Thom Moore

Thom Moore was born on December 6, 1943, in California, the third son of a heavy-equipment operating engineer from the island of Santa Catalina, off Los Angeles. His mother, who was by nature a romantic and a reader of Isak Dinesen and Lawrence Durrell, persuaded her husband to take employment in East Africa and the Middle East, so he spent his formative years in Ethiopia (1950-53) and Lebanon (1955-61). After graduating from the American Community School in Beirut, he entered the U.S. Navy and served three years as a journalist on the staff of the Pacific Fleet commander in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He entered the University of California, Los Angeles, after getting out of the Navy in 1965, not soon enough to avoid service in Vietnam. He took a bachelor's degree Magna cum laude in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1969 and a master's in 1970. He moved to Ireland in 1971, settling near Sligo in the northwest of that country. He formed the band Pumpkinhead in 1973, performing original material and Irish traditional music. Their only recording was released in 1975, the very first release (LUN-001) of the Bothy-Band house label Mulligan, but the band itself was dissolved a year later. He then founded a new group, Midnight Well, which also recorded in Ireland with Mulligan Records (LUN-011) in 1977. Vicissitudes of various shapes and sizes ensued at this point, among them his divorce from his first wife in 1978 and the breakup of Midnight Well shortly after. He returned to California in 1979 at the behest of his manager, Paul McGuinness, but instead of furthering his musical career, he found himself an instructor of English grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary at a machine-stenographers' school in Van Nuys, a position he held until July 1987. The only explanation that suffices for this turn of affairs is that his material is probably not appropriate to most existing American markets. Then the looming Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty (1988) convinced him to refresh his Russian language capabilities, which he did courtesy of the U.S. Navy Reserve, after which he went to work for the newly formed On-Site Inspection Agency (OSIA) as an interpreter-escort for Soviet inspectors coming through Travis Air Force Base in northern California. But the entire period he was in California in the 1980s he was writing songs and performing weekly with an Irish-music band, Train to Sligo. One of his songs from this period, The Crooked Road (Carolina Rua), was made popular by the Irish singer Mary Black in the summer of 1989, and he decided to return to Ireland and resume his musical career in the fall of that year. Fate intervened again in the form of an offer of a job as an interpreter-inspector at the INF permanent-monitoring site in Votkinsk, a manufacturing city in the Udmurt Autonomous Republic, on the European side of the Ural Mountains in what is now once again Russia. Not wanting either to give up this opportunity to live and work in Russia nor his intention to return to music in Ireland, he spent as much as possible of his frequent time off from the Votkinsk job in music circles in Ireland. Fate again intervened when he fell in love with and married Lyubov Gennadyevna Koroleva, a Russian interpreter-escort that he worked with, and perforce quit the restrictive circumstances of the government job, finding employment in 1993 as a professor of English at the Udmurt National University in Izhevsk. He continued this practice of working in Russia and playing music in Ireland until his removal back to Ireland with his new family in November, 1995. His creative work, which he considered more literary than musical, shows the distinctive influence of the various countries and cultures of his experience. But the most serious influence of his life was always the rich instrumental-music tradition of Ireland, upon which he based an ever-increasing amount of his work. Thom Moore died March 17, 2018.

Most commented posts

  1. On the subject of Beirut and its people… — 2 comments
  2. Cedars of Lebanon — 1 comment

Author's posts

More Moore

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBGQhJDlys0[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCAe9SEH9SQ[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1RHn1WAkbk[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGPIlQn3NYs[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSv5k7XmxQE[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kI86SteM2FE[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vQSRGHJxcg[/tube]

…and that’s about the sum total I can find of my songs on YouTube.  There’s probably more from Mary Black and Maura O’Connell etc., but I can’t be bothered.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2010/11/04/more-moore/

Cedars of Lebanon

Whoa: I found this funky-but-great version of Seamie O’Dowd, Mairtin O’Connor, and Cathal Hayden playing Cedars of Lebanon.  They are three of the greatest living folk/trad musicians in Ireland, and tour Europe a lot in this formation.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22xDMXEo0Dw[/tube]

Cedars Of Lebanon

A long way from Pharoah’s hand,
and a quick step from the Promised Land,
a quick step from Palestine,
and a heart-beat from this heart of mine:
rock-fall at the Wailing Wall,
and the temple-keepers fly
to where Time machines those great, green trees
to a holy timber-land.

I was raised in the shade
of the Cedars of Lebanon,
and I’ve bathed in bay where
sailors burned the sand,
then gave the glass to man
and all his kind;
past the sight of land,
they rode on ships to Spain
for what they’d find.

Big towns, and your hearts are down,
and your eyes burn—your heels get round.
Smoke’s up, and the sky turns brown—
there’s a place you know, where your fancy grounds.
No dreams on silver screens,
they’ve found a place to hide:
the Holy Land of gods and man
is where your spirit flies.

I was raised in the shade
of the Cedars of Lebanon,
and I’ve bathed in bay where
sailors burned the sand,
then gave the glass to man
and all his kind;
past the sight of land,
they rode on ships to Spain
for what they’d find.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2010/11/04/cedars-of-lebanon/

On the subject of Beirut and its people…

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ae2dEWoKsxA[/tube]

A song called Alice in Jericho, where Lebanon/Beirut is the actual subject. The singer is Ireland’s Seamie O’Dowd. The venue is some jazz club in Australia, not sure where.

Alice In Jericho

Now, the natural part of a Nazarene man
is the life he’ll give for his own blood-band;
but there’s nothing left over for the Philistines, too,
not the land they lost, nor the life they knew.
And the Prophet’s peace of a thousand years
meant nothing but blood, means nothing but tears.

Yes, she’s probably gone now, don’t you know:
Alice tried to live in Jericho.
Didn’t care about Hebrews’ promised lands,
she said, “I get by as best I can.”

When you get a bad mix in a tiny land,
every few damned years, it seems, it gets out of hand;
between bandit princes and their holy wars,
spilling blood in His name is a righteous chore.
Alice is innocent in a Levantine town,
and that’s the first kind the heroes cut down.

Yes, she’s probably gone now, don’t you know:
Alice tried to live in Jericho.
Didn’t care about Hebrews’ promised lands,
she said, “I get by as best I can.”

Now, I don’t know if she’s really gone,
but I’m thinking of the range of an average bomb,
or maybe the knife, in a righteous hand,
shortened her life in the Holy Land.
Or what I hope for her, as best of all:
that she only got shaken in the great downfall.

Yes, she’s probably gone now, don’t you know:
Alice tried to live in Jericho.
Didn’t care about Hebrews’ promised lands,
she said, “I get by as best I can.”

 ©1977 Thom Moore, reg. IMRO, MCPS

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2010/11/04/on-the-subject-of-beirut-and-its-people/

Like a koan

Monsieur d’Nalgar’s note:  The following reaction was set in motion by the arrival of a poem/article/essay by Ange Mlinko, entitled “Letter from Beirut.”  It was published in the July/August 2010 issue of Poetry.  The photo below (©2006 Derek Henry Flood) is of a woman looking at the destruction of Haret Hreyk after the ceasefire was declared on August 15th, 2006. 

“There is not a sheep’s eye in the whole performance.”

Hmmmm.  This is not a koan: it’s an observation about authenticity, particularly in an Arab context. My apologies to Chris [name omitted] and Philip [name omitted] both for casting aspersions at a recognized artist’s take on our shared, our mutual heritance, the love that we have for Lubnan.

But, howevermuch authenticity we might have for Ange(minus the L, please) Mlinko’s established credentials, as revealed in her prizewinning etc., we must admit that there are curious omissions from her Lebanese views: just to start with (this is the first of many such, so please read on, and don’t dismiss the conjecture out of hand), she has a curious inability to master nouns, particularly proper nouns.  The place ‘in the Qadisha Valley’ is obviously our beloved Zahle … why can’t she remember that?  Who knows where the Qadisha is?  Does she remember it because it’s lacking the English ‘u’ after the Semitic ‘q’?  Crikey. And when did bkhattrak become bihatrak?  Whose transliteration is this? Does she even have any interest in the alphabet that she derives from the Phoenician, that includes both ours and …. (gulp!) theirs (=read, Arabic).

And how many of us – really? – remember Rue Bliss (or even shara’a balis) as … Bliss Street?  Is she attracted to the name because she relates to the emotion?  Or does she relate to the name, and the history – and for God’s sake, the people, our ACS people –– as we do? … or should. Why doesn’t she name the school her children go to, or the university through which she drags her Cypriot oranges? If she were here for a week or what the Brits call a fortnight (in order to accomplish what I think must be her ‘travel poetry’), this might be understandable – this lack of perspicacity when it comes to places and their names, if she is actually living there — must be a kind of cultural blindness.  Whyever would she raise the specter of her mother’s unfortunate spudding duties (does anyone actually ‘pick’ potatoes in any version of the universe, except maybe in bad translations?) in what must surely be the Soviet Union’s collective farms … waidaminnit. If she’s a Zionist, or an Israeli, or a Jew, she’d probably say ‘kibbutz’ at this stage … but, no, she says what she says … which is strange.  In Russian, and probably in Ukrainian as well, there is ‘kollektivnoye khozyaystvo’ for ‘collective farm’ … but everyone who has ever lived on one or described it has referred to it as kolkhoz.  Is she translating?  Is she translating badly?

Why don’t you people understand that (1) yes, any mention of our homeland is better than none at all, or (2) bad mention (comparison with Morroco, etc.) is probably not good – lending to our dismissal by the powers-that-be, by the ‘Poetry Magazine’ and people who support the notion that there are other people who know what they are doing better than we do (ie, poets)?  Crikey.  There is no such underclass.  There are only the people who believe that Ange Mlinko is superior because she has (1) been there, and (2) done that.  Ladies and gentlemen: I was in Vietnam.  I (1) was there, and (2) did that … which in no way releases me from any obligation to observe ANYTHING beyond my original observation that Saigon was – with its mustards and its dark blues and its language – a colonial French city very much like the one I’d grown up in … Beirut.  Ya haram, ya ferengi.  Ya’ish lubnan.

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2010/11/03/like-a-koan/

Mollywood On My Mind

 Politics & US foreign policy: Pakistan (or Mollywood On My Mind)

It seems to me that the keystone to present (=Obama) policy in ‘Af-Pak’ is the very nature of politics in Pakistan.  And the question there is … which linguistic groups/tribes/ethnic groups are being sacrificed when attacking the Pushtun tribal structure on the ground … and which stand to gain by their sacrifices?  In a multi-ethnic environment like Pakistan, united by little other than their religion (no comment here on that), the whole smelly kettle smacks less of democracy or any other Western conceit than it does of traditional South Asian ethnic one-upmanship.  This is the lynchpin behind the apparent anti-US activity of the ISI.  Which groups constitute the majority or authority within the ISI? Who stand to benefit from their predominance in this milieu?

Is there anyone out there — ex-CIA or journalist? — who even knows some of the facts about these lineups? There are whole schools and universities out there that are at least willing to name the participants in the witches’ brew that is our beloved Lebanon.

Just in case anyone doubts the nature of this preposition, just remember that Partition in India led to the central state of India with its two armpits of East and West Pakistan.  When the Bengali Muslims of East Pakistan reacted to the hegemonistic tendencies of the Punjabi and Bihari parts of the population, all hell broke loose.  They won their independence at the cost, ultimately, of the very notion of a Muslim state in what used to be India.  Pakistan is now a crumbling and very dangerous edifice that exists for the sole reason of gratifying a miniscule minority that wields the power in that fraudulent state.  In the meantime, the Muslim minority in India is subject to a Hindu-majority tyranny that knows no bounds, as long as the factions in Pakistan can produce martyrs like the ones who attacked Bombay (oops, sorry: Mumbai … except surely Bollywood has to be called Mollywood now?).  Dang. Why does everyone mince words when discussing this can of worms?

Permanent link to this article: https://levantium.com/2010/07/27/mollywood-on-my-mind/