Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Interacting with music and my old friend Nipper

Kissara Lyre

The ghoulish lyre above is far from what I normally would choose to lead off this post about MIMMA, Museo Interactivo de la Musica Malaga. But it is high Halloween season. Impressively, the lyre is made from all-natural organic materials, hopefully found objects not freshly harvested for the crafting of the musical instrument.

MIMMA overall is far from fear-inspiring; it is melodic dream-inspiring. There is a learning lab for kids to experiment with sound. There are huge percussion instruments one can strike, and there is a room with play-me instruments, an invitation the Mister did not turn down.

While the Mister was distracted in a sound-proof room toying with electronic sound boards of some sort, I engaged with the interactive screens. Instead of wandering around gazing at obscure old instruments wondering at their sounds, you can tap the screen and listen to a recording of someone playing appropriate music on them. Mesmerizing.

Favorite instruments though were two 21st inventions by Ignacio Rodriguez Linares, both of which appear vintage. They present solutions for when the band or dancers fail to show. Carmen, a rather complex machine:

…has a series of levers that when activated, interpret Buleria percussion. It also includes the specific clapping accompanying this type of dance., as well as other typically used Buleria sounds, such as the rhythm and off beats, triples, calling, climax and conclusion, in addition to syncopation, 2, 4, and 6-beat bass, 3-beat sharps and 12-beat (clave) rhythms.

Then there are the cute petite stomping feet featured on his Melquiades Flamenco Beat Machine. This novelty allows musicians to select the appropriate rhythms for the seven most common Flamenco styles (Lajos – Kathleen Trenchard definitely needs this for Christmas).

Máquina flamenca “Carmen,” del inventor Ignacio Rodríguez Linares on Al Sur

But what photo would I have featured were it not Halloween? Nipper. The most important thing in the museum to me is Nipper.

With his brother’s part terrier mix dog, nicknamed for his annoying habit of nipping at the heels of any passersby, as his inspiration, Mark Henry Baraud painted the dog with his head cocked toward a Gramophone, listening to “his master’s voice.” The Gramophone Company paid the artist 100 pounds for it in 1898. Eventually the rights to the image made its way to RCA Victor.

While the Nipper in MIMMA appeared a little cold, it still felt like a reunion of sorts with my sleeping companion for several years. Some friends of my parents who owned an appliance store in Virginia Beach showed up one night for dinner when I was six years old with what would become my favorite stuffed animal, a three-foot high version.

Nipper joined George, a green monkey; Tony, the toucan; and little Lambs-Eat-Ivy to occupy a good 2/3 of my single bed. Despite the crowded sleeping arrangement, I never once let any of them fall off the bed. We had a mutual protection agreement. I kept them from the edge of the precipice above the alligator pit under the bed, and Nipper vigilantly prevented any alligators from scaling a bedpost. The alligator problem was Davy Crockett’s fault (Or my sister’s. It’s a long story).

Although alligators never got any of us, it was a tough assignment. Nipper sometimes suffered from leaking innards and had to undergo surgical repairs at the capable hands of my mother several times before his eventual retirement to the attic.

Back to the museum. We were ready to leave, when the nicest man asked us to stay for a Chopin piano recital in a small performance hall. Wine time was calling, but his invitation was so sincere. And there were only six of us in the audience. A rather intimate personal recital. It was beautiful.

Peering over the pianist’s shoulder, merely eyeing the number of notes on the sheet music was humbling, to say the least. There was no way I could have begun to follow the music enough to even have volunteered to serve as a page-turner.

Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Unauthorized exhibit of Banksy’s protest art

Rats: They exist without permission. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilizations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved, then rats are the ultimate role model. They have no respect for society, and they have sex 50 times a day.


The mysterious hooded lord of all street art. The man billed as bucking against anyone charging a buck, well in this case a euro, to view his art.

We saw an exhibition in Bologna a few years ago with Banksy in its title that had very little to do with the artist – a 13-Euro price tag.

But this “unauthorized” exhibition at La Termica in Malaga – “Banksy: The Art of Protest” – seemed so much less commercial. A pure tribute.

Showing Banksy is somewhat risky. In Brussels in 2018, an entire exhibition was seized by the court. Pressed for comment, Banksy released a statement about the exhibition that Urenna Ukiwe quoted in an article in The Guardian:

Hmm. Not sure I’m the best person to complain about people putting up pictures without getting permission.

And the repurposed setting has such an un-aristocratic history. Before its recasting as a contemporary art center, La Termica’s institutional rooms functioned as an orphanage and then a sanitorium.

In 2015, Banksy launched a month-long pop-up on the Bristol seaside entitled “Dismaland,” “a family theme park unsuitable for small children.” It might be gone, but don’t dismay.

The flaw in this late-delivered “postcard” is that the Malaga exhibit closed this week. The good news is a cd coincidentally was released at the same time in Austin, Texas.

Bottlecap Mountain‘s “Dismayland” lives on as a perfect soundtrack….

Buy it.

Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: The most celebrated mother in Spain

My childhood memory might be as hazy as the incense clouds at midnight mass, but I think the head covering of a rather homely statue of the Virgin Mary at Star of the Sea church was a humble blue cloak.

In Spain, things are different. La Virgen generally wears richly embroidered gowns with an elaborate silver or gold crown perched upon her head. And she is mesmerizingly beautiful.

In Adalusia, she appears everywhere (see La Virgen tiles of the streets of Seville here). In Seville, one stunning representation of Mary per church is rarely enough. Although Holy Week theoretically revolves around the story of Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion and resurrection from the dead, the candlelit floats bearing Mary through the streets are the stars.

The most cherished of these is La Macarena, or La Virgen de la Esperanza (above). The 17th-century carved wooden figure resides on the altar of her Basilica in the Macarena neighborhood in Seville. When she emerges at midnight on Good Friday, the assembled faithful gasp and cry, with some scrambling to touch her cloak. She is paraded through the streets for 12 hours, with candles lit, according to Margaret Galitzin, to prevent her from seeing her son’s suffering on the float preceding her.

The wooden representation of Our Lady of Sorrows with her dramatic glass tears generally is attributed to Pedro Roldan (1624-1699). She received numerous makeovers through the years, particularly after a not-very-pious drunk hurled a bottle at her resulting in a “bruise.” Legend claims no cosmetic alterations could erase the damage. According to Galitzin:

When the man who committed this terrible offense against the Mother of God became sober, he saw the bruise and repented for his crime. For his penance, he resolved to walk before the statue each Holy Week with chains on his feet and carrying a cross to expiate his sin. After his death, his descendants continued this practice. To this day, it is said, a family member continues this act.

In addition to her elegant attire and shining crown, La Macarena wears several emerald floral brooches. The jewels were a gift from one of Seville’s most famous matadors, Jose Gomez Ortega (1895-1920), Joselito. A Canonical Coronation in 1913 added these precious stones to the garments of La Virgen.

You might have noticed the year of Joselito’s death and realized it seems premature. His faithful tribute failed to spare him from a fatal goring 99 years ago.

Yet La Virgen went into mourning. She wore widow-black robes for a month following his death – the only time she has shed her embroidered fashions. La Macarena remains the patron of bullfighters.

The photographs collaged here are regal representations of La Virgen from numerous churches in Seville.


Belated Mother’s Day wishes to all.