Sometimes a song gets tangled in with life, and the threads twist together for a while. That happened to me a few months ago during a trip to Indonesia. As I walked around Jakarta and Surabaya, Robert Wyatt’s song “Catholic Architecture” (from his 1991 album Dondestan) kept nibbling at the edges of my mind, tugging my perceptions. It goes like this:
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On August 11, 1973, a young man going by DJ Kool Herc hosted a “Back to School Jam” in the rec room of the above building in the Bronx. That party is now recognized as the birth of hip hop. That’s right, hip hop is 40.
Winter’s Fire – The Ashes of Piemonte
First layer: Blood and hate and keening grief. In the mid-17th century the Duke of Savoy pursues a brutal campaign to suppress communities of Waldensians living in the mountains of Piedmont. The Waldensians are followers of Peter Waldo, a Bible-oriented group excommunicated in 1215 because of their departure from various Catholic teachings. Despite repeated persecution, they have been able to establish small mountain communities. In 1655 an attempt at forced conversion meets with rejection, and is followed by an orgy of rape, torture, and murder that shocks Europe. 1700 men, women, and children are burned alive, dismembered, variously and gruesomely massacred.
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