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

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

F-Stop A Billion

I don't like to obsess over my statistics, but I notice a sizable percentage of people coming from, a large (the largest?) pinhole photography web forum. Hopefully not just for my bummer story about gallery openings. A welcome to you all anyway, maybe you guys are interested in modern music as well? I should really change the header to swap out "foodyism" with "pinhole photography". Equal in dignity and pretension, savvy?

My posts on the topic of film in boxes are collected here, but the real gold is all in the Flickr set. Feel free to leave comments about my lack of skillz, but for in depth knowledge of The Populist you'll need to go to the source.

Furthermore, subscribe to the feed or by e-mail to be notified of future tragedies. Note: these are all of my tragedies and not just the photography related ones.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Labyrinth + Pippi Longstocking + Wing + Drag Queens = Quality?

Sure, it's not the most obvious combination but that's what being avant-garde is all about. Another list in lieu of a real post.

  • Gentleman and scholar Matthew Guerreri of Soho the Dog added me to his blogroll on the sly, what a swell guy. I return the favor (see right).
  • Dan Willis has returned to the blogosphere, posting his Lawrentian articles of pretension and wit.
  • I have long harbored the secret fear of my various culinary heroes being totally incompatible, but I can finally sleep: Anthony Bourdain is cool with Alton Brown.
  • Twelve-tone funk? Impossible, you say. Nay, I (and Dial M) respond.
  • Unlike most other weeks, considering that these are the goddamn finals the plan all along was to let this vote run two weeks. I implore you, even if you ignore your state and local elections, to vote.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Big Jimmy Stands Up for the Sforzandos

Tonight will be the first Thursday in a month that I won't be attending a BSO concert. (For free at least, a gentleman friend of mine is coming in for the weekend and we might go student rush.) They were good concerts both, clearly, and the Globe would do a better job of summarizing them for journalistic consumption. I will go the more bloggy route.

Both programs featured an even-numbered Beethoven symphony, oft numerologically maligned in the same manner as odd-numbered Star Trek movies. (Although one could have their opinions about Nemesis...) With such a historic bias, I'll admit that my lacking knowledge of classical symphonic works tended to skip over them. This is part of the continuing saga of my backwards musical education, I knew that Wagner wasn't down with the Eighth before I ever even heard it. The Sixth on the other hand, clearly is wuss music.

Two weeks ago was Sir Colin Davis pairing the sixth symphonies of Vaughan Williams and Ludwig van. Before I really delved into his works I often dismissed Vaughan Williams as being wuss music himself, but his sixth symphony is as close to a metal beatdown as I've ever heard traditional forces get. Beethoven's Sixth is wuss music, but after the VW it was goddamn necessary. Although the salient theme of the program fell short of revolutionary, both symphonies also played with the four movement expectation. VW had four proper movements but they were all attacca as most future minimalist onslaughts would be, but for all the smack that Beethoven 6 recieves the storm interlude is actually fiendishly clever. The program notes (written by one Jan Swafford) write off the storm as not a separate movement, retaining the four movement form and hence why I call it a interlude. I'll believe anything that man says. This subtle, or not since it might be the most bombastic Ludwig van gets, bridge is something I've totally missed when listening on CDs.

As an aside, the only recordings I have of the Beethoven symphonies is Claudio Abbado's set with Berlin from 2000. This set hits it like the Count rather than frog & dog style, so the even symphonies are placed after the more exhausting odd ones on each CD. I tend to zone out.

Last week was I my first time seeing Big Jimmy conduct, but I wasn't really sitting close enough to be able to analyze and hypothesize. Except for when he got out of his chair during the Coriolan overture. It was the penultimate concert of his Beethoven/Schoenberg throwdown, but it seemed like the program really built around Schoenberg's chilling Erwartung. As I said earlier, I have my issues with atonal song so the prospect of a one-act operatic monologue wasn't particularly appetizing. Entirely the opposite, the lack of musical memory in either direction allowed Schoenberg to employ a sort of mega-eXtreme madrigalism.

The various Beethoven was pretty good, but the audience reaction made me start to think that maybe classical music is dying. The average listener is told before going to the concert hall that they're suppose to adore Beethoven, and they are even reminded upon actually entering Symphony Hall. The BSO audience doles out encores like candy anyway, but the two callbacks after the overture were totally unneccessary. It's an overture guys, get back to the rock! The reaction following the Schoenberg was expectedly cooler, but the audience after the corresponding Beethoven scene and aria was totally rediculous. Deborah Voight clearly laid it out for the Schoenberg, "Ah! perfido" seemed a little airy and melodramatic after such a tour de force. But the people will do what they are told.

One of my friends here in Boston wrote a paper on the Eighth, and his recommendation combined with the previous week's solid case for the Sixth led me to actually look forward (!) to his oft-skipped symphony. It's a fun piece, and just as people know they are suppose to like Beethoven, they know that they don't want their Beethoven fun. The epic hallmark of great composers is the manipulation of expectation, and the defining moment (for me anyway) was a quick rainstorm of triplets in the second movement. All I wanted was a quick burst like that again, he gives us a fourth movement that is nothing but. What a jerk, no wonder everyone likes him.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fotografuję, żeby pamiętać

A lot of rediculously awexome bands were formed at art schools: Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, to start. But how many really awexome bands came from music schools?

Exactly. By the way, the answers would have been Dream Theater (Berklee), Alarm Will Sound (Eastman), and Kneebody (also Eastman). One drawback of attending a conservatory is not being able to bounce ideas off of students of other disciplines. If not for all the art majors I hung out with last year, I would have no idea that I hate Matthew Barney (kind of) and no idea what post-feminism is. Not that anyone does.

Being a bit of a pinhole photography enthusiast and of vaguely Polish descent, it would have been silly not to attend "Made In Poland: Contemporary Pinhole Photography" at the Art Institute of Boston. The problem was that it was a little silly, upon arriving for the gallery talk I immediately got the sense that I was at a party that I wasn't really invited to. The crowd was easily divisible into three groups.

1) A close-knit fifty-something group of curators and art collectors
2) Ferocious cliques of Art Institute of Boston students
3) Pinhole photographers who only speak Polish

The exhibit was fantastic, but didn't really have any sort of confidence of why I was there. I showed the Populist DX to anyone to who would listen, but the responses ranged from detached curiosity to dismissive to the point of insult. Highly discouraging to say the least, in retrospect I should have returned on Saturday for the Meet the Artists/Portfolio Sharing event but since I lack one those too....

Whatever, fuck 'em. I can't recommend the exhibit enough, Poland is touted as a budding center for contemporary pinhole work and the pictures certainly supported that. I'd try to single them out but each of the seven artists presented approached the box-o-film so distinctly and uniquely that I'd drown the blog. Their individual websites are accessible from the exhibit site.

The curator's note echoes a lot of the reasons that I like pinhole photography, other than that my dad gave me a sweet camera: an inherent inclusion of the passage of time, and a refreshingly proletariat economy. This latter point was the real cause of frustration with a couple people at the exhibit. (Along the lines of: "Isn't this one of those kits you can buy?" "No, motherfucker! You make it!") Anyway, with such stunning examples to draw from maybe I'll try something other than pointing at something I see on the streets.

The exhibit runs until March 4 at the Art Institute of Boston and returns for round 2 from May 25 to September 16 at UMass Dartmouth.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Flux In A Box

 A quick hello to everyone coming in from the Secret Society blog. I didn't do one of these welcome shenanigans when Ethan Iversen linked to me, but I am an older and wiser man now.

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.

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. Also, thank you Mr. Argue for continuing to be my blog hero.

Most Annoying Song: Finals - It's On Now

James Tenney - For Ann (rising)
Any song off of the Rachael Ray mixtapes

Tenney photo from, Rachael Ray photo from, Street Fighter element from This still isn't proper citation but I'm getting better.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I've been promising a post about this for a coupla days now, so I better deliver. I've been trying to go to more free concerts, in addition to the seven on campus performances that it is imperative that I attend in the interest of my degree. The BSO College Card has been coming to the rescue lately, but NEC has actually been filling in the gaps nicely. To the point were I actually rallied some troops to attend Lee Hyla's sendoff on Tuesday. I was tipped off by Darcy James Argue, a former student of his, and its hard to argue with free. However, I didn't do my research (probably worried about hitting a deer or something, I'll explain that later) which I realized at the moment the saxophonist inhaled.

This first piece was "Pre-Amnesia", and judging from the date (1979) as compared to the rest of the program I'd say that was either his first piece as a prominent composer or typical of his "freshly mature" style. It was particularly frantic, with sort of an Elliott Carter mood with a heaping helping of impatience.

Stephen Drury performed the next work, "Basic Training" for solo piano, in some rather impressive pants. Pants aside, this was a work of a composer who clearly was more put together. Starting with a single middle C jammed hunt-and-peck style, that single note would unify episodes of increasing insanity. I hesitate to use the term variation, since I don't think there was really a theme to begin with, but each episode was manically distinct in character. Tone rows in one, honky-tonk in the next, only separated by a sixteenth note middle C. "Basic Training" also introduced a theme that would reappear in the majority of the works to follow. The murder and mayhem that seem inherent in much of Hyla's work is tempered by a disarmingly gentle coda.

The next piece, "Wilson's Ivory-bill" was a lengthy song for baritone, piano, and field recording. I'll admit that I have my issue with atonal song, two thousand years of song trains you to expect the voice to have the hook. Without functional harmony to push you along or remind you of where you've been, the focus becomes a lot more vertical than horizontal (as in funk compared to Mozart). However, the texture of the piece is very pointillistic and the field recordings didn't really bring anything. Furthermore, the text is really not poetic at all. The baritone floated in and out of sprechstimme to account for this, which was a neat effect but couldn't overcome the text making the piece as a whole even clunkier. But that coda I was telling you about, a major seventh stacked in fifths. He called in the Chrono Trigger chord and when it hit, it hit like Jesus hits like the atom bomb.

One great thing is that up until this point in the concert, the performances were all by the musicians that originally premiered the works. The last piece before the break was a large ensemble work, a piano concerto in fact, so the logisitics of bringing it back home was tuff. Stephen Drury led a cast of kraazy NEC kids on a wild ride indeed. Over two movements it followed the general form of a concerto, with the slow "movement" divided between the two. Being the first real ensemble piece of the show, the lushness of the orchestration was the first thing to hit. Within the first three minutes every member of the ensemble slid from traditional playing to extended technique and back again, perfectly paced to add a new spectrum of color without sounding chinzy.

However, the high point of the piece, nay the concert, was the several double cadenzas given to the piano and the percussion. Oddly enough, this was the only time the piano really seemed to play out. Anyway, the only way I can describe them is perhaps if Cecil Taylor and Max Roach were in a lightsaber duel with the fate of nations in the balance. All I can say is that percussion had some pretty wicked sack.

The second half of the concert consisted of the Boston premiere of his saxophone quartet "Paradigm Lost" and his big hit "Pre-Pulse Suspended". Hyla himself marks "Pre-Pulse" as a turning point in his career, the mythical fusion between concert music and rock and fucking roll. I don't think it rocked as hard as the concerto, mind you, but the glimmers of light are definitely present. Written for twelve instruments, the uniting force was a nervous ostinato quickly tossed back and forth between all of the strings. Generally it was a stream of sixteenth notes, the ultimate punk bass line, but often each player would take liberties with either the pitches or rhythms. These twists in the line reverbated throughout the ensemble like stone dropped in a pond. Similar to "Basic Training" the proverbial stones got bigger (rock, Buick, small moon) and the ensemble became more and more unhinged until the stones stopped and everything reverted.

My apologies to any Hyla fans that think I'm grossly mistreating him, it was four days since the show and this blog is nothing if not a place for me to learn how to write about music. A faster turnaround would probably help. Anyway, it was real cool.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mooninites Foiled in Plot to Blow Up Boston

I'm never going to get around to posting about that Lee Hyla concert, because this is simply too rediculous to let go. In case you haven't been newsing it up, a set of Lite-Brites of Ignitnot and Err giving you the finger as hard as they can that were scattered around Boston were mistaken for bombs. Panic ensues, the T is shut down, cats and dogs living together what have you. After all the chaos, the perpetrators are apprehended but not before Turner Broadcasting reveals that they are indeed behind the whole mess. (For an interesting study in journalistic bias, compare the previous cited Globe article with the CNN article, a subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting)

Three things strike me. First, the follow up after the court hearing shows one of the defendants in a surprisingly positive light. Second, I personally saw one of these boxes in Mission Hill. (It appears to be one of them that have been dismantled, although 10 or so seem to be on the loose yet. Ebay!) It lit up and Err flipped me off. I was pleased, remembered that the movie was coming out some time in the near future and continued on my way. I totally forgot about it (and the movie, take that viral marketing!) until this whole shitstorm happened. Could terrar hide bombs behind cartoon characters?!?!?!?!111

The best part was that the news stories made it sound like the entire city had been swallowed by panic. I didn't know anything about it until the backlash starting hitting FanTent. Had it been an earthbomb rather than a technologically advanced moonbomb, I would have been fucked.