui s’écoule jusqu’au fond de la mer, ceux qui ont grandi avec les romans de Jules Verne savent qu’il faut être un stoïque, que dorénavant, c’est nous contre le Monde ; on n’a plus de vraies références masculines à émuler.

Comme d’habitude chez Jules Verne, il y a dans L’Île Mystérieuse des visions sur l’avenir qui étonnent au lecteur d’aujourd’hui : sans parler du réchauffement de la planète, Verne prévoit la fin de l’économie basée sur le charbon et parle d’un futur où l’electricité sera produite avec la décomposition chimique des molécules d’eau : nous y sommes arrivés. Un homme de son époque, la confiance de Verne sur les avancements de la technologie et la raison humaine n’a pas de fin. Aujourd’hui, on sait bien que la même technologie qui sert à industrialiser la production  de nourriture peut être utilisée aussi pour tuer de milliers de personnes  très rapidement.

Comme tout l’ouvrage de Jules Verne, L’Île Mystérieuse est un livre daté, difficile à lire aujourd’hui à cause de sa longueur et sa structure basée sur le format de feuilleton, tellement commun dans le XIXème siècle. Ce livre est recommandé pour les collectionneurs -qui n’ont pas besoin de ce blog pour leur rappeler la relevance de ce bouquin- mais particulièrement, comme je l’ai déjà indiqué, pour tous ces enfants qui ont lu Vingt Mille Lieues de Voyage sous le Fond de la Mer, et qui veulent savoir ce qui s’est passé avec ce super-homme appelé Nemo. Les lecteurs au-dessus de 15 ans doivent, généralement, s’abstenir de la lecture de ce livre.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pourquoi des philosophes - Jean-François Revel

Pourquoi des philosophes a été le premier pamphlet publié par Jean-FrançoisRevel. Dans ce livre, Revel a été l’un des premiers auteurs à éclaircir le rôle des philosophes dans la société actuelle et la réponse est dévastatrice : la philosophie n’a plus de rôle dans la vie actuelle. Plus précisément, la philosophie a été dépassée par les sciences exactes (la biologie, la physique, les mathématiques, et même la psychologie, selon Revel) et les soi-disant philosophes n’ont fait que s’enfermer dans des débats tautologiques éloignés de la réalité et des avancements de l’humanité. La philosophie n’est qu’un genre littéraire.

Revel a fait cet argument en 1957. Pourquoi des philosophes est bientôt devenu un livre de référence et, en 1962, Revel a sorti La cabale des dévots, une réponse à ses critiques. Grâce à l’ambiance contestataire de la France des années 1960, Pourquoi des philosophes, qui est devenu un livre de culte. Or, quelques années après, lorsque les chercheurs et les enseignants français sont retournés aux universités, le livre a été méprisé.

Pourquoi des philosophes n’est pas peut être très relevant aujourd’hui : les auteurs mentionnés au long du livre sont plutôt oubliés par le grand publique, ce qui prouve, d’une certaine façon, le point de Revel. En plus, le fait que de plus en plus de gens se rendent compte que le rôle historique de la philosophie est mieux rempli par d’autres disciplines de la connaissance humaine fait que Pourquoi des philosophes ne soit pas particulierement attirant aujourd’hui. Il vaut mieux lire les tweets et le Facebook de Nassim Taleb que ce livre.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ersatz of Bob Marley - Kaya

Even Paradise has a dark side. Kaya was a reggae singer from Mauritius who, like all reggae singers in the World, advocated for the depenalization and legalization of drugs, particularly marijuana. After a meeting/concert with other local artists, Kaya was imprisoned for smoking marijuana. A couple of days before leaving jail, he was found dead in his cell, with his skull totally crushed. The Mauritius government claimed he beat himself to death against the walls of the prison. His supporters have always argued he was beaten by the prison guards. After Kaya's death, black minorities started a series of revolts in Port Louis, Mauritius' capital, and in other parts of the country.  You can read more about this story in Wikipedia (terrible drafting, probably written by uneducated Mauritians). Back in the day, The Guardian, the Economist and the BBC reported on the matter. Nobody could believe that one of the most peaceful and beautiful nations in the planet could be the scenario of turmoil and repression.

Even though Mauritius is one of the most civilized nations in the World, the case has remained unsolved since 1999. If anybody needs any reminder that Mauritius is in Africa, the Kaya affair is exactly that. 

As is often the case with pop artists, Kaya soon became an icon. He is credited for inventing seggae, a combination of reggae with the local music sega. Like all reggae singers, Kaya basically tried to repeat and emulate everything Bob Marley did. Ersatz of Bob Marley is, more than a tribute, a series of ill-produced covers. A tribute album should be, I think, a reinvention of the songs, not a repetition with slightly different music. Other than the story of Kaya himself, I didn't really get anything from this album, which is really sad.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Aux Résistances - Noun Ya

Aux Résistances est un album magnifique. Les talents de Yann Pittard et Naissam Jalal se mèlent pour créer Noun Ya, aboutissant à une création minimale et merveilleuse au même temps. Il est domage qu'il n'y aie plus de matériel sure le site Myspace du duet et qu'on ne trouve l'album que chez des marchands japonais.

Heureusement, on a youtube:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Soul of Morocco - Oum

This is a great album. You can download it for free here. Let me just put this production in context: Oum is a Saharawi woman who sings modern music in the Moroccan dialect (and in Amazigh) instead of doing covers of 1,000 years-old songs in literary Arabic. She also has the courage of showing up to her concerts without a headscarf and with naked arms.

Oum is a testimony that there is still some hope for modernity to arrive in the Middle East.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Condensed 21st Century Guide to King Crimson - King Crimson

The title of this album is a great description of its contents: in 32 tracks, The Condensed 21st Century Guide to King Crimson presents the band's most representative (commercial?) tracks  throughout its 40+ years of history.

Collectionists and enthusiastic new-listeners are the most obvious constituencies for this album (non-enthusiastic listeners shouldn't even try: King Crimson is something you like or not). With this album, the second group will finally be able to understand what is behind the chaotic and ever-changing style, and will also realize that King Crimson is Robert Fripp's personal project and that's it.

The best review of this album I was able to find is here. A slightly less good review is here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Les croisades sous le regard de l'Orient - Ensemble al-Kindi & Omar Sarmini

Great album and an even better booklet. I consider this a tribute to the Krak des Chevaliers, partially destroyed in the ongoing Syrian Civil War -the fact that WMD's have been partially removed doesn't mean it's still not over.

Cambio de destino - Jon Juaristi

Jon Juaristi pasó de ser un militante de ETA a un defensor del nacionalismo español que escribió sus memorias, intituladas Cambio de destino poco después de haber sido destituido de la dirección del Instituto Cervantes por el gobierno socialista de Zapatero.

Quise leer Cambio de destino porque alguien me lo recomendó como una lectura adecuada de la situación en España a mediados de la década pasada y porque tengo la certeza de que España dejará de existir en su forma actual en lo que me queda de vida. Escribo esto sin juicios de valor; además, lo que yo piense sobre la existencia o no-existencia de España es lo de menos. Lo que sí es un hecho es que el liderazgo político catalán actual se puso en una posición imposible al poner de golpe la independencia en la agenda política. Cuando Mas y compañía se den cuenta que la cosa no era por ahí y que el debate era eminentemente fiscal, personas más radicales y con más agallas y menos seso coparán la agenda y, una vez las masas encendidas, declararán la independencia. Sic temper tyrannis, y todo eso...

Me gustaría decir que Cambio de destino es una cuidada reflexión del proceso que lleva a una persona de un extremo ideológico al otro, pero no lo es.  En realidad, Cambio de destino es un recuento de personas y personajes que jugaron un papel en los primeros cuarenta y tantos años de la vida de Juaristi. Algunos pasajes resultarán de interés general, pero la mayoría son tan específicos, que sólo resultan provechosos para las personas extremadamente familiares con el conflicto vasco. Mi regla de dedo es que todas las personas que tengan una idea de quién es Jon Kerejeta pueden leer el libro y entenderlo. A ellos también les recomiendo leer esta reseña que toma este libro un poquito más en serio. El resto del mundo puede hacer cosas más provechosas con su tiempo como escuchar esto:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Liturgies coptes - Ensemble David

Les observateurs occasionnels du Moyen Orient peuvent être excuses de croire que les coptes étaient une minorité respectée jusqu’à la chute de Hosni Mubarak. En réalité, les coptes sont opprimés depuis l’implantation de l’Islam en Egypte et au Soudan. Le pape Chenouda III, chef de l’Église copte a été mis en résidence surveillée entre 1981 et 1985. Plus récemment, le soi-disant « printemps arabe » a résulté dans une série d’attaques contre des églises et personnalités coptes. Un jour, le Monde comprendra que la démocratie et les droits de l’homme, ainsi comme toute autre idée de modernité, ne sont pas compatibles avec le voile Islamique…

Dans ce contexte, l’album Liturgies coptes de l’Ensemble David, production de l’Institut du MondeArabe, est un rappel du danger subi par les communautés coptes au Moyen Orient. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Vertigo - Alfred Hitchcock

When it was released in 1958, Vertigo received mixed critics and barely broke even. In 2012, it replaced Citizen Kane "as the best movie of all time" in the Sight & Sound critics poll. The value of the lists including  the best (or worst) movies is in the eyes of the beholder. The fact is, though, that Vertigo has been rehabilitated since Alfred Hitchcock filmed it.

I found Vertigo slow and excesively long. The plot is quite decent but, as is usually the case in movies, Hitchcock tries to solve everything in the last 15 minutes after 2 hours of forgetable scenes that barely provide any information. I tend to agree with the contemporaneous critics of the movie, which didn't see anything innovative in Vertigo. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anything online which could help me understand why Vertigo became a cult movie either. For once, Wikipedia didn't provide any useful information, and most of the critiques that I came across on IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes just tell me that I have to choose between liking the movie or feel like an idiot -the critiques that didn't put me in that juncture were spoilers. 

I can only guess that Vertigo is currently considered a masterpiece because professional critics started saying so and then the crowd followed. Vertigo has all the things that critics love about movies: some subtle sexual messages (which go mostly unadverted by modern audiences), a twisted plot, and an amibguous ending. 

The fact that Vertigo is considered a masterpiece is, I guess, one of the reasons you should watch it. But don't expect too much about it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch - Choir members of churches Saint-George and Saint-Ephraim, Aleppo

As I write, Syria is in the process of being destroyed. A protracted civil war, weapons of mass destruction, and sectarism will likely result in the death of a country. As a graduate student, I spent one of the happiest periods in my life in Syria. By the end of my period there, I had found four good friends who are likely endangered: a Kurd, a Christian, an Alaouite, and a Jewish Armenian. I haven't heard from them since the "Arab Spring" arrived to Syria and I can only hope that they and their families will eventually escape the terror and will find a safe haven.

If Syria survives as a single country, it will be after years, maybe decades of sectarian conflict. At the end, one group will prevail after killing and subjugating all its rivals. As a tribute to the current diversity of Syria, I would like to invite the readers of this blog to listen to The Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, a production by the coir members of the churches of Saint-George and Saint-Ephraim from Aleppo, which is probably the most Arab and Christian city of the entire country. The album is available here.

Monday, September 30, 2013

In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson

Rock & roll and pop are the direct sons of blues. If you listen carefully, you can easily track the structure of most rock and pop songs to the blues' basic melody. When rock & roll was in its infancy, however, some bands were influenced by jazz rather than by blues. Progressive rock and heavy metal are directly linked to jazz: a guitar virtuoso is closer to Charlie Parker or Thelonious Monk than it might seem. 

The ultimate example of how progressive rock is linked to jazz is King Crimson and their debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, which is probably the first progressive rock recording in the "proper" sense of the term. Noise and lyrics apart, this KC concert in 1969 can perfectly pass as a jazz show. In addition to its excellent musical quality, In the Court of the Crimson King is an extremely important album in the history of music because it created a clear distinction between the bands who claimed their ascent from blues (pop, light rock) and the children of jazz (heavy metal, progressive). Since then, few bands, with the remarkable exception of Pink Floyd, have tried to bridge the gap between the two traditions of modern music, forget about doing it successfully. 

There is a reason why late 1960's bands like KC decided to emulate jazz rather than blues: jazz is much more complicated and structured than blues, and offers more possibilities to experiment and improvise live. Jazz allows musicians to push music to its limits: scales, tempos and improvisations are subject to the imagination and ability of the interpreter. The link between jazz and progressive rock is the result of hyperactive, hypercreative, and hyper-high musicians who got tired of the structure of "Hey Jude". 

Since their first album, KC has done exactly that: push the very concept of music to its last limits. Though the band is now pretty much in the mainstream, the reality is that every production of King Crimson is an experiment, some of which are quite decent, and some of which are a complete disaster. There are two problems with being a continuous experimentation: the first one is that people eventually get tired of experimenting; that explains why KC doesn't really exist as a band. KC dissolves every now and then because they get tired of Robert Fripp's ideas. KC is, in fact, Robert Fripp and the musicians who share his conception of music at a given moment. The second problem with being an experiment-in-the-making permanently is that your fan base becomes very narrow and composed mostly of groupies who really don't have any criteria. Most people wouldn't believe that this song and this song are performed by the same band, and in fact they arent: KC is just a label for Robert Fripp's creativity and escort musicians. Fans who say they like "everything" or "most" of what KC produced don't realize that the band have produced very contradictory pieces in their 40+ years of trajectory.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Re - Café Tacvba

Se ha vuelto un lugar común decir que México cambió en 1994: el levantamiento zapatista, el asesinato de Colosio, la quiebra del país, la entrada en vigor del TLCAN, y la elección de Ernesto Zedillo, que hasta la fecha es el único presidente mexicano que ha reconocido que ganó en condiciones inequitativas, se citan como el conjunto de momentos que llevaron a la transformación del país. Los historiadores, y cada vez más los periodistas y los comentócratas, tienen fama de hacer observaciones tan mesiánicas como esas. Aún si asumimos que el país realmente cambió gracias a uno o a todos esos acontecimientos, es obvio que las condiciones objetivas y subjetivas que llevaron a ellos tomaron mucho para concretarse: hay reportes de grupos guerrilleros entrenando en el sureste desde los 80; el TLCAN se negoció en 6 años, y el PRI, y con él la sociedad mexicana, fue cambiando lenta y paulatimanente desde su creación en 1929. Los cambios históricos no ocurren de un día a otro: empiezan sin que nos demos cuenta y después a algún listo se le ocurre decir que, en una fecha específica, un acontecimiento llevó a un cambio profundo de las cosas.

Con la música es más fácil. Los discos nos permiten (o nos permitían) aseverar con  exactitud cuándo un movimiento artístico, un país, o un artista, cambia. Y así, podemos afirmar, sin temor a equivocarnos, que el rock mexicano cambió en 1994. En ese año, Caifanes sacó El Nervio del Volcán, que a la postre sería su último disco, y Café Tacvba sacó Re, su segunda producción discográfica. En 1994 se efectuó el relevo generacional y de clase del rock mexicano: Saúl Hernández, el chavo banda de la Colonia Guerrero, fue revelado por los chavos universitarios de Ciudad Satélite, ese lugar cuyos primeros residentes fueron, según Carlos Monsiváis, la primera generación de norteamericanos nacidos en México. Desde entonces, ninguna banda de estrato social bajo ha triunfado a gran escala. Café Tacvba puso de moda las cajas de sonido. Así, con el cambio generacional, murió el único intento serio que han hecho los músicos mexicanos de ser virtuoso con los instrumentos: Lino Nava y Marcóvich le dieron paso a los hermanos Rangel y sus imitadores que, si bien no están mal, no son un dechado de virtudes. Con Re, Café Tacvba puso el ejemplo de la música que debía hacerse para ganarse a la clase media (aspiracional y auténtica) y alta y el tipo de gente que tiene posibilidades de triunfar: los hipsters

En alguna ocasión leí o escuché que, en los años 60, El Tri empezó a cantar lo que la gente de México, para que, veinte años después, Caifanes empezara a interpretar lo que esa misma gente sentía. En Re, Café Tacvba sintetizó ambas cosas. Con Re, Café Tacvba se afianzó como la única banda mexicana que no sentía vergüenza de ponerse pantalones de mezclilla sin penacho (Caifanes) ni necesidad de gritar como un histérico las mismas necedades durante 30 años (El Tri). Nadie, ni siquiera el propio Café Tacvba, ha sintetizado tan bien todas las corrientes del rock comercial mexicano desde entonces y, a la luz de la evolución musical del propio Café Tacvba, es evidente que ellos no lo van a hacer en lo que les queda de carrera. 

Recientemente, la versión en inglés de Rolling Stone catalogó a Re como el mejor disco de rock latino de la Historia. Y de hecho, desde que salió, se ha dicho que lo mejor de Re es la forma en que combina rock-pop con diversos ritmos musicales populares mexicanos como la tambora, el bolero, y la norteña, así como referencias al pasado prehispánico del país (verbigracia "El fin de la infancia", "Madrugal", obviamente "Ingrata", y "El Tlatoani del barrio"). A mí me gusta plantear esa aseveración de una forma un poco diferente: Re muestra, como en su momento lo hizo "La Negra Tomasa" de Caifanes, o Molotov cantando canciones de José José, que los mexicanos no somos rockeros. Ni siquiera pop-rockeros. Si una banda mexicana quiere triunfar comercialmente, tiene que hacer una mezcla con algún ritmo tradicional (por suerte, la cultura tradicional es mexicana es tan rica que hay mucho de dónde escoger sin repetirse o copiar demasiado a otras bandas), hacer un cóver de una canción tradicional o de los años 50-60 (juego que Café Tacvba entendió a la perfección, como demuestra su Avalancha de Éxitos), incluir términos y juegos de palabras que sólo entienden los mexicanos o, ya si de plano no  da la creatividad, tomarse fotos en algún palenque de Paquita la del Barrio. Una banda que haga referencia exclusivamente al rock como se entiende en Estados Unidos y Europa está destinada a fracasar rotundamente o, en el mejor de los casos, a ser una banda de una canción y punto. 

Re es un buen disco, el mejor que ha hecho Café Tacvba si excluimos su Unplugged, que no es otra cosa que una interpretación acúsitca del propio Re... En cierta forma, y gracias a las combinaciones que hace de rock-pop con ritmos tradicionales mexicanos, es una excelente introducción a la música mexicana para extranjeros o para clasemedieros que no salen mucho de la ciudad. Involuntariamente, Re es el equivalente a los últimos libros de Carlos Fuentes, destinados más a los extranjeros que a los propios mexicanos.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Flamenco Arabe 2 - Hossam Ramzy & José Luis Montón

Flamenco Arabe 2 pretends to fusion José Luis Montón's flamenco guitar with the talent of Hossam Ramzy playing Arabic traditional instruments. Both Montón and Ramzy are extremely talented musicians. For what it's worth, Ramzy played with Peter Gabriel prior to the recording of Flamenco Arabe 2.

For some reason, I found this album tremendously disappointing. There are three possible non-excluding reasons for that: the first reason is that, after the work of Michel Camilo and Tomatito, my standards for flamenco-fussion are very high. The second reason is that I'm probably too tired of listening Mediterranean music. I'm going to give it a break, go back to King Crimson for a couple of weeks, and then come back. The third reason is that Flamenco Arabe 2 sounds like any modern Arabic music album. We all know that Arabic countries have had tremendous problems dealing with modernity in all aspects, and music is not the exceptions. For most Arabic musicians, modernity means using the same instruments that have been played in the region for the last 500 years, only faster and with some Western arrangements. And that's the problem with this album: it's too Arabic, up to the point where the influence of flamenco is lost. Nightclubs in Marrakech, Tunis, or El Cairo can play this or any other album in the top-100; listeners will not notice the difference. This blog makes a similar statement about this album, though using a more subtle style. 

The best song of the album is probably "Arena", written by José Luis Montón, who says the following about it:

"With this Cadiz rhythm full of warmth, I try to twin two towns and two sands: sea and desert." 

The Chicano - Edward Simmen

The best way to pave a way in America's academic life is to come up with a definition for a term that has remained loosely defined. How many academics have achieved tenure for providing a definition for words like "globalization", "governance", "development", or "Renaissance", just to mention a few examples?

Ed Simmen became a worldwide reference for Chicano affairs with his book The Chicano: From Caricature to Self-Portrait. After publishing The Chicano, Simmen became a reference on Hispanic affairs, and he moved to Mexico, where he became a reference on American immigrants affairs... Simmen's cast a long shadow, as this text on Chicano affairs from the late 1980's shows. 

The reason why The Chicano was fundamental for both Simmen's career and Hispanic studies in general is that Simmen provided the first operational definition of chicano in this book. According to Simmen, a chicano can be defined as "a dissatisfied American of Mexican descent whose ideas regarding his position in the social and economic order are, in general, considered to be liberal or radical and whose statements and actions are often extreme and sometimes violent (p. xiii)." Simmen crafted this definition in 1971. It is worth noting that, a couple of years later, Reagan would famously declare that "Hispanics [the word 'chicano' is no longer used as it is considered derogatory] are conservative, they just don't know it."

Remarkably, The Chicano is not an academic book, but a collection of short stories. The fact that a linguist collecting short stories was able to set the terms of the debate on what chicanos are is a testimony of the lack of interest that this group arose among mainstream academia in the United States. Similar to North of the Rio Grande, which collects a series of short stories about Mexicans in the United States, The Chicano presents a number of short-stories on Mexican-Americans. The quality of the texts is heterogeneous: big names in American literature such as Jack London ("The Mexican"), John Steinbeck ("The Flight"), and Ray Bradbury ("The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit") join semi-anonymous and sometimes amateurish writers in a single book. I particularly found most of the stories naive and full of stereotypes. Sadly, the first stories, written the late 1860's and 1930 show Mexican-Americans as brave and gallant men ready to run away with their beloved as soon as possible, while the latest stories, written between the end of World War II and the late 1960's are full of stereotypes: Mexicans (and Mexican-Americans) are lazy, ugly, dirty, and all they do is drink tequila and listen mariachis...

After moving to Mexico, Simmen published a third book called Gringos in Mexico, which is (you guessed right!), a collection of short stories written by Americans living in Mexico. Simmen didn't have enough time to issue a fourth book collecting short stories written by Mexicans about Americans in Mexico. Life is sometimes too short...

GoodFellas - Martin Scorsese

GoodFellas has been compared with The Godfather since it was released in 1990. For some people, GoodFellas is "the best mob movie ever". For others, The Godfather trilogy is a combination of poetry, literature, and great filming and acting. The debate is based mostly on tastes and preferences and will have no conclusion.

I'd like to think about GoodFellas and The Godfather as complements rather than rivals or competitors. The Godfather can be seen as the story of high-level mafia , while GoodFellas is about the guys who "implement" the operations in the ground.  Francis Ford Coppola tells the story of a good man who becomes bad almost by accident (Michael Corleone), while Scorsese wants to talk about a guy who always wanted to be bad (Henry Hill).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tres culturas - Eduardo Paniagua

En mi primer post sobre música sefardí me lamenté sobre la falta de interés que genera en España esta cultura y la época medieval en general. La mayoría de las producciones musicales que he conseguido son producidas en Francia y, en menor medida, en el resto de Europa y Estados Unidos, que son los únicos lugares en el mundo en los que la gente se ha hecho a la idea de la existencia de los judíos. En España, donde la gente no se ha hecho a la idea a la existencia del país mismo, están a años luz de aceptar a los judíos como parte de su historia y de su presente.

Por suerte, siempre hay algún atisbo de esperanza. Eduardo Paniagua es un arquitecto, músico, y emprendedor que lleva por lo menos 30 años intentando rescatar y masificar el legado cultural de la España municipal. Como siempre ocurre en los países ibéricos y en sus antiguas colonias americanas, el cainismo ha empujado a Paniagua a buscar éxito y fortuna fuera de su país. Hasta la creación de su propio sello discográfico, Pneuma, la mayoría de los discos de Paniagua habían sido producidos en Francia.

Tres Culturas es un gran disco. Como su nombre lo indica, el objetivo es presentar música de las tres culturas que estuvieron presentes en España durante la Edad Media: la cristiana, la judía, y la medieval. Las primeras 5 canciones son sefarditas e incluyen la famosa "Ya viene el cativo". Las siguientes 10 piezas son composiciones para el Camino de Santiago compuestas por Teobaldo I de Navarra, Alfonso X el Sabio, y composiciones autores anónimos recopilados en el Códice Calixtino. Finalmente, las últimas 3 canciones son musulmanas.

Más allá de una excelente interpretación y producción, Tres Culturas vale mucho la pena porque nos recuerda cómo un país tan pequeño como España fue, y lo seguirá siendo mientras exista, tremendamente diverso. Es difícil creer que los laúdes del desierto y las gaitas de los climas lluviosos puedan coexistir en un mismo país, y quizá esa sea la tragedia: quizá las gaitas y los laúdes no pueden convivir y es necesario levantar una frontera entre ambos... Los españoles tienen la última palabra.

El libro que acompaña el CD incluye una contextualización del disco, de la cual se extraen los siguientes fragmentos:


'Mientras cantaba, no fueron las cuerdas del laúd,sino mi corazón lo que hería con el plectro.Jamás se borrará en mi memoria aquel día..."Ibn Hazm, 'El collar de la Paloma', s. XI
 Una visiíon completa de la rica realidad multicultural y multirracial de la península ibérica exige el conocimiento de las diferentes corrientes musicales coincidentes en el tiempo, compartiendo el espacio de la España postvisigoda. Por un lado, dividida en varios reinos cristianos: primero el reino Astur-Leonés, y posteriormente Galicia, Portugal, Castilla y León, Navarra, Aragón y Cataluña. Y por otro lado, Al-Andalus islámico, subdividido a su vez en decenas de reinos diferentes en la época de los Taifas del siglo XI.
Una visión sintética y global de la música de la España medieval ha de tener en cuenta estos pueblos que, si bien en el aspecto político, religioso y filosófico mantuvieron criterios diferentes, en el aspecto cultural y, especialmente en algo intangible como es el mundo de la música, tuvieron una extraordinaria interrelación.
Ello no impidió que en las tres bandas existieran autoridades que, según el talante de la época, exaltaran o prohibieran la música, elogiando o censurando a músicos y poetas.
La España Medieval
 La Edad Media jugó un papel definitivo en la formación de España. Durante esta época la Península fue el lugar donde convivieron, pacíficamente unas veces, en fuerte confrontación otras, personas que practicaban las tres grandes religiones monoteístas: Judíos, Moros y Cristianos.
Las religiones cristiana y hebrea se asientan simultáneamente con la primera evangelización y la diáspora judía antes del siglo IV. La entrada de la religión islámica tiene por fecha el año 711. Es entonces cuando comienza la pugna entre las hegemonías políticas: la islámica dominante hasta el siglo XI, y la de los pequeños reinos cristianos: Castilla y León, Navarra, Aragón y Portugal, que no tomarán preeminencia hasta la segunda mitad del siglo XIII, con las conquistas de Valencia, Murcia y casi toda Andalucía. 
El elemento hebreo se instala con mayor o menor fortuna en uno y otro lado de la frontera entre musulmanes y cristianos. Integrados inicialmente en tierra islámica, a partir del siglo XII con el rigorismo almohade, los judíos toman un frágil equilibrio en las tierras de cristianos con la protección de los reyes, siendo la ciudad de Toledo el modelo de convivencia entre los miembros de las tres religiones. 
La práctica musical
La cultura y en especial la música es practicada indistintamente por las diferentes clases sociales de los tres pueblos. Según la idiosincracia de las costumbres se pueden distinguir elementos específicos en la música religioso-litúrgica de cada una de las comunidades de creyentes.
Más cercanas entre sí están las músicas cortesanas y populares, que se ejercen mutua influencia, según sea dominante o recesiva la potencia cultural de cada lugar.
Se puede trazar una malla de espacios que albergaron la música con los elementos propios de cada sociedad, entremezclando los conceptos: religioso, cortesano y popular, con judíos, moros y cristianos.
Así se pueden diferenciar:
Sinagoga/Palacio/Patio/Sefardí/Judío converso
Iglesia/Castillo/Plaza/Mozárabe/Franco (Europeo)