Sunday, December 31, 2006

In 2006 I...

  • Went to Korea (Not technically accurate, I was in Korea for New Year's 05/06)
  • Resurrected a radio station
  • Gave my senior recital
  • Graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Lawrence University
  • Started a blog
  • Had a guitar student accepted to an undergraduate music program
  • Moved to Boston
  • Began work towards a Master of Music at the Boston Conservatory
On initially compiling the list I was upset that what I thought to be a rather eventful year could be summed up by eight points. I suppose these aren't exactly non-trivial points, however. The events I've set in motion will have their biggest ramifications in 2008 (Hopefully another graduation, perhaps another admission/move) so I'll really have to work to make sure 2007 doesn't look like a lull.

Happy New Year's everyone, and do much enjoyment in the 2007 season.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Most Annoying Song - Quarterfinals Round 1

Now the actual tournament feature of these shenanigans really comes into its own. Dashboard def. Stefani, unsuprisingly. Mark Dinning performs a stunning upset over Pachelbel!

I wanted this matchup, I wanted it to happen a lot. Ascension by rock band, or ascension by Shepherd tone. This whole thing was an excuse for an answer to this question.

H.P. Lovecraft forged a new brand of horror writing by depending entirely on the imagination of the reader. Both of these combatants work in basically the same way having defeated more concrete songs.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Celebrity Deathwatch - Holiday 2006 Edition

It is often said that deaths come in threes, so I was waiting for the tres before commenting on either of the two previous. However, it's getting unfashionably late for me to discuss the late Mr. Brown.

Dial M has a really great tribute that ropes in the idea of hip-hop (and funk and so on) being a music of vertical complexity rather than horizontal. Probably just best to follow the link rather than have me try to explain it, it makes sense. I also suggest another reason that the Hardest Working Man in Show Business was so damn fonky. Much like Reich and the minimalists would the next decade, James Brown didn't just master the beat. He was the beat. YouTube fails me in illustrating this, but either the PBS Rock and Roll series or the oft-syndicated History of Rock and Roll has priceless footage of James Brown in action. One of his saxophones cracks the note, and James Brown whips his head around looking straight at the offender and hits on the beat "You know I got you!" That guy was fucked.

Also something I hear about preventing Boston, and often by extension the rest of the nation, from descending into race riots singlehandedly.

I can't say much about Ford, being his prominence was outside my lifetime and the scope of this blog. You were a President, thumbs up for that even if you weren't elected.

(Current news is predicting that this trifecta will be concluded rather shortly, even if there's another recently deceased pair that probably have more in common.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Most Annoying Song - Round 4

I told you I'd do it. Lambchop def. Macarena, Ludacris def. Vengaboys (barely). Here's the last round of preliminaries, after here it's winners only. I am sad that the extra traffic I got this week didn't result in a great upswing in voting. Come on, we're doing serious work here!

If you have chosen to attend a wedding, you've probably heard both of these songs. Compounded if it happens to be a shotgun wedding. (Those usually aren't well attended, poorly decorated) These also happen to be the oldest combatants in the tournament (1960 and 1680, respectively) Poor Pachelbel has had this relatively obscure work in his oeuvre, the only canon he wrote and not particularly representative of the rest of his work, turned into a spectacle for jackasses of all sorts, especially ones with guitars. Not to mention an entire album dedicated to it. Mark Dinning, on the other hand, deserves everything he gets for having invented the "my love interest has died in a tragic accident" genre of 60s pop.

I unabashedly hate both of these songs. Two main themes seem to have arisen in this tournament, whining and repetition. Two modern practitioners present their wares to do battle here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Sounds of Science

 I occasionally disappear for weeks at a time, because the physical limitations of the universe and time-space continuum. Whenever anyone talking about how blogging is hard work it sounds like whining, because it is whining. Sort of like all those crappy songs about how the road is fuckin' tough, man. You could make blogging hard work, and but you can't not make it long work. Even posts that I think are going to be easy (this one should be a good example) take a not insignificant amount of time.

My good friend Dan Willis came to visit the past couple days, it my first opportunity to talk shop about this form of writing we've both chose to attempt. As a cursory glance will show, his posts are less common but significantly longer, each of which he said takes him the better part of a day. (It deserves mention that the blog isn't the sum of his writing, he also plays music critic for Lawrence's campus newspaper) Granted, since he posts at least every six months, most indices would consider him active.

Some entries require a little bit more research than stream of consciousness rambling. One of my favorite webcomics xkcd took to his interblag to explain his research behind one of his more ingenious comics. Get Rich Slowly, a personal finance blog I've recently taken to, also posts about his typical writing process. He says that most of his posts take weeks to put together, and he posts three times a day! Since blogging is all about getting on bandwagons, I'm recording the process that a post I'm working on that might be a bit over my head. You'll probably know it when you see it. When it's finished in a couple weeks.

By the way, it took me 38 minutes to write this. (well, 26 minutes to write. 12 to find the links.) But I was watching Food Network while I did it. Multitasking!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Keys are Funny Things

The Bad Plus links to me and I get more pageviews than I did in the first two months of this interblag. When I submitted my answers to the original gentlemen of the Bad Plus, I included an anecdote of my brief conversation I had with Ethan Iversen. I tell it in its entirety:

At the 2005 CMJ Music Marathon I attended a panel will the presumptious title of "The Future of Jazz!" (exclamation point added) Intriguing indeed, but it wasn't just a panel but more like the meeting of the goddamn New Jazz Justice League. Bill Frisell, Chris Potter, and a drummer whose name I can't remember, being led in battle by Ethan Iversen. There were only eight of us in the audience so the panel really just consisted of everyone playing their most recent releases.

It was right before Suspicious Activity? came out, so Ethan introduced his jam by saying that there were no rock covers on the new album, (!) but that they still laid a cover down. "You'll probably recognize it when you hear it." Problems with the jambox. "It's track 9." "Chariots?" A look of dejection. Don't worry, knowing the punchline didn't ruin it.

With the small audience, I felt only a little awkward going up and talking to Ethan afterward. My burning question? Who's idea was it to go major at the end of Iron Man? (If you haven't heard the Bad Plus's "Iron Man", you haven't lived.) Ethan actually seemed hesitant, almost embarassed, to admit that it was his idea and then explained exactly how the modulation worked. Music nerdity straight from the source. I had forgotten it, but was kind enough to repeat the magic incantation.

Thanks, you're not just a good bloginnist and one of the bestest pianists around, but a solid gentleman.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Thoughful Gift

Whoever gave me this wondrous gift:
should identify themselves, since the packaging failed to do so.

I also have realized that I may have unleashed good sir Ethan's quizonnaire onto Facebook. I can't imagine it'll get far, it requires too much thinking and those that have taken the gauntlet thusfar aren't really the OMGWTFLOLBBQ types.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Music for Airports

By the time this is posted I should be back in Wisconsin for the holidaytime season. Thusly most of the posts for the next month would be more rumination than action, but maybe I'll get more research done when I can just drive to the library rather than taking the T. Not sure if they'll have the same selection.

I seem to gravitate to listening to Reich (God, I've been talking about him a lot lately) whenever I'm flying. And no, I don't own Music for Airports. And as I type this I'm actually listening to The Bad Plus's Blunt Object – Live in Tokyo. Nonetheless, I usually listen to Reich in airports, most often Music for 18 Musicians but this time it was Drumming. Perhaps by listening to minimalist music I become hyperaware of my surrounding and everything is interesting! Or captivating at least.

This led me down a train of thought: I thought of when I was first introduced to Steve Reich's music, by a friend of mine who is somewhere between session musician and local hero in Minneapolis's jazz scene. Or maybe he's dead, for all I know. It was late in high school, just as I was starting to approach the guitar as a classical instrument. He was attending Lawrence University, as I would the next year, and played for me the first four minutes of Piano Phase. Needless to say it was a bit of a shift from the steady diet of nü-metal I was ingesting at the time. (Don't misread this as a disownment, I will defend some of those albums to the death) The MP3 he had was incomplete, and for a couple years afterwards I thought the piece was only four minutes long.

Now my parents had taken me to the requisite children's symphony concerts, although I only have a vague recollection of them. However, that sliver of Piano Phase ended up being the touchstone that my knowledge of concert music would be built around. I'm not saying this is wrong, in fact it might be kind of cool, but the one point I kept coming back to as I ate my overpriced airport lunch was that this approach would be totally impossible and absurd if I had chosen any other instrument, Granted, this isn't the normal flight path for the guitar either but I think it's the only instrument where it's even possible. Maybe not, as with a lot of things, I'm starting to look into it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Do the Math questionnaire fest

Do The Math invited the sum of the blogosphere to answer the questionnaire that they had offered to a variety of important or famous jazz musicians. As a non-important, non-famous, non-jazz (mostly) musician, I accept said invitation.

1. Movie score. Yojimbo (Masuto Sato set the standard for East-meets-West), Kill Bill
2. TV theme. Who brought up the insanity of the Transformers theme?
3. Melody. Elegy for Marianne (an obscure electric guitar piece played by my former sensei), Cherokee.
4. Harmonic language. McCoy Tyner, Vaughan-Williams's "Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis", Kenny Garrett "Sing a Song of Song" (I think I have a thing for Phrygian)
5. Rhythmic feel. Medeski Martin and Wood, all the time but especially "Bubblehouse" and "Reflector". I also invoke Louis Andriessen's "Workers Union" because I am a jackass.
6. Hip-hop track. Wu-Tang Clan "Triumph"
7. Classical piece. Michael Gordon's "Trance" renewed my faith in classical music, it will rip your face off/make you eat your own face.
8. Smash hit. "Africa", Toto. Unstoppable.
9. Jazz album. "Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus", Kenny Garrett's "Songbook"
10. Non-American folkloric group. Kodo: Heartbeat Drummers of Japan FTW!!!!!111
11. Book on music. Steve Reich's "Writings on Music", Hindemith's "Elementary Training for Musicians"


A) Name an surprising album (or albums) you loved when you were developing as a musician: something that really informs your sound but that we would never guess in a million years: I don't think I have a sound yet, but my youthful study of all of Brian May's work (especially "News of the World" and "Queen II") probably counts.

B) Name a practitioner (or a few) who play your instrument that you think is underrated: All the guys I can think of (Mark Stewart, Nick Didovsky, Jason Vieaux, Ben Wienman) are certainly considered heroes in the circle I run in, they probably don't get enough props with the world at large.

C) Name a rock or pop album that you wish had been a smash commercial hit (but wasn’t, not really): Spacehog's "The Chinese Album", neo-glam at its zenith. If there were justice in the world "Mungo City" would be some nation's anthem.

D) Name a favorite drummer, and an album to hear why you love that drummer: I try not to say Dave King but I must. ("Part of the solutionproblem" and "Give" battle in a battle where there can be no winners, who will win?) Chris Pennie (Dillinger Escape Plan) is also way crazy insane.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Most Annoying Song - Round 3

I'm so bad at this.

Tenney def. Cage, Muzak def. Stairway. (Both shutouts!)
But we press onward.

Los Del Rio - Macarena v. Lambchop - The Song That Doesn't End

We've left the land of academia to those infinite loops sounding in your eardrums as you stare in the gaping maw of hell. This decision basically comes down to whether you prefer your repetition to come from older Spanish gentlemen or puppets. Both feature invigorating dances.

Vengaboys - We Like to Party v. Ludacris - Number One Spot

Repetition appears to be the height of annoyance. The Vengaboys jam works in a similiar manner as our previous two combatants, even involving an older gentleman. Ludacris is far more insidious. (The following requires some music geekdom) The sample is well-known, Quincy Jones's "Soul Bossa Nova", the big dominant hit before resolving. Too bad the video starts with Soul Bossa Nova, fully establishing the key before driving in the leading tone until Doomsday. To add insult to injury, the video breaks down to "The Potion" which is in the dominant or whatever, crushing any dreams of resolution. How could you do something like this to us, Quincy?

I swear to God that this will run until next Saturday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tonight I'll See The Light

When successful blogs don't post for two weeks they have all their bloginista friends do guest posts. I am neither successful nor do I have bloginista friends. (Post to your blog, Dan.) I now plan my march back into triumph.

1) Get Technorati shit done, embarassed at having not done this yet.
2) Post next round of annoying song contest, also embarassing
3) Post answers to Do The Math's questionnaire, hope for a link
4) Post, just do more posting

My research on Four Organs has reached the end of its current formation, term paper submitted. It's not very poetic, but maybe someday it will be. Right now I'm turning my attention back to a theoretical Reich concert, and perhaps a reconstruction of Pulse Music. Daring! Mega-genius Bryan Teoh is reconstructing the Phase Shifting Pulse Gate using magick, we'll see how it works.

And now, some links:

Judaism ∞ Billion - Richard Wagner 0

One of the last great men of the record industry leaves the building

God damn do I love Will It Blend

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Consistency is Difficulting

I have a real grinder of a weekend/week/following weekend coming up, hence the not posting so much. Sorry about that.

Jeremy Denk finally admits it.

Will It Blend finally achieves its destiny.

I got nothing.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Most Annoying Tournament: Round 2

Finally, an idea whose time has come. The bracket as it stands now.

Both battels surprised me, I expected the hamsters to dispatch Ms. Ray. Furthermore, "Magic Mountain" was one of the songs that inspired this whole mess and it just eeked victory over Steve Reich. One vote, seriously. Let's see if you keep surprising me.

James Tenney - For Ann (rising) v. John Cage - As Slow as Possible (hour one) (hour six) (hour nine)

There is nothing that I can tell you about For Ann (rising) that you won't know after hearing it. Perhaps you'll be interested in the Shepard tone. Cage's ASLSP is notorious for the performance current being undertaken in Germany with an estimated duration of 639 years, but these recordings are from the considerably more succinct nine-hour performance at ArtsAHA! this year. Them Omaha kids are hip.

That kid in the guitar store playing Stairway v. A Muzak rendition of your favorite song

This is perhaps the most esoteric matchup of the tournament. True, some songs are calculated for the intangibility of the hook. Some are engineered to invoke an investigation of some emotion. But do you, or even I, know how really bad that guy who hangs out in the amp room for hours on end will be just by seeing the glint in his eyes upon seeing the 12-string guitar. Or what destruction a smooth man dreaming of elevator can do upon your favorite song? I'll eventually update this with my own rendition of Zeppelin's masterpiece, but in the meantime you can just go to your nearest music store.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

BoCo New Music Festival 2006: Finale

I suppose it wasn't such a bad idea to let the all the concerts congeal a little bit before wrapping everything up. My initial underlying bitterness of a new music festival celebrating a composer who died 60 years ago as mellowed some. A festival celebrating a currently active composer, say Michael Gordon or even the birthday boy, wouldn't have as much interpretative freedom with the theme. With the space of time that Webern provided, his influence can be examined as much as his own work.

However, I still wish the the concentration had been on more contemporary music. I was also chagrined to find that the most enjoyable concert of the series was the faculty/student presented panorama of the Second Viennese School. This makes its own sense too. One of the necessary evils with a bleeding edge ensemble like the Argento Ensemble is that the chances are exceedingly slim of packing a whole program of home runs. By definition new music is new, it hasn't had the time necessary to see if it'll stick to the wall. The age old argument of enjoyable and important, perhaps another time.

I'm looking forward to the next one anyway, and I was able to bother a lot of composers about trying their hand at writing some guitar music. (Tossing off some Andrew York at an afterparty didn't hurt either.) Some complicated situations of faculty speaking to other grad students and myself as peers. Except clearly we aren't, they've got a good 30 years head start on this stuff. I don't want to leave parties feeling like I should go study. It's good in its own fantastical way.

Friday, November 24, 2006

BoCo New Music Festival 2006: Day 4

Sorry about the delay, you all knew it was going too well and that I was going to fall off the wagon eventually. Anyway the final night of the new music festival featured conductor Eric Hewitt and his White Rabbit ensemble. Just like the festival openers the Argento Ensemble, these are guys who are actually out there doing it. Nonetheless, after three days of serialesque I had come into this final concert with some preconceptions especially upon receipt of the program notes. I basically spent the whole pre-concert about how I don't like Babbitt very much and how there's no decent electronic music before '95. It sounds pretty stupid now.

This program was presents as the intersection of Webern's technique and American optimism. (In a different way than Ludovico's Cage-n-Feldman fest.) Perhaps fittingly for the end of the festival, the two Webern works acted as relaxations when placed next to the more extended lines of the American works. The first hit was Babbitt's All Set, a serialist piece for the jazz ensemble. I had been trash talking the man, but this drove like nothing else. It didn't sound like the kit was doing any beats, per se, but a pulse was sort of carried by various instruments as a sum. I wonder what sort of jazz Eric Hewitt listens to, his program notes cite Chet Baker and Lee Konitz? I'd say Coleman instead, Zappa more likely.

Like the Berg on Friday, Stravinsky's Three Songs from Shakespeare were a romantic take on tone rows that wasn't that far removed from his own Rake's Progress. The performance was good, except the soprano on the third song clearly had absolutely no idea what she was speaking of. Come on guys, don't sluff off just because it's in English.

The festival as a whole closed with Charles Wuorinen's New York Notes. The piece dates from 1981/2 but at least the festival ended with an active composer. (His Theologoumenon will premiere this season at the BSO.) It's a blistering virtuosic work that features a tape part. This is where things get a little sticky. A lot of electronically generated music gets cheesy way fast, or way boring. Reich famously struck out of his attempts all total electronic music, not mention it obscured the last five years of Zappa's composing. Tone is an issue. The tone on the tape for New York Notes is often buried by the other six parts, and tones Wuorinen used cut through enough. The trouble came with a lengthy "tape cadenza" at the end of the first movement, it played well with others but was extensively irritating by itself. I was concerned that another one would finish the piece and festival. It did end with a tape generated note, but not the Synclavier voice used throughout the rest of the piece. A square wave generated by God himself. Awexome.

After the concert I realized a dig like the piece Philomel, which kind of shot my tape piece and Babbitt prejudices to shit. Festival wrapup tomorrow (yes, a week late I know), which will put me on schedule to start round 2 of the tournament a week late as well. Nice.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

BoCo New Music Festival 2006: Day 3

Last night was the Ludovico Ensemble, TBC's student-run new music group, chance to expound on the lasting tendrils of Webern's influence. The theme of "Brevity, Quietness, The Aphoristic" seemed even a little more tenuous than the Argento Ensemble's proposal. (Also, aphoristic? Aphoristic music? Apparently this is also the New Words Festival.) This program was built around the tag team of John Cage and Morton Feldman, presumably linked by their fateful meeting after Webern's Symphony. Both of these guys are certainly known for their daring use of silence, even if Cage's boldest maneuver as such as been commandeered by stuffy establishmentarians into comedy.

The Feldman concentrated mainly on his middle period of surrendering to the performer the duration of the notes while strictly dictating the other three traits of the note. However, ever for the new music nutcase such as myself this makes for a very trying concert. Almost more so because the various ensembles knew what they were doing. Unlike minimalism that slowly but constantly unfolds before us, with these pieces all of our time was spent in anticipation. It's a stressful and unfamiliar place to be.

The Cage pieces selected were a little unusual, given the theme. His song The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs is certainly brief and a high point of the concert. Did he write other songs using a closed piano? It's a fantastic sound world. The first half closed with selections from his crowd-pleaser Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano. I'm not sure where Webern showed up here, but it's a pretty sweet sound world too.

The night closed with a more recent work, See, Even Night by Marti Epstein. This followed Feldman's school of gentle quite and looked forward towards the more prodigious lengths of his later works. It was only half an hour, not a million billion years. The programming seems a little confused but as with the festival thus far everyone brought their A-game. With a concert as such it's a fine line between obnoxious intrigue and being boring as shit. Big ups to blogginist Matthew Guerrieri for connecting the wisps of Feldman's Three Pieces for Piano into a beautiful, if taxing, performance. Sorry about my phone going off, this is seriously the only concert where vibrate mode isn't good enough.

The festival finishes with Harvard's White Rabbit ensemble, their ringmaster Eric Hewitt also happens to run the Wind Ensemble around these parts. Then I will finally post the next round of the tournament and get some sleep.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

BoCo New Music Festival 2006: Day 2

Yesterday was a grab bag of TBC students and faculty performing a similarly mixed selection of works from the Second Viennese School (also Henze). My knowledge of this school is pretty weak, but way better now after these concert. I'm not sure how often all three of these d00ds (Schoenberg, Webern, Berg) are put on the same program, but it's fascinating to see how they treated the same academic model completely differently.

I hadn't received much in the way of twelve-tone analysis until my ear training teacher made an almost off-hand comment quickly running through the various angles that the composers set up their tone rows. The second half consisted entirely of Webern and Berg, and Berg's Four Songs, Op. 2 definitely felt like a Romantic treat in the middle of the Webern sandwich. There clearly wasn't a tonal center, but the sweet consonances produced by the tone permutations were more remiscent of Debussy than the angular shapes produced by Webern's rows.

Even more daring on the program was an early tonal piece by Berg and Webern each. Schoenberg's tonal period is well known, (Verklarte Night) but Webern's string quartet Langsamer Satz was entirely unexpected. I need to hear it again, but Webern's search for a pure musical language is evident even if he didn't know how to do it yet. Nonetheless it's a very lush and melodic work and the quartet chose to emphasize this. I found myself wondering what it would sound like if a group were to approach as they would the rest of the Webern canon. (Soho the Dog appears to be having a similar dilemma concerning a Feldman piece he'll be playing tonight.)

One uniting factor was a total commitment by all the musicians. Of particular note was the quartet that performed Webern's Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Op. 9. A thoughtfulness and emotion exuded from the work that one rarely associates with serialist music. They were goddamn serious, and we were richly rewarded. I don't want to fall into hipsterati bullshit. I'm still not very good at this.

I must say big ups to Jim Dalton (who is also the aforementioned ear training teacher) with Hans Werner Henze's Drei tentos for solo guitar. Them's are hard music, and he came up with some frightfully clever uses of harp harmonics to get some of the famously impossible parts playable (and playable well!). His performance as well as my constant nagging may lead to some student compositions for solo guitar rolling out. Sweet.

Tonight is the Ludovico Ensemble, a student-run new ensemble. If nagging works with composers, perhaps it will work for ensemble directors too. (Not as likely.) Also, I'm too busy/tired to change the tournament polls, so it'll happen on Sunday again.

Friday, November 17, 2006

BoCo New Music Festival 2006: Day 1

I'm going to try and blog every day of the new music festival here. It's probably not going to work out, but that's okay. That's going to mean two posts tomorrow, one for the festival and one for the tournament. (One day left until the bodies are swept away! Vote early, vote often.)

The festival kicked off with a blistering set of recent music from New York's Argento Ensemble. The subtitle of the program caused a bit of pre-concert commotion, (is there such a thing as neo-compressionism?) but nonetheless the ten (!) works that followed illustrated that Webern's crystalline musical world is still visited by more recent composers. The concert opened with two solos and a duet. Of these composer/conductor/pianist's Michel Galante's Flicker was the highlight, perhaps of the entire evening. The demands of virtuosity on the modern player were very evident, a barely audible but insistent sextuplet was demanded of clarinetist Carol McGonnell for the entirety of the piece. Piano chords punctured this layer of sound, with a sum effect that reminded me of Fantômas's Delirium Cordia. I just got an image of someone on a stretcher, the piano acting as their separated thoughts. As the clarinet ostinato becomes more present, the dire situation is harder to ignore. Take that however you'd like.

The first two movements of Fabien Levy's Risâla fî-i-hob wa fî-ilm al-handasa were performed with apparently the premiere of the total work coming this Saturday. (But you're staying around for the rest of the festival, right?) This work dispensed with the brevity that marked the program thus far, also involving most of the ensemble. Much like my experience with Flicker, the pointillism used seemed to affect time itself. A fun thing to note is that the second movement of Risâla fî-i-hob is it use of the bass flute. Not so much that its capabilities for overtones and loud key clicks over its rich notes, but the delight that the audience took in its appearance. As the ensemble came out for the piece, more than one cry of "BASS FLUTE!" could be heard over the applause.

After intermission came Fred Lerdahl's Imbrications, a quick neo-minaturist (I think that one better than neo-compressionist) celebratory piece. A good time. However it in no way prepared us for what came next. Mega-virtuoso Stephanie Griffin stepped out solo for Arthur Kampela's Bridges. The composer refers to it as an exploration of "the continuum between noise and pitch", and I can't think of any other way of describing it. In addition to a metric fuckton of extended technique and wacky glissandi, there was a hissing part. Or maybe it was supposed to sound like static. It was like a tape piece gone wrong, or right. It actually was more reminiscent of early Michael Gordon or other Bang on a Can-ites than Webern. Maybe Webern is in them too.

The final two pieces, Morton Feldman's Viola in My Life I and Philippe Hurel's ...à mesure were intriguing in that more traditional formal statements made an attempt at a comeback. Unlike most of Feldman's pieces of the same time, Viola in My Life is notated traditionally. Nonetheless it's stil very evocative, just barely skirting the idea of a concerto. Supposedly all four Viola in My Life pieces have nearly identical material for the solo viola part. It would be interesting to see them places against each other. Or not, if there's a reason people don't do that.

...à mesure is sonata form, no hiding that. The fast opening is very interesting and again recalls Bang on A Can. (This will be a tangent.) I am admittedly one of an elite group of people who celebrates Toto's "Africa", and when one of this legion held power temporarily she demanded that people listen to it backwards. Try it, it sounds almost the same! Except you get to the good part first. ...à mesure is described as the "negative image" of an earlier piece, so I was worried that the fervent opening merely would lead to sitting through a length denouement. The slow "development" that followed, instead demanded attention to every note as the theme was slowly deconstructed to an almost rediculous level of pontillism. Yes, to the point where each instrument had a single note.

It was a great concert full of working composers, (other than Feldman, who is getting trotted out a little more recently) and I got to get a couple beer with the violist and the composition studio afterwards. Sweet. My apologizes to the Argento Ensemble and everyone reading this since I know I missed some pieces, but it was huge program of shrapnel and I'm not very good at this yet. Three more days of avant-garde pretention are coming, very Webern heavy. Hopefully I'll see some of yous guys at Seully Hall at 8.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bad at Concentration

A thought I had, what if everyone dedicated themselves to their craft the way that musicians have to? Do accountants go home and study financial law, learn new software, that sort of shit? On the flipside, I support there aren't really rockstar accountants.

Sound Effects (the Globe's music blog) mentioned a couple days ago that everyone's favorite metal bodybuilder Glenn Danzig is on the Classical Crossover top 10 with Black Aria II. I need to check this album out I guess. Someday the Guard will own this chart, and feel really bad about it.

Boston Conservatory is having a super-sweet new music festival starting Thursday through Sunday. The festivities are everynight at 8 in Seully Hall. I, alas, won't be in the proceedings but Harvard's White Rabbit ensemble is in residence and Soho the Dog will be guesting with our own Ludovico Ensemble. (I need to figure out more about those guys.) Most of the music is stuff like Webern, Feldman, Cage n' stuff. So, you know, not real new.

As far as the annoying song tournament goes, remember that there are two each week. The second poll is probably below the fold for most everybody.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Battel Go Now!

Ladies and gentelpeople, here's your first round.

Steve Reich's "Four Organs" v. Lightning Bolt's "Magic Mountain"

"Four Organs" represents a pivotal moment in Reich's evolution as a composer. Taking the lessons he learned from his failed Phase Shifting Pulse Gate he moves always from phasing and explores the possibilities of a single chord (tonic over dominant). This chord is insistent for up to fifteen minutes! "Magic Mountain" off of Lightning Bolt's new album Hypermagic Mountain, is just as insistent but with an ever upward theme. In a way.

Any song off of Rachael Ray album v. The Hamster Dance

Rachael Ray continues to prove that she has yet to make it past middle school by insisting we listen to this really cool mixtape she's made, man. OMG, it's totally about Halloween too! Her adversary is a more aged threat, dating back to the very beginnings of the World Wide Web. Clearly this is what Tim Berners-Lee dreamt of. If you've ever been in a computer lab with children who know of this terror, you have stared directly into the gaping maw of hell.

Your votes should be tallied to the immediate right. (Before the ads! Generous are I!) Sorry about getting this out a day late, it'll still only run until next Saturday. I suppose I could write the next three as drafts and publish them when their time hath come. How's that for a thought. Predictions for the eventually winner would be fun too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sixteen Songs Enter, One Man Leaves?

We're not beyond Thugnderdome yet. But here are your combatants.

Academic Annoyance
Steve Reich - Four Organs
Lightning Bolt - Magic Mountain
James Tenney - For Ann (rising)
John Cage - As Slow As Possible

Classics of Irritation
Los Del Rio/Bayside Boys - Macarena
Children in your neighborhood - The Song That Doesn't End
Mark Dinning - Teen Angel
Pachelbel - Canon in D

The New Wave of Obnoxious
Gwen Stefani - Hollaback Girl
Dashboard Confessional - Screaming Infidelities
Ludacris - Number One Spot
Vengaboys - We Like to Party

Dear God, Why
Some jackass at the guitar store - Stairway To Heaven
Muzak treatment of your favorite song
Any song off of Rachael Ray mixtapes
The Internets - Hamster Dance

Once the actual battels (starting Saturday) happen there will be sound files so you can make an informed decision. Now I want to see some predictions!

Also, I'm very disappointed in you, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Best Get The Fear In You

Apocalypse comes, little undergrads. Next semester, HD's a TA.

What do you mean I have to get up for 9 am class everyday?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good Deed Get!

Not musicky related, but still a good cause nonetheless. Penny Arcade has started up their fourth iteration of Child's Play with a whole slew of new hospitals for the givin' to. They hope to beat last year's number of a million billion. If you were saving up for a PS3, just buy a 360 or a Wii and give the difference to Child's Play. You know that Sony has no launch lineup.

Also, I believe Ms. Hilton (making a return appearance) has a word for you.
And yes, I know that she didn't actually register to vote two years ago. The midterm doesn't get the blitz that a big national race does. I'm speaking to you, 18 to 24 year old. And I've already voted (absentee) so I'm one step ahead of you. While I'll avoid politics, since it's bad dinner conversation and simply that the fact that I moved to Massachusetts says enough about my political leanings, you should go vote even if to try and cancel out mine. Make it a date, or whatever.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Begging Works

So my traffic has boosted since my sappy greeting card to you all. It might have also been that I changed my RSS feed to full text so that all the krrrazy Facebook peoples get the full blunt of my aggression. I guess I better turn on my compy box on the weekend.

The BMOP concert was more than a surprise, it was an gorram religion. I, alas, must admit that I was expecting a true of passionate part-timers, but found a strong ensemble. One might even bestow upon them the award of Other Best Orchestra in Boston. (Take that, Boston Philharmonic!) My seat in Jordan Hall was an unusual one, I was at the end of a row so that my forward view was parallel to the edge of the stage. I had to tuck my feet in to keep from getting hit by the lights, but I was able to follow along with the first violin part.

My curiosity was rewarded with a concert of music that sounds fresh without sounding soundtracky. (Take that, David Maslanka!) Two works by BMOP's new composer-in-residence Lisa Bielawa were performed, I plan on doing a more in-depth write-up about her works. Neat stuff, if a little heavy on the portamentos.

Last note: The bracket is assembled. If you have any last minute appeals for the most annoying song ever you best get them in quick. The reveal happens on Wednesday, next weekend opens the first two battels.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Two Months In

I've been in Boston only 60 days or so, so now's is when shit's going to get happenin'! Right? In seriousness lots of cool stuff has happened already and I'm looking forward to the rest of what's going on. Even the blog is taking off, traffic doubled in October as compared to September. This is even according to my AdSense stats, which I assume are on the conservative side. (I could put up a counter, but that's tacky.) Speaking of AdSense, no protested to its addition and I've made almost three dollars! Thanks for those eight clicks.

Hopefully as my writing continues to gain coherence we'll continue to see more popularity. Thanks for putting up with this, and tell your friends and neighbors. Onto a wee bit of content before I head out for the BMOP concert:

I've got two spots still open for the Annoying Song tournament. I want to get this started soon so if I don't get anything the top two seeds are just going to get byes, or something.

Worst Thing Ever.
Best Thing Ever.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

You Could Only Hope to Live in Ivywild

I tend to spend my Thursdays at the BPL now. Whereas Monday through Wednesday keep me busy into the evenings and Friday is when my faux musicology is often due, Thursdays are free and allow me time to nerd it up hardcore.

It was actually at the much smaller library where I work that this story first crossed my path, and I regret to say that further research has come up with little support. As I was digging in the journal stacks for something else I discover that hey! We subscribe(d) to the Guitar Review, as far as I know this is one of the few guitar periodicals that even vaguely approaches scholarly. I randomly grab an issue and peruse through it. In a tasteful display of coincidence, a composition student asks for the score to Schoenberg's Serenade, brutal twelve-tone craziness for eight musicians, two of which are a guitarist and a mandolin player. Written in 1922, it was perhaps the last guitar part to squeak out before Segovia throughly banished modernism from the guitar. However this meant that no "classical" guitarist really had the tools to play Schoenberg. It wasn't even performed until 1949, and who played this epochal guitar part?

Johnny fucking Smith.
Yeah, like Johnny "Moonlight in goddamn Vermont" Smith.

Even in an interview given five years ago, Smith still points to his (brief) involvement in Serenade's premiere as one of the high points of his career. The premier was part of a celebration of the composer's works for his 75th birthday (proving that a birthday party is always popular) by über-conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos, and the classical guitarist he had dragooned into the part couldn't hack it. With the performance in jeopardy, the violinist for the date, Louis Krasner, canvassed New York City to find a new guitarist. Introduced to our hero by his brother-in-law, he was concerned about needing a translator with a jazz musician.

They met Johnny outside the studio just as he was getting off at 10:00 pm. Felix Galimir dealt with the preliminaries, "Johnny, I want you to meet Louis Krasner."
"Louis Krasner, the great violinist?" asked Johnny Smith.
"Why, uh, yes," and Louis, stepping forward. "Do you know about me?"
"Of course!" said Johnny. "I have your recording of the Schönberg violin concerto and I've come to many of your concerts!"
"I see, and you like the music of Schönberg, Berg, and other contemporary comp..."
"I love their music! I go to performances whenever I can!"
Krasner leaned forward to whisper into Felix Galimir's ear, "I can handle it from here."
However, Smith did do a guitarist's duty.
This was a Friday evening, so I asked "When is the first rehearsal?" When Louis Krasner told me it was Monday morning–being the damn fool that I am–I replied, "I'll give it a shot!" Then I took my guitar to the hotel I was staying, left the music on my bed and went out. Since it was Friday night, I made the usual rounds of all my favorite bars and finally got to bed about 5 o' clock in the morning.
At 6 'o clock in the morning, one hour later, the phone rings and it's Mr. Krasner. Well, my gosh! I'm really bleary-eyed, to say the least! He says, "I'm sorry to have to call you, but the Maestro is very upset and he wants to have a rehearsal right away." I just about had a coronary! "Mr. Krasner, I haven't even opened the music. There's no way..." but he was very firm. [...]
All the musicians were seated and ready to go when I walked in and I said to myself "Oh God!" If it hadn't been the middle of winter, I would have opened the window and jumped! However, I took the guitar out and put the music on the stand. I couldn't even see the darned stuff, much less read it! But I opened it up and we started. [...]
Well, naturally I couldn't read the thing; I could hardly see the notes! But I'd had enough experience working under conductors to know that they give me a cue, I'd better hit something! Well, this rehearsal only lasted about ten minutes. Then Mitropoulos came over, shook my hand and said "I'll be eternally grateful to you for doing this."
This sort of crossover isn't totally unheard of, after all Electric Counterpoint was comissioned for and premiered by Pat Metheny. However, it seems it's becoming less common. Jazz musicians often study classically because it's what you're supposed to do rather than for the love of the game. Perhaps a disdain between the two disciplines is just a probably where I spent undergrad. Championship ensembles like the NBC Orchestra (of which Galimir and Smith were members and was often under Toscanini's stick) that expect to see every style of music possible just don't exist anymore. This leads to instrumentalists that try to obtain more that one set of skills (read: me) ending up master of nuns.

Smith would end up working with Mitropoulos again, for the American premiere of Berg's Wozzeck. This happened just a few short months before Smith abandoned the music industry to retreat to the sleepy Colorado town of Ivywild. He doesn't even play guitar anymore, his perfectionism makes trying to get his chops back irritating. Even if all he had done with "Moonlight In Vermont" he really wouldn't need to.

All of the quoted material comes from Larry Snitzler's article "Johnny Smith Plays Schönberg", Guitar Review n. 57 (Spring 1984).

Monday, October 30, 2006


I've a bar for myself with posts that might be damn near unattainable. I've got two (2) topics but need to research them a bit, however I'm not dead. Here are things rattling inside my head:

1) This Most Annoying Song quagmire has already dragged me to depths I didn't think possible. Get your nominations in soon.

2) I plan on attending MIT's Sensorium exhibit before the end of the week, maybe Thursday. This will go nicely with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project concert I'm going to on Friday.

3) My term paper's topic has switched from Martin to Reich, which complements my goal of a Reich concert. His story is actually rather inspirational, for me anyway. This is one (1) of the two (2) topics I previously alluded to.

4) Who gets to decide what their good pieces are? Is it rude to dig up a composer's "student works" if you think they're good?

5) Oh shit, Halloween's in seven minutes.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I highly doubt that I have the traffic to pull something like this off, but we all have to dream big! Many have noted that I have a tendency to listen to (possibly enjoy?) a variety of musics that could be described as Most Annoying Song Ever. Can this be measured quantitatively? It sure can, with the most democratic device devised by man.
Single-elimination tournament of champions. 16 songs enter and one leaves with the crown. One round per week would give me enough blogfuel for close to four months. I doubt that even my devoted readership would stay with me for that long. What's the answer then, two battels per week? Half week battels?

Furthurmore, I need nominations. I have plenty of the spots filled already but need an even 16. Lastly, how to seed? Should irritation of academic precision be placed first round against maddening radio drivel, or be placed for a likely final? I'll think about all these myself but multiply in comments with nominations and suggestions.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I worked as the metal director for WLFM for close to three years, and I found a lot of cool bands that way. It's always a bummer when a band you dig calls it quits, but when Swarm of the Lotus announced they were hanging it up it stung just a little more. Their independent debut was one of the first CDs that came through when I had just started my show (prior to my staff position) and Sizzle and I played the shit out of it. Having been such an advocate I actually felt proud when I opened the package and saw that they had been signed by Abacus for their second album.

One of the downsides to my job was that all these cool bands were never coming anywhere close to Appleton. Therein lied one of the excitements of moving to Boston, I'd be able to actually see these sweet bands! Unless I can make it to their last show I won't be seeing them live, I think it's in Baltimore alas. Now if Drunk Horse breaks up I will be pissed.

Check out here for the "A-Bomb Rock" that could have been.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dominance and Submission

So I didn't get to see Isbin last weekend, as we all suspected she sold out. (I'm considering making a case for Aspen this summer, and that last sentence en't helping.) I did go to some bizarre hippy ritual instead, and took pictures even! Too dark out for the Populist, and my cell-phone camera takes too big a pictures for any sort of transmission but honest physical movement. So until I feel I can afford a miniSD card you won't be seeing those either.

Nevermind that. After beholding Kaiju last Friday I enjoyed a couple related clips on GooTube. Alas, it also reminded me of what a quagmire of copyright violation it is and how its freakish landscape will undoubtedly change with the introduction of $∞ billion. Is there no citadel for the accumulation of the species's knowledge in video form?

Of course there is. Wired and Lifehacker have made mention of The Internet Archive recently, but due to a variety of hawt weblabels I've known of its secrets for a long time. Everything public domain shakes down to it, even if Disney is trying to prevent the public domain from ever happening again. So in the spirit of Do The Math's WikiTube posts I'll share the treasures I've mined out of

1) A surprising number of important feature length films have lapsed into the public domain for a variety of reasons. You've perhaps heard of a movie along the lines of Night of the Living Motherfucking Dead. Also worth checking out on a first run-through is Gulliver's Travels, the first non-Disney animated feature film and the first successful use of rotoscoping. And who gets that money when you buy the DVD of Reefer Madness anyway?

2) Don't be blinded by all the feature films, I've certainly been blinded by all the Coronet Instruction Films. These films aren't as oppresive and malevolent as they may seem at first blush, but are certainly artifacts from an alien civilization. There's a interest spike around Are You Popular?, but that's probably from getting slashdotted or dugg or whatever. (Also the devastatingly acidic line that happens around 1:40) Make sure spend some time brushing up on Lunchroom Manners and How to Say No (and Still Keep Your Friends).

3) And perhaps most importantly, scores of people use the power of Creative Commons to add their own work to the collective. The most intriguing I've found thus far is, as my cohort in pretension would say, a meta-discussion of the public domain examining the case of the Amen break. You have heard this drum break, this is a statement and not a question. You might not know it, but one you watch this you will hear it everywhere. To be haunted is worth it to be informed.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Despite being here for nearing two months I have yet to be to a "rock show" or a "punk show", but the good Mr. Borej and I were finally able to go to the esteemed club Avalon (normally known for house music), but not for a rawk band. Instead we watched a radioactive can of soup kick the crap out an unbelievable number of Space Bugs. What? Believe what I say, for danger can happen! (The uninitated might want to check out the Wikipedia entry.) Most of the big press for Kaiju Big Battel happened a couple years ago, but if Schpladoinkle Mania XVIII is any indication it is only getting more twisted. It was unbelievably refreshing to actually get out and do something that has absolutely nothing to do with classical music, and after having wanting to witness Los Plantanos in action since I heard about them, itturns out that the damn thing is based in Boston! Evidence of moving to the correct city #2, but I wish I could be involved in something as insane as this.

Tonight brings me back to the land of pretention (as opposed to irony?) with trying to scam some tickets to see Sharon Isbin play the Aranjuez with the Boston Philharmonic. I'll admit that I'm going if I can't get rush tickets, but it's crucial for the Aranjuez cagematch. (Pepe Romero is performing it with the BSO come December)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Further Necrology

CBGB's is dead, but there are a list of other things.

1) Dream Evil is dead. Not really, they have a new album out with another rediculous lead single (Evilized's "Made of Metal", and the eponymous Book of Heavy Metal has been followed by "Fire! Battle! In Metal!") complete with video. Yeah, but I don't know, you know? If they are to continue being the archtypical Gothenburg band they must now enter their "totally amorphous lineup" phase. I can't feel good about a band where every single member has quit between this album and the last.

2) Night After Night is not dead. In fact has won some sort of award, huzzah! Tardy congratulations to him, especially since I feel much the same way about things. Por ejample:

During the years that I've been active in classical music journalism and especially criticism, I've often been stricken with an envy of peers whose grasp of the canon is deeper than mine. Many are the times that I've felt an encyclopedic grasp of all things King Crimson, a nearly complete collection of Art Ensemble of Chicago recordings and a working knowledge of the differences between Swedish death metal and Norwegian black metal might not be traits as desirable as a comprehensive familiarity with the complete Bach cantatas, Haydn string quartets or Donizetti operas in my line of work. What gives me the courage to continue raising my voice in public is the conviction that I'm capable, given proper preparation, of perceiving what there is to be perceived and feeling what there is to be felt in any music out there -- and so is anyone else who cares to invest in that same preparation.
3) King Koopa is dead. Only you can make it happen. This is also late since National Bosses's Day was yesterday (Monday the 16th), but the Phoenix celebrates with the 20 greatest video game bosses of all time. I do take minor issue with the ordering near the top, but my main question is where the fuck is Lavos?

4) Fullermusic is not dead. She started posting again, neat.

5) John Mayer must be stopped. I've been wary of him (Do The Math has an opinion on his trio album, which I didn't mind so much) but mainly because I have a friend who is obssessed with him. His blog proves that he probably wouldn't enjoy said friend's company, and that he is totally batshit insane.

Monday, October 16, 2006

You Had a Lot to Say, You Had a Lot of Nothing to Say

CBGB's is dead, all hail CBGB's. The Times has perhaps the most fitting eulogy to the little club that could, appropriately with Patty Smith dealing the fatal blow. The overall sentiment seems to be stated best by Ms. Smith herself:

“Kids, they’ll find some other club,” Ms. Smith insisted during her set. They’ll find a place, she continued, “that nobody wants, and you got one guy who believes in you, and you just do your thing. And anybody can do that, anywhere in the world, any time.”

I was lucky enough to actually poke my head into the mecca a year ago when the Save CBGB's campaign was hitting its peak, and I can't say I disagree. The place is (was) a filthpit, but an extremely charming filthpit. It wasn't so unlike the bars I had seen and played shows in back in Wisconsin, right down to the bottles of PBR. Would this place be any different than Oshkosh's Reptile Place if it hadn't launched a million billion important bands? Well yes, it's still (was) in downtown Manhattan. Despite all the history it still wasn't Disneyland (although I did find myself in Times Square more often than I'd rather), it was the goddamn archetype. Later than night I saw two unavoidably better shows, one at the Knitting Factory. It has its own claim as fostering great stuff, but the pretention was a little thicker there. Not nearly the sense of drive, a lot of hipster dancing. Now the other show, in some guy's basement. There was potential.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Shrapnel sequel

I told you I'd be back sooner than you thought. I even did some culture last night n' stuff. First, however, comes all the random things I wanted to mention yesterday.

1!) I've been listening to Ornette Coleman again lately, mainly suckered in by his bizarre "Bach Prelude" on the album Tone Dialing. The first half is Denardo going to town underneath the guitarist playing that insufferable arrangement of the first cello prelude. It seems like he's trying to do "Lonely Woman" again except he's not bothering to write his own head. However, at the end of the prelude the band takes the repeat, except everything is 200% apeshit. As a corollary, Ethan Iversen has a completely terrifying post about Coleman. That man drops theses like illegitimate children.

2!) Steve Reich turned 70! That's much years! I hope I can still enact my secret plan to convince him to write a guitar quartet, but it will involve me becoming important first. While New York has all the big shindigs, including the most important concert ever (Reich's two seminal albums, performed live before you!), all the celebrating I got to do was the Boston Conservatory Percussion Ensemble's performance of Six Marimbas. I hadn't gotten a chance to see one of his process pieces live, and recordings are never able to really capture that shimmering omnipresent chord that the marimba ostinatos make. I'm plotting my own Reich @ 70 concert for Boston, but that is still only plotting.

3!) I am still a guitarist, and I got a chance to indulge that by seeing Isaac Bustos last night at the Old South Church. Fantastic venue with a warm sound despite all the stone, and Bustos really punched his tone out into the crowd. Opening with the Bach Prelude, Fugue and Allegro was a daring choice, especially since it was an audible. Having played the PFA for my senior recital, I had kind of forgotten that it's a rather light melody as far as Bach's works go, as opposed to an unstoppable monster that wants to claim all of your limbs. Bustos had a smile on his face the whole time and gave a very nimble treatment to a series of wrist-shattering works like Le Catedral (In a cathedral! Get it? Get it?), Ponce's Sonata Meridonial, and Rodrigo's Sonata Giocosa. The strange thing for me was that absolutely everyone in the audience played classical guitar, at least at a hobbyist level. What other concerts could you even concieve of that? (Vocal recitals don't count just because everyone is physically capable of singing.) Classical music may have been walling itself off a bit in the recent past, but the guitar community seems pretty damn fortified. I might be thinking of this the wrong way, Thom Yorke said everyone can play guitar. Maybe it's a sign of the guitar's inclusiveness.

Also I switched my blog over to Blogger Beta, so if the layout gets a bit hegulated it's because I'm not used to what I'm doing yet. Fie!

Friday, October 13, 2006


Further adventures in embarassing autobiography: I've never been to a big boy orchestra concert. Sure I've seen the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, and been friends with members of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra. However, the BSO is unavoidable an upgrade, no offense to members of the previous two ensembles. Thusly I'll attempt to step into far deeper waters than I've attempted before and actually review last night's concert. We'll see how that goes.

Autobiography point #2: My (second) roommate of my (first) senior year of undergrad had a tempting collection of classical music at the precise time I decided that I couldn't continue knowing nothing but guitar composers. I was given a brief guided tour before ransacking it when he wasn't in the room and one of the highlights was Ralph Vaughan-Williams's Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, the opening piece of the concert. I can't imagine a better introduction to a super-pro string section, especially one as tight and lush as Boston's. Any attempt to describe my reaction will probably be read as pithy hipsterati, so I won't try. The liner notes ruminated on Vaughan-Williams's use of a modal theme as a way to escape chromatic harmony while avoiding sappy Neo-Romanticism. It's a popular way to get out of sticky harmonic problems. (Ralph didn't get to hear his influence, he died the year before the album came out.) Also notably is that both this and the last revelatory song I geeked over are both based around the Phrygian mode. I have an affinity perhaps?

The rest of the program, Shostakovich's Cello Concerto #1 and selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, were new to me. Yes yes, boo away. It's much harder to review the performance of unfamiliar pieces, maybe they're supposed to sound like that? However, not to make it sound as though I'm making up problems to sound smart, but after the lush Fantasia it seemed like the strings had difficulty finding their teeth for the Shostakovich. Not to detract anything, it didn't sound bad as much as the string section has a distinct character and the extreme gear shift didn't play to its strengths. The opening of the second movement, a floating chord that falls apart into the grinding dissonance without losing its timbre, found the strings back at full power and it was sheer (appropriate) bloodlust from then out.

The soloist, Lynn Harrell, was unstoppable. He played with the rhythm of the triple stop stabs to give them the feel of a drag triplet, but the aforementioned tentativeness of the string section didn't let that play out to its full effect. The cadenza was stunning and the glock duet preceeding it were stunning, with (Mr.?) Harrell pulling out the pianissimo notes that in a good hall, as Symphony Hall is, sound like they're coming from behind you!

I know that I haven't said anything about the Prokofiev, but I'm a rookie at this you must realize. Well, it didn't have any narration. I'm looking forward to doing this again. While writing this post I remember most of the shrapnel I've meant to talk about the past few days, so expect another one soon.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Boston Without A Lens

Having begun an apprenticeship in the lost art of complaining, CVS has provided a CD with (most of) my pictures taken with the trusty Dvoracek II. Some highlights:

BoCo Front Steps

The front steps of the fair Conservatory

Albert Alphin Library

The library where I work, as seen by Hunter S. Thompson

Ghost Party 1

Ghost party.

First Church of Christ, Scientist

The First Church of Christ, Scientist. Very bizarre in the middle of Mass Ave. It's like the Vatican except no one cares.

The full set is on flickr. I also have yet to mention how great and awexome it is that gapless playback has come to the iPod. Listening to Trance this afternoon was like listening to it for the first time again.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Garrett with a Fake Punt (or four)

Today I was ventured in the border of Southy (or the South End anyway) for the Beantown Jazz Festival along running along Columbus Avenue. I hear Appleton was having their own block party this very same day, but I bet theirs didn't have.......KENNY GARRETT!!!!!!111111oneoneone

Drifting once again into vague autobiographical nonsense when I started going to Lawrence I was an affirmed metalhead. (Don't worry guys who think I've sold out, Dream Evil #1 forever) Interestingly enough my fastest friends upon arrival were a pretentious jazz guitarist and a pretetenious jazz saxophonist, so they had a grand old time throwing their favorite CDs at me to see which ones would stick. All sort of strategies were contocted: guitar masters, free jazz, funky organ trios. Lo and behold, the CD that would plant the seed of doubt it my head was none other Songbook by Mr. Kenny Garrett.

More specifically his treatment of "Sing a Song of Song". The chart is terrifyingly sparse, there isn't a seventh to be seen and some of the chords don't even have thirds. The band takes full advantage of all that open space to overlay ten types of exoticism over it. That sort of trick came to mind a lot during the set, especially when the ass end of the quartet sat out leaving Garrett and pianist Benito Gonzalez for a medley of three Asian folk songs. (I didn't catch the outer two, but even having only spent two weeks in Korea "Arirang" shot through the air.) To me, Kenny Garrett is at his best when painting with quick turns on an open canvas. The Rothko to Coltrane's Pollack. I'm going to be murdered for that analogy.

Either way it was greatly satisfying to see the man who got me listening to this crazy shit. After all the exoticism the band ended with "Happy People" and faked out the audience not once but four times with big holds to raging clapping, only to drop the groove on us again. Way to work the crowd.

Two notes: 1) I wasn't able to stay at the festival for long after his set, but I was able to take a couple pictures with my trusty (?) camera. In fact, it was at the festival that started my second roll and hope to post pictures soon but jerks at CVS only put two of the pictures on the CD. Not a value.
2) On the way there my iPod attempted to offer me Miles's Amandla. I'm not sure if the curse works for jazz players, but I didn't want to chance it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

October-esque = Oktober-fest

I've been a little distraught with the realization that I'm probably not making a return visit to the CMJ Music Marathon this year, what with no one from my WLFM posse going and icelu delaying their convergence in the New York area until afterwards.

But to my surprise, Boston responds with their own festival! Whether or not I'll be able to scam anyone else into the NEMO festival, running from today through the weekend, is not the point. The schedule has already provided me with limitless knowledge of clubs and bands in the area. The alternative weekly that is my font for all of this seems like a pretty hip place, I should try and get a jaerb there. They even have a radio station.

Not enough festival! Snap! More festival! This is one is even better, because even if I can't get anyone to go with me I will enjoy Kenny Garrett for free.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Give The Russian Some

I'm really shocked that none of my normal circle of music bloginistas has said the merest pip about the centenary of Shostakovich's birth. Sure there's this other anniversary going on that everyone's flipping over, with the Mozart Opera Festival staging every single one to Alex Ross listening to every damn thing he wrote. Back home, Dmitry got his due but in Boston no one seems to care. A fear of the Reds? An intimiatingly complex life? I'll stand up to it anyway.

However, as is often the case in both aspiring bloggists and graduate students, desire far outstrips resources. I spent the day today listening to all the Shosti I had, which only amounts to the Fifth Symphony and the Piano Concertos. Not the best selection for street cred. My morning was dedicated to the symphony, not knowing much more about it other than it was the piece that got him away from that (first) denunciation by the Party. Sure it's got lots of those brassy bold Cossack rhythms, but the slow movements curl up onto themselves in a way that honestly reminds me of the processes of Reich or Riley. The reprise of the strident themes in the last movement, after the scarcity of the middle two, is undeniably sarcastic. Patriotism indeed!

The concertos are a whole 'nother universe. Alas, I was only able to run through each of them once. All I can remember is the gnarly motivic treatment between the piano and trumpet, rather reminiscient of one Ludwig van.

As landmark works as these are, my first taste of Shostakovich was his rescoring of Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. Potemkin itself was my first knowing glimpse of "art film", that was introduced to me through of Art of Film class at my undergrad. (Which, in case you wondered, is not an art history class) The original score stressed Eisenstein's idea of the dialectic, but when the Commies called Shosti in the movie got brutal. When that legless man slides into the frame the way I watched movies changed forever, and Shostakovich was there.

So I'm going to try and listen some more, Dmitry. Here's to a hundred more.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Why won't you give me a library card, Boston Public Library?

Perhaps in the first time since the development of finances, I am eagerly awaiting my first bill. However, since I don't really subscribe to anything, my debit card from Bank of America will probably beat it here. All this so I can prove that I'm not driving in from Rhode Island or Vermont exclusively to use Boston's library system. I imagine it has a lot to do with this Taxachusettes thing I hear so much about.

As you can probably already tell, this post isn't going to be so much thematic material as a shotgun blast. Blogs need posts like spider plants need water. If you try hard enough, you can kill it.

My education demands that I write program notes for a faux concert, without doubt sidetracks I discover upon my research will be posted here. Also, I'll be performing in a chamber group with a flutist and violinist. Who wrote for that?

I'm sorry if I assumed that everyone would recognize the album that the good Mlle. Hilton was holding. Nonetheless, apparently she did have some Beefheart tucked away in there (no laughing!), it just took Banksy (NSFW) and Danger Mouse to find it. Supposedly no one returned the album, which is the best. My weak investigations haven't come up with any actual sound files however, perhaps they are less impressive than the Mouse's more recent work. Prove me wrong.

In order to keep this somewhat useful to the general universe, while not classically postured BreakThru Radio has given a lovely lass a green light to do a show dedicated to the music of the mighty city of Boston. That featured an unnecessary amount of alliterration. G'yar, again!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What! What! What!

Double U. Tee. Eff.

Considering this, you'd think that travesty she released would be more yelling than sighing.

Pic from Goldenfiddle, but brought to my attention by St. Bob

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Guitarist as dumbface

Darcy James Argue in a recent post alluded to the the stereotype of pianists being a little more bookish than the musician at large, and I immediately started to think that my instrument might have the exact opposite image.

Think about it, most of the great heroes of the guitar from Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan are renowned for not being able to read music. Why else the joke?

Q: How do you get a guitarist to turn down?
A: Put a chart in front of him.
Q: How do you get a guitarist to stop playing?
A: Put notes on it.

Even those guitarists that clearly have to be able to at least read music (i.e. classical) are led by a man that was ignorant and repulsed by anything that didn't dance in lockstep with his Iberian überwerke that an entire industry is based around the rediscovery and publication of scores he rejected. I've fallen into the trap as well, just a few posts back admitting the guitarist's apathy towards any sort of research. Eh.

As with any rule there are exceptions, Brian May was breaths away from his Ph.D. before leaving to tour with Queen, Julian Bream started the "rummage through Segovia's b-stock" craze, and Steve Vai is....Steve Vai.

This is might be a defensive mechanism to account for the fact that all the Berklee kids have arrived and seem to be having more fun than I. Stupid kids and their Nevermore shirts.

Total topic shift: A new Robot Chicken appears to be displacing Metalocalypse's normal timeslot next Sunday, most likely signaling the end of the first batch of 'toons. It is now up to the insanity and cruelty of the Adult Swim gods to decide when/if I will get to absorp more gospel from new hero Toki Wartooth.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I Re-Enter The Age Technologick

I am alive and safe in Boston, with a new computer box to boot. With the super-happy fun built-in iSight I couldn't help but finally build some sort of picture to associate with meself. I'm still bad at taking pictures that include my face.

I'm looking forward to continuing a lightly packed orientation week at the Boston Conservatory, but alas I'll probably continue to spend it acclamating to living in der Big City and actually buying groceries rather than enjoying whatever excitement is going on around town. Not to mention that my main source for Boston info has done suspiciously silent. Damn damn double damn.

If you play attention to any other music blogs you've probably noticed the Ethan Iversen 1973-1990 jazz album extravaganza. Alas, most of the excitement occured during my technological lapse and missed the deadline for the response. I don't know what I could add anyway, Mr. Iversen himself dismissed Mahavishnu so I'd stand up for Inner Mountain Flame at least. I point this out more to illustrate that there seem to be two paths to blog stardom, extreme knowledgibility (the aforementioned extravaganza, On An Overgrown Path) or having balls the size of Kansas. (Daring Fireball's MacBook wager, Penny Arcade's defeat of Jack Thompson) I guess I better start reading books.

Until things pick up (or I pick them up!) I'm going to be focusing on publicizing this bad boy. Post comments, make me look cool.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Away We Go

I'm off to Boston in about one hour. Here's where things should start to get interesting.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cousin Bob

I'm such a trendy music blogger. Someday I hope to get my own ideas. Nevertheless, my recent Dylan kick actually preceeded all the hubbub over his new album Modern Times. I haven't heard it yet, but the sense seems to be either "You better watch out, Jesus is risen!" to "You better watch out, Grandpa's going inside to get his shotgun!". It should be noted that the latter doesn't really say anything about the album itself, more about his Rolling Stone interview.

I haven't heard Modern Times yet, but have heard Time Out of Mind and Love & Theft, Dylan's two most recent discs. Supposedly the new CD is a rough and tumble cowboy band like the last two. That's fine and all, but it's been nine years since Time Out of Mind came out. Nine years! Earlier in his career that's the same span it took him to go from the sparse arranging of John Wesley Harding to the big band sound of my current stage in my Dylan phase, the oft-maligned Street Legal. (That I actually investigated on the suggestion of the Rolling Stone article! Might as well put tape on my glasses)

Why have I taken to this ugly duckling of his catalogue? It's closer to Foghat than "Masters of War", but the songs are still there. My personal favorite, "No Time to Think", is reminiscent of another 70s Dylan trainwreck "Jokerman" in that it holds a slavish devotion to a verse-chorus ad infinitum format, much like a Minnesota hymn one might think. The downside is that without a bridge the song seems so damn long, hammering just two hooks into the deepest parts of your soul. Another thing that makes it seem long is that it is long, about seven and a half minutes.

Unlike some acts that have earned their carte-blanche through numbing consistency (*cough*AC/DC*cough*) Dylan has changed styles so much that, much like Bowie or eventually Radiohead, he could put out a album of farting and have reviewers peeing their pants over it. It might be a little disappointing that he's not taking more advantage of his invincibility star, at least he's putting out quality albums. And, you know, not the farting album.