Wednesday, December 7, 2011
After so many conversations and debates about the "end of music" and the "stealing of music" because of the internet, I keep coming back to the thought that recorded music has only been with us for about 133 years ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sound_recording ). A short blink of time compared to how long mankind and music have existed. So, for the much greater time that music was around before the medium of recording came to be, the only way one could experience music was to play it yourself or to listen to someone else play it in a live setting. Perhaps the "freezing" of music performance and turning it into a commodity for sale is an aberration of the true purpose of the art. The incredible growth of the music industry resulted in the dominance of a few corporate giants who controlled what music flowed into the general populace, like feudal lords. Now, while these "lords" reside in their castles, the shopkeepers outside their moats toil, trying to just make a living selling their musical "wares" at a modest increase from the greedy and unreasonable mark up the "lords" bestow upon them. But then, the internet arises and spreads like wildfire. Suddenly the overcharged "peasants" can grab everything for free. They storm the castle in a mob driven frenzy of revenge, focused only on the unjust lords who have controlled them all these years. Alas, the lowly shopkeepers, i.e the music retailers, find themselves in the way of the marauding consumers and are trampled in the process. The mob has no particular quarrel with them, they just happen to be in the way. So maybe, just maybe, nature is taking her course and restoring music to the path it was always meant to be on. A living can be had from the performance of the music that is a unique expression of the artist expressing it, whether it be original composition or interpretation of another individual's idea. But the concept of freezing it for financial gain may be an errant idea whose time has passed.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Admittedly I have a bias towards innovators, I do find that Dave Douglas is quite remarkable at creating original work, such as his Tiny Bell Trio, and at re-voicing the work of others, like Wayne Shorter and Mary Lou Williams. He has revisited the electric work of Miles and the free jazz of the 60's. These days, it is easy to feel that when it comes to jazz....nobody cares....but as far as I know this music is not recorded or available anywhere else but Youtube. i believe his own company, Greenleaf posted it.
the rest can be found here
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Having just learned of the passing of Dave Geigerich, I wanted to share something of him. Dave was an extraordinarily gifted person with an incredible warmth, generosity of spirit, and beautiful sense of humor. He graced many of my tracks over the years, all with great ease and a wonderful musicality, often turning my "expected" ideas into original gems. He waged a heroic battle with cancer. The world is sadder without him,
but we are richer for having known him. This video shows seems a fitting remembrance.
"UNDER PARIS SKIES"
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Minimalism certainly has caused a maximal amount of controversy, both for and against in the 50 or so years it has been around. It is, without a doubt,a music of movement and energy, so it is no wonder that choreographers and dancers are so drawn to it. It certainly is also capable of great emotional thrust . Steve Reich (website), for me exhibits a blend of austerity, spirituality, and rhythm that is African in essence without sounding African.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (info) has created a beautiful series of dances to Reich's music. It is a chance to experience a seamless blend of two arts acting as one.
Another piece of music whose theme first appeared to me in a movie theater and went on to become a major staple of "ear food" was Schubert's Fantasie f-moll for two pianos in the film Madame Sousatzka. Shirley MacLaine gave a virtuoso performance of a grand diva immediately recognizable to anyone who's worked in the world of music and dance. Thanks to Maready whose original blog "The High Ponytail" was a great source of out of print rare performances. The mp3 of this performance comes from his flac upload. He continues now with "Avant cue j'oublie".
The mp3, well worth repeated listenings, is here
Monday, January 3, 2011
Sometimes, sitting in the dark of a movie theater, a piece of music you do not know appears in the movie. The power of the notes challenges you to stay focused on the action on the screen and as soon as the film ends you set out to find this musicas quickly as possible. Such was the case for me with the second movement of Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op.44 in Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece, "Fanny and Alexander" (Trailer here). In the opening of Bergman's masterpiece, this theme appears (1 minute and forty nine seconds in the linked clip). At least in part because of the Nordic winter setting of the film, the second movement I will always associate with "Winter Music". The film itself is truly transcendent, and, I believe, Bergman's last feature film. The 4 hour Criterion version is available and well worth the experience. It is magical, haunted, dark, and filled with the wonder and terror of childhood.
A complete version of this movement by a masterful group of players, including Martha Argerich and Mischa Maisky can be found
I came to Schumann late in my life. Guiomar Novaes' versions of Kinderscene, Papillions and Carnaval for some reason came to life for me when I was working in Seoul in my early forties. I have listened to this recording ever since, and Schumann's music has become a constant in my life.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
HAPPY NEW YEAR !
Whether you are drawn to his music or not, Cage was a brilliant thinker whose words , spoken or written, never fail to intrigue and captivate the imagination. Personally I find his early pieces, especially his first String Quartet and short piano works to exhibit a great timeless simplicity and beauty, that predate the integration of Zen thought into Western Art and Lifestyle that started to flourish in the 60's, as well as the Minimalist style of music that was to become so popular in the 70's and 80's. Similarly, I find his later "Number" pieces to reflect these earlier works as a kind of mature and distilled refinement of this original conception of music. At the risk of sounding facetious, you could make the case that Cage is what Bach might have been, had he been a Haiku master …. His prolific compositional body of work certainly seems Bachian. I was boarding a plane in Seoul on my way to Kyoto for the first time in my life, when, reading a copy of the International Tribune, I happened upon the news of Cage's passing. This proved to become a synchronous event for me, as I had no idea that I would spend the next week of my life visiting numerous Zen temples and rock gardens , especially Ryoanji which was such a important touchstone for Cage's art, both musical and visual.
Lurtsema was a wonderful radio host on WGBH whose breadth of knowledge on things musical and non musical allowed him to create fascinating "themed" musical/historical programs . His show was a daily staple in New England and his warm pipes made for many a wonderful morning of coffee and listening pleasure. It still brings a smile to my face when I remember him making a unique way of appealing to his listeners during a WGBH fund raising period. Lurtsema's show , Morning Pro Musica, always began with a few minutes of birdsong that gradually faded in his theme music, and finally his own spoken greeting. During this fundraiser he made his point by starting his show with dead air for the normally prescribed time duration of the open. He followed this with the observation that this is what listeners could expect if funds were to dry up. i am sure people rushed to their checkbooks.
I had taped the first interview offered here when it occurred and listened to it many, many times. In 1994, shortly after moving to Columbia, MD. from Westerly, RI., my car was broken into and tapes including the interview were stolen. I called WGBH and spoke to some kind soul who, after hearing my plight, offered to send me a copy on cassette. When it arrived, it contained the bonus of another interview with these two men from 1993. It is also offered here. I sent, if memory serves, a check for 50$ to WGBH as a small thanks for the the kindness extend to me . If you decide to download and enjoy these remarkable conversations, perhaps you will find it in your heart to contribute to your own choice of public service.
ROBERT J. INTERVIEWS CAGE