Monday, December 31, 2007

In 2007 I...

  • Became, for better or worse, a mighty TA
  • Got a whole bunch of links, and proceeded to squander it by not posting
  • Had my first program notes gig (Haydn's The Creation for Abendmusik in Lincoln)
  • In lieu of a summer job I worked at a hotel for 73 hours in a single week
  • Had my Boston debut? For a private party, but it was still in Boston.
  • Snuck somehow into a new music ensemble
  • Had my first professional recording gig (for a movie called The Supermarket, which I presume exists)
  • Stopped blogging for, like, two fucking months to apply to musicology programs

When I did this last year I suspected that the list for this year wouldn't quite add up, but I ended up being busier than anticipated. Hopefully this goes someway to explaining the lull, now that the applications are out of the way we should be able to get back down to business. Doesn't everyone say that?

Do an enjoy for 2008, anyway.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Two Tickets to Sirius

I may not be having the level of success that, say, Kyle Gann or Darcy James Argue were during their recent bouts of radio silence, but relative increase in non-Internet activity is sort of the same.

A compatriot of mine has been delving into oboe works of Karlheinz Stockhausen (only two thusfar, one with feedback!) over the past couple weeks and alas now we have the occasion to put together a whole concert, if we so dare. DJA has a compedium, as well the best picture ever.

I've been somewhat ambivilent about the man, his obvious advancements are tempered by the seemingly extraneous bullshit he demands to get the damn things actually performed. (Clown makeup? Unitards? HELICOPTERS????) I will admit that perhaps this is coming from a rawk/free jazz background where people who come from different planets are less of a novelty.

Part Deux (many weeks later...): I didn't realize that hitting the save button when making further edits pulled the post entirely from the Interblag. My bad. This does give me the opportunity to mention this account of Stockhausen's funeral. (I believe I found the link via Alex Ross, but can't exactly remember.)

Despite being written by someone who is also insane, the account typifies both what I admire and really dislike about the man. As anyone who has been to a concert presentation of strictly electronic music can attest, it's hard to remain solemn for music that someone has hit "play" on. To have electronic music at your funeral, that's a bold manuever. It may seem cold and impersonal, but is it? Depends on the tune, I guess. Besides, now it's been illustrated that you can play at your own funeral! Every musician's dream!

The episode of the Russian student with the camera, on the other hand. Yes, if you should ever get your way it should be at your funeral. But the latent rage! It cements this idea that inanity and eccentricity must be accepted part and parcel with genius. Perhaps I would be more successful if I were more reverent to composers. Sorry, guys.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Can't Hear Wolfy, But I Definitely Can't Hear Michael Anthony

Chatter in music academia is quiet as of late, most likely this is because the AMS convention is taking up all of the adults' time. However, even those of us that do not fully practice the Arts Musicologick have been eeriely silent. One minor point of contention from something posted on Dial M.

I felt sorry for them until a detailed analysis of the various Halens' hair lengths reveal this was from the current reunion tour. I think the real microtonal problem lay not with the synthesizer recording but in Wolfgang's backing vocals. That's not the point of contention. It's actually with this response to the matter (from this totally insane blog post):

I can’t tell which is funnier, this long-hated cheesebag-anthem turned into a
much more interesting, atonal mess in front of thousands of paying customers

This is not more interesting, this sounds like shit. Even a textbook example of why things should stay in the temperment they were written in. Calling this more interesting is at best a microtonal agenda trying to get us to appreciate our 10/9s and 9/8s, at worst it's some jackasses who's found that noxious dissonance is the new kicking sandcastles.* Not to say that I didn't once believe this myself, but preferring things that sound bad is same sort of Adornian horseshit that Taruskin will eventually give an open palm to. Out of tune is not the new seconds are the new thirds are the new seconds.

Speakings of preferring things that sound bad... with All Hallow's Eve and the baseball postseason over and done with, my mind is turning to perhaps mounting another tournament of champions as I did this season last year. I'm investigating a renovation to the infrastructure, but I implore all of you to submit annoying nominees, or if you think this is even a good idea. I might be clouded by the filthy lucre of more pageviews, but this year will be the best year ever (out of two)!

* Upon reading the post it's obvious that neither is actually the case, but I can speak in hypotheticals, right?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Big Fish Eat The Little Ones

So has anyone actually listened to the new Radiohead album yet? For all the clammering and excitement over its distribution I have yet to see any ink shed on how the damn thing actually sounds. Granted this isn't particularly new considering the band we're talking about. After they hit their stride with The Bends, Radiohead has done a fantastic job of wrapping each of their album with a Gimmick that takes the lion's share of the attention. OK Computer was the return of the concept album, Kid A was a record made by robots, Amnesiac the lost album by the ancient robot-masters. By the time of Hail to the Thief (my favorite, if it matters), the act of making an album without program or protocol, essential sans Gimmick, was Gimmick itself. I'm not saying that these aren't great albums, I'm saying that this is where the press was spilled.

Usually I can depend on all my pretentious friends to tell me how the album sounds. Nothing. The only chatter amongst this crowd has taken a new sinister turn. It would not be inaccurate to call Radiohead fans partial to elitism, but now a new pecking order has been established amongst their own kind! "How much did you pay for it?" Now you can prove your devotion to your favorite band the same way lobbyists have been doing for years.

Of course there are more reasons than that why no one has discussed the album proper. Odds are I run in the wrong circles, where the future of music distribution is more on topic. Also the fact that this downloaded version is supposedly only half the album, and in 128k MP3 nonetheless. Any proper audiophile can you tell that's scarcely better than having your drunk friends hum it to you, so essentially you're paying for a trailer? If anyone can tell me whether it's the long-awaited return to their Pablo Honey sound, let me know.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

53 Days Since Time Lost Due To Injury

I don't know how the rest of you in Internets Land are doing but Boston town has entered a freakish hot spell for late October. Usually the playoffs are when you have to bundle up to sit outside but I had to open all the windows in my apartment and actually punch new openings in the walls for it to cool off. I've been looking for a picture of someone wearing summer gear in front of a changing tree for the past couple days but I fear that idealized picture only exists in my head. Besides it would difficult to capture with the Populist. (I'm almost done with this roll guys, I swear.) Good thing global warming is a hoax.

My weekly lesson was moved to Saturday this week, a cause of anxiety because due to my work schedule most of my extended practice time comes on what I would previously have referred to as a "weekend". However after it was over I found myself taken back by having a Saturday without the impending stress of my lesson. It was really just a few hours of not having something due right fucking now. Unsettling.

Now having done a bit of math while I'm at work now I've realized the last day I went without stepping foot inside the Boston Conservatory was August 29th. I'm going to start a counter like they have at construction sites, and to be quite honest this is a trend I expect to continue until Thanksgiving. I'm relatively sure that every pretentious academic like this where they find that grad school is not the Diet Life that they are mocked for and then go on a crabby streak when they contemplate how it is supposed to get worse than this.

Picture source, the cartoon appears to be signed but I can't make it out.

Monday, October 08, 2007

To Raise My Cup Artfully

Through black magick or some such other voodoo the Boston Conservatory got a number of tickets to last Thursday's opening of the BSO, one of which I promptly scooped up. This seemed more exciting than normally getting free tickets since I had always been led to believe that Opening Night of a major orchestra was Sort Of A Thing. I haven't had much interaction with the Society portion of the classical music scene, and while I'm a great fan of pretension I was wondering whether I was getting in over my head. Would someone be wearing opera glasses, or a solid gold pince-nez? Is the the sort of crowd who hires people like me to read the New Yorker for them? Sadly, if such shenanigans were going on I missed them. My accomplices had to filthy their hands with employment until but short half-hour before the show. We weren't, however, too late to miss some rediculous appetizers and order wine far too close to show time. (Wine tip: Do not pound a shiraz.)

But the program was all Ravel! I was worried about getting punked and having to sit through Eine Kleine Nachtmusik again. On paper it seems a little unexpected to dedicate a whole night to Maurice, he's not quite one of the safety composers that usually get the nod for these sort of events. Furthermore, since his signature is building gigantic dissonance to resolve them in oblique ways I wasn't sure if the joke would stay funny. Turns out the program was goddamn brillant. It helped that his bouncy Iberiesques (Alaborada, Piano Concerto) were interspersed with more lush and contemplative works, but unless you've been spending time with them in the woods it is a hell of a welcome back for the BSO. It would not be inaccurate to refer to their string sound as full.

Like many of the BSO shows, my impression is more of the program than the performance since I'm familiar with depressingly little orchestral rep. It feels like I've been talking about Ravel at lot lately, but since my music history sections place me simultaneously in the Middle Ages, early classical Vienna, and turn-of-the-century Paris I feel like I've spoken of damn near anything recently. In the interest of mentioning however, when pianist Yves-Paul Thibaudet, who was a monster on the Piano Concerto, came back for bows he was wearing a red velvet smoking jacket that calmly and succinctly stated "Look at my outfit. I am a pimp." You don't get away with that shit if you phone it a performance. I want that jacket.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Like The Ancient Navigators, Except With the Citgo Sign Instead of Stars

Sorry about the lapse (one of these again!), but a joke got way less funny.

I mentioned previously about the anal-retentive way I blog, and have been trying to streamline my workflow as so I can do it better. I'm trying out moving to Google Reader so I can read everything everywhere, but feel a little cautious about surrending yet another part of my life to The Google.
Other infrastructure stuff has been tinkered with as well, nothing actually amounting to anything.
Now this is the best part. I've actually got some guitar playing in the pipe, but I must keep in a secret. More like none of it is double-dog confirmed yet and I don't want to look foolish.
Carry on, back to work.
P.S. Holy suite Jesus! I know I've taken to a number of Boston area teams, but go Rockies!
Picture source, by the way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Zoso What

Turns out that it takes more than a desk job to get me to post. Without reliable Internet that I can get my filthy hands on, my feedreader lies barren. Read ten times as much as you on so forth, very good, right away. Anyway if I seem horrible out of touch with some meme or trend that's going on, it's because I am. And yes, I know that Pavarotti died.

Once many moons ago, a compatriot of mine and I were admonished by a comic book store owner for discussing Foghat, stating we were clearly too young to have any idea what we were talking about. Thus discussing Zeppelin is probably way out of my jurisdiction, but I'll do it anyway.

I'm an admitted addict of metal rumor site Blabbermouth (NSFW, probable word salad), and a little over a week ago they did their usual rumouring thing about, of all things, a Zeppelin reunion hit. No one else was talking about it at the time, so I figured it weren't happening. The annals of history are scattered with so many warmed-over Zeppelin half reunions I figured Jimmy Page was just commandeering another band.

But then just today, sure enough, the damn thing is going to go down. (And finally with obvious choice Jason Bonham in the drum chair, no less) But is this anything to be excited about? It's one gig by a band that hasn't played together for at least 19 years, if our last point of reference is the 1988 hit for Atlantic Records 40th anniversary.

It's definitely a gambit considering how defensive Zeppelin has been about their legacy. One of the reasons that there are so many assholes wearing that freakin' 1977 tour t-shirt is that getting to see the live Zep (many say the true Zep) was only available by actually getting to a show. I'll invoke the Rolling Stones since they're really the only apt comparison, but everyone has seen the Stones live. For a stretch in the 90s every other Stones album was a live recording, whereas live footage of Zeppelin totals less than six hours. However ultimately the Stones have had the advantage of playing together for the last million years and it's even starting to show. A Bigger Bang was their best album since Tattoo You, easily.

Of course I've never took the whole Zeppelin/Jimmy Page black magick thing very seriously. Everyone already knows the best bands are affiliated with Satan. I certainly hope some of the more musicologically minded of you out their have heard of the 33 1/3 series, and in between the rumor and realization of the Zeppelin reunion I picked up the volume on Zeppelin IV. (Or Zoso, or Runes, or whatever you want to call it, asshole.) I only read the introduction and already find the author willing to take Zeppelin far more seriously than I am willing to. Perhaps the best way to academically discuss their Tolkien-laced posturing is by taking it entirely at face value. Either way, I decided to put it aside in favor of less recreational reading, but will report back upon finishing it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'm Shipping Up To Boston

Actually I'm already here, but what's more Boston than a Dropkick Murphys reference?

Posting should improve, I realize this is primarily because I'm back at a job that places me before a computer for hours at a time.

Most of the recent days have been spent moving into my new apartment. Whereas all of my classmates have retreated to the suburbs I've stubbornly remained in the Fenway. I watched a special on Boston during the summer on High Living or some other useless digital cable channel and was irked when the local hotspots they mentioned avoided Boston proper entirely. However, as I watched the bevisored masses carry up leather couches and big screen TVs and cinder blocks to put the couches and TVs on, I realized that no local in their right mind would pay the rent to stay so close to the center of town. Either way, as I cleaned up my apartment listening to Josquin, I began to relish my inevitable role as the weird guy at the end of the hall.

I might resume my If I Ran The Zoo bit once the season gets going and if my hazy understanding of Google Analytics tells me anyone read that to begin with.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Stupid Machine!

Two weekends ago I ventured to the western side of the state for the last time this summer for a two friends' wedding. (To each other. Congratulations Joel and Miranda) Being both musicians there were a few people there to wax musicological with, including a post-doc fellow from Lawrence and a friend starting her doctorate at Northwestern this year. (Congratulations Elissa) As conversations with other people tend to go I felt stupid and over my head by the end of it.

It's different kinds of stupid and over my head each time, however. This time I left the reception wondering just how ill-prepared I was should I attempt to continue on in musicology. It's not that I've taken less music history than the average performer, but most everyone else has had the opportunity (or obligation) to crawl inside many of the great masterworks, be it through song or orchestra or string quartet or whatever. Even at my most evangelical I can only find a handful of guitar pieces that might make mention in a general textbook.

Most of the major landmarks of the guitar repertoire, often the ones most responsible for extending the instrument's vocabulary such as Benjamin Britten's Nocturnal and Manuel de Falla's Homenaje a Le Tombeau de Debussy, are speedbumps in the respective composers' careers. A notable exception to this is Elliott Carter's Changes (no YouTube video, sorry), marking his turn towards production for solo instruments.

There are three exceptions to this quagmire, that I see anyway. One has managed to worm its way into the cultural zeitgeist, to the point where it practically defines the music of a region. By this I mean Rodrigo's Concerto de Aranjuez, particularly its Adagio. Yeah, it's famous and all, but taken in context a lot of its appeal comes from its quaint neoromantic stylings. The second is one of two appearances of any fretted instrument in the venerable Norton Anthology, John Dowland's lute song "Flow, my tears". That's cool , but it's really in there more to show how vocal songs became instrument works (see Lachrymae Pavan) and c'mon, it's the fucking lute.

I've got one tricksy weapon up my sleeve. Even passing musicologists know of Luis Narvaez's Guardame las vacas, a vihuela tune from the 17th century. Since it's the first documented example of a theme and variations. Booyakasha!

Perhaps I'm being too sad sacky about all this. While I lack the forced knowledge that playing important pieces brings, I also won't have the baggage that someone who bombed through said pieces in youth orchestra might have. Furthermore I'm sure people who've played dumber instruments have had success. Anyway, if you're unfamiliar with any of these hawt geetar jamz, all of the preceding links are to YouTube performances. So enjoy with gusto.

Pool image snagged from the Google Earth forums, photographer alas unknown

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Guard's Question Time III: Back to Schooled

Soho the Dog apparently is going to make this gatling quiz of his a regular occurrence. Since I was either outstanding or foolish or a combination of the both enough to make his gold star round-up of the last one, I am obligated, nay demanded, to participate in this one. I'm a sucker for them anyway.

1. What's the best quotation of a piece of music within another piece of music?

Ha ha! You didn't say classical music! I could say when Lenny's "America" shows up at the beginning of Metallica's "Don't Tread on Me"!

2. Name the best classical crossover album ever made.

Alarm Will Sound/Aphex Twin "Acoustica"

3. Great piece with a terrible title.

This is actually the hardest one to answer. Probably La Monte Young's naming system for his performances. They're difficult to drop into conversation. (Just as he is himself!)

4. If you had to choose: Benjamin Britten or Michael Tippett?

Britten, unless Tippett has written something for the guitar and then I might have to reconsider.

5. Who's your favorite spouse of a composer/performer? (Besides your own.)

Does Anne-Sophie Mutter count? For safety's sake I'll say Alice Coltrane, also.

6. Terrible piece with a great title.

Zappa's "I Promise Not To Come In Your Mouth." Sorry Frank, too noodly this time. And there go everyone's web filters.

7. What's the best use of a classical warhorse in a Hollywood movie?

Cavalleria Rustica in Godfather III almost makes the film watchable.

8. Name the worst classical crossover album ever made.

I'm really surprised that no one has smashed the Sting Dowland album yet. But now Josh Groban! Barf barf barf.

9. If you had to choose: Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye?

Marvin Gaye, if solely for his rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

10. Name a creative type in a non-musical medium who would have been a great composer.

Frank Gehry, or Michaelangelo Antonioni

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Hetfield of Cooking

Just when I thought Anthony Bourdain couldn't get more awexome.

"I know there's deep inside (me) some lazy hippie who'd be perfectly happy to lay on the couch, smoke weed and watch `The Simpsons' all day," he said.

"I'm really afraid of that guy. I don't like him. I don't want him around. And my whole life is kind of constructed to avoid reverting to that guy: Stay busy. Stay focused. Try not to mess up."

The man is seriously the best thing on television. If it were not for the fact that they are separated by the network divide, a No Reservation/Feasting On Asphalt mashup would be the only thing that could supercede it. Alton Brown's worship of Americana combined with Bourdain's hatred of it would made for compelling TV.

Quote snagged from this Yahoo! article

Sunday, August 12, 2007

That Noise Is Bootleg, Man

Perhaps that crack with me mentioning the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Lynyrd Skynyrd in the same breath merits some further explanation. I didn't always hold the idea that "all recordings are bootlegs" even in the past day I've realize some of the folly of such extremism. Say, for instance, perennial Guard favorite "For Ann (rising)"? As far as I know a performance of it is merely mashing go on the jambox, so is the individual listener less qualified to do that?

Electronic art music aside, my aphorism is a mashup of Alex Ross's stance of "All recordings are fakes" and some reviewer of Brian Wilson's Smile (I want to say Rolling Stone but then that would be admitting to reading it) calling it "the best bootleg of [his] original vision." The term fake seems too harsh to me, as though any pleasure derived from it is somehow dishonourable. Bootlegs, at least in the Phish tape-trader sense of the word, to me implies a lovingly made but essentially flawed product.

And it was the BSO that really hammered this home. Perhaps the naysayers are right that the imperceptible information that modern codecs does contain all the voodoo that makes a performances, or whatever. I was able to pay attention all the way through Beethoven 6!

From my original statement it does sound like it was Southern rock that opened my rock the powah of the rawk show. In fact Skynyrd was my first rock show; I went there with my bestest gentleman friend and his parents at the age of 13 (I know, late start). Too bad it was spectacularly terrible. The sound system was bad, the vocals were clipping the whole time, the playing was apathetic. To add insult to injury we had to cheer for 12 goddamn minutes before they put us out of our misery with their encore. If Johnny Rotten had come up to me putting a caring hand on my shoulder and asked if I had been cheated, I would have said yes.

But why? I'm crabby after attending a mediocre performance, but this sucked. For all the things are awexome for the Beatles destroying the songwriter/performer dialectic, it stands that a Skynyrd show is the only place where the yelling of "FREEBIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRD!" is acceptable, so you think they'd honor their exclusive rights and at least try to play it okay. I am not upset when listening to a Stravinsky performance because he isn't there, and yet rock covers always have a taint about them. So here's a case where the bootleg far exceeds the performance. Rock music is weird.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

You Can't Hear What You Can't Hear

A real post instead of apologies. I willingly identify myself as a young'un as far as musicology goes, so my kneejerk reaction to AC Douglas and the San Francisco Chronicle's curmudgeonry about iPods and the MP3 format is likely something less than unexpected. Hopefully here's a more polite version.

The concept of psychoacoustic models can be made to sound spooky: outright discarding of music! But the point of throwing away what you can't hear is that you can't hear it. You brain will fill in the gaps. Perhaps the audience replies "But I can hear it that." And that could be true, you may be one of those people, musician or audiophile, that has trained your ears to pick up on those subtleties. However therein you've accept the implicit burden of any connoiseur, other people en't going to even pick up on the details that you find pleasure in. It's sort of like standing at a liquor store deciding between Oban and Glenmorangie to look over and see three guys in visors holding a sleeve of red Solo cups and a case of Keystone Light. Maybe a better analogy is the difference between a scotch and water and a scotch and 7-Up. Whatever, I can't afford scotch.

Recall the size of the Interwub's pipes back in 1995 when the MP3 format went public, any other compression scheme that got a sound file to that realm was similar to listen to an AM radio over a telephone. It was the MP3 format that finally introduced real music (as opposed to instrument-based a la MIDI) to the Internet, which most people can agree has had positive consequences. Not just in terms of digital distribution but anywhere there was limited storage capacity.

Of course without reasonably sized digital music files there would not have been a market for digital music players. Now the iPod can plausably blamed for a number of things: the decline of the album, people not saying hello on the street, walking into traffic, etc. However discouraging people to attend live performance and the propagation of inferior sound files aren't two of them.

The first is old territory. A combination of the BSO and Skynyrd have taught me to treat all recordings as bootlegs. Very accurate bootlegs at times, but bootlegs none the less. The one overwhelming advantage of these bootlegs, especially in combination with my iPod, is the ability to put them into whatever context I choose. To refer to me as being part of the Great Unwashed Masses because I greatly relish listening to Michael Gordon's Trance during rush hour in Copley Square or Kenny Garrett by a river is bullshit. The loss in fidelity in MP3 compression is nothing compared to a shitty performance.

But yelling at the iPod for poorly compressed files is yelling at the wrong people. 90% of everyone is going to use the defaults, so the defaults will have to change for the better for the cloud of data to improve. And this happening. MP3, despite having survived for a decade of notoriety, is not a format for the ages. (For comparison, the ZIP format is 18 years old. GIFs are 22.) A growing number of files are using the AAC format due to its endorsement as the format for the iTunes music store. The touted DRM-free iTunes Plus files are also at a higher bitrate, and hence discard less material.

The audiophile's most likely savior, as it is mentioned in the Chronicle article, is the endless quest for more storage. The average MP3 for a 3 minute pop song, even when crushed to a paltry 64kbps, is still bigger than 1.44 MB and would have been considered immovable by floppy-era standards. Over the past five years iPods have leapt in capacity from 5GB to 80GB. Even an audio-completist such as myself hasn't been able to expand their library by a factor of 16 in that time. Even with videos, all this extra space will quietly lead to an improvement in lossy formats and maybe eventually a switch to lossless ones. (Although a biggening of the series of tubes may be more imperative as more and more people get their music that way.)

Alas, the standard of audiophilia goes up as well. 96 bit recording, 4 times that of the previous norm, is becoming the de facto standard, especially for 5.1 digital recording. Just as the old story goes that the length of a compact disc was dictated by Beethoven's Ninth, so could it be the yardstick again. Those of you that fear MP3s can finally join the digital music player cause, at 96 bits the Ninth perfectly fits an 80 gig iPod.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Farm Team

Windmill (Non-Operational)

Just as soon as I start to regain some semblance of a rhythm to this (Rhythm! Har!), fate sweeps me back to the farm. This one is a expected absence as opposed to an absence of sloth or ill inspiration. I'll try and post if I decide to be creepy and huff off of an unsecured wireless connection in my car.

In case any of you were interested in this farm I keep mentioning, here's a Flickr set of the mighty Hanson manor.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Not That I Endorse That Sort of Behavior

A couple tidbits from Google Analytics that I meant to mention in the last post. Don't worry, I'm not going to be talking about numbers since that's about equivilent on the rudeness scale as talking about money. (Although Blogger's cannibalization of Feedburner has doubled my subscriber rate. Yatta!)

More literate and awexome sections of the audience probably recognize where I got the name of this blog, but many more of you are likely aware of the other implications of the word "torrent" on the Intarwebs. While the BitTorrent medium is used to legitimately distribute massive amounts of open-source and Creative Commons stuff, it is less often the case than a virus labeled as the new Lil Jon single. (worst case scenario)

I didn't realize what sort of implications this had for me until I once checked the Keywords section of my Analytics. (For those you don't obsess over your Analytics or *gasp!* don't blog, this shows what phrases people have punched into The Google Machine to get here.) After the usual suspects I was surprised to find "the bad plus torrent". For the records I've actually purchased all the Bad Plus records, even Suspicious Activity?. So I began to wonder what else people were hoping to illicit acquire from my little knowledge shack.

Other selections include Pippi Longstocking, Point Black, Boston Beatdown, Kenny Garrett, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Pit Fighter, the Amen break, Black Lab's remix of the Transformers theme, and Samuel Adler. Which I guess, really sums up what this whole operation is about. Most unusual, one of the more popular phrases was the terrifyingly specific "torrent sibelius complete symphonies 2 bso colin davis". Good luck with that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Milestones are just a reason for celebration when there's no other reason, and since I clearly need quite the reason nowadays to actually get around to posting these days. *le sigh* In past weeks I've traveled to Tennessee and am currently working for a hotel kind enough to employ me for a single week of 12-hour shifts. (Which will at the moment remain nameless, lest they have some sort of blogging clause.) So it's not like a haven't been doing anything.

I realize that my significantly downgraded posting schedule probably has less to do with me summering in Wisconsin and more with the incongruous decision of musicians to take the summer off. This will be tested in a little less than a month when I'm back in Boston before the "season" starts up. Originally I was hoping to have my hundredth post about a month ago when I would have turned one (how metal is it that started on 6/6/06?) but that didn't work out and I lost interest. Much like the lolcomposers problem once I decided that I was going to do some sort of retrospective post I couldn't actually write about anything else until I got around to doing it.

So far I'd put this site in the Double-A level (to use a baseball metaphor), capable of a few decent hits but lacking consistency. This is mainly the fault of my ass-backwards method of reading not just the music blogs I subscribe to, but all the blogs I subscribe to before I even start writing. See also the previously alluded to lolcomposers writer's block. I could also stand to try and tailor things so that they are more unique to my perspective, say classical guitar for example. I blame this on the fact that I read infinitely more musicology blogs than classical guitar blogs. Are there classical guitar blogs? Anyway, now that I've gotten to triple digit posts I feel like I've ejected a decent amount of thoughts onto teh Intarwebs. Nothing quite like On an Overgrown Path, but I'm carving out my share.

Back to work!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Freedom Explosion Day

Am I the only person in the America not way pumped about Joey Chestnut defeating Tageru Kobayashi in the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest? I know that today is supposed to be all about Freedom and 'Merica, but ESPN commentators were about to make me have a reversal. "The belt will return to America on this Independence Day, not far from where George Washington clashed with British forces!" Seriously, I didn't make that up.

Now I am all for the socially acceptable jingoism that is the motivator behind international sport, throughout my stay in Ellsworth I was furiously texting to find the results to the CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Which we won.) But these are hot dogs, guys. Sure it's just a different set of arbitrary conditions, but it's not like every country (that can afford to have competitive eating, whoops!) sent an digestive representative.

Besides, Kobayashi is 29 and has arthritis in his jaw. That's like saying you beat Jordan when he was on the Wizards.

Monday, July 02, 2007

We're Not Professional Apologizers, We're....Musicians

I've dropped the ball before, but this was a month. Holy crap. So here I go explaining myself.

Luckily I can begin by blaming another people. Apparently just like bowling, musicology is not a summer sport. So Dial M decide they are going to be agitators and start themselves a meme. Now lolcomposers should be right up my alley, since I'm a big advocate of both lolcats and lolbots. Unfortunately I had the WORST WRITER'S BLOCK I'VE HAD IN MY LIFE. I was going to post an attempt, but I can't even get it to work in GIMP. I am teh sUke. I could have really used that built in iPhoto support.

About the time I decide to let that go I spent three days entertaining and wandering around Illinois, including a visit to Northwestern. Any of you guys in the program there? I'm vaguely interested in the musicology/library sciences combo platter, but don't really need to have three masters degrees.

However, this all culminated in my grandfather passing away last Tuesday. I've spend the balance of the past two weeks at the ancestral farm, which lacks access to the Global Interweb Machine but to its credit has housed five generations of Hansons. (Seven, if you count intermittent vistors.) I did jack into the world briefly, but I had to go wardriving around the nearby town of Ellsworth just like those creepy guys they tell you about on the television. I'll have some stories from the countryside and maybe about my grandpa too, but we all know how I am about promising posts.

But now I am back in my rightful place, sitting with my laptop in front of the television alternating between SportsCenter and Headline News. Except now I'm watching Fist of Fury (Bruce Lee!). Let's go July.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

By Succeeding I am Failing to Fail

Things I somehow didn't do in my first year in Boston, and may be inexcusable.

  • Go to the top of the Pru. I managed most other touristy things like the Freedom Trail, but this one eluded me. I did however point to the top of the Pru during orientation week and declare if we didn't go to the top of it within that week we never would. This has held true.
  • Go to a goddamn Red Sox game. This isn't so inexcusable considering that tickets are somewhere in the realm of eleventy billion dollars, but it was infuriating considering I could see Fenway Park out of my window.
  • Go to a show at the Middle East. I sure may not have any at all indie cred, because the amount of hipsterati weird at the epicenter in Cambridge should have been a siren song to tempting to resist. Even worse is that I only really went to two (2) rock shows the whole year.
  • Fung Wah it to New York. I suppose not really a Boston thing, but plenty of other new music wonks will tell you that it is the Center of the Universe. Alas, I wasn't able to clear out a weekend so I could hang with my posse icelu.
  • Go to a show at regattabar. See Middle East entry, replace indie with jazz.
  • Meet any other Boston music bloggers. Most especially you, Mr. Guerreri. Isn't that library you mention on occasion the same one I work at fifteen hours a week?
Did I miss anything really crucial? My activities have been rather Back Bay-centric. As you see most of my failures are outside those bounds. I have at minimum one year to correct these errors.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tasty Tunes

A comparison between food and music isn't really groundbreaking, Soho did a bit on composer recipes a while back and the Dial M gents are compiling a collection of musicological cocktails. My attempt won't be as clever or utilitarian as either of those, but I got thinking when I read a blog post from chef Bob del Grosso about an article from the Guardian's art critic. (I guess British papers get to still have those.)

Jonathan Jones, the Guardian's critic, argues that food isn't art because it doesn't have the freedom to disgust the way that other artforms do. Del Grosso counters by saying that it wouldn't be hard to find someone more disgusted by Ferran Adria's aerosol spaghetti than Damien Hirst's preserved cows. Of course both of them are right, cuisine is an artisan craft. As is so often stated on Top Chef and such shows "food is for eating". Once a dish abandons that, it turns from cuisine to sculpture from edibles.

However more important, and more applicable to music, is Bob del Grosso's response that this is sort of a bullshit definition for art. Shouldn't it be more along the lines of discussing something as opposed to being able to discuss everything? Placing the line of legitimacy at the point of repulsion does undermine the merit of things that are, shall we say, "pretty". It's a rather sophomoric stance (i.e. the one I was taking about a year ago). You'd think even with the pluralism of the times and the minimalism movement being now in the post-post stage or whatever that consonance would be okay, but the composition studios in both of the schools I've attended often treat it as something to be poked with a stick. Even the BSO's premieres for this season, all three came from composers (Wuorinen, Saariaho, Schuller*) who work in angular voices of varying densities. Yes, I realize I've given the BSO shit for being conservative but I think I was more giving the audience shit.

So, cuisine might not be able to discuss the horrors of Abu Ghirab or something similiar, but I could see a perfectly edible dish become a discussion of nationalism. You know, like a lot of music has been.

* Did that Schuller ever get performed?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

And Offered Him A Doughnut

Apparently in addition to bloggining and refreshing good taste in music, Scott Spiegelberg of Musical Perceptions and I also share our alma mater of Lawrence University. In fact we even both took advantage of the whacky two-degrees-in-five-years program. However, in the words of one of my professors: "Chemistry is physics without understanding." (That's not going to help me in the next list.)

Elsewhere on the Internets:

Darcy James Argue is in the middle of braving the entirety of the Bang On A Can Marathon, and liveblogging it to boot.

A decent answer to eternal question "Beatles or Stones?"

And in honor of National Doughnut Day (two days ago, alas) here's a map of everywhere in Boston proper to score yourself some doughnuts. No word yet on how many of those are Dunkys.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Truth In Advertising

Introductory tangent: Last night I saw Maria Schneider have her picture taken with a man wearing only an apron. I lead a bizarre life.

Newsweek has a story this week of one Jon Bauman (better known as Bowzer from Sha Na Na. Yeah, those guys.) as part of a Truth in Music committee, crossing the nation promoting similiarly named laws. According to Bauman, doo-wop and other pre-MTV musical groups are particularly susceptible to musical imposters due to their faceless radio popularity. Could you pick out one of the Temptations off of the street?

This leads me to think about another sort of faceless musical group. Can you name a member of the Guarneri Quartet? Would you recognize someone from the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet? Orchestras have the very visible figure of the conductor to lead them and ascend to rockstar-dom, but chamber groups (I suppose the pre-MTV analogue would be pre-Internet) normally don't have such as "face". Of course the answer of why there aren't any fake Takacs Quartets and such running around is simple: there isn't any money in it. I'll posit some other ones anyway.

There is the temptation (get it? get it?) to say that chamber audiences are more educated about the performers than doo-wop fans, but especially in the case of big-ticket concerts that's not really the case. However, I will say that chamber audiences, especially in the case of touring groups as opposed to seasons, are coming for the performance overall as opposed to particular songs. That's not to say that when I saw the Assad Brothers I wasn't hoping they'd do Piazzolla's Tango Suite, but there isn't the same sort of obligation to play the hits.

There are a lot of recognizable chamber groups now, either by being explicitly constructed as such (Il Divo, Bond or whatever those girls are called, those insufferable piano playing children) or badasses that also market themselves well (Kronos Quartet, Imani Winds, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet). Also most groups are business entities unto themselves rather than entirely slaves of a record label. Lastly, except maybe in the case of string quartets you can't just get away with putting a 70-year-old man on cello so everyone can elbow each other saying "That's the real one!"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Heaven Underwater

I know two Pauls, and they both compose. Neither of them had works on the composition concert I recently attended, but that's because one of the Pauls, Paul Karner, had his senior recital/lecture in the near future. I made it back up to Lawrence for it, realizing that even though I'd been in the guitar studio with him and worked with him at WLFM for years I hadn't heard any of his compositions. I had heard his emo band however!

Paul's lecture was on the concept of venue and performance, revolving around the curious case of the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee. The Pabst has been in continuous operation since 1895 and maintained the original decor but now specializes mainly in this "rock and roll" you may have heard about. The first six rows of seats are removable to allow for a proper pit and as you can imagine the Blue Ribbon flows like wine there. It's a fantastic case study of a number of different bands performing in a venue with the poise of a classical concert hall, despite very little concert music appearing there.* Those in Boston might notice this to be the inverse of BMOP, where the same ensemble can be found in staggering disparate venues.

Paul compared his experiences at the Pabst seeing Cursive, darlings of ANABlog, and Devendra Banhart. Neither, he said, seemed particularly comfortable at the Pabst. Cursive seemed to be filling too large a space, whereas Banhart and his orchestra, having just come off of an affirming stint at the Lincoln Center, seemed cramped and condescending to the Midwest audience. Alas, his lecture touched on too many points to summarize here. Hopefully, as I start to mull lecture ideas for next year I'll be able to take his ideas and run with them.

The whole proceedings took place not at Lawrence's recital hall but in one of the art building's studios, making the entire recital an exercise in venue. The atmosphere did seem much more relaxed, but the players were also dressed down so the controls were thrown off. (I'm also not sure whether an audience of musicians would succumb to the suffocating aspects of the concert hall.) The three composed pieces preceeding the lecture revealed a complicated and intriguing compositional voice. Paul is definitely a man with one foot in his indie rock roots and one in the bracingly avant-garde comp studio at Lawrence. All of the works used long lyrical melodies either complimented or contradicted by repeated molecular phrases or pointillistic bursts of extended technique.

After his lecture, Paul played two acoustic folk songs he'd written. (Hey, fuck you! He composed them and it's his composition recital!) I must say that I felt a pang of jealousy that he got away with it, seeing as I was in a rock band at the time of both of my recitals and my grad school auditions. Here I think the idea of venue came back into play, this ending may have seemed forced in Harper Hall. But in that art studio, it was the most logical extension of a portrait of a composer.

* This may be slightly skewed by the fact that we are entering the summer months, but the only vaguely "classical" show on the calendar is a performance of the Nutcracker by the Moscow Ballet, which I feel were just in Boston. This sentence also makes me realize the inherent stupidity of the term "concert music", but it's still better than "classical".

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Boston Without A Lens III

In addition to the Populist comparison I've posted the balance of the two rolls I shot over the past semester, including a couple candidates for my Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day shot. Some highlights:

Music History 2 Pit Again
My Listening Section

After mentioning both the pit class I lectured to and the smaller listening section I teach every week, here's some illustration of them.

Lights on Commonwealth

This will likely be my submission for WPPD, I took it just after midnight, since the Citgo sign was off already. I took a couple shots of it that night but probably won't get the roll developed in time.

View to a Frozen Lake

I also added some shots from Wisconsin in the wintertime. The extremely short exposures seem to have a different feel than my normal urban and interior shots.

As per usual, the rest are on my Flickr stream. As may seem obvious, the Wisconsin shots aren't in the Boston set. I'll get around to making another one.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Populism Redefined

Musical Perceptions is doing their Top 51 Classical Music Blogs semi-annually, and for the second time I fall short of cut. They're using Technorati authority as their criteria, which some may say is a self-propagating blogger-circle-jerk sort of thing. (But that's loser talk.)

So it only took me five months to get through two rolls of film in both of my Populists. Yes! A second iteration! My dad's instructions lead to the new version, which adds a tripod mount and simplifies the clicker mechanism. My Populist has a slightly smaller pinhole, leading to faster exposure times at the expense of sharpness. Here are a couple shots of the MFA's lobby to compare.

MFA Lobby (Populist Mk II)

Old Populist. 3.5 minute exposure.

MFA Lobby (Populist DX)

New Populist. 1.5 minute exposure. I was originally going to also do a 3.5 minute exposure with the Populist DX but I guess that one was a whiteout.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Scarcity of Material

Last week was the first time I've been to a concert at Lawrence since my time in Boston (I somehow avoided it while home for Christmas) and suitably to my new music wonkiness I got the chance to revisit my friends in the composition studio. All and all a pretty gnarly concert, my friends Graham and Wilmer produced two fantastic solo works for piano and percussion respectively, in addition to the best passacaglia written the past three months.

One of the compositions by an freshman struck me as well, a piece for tape, string quartet, and percussion entitled Winners & Losers. It was divided into two movements, both named for the snippets of speech the tape part used. Both of these sounded as though they came from some sports-related motivational film, likely reaped from a public domain archive like AV Geeks. It was really an enjoyable work, but I noticed it for being exceptionally candid with its influences.

The first movement for tape and string quartet lended itself to unavoidable comparisons to Different Trains. The speech pattern, "The Changes In Your Life Will Be Dramatic and Permanent", remains largely intact with the quartet following it. The second movement subjected the tape part to much more brutality, and added three percussionists doubling the chopped-up speech. (Or was the tape doubling the percussion? Eh.) If that doesn't scream Jacob ter Veldhuis I don't know what does.

The concept of copying as a way of assimilating certainly isn't new, think of those Vivaldi concertos in Bach's hand, but is interesting in this case. The difference between undergraduate and graduate study as an instrumentalist in my mind is best explained as going from parroting your instructor to synthesizing various sources of instructions into your style. This seems like not as obvious path to take with composition. There seems to be much more of a emphasis on being an artiste rather than incubating and developing a craft, especially in an environment such as Lawrence where the lack of a graduate division gives freshmen less time until the spotlight is on them.

However, since the composer was a freshman and I am officially Olde by their standards I likely won't be able to talk to him and see if it was unconscious homage or conscious bravery.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Uh oh, politics.

Two weeks ago, Barack Obama suggested making video of the presidential debates free and releasing it under a Creative Commons license. Suffice it to say that transparency and audience participation have not been hallmarks of the recent political climate.

Meanwhile, Alberto Gonzalez unveiled a plan to make everything illegal including "attempted" copyright infringement, "intended" copyright crimes, and involve penalties like million dollar fines and life imprisonment.

In a totally unrelated manuever, I've finally gotten around to releasing all these neural firings under a Creative Commons license. This isn't to say that I have any illusions of being anything but unimaginable orders of magnitude smaller than the more cosmic movements of the first two paragraphs, but I can only control my own actions. Whether I will ever be able to discard my likely antiquated concept of the music biz enough to license my tunes similarly is entirely another matter, but as far as these words go: what's the point of shooting them into the Intarweb if you they can't, you know, web.

The CEO of Sun Microsystems, a company undergoing a renaissance due to their embracing of open philosophy, said in a blog post that I certainly hope echoes for some time

We decided to innovate, not litigate.


I have little knowledge of elementary school music program experience other than my own, but I can speak with relative confidence that until recently computers were not involved. In fact it was only through divine providence that were ever blessed with so much as instruments. (These would inevitably be three-octave Casio keyboards with only a 50% operation rate)

With some curiosity I approached an article on C|NET about the growing field of music-making applications for the childrens. The article focuses on Sibelius's latest addition to their Groovy line, aimed at nine to eleven-years-old with a hip-hop beat. (Don't tell Samuel Adler.) One of the things that jumps out to me is that all the programs mentioned are made by companies whose bread and butter is notation programs. (MakeMusic, the main competition to the Sibelius's Groovy line, is made by Finale)

At first blush I'd assume that music production methods (i.e. GarageBand, Live) would be a more obvious way to a kid's heart. However looking back at the aforementioned misspent youth revealed an obsession with translating the written language of music into low-attention-span-ese. Those funny solfege hand positions were just part of the tradition that goes through shapenotes all the way back to Guido of Arezzo, and these programs are just an extension of that. Where this (theoretically) gets cool is by accentuating writing and much as reading. Has anyone actually had any hands on with this sort of stuff?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Geographic Coincidence

Life as any sort of "academic" above the undeclared level is inherently a transient sort of existence. This is an overly poetic way of explaining away my poor blogging as a result of the fact that I am back in Wisconsin. But where to go for your Boston concert related needs? Assuming that Lockhart doesn't continue to stir his audiences in a furor that attracts the national press, I have a couple suggestions.

fullermusic: She doesn't post very often and I have no idea who she is, but it was the first Boston concert music blog I started reading. History is good for something.

Soho The Dog: In the beginning my blog just parroted Darcy James Argue, but he's shifting away from blogging to do his career. So now I just parrot Matt Guerreri. However, I think that most of the concert music blogs in the world are doing the same thing.

visionsong: I came across this blog via Ethan Iversen of the Bad Plus (P.S. Buy their new album. Hawt.) so its focus is more on the city's jazz scene, which is awexome. I really miss playing jazz but can't imagine that being next to the world's largest concentration of guitarists is going to help me break into the scene.

My blogging will continue (and hopefully pick up) over the course of the summer, but may be a bit more abstract. Likely focusing on things I discern from the æther instead of my own witness.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm Not Dead Yet

This month has been pretty embarassing, that's how the end of academic years go. Some shrapnel to keep you from de-subscribing. (Because you're subscribed, right?)

1) Rostropovich died today, joining the ranks of Menotti and Ligeti in the category of People I Thought Were Already Dead. I hear he was pretty good.

2) The AFM, which I still haven't joined, has lifted their boycott on Delta Airlines. I mentioned it in one of my first posts, so it's fun to see that this sort of technique works in the Moderne Age. However, Delta has yet to make a statement about being a piece of shit airline, so I will continue to avoid when possible.

3) Sockgate is gripping Boston, and may be the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Never before have I seen sports journalists actively trying to ruin baseball.

4) Bonus Round: Stephen Hawking in space! (sort of)

5) Have I already used this as the title of a post?

6) Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day is tomorrow, and I'm considering attending an event in the North End. However my jury is later than evening so I may be occupied with preparations for that. This will be the first year I'm throwing down a picture, but my dad (an Expert In The Field) has actually been organizing the shindig for the past couple years.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Confessions of a Pit Fighter

As a guitarist a block away from perhaps the largest concentration of guitarists I'm not exactly swimming in gigs. So my recent less-than-triumphant return to the role of pit musician for a student-directed production of Floyd Collins at the Conservatory, while clearly not the best choice considering the docket I'd already accumulated, was a welcome if exhausting change.

I'd been out of the game for awhile and the last time I'd taken a pit gig was certainly not a typical case. That time, three years ago, was a production of Grease at a Catholic school back in Wisconsin. (Pause for inherent hilarity) Quite a daring choice, but I was very proud of them for only cutting one toss-away line that may or may not be talking about smoking weed. There are a number of idiosyncratic things about coming in as a ringer for a high school gig, among them a cast in the hundreds and an epic rehearsal schedule. Two weeks of rehearsal before a week of performances, including three days of two-a-days, in this case. Having the deal with high school freshman circling like flies (pulling shit like confusing Marshall Amplification with Marshall Mathers, this was 2004) was awexome, but things came to a head when I was informed the evening before the show opened that I would be only compensated in hugs and kisses. Accordingly I told the director that it had been a wonderful time working with them and best of luck with the run.

That evening featured several phone calls, mostly from parents berating me for having the audacity to expect to be paid just for playing the guitar. However, one was from the director saying that we could work something out. Despite this snag the show went as smoothly as a high school musical can expect to. As to not sound like an asshat, I certainly wasn't expecting to be paid handsomely but was only hoping acknowledgement (a figure was never discussed, bad move). I was expecting a modest check, perhaps, but instead was presented to a Nintendo freaking Gamecube that had been diverted from a fundraising auction. I hadn't planned on buying one, despite owning its three predecessors, but now can't imagine how my life would have gone without the Wind Waker.

This gig was much different, considering that I knew it was for hugs and kisses from the start. Also, rather than getting the book two months in advance I got 20 hours before the show went into tech. Also, rather than 50 pages of chord changes it was 90 pages of metrically shifting brutality with banjo doubling. Banjo doubling! Adam Guettel writes some gnarly work, although I've later been told that his Rite-like primalism may come from actual music illiteracy. He works with some wicked orchestrators then, I had to deal with the previously mentioned banjo doubling, tuning changes, percussive effects, and mid-song capo shifts. All in all I've found that my classical guitar skillset leaves me woefully adrift for this sort of gig. Yikes. Not to mention I can't follow a conductor to save my life! Whispers around the department talk of a course dedicated to conducted playing and doublings, but surely I won't still be around the see it.

One thing I did wonder to myself, will real gigs be more like Grease, with a impenitrable division between student and faculty (that I bridged uncomfortably), or this like one, a vague hierarchy but a overwhelming sense of we're-all-in-this-together-and-we-might-die? Well, maybe not die. I'd rather the latter, even if it doesn't pay as well it's more fun.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Musicologist's Life For Me

(A note: The past two weeks certainly have happened. I'll probably be blogging things that happened during them in reverse order.)

A couple months ago I was reading Dial M for Musicology, a favored blog o' mine, when I noticed one of the links was a different color than the rest of them.

In a proper and rational manner I think to myself "Holy fuck! I must be projecting an extremely inaccurate onto the Interwebs!" Also I never thanked them properly for the link. A couple of days ago I made steps towards correcting this by giving a real life big kid lecture to the Music History 2 (survey class from Palestrina to Bach) that I normally TA, which weighing in at about 70 kids is the closest thing the Conservatory has to a pit class.

Anyone who has seen my normal state of dress knows that I wouldn't exactly pass Biz Cas Fri muster; indeed I can get away presenting to other graduate students while whatever attitude tee I've chosen states that Smith girls are often found in exciting positions or that January 31st must ne'er be forgot, but the freshmen are not as forgiving. Step 1 for lecturing was looking like I had knowledge, and luckily was able to reap selections from my other four outfits to invent a look I call Preppy McDegreeCollector. I wanted to kick my own ass.

None of this helped me actually give the lecture and with the other obligations I had earlier in the week (possibly to be blogged later, maybe) I gave myself a window of roughly 10 hours to prepare a 40-minute lecture on Couperin and Rameau, not precisely my strength. (Now de Visee and Corbetta on the other hand...) Furthermore I had to borrow most of the texts on the subject since my musicological library is weak to nonexistant, the 10 hours I spoke of before started at 11 PM. One thing working in my favor was that I hear that Rameau did some relatively important things with music theory, so it wasn't like I couldn't find anything to talk about. Convincing the masses that what they learned in their first semester of theory was approaching 300 years old, on the other hand....

I don't play Go nearly as often as I would like, but there is a saying within the community. "Lose your first fifty games as quickly as possible." I can only imagine how some of my former teachers would react upon seeing me say this, but I now have a bit of a notion of how earned the swagger of a well-loved professor is. Having taught a smaller listening section for three months now I've gotten a rhythm to it but it's a hell of a lot easier: I don't have to dress up, I can go on tangents, I can get away with the occasional curse word. Facing down a lecture class is a taxing exercise in a hateful duplicity. My section at least reacts to stupid jokes, but en masse (also in morning) it was explaining functional harmony, again, to a pyramid of skulls. Nevertheless, there was the constant knowledge that a single misstep could lead to cacophonous tragedy. Por ejample:

Me (paraphased): Hippolyte et Arcice was Rameau's first opera.
Student (no raised hand!): No, it wasn't.
Me (increasingly concerned): Yes, it was.
Student (defiant): No, it wasn't.
Dr. Seitz: Yes, it was.
And that was when I got something right. I made more grievous missteps, most notably stating things that I wasn't unsure of as "Wikipedia knowledge" and ending my lecture by admitting defeat to Frau Doktor. On the other hand, I did have a hell of an opener that worked exactly how I wanted to. ("So Lully shoves a stick through his foot and dies.") All in all afterwords I felt basically the same I did after my junior recital: I was exhausted by not necessarily adverse to trying it again sometime. Now that is dangerous.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Guard's Question Time II: Fun with Classical Music

Oh shit, quiz time. You know I can't say no. (via Soho the Dog, still my hero) I encourage all of you to play along at home.

1. Name an opera you love for the libretto, even though you don't particularly like the music.

The Consul is pretty brutal, but you really start to feel those three hours.

2. Name a piece you wish Glenn Gould had played.

Rzewski's "The People United Will Never Be Defeated!". Can you imagine what that cadenza would've ended up being?

3. If you had to choose: Charles Ives or Carl Ruggles?

Ives. The end.

4. Name a piece you're glad Glenn Gould never played.

I don't know, Bananaphone? That's not a real answer. Would Vexations be a more real answer? I suppose there's that new kid who writes really awful sappy music, Greenberg or something?

5. What's your favorite unlikely solo passage in the repertoire?

I don't know unlikely it is, but I keep thinking of the part in Symphonie fantasique right before his head gets chopped off. Who needs absolute form when the program tells you where you are in the score?

6. What's a Euro-trash high-concept opera production you'd love to see? (No Mortier-haters get to duck this one, either—be creative.)

A tie between Poppea in the Clinton White House and Peter Jackson's Ring Cycle.

7. Name an instance of non-standard concert dress you wish you hadn't seen.

I almost want to second Steve Drury's leather pants, but their awexomeness overwhelms me. I haven't actually seen the Stockhausen/clarinet/unitard thing, but I've heard news of a lady instituting an unhealthy regiment of diet and exercise because of it so I have to come out against it.

8. What aging rock-and-roll star do you wish had tried composing large-scale chorus and orchestra works instead of Paul McCartney?

Yeah, not Paul McCartney. How about Zappa? Whoops. Did you know that Roger Waters also makes mediocre neo-classical music? Also Stewart Copeland! There was actually a Times article about how when rock stars approach traditional forces they always end up sounding like Haydn (Zappa excluded). I wonder what Robert Fripp would come up with, except he's busy still being a rock star.

9. If you had to choose: Carl Nielsen or Jean Sibelius?

This isn't fair since due to a number of influences I'm starting to go on a Sibelius kick right now.

10. If it was scientifically proven that Beethoven's 9th Symphony caused irreversible brain damage, would you still listen to it?

No way, d00d. I prefer the Seventh anyway, and with my weak to pathetic knowledge of this "classical repertoire" we're trying to talk about here I could probably find some other stuff to listen to.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

You Live In The Universe This Whole Time

Big ol' drought. That was weird, sorry about that guys.

The Conservatory was on spring break this past week and my parents came up while I had some time off, thusly I did all the touristy nonsense that I have neglected in the six months I've been here. It's been great. I actually have a couple stories that the populace might be interested in, but in the interest of actually posting something I'll only tell one (for now).

I've already mentioned twice that I talk a big game about cuisine when I rarely actually delve into details and can barely afford to eat at restaurants that convienently price their items at one dollar each. This could potentially change; I've started to reach critical mass with music blogs (especially the prodigous output of ANABlog and On an Overgrown Path) and rather than prune this extensive forest I've actually retreated to foodie blogs. (Michael Ruhlman and Harold McGee are my favorites at the moment, although Ruhlman is on sabbatical until April. His post has been taken up in his stead by Bob del Grosso and the ever lovable Anthony Bourdain.)

Traditionally this is a fantastic place for one's parents to step in, we did go to some fantastic restaurants. This tale takes place at not the best of them, but at a notable one. We braved the Freedom Trail on Monday (coincidentally the coldest day of the trip) at stopped at Todd English's Kingfish Hall. I personally had no idea who the man was, but my parents proclaimed him as "the guy on Saturday afternoon". If you've ever been to a restaurant titled after a dude in a different city than said dude, you already know how these places roll.

Nonetheless, I was embarassed that I was impressed by some rather entry-level plating tricks. My fries came in an oversized martini glass, the salad was stacked in a layered tower, yes yes. The food was certainly good and very signature chefy, clever variations on familiar themes. But you can tell that this was most likely a Epcot version of the real deal, separated by a few steps from Todd English himself. Like a child who's just learning to crack jokes, it seemed occupied by making sure you knew how clever it was.
However, upon coming to this realization, my dad rather nonchalantly asks the waiter if that's his boss over at the corner table. Sure enough, we have been in the presence of Mr. English the whole time. Alas...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

If I Ran The Zoo: March 11

Such well-laid plans, alas...

Last night I was torn between seeing my friends perform with the Boston Conservatory Orchestra up in Harvard or catching the BMOP concert. I decided against burning bridges.

Luckily, I have no such dilemma tomorrow, one of the two concerts which piqued my interest has the good sense to happen in the afternoon. I do know that I have turned the corner into being a huge music history dork if I am honestly considering going to a concert of Perotin and Ockeghem. And paying money for it! The Notre Dame shit is so rarely trotted out, and it'll probably sound pretty tight in a big church.

Later that evening the Klezmatics are putting some heat under the Museum of Fine Arts. I could pull the double but that would be expensive. However, I am still choked with regret after missing the Bad Plus there two weeks ago.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Barf Barf Barf Barf Barf (but hey! Check #100!)

See Soho The Dog for more information.

But he has delivered unto us a meme, and you know how I do with those. Inspired by Hattogate, the questions posed are simple: Whose performances would you like to be able to pass off as your own, and whose performances do you think you actually could?

The first part is easy. Jason Vieaux. The man has tone that can really only be described as "muscular". Furthermore his technique, while abso-goddamn-lutely incredible, doesn't get in the way of his interpretations.

The second part is way thornier, since any guitarist who has recorded would be greatly slighted being told they sound like me. So I'm going to do that to someone I at least know. David Chidsey and I both studied with master Kevin Gallagher and I think he taught us very similiar lessons, if David perhaps took them a little better than I. I definitely hear the same fiery (if possibly overwrought) interpretations, even if David is way chopsier than I.

One of these days I'll get new recordings out, but for now I'd rather have you all think I sound good.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Alas Papa Joe, We Hardly Knew Ye

I'm finally done with my Haydn seminar, with a touch of a regret and perhaps even a newfound respect for actual Classical music. (I imagine if myself from even a year ago heard me saying that he would try to strike me down. Great vengeance. Furious anger.) I can't say this will result in an upswing in posting, since my upcoming concerto seminar may decide to shank me just as well.

My final project in addition to some devastating illness preventing me from chiming in about the swirling maelstrom of Hattogate, which as of a couple days ago seemed to come to a close with her widower's "shocking" confession. Easily the best concert music scandal since that whatever that happened at La Scala.

I am never one to shy from beating a dead horse, so I ask a question which has probably been answered by I haven't found it yet. Why the hell did it take so long? From what I've been led to believe the limited availability of these discs resulting in them being sought after by some pretty in-the-know people. Did it really take a year after her death for someone to want to listen to it on their iPod?

I have two theories, one slightly more generous than the other. The first, is that Mr. Barrington-Coupe was struck down not by twenty-year old technology but by twenty-month old technology. The technology primarily used today (Gracenote, freedb) discerns what CD you are playing by its table of contents, or the number and length of tracks. Goosing the length of any track by a single second would throw off the dogs in this case. However recently the ability to tag tracks by acoustic waveform matching (MusicBrainz) has come into ascendence. In addition to being really awexome, it's also new enough that those old Concert Artist CDs wouldn't have prepared for it and for it to be concievable that the piano snob sect wouldn't be in the early adopter camp.

Of course, these CDs were probably pretty hot items on the secondary market. Just as Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle will never be released on DVD, DRM-free files sitting on someone's computer are easy picking. Avarice and greed baby, avarice and greed.

Monday, February 26, 2007

And When You're Old Enough, Run For Office

Posting may be intermittent this week (or at least the intermittent nature of the posting is explained), the ever watchful eye of my Haydn seminar has turned its unyielding gaze unto me. Unless you guys want to talk about the opening movement of The Creation, then we can have a bitch of a time.

In the meantime, I've been minorly obssessed for the past couple of weeks over this video of Frank Zappa's 1986 appearance on Crossfire. Important points to watch for 1) John Lofton of the Washington Times informs Zappa that he needs to get out more. 2) Zappa's refusal to reveal anything more than mild irritation. 3) Lofton's penetrating fear of Zappa telling disaffected youth to infiltrate the system.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I'm Probably Still Voting In Illinois

In case any of you are interested in the Boston concert music scene and don't read Soho the Dog (i.e. none of you), radio journeymen WCRB are polling for Boston's Top 100 Classical Pieces of all time. Clearly something must be done about this. Having seen the power of a party system, a brief list of decidedly un-relaxing American works have been assembled under Matthew's supervision.

However, in my own gross self-interest I would note that a great deal of discussion has already occured about Steve Reich's Four Organs, a piece I have occasionally shown some interest in. Not to mention Four Organs's history in Boston. However, since the importance of the work within the framework of concert music might be a little spurious, I wholeheartedly endorse another party candidate: Frederic Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated. Now, if I only I actually owned a terresterial radio.

(As a side note: While I do hail from northeast Wisconsin, I was actually born in Peoria, Illinois. Thusly I am highly confident that my generally leftist pinko commie vote counts double.)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Boxes Atop Boxes

For a while there I didn't believe in the Most Annoying Song tournament, but Matthew thought it was cool so Boring Like a Drill thought it was cool and anon and anon Internet ways until it reaches freaking NewMusicBox. I cannot help but be humbled. My visitor count multiplied by a factor of six.

In a nutshell I'm one of the thousands of guitarists in Boston, my difference is that I'm primarily a classical player (for now) and already have a degree in my clenched fists. At the moment I'm persuing a masters at the Boston Conservatory, and having moved here originally from Wisconsin I'm trying to take advantage of all the activities that weren't previously available. Most of the posts revolve around this quest of finding pretension whereever I can, but I occasionally lapse into talking about metal. Also I know that the header includes foodyism, and believe me I enjoy eating as much as the next guy, but I haven't really gotten around to writing about it. My off-topic wiggle room is mainly taken up by pinhole photography. Here are some writing samples for your enjoyment.

Of course, The Most Annoying Song tournament fiasco
I totally tear Stravinsky a new asshole (not really, well maybe a little)
My responses to Do The Math's musician questionnaire
A blow-by-blow of the 2006 TBC New Music Festival (Days 2 3 4 Post-op)
Depressing times and pinhole photography at an art opening

I wholly encourage you to subscribe through my fancy-lad FeedBurner feed (e-mail subscriptions also available), since I certainly hope I will continue to get better at this.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

If I Ran The Zoo: Feb 22-25

I am never promising to deliver anything the next day ever again unless it is already written. I'm not a pro blogger yet. However in the days that I've been trying to write about the Alarm Will Sound concert it seems like I'm started to be invited to the big kid's table. So I best get that shit done.

You'll notice that this weekend's dance card is a touch heavier than the last.

Thursday: Damn you Boston Symphony Orchestra for turning on the college card for all of your Thursday concerts. Apres concert drinks are really starting to add up. The Finland love-in also continues the surprisingly regularity of large ensemble premieres I've witnessed. (See Soho the Dog)

Friday: What is better than a lot of notes? A lot of notes played at inhuman speed. I'm not particularly excited by the rest of the nu-metal hootenanny at the Avalon, but the chance to see the twin towers of Dragonforce in something more than picture in picture glory is tempting.

Saturday: Okay, you want more Finns and who can blame you. The Boston Philharmonic, one of the contenders for second-best orchestra in Boston, rolls into Jordan Hall for more Sibelius.

Sunday: It is the day of rest, I wish there was something to do. Oh wait, BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS BAD PLUS (at the MFA)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It Is Finished

Congratulations to James Tenney for his dominant victory in the inaugural Black Torrent Guard Most Annoying Song tournament.

Experience the magic one last time.

The greater question is whether this whole ordeal is worth another go 'round, like most state and local elections voter turnout was somewhat on the low side. We'll see how the numbers around here are running after next year's World Series. (Go Generation R! We're making it to the playoffs this year!)

Alarm Will Sound writeup coming tomorrow. It.....wasn't exactly what I was expecting.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

If I Ran The Zoo: Feb 15-18

Let's try a new Idea. A brief concert calendar of what I would see each weekend if I had all the money in the universe. I'll list runners-up so that there's some concert music on here each time even if I decide to go to a metal or jazz show. Also there will be a concentration of free concerts and concert at the Boston Conservatory, since I've got me a recital attendance requirement.

Thursday: BSO performs Haydn (not bad since I'm in a Haydn class now anyway), Wuorinen (world premiere!), and Brahms 4.

Friday: Alarm Will Sound plays music of Conlon Nancarrow, eat babies, enslaves civilizations. All at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Saturday: Dark Elegies, a Mahler mash-up perhaps inspired by Uri Caine's continued success. Also dancing! TBC Mainstage Theater.

Sunday: Roger Tapping, violist for the Takacs Quartet and new TBC faculty addition. Sorry, can't think of anything snarky for this one. TBC Seully Hall.

And yes, two posts in one day. I know.

Five more for Igor

NEC is having a Stravinsky brouhaha to try and match our Webern festivus. Except they're doing Firebird with choreography so I guess they win. But what interested me was the intriguingly title gem (i.e. free concert) "Rarely-Performed Masterworks". Now I don't know much about Stravinsky, embarassingly little outside the big three "Russian" period ballets, but I felt like a had a bit of street cred for having heard one of these masterworks. Or maybe the performers should having known to perform it? meta meta meta......

The program provided deep cuts from all these of the official Stravinsky period, the first Russian (or "primal" for the less educated types) period was represented by his Three Pieces for String Quartet of 1914. It is well noted that they aren't grouped under some more binding term, like "suite" or "string quartet", since the bracing rhythms of the Dance were as far away from the glassy chords of the Canticle as anything else on the program.

The balance of the first half jumped to his late serialist period. I had already heard the Three Songs of Shakespeare, but this quartet provided a much more interpretative and dedicated performance. As opposed to the twelve-tone rows favored by the Viennese gentleman, the three song are based on four, five, and seven-tone rows respectively. I had missed the subtle move from quasi-modal to the atonal kaliedoscope before, but the performered shifted their tone to accentuate it. And thank the Jeebus the soprano knew what she was talking about this time.

Its companion piece, In memorium Dylan Thomas, was at turns bombastic and hushed (really your only options with four trombones). I can't suppose whether Stravinsky was devastated or merely bummed at missing the chance to work with Thomas, but he uses the system to great effect. While stopping short of grief, the canon of trombones exuded a guarded respect.

A Lee Hyla piece Amnesia Breaks was offered as a sort of intermezzo before the intermission. It could've stomped pretty hard, but I couldn't tell. The performance was either totally phoned it or embodied everything we have come to fear about conservatory playing. Glued to the page, refusal to get violent and charging through the tender parts, it was a mess.

The second half promised to larger-scale works from Stravinsky's neo-classical period, which is sort of a vacuous hole in my knowledge. The chamber orchestra's Concerto In D was a masterstroke, it really does sound like Haydn if he had the chance to hear the next hundred years of music. My personal favorite comes in the second movement, the violins are gifted a pretty if somewhat pedantic melody. But that's not enough, they want to get fancy. Like the jerky string players they are they get more and more lost before just stopping, luckily the violas and cellos lay down a big V-I and everything starts over again. It isn't Haydn without jokes.

In lieu of program notes John Heiss, the director of NEC's Contemporary Ensemble, spoke briefly before several of the pieces. I liked how this opened up the flow of the concert a bit, Jordan Hall always seems to be a more relaxed and artistic place than Symphony Hall, but provided the chance for an "ah-ha" moment normally regulated to lectures and magic shows. Before closing with Stravinsky's Mass, he brought us back to those crystalline chords in the string quartet at the beginning of the concert. When asked why they were there, Stravinsky responded "The cantors need time to swing the incense." It was a cool moment.

This moment was ruined, the Mass is a godawful piece. Nevermind the lackluster Bach consort or the poor blending from the Chamber Singers, the piece is bad. I can think of no other way to describe it other than it sounds as though it was written for high school choir. Some things are rarely heard because they were ahead of the curve or circumstance caused them to slip through the crack, but sometimes it is because it isn't very good. One neat thing I managed to glean from it was its continuation of the Palestrina tradition of homophony when you really need to hear the words. The machine gun-like pace of the Credo may have been meant to play behind interesting figures in the winds, but the winds certainly weren't making it sound like that. One brief glimmer of brillance came at the end of the Credo, after the aforementioned march the Amen blossomed into what seemed to be infinite shards of tradition. That might have just been by comparison.

Stravinsky certainly has his pedestal, George Perle said that when Stravinsky died that the world was without a great composer for the first time in six hundred years. (Josquin? Really?) As I type this I'm staring down a copy of Igor's Poetics of Music on loan from a friend that I didn't read in time but wish I had. For a composer whose main fame with the populace caused a riot, seeing these smaller works brings out an appreciable side of a figure that will likely only grow more inaccessible with time. But don't take this as a suggestion that we should start trotting out Beethoven's Scottish songs and mandolin variations.

Photo from