Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Variation on a Theme

In response to Camp Studio:

I'm not really sure if this is right or whatever but the idea is that all these guys were brought up to play Beethoven, banging away at the piano or pulling thier violin bows in that uncertain time of ultimate certainty after World War 2 and those instruments of generations past became the only way they could express their Atonal disbelief in a world gone mad with violence and it's almost weird to think about it this way like it could have been some other instruments as the main instruments of the post tonal wave of compositions but it could have been. Also Atonal hunting wasps planted their eggs in the paralyzed (There are bugs all over me! There are ants in my eyes!) formal structures that were just all over the place anyway too. Bricolage as usually. The reality of their youth, their heritage made the instruments of an age depleted the only logical option for this next phase. They simultaneously spurned and embraced the past - Schoenberg was dead, Mahler alive. So ever since I don't know the 50s all these kids go to school for Classical because it seems like it's either that or Jazz or the horrifying reality of life on the farm and stuff (I love ya Wade baby, Props!). Anyway they (later: we) went and then found there were fewer and fewer ears until Cage did something else - we could be cool so we join the post-college aleotric orchestra and howl and compose with dice and random words and bang on cans we hit all cute and deliberate like babies with hipster hair. Basically we wish we were FREE. No more tuxes and tails, heart-on-sleeve vibrato, recitals, glittering premieres. I'm (re)inventing sound all over again. Anyway now we're in the backlash from that and maybe we're connecting again, maybe not all this stuff has melody. We're making music but we don't know what it is. There's a whole bunch of us by the way, we are the Ex Classical Students (good Halloween idea!). We realized the real Pierrot Lunaire was to just knock the whole Ouji Board over (Props K.C.!). Everyone talks about us but no one listens. The stuff we learned is finding its way into our compositions whether we admit it or not. Are we making Music? Are we Musicians? I'm not sure we care.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ten Recordings You Should Listen To - #11

Lynne McMahon directs the Bow Street Junior Ensemble, a string chamber music group for young students. She actually did supply me with this list a little while ago, but I'd taken a bit of a break from this blog, so I'm just now getting around to posting it. This will be the last in this series, as my goal was to post them all in SEPTEMBER. Here is Lynne's list. She, as did many others, had a difficult time narrowing the list down to 10.

1) Erich Kunzel and Cincinnati Pops - Aaron Copland: The Music of America (Telarc)

I love Copland's music for his rhythm, and melody lines I can't get out of my head. I have this CD in my car because he has such an uplifting, optimistic feel to his music.

2) E. Power Biggs, organ - Bach: Organ Music (Essential Classics)

Any recording by E. Power Biggs is wonderful to listen to if you love organ music, especially Bach, the master of organ music. I heard him years ago at Riverside Cathedral in NYC, and I felt so alive.

3) Emerson String Quartet with M. Rostropovich - Schubert: Streichquintett C-Dur (Deutsche Grammophon)

Here is one of the most beautiful pieces of chamber music I've ever heard. Any recording by the Emerson String Quartet is so worth it. They are top notch international musicians, and to listen to them play with Rostropovich on this recording is so moving. I was able to hear him play at Tanglewood when he first came to the States, and I can't believe how much emotion is in his playing.

4) David Finckel, cello, Wu Han, pianist - Edwin Finckel Music for Cello (ArtistLed)

It's funny how I'm drawn so much to cello music even though I am a violinist. This is a wonderful collection of contemporary pieces,
composed by one of my mentors growing up, and played by his son. The last track is an amazing arrangement of the "Willow Weep For Me" tune, full of surprises.

5) Yehudi Menuhin and Stephan Grappelli - Menuhin & Grappelli: Jealousy and Other Standards (EMI)

Finally a CD that features the violin! I am a closet jazz violinist, so I listen to this and I try topaly along when no one is around. A meeting of two masters, and the classical and jazz traditions combine to make a great recording to listen to. They have so much fun with each other.

6) Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall - Uncommon Ritual (Sony)

Speaking of masters and the classical and jazz traditions coming together, this recording defies description. They explore the outer reaches of their instruments, and stretch my musical horizons. This CD is on my Ipod and in my car. My personal favorite is "Ziguenerweisen". I can't believe Edgar Meyer can play this virtuoso violin piece on his bass!

7) Blue Man Group - Audio (Virgin)

If you haven't gone to see a Blue Man Group show in the theater, then you are missing out on an incredible experience of music, humor, creative experimentation, and surprises. My family went to Boston to see them and we all loved it, even our teenage sons. This recording is not a soundtrack, but an expanded version of the music in the show, recorded in their studio. I love the driving beat and the strong bass line, especially in "PVC IV". Did you know that PVC pipe could make such wonderful sounds?

8) Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Rhino)

Here's a throwback to my high school days. This CD is so rock 'n roll and mostly instrumental with a few songs with lyrics. It has such a wide variety of styles. "The Three Fates" is my favorite track, with incredible organ interludes.

9) Harry Belafonte - An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Friends (Island Records)

When I was really little my parents used to put Harry Belafonte on the record player and we'd dance all around the house. Because of that, Harry Belafonte makes me feel so happy whenever I hear his singing. This recording made in 1997, was the first Harry Belafonte made after a long hiatus, so his famous songs, like Day-O and Jamaica Farewell have been transformed. This live concert has so many different cultural influences, like the Caribbean, Latin America, Greece, Africa, not to mention America.

10) The Good Luck Joes - What do you think of that noise? (Third Ward Records)

I have really loved listening to this new group of college guys coming up with their own rock 'n roll sound. (My nephew is the drummer.) It's so energetic and driving in feeling. This is their third and newest album and always gets me going. Another perfect CD for my car.