Saturday, May 24, 2008

Errrwa for Errrrbody

I'm blogging at you from new coordinates in Iowa City, Iowa, where I'll (hopefully) be attending the fine University there for musicology. I've truly succumbed to the Dark Arts now. I've got a lot of 'splaining to do about change in scenery and blogging in general, but also a lot of unpacking.

As much fun as twenty hours of driving down interstates was there was only one Twilight Zone moment. On a particularly desolate windswept stretch of I-80 in Indiana I spotted a white bus with a yellow stripe on the horizon. I was fairly confident was I seeing things, but sure enough there was a goddamn MBTA bus presumably headed to the city that I had just left. Perhaps it knew I had betrayed them?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

You Can Rock

A couple days ago I found myself in the women's dressing room backstage at Berklee's Commencement Concert. A compatriot of mine was playing (oboe!) in the shenanigans and promised lights, smoke machines, and Ornette Coleman. Two of these three were satisfied.

As my time in Boston comes to a close I think back on how Berklee has confused the living hell out of me. The concert I attended was not the graduation itself but essentially a rock show honoring their honorary doctoral recipients: Steve Winwood, Howard Shore, Rosa Passos, and Philip Bailey (the guy who sings real high for Earth, Wind, and Fire.) Other than ringers from the Conservatory (most of the windwoods, a horn, and the entire viola section) the performers were all from Berklee, many graduating seniors. It was throughly enjoyable with a couple exciting moments on both ends of the quality spectrum, but it all seemed too precious.

Despite having played in a rock band for n years, this was the first time I'd been backstage at a freakin' arena with its backline and its confusion. I don't know of they are required to give solo recitals, but I imagine that's practice for the bar circuit and this is the dry run for Making It to the Big Show. From a seat where I could see the wings it was often times an effective show, while it occasionally lapsed into feeling like a high school talent show except with an audience of 5,000.

I'm not going to explicitly say that there was a noticeable difference in orchestra between Berklee and Conservatory players. I will say that the Berklee students were oft found quoting their discarded motto "There's Nothing Conservatory About It." Whatever, I get that their forging a new tradition and intentionally spurning anything to separate themselves. (Have you seen their crest? It that fucking Helvetica!!!) However, there still is the awkwardness of the academizing of something that really rejects it. The honorees for the most part had nominal roles in the concert, either performing or conducting one piece. Steve Winwood however was not expected to arrive and a Berklee senior was tapped to sing instead. He did end up leaping on stage and she was decidedly unable to roll with it.

I don't mean to be dismissive of Berklee. Its the only place you can go if you want to rock and actually treat it as a craft and unlike every conservatory in the world it acknowledges the music industry, something shadowy, amorphous, and altogether evil, and attempts to codify and dissect it in some manner. I'm just confused by the place, and I still listen to metal.