The Ives was done with full spirit, fast-paced, bringing out the
thematic sources of the music in a way that can be buried in the
various recorded performances I've heard...Finally -- some enterprising record company should record Jeremy Denk in the Ives Sonata!!!!
aworks operational note: i had a small stumble yesterday at the record man in redwood city and re-injured my foot. this may officially end summer activity and so a return to more sedentary activities like blogging...
I'm listening to the new Christopher O'Riley CD of rock piano transcriptions. I always have mixed reactions to this. On the one hand, he clearly has artistic intent and talent compared to the assembly line of the Vitamin String Quartet and their 294 albums (so far).
But as one who often likes the original music as well as "true" classical performances by O'Riley, these transcriptions leave me in some middle ground of familiarity without the possibility of transcendence. Classical arrangements of Frank Zappa have the same result.
Although applied to the notion of pygmy music being representative of what was played thousands of years ago, Music 000001 has an interesting post today on how cultural drift happens (or doesn't happen) in traditional societies:
...there is never a moment of transmission when something is "handed down"
but a continual process of cultural imprinting, enforcement and
re-enforcement...Traditions change only when confronted by powerful forces capable of
altering or destroying the cultural fields that maintain them. If such
forces are never encountered, then both the fields and the traditions
It's probably a good thing that we currently lack an effective mechanism of cultural enforcement.
Journalist Gillian Gaar described "Heart-Shaped Box" as "the Nirvana formula personified, with a restrained, descending riff played through the verse, building in intensity to the cascading passion of the chorus".
Cobain said the song was inspired by documentaries about children with cancer.
Just Outside posts about a new Tom Johnson recording and says he loves An Hour for Piano. This minimalistic piece could be considered "clunky," but in fact I also like it, length and all.
"A trance music piece made up of repeating 4/4 cells in which an absolutely steady eighth-note motion predominates" (amazon)
"But in An Hour for Piano there's really nothing you can memorize because the returns of former figures are too unpredictable, and there's almost no measure more or less difficult than another." (postclassic)
Andy Lee has MP3s of his performance of the work. (walkingstick)
From the program notes: "It is important that you try not to allow the program notes to distract you from concentrating on the music. They are intended to increase your ability to concentrate on the piece, and not to distract from it. If you find that reading the program notes does not increase your ability to concentrate on the music, you should not read further at this time. Perhaps, at some later time, you will find that reading the program notes will increase your ability to concentrate on the music." (dram)
Arnold Dreyblatt's interesting pulse and timbre is from The Sound of One String (although not available on lala)...I keep working through my John Cage tracks...The Ornette Coleman is from a crude early recording Complete Live from the Hillcrest Club; he plays with zest but hasn't yet broken free...I can listen to Monk improvise on any tune but Nutty is a favorite...Ode fascinatingly combines a recording of an auctioneer with electronic sounds. town hall and related: seth godinpaul krugmanfiredoglakeopenleftopenleftpoliticalanimal
So, I get in the car this morning for the daily commute to San Jose but quickly realize I left my iPod in the house. To compensate, I decide to stream last.fm from the phone by playing the John Cage Radio Station. For those not familiar with this, you enter an artist's name and last.fm then plays music by artists similar to that artist based on what other people have played and tagged.
The first 10 minutes were great as I heard music by John Cage and then Olivier Messiaen (Oraison, new to me and recommended), all from my car. I'm amazed.
But then I got on the hedonic treadmill because I started to get annoyed at the tracks that followed, even though all of them were by European 20th century composers of note -- Schoenberg, Ligeti, Scelsi, Bartok, and Nono. All of these are good of course but I was hoping to hear from avant-garde American composers who might nominally be contemporary peers and colleagues of Cage e.g. Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown etc. and who had an experimental bent.
As I got closer to work, finally it was Charlemagne Palestine's Schlingen-Blängen, an hour of radical organ music. Great. Then when I pulled in to the parking lot and put the music on pause so I could finish it at work, I had a new problem. Pause in this context means put the station on hold. Subseqently resuming plays the next track on the station, not the paused one. Not so great.
All in all, I was a little disappointed with last.fm since, as good as it was, the music didn't remind me of Cage's music. Presumably, those few who listen to Schoenberg also listen to Cage but not necessarily for reasons of musical similarity (even of Cage did study with Schoenberg).
On the way home, I decided to try the same experiment with Pandora. That's the service that has tagged hundreds of thousands of tracks with various musical attributes to enabling me to have a John Cage station based on music that matches the the attributes in his music.
For example, twice today, the station has served up tracks from Tangerine Dream's Phaedra:
Based on what you have told us so far, we're playing this track because it features use of modal harmonies, emphasis on instrumental performance, a slow-moving bass line, the use of clean-sounding organs, and synth riffs.
I happen to love that album and maybe there is some connection between that and John Cage that I had never imagined. But still, not what I was expecting.
Then, Pandora played Steve Reich's Pendulum Music, something that sounds experimental and as "out there" as Cage's music often does. Thank you, Pandora.
To complete today's journey on the hedonic pendulum, I stopped for an ice cream cone...
Both Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II said Carousel was their favorite collaboration. They broke new ground in musical theater storytelling with their extended music-and-dialog scenes, such as the "bench scene", which features "If I Loved You", and the haunting "Soliloquy" in which Billy imagines his future child. These scenes, especially the former, treat singing like spoken dialog set to music (much as in opera recitative, with the "recitative" singing leading up to the actual song). The final anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" has assumed a life of its own as a funeral and graduation standard. It is also customarily sung by supporters of several association football (soccer) clubs, beginning with Liverpool F.C. in the 1960s. Since 1964 Jerry Lewis had ended the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon with an emotional rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone.
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In the chapter on the impact of electronics in classical music, he talks about a Harvard professor who had his students listen to various instruments all playing the same pitch, except without the initial "attack" i.e. as a sustained sound. And so it was hard to actually distinguish the clarinet from the trumpet from the violin from the piccolo:
The lesson was that most of the characteristic information in a musical sound is in the onset, or the "attack." Strange but true: the attack is largely characterized by noise rather than by pitch. Each instrument has highly complex attack characteristics, and it is from here, in this split second of the beginning of a sound, that we derive the lion's share of the information.
To be fair, the book is not at all pedantic like that paragraph might imply.
OK, the Chatham. As a composition, it was severely clunky, lurching
from one section to the next with little sense of any organic whole. It
began very nicely with a controlled hum that expanded into a rich
drone, the sounds gently flowing back and forth over the space, lovely
effect. The next section also began intriguingly, a 16-note pattern
that was also meted out to the four sections, I think four notes each
but slightly irregularly, so the sequence softly ricocheted from one
quarter to another, the initial bare bones "melody" being added to
little by little with flourishes and fanfares. That was fine, but it
went on way too long, the sock cymbal's relentless beat becoming very wearying and the essential elements of the section not all that fascinating to hold up for that long (20 minutes?)
He also suggests this kind of thing works better when greatly stripped down. Coincidentally, I heard a version of Chatham's Guitar Trio for the first time last night via last.fm recommendation. And I'll now recommend it as well:
Despite the fact that I now have forty days and eighteen hours of music on my computer, enough to outlast the Flood, I keep returning to a stack of favorite disks that I keep next to my stereo.
This is so not me. I can't remember the last time I listened to a CD.
Ok, actually I can, it was an attempt to hear a Messiaen opera in my car. Regardless, CDs are purely for purchasing, ripping, and storing. If I had to guess, 1/3 of my music is via lala.com streaming, 1/3 via MP3s on an iPod, and 1/3 via MP3s on my PC. No CDs, no LPs, no cassettes, no radio, no YouTube videos, no MySpace, almost no Pandora etc.
I owe my non-album habits mostly due to smart playlists. What I really like to do is find "greatest tracks" on a per composer (or artist) basis. I have a rotating list of candidates composers -- currently Angus MacLise, Bernard Herrmann, Charlie Parker, Chas Smith, Henry Flynt, John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Thelonious Monk. I'll make a first pass at listening to everything I own by a composer; in the case of Flynt all of two tracks, in the case of John Cage, for some reason, I have an amazing 857 tracks.
I also focus on the best of what I've heard using rated tracks, until at some point I reach a saturation point. I've found if I do this with only a couple of composers, I quickly go bonkers, while if I have too many, it becomes too random. I aspire to the infinite playlist but even I have my limits.
This does overcome the hegemony of listening by monolithic albums although the method doesn't really work for opera, which requires more coherence. But the end result is a good balance of listening to the "new" and the "good."
Ok, I do cheat and listen to other tracks from time to time. Today's favorite is Edmund Welles' Rumple as found on the group's Muzac for Devils recording. Can't beat a good all-bass clarinet track.
Ross' article tempts me to spend a week only listening to CDs to see if it is a more mindful and deep experience, as a I vaguely remember it being. Still, I have to stop and think if I even have a working CD player other than in the car.
And although I work for a company that builds audio and video codecs (at lunch today, we talked about the merits of FLAC vs. MP3), lossy compressed files are good enough for my ears. So yet another reason to not revert to CDs or re-rip all those John Cage tracks...
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