Google has been sending Styx fans to aworks this week looking for I Am the Walrus. While I knew I had mentioned Styx covering Aaron Copland's Fanfare for a Common Man, I just figured out the Beatles connection:
[Styx is] getting more and more airplay from radio stations who are falling love with our live recording of The Beatles' "I Am The Walrus" which we are now sending to another 1000 stations.
The composer Terry Riley is the namesake for the Who's Baba O'Riley ("It's only teenage wasteland."). Originally, Pete Townshend played an ARP synthesizer (or Lowrey organ) on the song. It was later covered by Pearl Jam and the Grateful Dead. Live MP3 here. Riley interviewed on his compositions and rock music:
In the '60s, the work that I was doing was more parallel to the work that was going on in rock. There was the similarities and the kinetic energy that both musics had.
If you are looking for harder, more intense Terry Riley music, The Walrus in Memorium, as a piano piece, is probably not it. You might try Shri Camel or Poppy Nogood with keyboards and electronic effects.
• Magical Mystery Tour Amazon sales rank: #455 and popular (#12) at UC Berkeley (no surprise) along with The Byrds, Hail to the Thief, Justin Timberlake, Cecilia Bartola, the Emerson Quartet's Art of the Fugue, the New Pornographers et al .
• Who's Next Amazon sales rank: #1,013
• Gloria Cheng: Piano Music Of John Adams And Terry Riley Amazon sales rank: #47,003
• Shri Camel Amazon sales rank: #67,843
• Poppy Nogood Amazon sales rank: #147,869
• Cheng CD discounted at Berkshire Record Outlet: $2.99
• Prior aworks post mentioning Gloria Cheng.
• Disclosure: An earlier Emerson, Lake & Palmer reference drew zero traffic my way although my linking to a page by the director of the Eminem Mosh video resulted in some blogdex traffic.
Here's a quick survey of recent tech product developments and their relation to classical music...
Rip. Sample. Mash. Share. This month's Wired Magazine bundles a CD to illustrate the use of Creative Commons licenses (developed by Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig); some of the tracks use the Noncommercial Sampling Plus License and some use the more liberal Sampling Plus license. High-tech law firms Cooley Godward and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati provided pro bono legal advice towards drafting them. Of the CD itself, the article said they had to ask fifty artists to find sixteen courageous enough to participate, although each artist gets a sidebar in the story so they do get publicity. No classical artists were asked, presumably. It will be interesting to see how this music mutates as it gets recycled.
Last week, I visited the new Apple mini-store at Stanford Shopping Center. It's a narrow, minimalist version of their normal retail store. The left-side of the store featured iPods, the right Macs. Interestingly, I counted eight people on the iPod side and no one on the Mac side. I also checked two of the display iPods and didn't find any classical music although to be fair, the only artist I even recognized was Morcheeba. I have to say I couldn't see any reason to go back, lack of classical music notwithstanding.
This week, Apple announced their new iPods in downtown San Jose at the newly restored California Theatre. Normally I work several blocks away; yesterday I was home with a bad cold so I missed the hoopla. Let's be honest--how often is there hoopla in downtown San Jose? Oh well... The product rollout included a U2 "special edition" iPod which bundles their back catalog. I recognize there might be considerably less buzz generated for the complete works of Charles Ives pre-installed on an iPod. I also recognize that unlike U2, Charles Ives would have been unable to attend. Instead, how about loading onto an iPod back catalog from say Nonesuch Records? Ok, until that's available, I'll roll my own Nonesuch iPod. Although no longer in stock, Berkshire Record Outlet had the Nonesuch boxed sets of John Adams, Steve Reich, and Kronos Quartet at a great discount and I bought all three, but they still need to be ripped for loading onto my iPod. Let's see: 30 CDs x 10 minutes per CD (assuming cddb hasn't screwed up the MP3 tags) is 5 hours of effort. Argh.
In a positive sign, today I listened to Kyle Gann's PostClassic streaming radio station on live365.com. Playlist here. Not sure how the licensing works; I think he pays a monthly fee, the site monitors what people listen to (for free), and presumably royalties get paid. Anyway, I was pleased to see three tracks from Music for Three Pianos, a superb display of simple piano music by three pianists/composers--Harold Budd, Ruben Garcia, and Daniel Lentz.
"The sound is warm and inviting, the sightlines clean, the ambience intimate." Joshua Kosman
Steve Reich 1965-1995 sales rank: #27,582
John Adams Earbox sales rank: #42,003
Kronos Quartet 25 Years sales rank: #51,071
Music for Three Pianos Amazon sales rank: #304,376
I'm still cynical about its origins, but I've come to love Creative Commons.Hilary Rosen
Christopher Chase offers up some history on the seventies rock group Styx and their big hit Come Sail Away. He also notes:
Styx was well known for appropriating and transforming song forms, and rewriting the Sea Shanty with nostalgic regrets, culminating in a UFO abduction was perfectly in line for a band who had already invented the Power Ballad ("Lady") and then reinvented it as a prog-rock approach towards a critical examination of American nationalism ("Suite Madame Blue") or reread Aaron Copland ("Fanfare for the Common Man") and melded it with spoken word New Deal economics ("Street Collage").
Not to date myself but I remember when Lady was a breakout hit on WLS in Chicago. I'll also admit to seeing Emerson, Lake & Palmer play Fanfare for the Common Man in concert.
I respect people fighting the important fights, be it The Standing Room on proper conducting of John Adams...
What Alan Gilbert presented was an total mess.
Alex Ross on proper interpretation of musical style with respect to sexual politics...
Meanwhile, experimental, non-tonal sounds ran rampant in the work of gay composers Henry Cowell, John Cage, Harry Partch, and Lou Harrison — Partch and Harrison with their alternative scales and systems of tuning; Cowell with his violently dissonant "cluster chords"; Cage with his chance procedures.
Thus, to answer the obvious, it isn't that there is a "gay" sensibility to American music, it is that there is a metropolitan sensibiilty to American life and art in the 20th century, and one of the outcast groups that colonized it first were young homosexual men - from Cole Porter forward.
Speaking of the metropolis, I remember my Urban Sociology professor making the point how the scale and complexity of a city leads to diversity and specialization. The example, bogus for all I know, was a store in Manhattan that could sustain a business selling only busts of Nefertiti. I wonder if I can buy a bust of say, Henry Cowell or John Cage; obviously not here in Menlo Park but maybe on the net? Alas, ebay only has European composer busts.
I also admire the mundane battles e.g. Ian Fieggan (via del.icio.us/popular) on proper shoelacing technique (from what could charitably be called a specialist website):
Most people go through their whole lives only knowing the one shoelace knot that they learned as a child, having been taught by either a parent, a sibling, a relative, a teacher or even another child.
An array of glissandos, wobbling glissandos, and portamentos connect clear pure pitches, quarter-tone wobbling slow trills, fast trills, and tremolos.
Also related to fighting, I made a point to watch MTV's TRL show this evening to see Eminem's new Mosh video. Disturbing and powerful and a surprisingly positive ending. Comments from the director Ian Inaba.
What unites the piece harmonically is a constantly recurring D major dominant chord — usually with G, rather than A in the bass. This bright ray of D major light illuminates most of the piece, most intensely in the final movement.
It features 18 amplified voices, an amplified instrumental ensemble, “state-of-the-art” sound design, and the prodigious talents of new-music piano virtuosi Gloria Cheng, Lisa Edwards, Bryan Pezzone and Vicki Ray.
Gloria Cheng recorded the John Adams/Terry Riley CD I like so much with China Gates and The Walrus in Memorium (Previously, I had posted "this is a light-hearted set of variations on I Am the Walrus by the Beatles." That CD is available at Berkshire Record Outlet for $2.99. Recommended.
I suppose in several years we'll hear the new Reich work on CD as well.
Celeste Hutchins, in a post about fonts and other topics, asks if Steve Reich's Come Out is exploitive:
But to my ignorant self, it seems like he's using the words of African Americans and then slowly degenerating their meaning until it's unintelligible.
Come Out was premiered at a benefit concert for the Harlem Six, a group of kids being retried for murder (one of the six apparently was guilty but not the one whose voice was used by Reich). The composer on Music Mavericks:
I was given a stack of about 10 reels of tape with mothers and voices, and I said to the guy--Truman Nelson was his name--who was a civil rights person and scholar of John Brown, I said, “Look, I’ll do this and I’ll do it for nothing, but you’ve got to let me make a piece out of anything I find.”
Steve Reich's Writings about Music does not really answer the question of the work and its meaning. Keith Potter in Four Musical Minimalists suggests the work resembles social protest with the repetition increasing its impact; it might have also served as a warning of the sixties' racial unrest to follow. Reich in the liner notes to Early Works talks about the use of recorded speech:
By not altering its pitch or timbre, one keeps the original emotional power that speech has while intensifying its melody and meaning through repetition and rhythm.
• Reich work list on NewMusicBox.
• The piece is so minimal, basically a repeat of the phrase "come out to show them" with increasing phasing, such that by the end, it is bizarrely unintelligible albeit still musical. Robert Gable • Amazon.com Music Sales Rank of Early Works: #59,528
Mark Applebaum's Pre-Composition consists of Mark and his inner voices as they discuss, debate, criticize and sing parts of a new electronic piece he is writing. The cast includes stupid idea guy, diplomatic guy, intellectual guy, technical guy, "Mr. Spiritual" and others; he/they engage in creative dialogue while working through the composition.
"Well, I'm sure if Mozart were alive today, he woud know how many samples his piece of music was, that's all I'm saying."
"That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard."
"I'm sure you are both right."
"I'm sure you are both idiots."
"What kind of bandwidth would the hamster have?"
"I think we should all join hands."
"Build a dry-ice to MIDI conversion but one with, you know, solenoids."
"Just because it's an overused gesture, I don't think that necessarily makes it a cliche."
"Or a theremin with a flanger."
This is an extremely funny piece that effectively illuminates the composer's creative process, albeit in a facetious way. The real Mark Applebaum does admit to a "council of elders" advising him on his composing. The composer comments:
The sounds are simply unprocessed vocal sounds, moving from meta-musical narration to absolute musical expression.
Mark Applebaum is an assistant professor at Stanford. Apparently, Applebaum just performed two piano works by Tom Johnson at Stanford Memorial Church. Composer website.
Disclaimer 1: The piece is on his CD Intellectual Property™. I couldn't find a stream or MP3 of the piece but it's for sale at Downtown Music Gallery.
Disclaimer 2: I was the guy on Caltrain today broadly smirking as he listened to his iPod.
Disclaimer 3: Laura and my father-in-law are both Stanford grads, despite Palo Alto CD shopping being inferior to that in Berkeley, Westwood, West Lafayette, Bloomington, Ann Arbor, Norman, Austin, Princeton, Cambridge MA, etc. On the other hand, I was enticed last year to attend Stanford's homecoming reunion because the composer gave a lecture "Musical Schizophrenia: Art vs. Pop."
Disclaimer 4: I just got the joke that he trademarked the phrase "intellectual property."