Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Radiohead; Sophocles/Tipton: Ajax

Okay, I'm feeling a bit rough today, the aftereffects of a few Newcastle Browns & standing on a concrete surface for two hours bopping along to the opening show of Radiohead's American In Rainbows tour last night. I can't say I've been to many arena rock concerts in the last decade or two – most of the acts I like these days are hard-pressed to fill a large club space or medium theater – but Radiohead's show reminded me of just how exhilarating a large-scale pop music show can be.

I'll admit to being a big Radiohead fan; the band seems to me to have filled the space in popular culture that the circa-1969 Beatles did: an outfit of really fine melodic sensibilities (read: "catchy pop songs"), but pushing the envelope with innovative arrangements, oblique approaches, & really hard-to-get-on-the-1st-few-listens songs – dragging a mass audience along with them to new places.

Nifty pictures & a complete set list here. If there're tickets available for a show in your neighborhood, by all means don't miss.
***
Ajax, Sophocles, trans. John Tipton (Flood Editions, 2008)

[15/100]

I haven't read my way thru the corpus of Greek tragedy, & Ajax was new to me before picking up John Tipton's energetic, precise new version of the play. Tipton's lodestars here are Christopher Logue's wonderful, anachronism-laden versions of the Iliad (tho Tipton has the advantage over Logue of actually knowing Greek), Louis & Celia Zukofsky's "homophonic" translation of Catullus, & (tho Tipton oddly doesn't mention it in his afterword) Zukofsky's five-word-per-line version of Plautus' Rudens ("A"-21). Tipton renders the Greek hexameters into six-word lines (except of course for the choruses, whose various meters he shifts into other word-counts): there's not the slightest hint of translatorese here, just a muscular, sensitive contemporary American English that packs an emotional impact I've only rarely encountered in translations of classical drama (one gets flashes of it in Pound's Sophocles versions). The story itself – which opens with Ajax, possessed of a divine madness, having slaughtered a herd of domestic animals, proceeds to his offing himself midway thru the play, then ends with a debate over his burial – is weird enough to be compelling in the most prosaic rendering. Tipton's late-modernist idiom makes it oddly magnificent.

5 comments:

tmorange said...

bruce and sally and i saw sonic youth at city hall in the gulch -- took little convincing me that SY are, as the press release touted, the preeminent american indie rock band of our time. tho the question was raised as to who else might even be considered to qualify for such a title....t.

tmorange said...

meanwhile, hawkwind's doremi faso latido rocks too hard....t.

tyrone said...

I too like Radiohead and Ilm sure that it's partly because he group echoes both Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division et al staples of my post-punk indulgences...Also love Topton's Ajax translations--thanks to Peter for passing it along...

Tyrone

tyrone said...

if only I could spell before coffee...

heather said...

The concert was fantastic! Of course, I would have been happy if they'd just played "Where I End and You Begin" over and over again, but the rest of the songs were lovely, too.