Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Ten Concerts of 2009

Continuing tradition, here is my list of the top ten concerts of 2009. Remember, only concerts that I attended are on the list. This is at least my fourth year doing this, though I only have the previous two years on this blog (I lost 2006 in a transfer from another blog site!) Click the following to see my top concerts of 2008 and my top concerts of 2007. While I do see my fair share of national acts, I highly recommend everyone support local acts and local venues! This is where much of the best music is made today!

10. St. Vincent, Somerville Theater - I was really looking forward to this concert. In 2008, I had tickets to their show at The Middle East in Cambridge and missed it because I was sick with a severe cold. In early 2009 they released their latest CD - Actor - and their May show at the Somerville Theater seemed the perfect opportunity to make up for 2008's loss. Unfortunately, the concert was a bit of a disappointment. So why does it come in at number ten? We'll, I really love their music and even though the concert wasn't all I'd hoped for, I still cherished the opportunity to see the amazing Annie Clark (pictured - in a photo from the Somerville show) do her thing live. She is an amazing composer, vocalist and guitarist, and I think that since the show we saw was the opening night of the tour, things weren't quite there yet. She didn't really connect with the crowd, and the band sound was a bit on the sterile side. But the musicianship was really top notch. Just disconnected from the room. I hope to have the opportunity to give them another try soon.

9. Tim Webb and Friends, The Press Room in Portsmouth - This January show was quite possibly my first show of 2009 and still lingers with me. I wrote a blog entry about the show here. The line-up of Tim, Titus Abbott, Matt Langley, Mike Effenberger and Mike Walsh (with guests Chris Klaxton and Jim Clark) was stellar - many of the area's top jazz players. There isn't enough free jazz being done around here. Unfortunately it is under appreciated in this neck of the woods.

8. Philip Glass and Friends, The Music Hall in Portsmouth - The show was a little uneven musically, but hey, it was Philip Glass. He did a great hour-long session with a group of PMAC students the afternoon of the concert (pictured), and was as kind and informative as could be. Though the new cello pieces that were on the concert are not really my thing, it was wonderful to have this 20th (and now 21st) century icon visit Portsmouth. Bravo to The Music Hall for bringing him here!

7. Bryan Killough and the Hot Club of Portland, The Portsmouth Gaslight Company - Not enough restaurants in town have live music. And those that do sometimes don't offer the top local talent. But for a several month run in 2009, you could catch Bryan Killough and his Hot Club of Portland every Friday night while enjoying a meal at the Portsmouth Gaslight Company. Unfortunately, that run came to an end in the late summer or early fall, but luckily Katie and I got the chance to catch their show several times this year. The line-up changed, depending on musician availability from week to week, but the music never failed to inspire. Whether it was Joyce Anderson on jazz violin and vocals or Charlie Jennison on soprano sax, the music was always joyous, capturing the spark of genius that Django Reinhardt left to the world. If the people at the Gaslight are reading this, please bring them back in 2010. I haven't been back since they left and I'm longing for a great dinner with their beautiful soundtrack.

6. Green Day, Boston's Banknorth Garden - This was it. The big, national, touring, spectacular that our two sons chose for their 2009 major concert outing. In 2008 we began this tradition with a trip to Manchester to see Rush. This year it was Green Day in Boston. It was a classic rock show, with the obligatory obscenities, t-shirt cannon, audience singing competitions, confetti, explosions, and more. We definitely got our money's worth, and Katie and I got to relive our youth with a concert that lived up to all the expectations of 1980s spectacles. Billy Joe Armstrong and the gang gave it their all and the kids have a golden memory that will most likely last a lifetime. I can't wait to find out what show they want to see in 2010!

5. Charlie Kohlhase and The Explorers' Club with Eric Hoffbauer, West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth As I said, there is not enough free jazz in Portsmouth. And on a cold, wintery night in early 2009, Charlie and his free-thinking cohorts were determined to do something about that. I wish more people attended this show. It was a small audience, and the music deserved to be heard. A CD release show for the Explorers Club's latest effort, the wonderful musicians in Charlie's band were ON. Free jazz at its finest. Eric Hoffbauer, who is the Explorers Club guitarist, also opened the show with many of his originals. I hope I have more notice the next time these guys come to town. I'll beat the drum and get people out. They are definitely worth it.

4. Clara's Dream, The Music Hall in Portsmouth - As wintery as it was, there was nothing cold about this hot show of jazz and tap. It was the second time I've seen Clara's Dream and though I remember the show as being amazing in 2004, everyone I was with said this run was much better. I don't care to compare the two, but I will say that this year's production was fantastic, one of the best shows of the year. Even though it is a dance show, the live band on stage gave one of the best jazz performances I've heard all year and are deserving of high honors on this list. I'm glad the Music Hall let Drika Overton bring this gem back, and hope this wasn't its last hurrah. My Christmas wish is that this show should have a long life for many more seasons.

3. Spinal Tarp, The Barley Pub in Dover - O.M.G. It was tough deciding not to make this the #1 show of the year. If you missed it, I'm sorry. You missed something very, very special. In my opinion, it is nearly impossible to pull of a good parody of a parody, but somehow these guys managed to do just that. I have never, ever had so much fun at a Halloween concert. My full blog report is here. This was one for the books. Can they top this for 2010? If they come close, I'll be floored. Wow.

2. Amanda Palmer with Nervous Cabaret, the Portland Music Hall - This was a great show - and adding Nevous Cabaret really changed up the mix of Amanda's music in a great way. Now I'm looking forward to her New Year's Eve show with the Boston Pops. I decided not to wait and got this list out now, but I have a feeling that the final show of 2009 might give the top of this list a run for its money. (the picture is of me and Amanda right after the November 2009 show)

1. The Dirty Projectors, the Somerville Theatre - The Dirty Projectors are, without a doubt, one of the most creative, unique bands of today. The vocal work is complex and startling - in the best of ways. The arrangements are unexpected and clever. And the music is truly original. Katie and I were thrilled to catch them in June and are eagerly hoping to see them again (we missed their last trek through Boston due to a scheduling conflict). This show was the gem of the year. If you don't know their music, go buy their CDs immediately. I can't guarantee that you'll love, or even like them. But they deserve a listen.

And with that I come to the end of another list and another year. Let me know what your favorite show of 2009 was. You just might convince me to go see your favorite band in 2010.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Amanda Palmer 11/12/109 Setlist

Those who know me well know that I am a pretty big fan of Amanda Palmer. I went to her November 12th concert in Portland and will be going to see her with Katie on New Years Eve with the Boston Pops - yes, that's less than 3 weeks away and I can't think of many better ways to ring in the new year. I've been meaning to do my customary posting of her setlist from the Portland show for some time, but concert happenings at PMAC have been keeping me too busy. So here it is, better late than never:

Amanda Palmer with Nervous Cabaret
Portland Music Hall, Nov. 12, 2009
Missed Me
Guitar Hero
Mrs. O
Coin-Operated Boy
Point of it All
I Google You
Sex Changes
Mandy Goes to Med School
House of the Rising Sun (Animals cover)
Leeds United
Makin' Whoopie (cover on ukulele)
That's Not My Name (Ting Tings cover)

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Music Ensemble/Sports Team analogy

I have two sons who are active Little League players - actually only one now, since my older son has aged out of the league. Both are also very active musicians. Sometimes I'll talk with parents who will make comparisons between team sports and music ensemble experiences. I'll often hear a music rehearsal (or class) compared to a sports team practice, an analogy that doesn't hold up for me. I think of it a little differently. Here are some comparisons, with the sports team concept first, followed by the music ensemble concept.

manager/coach=conductor/instructor (easy enough)

player (athlete)=player (musician) (as easy as it gets)

team practice=practicing instrument/music at home (I'll explain some of these more at the end)

regular season game=music ensemble rehearsal/class

playoff game=performance/concert

You may be asking: "Why isn't a rehearsal analogous to a practice and a performance analogous to a game?" Well, in most youth sports programs there are many games that lead up to some form of championship series. In most leagues, such a Little League, regular season games are all about equal playing time (as much as is possible) and learning the game. Team records in Little League are cleared at the beginning of the playoffs - all teams begin the post-season on equal footing. Only in the playoffs do wins and losses determine rank in the league.

In a music ensemble, there tend to be far fewer performances than games in a sports season. In fact, in most American educational ensembles (not just PMAC, but public schools and other music opportunities) there tends to be only one or two performances at the end of a long series of rehearsals. The same weight is put on such performances as is put on sports playoff games. Performances, like playoff games, are taken very seriously, even though the point (like in sports) is to experience the thrill and joy of participation in such an event. Good Little League programs are able to balance fun with the gravity of a playoff game, and good music programs are able to balance fun with the gravity of live performance in front of an audience.

Regular season games are very important. Each season I see my sons' teams improve vastly, especially in the area of defense (which is the aspect of baseball that requires the most team interaction), over the course of the regular season. It is the regular season games that provide the educational atmosphere that make compelling and well-played playoff games possible.

A baseball game can't be played without all 9 fielders, and some pitching and fielding relief in the dugout. Basically, a team plays at its best when everyone is present. The same holds true for music ensembles. Whether an orchestra, rock band or sax quartet, all ensembles play their best when everyone is present. In a music ensemble, the need for all members to be present and playing is analogous to a team's need for all players at a regular season game.

In sports teams, practices are opportunities isolate fundamentals and work on drills. I see this as analogous to practicing one's part at home or in private lessons with a teacher. Just as a sports team can't run onto the field and play a game without practicing drills and learning rules in practice, a music ensemble can't play pieces of music in a rehearsal without the players practicing and learning their parts independently. Just as baseball players will practice fielding ground balls during drills at their team practice, music students should be practicing isolated passages from their music in independent practice sessions and lessons. Yes, the first several rehearsals are spent putting isolated parts of music together, but in most music ensembles entire pieces are being played after the first couple rehearsals (if not from the very first rehearsal). And once the musical group starts playing full pieces in rehearsal, independent practice does not stop, but rather continues to be an important part of the preparation cycle.

As with all analogies, these comparisons are not iron-clad definitions. I present them purely to demonstrate expectation similarities. Similar to sports, each player in a music ensemble plays a specific, unique role. And as such, each player is as indispensable to their ensemble as a player is to his team.

In rehearsals, much like sports games, the absence of players creates challenges that are sometimes impossible to overcome. When there aren't enough players to field, games are forfeited, and teams miss the opportunity to prepare for the playoffs. When playing in an ensemble, the same level of commitment is expected of a musician as is expected of an athlete on a sports team. And when student musicians rise to the occasion, remarkable things happen. That is why a spectacular music performance can often give audiences the same feelings of excitement and joy that sports fans experience during a playoff win.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Vote for PMAC in the Chase Community Giving Program on Facbook

Chase Bank is giving $5million to charities this year based on Facebook voting. The top vote-getter will receive $1million and the four runner-ups will each receive $100,000 each. The 100 charities that receive the most votes will each receive $25,000. The link to vote for the Portsmouth Music and Arts Center is at the bottom of this blog entry.

Now, you're thinking this is a long shot. Maybe. But the Facebook Application that is taking the votes is only allowing one vote per Facebook member. So most organizations are not getting that many votes. As I write this, PMAC already had 62 votes. It doesn't seem like a lot, but I've been searching though a lot of big nonprofits and I've only come across 5 with more than 100 votes. The largest vote getter I've found is the American Cancer Society of New York with a little over 700 votes. That is one of the largest charities in the world, with a HUGE Facebook population. So I'm thinking that any charity that can get into the hundreds might have a chance at this. So VOTE for PMAC!

The $25,000 is an unrestricted grant. It will make our educational programs more accessible to families who are facing tough financial times. It will help us develop new educational programs. We're working on expanding our visual arts classes - a grant like this would help us do more now.

Getting a membership at Facebook is easy. Click here: JOIN FACEBOOK. Once you're a member, be sure to become a friend of The Portsmouth Music and Arts Center. Our Facebook page is HERE. You'll get updates about PMAC and be able to interact with our Facebook community. Sometimes our Facebook fans are the first to learn about new PMAC happenings.

If you're a bit cautious about the net, you can still vote without creating an active account. Just make an account that is fully private and vote. No one will ever see who you are. But you will make a difference. (FYI: Several PMAC supporters have already done this and their votes count equally.)

So click the link below and help us get over the 100 vote mark. That's our goal. Let's see if we can hit it together. Thanks for helping us build community through the arts.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Social Capital

Lew Feldstein, president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, spoke before the Portsmouth Rotary Club today. The topic: What is social capital? Direct from Lew's literature, social capital "refers to the bonds that tie a community together - bonds that make communities safer, schools better and people healthier. When people are invested in their communities, they are more likely to vote, volunteer and care for one another."

The core message was that our connections with other people count. These connections have more than casual meaning. Such connections impact every aspect of our life, and the more meaningful the connection, the more positive the impact. This means that volunteering for an organization - getting involved - has as many benefits for you as it does for the organization you're helping. Maybe more.

When a community has a high level of social capital, benefits are seen in the areas of educational achievement, government performance, economic growth, and community safety. That's right - the higher the social capital in your community, the lower the crime rate.

This is a similar message as is heard in relation to "take back our streets" nights, when communities gather outside to celebrate while simultaneously "taking back the streets from criminals." In Portsmouth we participate in "National Night Out" every August for that very reason. This builds social capital.

Being a community member that participates also builds social capital - for you and your community. When you sing in a choir, play in a band, take an art class, or even go for a walk with your friends.

The Portsmouth Music and Arts Center is an organization that prides itself in building social capital. Here are some examples of the PMAC experience that result in a higher level of social capital:
  • We encourage ensemble experiences for all of our music students and classroom experiences for our art students. The interaction between students is a powerful experience.
  • Our students are able to network within our school - especially adult students. I can name several bands that were formed by adult music students (and professionals) who met in the walls of PMAC (Crabshack, George Rinalducci and the J Notes, Elissa Margolin and Friends, to name a few).
  • Our faculty and staff is a "family." We all know each other, collaborate, share in our lives outside work, and often get together socially outside of the school. We tell each other jokes, and while we take our work very seriously, we try not to take ourselves too seriously.
  • Our board of directors and volunteers are passionate about arts education. They all love PMAC - they really do. This becomes a unifying bond that results in life-long relationships outside of our organization.

What does all of this mean? Lew puts it simply: the more you are involved in your community, the healthier you and your community will become. And he closed his talk with a warning. Social capital is in decline. People are less involved with one another these days. There are fewer and fewer families spending early evenings on the front porch conversing with neighbors. Fewer people are seeking out others for meaningful relationships.

My hope is that an understanding of social capital will encourage more people to become engaged with their community. With other people. We're one outlet for such interaction, but there are dozens of other opportunities presented to each and every one of us daily. The next time such an option pops up, think about saying yes.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Fall 2009 Departmental Workshops

Below is detailed information pertaining to the upcoming Departmental Workshops. This is PMAC's sixth year of providing workshops for private lesson students. It is one of the advantages of studying at a community school and designed to be fun and informative for all students. Also check out my May 2005 Blog Post: The Value of Departmental Workshops.

NOVEMBER 22 - 24, 2009

What are Departmental Workshops? Departmental Workshops are master classes for all private music lesson students who study at PMAC. These workshops are presented by our faculty and focus on musicianship, performance techniques, music equipment and repertoire.

Why do I have to attend? As a private music lesson student, workshop attendance is mandatory. This is an opportunity to work with different teachers, meet students with similar interests and learn something new. There are no lessons the week of Departmental Workshops to give everyone time to attend.

When are the Workshops? The dates are the workshops are November 22-24, 2009. Note the following changes: We’ve moved the two Wednesday workshops to the prior Sunday afternoon to accommodate families with full schedules and to move them farther away from Thanksgiving Day; and we’ve moved the Adult Workshop to Monday evening.

Where are they located? All Workshops take place in our PMAC Recital Hall.

How do I sign-up? Please talk to your instructor directly to get their recommendation for the best workshop for your ability. All workshops are limited to 25 participants – no exceptions! – so be sure to sign up early to get the class of your choice. If you have any questions, please call the PMAC Office at 431-4278 or e-mail Katie at

2-3pm: Music Theory Games (for any student, ages 7 to 14) – Instructor Bryan Killough presents several music theory concepts using games and interactive materials. Learn about intervals, scales and more in an entertaining and fun way! Workshop Leader: Bryan Bergeron Killough; Supporting Teacher: Nick Phaneuf

3:30-4:30pm: Listening Workshop – Song Forms (for any student ages 9 to 18) – In this listening based workshop hear a wide variety of songs from the world of popular music and learn what to listen for to reveal clues about how they are put together. Workshop Leader: Nick Phaneuf; Supporting Teacher: Bryan Bergeron Killough

3:30-4:30pm: Improvisation (for any instrumental student ages 9 to 18) – Get out your instruments and improvise along with our jazz faculty – even if you’ve never tried to improvise before! All instruments are welcome. Workshop Leader: Chris Klaxton; Supporting Teachers: Matt Langley, Mike Walsh, Jeff Auger

4:45-5:45pm: Guitar Amplifiers (for any guitar student, ages 5 to 18) – Learn about guitar amplifiers including how they work and techniques for getting the best sound production. Guest artist Dave Hunter invites all guitar students to bring their amplifier along to learn more about it. Workshop Leader: Dave Hunter (guest artist); Supporting Teachers: Nick Phaneuf, Carlos Sabina, Mike Effenberger

6-7pm: Auxilliary Percussion (for any student, ages 8 to 18) – Guest artist Shane Kinney from the Drum Shop of Portsmouth will bring a wide variety of auxiliary percussion instrument to this workshop where students will learn about and play the instruments. From bongos and congas to tambourines and triangles, there will be a lot of fun music to be made! - Workshop Leader: Shane Kinney (guest artist); Supporting Teachers: Mike Walsh, Adam MacDougall, Diane Tiezzi

7:15-9pm: Adult Workshop (for all adult students (ages 21+) – ALL adult private lesson students are asked to attend this important session where we get the opportunity to play our pieces for each other, discuss the unique challenges and joys of learning music as an adult, and partake in wonderful food and libations! - Workshop Leader: Mike Effenberger; Supporting Teachers: Diane Tiezzi, Adam MacDougall, Russ Grazier

3:30-4:30pm: Composition (for all students ages 8 to 18) – Do you write music? Have you ever wanted to write a song but don’t know where to begin? This special workshop provides insight into the craft of composition and gives easy tips to help you start writing your own original music. - Workshop Leader: Russ Grazier; Supporting Teachers: Katie Papini Backus, Adam MacDougall, Nicole Hajj

4:45-5:45pm: Young Student Workshop (for students ages 8 and younger) – Designed for our youngest lesson students, this workshop encourages joy and fun in music making. - Workshop Leader: Virginia Macdonald; Supporting Teachers: Nicole Hajj, Kibbie Straw

6-7pm: Listening Workshop - Opera (for students ages 8 to 18) – Listen to and learn about one of history’s great art-forms: opera. Great for all students, especially young singers. - Workshop Leader: Judy McCann; Supporting Teacher: Mark Zielinski, Nate Therrien

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Best Halloween Show Ever

Spinal Tarp (a Spinal Tap tribute band) gave one of 2009's best performances on Halloween night at The Barley Pub. Featuring PMAC guitar and bass instructor Nick Phaneuf as Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls and PMAC piano dept. chair Mike Effenberger as Viv Savage, the performance captured the true essence of Tap. And both the music and costumes were dead on. They performed EVERY song from the classic 1980 mock-u-mentary, even creating full arrangements of the first Tap tune and fully performing Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel, both of which were only snippets in the film and not on the soundtrack. It's definitely going to make 2009's top ten list!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Website

The new PMAC website is live! Let us know what you think. In our humble opinion it is a clean, clear upgrade that is fully up to date with calendar info and more. Thanks to John Shore for the most excellent design!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Long time, no blog

Listening to the new Brandi Carlile on my iPod, eager for the upcoming Tegan and Sara release (next week!) and pretty much all-around content these days - though still actively pushing all boundaries. 2009 has been an extremely busy year, and thus very little blogging. But as PMAC continues to grow and thrive, I've promised my new marketing committee and webmaster that I will start updating the blog again. Shouldn't be too difficult, as I do like blogging.

And speaking of PMAC's new marketing committee and new webmaster, keep your eyes out for our NEW WEBSITE! It will debut very soon - before the end of October. In fact, it is on the verge of being launched. Very cool new site - simplified, but packed with up-to-date useful PMAC info.

Thanks for your patience during my time away. I back and ready to blog. Look for a lot more soon. For now, I need to get up and dance to Brandi's "Carolina" featuring Elton John.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fried Dough

Haven't been blogging for some time - since discovering Facebook, where you will find me daily. Sorry blogosphere!

OK - Thought of posting this to Facebook this morning, but it is too long a story, so here goes:

Took Jake to Water Country yesterday morning. Upon leaving he requests fried dough. Being the pushover I am, I agree, but the guy at the fried dough stand says, "sorry - we don't open for another hour." WHAT'S UP WITH THAT? Doesn't everyone want fried dough at 10:30 a.m.? I say to Jake (who wants to stand there and wait for an hour), "dude - I'll make you some fried dough at home." Agreed and we're off.

Later that day I pick up some frozen bread dough, a bottle of vegetable oil and a bag of confectioners sugar at Hannaford. The plan is going well. We all get home for dinner and I sit the bag of frozen dough - five loaves, each rock solid frozen and pretty small - on the kitchen counter to thaw. Don't open the bag, just sit it there on the counter. We have dinner. I load and run the dishwasher. I head to rehearsal - the kids home with the sitter for the evening.

I get home around 9:30 p.m. The location on the counter where I sat the bag of dough is right over the dishwasher - can get a bit warm (hot) when the dishwasher runs, right? What was five loaves sitting loosely in a big plastic bag is now a giant dough ball, the bag now like a balloon filled with dough instead of helium. OMG - I should put that in the fridge for tomorrow. I put it on the bottom shelf and go to bed for the night.

Wake up this morning, go to the fridge for milk for the kids cereal. Boy, that bag on the bottom shelf seems a little bigger now. I pull it out and immediately notice that the bag has burst and there is almost as much dough outside the bag as there is inside, the bag still stretched to its limits. Damn - must do something immediately before this turns into the film "The Blob".

Solution - fried dough for breakfast. Oh yeah, I just became the coolest dad on the block. And I learned how to separate frozen loaves and thaw them one at a time in a controlled environment along the way...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I'm back

Most of the past month has been an enormous push to Friday night's Spring Fever for the Arts - which was an overwhelming success! Needless to say, it left me with no time to blog, and for that I apologize. I plan to be back on the blogging wagon this week, so look for more web antics in the days to come.

Today I head to Boston with the family to D2E:Down 2 Earth, a huge sustainability fair that was co-founded by my sister, Lori. It is at the Hynes Convention Center in the heart of Boston and we are really looking forward to it. I'll take notes so I have plenty to report here tomorrow. Should be AMAZING.

For now, a few Broadway tidbits:

Did you know that Bono and The Edge are composing a new musical based on Spiderman (yes, the superhero) that debuts in NYC in February 2010?

Green Day is also heading to the stage with a musical adaptation of American Idiot.

We recently saw Coraline at the movies - it too is being adapted into a musical with music by a member of the Magnetic Fields.

And finally, a personal favorite, Amanda Palmer, is producing a play based on Neutral Milk Hotel's In an Aeroplane Over The Sea at her alma mater, Lexington High School. Don't know if I'll be able to get to this, since tickets are supposedly hard to come by, but don't be surprised if I manage to find a way to go see it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting Spring Fever

It is FREEZING out. But I haven't been on the blog this week because I've got a case of Spring Fever. That's right - spring is just around the corner and to celebrate, PMAC is holding its second annual SPRING FEVER FOR THE ARTS on Friday, April 3rd at 7:30 pm at the Discover Portsmouth Center - formerly the Portsmouth Public Library. More details to come!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Recommended Listening (2)

I got a pretty good response from last Sunday's recommended listening (Yael Naim), so I thought I'd throw another one out there.

Check out Ethel. In many ways they are the heir apparent to the Kronos Quartet. Young, vibrant, they are a string quartet out of NYC mixing classical, rock and jazz influences to create their own unique sound. They perform amplified and are everything that you would hope Kronos would still be. Rockers. You can listen here: I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Picked up their new CD, "No Line On The Horizon" this week. Still absorbing it - haven't fallen in love at first sound as was the case with a few of their earlier CDs. I recommend re-listening (or listening to for the first time if for some reason you've never heard this) to "Wide Awake In America". For me it is the definitive U2 recording. It captures the group live - when they are at their best - and in their prime, way back in the 1980s. I've seen them live twice, and I have never, ever seen a single person connect so intimately with a crowd of 60,000 people (no, Barack Obama doesn't even come close to the connection Bono has with his audience). Hope you find it, listen, and enjoy.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Strangers

It's been a busy, busy week. (A poor attempt to explain the days of silence on this blog.) Here's some fun weekend listening:

I'm a huge St. Vincent fan. Still bummed I missed thier Boston show last year due to a bout with the flu. Singer Annie Clark is amazing. The track above is the first from their upcoming CD "Actor" scheduled to be released in May. You can find more about them and more music here. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Snow Day Shuffle

iPod on All-Tracks Shuffle:

Radiohead - Reckoner from In_Rainbows
The Fiery Furnaces - The Old Hag is Sleeping from Widow City
Miles Davis - Softly As In A Morning Sunrise from In Person Saturday Night at the Blackhawk
Bill Evans - I Wish I Knew from Explorations
The Dresden Dolls - Bad Habit from The Dresden Dolls
The Dresden Dolls - A Night At The Roses from No, Virginia (iTunes Bonus Tracks)
James Carter - Low Flame from Live At Baker's Keyboard Lounge
Bjork - Where Is The Line from Medulla
David Bowie - I'm Deranged from Outside
Chris Weisman - Weak Dollar from Bicycle Operator And Coach

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Recommended Listening

I'm listening to Jake (age 10) practice the drums upstairs. He's got his groove going. There's nothing like listening to your child while he or she is totally immersed in making music.

I've also been listening to a lot of amazing recordings from my library that I'd not heard for some time. All a result of loading up that new iPod (still loading - only about 1/6 of the way through the memory!). If you're looking for something to check out, try listening to this:
Yael Naim & David Donatien. It was a gift from a friend last year and I'd listened to it a little bit when I first received it, but now that it's on my iPod, I've been exploring it. Her voice is beautiful, and the songs are interesting. You can sample their music at You can also visit their site: Let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


The Poo Poo Platters handed in their CD at RPM Central (the offices of The Wire newspaper) this afternoon at approximately 3:30 pm. We ran into George on our way in - he had just dropped off his CD. Congrats to George and all the others who completed this year's challenge. I, unfortunately, never found the time to record. I take solace in the fact that I make my living as a musician/educator, so I get to make music every day.

The new CD is titled "Devil's Beat" and the tracks are as follows:
  1. Disco Devil
  2. Knights and Kings
  3. Devil's Beat
  4. The Bird Keeps Crying
  5. Vanity Fair
  6. Brazil
  7. Splat
  8. Flags of the World
  9. Drum Beat
  10. Funkin' It 2000
  11. Shoot Me
  12. August
  13. Jam/Those Girls
  14. Dad Says Homework, I Say Rock

Two of the tracks are up at The boys wrote all of the songs themselves. The only title they didn't come up with on their own is "Dad Says Homework, I Say Rock", which was the winning title in a title contest they had on the RPM website discussion board. It was another amazing February of bonding with the boys and recording their music. Hard to believe this is the third straight year we've done this. Awesome.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Point of It All

I was just reminded of the brilliance of Amanda Palmer and her marketing team.

I had a great day today. Spent the day in Boston with Katie and the boys. The Poo Poo Platters had to check out the guitar collection at the Boston Hard Rock Cafe - their first time there (and actually the first time I'd stepped into a Hard Rock Cafe since the 1980s). Then we walked down Newbury Street, went to visit my sister Lori at her office, got some dessert at the Trident Bookstore/Cafe (another place I hadn't been to since the 1980s), and then some CD shopping at Newbury Comics. Off to Quincy Market for a light dinner, followed by a visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art to see the Shepard Fairey exhibit (hopefully more on that in a future post). Then the short drive back to Portsmouth - a wonderful vacation day since the boys have no school this week. Very cool.

So I arrive home to a ton a e-mail, and there in the middle is notification from Amanda that the Alternate Takes version of her latest CD is ready for me to download. For those who didn't read my posts on Amanda's latest album, look here. This is where the brilliant marketing comes in.

When I bought my advance copy of "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" last September, I paid a higher price than for just the CD. I paid for some cool bonus stuff - some of which came immediately, and some of which I had to wait for. The bonus items included a t-shirt (mailed with the CD), the ability to download the CD a week prior to its release, the actual CD with the case autographed by Amanda, some bonus tracks immediately with the early download, and finally, the promise of another CD, to be downloadable in the future. It was originally promised for November/December, but didn't arrive. I didn't give up, knowing that it is not unusual for these things to take more time than expected - especially with a small outfit, like Amanda's, considering she's been touring almost constantly since the fall.

Well, the bonus CD arrived today and it is an alternate version of the album released in September. Not a fully polished CD, but an interesting take on the material, with different versions of many of the songs, some songs that were never recorded for the CD, and even a song titled "Boyfriend in a Coma" which at first I thought was Smiths cover but turned out to be another original that didn't make the CD (the Smiths tune is actually "Girlfriend in a Coma"). I'd listened to "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" a lot last fall. Went to the Boston show. And have not been listening to it a lot lately, because I've moved on to other recordings. This new CD (I say CD, but really it is just a series of tracks I downloaded to my iPod - I'll most likely never own a hard copy of this one, truly bringing the media into the new age) is reaquainting me with the music, in a fresh and exciting way.

The music I know is different on this CD. Sometimes with different chord changes, sometimes with added sections. It's very cool for a fan to hear this - a snapshot of a particular moment in the music's evolution. As a composer, I love hearing this stuff. Not polished, but in many cases they are works in progress.

Amanda gets it. Why the labels don't, I can't figure out. I'm tired of hearing record producers refer to artists as "products" or "commodities". It's nice to be treated like a music fan, and not a consumer. Thanks, Amanda and friends for making that a reality. Again, very cool.

Some great CD (re)discoveries while populating my iPod

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The New Poo Poo Platters Logos

Here are the new Poo Poo Platters logos. The first logo was designed by Max (age 11 when he designed it) but it was tidied up and made into reality by my sister Ruth. It is based on the initials TPPP. The second logo is a caricature of the boys by Ruth's boyfriend, Lou.

Making the leap to an iPod

I've never owned an iPod, until Katie bought me one this week for my birthday. Don't get me wrong - I've owned mp3 players for the past 5-10 years - mostly Creative Zen media players. I carry my music with me everywhere. But I'd resisted owning an iPod because iTunes does not offer a subscription service. I've been waiting for another company to design a device to rival the iPod, allowing me to purchase a great device and access the Napster To Go subscription library (unlimited downloads to your mp3 player for a small montly fee). Napster To Go has been great for my teaching, since I've been able to download any recording and play them for my students, without having to go out and buy the CD. This is great for teaching jazz tunes, when you want your student to hear ten different versions of "Autumn Leaves" (all of them classics) without having to seek out and purchase ten different CDs. This is where iTunes falls behind, and why I hope it will one day be a subscription service. When that happens, music listening will explode, as people will be able to access millions of recordings for a small monthly fee. That, in my opinion, is the future.

For now, I am going through the wonderful journey of populating my new iPod with my music library. I've been collecting CDs for over 20 years. Since I am a musician by profession, my guess is that my collection is larger than that of the average person - though maybe not as impressive as many music enthusiasts. So far I've loaded about 75 CDs onto my device and I'm just scratching the surface of its memory capabilities. This is a good thing, since I have several hundred more to add.

I find myself rediscovering music. Things I've not listened to in ages. And I'm finding misplaced CDs. The treasure of this morning was discovering Michael Brecker's "Pilgrimage" inside the case for the Debussy and Ravel String Quartets. I've been looking for that CD for over a year! As I type this, I am loading Ornette Coleman's Pulitzer Prize winning CD "Sound Grammar". Next up, Glenn Gould's recording of Bach's "Goldberg Variations" - the 1955 recording. As a music lover, this is downright exciting.

Of course, the newness of the whole deal will pass - but I will, for the very first time, have nearly my entire CD collection in the palm of my hand. This is very cool. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

RPM Status Report

It is February 22nd, and the boys are about half-way done with their RPM CD. I have yet to start. It's been a busy month at work, so I'm behind scheudle. But, knock on wood, I've yet to get sick this month, even with the flu begin passed around the school. It is very convenient that this week is school vacation, so my hope is that during these last seven days of February, I can create my RPM CD. The Boys will be done today or tomorrow.

Yesterday Chip and Mickey from Shagbark came to record a tune with the boys. It was a good session, and Mickey is coming back today to finish up the vocal track. My hope is that the boys can lay down another four or five tracks today and almost finish thier CD (they have six of 14 tracks laid down).

It should be a busy week.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Shuffle

I received an iPod from Katie for my birthday. Believe it or not, I've never owned an iPod. I've had several Creative Zen Media Players, but never the iconic pod. I've been populating the huge drive (120 gig) with my library. As I type this I'm actually ripping the 22 disc Stravinsky collection I recently purchased to iTunes. As I do this, I have the iPod, with the 300 or so tunes I've already synched, playing on shuffle. Here's the random selection my iPod picked out, just for me (listed with song title first, followed by artist):

Coin-Operated Boy - The Dresden Dolls
Stumbleine - The Smashing Pumpkins
Tag Along - Missy Bly
Automatic Husband - The Fiery Furnaces
Cat People (Putting Out Fire) - David Bowie
The Con - Tegan and Sara
Life On Mars? (Live at Fashion Rocks) - Arcade Fire with David Bowie
Panic in Detroit - David Bowie
Five Years (Live at Fashion Rocks) - Arcade Fire with David Bowie
The Family Llama - Missy Bly
Guitar Hero - Amanda Palmer
Radio Free Europe - R.E.M.
The Dreamers - David Bowie
Poor Little Rich Boy - Regina Spektor
Beat's Remark - Branford Marsalis
Dewey Baby - Branford Marsalis
B.O.A.C. - Chris Weisman
Battle for Britain (The Letter) - David Bowie
Muzzle - The Smashing Pumpkins
O.K.O.T.F. - Chris Weisman (fyi - one of my favorite of Chris' songs!)

Noting the obvious: I've only just begun to load my library, and it is currently a bit David Bowie heavy, and has very little jazz or classical. That will change day by day - I hope to have it fully loaded by March 1! Now you know how I'll be spending my evenings this week...

Friday, February 20, 2009


My sister Lori is the co-founder of D2E (Down To Earth), a green, sustainability fair held annually in Boston. Our whole family went down last year to the event to support her. This year we'll be going not because of her, but because it is AMAZING. I got turned on to so many green products from environmentally conscious businesses - not schlock, but practical things that replace what I already know and love with a better, environmenatally friendly alternative. Favorite finds from 2008 - LUSH soaps, Shootflying Hill Sauces (amazing butterscotch ice cream topping!), and 360 Vodka (NOT FOR THE KIDS!). The video below gives a cool overview of the event, which is the first weekend in April. (Go on Saturday or Sunday after attending Friday, April 3rd's Spring Fever for the Arts, benefitting PMAC!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It is Radiohead

Several people have asked me about the video I posted last week from the Grammys. The singer is Thom Yorke and the guitarist is Jonny Greenwood, both from Radiohead, performing Radiohead's 15 Step with the USC Marching Band. Katie and I saw Radiohead at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, MA last August. (Not sure what they will be calling the venue now that Tweeter has gone belly up.) The song is from In_Rainbows Radiohead's late 2007 release that was met with much press when they sold it over the internet without a distributor, and allowed the public to pay whatever they wanted for the album - even nothing if the buyer didn't want to pay. A groundbreaking way to market music in today's evolving market.

To see the AMAZING Grammys video again, click here.

And for my rant on the evolution of the record inductry, go here.

Laura Gibson

I'm not at all familiar with the music of Laura Gibson, so I'm very intrigued by NPR's assertation that her new CD (to be released next week, 2/24), Beasts of Seasons, "is nothing short of a masterpiece, both for its flawless and often haunting execution and for its inspired statements on the human experience." It is a sentiment that I'm running into in various other places on the net - so I'm curious.

On first listening, she reminds me of the incredilby awesome Regina Spektor - and I get worried when an artist sounds so similar to another. But the more I listen, the more I hear Laura Gibson, not a Regina Spektor rip-off. The songs are very touching. NPR is so excited about this release, they are currently streaming the CD in its entirety. You can listen to it here. At just over 39 minutes, its relatively short. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2009 Summer Camps

Be on the lookout for PMAC's 2009 Summer Camp brochures - they are going out in the mail this week.

New this summer:
  • Adult Fiddle Camp with Joyce Anderson
  • One-week Rock and Jazz Camps for teens
  • Camps that combine both Music and Art for young children
  • Adult Dixieland Camp
  • Adult Painting Camp

Also, one of our most popular instructors, Chris Weisman, who moved to Vermont in late August, will be returning this summer to teach all of our Rock camps! Don't miss the opportunity to work with this amazing teacher.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Movie Recommendation

I took Katie out on a Valentine's date this afternoon - lunch and a movie, and a little shopping excursion. We ended up celebrating during the day as opposed to tonight because our regular sitter has a big Valentine's date tonight.

We went to see Slumdog Millionaire out in Newington and really, really enjoyed the movie. A deeply moving story, with a compelling narrative. I'm not sure if it should be the best picture of 2008, but is certainly one of the best of the year. If you haven't seen it, it is definitely worth it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Remembering Dave

It is always tough losing someone.

I am in awe of what Roy Ernst has created. When he founded the first New Horizons Band at the Eastman School of Music in the late 1980s, his mission was to give adults the opportunity to live. Roy understands that life is about passion. It is about never-ending education, connecting with others and being creative. That is the genius of New Horizons Band. Give adults the opportunity to bring music into their lives and see what happens.

Roy targets senior citizens. He knows that after retirement, life can lose meaning for some people. Children have grown up and begun their independent lives. Your profession carries on without you. Roy's mission was to bring interactive music - ensemble music - into the lives of retirees. Those who played music in their youth and had stopped as adults. Those with a desire to return to their youthful pasttime. And those who never had the opportunity to play. Teach them - it doesn't matter if a person is 9 or 90, they can learn to interact musically with others.

I shared a week with Roy and 200 senior citizens this past September in Chatauqua, NY at the International New Horizons Band Camp. Everyone there was living proof that playing music late in life brings joy and meaning into one's life.

Dave came to us about five years ago, picking up the trombone for the first time since the sixth grade. Having just retired, he had the time to return to a favorite childhood activity. He picked the instrument back up quickly. He practiced like a madman - to the point that he would give my mother, who played euphonium beside him in the band, a hard time for not practicing enough. He dove right in and became a core member of the band.

Dave never stopped learning. It was his goal to constantly explore new musical ideas and improve his skills. He recorded rehearsals on a mini tape recorder so he could practice with the recording at home. He joined the PMAC adult blues band to learn to improvise, and played in our summer big band, soloing from the heart without a shred of music to rely on.

Dave lived. He was always the first to volunteer to come help move equipment. Just last month he was carrying timpani and music stands into the church before our winter concert. First to arrive, last to leave. He constructed Christmas parade floats for the band, took out the PMAC trash and recycling every week, and gave a helping hand wherever needed.

We should all be so lucky to live our lives as fully and completely as Dave. And I am honored to have had him as a friend. Losing Dave yesterday came as a shock to me. It shocked us all. Less than two weeks ago he was playing and recording our band rehearsal. It was Dave's last rehearsal, and I'm proud to say it was a damned good one. He played better than ever, and that's the honest truth.

Thank you, Dave. We'll miss you. And I for one will try to live up to your example.

The following video was taken about two years ago. I found it on my hard drive - a short example from a rehearsal - a mere 45 seconds. Dave is playing the trombone, and yes, that's my mother sitting beside him (and my father is on trumpet behind him).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Poo Poo Platters Video

Last week, when Max and Jake recorded their first RPM Challenge song of 2009, I filmed the session with their Flip Video Camera. Here is a video I put together from the recording sesson. Enjoy!

I'm back

Took me a few days to recover from Jazz Night - two great, packed shows. It's a lot of work, but well worth the effort. Thus, I neglect the blog.

Recommended listening for today:

The Bad Plus - For All I Care

The Fiery Furnaces - Remember (live)

Luminescent Orchestrii - Too Hot To Sleep

Among the many good reasons why iTunes should become a subscription based service, finally allowing me to purchase my first iPod....for now I'll live with Napster.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Tonight's Setlist

For the regular readers of this blog, a little surprise sneak peek at tonight's Jazz Night shows. Here's the set list:

In A Mellow Tone
Atomic Minor (original by Bryan Bergeron-Killough)
So What (celebrating the 50th anniversary of the recording of Kind of Blue)
I've Got You Under My Skin
Springtime Can Really Hang You Up The Most
Blue Skies
You're Welcome (original by Nate Therrien)
Seven Steps to Heaven

Hope to see you at the show - and if you are too far away to attend, be sure to think of us - we'll be thinking of you...

Knights and Kings

The first track of the new Poo Poo Platters album is up on their MySpace Music Page. Check it out.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Tomorrow Night is Jazz Night!

Most of today will be spent getting ready for tomorrow's Jazz Night at the West End Studio Theatre. Two great shows, 7 & 9 pm, with an awesome 8-piece jazz band. Tickets are still available, though the 7 pm show is nearly sold out. Don't miss this awesome event - it only happens once a year. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

In the car this morning

On the way to elementary school at 8:30 am - it is very cold and there is still a lot of snow on the ground....

Me: You look cold - where are your gloves?
My 10 year old son: I don't know.
Me: Did you leave them at school?
Son: I don't know.
Me: I guess I'll have to e-mail your teacher and let her know you need to stay inside during recess.
Son: Wait...let me check here (unzips the outer pocket of his backpack)...oh, here they are! (seems genuinely surprised - pretty good acting job)

I'm going to be in big trouble when the things he values most aren't as innocent as elementary school recess...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

February is already CRAZY!!!

Been oh-so-busy the past few days, without time to post. For those interested in the dymanic duo of Max and Jake (my sons), aka The Poo Poo Platters, check out their latest tune, recorded just this Sunday, Feb. 1, for the RPM Challenge. It is called Knights and Kings and is the first track on their MySpace Music page here.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

RPM Waltz

It seems the link in my last post didn't work. Let's see if this does - let me know if you can hear my piece "RPM Waltz". BTW, I am playing all parts, saxophones and percussion. Enjoy.

The RPM Challenge Begins Today!

Record an album in 28 days - the month of February - a challenge too tempting for any musician to dismiss. I recorded one two years ago, in 2007. Some of that album I love, some of it I hate, but the sense of accomplishment for getting it done in 28 days was significant. Last year I got the flu, and wasn't able to participate. This year I've begun my February with 8.5 hours of sleep (last night), a healthy breakfast, and my vitamins. I WILL NOT GET SICK THIS MONTH.

My sons are a rock duo - The Poo Poo Platters. They have recorded two RPM CDs, 2007's BARR and 2008's A Chinese Dish (I managed to record their album in the first two weeks of February last year before getting sick). I engineer their recordings, but they compose all of the music and perform everything. I keep a healthy distance from the creative aspect of their project, letting them be free to do what they do. Mostly, they're just kids being kids, but sometimes they create a little magic and they've built a significant internet fanbase because of that. Their MySpace page gets way more hits than mine.

This morning, at 9:30 a.m. to be precise, the boys hit the studio to record the first track or two of Devil's Beat, their third RPM CD. They've been hard at work composing and rehearsing their music. This is a big deal for us - a great father/sons bonding experience. We will also sit down today and map out our recording sessions for the remainder of the month.

I, on the other hand, will record late at night, whenever I can find the time. And I'll be composing the music as I go along. I have not yet written a note, lyric, anything for my 2009 RPM album. Yet I know, that in 28 days, I'll have a fully completed CD of new music in my hands. That is very cool.

I will be tracking the progress of both the PPP and I on this blog for the entire month. I will try to post recordings as they become available. To get things started, here is a track from my 2007 RPM CD, Eclecticality. It is a little tune called RPM Waltz. Hope you enjoy listening.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

If two are better than one, how good be four B3?

Once you get past the windy intro by Paul Schaeffer, this is a rare specimen of musical awesomeness. The music starts at 2:05. Thanks to Bryan for leading me to this - ENJOY!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Shocking Amazon Purchase

I got this tip from Alex Ross' blog - The Rest Is Noise. I just purchased from Amazon UK the COMPLETE Stravinsky on CD - 22 CDs in all - on Sony, including shipping to my house from England for US $30.11. That's right: THIRTY DOLLARS. I'm in shock. The CDs are set to arrive next week. If you are a fan of 20th century classical music, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. When I was in college I drooled over the library's copy of this very set, which at that time would have cost several hundreds of dollars. If you're interested, check it out here. Thanks for the tip, Alex!

My brother and sister-in-law's photography

I hope my brother Matt and sister-in-law Enna will forgive me for lifting this amazing photo from thier blog - it is a picture from a bar in Anguilla where they watched Obama's inauguration. After all, I'm posting it here to tell all of you what wonderful photographers they are, and to go check out their work. I'm a very proud big brother. And this is an amazing picture of an even more amazing moment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"

Late last night I finished reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. In 2007 the book won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature - but don't assume it's a challenging read. It is beautifully written without being overly complex. And the story is compelling. The core of the book is about being a parent - in particular being a father - and therefore it resonated strongly with me. I won't spoil the book - go out, buy a copy (at RiverRun Books on Congress Street in Portsmouth if possible!), and read it before the movie comes out (I'm worried the movie will destroy it). In fact, I'll say very little about the actual story. What is facinating me at the moment is the book's structure, its form. What struck me is that the ending of the book was not very powerful for me - what was amazing was the journey that got you there. And as a parable on life, that seems fitting. So many books are driven by a constant buildup to an inevitable climax. This was far from the case in The Road. It is a story about a journey, about life, and while reading it you may think it is about the end goal - but then you come to realize, like in life, it isn't. And in that simple fact, it is quite beautiful.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New PMAC Radio Ad coming

This spring a new radio advertisement for PMAC will be airing on WFNX thanks to a donation by my brother, a photographer who shoots the WFNX Halloween Party every year. I am proud to announce that two well-known rock musicians have stepped up and recorded voice-overs for the radio ad - Al Barr of Dropkick Murphys and Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls. Amanda is about to head to Europe on tour for her solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, which I highly recommend. Al is also on tour, currently in Australia. AND, we are awaiting a possible third rock star to lend his talents - I've got my fingers crossed I'll have more on that very soon...

R.I.P. John Updike

John Updike has passed away at the age of 76 from lung cancer. Read more here.

Tim Webb and friends at The Press Room

Last night Katie and I caught bassist Tim Webb at The Press Room with three PMAC faculty members, Mike Effenberger on piano, Matt Langley on saxophones and Mike Walsh on drums. They were joined by saxophonist Titus Abbott, and both Jim Clark and Chris Klaxton on trumpet - though Jim and Chris shared one horn, never playing at the same time. We arrived for the second and final set of the evening and were treated to a solid 75 minutes of pure, free, creative jazz exploration - completely improvised. There were some stunning moments - Titus and Matt going at it in what was less a saxophone duel and more an intricate conversation. Throughout the evening, Webb laid down a foundation that provided just enought structure, yet plenty of freedom. His contributions were key.

It is exciting to hear this happening in Portsmouth - I'd become accustomed to such events when in Chicago or Baltimore, but it is an unfortunately rarer occasion here. An inspired evening to say the least.

And if anyone reading this managed to catch The Molenes' unplugged set at The Red Door last night, let me know how it went. I couldn't tear myself away from The Press Room, so unfortunately missed my good friends right around the corner.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Spring Semester Begins Today

Today is day one of the Spring Semester at PMAC - which runs for 18 weeks and ends mid-June. We have a lot planned for this semester - here are some highlights:
  • Wendell Purrington will take the podium and lead the Portsmouth Men's Chorus this semester. This group is open to all adult men who wish to "raise their voice in song." No audition required!
  • The PMAC jazz faculty will present the second annual PMAC JAZZ NIGHT on Saturday, Feburay 7th. Two shows: 7 & 9 p.m. Get your tickets today!
  • In addition to being Music In Our Schools Month, March will feature our fifth annual Practice-a-thon. Sponsor a young student as they work to build solid practice habits!
  • The Bow Street Youth Orchestra will collaborate with Ballet New England in March to present a dance performance at Portsmouth High School. This is a first and is sure to be a wonderful time.
  • The second annual Spring Fever for the Arts will be at the Discover Portsmouth Center on Friday, April 3. Don't miss PMAC's marquee fundraiser!
  • The PMAC Youth Jazz Band will play this year's Jazzmouth Festival in Portsmouth!
  • Several of our adult ensembles will be performing at Kittery Estates this Spring!
  • The sixth annual Jumpin' in June faculty concert will be on Friday, June 5th at South Church.
  • AND...we have an exciting Summer planned for 2009 - details coming soon

This is just a small bit of what we'll be doing this spring. Come join us!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Theme Song

As I read rapidly through Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", I can't help but think that Yael Naim's song Lonely fits the story extremely well. It would be a great song to license for the upcoming film.

This book is an amazing, fast read. A very touching story about being a father. I'm nearly half-way through and just began it yesterday evening. I guess I really needed a weekend of pleasure reading.

A Sunday Morning Playlist

Song Title - Album - Performer

B.O.A.C. - Bicycle Operator and Coach - Chris Weisman
Dark Come Soon - The Con - Tegan and Sara
Cologne - The Way To Normal - Ben Folds
I Want You, But I Don't Need You - Ping Pong - Momus
20 Years of Snow - Begin to Hope - Regina Spektor
Motion Picture Soundtrack - Kid A - Radiohead
Lonely - Yael Naim & David Donatien - Yael Naim & David Donatien
The Point Of It All - Who Killed Amanda Palmer - Amanda Palmer
Unravel - Homogenic - Bjork
Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine - Elephant - The White Stripes
Girl Sailor - Wincing the Night Away - The Shins

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Simultaneous Reading

I can't seem to just read one book at a time. I get four or five going simultaneously and it sometimes seems like it takes forever to get through one - though I sometimes have spurts where the finishing of four or five books happens nearly simultaneously. So, as I continue to read Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise (loving it) and Don DiLillo's Underworld (really enjoying it as, on pg. 350, I am approaching the half-way point), I've just added Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I just can't resist apocalyptic fiction. Maybe I'll finish one of them by the end of February? I do have to say that reading Miss Liberty's twittering about all the reading she's been doing has been inspiring. But there are still only so many hours in a day and so very little I can devote to my love of reading.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ashlee Simpson would be proud

Yo Yo Simpson? Apparently, the weather on inauguration day was just too much. Rather than risk a snapped cello, violin, or piano string (what an embarrassment!) the inaugural quartet of Yo Yo Ma, Itzak Perlman, Anthony McGill and Gabriella Montero played along to a recording of the newly commissioned John Williams piece "Air and Simple Gifts" during Tuesday's ceremony. That's right, the instrumental equivalent of lip syncing.

Perlman told The New York Times: “It would have been a disaster if we had done it any other way...This occasion’s got to be perfect. You can’t have any slip-ups.” Yada, yada, yada. Not the best symbolism for the occasion. It seems that how everything "looked" was of the utmost importance. In this age of amazing technology including jumbo trons and live feeds, why not honor the music and simulcast the performance from the congressional rotunda? I personally thought the setting, outside, high up on the Capital Building seemed a bit absurd. But I guess it is easier to take the relatively few snickers of musical purists like myself, days afterward, than the ridicule of a full nation (and world) in the moment. Though I like to think people would have been very understanding. I for one am disappointed that the use of Ma's exquisite instrument really was just for show - not even needed for the music. That, in my opinion, was a big mistake. Forgive me for expecting more from our classical icons.

See the full New York Times story here. Thanks to Katie for sending it along!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Amorphous Band at Muddy River

Caught The Amorphous Band at the Muddy River Smokehouse tonight with Dani and Michael. Small crowd - cold and mid-week - but they were rippin' it up. Great mix of funk, r&b and jazz. The guitar player in the picture is a former PMAC student, Charlie, who was sitting in for part of the first set. Charlie's new band, Superfrog, will be at The Blue Mermaid in Portsmouth this Saturday night, Jan. 24th. If you're out and about, be sure to stop by and hear whas going on with the next generation of local musicians.

And, lest I forget, the incomparable Mike Effenberger was on the keys tonight, wailin' away.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Simple Gift

In case you missed it, Yo Yo Ma (cello), Itzak Perlman (violin), Anthony McGill (clarinet), and Gabriella Montero (piano) perform at today's Presidential Inauguration. I'd be interested to hear this group play Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. I don't think it a coincidence that John Williams chose this instrumentation.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Emiliana Torrini

Somehow, Emiliana Torrini has eluded my radar for the past decade as she has built an impressive career. I came across her on the Brooklyn Vegan Blog. I can't say I'd never heard her sing before, since she is probably best known for singing "Gollum's Song" from Peter Jackson's The Lord of Rings trilogy. But that is not really representative of her music. She sounds like a cross between Bjork (but not as adventurous/experimental) and Feist (but not as upbeat/quirky). She, like Bjork, hails from Iceland. I'm going to need to spend some time listening to her music - not sure if it's for me. But I'm definitely intrigued.

Let Freedom Ring!

The full, historic speech:

Exceprt from the September 11, 2005 performance of Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait with President-elect (for 24 more hours) Obama as narrator.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Joke is on those "in the know"

Emanuel has an axe to grind...Emanuel Ax that is. The concert pianist and conductor recently devoted a blog entry to the antiquated tradition of audiences remaining silent between the movements of classical piece. Many of us have experienced this - the orchestra, or pianist, or chamber group finishes a magnificent, boisterous first movement of a classical piece of music, and then a small group of audience members bursts into enthusiastic applause, only to find the rest of the audience - those "in the know" - glaring back at them, letting them know quite clearly that a terrible faux pas has been committed. Yet in reality, this is a strange tradition that was adopted long after the lives of Mozart and Beethoven. The idea that one can not judge a work, or a performance, even with applause, until the final note falls silent is a construct of the late-Romantic period, when composers like Richard Wagner took their music far too seriously. Some composers such as Richard Strauss solved the problem by writing epic single movement "Tone Poems" rather than symphonies.

Well, in my opinion the tradition has become rather absurd. Particularly when it comes to the flashy showpieces that the opening movements of concertos are. But also in the world of symphonies. I agree with Ax - that the music should direct the response. Conductors can convey this to an audience - though some refuse to - showing when the silence between movements is really not a break, but part of the mood. And by welcoming the joy that comes with an appreciative audiences response to a spectacular performance - even between movements.

In the world of jazz, audience response often comes during the music - applause for soloists, shouts of appreciation for amazing licks, cheering for dramatic moments of ensemble virtuosity. This is a world where the audience is a part of the experience - not just a passive listener. That's the world I want to live in - even at Symphony Hall.

Read Emanuel Ax's blog post on inter-movement applause here. Read the Boston Globe article that further elaborates on the topic here. And thanks to Chip Noon for bringing this to my attention via a Twitter comment!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Let The Right One In

Katie and I just went to The Music Hall where we saw the Swedish film Let The Right One In. It was one of the best vampire movies I've ever seen - with an absolutely amazing and original screenplay. Brilliant! It's playing at The Music Hall for a few more nights, I think, so if you get a chance, check it out. Not one for the kids. While a bit bloody (it is a vampire flick, after all), it is not a horror movie so much as a drama/thriller/love story. It is about the relationship between a 12 year old and a "12 year old" vampire. (She says she's 12, but that she's been 12 for a very long time.) Beautifully directed, the script is so faithful to vampire lore, it is quite spectacular, without being grandiose. Second film I've been to this year, and I have to say the best by far. (OK, the first was Bedtime Stories with Adam Sandler - one for the kids.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The final plane has left the island

Ricardo Montalban has passed away at the age of 88. Fantasy Island was required viewing for my brother, sisters and I in the 1970s - immediately following The Love Boat on ABC every Saturday night. Simpler times...Read more here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Release by The Bad Plus

The Bad Plus is releasing a new CD on February 3rd (the week of PMAC's Jazz Night, FYI), titled For All I Care with vocalist Wendy Lewis. I am really eager to hear this CD, as The Bad Plus are phenomenal. I'm a bit nervous as early reviews on the net are not great. But I'll wait to hear the recording before forming an opinion. They'll be at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston on April 3rd. If you haven't seen them live, I HIGHLY recommend it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Tan Vampires at The Red Door

The band and venue seemed a match in heaven. The Tan Vampires played The Red Door last night, and even though they weren't listed at the headliner, they closed the show in the Red Door tradition of the headliner having to travel farther, therefore playing earlier in the show. But for the audience, the ordering seemed correct, as the stripped down music of Pictish Trail and Viking Moses was a fitting prelude to the six-piece band. It wasn't until the band went on stage that I realized that half of the group teaches at PMAC. I knew Mike Effenberger was a member, but I didn't know the group also features Nick Phaneuf on guitar and Chris Klaxton on trumpet.

TV has a classic 21st century indie sound. Interesting layers and no focus on individuals other than the lead singer. There were no solos to speak of - Klaxton was underutilized in my opinion, but Katie pointed out that his role fit in the band as a whole, a cog in an intricate machine of sound. They'll be at The Barley Pub in Dover on January 27th - I highly recommend them.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gearing up for the 2009 RPM Challenge

This will be my third year participating in RPM. In 2007 I recorded my own album, Eclecticality, and produced the first Poo Poo Platters CD. In 2008 I was sick for much of the month, so I only produced the PPP, and never had a chance to record an album of my own. Hopefully the health gods will be on my side this year and I'll be able to both record the third offering of the PPP and an album of my own. I've begun the process of brainstorming what I want this album to be. I might even attempt to post my tracks here as I record them - like the much esteemed Kim Vermillion. We'll see. Regardless, the PPP, are in top form and will be posting their tunes on their MySpace page as throughout February as they record.

Annoying fact: The "N" on my laptop keyboard is starting to fail. Any advice for quick keyboard fixes? It is currently working only about 70% of the time and I have a hunch that it will quickly decline if not addressed.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kim Vermillions new songs

Kim Vermillion, one half of the sisterly duo Vermillion Lies, is writing and recording a song every day for the month of January. (Sound familiar RPM Challengers?) The first nine are posted on her blog and she adds one each day. I am planning on pariticipating in this year's challenge and, of course, The Poo Poo Platters will be recording a new CD as well. Listening to Kim's songs is a great way to get in the mood for another long month. (RPM always seems to make the 28 days of February seem longer than any other month of the year!)

1st PMAC Performance of 2009

Last night we had our first PMAC concert of 2009 - the make-up concert for the holiday show that was postponed last month due to the ice storm power outages. (Hard to believe that just 4 weeks ago much of NH was without power.)

The concert featured the PMAC Adult Jazz Band, The Portsmouth Men's Chorus, and the New Horizons Band. These three adult students ensembles are fun to listen to and an inspiration to all of us. Populated by adults who made music as a child, but stopped and have returned to music years later, or adults who never played a musical instrument (or sung), comming to music for the first time.

All of these adult groups, plus the Blues Band, string ensemble, flute choir, and saxophone ensemble will begin new sessions during the last week of January. If you have ever thought about trying music in an ensemble setting, maybe now is the time.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Amanda Palmer and Warner

Nine days into the new year - time for a diatribe!

Funny story - one I heard from Amanda Palmer (she told the entire audience from the stage, and also from reading her blog), and from various other blogs and people. I don't know every detail, but think I have the gist of the story - please correct me if I'm wrong.

Amanda's a musician - one-half of the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, and currently touring her first solo effort, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? She has put out several CDs on Roadrunner Records, which was purchased a while back by Warner. It is therefore now a "Major Label," susceptible to idiotic ideas like forcing YouTube to remove videos of all of their artists by threatening legal action (Amanda's and the Doll's videos included).

Amanda and the label have been having a bit of a tiff lately. You see, the Label would like to see some "hits" written and performed by Amanda. I guess they want her to get some radio airplay exposure - like that is where it's at in the music business. Can anyone tell me (WITHOUT GOOGLING IT) who is number one on the charts this week? What song is at number one? I don't know who's been in the top ten in the past DECADE and I listen to TONS of music. I guess Coldplay's probably been there, but I don't know for sure. I just don't listen to the radio (with the two exceptions of NPR and our fabulous local community radio, WSCA 106.1 FM Portsmouth).

The label also got upset over a video in which Amanda's belly (her preferred term for her midriff) is exposed. Of course it's not because she's exposing skin - she keeps way more covered up than say, The Pussycat Dolls or Britney (ok, that's not saying much). They're upset because they think she could lose a bit of weight. Give me a break. She's TINY. What do they want, Lara Flynn Boyle?

What Roadrunner, and Warner in turn, doesn't get is that Amanda is actually DOING things to promote the CDs on their Label. Not just being ushered by handlers onto the sets of irrelevent MTV shows and DJ interviews. She has connected with a fanbase. Hasn't anyone at Warner taken a marketing class? She has LOYAL fans. They buy CDS - not download singles. They listen to and learn EVERY song. Buy concert tickets and merchandise. Why not work on building on her strengths? I'll tell you why. Because that's not where the instant buck is. Sure, a small team of people can make a decent living for a long time working together to connect with a finite fan base. But where are the big corporate dollars? What will be Amanda's "Who Let The Dogs Out?"?

This year we MIGHT get to finally see if a well-oiled machine can succeed doing what Amanda does, but on a larger scale. Without a Major Label. I'm eager to see what happens with Prince's new online effort. He's never been a friend to Major Labels. And this year he will release three albums on his own. Warner and every other label should be watching this story carefully. Because there are artists out there, signed by the labels already, artists like Amanda Palmer, who are poised to find success in this new paradigm. Will the labels help? Or will they die? We'll see.