Friday, May 25, 2007

What kind of bohemian are you?


Came across some fascinating Wikipedia reading about the origin of the term "Bohemian".

Interesting that the article lists my own area, Mile End, Montreal (good photo essay here, by the way) as a contemporary Bohemia. It certainly was when I moved here, although now embourgeoisement -- otherwise known as gentrification -- has made it more difficult to actually set up that lifestyle here. (People who moved into rent controlled apartments years ago, like me, hang onto them -- and the lifestyle possibilities that go with -- for dear life.)

The website of a book called "A Bohemian Manifesto: A field guide to living on the edge" describes five types of Bohemian: the Nouveau, Gypsy, Beat, Zen, and Dandy. This makes for some glib but entertaining sociology.

It seems under those criteria my partner & I are a blend of Zen with an element of Nouveau and -- hate to say it -- a slight touch of Dandy. Actually at my stage of life, I tend to live it more than look it ... for better and for worse.

8 comments:

Peter said...

Thanks for the link to this.
I love the watercolors.

I think Dean and I are a mix of Zen and Nouveau as well.

Brian Campbell said...

I don't think there are too many Gypsy Bohemians in blog world, although I know of a couple of settled-down Beats. However, as microtechnology gets cheaper,undoubtedly we'll see a new generation of Laptop Gypsies -- or, if you will, Blackberry Beats.

R. W. Watkins said...

I've coined the term 'gothnik' to describe myself and many other Gen-Xers, who grew up on a combination of '50s beat influences and the darker or 'occultist' side of rock music, both contemporaneous (The Cure, Bauhaus, Sonic Youth, The Smiths) and classic (The Doors, The Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen, The Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath).

Probably the first example of an obviously 'gothnik' rock group would have been Band Of Susans (debut album: 1988). Of course, I'm the quintessential gothnik poet--Who else...? ("WHOM else?"--I'm afraid certain elements of english grammar still befuddle me.)

Proto-gothniks would include Aleister Crowley, Jimmy Page, Jim Morrison and Patricia Keneally-Morrison, Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg, etc. Any others...?

Brian Campbell said...

I would have to familiarize myself with The Cure, Bauhaus, Sonic Youth, The Smith, The Band of Susans, even The Velvet Underground, Aleister Crowley, Patricia K-M, and Anita Pallenberg to make any incisive comment on the cultural stream you describe. Right now those names I can't connect with faces or musical imprints (which have probably been made on some level, ubiquitous as music is... you have me wanting to take a trip to Montreal's music library or even musicology section at the Bibliotheque National ASAP) I'm actually from Gen-Y, as in Y am I so Ignorant? My eclecticism extends to such luminaries as Victor Jara, Violetta Parra & her son & daughter Angel and Isabela (you might be familiar with the poet Nicanor, a distant cousin), Silvio Rodrigues, Pablo Milanes, Felix Luna (songwriter for Mercedes Sosa) Atahualpua Yupanqui, Facundo Cabral and going to other cultures than Spanish there's Francis Cabrel & Richard Desjardins & Leo Ferre and then in India Bhimsen Joshi & Mehdi Hassan and in Iran Farid Farjad (an anroozha violinist who always blows me away) and oh yes Wayne Shorter & Weather Report. Then there's Pentangle. But also Kurt Cobain, I'm quite familiar with his work. And Rev. Gary Davis, they should have played together, I think they could have made quite a combo.Then there these two guys in Afghanistan (are they still alive today?), one who strums an oud-like instument and sings (some would say caterwauls) over that and actually coughs into the mike as he sings while the other plays a very raspy pan flute and also caughs and you hear several dogs barking in the background, is there any place for them in our popular culture?

R. W. Watkins said...

I take it that you're more into world music--particularly Spanish--than what you are avant-garde rock. Actually, a lot of those groups I mentioned have been heavily influenced by various types of world music--especially Indian raga. As for Weather Report, I've been a fan since elementary school circa 1980; that was the year Joni Mitchell released her double live album Shadows And Light, which featured Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, Jaco Pastorius and other members or compadres of Weather Report. I got into jazz-rock fusion from there. Other big names in '70s fusion for me would be the Dutch group Focus and--of course--Frank Zappa & The Mothers (of Invention). Tell me, Brian, How did you get into world music...?

Brian Campbell said...

It's a long story. About 20 years ago I spent the better part of a year in Mexico & Guatemala. I took 6 weeks of Spanish immersion in Guatemala, and there also learned some fingerstyle guitar. Back in Toronto a Guatemalan friend introduced me to not only the best Andean music but certain great Latin American singer/songwriters mostly of the 60's & 70's , and I fell in love with them: their lyrics and guitar playing hit me "right there" in a way most music didn't. Many of their lyrics are pure poetry in a way I find rare in music in English. A certain record shop sold a lot of them...Transcribed many lyrics just to learn what they were singing, and unwittingly learned a lot about songwriting craft. This lead to an interest in world music. I acquired a lot of it when I stayed in NYC for a couple of weeks in 1988 and discovered Tower Records (the flagship store, a five-floor music emporium on Broadway) was having a mammoth sell-off of vinyl LP's as they were making the final switch to CD's. I didn't own a CD player yet, had no interest in buying into that technology, as at that time the sound of most CD's in those days was annoyingly bright. I think between the two of us we bought about about $300 worth of records at max. $5 a pop -- almost all of it rare traditional folk stuff you couldn't get anywhere else, along with must of Art Pepper's stuff... everything from Japanese temple chants to Chinese classical music to Indian ragas on various instruments to sufi music to polyphonic chants of African Pygmies. I think I have music from most countries in the world. (Students keep giving me stuff when they find out my interest...this year gifts included Bulgarian choirs and a couple of CD's of a Moroccan singer/songwriter named Idir.)I was brought up on classical music, but cultural strands in our own fabric that I've taken intense interest in are early blues artists through to electric players like Albert & BB King & Muddy Waters to Santana to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Gary Moore & Stevie Ray Vaughn. Also acoustic types (I play their stuff) like John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, John Fahey, Stephan Grossman, and Robbie Basho, who I adore. I went through a Doors period -- indeed my roomate in university wrote an undergraduate thesis on religious/psychosexual imagery in Jim Morrison's music. (Read Norman O. Brown and you've pretty well got it...) Then there's the contemporary folk music I also grew up with -- from PPM to Bob Dylan to Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, etc. I'm quite well versed in jazz. There are pretty substantial gaps in my knowlege -- I mostly depend on what people bring me or suggest to me -- but I'm open to anything. As Miles Davis once put it, there is no such thing as bad music, only music badly played.

R. W. Watkins said...

Brian, you sound like you've been around, and seen and done quite a few things--extensive taste in music and all. Are you sure you're only a Gen-Yer--born between (roughly) 1973 and 1979...?

Brian Campbell said...

Looks are deceiving, in my case at least. I could probably be your father's slightly younger brother.