October 26, 2013

Ballade, my third rock opera

This week, I finished writing a short rock opera that I started back in 2006, not long after I finished The Silent Spectrum. There were many years of interruption where I was either doing Android programming or working or just simply avoiding music. Creativity can fill you with such self-loathing that I thought I'd never finish it. Then, in a manic mood at the beginning of this year, I recommitted. The melodies have been in my head constantly since 2006, so it's nice to have them out.

Here's the main page with lyrics, downloads, and streaming from SoundCloud. The recording is converted from the score with viola used for the voice part. Apologies for the notable lack of dynamics. I hope to have the time to work up a live recording soon. Here's the story:

From the late 1990s and early 2000s, Robby Todino tried to use the Internet to connect with people in an attempt to deal with disruptive memories from his childhood. To accomplish this--in the period before online social networks--he obtained spam email lists and mailed out thousands of requests. His hope: that those who had the missing parts to his time machine would sympathize and respond. This is what I think happened to Robby and his time machine.

And the songs:

  1. The Ineffable
  2. ... was it a truth that I should have believed?
  3. ... a clear discrepancy between intent and practice ...
  4. ... I hope that there's a dark hole in the sky for me someday ...
  5. ... a mountain up close is no longer a mountain ...
  6. The Calculus

I had originally heard of Robby Todino from a 2003 Wired article titled "Turn Back the Spam of Time". To me, Todino was the perfect metaphor for how people want to use the Internet in particular, and technology in general, to fix their lives. Online connections become a palliative for past shame. Yet within the pathos of Todino's schizophrenic-ish crusade, there's a basic commonality with the actions of most everyone else in the world. And, with all sincerity, you have to envy the madcap passion of his requests. Here's one from a 2001 newsgroup posting:

If you are a time traveler or alien disguised as human and or have the technology to travel physically through time I need your help!

My life has been severely tampered with and cursed!! I have suffered tremendously and am now dying!

I need to be able to:

Travel back in time.

Rewind my life including my age.

Be able to remember what I know now so that I can prevent my life from being tampered with again after I go back.

I am in very great danger and need this immediately!

I am aware that there are many types of time travel and that humans do not do well through certain types.

I need as close to temporal reversion as possible, as safely as possible. To be able to rewind the hands of time in such a way that the universe of now will cease to exist. I know that there are some very powerful people out there with alien or government equipment capable of doing just that.

If you can help me I will pay for your teleport or trip down here, Along with hotel stay, food and all expenses. I will pay top dollar for the equipment. Proof must be provided.

To me, he'll always be one of those patron saints of the Internet. Sort of an iconic representative of something eternal and eternally true. The Wikipedia page Time travel urban legends has some further information. And--filed under there's-never-an-original-thought--several other musicians have used him as inspiration for their compositions.

Enjoy.

posted by sstrader at 1:24 PM in Music , Personal | permalink | comments (0)

March 22, 2012

Einstein on the Thames

Spending five days in London from May 10th through the 14th (more like three days) centered around tickets to a production of Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach at the Barbican Centre on Silk Street. There was short internal debate on cost, then Lisa & I decided it was too ideal to pass up and impulse-bought the opera tickets the same night I found out about the show. Grooveshark playlists:

  1. Disk 1
  2. Disk 2
  3. Disk 3

It will be an intimidating work to attend. Although it's only five hours long--reasonable for an opera--it has such a discursive nature that I'm not sure how the absence of narrative will affect us. The music is at times beautiful and others, numbing. Listening to the opening now with chills. It's grouped with Satyagraha (which we saw as a Met HD theater broadcast back in November) and Akhnaten as the Portrait Trilogy. I have yet to warm up to Akhnaten, but Satyagraha is solidified for now as my favorite opera of any composer.

We've had several friends who've traveled once or more to London, so advice will be more than three days can bear. My first trip there!

posted by sstrader at 7:01 PM in Music , Personal | tagged Philip Glass, year of music | permalink | comments (0)

February 21, 2012

Trios

Reddit comment linked to a video of the Crimson Jazz Trio playing "I Talk to the Wind". Not my favorite, but there are two CDs of them recording King Crimson covers in a classic piano/bass/drums jazz trio. Members include original KC drummer Ian Wallace, whose death ended the trio's recordings.

Recommended with the CJ3 recordings on Amazon is a recording by (Tony) Levin, (David) Torn, and (Alan) White of a more hardcore/experimental guitar/bass/drums style. Somewhat reminiscent of Elliott Sharp's recording Datacide. This was a more challenging listen. Octatonic scales and tone clusters and compound meters. Enjoyable and varied.

Continue reading "Trios"
posted by sstrader at 9:15 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 21, 2011

February 7, 2011

Currently listening to

Chopin Etudes, Op. 10 and 25.

Looking to learn the short Etude in A minor. Desperately need to get my piano tuned; the cold weather has wreaked havoc on it.

Continue reading "Currently listening to"
posted by sstrader at 11:35 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 22, 2010

Girl Talk

I'd been hearing about Girl Talk for the last few years but avoided it because it's what all the cool kids were listening to. I'm well aware of my reverse snob impulses. Still, when All Day came out last week and the cool internet kids were again buzzing, I decided to give a listen. After months with my PS2, I still haven't gotten locked into any game with any sort of desirous frenzy however I have gotten quite addicted to two games on my Android (Replica Island and Robot Defender, for those keeping score). With those games, there is no off switch and I could play back-to-back sessions forever. Listening to the Girl Talk albums provides a similar, limitless enjoyment.

And it's that similarity to being a waste-of-time that made me a little wary of Girl Talk. 2008: Girl Talk from Neojaponisme treads heavily and at length over these questions of art via Adorno and musique concrete (more fun to think about than listen to lol). Also a good read: We Are More Excited about Girl Talk on Everything than the Beatles on iTunes from The Awl. Expressing everything I've been feeling about that ridiculous ad campaign of Apple's. Bonus points for the reams of hatred towards Girl Talk in the comments.

Finally, the links:

  • My location of choice has been Grooveshark.
  • New album plus all four previous (published in two-year cycles) are available at Illegal Art.
  • All Day Samples streams the album and displays the names of the songs being sampled as they appear.
posted by sstrader at 1:41 PM in Music | tagged theodor adorno | permalink | comments (0)

September 21, 2010

Rote

Drill, Baby, Drill [ via Arts & Letters Daily ] examines the lost appreciation of learning through memorization. Although (or because) I had a mundane, public-school education, I still remember learning my multiplication tables. In our kitchen in Colorado Springs (?) and my mom running through them with me. If that were my only memory of rote learning I'd probably not be so supportive of it, but I most firmly connect with repetition and its values my time at the piano. Learning a piece of music--both the physical aspect and the memorization--takes at its heart simple repetition. An understanding of theory, history, biography, etc. is invaluable for assistance and to actually personalize the work. But a musician must pour over the scales-and-arpeggios-and-whatnot in order to make sure that such techniques are mindless as you're working on passages more interesting than scales-and-arpeggios-and-whatnot. With the mundane backgrounded, you are free to focus during performance on the flow of a melodic line or the dramatic arc of the piece as a whole.

The article quotes University of Virginia professor of psychology Daniel Willingham: You can't be proficient at some academic tasks without having certain knowledge be automatic -- 'automatic' meaning that you don't have to think about it, you just know what to do with it.

posted by sstrader at 9:34 PM in Culture & Society , Music | tagged arts and letters daily | permalink | comments (0)

September 2, 2010

Prokofiev Piano Sonata No. 4, 2nd movement

Excerpt from Jonathan Summers' liner notes for the Naxos recording of Prokofiev's piano performances:

In 1935 whilst in Paris Prokofiev was persuaded (probably by [conductor Piero] Coppola) to record some of his solo works for French HMV. He probably had a group of his own works that he specifically chose to play before the public, as he selected the Andante from the Fourth Sonata as well as some Gavottes, the popular Suggestion Diabolique Op.4, excerpts from Visions Fugitives and two new works from Op.59 which he had just written. The Etude from Op.52 had been written a few years before and is an adaptation of music from his ballet The Prodigal Son.

Four sessions were needed to complete the recordings - the 12th, 25th and 26th February and the 4th March 1935. The Andante from the Fourth Sonata was recorded at the last session in one take along with a fourth take of Op.31 & Op.25 which, in the end proved unnecessary as take 3 was published. Not surprisingly, the Etude Op.52 required the most takes, six in all, with take four being selected for release.

posted by sstrader at 8:41 AM in Music | tagged piano performance, prokofiev, prokofiev piano sonata no. 4 | permalink | comments (0)

August 27, 2010

Prokofiev Piano Sonata No. 4, 2nd movement

The first appearance of the B material, starting at measure 33 and going through 53. Pages four and five below:

prokofiev.sonata-4.ii.4.small.png prokofiev.sonata-4.ii.5.small.png

I've been referencing Boris Berman's book Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas for performance and analysis tips. He points out that this movement was a favorite of Prokofiev's and Berman draws his performance advice from both an orchestrated version the Prokofiev made (alas, unavailable at IMSLP) and a recording that Prokofiev made in 1935. I recently purchased a CD of all of Prokofiev's piano recordings (along with another CD with those of Debussy), but I've avoided listening to this movement in order to get it in my head better. Though, admittedly, the Nissman recording already dominates my ear.

The B material, ignoring the 6-measure bridge, consists of two 3-measure phrases, repeated and connected by one measure that mimics the last measure of the bridge. (3+3)+1+(3+3). The repeat is a slight variation on the first. The repetition/variation of the 3-measure phrase reminds me of that of the melody in the A section. Technically, this was much easier and is close to performance level now, so much of this week was also spent with the considerably more taxing earlier pages. Next up is the return to the A (which is a near exact repeat of the music just prior), a variation on the B-bridge, and then finally the brilliant closing section that combines both A and B melodies. I've read through it a couple of times, and it's going to be extremely enjoyable once I get it in my hands.

posted by sstrader at 8:58 PM in Music | tagged piano performance, prokofiev, prokofiev piano sonata no. 4 | permalink | comments (0)

August 18, 2010

Prokofiev Piano Sonata No. 4, 2nd movement

Beginning to get comfortable with the end of the first repeat of the A section, eight measures from 25 through 32, ending on the first measure of page 4. Page 3 is below:

prokofiev.sonata-4.ii.3.small.png

The overall structure (revising what I had in my first post) is:

  • A A-bridge (measures 1-24)
  • A B-bridge B (measures 25-53)
  • A B-bridge BA (measures 54-88)

I still have a tendency to hear the beginning A of the second section as belonging to the first section, but it is repeated note-for-note in the beginning of the third section and so may be more appropriately viewed in this new structure. The eight measures, crossing two pages, are stitched together in a single image below:

prokofiev.sonata-4.ii.3.m24-33.small.png

The instances of the A theme as first stated in measures 1-24 were interleaved: successive ones starting before the previous had ended. The instances of the A theme in these eight measures are placed against each other in contrary motion. The first four measures with the bass rising and the soprano falling until they cross; the second four with the upper voice splitting in two from a unison to the final note in measure 32 three octaves apart. Lines first converging and then spreading out. The interleaving in measures 1-24 make me think of different characters entering a scene in a movie or ballet, each talking against the other a la Altman. At measures 25-32, the conversations/dancers are more synchronized.

Technically, these have been the most strenuous and won't be completely comfortable for a while. The B theme will be both a physical respite and an aural one with noticeably less chromaticism.

posted by sstrader at 11:39 PM in Music | tagged piano performance, prokofiev, prokofiev piano sonata no. 4 | permalink | comments (2)

August 12, 2010

Prokofiev Piano Sonata No. 4, 2nd movement

I've got the first half of the A section, through measure 21, in my hands now. Here are the first two pages, the last measure of page 2 is measure 22 and the beginning of the A-section bridge:

prokofiev.sonata-4.ii.1.small.png prokofiev.sonata-4.ii.2.small.png

The chromatic theme is stated several times, beginning on different notes, and overlapping:

  • E in measures 2-7 in the right hand
  • B-flat in measures 5-9 in the left then right hand
  • E in measures 13-18 in the right hand
  • B-flat in measures 16-21 from left to right
  • E-flat in measures 19-21 in the left hand

This feels like A minor and then G minor in the last statement moving to the bridge. Measures 19-21 were the hairiest so far, but with the parts separated across the keyboard they were also the easiest to make audible sense of. Measures 13-15 (from the last two measures of page 1) are going to be more difficult to make sense of because those descending octave notes (played by the left hand) cut across the melody and accompaniment. At this point in my playing, the different parts in these measures are very muddled.

This evening, I focused primarily on 19-21:

prokofiev.sonata-4.ii.2.m19-21.png

posted by sstrader at 11:21 PM in Music | tagged piano performance, prokofiev, prokofiev piano sonata no. 4 | permalink | comments (0)

August 11, 2010

Prokofiev Piano Sonata No. 4, 2nd movement

The rest of the month is slated for looking at the 2nd movement of Prokofiev's 4th Piano Sonata. (Edition purchased a few years ago. Two years ago, I had worked on slow movements from two other Sonatas.) I started, slowly, a week or so ago but will be spending time every day for the rest of the month to see how far I can get.

There's a public domain score on IMSLP that appears to be the exact same printing as what I'm using (Leeds Music Corp. and Meliott/Melliot Press), so it will be convenient to reference and screencap it for inclusion here. Pages 9 through 16; eight in all.

Form: the A section contains a chromatic theme and runs to the first measure of page 4. The theme is repeated twice with the two instances connected by a three-measure bridge starting at the last measure of page 2. The B section begins with a fanfare-like bridge, then a page-and-a-half of a lyric theme. The A section returns at the top of page 6. At the bottom of that page the B section returns. In the middle of page 7, the lyric B theme returns again, this time with the chromatic A theme overlaid in the bass. Overall: A A-bridge A | B-bridge B A B-bridge B | BA.

posted by sstrader at 8:25 AM in Music | tagged piano performance, prokofiev, prokofiev piano sonata no. 4 | permalink | comments (0)

August 9, 2010

Yoko Kanno songs compared for plagiarism

I just had to reorder the OST for Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (lost the copy that came with my DVD) and so was hanging around YouTube searching for interesting Yoko Kanno videos. yuta84001 over on YouTube has compiled three videos pairing Yoko Kanno songs with those of many other artists that, to a sometimes greater sometimes lesser degree, she appears to have plagiarized. The worst offenders are clearly stolen melody, harmony, and arrangement. Others less so but with various flourishes--a sampled vocal or guitar lick--that are unmistakably thieved. Here're the vids:

A video response was made in her defense that is so laughable I won't dignify it with a link. Similarly, the YT comments attempting to defend her appear primarily from musically uneducated fanboys. A more appropriate explanation might be to treat her work as what it is: musical illustration. The best visual illustrators are masters of all genres and virtuoso technicians. Illustrators' works may take from classic designs and repurpose them. In the history of music, such thieving is much more common. YouTube contains a veritable cottage industry of claims of plagiarism between various bands. Most are pretty innocuous similarities based on stylistic short hand markings of strum patterns, chord progressions, and arrangement. Kanno is a skilled and prolific workhorse of anime soundtracks. Her swiping is pretty blatant at times, but as a percent of overall output I'm not sure it should be much of an issue.

posted by sstrader at 7:36 PM in Music | tagged anime, soundtrack, yoko kanno | permalink | comments (0)

July 6, 2010

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Some random surfing prompted me to read about the acclaimed 1997 post-rock album F-sharp A-sharp Infinity from Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The pressing and inserts (taken from Wikipedia) look fanciful:

Continue reading "Godspeed You! Black Emperor"
posted by sstrader at 7:21 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 9, 2010

RadioWave mention by Italian blogger

Italian blogger Andrea (Andy) Lawendel writes out of Milan about all things radio including traditional wireless broadcasts, internet streaming, and newer hardware that takes advantage of broadcast metadata (e.g. HD radio). Recently, he asked me a few questions about my radio schedule aggregator web site RadioWave and published the interview on his Radiopassioni blog. His introduction is in Italian (thank you, internet translator) but the subsequent interview is in my humble native language. There's much going on in the radio world that I wasn't aware of, so hopefully I don't come across as a rube.

One fascinating technology that Andy pointed me to is called RadioDNS. It is a proposal to connect the existing domain name system with standardized web services. This would enable software to link a broadcast stream to the broadcaster's web service which would provide rich metadata such as the station's location and services, current track name and artist, and album cover image. Brilliant.

posted by sstrader at 8:13 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 26, 2010

Searches for Russian composers on RadioWave

I've started into part 2 of my Wikipedia books on Russian composers. I'm frequently searching for what works of theirs are playing on RadioWave, so here are some searches to bookmark:

  1. The Five
  2. The Romantics
  3. The Moderns

Consider this a listening guide to accompany the books.

posted by sstrader at 4:41 PM in Music | tagged prokofiev | permalink | comments (0)

March 31, 2010

8-bit DSotM

In honor of my new PS2, here's a recently posted arrangement of Dark Side of the Moon for NES:

posted by sstrader at 8:23 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 19, 2010

Distortion in music

So I went for my first jog in like six months last night (pain. my legs were burning and rubbery at the same time.) and my route takes me by a bar called The Tap. It was a beautiful night, so the patio was hopping and they piped music outside on tinny, little speakers. Now, the sound is bad enough on those things, but add a crowd of chatty people plus my moving position and the music was almost unrecognizable as music. Interestingly--as would be expected at your average middle class bar--the music was top 40 pop and was very recognizable despite the distortion. Your brain filters out the non-essential stuff. I forced myself to listen to the sound without filtering and it reminded me very much of how Sparklehorse added distortion to some of his songs. It made me consider that the original intent was to create a musique concrete sound environment where the artist attempts to forced the listener to become aware of the non-musical distortions that are normally elided (as with last night).

Early Frank Zappa--and many, many others--would use similar techniques. This is not, however, what Pink Floyd was trying to accomplish and could be considered the opposite. Their sound environment was more theatrical and intended to pull you into the conceit rather than make the superstructure visible.

posted by sstrader at 4:41 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 8, 2010

Sparklehorse

Heard this morning from Lisa about Linkous's suicide on Saturday. He was one of my favorite pop musicians. I'd first heard of him back in 1995 when Album 88 was playing tracks off of Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionhorse (Lisa and I were just starting to date at MicroHelp). Completely fell in love with the distorted pop quality.

I don't latch on to pop music that often and finding his was such magic at the time. He was similar to Wilco, and yet Linkous used the studio to create a sound-world reminiscent of Pink Floyd's early, creative experiments and that had less of the alt-country, awshucks quality. A good example is his song "Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man" from his second album. The use of distortion throughout seemed to express a feeling of impotence regarding free will. In one sense, the radio distortion that drowns the song foils his attempts at expression; in another, it's his hand that controls the distortion and chooses to detune the radio station that is his voice. I still feel it is the pinnacle of his music making (see also Luke Lewis's praise of that song over at NME).

We went to see him twice. First at the now-defunct Music Midtown back in '95 or '96 when he was in a wheelchair. Then, a year or two later, we saw him standing tall and rhinestone-cowboy-hatted at the also-now-defunct Echo Lounge. Packed house and beautifully performed.

As with DFW, I hate seeing him go and hate that they both had such difficulties to force them to leave in such a manner.

posted by sstrader at 7:39 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 1, 2010

Albums, the loudness war

On Saturday, we went to the Run For Cover art show at the Spruill Gallery just north of Perimeter Mall. Hundreds of classic album covers in their natural habitat: all cardboardy and filled with vinyl. Yes and Pink Floyd were well represented. Saw several classics in their original form: Their Satanic Majesties Request with the 3D cover, Physical Graffiti with the crazy windows, plus The Velvet Underground with their (non-peeling) banana cover. We loved the gallery space and will definitely be watching for more shows there.

run-for-cover.front run-for-cover.back

A year or so ago I found my copy of Meco's Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk album in my parents' basement and swore I was going to have it framed. Hasn't been done yet, but now I think I'm going to frame several others and we'll fill a wall with awesomeness. I have quite a few albums that were included in the show. I recently went looking for a print of Tales from Topographic Oceans and found a screenprint from the artist for $2,500. Framing my copy of the album will be considerably less expensive.

In a small back room in the gallery, they also looped three videos related to album covers. One was a scene from Spinal Tap when the band got the first copies of their album Smell the Glove (It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.). Another with Pink Floyd discussing when Storm Thorgerson first presented his design for DSotM to them. The third was a short documentary on the owner of Record-Rama: at 3 million records, the largest single collection in the world. Though a nice enough guy, the owner brought up the debatable idea that analog vinyl sounds better than digital CDs because it preserves the high- and low-end frequencies. His comment brought fervent nods from an older couple watching with us (though I fear they weren't that much older...) who had never heard of the loudness war. I'd learned about this from a now-un-find-able Slashdot thread back in July of last year. This video is the tl;dr version of the Wikipedia article:

posted by sstrader at 11:20 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 14, 2010

Currently listening to

Almost a year ago, I got the itch to hear some orchestral song cycles and backburnered the task to find some recordings. It took this long. These are my first MP3 purchases from Amazon. The Mahler recording has a lot of distortion (at least, it does on my crappy PC speakers that otherwise sound "good enough"). The Canteloube and Glazunov don't have this problem. The Glazunov symphonies I picked up for free after Amazon gave me a $5 credit. Worth it even not-for-free.

Continue reading "Currently listening to"
posted by sstrader at 12:11 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 12, 2009

Pandora stations

I've been enjoying using Pandora as my car radio for the past few months. I've only got two primary stations that I listen to. The Baroque station, seeded with "Johann Sebastian Bach", I'll use for driving-to-work music. The game is to name the composer in the first 20 seconds or so. I've gotten better at nationality (although Handel always sounds English to me) and I've realized that Vivaldi had a more expressive palette than I'd given him credit for. Otherwise, my score's only ~60%. Corelli and Fernando Sor always sneak up and mess with my head.

The other station is, naturally, seeded with "Close to the Edge". It'll basically replay a cross-section of the art rock of my youth with some pleasant surprises. Gentle Giant--who I was only introduced to in college and thought was too free-jazzy--gets in there with "Cogs in Cogs". A short, rapid 16th note heavy piece that made me realize how much Echolyn borrowed from them. The station also plays a song called "My New World" by Transatlantic. They seem to be the Asia of the 2000s, but much less gay. The source bands, Dream Theater and Spock's Beard, were two that represented--at least for me--the transition from Art Rock to Prog Rock, with the latter being generally more studio metal (not a fan). "My New World" is nice if a little too far in the opposite direction. Chris Squire's "Silently Falling" I could have really enjoyed when I first discovered Yes, but it's just kindof nice now. Also, from the station's prompting, I'm appreciating Yes's "Awaken" and several songs from Tormato more than originally.

Pandora's not the end-all, but it's a good option. I've got a (hidden) web site to allow me to generate and stream playlists from my MP3s at home (often enjoyed at work), but the HTML and M3Us're a little too funky right now for my BlackBerry Storm to support it.

posted by sstrader at 7:26 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 23, 2009

Stravinsky's mug shot

Rate My Band has a mugshot photo of Stravinsky, apparently taken after he was arrested for rearranging God Bless America. Stolen copy below:

stravinsky_mugshot_resize
posted by sstrader at 8:58 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 27, 2009

Tablet PC and music

My tablet PC has been the perfect addition to my sheet music library. Although it's not a replacement for a good urtext edition, it's allowed me to work on sight reading and get familiar with a wider range of composers. So far, I've read through the first few Mozart Sonatas, a set of J.C. Bach's Sonatas (recently purchased in a huge sale from Daedalus), and the first few sets of Mendelssohn's Lieder Ohne Worte.

A question recently on Slashdot asked for recommendations for good tablet PCs to use while teaching. First comment (that I saw) was for a Motion Computing LE1600. I'd seen these in my original research, but none were < $1000 bucks or so. Found one for $400 and it has a 12-inch screen (cf. my HP TC1100's 10-inch screen). The HP's size is acceptable but as small as you'd want to go if you're looking for you own sheet music browser. That LE1600 would be perfect and well worth the extra $100.

posted by sstrader at 8:47 PM in Home Network & Gadgets , Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 17, 2009

Art and grammar

I noticed something recently while writing music at the piano. The section I was working on contained two independent lines separated between the hands, but at one point the harmonies generated became noticeably thin and the two lines were no longer distinct. It was obvious that the problem was a few successive parallel octaves (parallel perfect intervals diminish the sense of separate voices) so I reworked the section to eliminate the error but keep the intended mood. I recognized the error because of how it sounded, and even understood how to fix it by reworking the melodies and listening, but understanding the process involved a working knowledge of the grammar of music.

The High was recently showing Monet's Waterlillies. Currently, they're showing works of Leonardo Da Vinci. For major shows, they will display a large-scale poster covering the front of their main building and facing Peachtree Street. The Monet was a section of a Waterlillies painting with an overall right-pointing triangular layout (c.f. the Classical design style that often uses the more stable hypotenuse-base triangle). The Da Vinci poster consists of a section of a terracotta relief sculpture that contains a reclining angel (clipped section below).

150_angel.jpg

The figure suggests a syncopation of geometric shapes fitted elegantly and embellished with slight, Renaissance curves. You can immediately see the artist's thoughts as he blocked out the design.

Both instances show how an understanding of the grammar of the arts helps the viewer both to understand the mechanics of communication and to recognize the cause of flawed communication.

posted by sstrader at 11:10 PM in Art , Language & Literature , Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 26, 2009

Prokofiev and composition

From Boris Berman's book of analysis and performance notes, Prokofiev's Piano Sonatas, is a comment he heard from Prokofiev's son:

I recall Prokofiev's younger son, Oleg, remembering that Prokofiev frequently referred to the need to "Prokofievize" a newly composed work.

This is an honest insight into the mind of a tinkering composer (cf. the oft cited battlefield of a Beethoven score with the pristine pages of a Mozart:

beethoven-ghost-trio

mozart.figaro

)

Prokofiev's Prokofievization comes from the more common sketch-and-refine school of composition. Inspiration may sprout fully formed from the head of the inspired, but it doesn't necessarily emerge in its final form. Corollary from advice I'd received, the source of which I don't remember: don't get married to your first idea.

posted by sstrader at 5:19 PM in Music | tagged prokofiev | permalink | comments (0)

July 15, 2009

2009 and one half

Purchased an HP TC1100 Tablet PC from eBay for $300 (and, no, I refuse to continue to look for deals 'cause I know that the day after I ordered I could've saved big $$$) for a b-day present to myself. I'd been itching to get a tablet or a Kindle to sight read scores from IMSLP while sitting at the piano. Should arrive today, so afterwork will be filled with music-geek-fun! Even compared to the Kindle DX, the TC1100 wins out for my needs: bigger screen, better browsing, cheaper.

Lunarpages, the company that hosts my non-personal other web sites, went down last night at around 6. I resisted the urge to check Twitter just to see whether such "live" information could be found elsewhere. The Google blog search brought up nothing; Internet Traffic Report for North Amnerica was too course-grained and also reported no major outages; and all of Lunarpages related sites and forums were, no surprise, down. On Twitter I found hundreds of messages from others with unreachable web sites hosted by Lunarpages and ultimately got a response from one of their PR people. The last company I followed tweeted nothing but self-promotion, but I'll give Lunarpages a chance.

Back into composing music after several years. I've had sporadic bits of notes and ideas filling a binder for just as long, with every intent of getting a new work written more sooner. I'm not sure what I accomplished in the intervening years, but I'm sure it was interesting. Although I'd kept up with classical pieces during this time (mostly Bach and Prokofiev) it feels good to get back to writing. Plan is to finish by the end of the year.

Tonight is b-day dinner at Pacci Ristorante at the Hotel Palomar a couple blocks away from us.

posted by sstrader at 10:06 AM in Home Network & Gadgets , Music | tagged ebooks | permalink | comments (0)

May 6, 2009

Digital scores

My dream of having easy and affordable access to a music library may be much closer with the announced release of the Kindle DX. The screen looks pretty nice, it finally supports PDFs, and the price is more manageable than that of a tablet PC. Also, browsing the thousands of PDF scores from IMSLP at my piano would be easier with the thinner Kindle. And it's quite an improvement over the too-ugly-to-exist first generation Kindle. Need to wait for reviews of how well it truly supports PDFs though.

posted by sstrader at 4:34 PM in Home Network & Gadgets , Music | tagged ebooks | permalink | comments (0)

March 23, 2009

The new public media

Performance Today had people begging to buy a recording of Ravi Shankar's new concerto after the premiere was broadcast on their March 6th show. Unfortunately, they didn't have permission to sell it. People want to throw money at a new music composer (albeit, a very tenured and wealthy one) and he didn't have the foresight to prepare an MP3 download of the premiere performance? Luckily, most new composers are wise to the internets and know their way around MP3s. Still, Shankar's actions feel almost dismissive of the audience.

In many instances, NPR is the model of new media provider. They've always had a very clean and comprehensive web site and are committed to working closely and in partnership with local stations. Well balanced national and local implementations are not what you expect from a not-for-profit.

posted by sstrader at 1:22 PM in Internet , Music | permalink | comments (0)

February 27, 2009

Random thoughts on this, the 27th of Feb 2009

Listened to Songs of the Auvergne on the way in to work this morning. I need to get a collection of orchestral song cycles: Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder and PIerrot Lunaire, and Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde and Kindertotenlieder. I have a passing familiarity with these but have only seriously listened to Gurre-Lieder.

My new rule for the last month or so (minus this week of having a cold) has been to practice piano at the end of the evening no matter what. I would often skip practice because I didn't have an hour or more to give to it. The new rule forced me to work on pieces even if it's only for 10 or 15 minutes. Since the decision, I've finally tackled difficult passages that had been previously eluding me. 15 minutes 4 times a week > 1 hour once a week.

Got my new laptop Wednesday night: HP Pavilion dv9913cl Notebook, 64-bit Vista, 2.10GHz Dual-Core, 4096MB, 320GB HDD, 17.0" diagonal WXGA+ High-Def. $600 refurbished from Buy.com (full specs copied here). Still configuring/installing but so far no major snags. Reviews to come. Last night we connected it to the 42-inch Bravia and watched the pilot for Dollhouse via Hulu. I thought it looked great (after forcing the TV to full-screen it), but Lisa wasn't happy with the intermittent video caching. Next up: Netflix streaming. I had minor buyer's remorse yesterday when I sat down at the piano. Wondered whether I maybe should have shelled out twice the price (or more) for a tablet PC so that I could browse IMSLP's score library for sight-reading fun. I'm over it, but that's something I'll be looking for down the line, maybe with an e-reader that allows PDFs.

Stressing (mildly) over the other hardware items that need purchased. My web server has long needed to be upgraded, but I'm putting that off until after this next web project is published and beta-ed. Also need a 1TB external drive for local backups of media files. They're not expensive; I just need to take the time. Before that's done, I can burn to DVD put them in a (tobepurchased) fire box. The now-replaced laptop needs to have its harddrive wiped and tested, probably replaced, and then have Linux installed.

posted by sstrader at 2:44 PM in Home Network & Gadgets , Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 12, 2009

Digital republic

Listened to the podcast of an On Point show discussing the history of the song "House of the Rising Sun". It's the subject of a new book by Ted Anthony called "Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song." Origin unknown, but it is maybe 100 years old. Alan Lomax made the first recording for the Library of Congress in 1937 while traveling through Appalachia looking for remnants of Elizabethan songs. He recorded an a cappella performance by 16 year old girl named Georgia Turner in a poor neighborhood of Middlesborough, Kentucky.

When discussing the story told in the song, Ted Anthony invokes a phrase--"invisible republic"--that Greil Marcus used to describe a set of early recordings by Bob Dylan. In Anthony's assessment, the "invisible republic" is an inchoate expression of American myths manifest in Dylan's songs. Archetypal. My assessment: The more structured society of 1700s/1800s England was abandoned to the wilderness of the Americas. The arts that were kept were easily communicable in such an environment (dispersed, agrarian population) and were selected as stories most relevant to that environment (courtship ballades were out, morality tales modified to fit the New World). The unconscious, group process chose and molded the early arts and these incipient myths.

One connection I made on "House of the Rising Sun": spelunking from that article to the one on the English ballad "Matty Groves" brought up a reference to the aubade form: basically a romantic trope where lovers part in the morning (think Romeo and Juliet). I wonder if "House of the Rising Sun" has any relevance as a tragic aubade.

(Although the historical discussion was interesting, the musical discussion was sorely lacking with the author admitting he knows nothing about music. Simple guitar strumming is described as complicated picking; the chord progression is considered to be unique in the history of folk music. Bah. The chords are i bIII iv V i V i and very common w/r/t folk music in the minor key. It would have been nice if Anthony would have worked some with an ethnomusicologist to place it in historical context. Alas.)

I like the idea of being so close in history to the origin of modern myths. 40 years prior, Dylan probably felt he was tapping something primal (artists usually do) when he unearthed those tunes, and decades before him the folk musicians of the 40s and 50s probably felt the same. We're in touch with the origin of what will be the digital myths but, as with most events in history, it's difficult to discern the temporal memes from the eternal. Not every lolcat will survive the sieve of history. But where are the artists who frieze these incipient digital myths into a more permanent form? In the text-dependent environment of the internet, cyberpunk writers seem to have taken the place of folk musicians to write the history of digital society. Still, there's so much more out there that reeks of primordial potential: 4chan/Digg/Reddit, gamer forums, social networking sites, open-source collaborations. Even dead-and-dying groups have a mythic potential: Feed, Suck, BBSs. What different experiences will become digital archetypes?

posted by sstrader at 11:33 PM in Internet , Music , Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

January 2, 2009

Stravinsky at Sibelius's grave

Image description: PEJE03 19610910 JÄRVENPÄÄ, FINLAND: Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky lays flowers on Finnish composer Jean Sibelius's grave at Sibelius's home, Ainola, in Järvenpää, Finland, on September 10, 1961. LEHTIKUVA / PERTTI JENYTIN

Referenced and dead-linked by Alex Ross for The Rest Is Noise, I found the only (?) internet copy here and stole it.

posted by sstrader at 6:09 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 6, 2008

Nerdcore Rising (4/5)

Saw it at the Plaza last night after Lisa spotted it yesterday afternoon [ website | IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. I've been waiting for this to come out! Learned about nerdcore in August 2005 and we saw MC Frontalot at Drunken Unicorn back in May 2006.

Most insightful scenes were in New Orleans. First, they watch two black blues musicians on the street during one of the many periods of tour downtime. Interspersed are interviews and voice-overs with Frontalot and the band plus others (nerdcore musicians, Weird Al, Prince Paul, Jello Biafra...) discussing the history of white appropriation of black music. Well done. The second scene was after their New Orleans show. They played the alwaysfunny "I Heart Fags". Choice line:

I heart fags 'cause I am a San Franciscan,
If you're dissin' on my homos then a censure's what you're riskin'...

After the show, several young gays, male and female, came up to hug Frontalot. Their warmth and appreciation was wonderful and Fontalot commented later how outsiders are outsiders no matter the reason.

Many angry geeks were interviewed--insisting that "they" control the world and "jocks" better watch out--but there were genuinely honest and funny moments too. Lots of geek ts, best was a chick's that said "+1 Shirt of Smiting". The movie had a good range of commenters, it was awesome that the director got Prince Paul. There was much to enjoy, and many moments of just honesty and uncertainty. Purchase imminent.

posted by sstrader at 11:17 AM in Cinema , Music | tagged new orleans | permalink | comments (0)

November 22, 2008

Doctor Atomic

John Adams' Doctor Atomic Friday night at the ASO. At times moving and difficult. Here's a PDF of John Adams' notes from the program.

tickets.doctor-atomic

Partial-staging with the orchestra arrayed normally, pushed a little to the front, raised platforms for the singers positioned at the center and leading to the back, and the choir split at the back left and right dressed in khakis and muted pullover shirts. Stage platforms had Oppenheimer's desk at the center and two living-room chairs to the left. Opens with recorded sounds--40s radio, people talking, misc. shortwave-type noises--segueing into the choir intoning the physics of the bomb (matter can neither be created nor destroyed). Supporting them, descending scales shared across the orchestra. Bombs falling on Japanese cities. I know Adams' Nixon in China, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and the cathartic On the Transmigration of Souls. Music for Doctor Atomic was, at times, as chaotic and difficult as the latter but with arias as beautiful as those from Nixon in China. Singers were dressed as they would be for a full performance and acted out the scenes within the minimal staging.

Atomic intermission. on TwitPic

The opera brought out the drama of the history. The psychological pressure that was killing the scientists, the social responsibility, the uncertainty over how and if they were destroying the world.

Act I ends with the passionate, blues-influenced, charged aria "Batter my heart, three person'd God" based on a John Donne poem. Video with the full aria (taken from gab1279's YouTube group):

Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee, and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason yhour viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you, and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee, untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

(note the suggestion of the verse harmonies within the interstitial staccato sections)

Much of note: Clever syncopation, the rhythmic skill is astonishing and new. Many examples of how music doesn't have to be derivative. The orchestra was often chaotic behind the singers. Getting the recording (when it becomes available) after watching the performance is mandatory. I would love to see a full staging; there is much drama that could be amplified. The other videos from that group:

"What Benevolent Demon"

"Am I in Your Light?"

"The Motive of It All"

"Long Let Me Inhale Deeply"

"The Countdown"

posted by sstrader at 7:23 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 7, 2008

On a host of issues

Watched the Obama Flickr slideshow from election night. It's deceptive to be moved over beautiful pictures of well-dress and well-composed people. However, I can only imagine how black people felt to have this moment and have it with such a composed and intelligent politician and family (us whites had to skulk along with Bush or McCain as potential leaders; they don't inspire racial pride and even go so far as to bring up questions about humanity as a whole).

Brooke Shields in the new VW ads is very middle-aged-sexy. I think she just got on the list. The ads are not at all good though.

Embedding streaming audio in a web page: (1) works for Firefox and Opera using standard HTML, (2) works for Opera and IE using IE hack, (3) works for all three in some manner I have not yet divined. Fuck you, Microsoft.

Last Sunday went to buy DFW's The Broom of the System since I finished Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and needed a novel-not-short-stories. The pieces in Brief Interviews were not as good as Oblivion. Stand out items: The Depressed Person (virtuoso execution!), Octet, and Tri-Stan: I Sold Sissee Nar to Ecko (an inexplicable story of 1980s TV decadence written as Classical history). Before even finding BotS, impulse buy of Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise (I read his blog, now I can read his book! I expect to pass it on to Lisa as the introduction to modern music), Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man (first Hugo Award winner, 1954, s/b short and punchy pulp sci-fi. I vaguely remember the title as one of those passed over during my teen years.), and Bad Monkeys (a Lisa impulse buy, 20 pages left right now and about to finish it, fun and light but maybe prepping for a Big Finish).

Re-hearing the Barber Violin Concerto made me fall in love with it again. Need to revisit his Piano Concerto. At some point in college I purched an ELL PEE with both and wore out the grooves listening to it. Perfect concert piece last night with Joshua Bell: short and catchy and well proportioned as a concerto.

concert.barber-and-bartok
posted by sstrader at 11:30 PM in Culture & Society , Music , Personal , Politics | permalink | comments (0)

October 29, 2008

Scat, man!

[ via Scott Spiegelberg, my new god ]

posted by sstrader at 2:03 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 13, 2008

Where was I?

Friday was all-Tchaikovsky at the ASO. The first of a block of eight concerts we got for the season. I was never a big fan of Pyotr, he always seemed the prissy Romantic with flowery melodies, but I'm warming up to him. Francesca da Rimini (enough drama to fill a 2-hour movie!), Violin Concerto in D (soloist Robert McDuffie, seen years ago in a recital where he played a violin+piano arrangement of Glass's Violin Concerto), and Symphony No. 1, "Winter Daydreams". After the Violin Concerto, Bobby McD brought out one of his students for a duet (Ravel piece for violin and cello). Excellent all around but Not Enough Seats Filled! That's bad for the Symphony, but good for me since maybe Lisa&I can take my Mom.

concert.tchaikovsky

Caturday was an afternoon picnic lunch w/ Lisa and my Mom. Evening, Lisa went to watch the sad, sad LSU game and drown her liver in gin. I got caught up on piano and met her at The Vortex at midnight. We got home somehow.

Sunday was la-zy. Caught up on some TiVo (Supernatural!) and then went to see Quarantine (3/5) at Atlantic Station [ IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes ]. Zombie/Blair Witch hybrid. What gorey, nerve-wracking fun! A few missteps and the people who made the poster and ads can die in fucking hell for spoiling the ending, but it was still a blast with the crowd ewwwing and clapping as bones popped out of legs and people punched the rabid hordes. Afterwards was Cypress Street Pint and Plate with our New Favorite Bartender Lindsay the Philosophy Major. Hipster music, watched Planet Earth on TV (ocean bottom then mountains?), surfed for images of cute baby hedgehogs, and had arguments about race and homosexuality. What a fun bar. I am so glad I live in Midtown!

Lisa got ill in the middle of the night with an unspecified sickness. Hopefully not zombie rabies. She assured me that I haven't planted a seed in her. No need for me to skip town. Yet.

posted by sstrader at 4:56 PM in Cinema , Music , Where was I? | permalink | comments (0)

September 12, 2008

July 29, 2008

Romantic piano

Listening to Poulenc's Sonata in A major for Cello (originally for violin) and Piano from a WGBH podcast. Actually, I've been listening to it on and off for a few weeks, and within that time I'd purchased the four volumes of Amy Beach's piano music performed by Joanne Polk. I can hear their similarities but can't express their differences. I can only cop out and say he has that slight hint of French salon trash and she has that slight hint of New England salon trash. Nothing offensive, just a little gamey. They lived two decades apart--her dying in 1944 and him in 1963. Did she go out to see Bogart movies in her later years? Did he watch The Fugitive on TV? Ever since I learned that I had till I was nine to actually meet Dmitri Shostakovich--unfortunately several years before I was even interested in music--I've been taken by the idea of what these people might have taken in from the pop culture that we ultimately shared.

[ updated 30 July 2008 ]

So now Amy Beach is sounding very impressionist. Debussy's Estampes IIRC. I'm sure I'll start hearing more influences later...

posted by sstrader at 8:54 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 17, 2008

More Prokofiev

My favorite time at the piano for the last month or so has been working on two slow movements from different Prokofiev piano sonatas. The third movement, Andante in G-sharp minor, from the Piano Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 14, and the second movement, Andante sognando in D-flat major, from the Piano Sonata No. 8 in B-flat major, Op. 84. The Barbara Nissman recording I have of #s 1 through 8 (the first complete recording of his Piano Sonatas) is on my desert island list. The works have that mix of lyrical and spikey that I like from the Russians, and Nissman tears into them with passion.

Going through the sheet music makes me appreciate all the more what he does with harmony and multiple voices on the piano. Starting at the end of measure 44 of op. 14's ABAB slow movement, here's the climax of the 2nd A section:

prokofiev.sonata-2.iii.1 prokofiev.sonata-2.iii.2

Broken third accompaniment in sixths in the right hand, then split between the hands, the simple, emphatic melody above, and a wave of G-sharp minor arpeggios (this movement's primary key) in the bass. The phrase's opening chromatically descending sixths in the left hand hint at the chromatically descending tritones in the same hand for the final phrase of the section (shown lighter in triplets). The chromatic lines are then taken up with more of a leggiero feel in an inner voice in the B section's right hand. Even at it's busiest, the piece holds together with an economy of means: broken thirds, sixths, and chromatic scales hold A and B together. This one slice of the work holds the DNA for the entire piece.

Op. 84's slow movement (also a flowing andante but more dreamlike, sognando) is ABABA but with great variation in each repetition. The first A repeats the melody three times with a short bridge inserted between the second and third repetition. Here's the first half of the odd and somewhat patchwork bridge:

prokofiev.sonata-8.ii.1

I can't figure out his intentions. The overlaps don't seem to flow for me even with the sort of stretto in the different voices. Hmm. I do, however, love the two measures of false return of the second A section (the actual A appears immediately after), especially the right-hand accompaniment:

prokofiev.sonata-8.ii.2

And finally, the opening phrase of the last A section. Melody in the middle voice, swapped between hands while broken A-flat octaves (the dominant of the key and echoing the syncopation and open intervals of the B section) appear in the outside voices:

prokofiev.sonata-8.ii.3 prokofiev.sonata-8.ii.4

Similar to the chromatically ascending chords in the right hand of the previous example, the accompanying octaves follow a general rule and break it when they need. In the first example, the chords occationally skip whole tones instead of half in order to fit the melody better; in the second, the octaves' jumps vary slightly to fit the empty spaces in the melody. Both movement have simple melodies that are worked with great variation throughout.

posted by sstrader at 7:01 PM in Music | tagged piano performance, prokofiev | permalink | comments (0)

July 10, 2008

Moby Dick!

I've been downloading (all. day.) the entire Led Zeppelin library from Rhapsody thanks to Reddit. $9.99, 165 MP3s, 256kbs, 16hr 41min of music (sheesh, that's less than the length of Wagner's ring cycle, lazy rock musicians...). I started dl-ing the 1.8 Gig zip file and their site bonked at 200 meg. Broke down and installed Rhapsody's sucktacular download manager... just now finishing up Physical Graffiti and about to move on to Presence. Can't say that they're one of the bands of my youth that I'll spend much time revisiting, but the deal was too hard to pass up.

posted by sstrader at 4:58 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 1, 2008

IMSLP is back

Order returns to the universe. That is all.

imslp
posted by sstrader at 7:48 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 25, 2008

First electronic music

Listening to the Future Tense podcast on synthesized music. The first computer to play computer-generated music was CSIRAC (pronounced SIGH-rack) in 1950. No recording exists, but the BBC reports that the song played was Colonel Bogey March (written by F. J. Ricketts in 1915; I always hear Bart from The Simpsons when he sings: Lisa, her teeth are big and green. Lisa, she smells like gasoline. Lisa, ta-ra-ra Lisa. She is my sista, her birthday I mista.). The oldest recorded computer generated music, reported only a week or so ago, was created by the Ferranti Mark 1 in 1951. The songs were God Save the Queen/America (interesting, uncertain history that includes John Bull and Henry Purcell and that dastardly musica ficta), Baa Baa Black Sheep (originally a French melody from 1761 titled "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman"), and In the Mood (written not by Glenn Miller but Wingy Manone in 1929). The next attempt was in 1957 with an IBM 704. This was unique in that it was a 17-second composition by programmer Max Mathews. In 1962, the same model of computer was used to perform a synthesized voice version of Daisy Bell (Harry Dacre, 1892), with Arthur C. Clarke in attendance (2001: A Space Odyssey, Hal 9000, yadda yadda...).

Create Digital Music has a nice article summarizing this timeline with additional facts, links, and YouTube-ery. Also, good details in the linked Wikipedia articles.

posted by sstrader at 10:28 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 28, 2008

Jeremiah Wright on music

OK, so I've finally found a subject to take issue with with Rev. Wright. On CSPAN today, he was denouncing the idea that the western music tradition is any more valid than the African music tradition. I'm all for inclusive education in the arts, but his examples were so poorly chosen as to--and I really hate to say this--invoke the specter of reverse discrimination.

His first example was harmless enough (although he phrased it inequitably as a value judgement), suggesting that western tradition emphasizes predominantly martial time with a notable absence of syncopation. In his fantasy world, African music freed the west from Sousa by offering up the off-beat clapping of gospel. I've often heard different forms of this argument, and it does injustice to both lineages. In the west, early sacred choral music took much from Eastern Europe and therefore took much of Eastern Europe's compound meter and shifting metric relationships. Similarly but different, Baroque virtuoso music stretched metric interest by committing to paper the technical flights of violin and keyboard masters. Beethoven also introduced great rhythmic color into his pieces, as did Brahms (although perhaps depending primarily on hemiolas). To say that Africa gave the west "syncopation" is like saying the west gave Africa "freedom."

Martial music is often simplistic in that it is meant simply to count to four and do little else. Conversely, folk music can be rhythmically surprising (for reasons I don't know) if a bit repetitive. Early Renaissance folk meter borrowed its irregularity from language (e.g. musique mesuree). Bartok and Kodaly transcribed much Eastern European folk music and came away absorbing and re-passing on its inventiveness to the western tradition. Gospel has similar characteristics but could only arrogantly declare itself as FIRST POST.

Rev. Wright is well-read, so I'm not sure why he would paint such a tainted picture. He does have a couple of nutty canards as Bill Moyers generously labels them, so maybe it's simply more of the same.

posted by sstrader at 11:23 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 25, 2008

February 26, 2008

Art and politics

Today's episode of Soundcheck on WNYC discussed the NY Philharmonic's recent trip to North Korea (sanctioned by the Bush administration, so enough with the knee-jerk liberal-bashing...). Norman Lebrecht feels great consternation towards the decision, calling it somewhere ... between morally inappropriate and aesthetically offensive. The short argument is that the Philharmonic plays into the propaganda of the Kim Jong-il regime. Lebrecht then mockingly rebuts a quote from music director Lorin Maazel:

[Maazel:] People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw bricks, should they? Is our standing as a country -- the United States -- is our reputation all that clean when it comes to prisoners and the way they are treated? Have we set an example that should be emulated all over the world? If we can answer that question honestly, I think we can then stop being judgmental about the errors made by others.
The unreality of these arguments is almost beyond disputation. North Korea is a rogue state that flouts international law, threatens nuclear war and starves its own people. The U.S. is a democracy which, despite lapses in its treatment of prisoners after 9/11, is committed to the rule of law and the rights of the individual. Any comparison is illusory.

I was immediately reminded of a comment on Reddit this morning regarding the kangaroo court that is Guantanamo: Imagine for a second if sick garbage like this was reported out from China - the right wingers would fall all over themselves to point out how corrupt the system is there. Odd that when we act morally degenerate and those responsible insist on the nobility of those actions, the actions are merely lapses and we are still committed to the rule of law and the rights of the individual, yet others' moral corruption and flouting-of-international-law are unconscionable. The discussion on the show brought up South African apartheid (in defense of isolation) and the more recent Cuban embargo (in defense of diplomacy). And, not to forget a recent example from North Korea, it took the Bush administration to open diplomatic relations with North Korea to get them to shut down their nuclear tests.

posted by sstrader at 3:17 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

February 18, 2008

January 5, 2008

IMSLP news for the new year

IMSLP (the story of its sad demise here) is looking more likely to return! From the forums, ArcticWind7 sez: It is not on a knife-edge, or even close. It IS coming back, there's no question. There's a (currently inactive) Google group that can be joined or subscribed to to receive announcements here. Not a week goes by when I don't have a need to browse IMSLP's scores. Man, I miss them.

posted by sstrader at 10:21 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 19, 2007

Podcast music, 2

Another set finally pieced together with the ideas I had left over from the first suite. This has the same format of five short tracks at around 6-1/2 minutes total. You can stream the MP3 playlist here:

  1. "Lossless" (1:15) - brass and strings
  2. "Resin" (1:23) - piano and strings
  3. "Desultory" (1:07) - violin, cello, guitar
  4. "Spiral" (1:17) - brass and guitar
  5. "Herald" (1:46) - brass, woodwinds, and cello
posted by sstrader at 1:53 PM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

November 20, 2007

Podcast music

Last week and this past weekend, I wrote five short works for a friend who needed some music for their podcast and streaming. There's around 6-1/2 minutes of music, and you can stream the MP3 playlist here. The music was burned to MP3 directly from the MIDI. The tracks are:

  1. "Perpetual" (1:27) - bright, orchestral
  2. "Lunge" (1:15) - jazz combo, bebop
  3. "Precipice" (1:11) - piano, acoustic guitar, french horn
  4. "Aurora" (1:21) - electric guitar, bass, acoustic guitar, piano
  5. "Darkness" (1:09) - electric guitar and orchestra
posted by sstrader at 7:46 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 7, 2007

Public

NPR: Music Home [ via Digg ]. Streaming on demand. It is public after all. I just wish they had a composers'/performer's index.

posted by sstrader at 10:19 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 20, 2007

IMSLP v. corporate lawyers

Anyone care to guess who won? Yesterday, the IMSLP project leader voluntarily took down the site, probably for good. This site was one of the best things to happen to the internets and music. Discussion in the IMSLP forums revealed that it was being used by schools around the world (and more importantly by me!). Very unfortunate. The only hope is that libraries and schools step up and support the tremendous effort that IMSLP went through to be absolutely within the law. Corporate fucks.

[ updated 21 Oct 2007 ]

Finally getting a little more attention:

And the IMSLP forums are getting really hot. Sadly, the story's not showing up on any of the music bloggers I read. (Emailing ...)

[ updated 21 Oct 2007, again ]

And yet more

Commentary across the web is mostly supportive. The few accusations of the site admin "giving up" are generally squelched when they realize that it's a lone college student supporting the site with their spare time and money. Slashdot comments were at times the most judgemental ("just write an IP filtering script, duh!!"). Maybe Boing Boing's attentions will bring further legal support and expertise.

[ updated 22 Oct 2007 ]

More music blog attention:

Tim Rutherford-Johnson at The Rambler provides a good summation: IMSLP took its copyright responsibilities seriously. ... The IMSLP was not some wild west web hub for mass copyright infringement. It provided a service that was valued by performers, libraries, universities and musicologists: people and institutions who contribute to musical activity, rather than simply consume it.

[ updated 23 Oct 2007 ]

Feldmahler posted this in the IMSLP forums' admin thread yesterday afternoon:

Basically, negotiations are planned between an organization and me regarding the continuation of IMSLP. Another IMSLP contributor has already had contact with the organization regarding this matter, but I have yet to speak with the organization in person (this is scheduled to happen during the next week). I also have a few other routes and offers for help, and will try to combine them so that we have something good Smile

But no, IMSLP is not dead, and it will not be dead if I can help it.

Much more optimistic than their original post. Also, this was their hope from the start (of the end). From their message on the 20th:

The most important thing at the moment, and for which I would be very grateful for help, is to interest larger organizations in continuing or supporting IMSLP. Monetary concerns are minimal; however, support from large organizations is essential. Here I would like to thank the large amount of libraries and educational institutions who have offered support; I will respond as soon as possible.

[ updated 25 Oct 2007 ]

Tentatively awesome news via Scott Spiegelberg: Project Gutenberg is offering to host the IMSLP catalog! Original story from /.. Scott has also provided many good links to still unthreatened sheet music sites. Nice. Now, go donate half of your spare change to PG and the other half to Wikimedia's current fund drive.

posted by sstrader at 11:21 AM in Music | permalink | comments (4)

October 9, 2007

Portal for performance notes and analysis

(originally posted in the IMSLPForums under this thread.)

This is a request for suggestions on a community web site that I wish existed. Apologies if this has already been asked and thanks if it already exists and you have a link.

I was recently working on a Chopin Mazurka when I came across a phrase whose fingering initially stumped me. I eventually found something workable for me but was curious about others' solutions. Basically, I missed the days of music classes with practice rooms filled with immediately available opinions and piano teachers on hand for more seasoned direction. Google searches produced nothing.

With an abundance of scores now immediately available on IMSLP, such an online forum is easier to achieve. However, are there other musicians out there who would either want such a forum or want to contribute to it?

The first and simplest option would be to use the discussion pages for each piece here on IMSLP with headings and subheadings to break down the movements, sections, or pages depending on the work. Another option would be to create a separate wiki in order to allow greater structure. This would allow choices such as 1 wiki page/manuscript page, thematic discussions separated from the performances notes, pages on theory, etc.

Am I offering a solution to a problem that doesn't exist? What interest is out there? I'm a software engineer who loves interesting side projects if there's a need.

posted by sstrader at 5:48 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 26, 2007

September 11, 2007

OtToS

I resisted, but then decided to re-listen to On the Transmigration of Souls. The buildup to the ending is what hits you. You can download/stream from here until I get inundated by hits from MP3 robots.

posted by sstrader at 10:45 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 5, 2007

Vasks - "Plainscapes"

Just listened to Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks' chamber work "Plainscapes" on St. Paul Sunday performed by the Seattle Chamber Players and the Seattle Pro Musica choral ensemble. Phenomenal and drifting piece with the choir vocalising over ametrical accompaniment in the strings. Beautiful climax and resolution. Alas, nowhere is there a recording.

posted by sstrader at 12:12 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 3, 2007

Music diversion

Just listened to Ernst Krenek's first Piano Sonata on Classic FM out of Australia. The piece had that wonderful late Romantic harmony that reallyreallywants to be atonal (think Verklaerte Nacht). The performer, virtuoso pianist Geoffrey Douglas Madge (an Australian of course), worked directly with the composer when recording his sonatas. During rehersals, Krenek would even sit in front of Madge and conduct his performance in order to better communicate his intentions.

Further searching (what are Fridays for?) revealed that Madge is one of the handful of people who performed and recorded the entire Opus Clavicembalisticum (alas, most of Sorabji's works are still under copyright). Few words are appropriate for such an accomplishment beyond holy fucking shit. A recording of the four-hour performance is available, but there is great dispute over the quality. The first two reviews were good reading for the pro and con. This thread contains a discussion of the most damning evidence: Mr. Madge fakes his way through most of the [work] ... it is obvious he is improvising. Ouch. The Madge-hater provided audio samples--now purged--of the flaws next to Michael Habermann's recording and MIDIs of the piece. What a shame they're no long available.

Interestingly, the Amazon review praising Madge faults Sorabji as a composer saying that, among others, Messiaen is more skillful with large scale ideas. I've only heard some of Sorabji's transcriptions but may need to purchase the OC recording and hear for myself. The two works that are available on IMSLP look terrifying.

posted by sstrader at 11:54 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 7, 2007

Artur Schnabel quote

In four minutes [of recording] you play perhaps 2,000 notes; in every take there are two notes wrong; then you make ten takes and choose the one with 20 wrong notes. It’s like being married to death.
posted by sstrader at 12:20 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 29, 2007

Stravinsky's Petrushka

I had originally thought I'd move from Schirmer's to Stravinsky's transcription of Dance of the Coachmen and Grooms from Petrushka. Until I read through it. Ugh. Compared to the Schirmer's, it has much more register shifting with the chords and hand swapping with the melody. It would've become more work and less enjoyment. The differences are fascinating though. The Stravinsky version stands on its own as a piano piece. The Schirmer version is a little drab in comparison.

posted by sstrader at 9:04 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 27, 2007

June 26, 2007

Petrushka, Dance of the Coachmen and Grooms

Here are the opening bars of Dance of the Coachmen and Grooms from Petrushka from IMSLP's copy of Stravinsky's transcription:

petroushka.3-mov

From Schirmer's version for piano:

petrouchka.schirmer

Full score from IMSLP:

petrouchka.full-score

I'm working on it from the Schirmer's edition, but may make a closer comparison w/ Stravinsky's transcription and decide to un-learn what I've got so far. From a quick comparison, his actually reads easier where he breaks it up into three staffs and this section specifically doesn't look too difficult.

posted by sstrader at 8:01 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 18, 2007

Scores! Get your fresh scores!

From Scott Spiegelberg, a wiki with public domain music scores in PDF. Lots of content. Scores are older and sometimes with penciled fingering and phrasing, but still an outstanding resource.

posted by sstrader at 12:12 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 4, 2007

March 23, 2007

Music order

Yay.

Order Information
==================

Author: PROKOFIEV, Sergei
Title: Complete Piano Sonatas
Edited and with an introduction by Irwin Freundlich
Quantity: 1
posted by sstrader at 1:37 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

February 13, 2007

Satie and Louis XIV

So one time back in college I checked out an authoritative collection of Satie piano pieces from the library in order to work on my sight reading. His works can be simple with repetition yet still cover the keyboard and include odd phasing and voicing. It throws some curves at you.

Anyway, I was reading through in a practice room and my best-friend-at-the-time, Ed Schoen (how old are you when you stop having best friends?) knocked and came in to chat. I was showing him the wacky comments that Satie added at various points in the score, and we quickly realized that a dramatic reading of the material was required. I don't remember exactly, but the text had something to do with a French aristocrat who was excessively proud of his legs. Over the static harmonies, Ed would deliver these over-serious proclamations of a dandy honoring his legs. It had such a Pythonian ridiculousness about it that I could barely play from laughing.

This morning, on NPR, Susan Stamberg pointed out parenthetically that Louis XIV was very proud of his legs. It reminded me--and how could it not--about the Satie piece and how backstories may take decades to be revealed.

posted by sstrader at 1:01 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

February 2, 2007

Persichetti: Werewolf Slayer

Wacky vandalism I just had to clean up in Wikipedia's entry for Vincent Persichetti:

It is also worth noting that at age 42, Persichetti battled a werewolf and was victorious. He often told this story during his life, saying "If I you ever have a choice between pursuing a career in music or fighting a werefwolf, flip a coin."

Funny, but I'm watching you 69.121.211.44.

posted by sstrader at 10:28 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 22, 2007

Wiktones

I may be in line for a Wikipedia editor smack-down, but after several comments I decided to move my transcription of the audio clips in The Kleptones song "Question" to its own Wikipedia article. I'd rather have added some sort of intellectual article, but what can you do?

posted by sstrader at 4:12 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 17, 2007

Lost Highway

The opera Lost Highway is premiering in NYC the end of February, and I'm agonizing over whether I should go. It's at the Miller Theater. The music is by Olga Neuwirth (who has successfully put absolutely no audio clips of her work on the interweb) with libretto by her and Elfriede Jelinek.

Her moody and mysterious opera combines live musicians, singers, actors, electronics, and video—a full arsenal of stagecraft to bring Lynch’s film to life with gripping immediacy. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience some of Neuwirth’s best music to date!

Oh, decisions.

posted by sstrader at 12:15 PM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

December 28, 2006

Culture wars

Terri Gross's interviews with both James Brown and the collaborator for his auto-biography, Bruce Tucker, were re-broadcast for obvious reasons the other day. It was interesting to listen to Brown's mumblicious rememberances, but there were a few, pointed mis-assessments on music that they both made.

First, Tucker pointed out that Western music theory downgrades things that aren't important in European classical music such as rhythm, and so there's no means of adequately notating it or appreciating it and so we're trained not to hear it. (Listen here beginning at 5:29.) This is very, very wrong. Its great wrongness is the wrong facts that it contains: James Brown's use of rhythm is well explained and appreciated in classical theory, complex rhythms (much more complex that what he is doing) can be and have been notated by classical composers. The examples are so oft-stated and boring in their re-statement that I shouldn't even have to (Beethoven, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Ginastera, to list my favorites). Its minor wrongness is the reverse snobbery that is so pervasive in pop culture studies. The fallacy goes back to the noble savage hoo-ha and should have been eradicated as extremism by good theorists long ago. His one rightness in this statement is that there are weaknesses in Western musical notation, most notably in the rhythms of Indian ragas or the pitches in microtonal and Pythagorean scales. He is, however, not discussing these subjects.

A more forgiving mis-statement came from James Brown. When asked why he got resistence from his band when presenting them with more rhythmic arrangements, he replied that it was because it was in their heads that Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Strauss, Bach, Chopin was correct and [the musicians in the band would] tell me that I was wrong. (Listen here beginning at 10:50.) Bruce Tucker teaches about music and should not have such a flawed understanding of history. James Brown, or any musician, can think what they like as long as the music is good. It's unfortunate that both have to perpetuate the idea that good pop music has somehow turned Western theory on its head. Why can't it just be good music?

posted by sstrader at 3:17 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 30, 2006

Sparklehorse: "Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man"

This is one of the gems of Sparklehorse's more conceptual writing (without, honestly, trying as hard as Sonic Youth might).

It's 4:31 total. Beginning with a 45-second organ drone (descending/ascending span of a third in steps), then 45 seconds of an elliptical, pining pop verse as the guitar strumming fades and pops with between-the-dial radio distortion. A short chorus--all I want is to be a happy man--and abbreviated verse with more distortion. At around 2 minutes, the song completely de-tunes to static with the organ drone periodically returning.

The pop song eventually fades in and, once it dominates the sound, takes the remaining 2 minutes.

The pairing of the "happy man" chorus with the loss of communication is what's important. It expresses a formative desire repressed either by outside forces--a non-reactive medium--or by his own inability at the controls of that medium--the radio dial. Either way, as that impotence is resolved in the second half of the song, the desire remains.

posted by sstrader at 9:06 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 3, 2006

Operas for sale! Fresh operas!

Just ordered the Black Dog Opera Library Deluxe Box Set for a cool 63-bucks + shipping. Includes 12 CDs with booklets/librettos for each: Aida, La Boheme, Carmen, Madame Butterfly, The Marriage of Figaro, and La Traviata. Only three left in stock now. I had previously gotten Black Dog's release of The Magic Flute. Discounty goodness and a good way to get opera-literate.

posted by sstrader at 2:56 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 21, 2006

Genesis videos on YouTube

Index of Genesis videos available on YouTube.

posted by sstrader at 10:46 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Trains

Started re-listening to Reich's Different Trains. I had the Kronos recording when it came out (1986?) and it was required listening in my collection but, as is often the case especially with books, was loaned out because of its importance and is now lost to history. The work probably reasserted itself in my head from all of the brouhaha over Reich's b-day, but every couple of years I think about it and pine after the CD. And, it's another train-related coincidence, what with me reading Colson Whitehead's John Henry Days.

I've been trying to come up with a sonata framework for the piece: fast-slow-fast. It doesn't quite work, but there's such a three-movement completeness (not to state the obvious) that it feels like it has a link to the past. And I'm reminded of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. New, but old.

posted by sstrader at 10:26 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 5, 2006

Happy birthday Amy Beach!

One of my first loves of American music. I was introduced to her violin sonata, paired with Arthur Foote's, in high school, and have had a weak spot for early American romanticism ever since.

posted by sstrader at 9:10 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 12, 2006

Currently listening to

The first two Peter Gabriel albums paired with his last one. Have fun noting the similarities across the 25 years from his beginning as a soloist in 1977 to his possible final statement in 2002. One noticable difference is his use of genre musical styles on his first two albums (blues, honky-tonk, and even cool jazz) abandoned on all subsequent ones. There are some gems but unfortunately many throwaway items too.

From 1, "Moribund The Burgermeister" has his oddball storytelling that could have come from Tresspass's "The Knife" or Nursery Cryme's "Harold the Barrel," just as it reappears in Up's "The Barry Williams Show." Apparently, the townsfolk that Moribund is responsible for are having some sort of Woodstock freakout and he runs to his mother to help him bring them back under control: Mother please, is it just a disease, that has them breaking all my laws, Check if you can disconnect the effect and I'll go after the cause. "Humdrum" has a nice, short binary form that contrasts the mundane against the grandiose. The most notable song is "Here Comes the Flood:"

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

This should have had more attention than (the obscenely over-played) "Solsbury Hill."

From 2, it opens with another silly misfit story in "On the Air," where our hero is a bum who lives out his fantasy life through television. The intended jab is not subtle, but the humor is well-placed. "Mother of Violence" holds up by its spare and timeless lyric Fear, she's the mother of violence, and "Indigo" is an effectively moody song about dying, reminding me of "In the Rapids" from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

Up is appropriately reminiscent of his first few solos and contains songs that are a hybrid of his early eccentricity, his middle obsession with world music, and his later commercial production. The strongest tracks are "Darkness," "Sky Blue" (also from the sad film Rabbit-proof Fence), "My Head Sounds Like That," and "Signal to Noise." And like PG1's closing "Here Comes the Flood" and PG2's closing "Home Sweet Home," Up closes with a reflective piano/voice composition called "The Drop."

Continue reading "Currently listening to"
posted by sstrader at 2:13 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (2)

July 31, 2006

Chopin, Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 35, in B-flat minor, 1st Movement, Development

The development lasts from measure 105 through measure 168 and is dominated by the rhythmic signature of the movement's first theme (shown below where it first enters at measures 9-11) played within varying harmonic progressions.

first theme

The movement as a whole, I realized, can be looked at as more of a compound binary form in ABAB than rigidly a sonata form. The first AB (in B-flat minor then the relative D-flat major) describes the two themes presented in the exposition, the next A describes the dramatic presentation of the first theme within the development, and the final B (in the parallel B-flat major) is the sostenuto return of the second theme. This is a nod to the history and origins of sonata form, but also manifests--as Charles Rosen emphasizes in his book The Classical Style--the very mutable nature of sonata form.

The development runs organically through five short episodes. The first, running from measure 105 through measure 120, begins the "conversation" between the two themes that I had mentioned in my previous entry on the movement's exposition. The second theme is only hinted at by ascending half-notes in the soprano, but in the second episode, measures 121 through 136, it is quoted in full phrases while the first theme pulses beneath in the left hand. The 16-measures of the second episode are divided into four measures of the second theme, four of the first, four of the second, and four of the first. Below are measures 115 through 128, consisting of the last six measures of the first episode and the first half of the second episode:

first theme

Harmonies in the first episode move up scale steps from F-sharp min to G maj to A maj to B min. B then becomes a pivot tone (of sorts) and becomes the third of the G7 in C min.

Just as the ascending half-notes in measures 116-117 and 119-120 seed the introduction of the second theme in measures 121-124, the four-against-three agitation in measures 125-128 seeds the rhythmic pattern for the development's third episode, stretching from measure 137 through 152. Here are the first two measures of the pattern that is repeated throughout the third episode:

first theme

The chords change every two measures and can be grouped every four: (G min, B-flat min), (F min, A-flat aug), (E min, G maj), (D maj D min, F maj), this time moving down scale steps. The fourth episode repeats a four-measure phrase twice from measure 153 through 160. It varies in rhythm slightly from the third episode by replacing the bass quarter-note triplets with open-voiced eighth-note arpeggios. Harmonically, it remains almost throughout on a C-flat maj chord.

The fifth and final episode acts as a bridge back to the second theme (the recapitulation). It is marked with a stretto immediately after a fortissimo and should be considered as paired with the ritenuto that opened the development section in measure 105. The music is all quarter-note triplets and acts as a pedal point on a dominant F approaching the B-flat maj recapitulation. With the triplet motion and the interspersed C7s acting as V/Vs, this section very much resembles the first coda of the exposition with its I V/V V I progression. This section even closes with a chromatic passage outlining the vii7 of B-flat similar to the octatonic passge at the end of the exposition's first coda outlining the vii7 of C:

first coda closing

And in the development:

first coda closing

Although the melodic second theme is present in the development, it is still very much the territory primarily of the rhythmic first theme. Here's a summary of the five episodes:

  1. 105-120, first theme in the bass with second theme hinted at in the soprano, step-wise ascending harmonies
  2. 121-136, alternate phrases containing the second theme with phrases containing the first presented in four-against-three rhythm, dominant harmonies,
  3. 137-152, four-against-three rhythm persists across step-wise descending harmonies,
  4. 153-160, fast four-against-four crescendo with sustained C-flat maj harmony,
  5. 161-168, F7 pedal point referencing the first coda of the exposition
Continue reading "Chopin, Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 35, in B-flat minor, 1st Movement, Development"
posted by sstrader at 11:12 PM in Music | permalink | comments (4)

July 19, 2006

Video music

Following Tim Rutherford-Johnson's list of contemporary classical performances on YouTube--including some of the stunning Ligeti piano etudes that I had listened to over a year ago--I went hunting for Messiaen and found the sixth movement from his 20 contemplations for piano ("Through Him everything was made"). Ten minutes and absolutely riveting throughout. Many of these performances have been posted in the last month, so expect an even greater wealth to appear.

posted by sstrader at 12:03 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 10, 2006

The World is Round

[ updated 9 May 2014 ]

Full performance posted:

Spelunking in YouTube, I recently found three short videos from a performance of an experimental/minimalist opera called The World is Round (written 2003, music Pea Hix, libretto Scott Feldsher, book Gertrude Stein). I'm not sure of the correct order:

There are additional videos on Pea Hix's MySpace page. He also writes/wrote music in the band Optiganally Yours.

Oddly, the same Stein novel was made into an opera 10 years earlier (premiere 1993, music James Sellars, libretto Juanita Rockwell, book Gertrude Stein).

posted by sstrader at 3:29 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 10, 2006

Rebel

In protest to Lisa going to the Tabernacle to listen to one-of-those-new-bands-that-sounds-like-all-of-the-other-new-bands (Arctic Monkeys), I'm cleansing the palette with: a 23-minute live version of Supper's Ready from 1973 (video via YouTube), paired with selections from The White Album, and finally selections from Don Caballero's wonderfully noisy What Burns Never Returns (I gotta get more of their music).

Ah! Creativity at last.

posted by sstrader at 8:38 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

May 24, 2006

Open mic at Eddie's Attic, two nights ago

Many thanks to everyone who came out Eddie's Attic Monday night. It wasn't my best night, but that's going to happen so whatever. I've been puzzling over why exactly I couldn't focus: I had practiced enough and know the songs very well, but I think that poor stage monitors still throw me off. The bass was very loud and the higher notes were non-existent. I need to either test the sound more fully before starting or focus better. A little of both. Anyways, it was otherwise a good night and it's great to have friends who'll suffer through the open mic scene.

For anyone who's interested or who hasn't noticed those prominent links to the right of my front page: I occasionally go to venues with open mic nights to play songs from two rock operas that I had written. The first one, The Journalist, is about a photo-journalist who accidentally takes a picture of a map that can tell the future. The second one, The Silent Spectrum, is about kids in a rock band who try to stop an evil genius from taking over the world with his mind-control machines. If you're interested in listening to the demos, both pages have M3U playlists that will stream the audio. You can also download MP3s, the sheet music, and the MIDI. The piano writing ranges from moderate to advanced if you're interested in looking at the sheet music. In the next few months, I'll be starting work on my third rock opera. It is based on a true story about a man searching for parts to a time machine.

I don't have a MySpace account.

Continue reading "Open mic at Eddie's Attic, two nights ago"
posted by sstrader at 1:44 PM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

May 22, 2006

Open mic at Eddie's Attic tonight

Hey! Look out!! I'll be playing at Eddie's Attic tonight at 8:20. Come watch the keys fly: zing, there's F-sharp! Pow, a G-flat! Oof, an E-double-sharp! (I promise there'll be more variety than that.)

And even if you can't stand piano art rock (wha?!?), come support the other local musicians as they wander freely in the wilds. It's all for a good cause: our egos.

Continue reading "Open mic at Eddie's Attic tonight"
posted by sstrader at 11:05 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 20, 2006

MC Frontalot at The Drunken Unicorn last night

Best show of the year. First time at the DU and man was it worth it. Frontalot was as geeky/cool as you would expect and backed by three tight session musicians (keyboard, bass, drums) in short-sleeve button-ups and ties. Very good. Also: hilarious opening rappers from somewhere in Whitelanta with the solid Casio beats. They closed their show with a "so you're all here for Frontalot? ... fuck that!" Nice.

The only tragedy was that my phone scrambled all of the Frontalot photos! Now I have no proof. Go here and support the man, will ya.

posted by sstrader at 7:52 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 16, 2006

Fury

Heard on WNYC: the band Gutbucket doing a jazz cover of the sixth movement (Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes, "Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets") from Messaien's Quartet for the End of Time, performed on their album Sludgetest.

Messiaen is so rock and roll sometimes; I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees that. The Peter Serkin recording of his Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jsus is required listening.

posted by sstrader at 11:58 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 15, 2006

Art, brute

Been meaning to post about Scott Spiegelberg's recent writing on the delicate balance between (1) classical fans, (2) classical concerts, and (3) the interested-but-uninitiated. He makes good yet too brief points and is predictably tut-tuted by A. C. Douglas. Prof. S. replies and holy shit the science blogs pick up the story. Good reading.

posted by sstrader at 10:45 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 14, 2006

Open mic: Monday the 22nd at Eddie's Attic

I'll be playing Eddie's Attic open mic again in a week. I go on at 8:20. Be there if you can because, as Eddie sez, it's good to have a fan club.

Continue reading "Open mic: Monday the 22nd at Eddie's Attic"
posted by sstrader at 10:27 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 4, 2006

Chopin, Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 35, in B-flat minor, 1st Movement, Exposition

[ updated 6 May 2006 ] I initially labeled this his first piano sonata and completely forgot about the C minor sonata op. 4. Oops. I've also added some links and cleaned up some passages.

I'm approaching Chopin's second piano sonata in order; I'm not jumping around, but I keep aware of what's coming up and where each section fits in the whole. The first movement is in the classical minor-key sonata form with a rhythmic first theme in B-flat minor and a more melodic second in its relative major, D-flat. The exposition closes with two codas. The development contains a conversation between the two themes--beginning with the first theme in the bass punctuated by first shorter then more extended passages quoting the second theme in the soprano. More technical variations on the first theme slowly take over the bulk of the development, resolving with a recapitulation marked by the return of the second theme in B-flat major. The second theme contains few variations, and the movement ends with the two codas plus a third, more chromatic coda that contains a quote of the first theme and ends in B-flat major.

Looking at the exposition section, the first theme is presented with a written repeat, measures 9 through 20 and 25 through 36, and is marked throughout by a prominent yet short rhythmic pattern that is a key component of the bulk of the development.

first theme

The theme trades sparse harmonies--primarily i and vii7--for a constant bombardment of eighth notes. The transition between the repeats acts notably as a chaotic, chromatic break with the theme proper. Because it contains the exact same eighth note rhythms in each hand as the rest of the theme, the diminished chord harmonies and non-chordal half steps builds a minor tension before the return.

first theme transition

A quick bridge gets us to D-flat major and the second theme. This immediately trades the eighth notes of the first theme for half and quarter notes that help accentuate the melody as it takes longer and longer breaths. Whereas the key characteristic of the first theme is expressed in a terse six eighth notes, the second theme begins as economically with only five, but continues with a long slur that sings across eight measures (the theme begins on the last two measures of the first staff system below).

second theme

Like the first theme, the second has a written repeat, measures 41 through 56 and 57 through 80, but with greater variation and much greater harmonic and melodic development transitioning into the first coda. The end section of the second theme (measures 73 through 80) is one aspect of this piece that affected me with its earnest romanticism and liberal declaration across several octaves. Here it is (beginning on the third measure):

second theme closing

The harmonic analysis of this closing section holds more information than that of the equally varied first theme transition quoted above. Whereas the transition is better described by a series of half-step alterations, this section of the second theme gives up a great deal of itself from its chords. Viewed in two measure phrases, it procedes from two measures tonicizing the ii then the V, then three pairs with different harmonizations of I-IV-V underneath increasingly complex variations of the same melodic fragment ending in a perfect cadence in D-flat (not shown).

The exposition ends with two codas. The first consists of 12 measures: 4 measures repeating a very simple I V/V V I up and down two octaves, 4 varying that as I vii/V V I, then an abrupt shift to a similar phrase but in C major. C will be revisited early in the development. I really dislike these over-obvious harmonies--especially with the earlier, nuanced sections. I understand the need for a simple declaration of key here at the end, and it's simplicity lends greater force to the introduction of C major (via a German 6th), but I still have a problem with it.

The two measures before the second coda puzzled me for the first couple of readings (beginning on the second quarter note of the measure, played as triplets):

first coda closing

It actually sits in your hands more comfortably than it looks. Put simply: the soprano jumps tritones of the vii7 of C minor, the alto walks an octatonic scale of the same chord, and the left hand plays broken major 6ths (dim 7ths) of the same chord in contrary motion. Everything describes the vii7, but the octatonic scale introduces some chromatic noise for the inner voice. A distinct variation on the pattern is in the left hand on the fourth quarter note of measure 91: the left hand steps a tritone instead of a major 6th. This is important. I've been speaking of these two measures as two patterns--one in the right hand and one in the left--that effect a leading tone diminished 7th chord. This is all true, and the intended speed will blur much of the distinctions away, but the voicing ultimately suggests a progrssion of V65/Eb C# V65/A V42/C V65/Eb. The C# is an enharmonic equivalent to the key of the second theme and would otherwise be V42/F# if the pattern were maintained. The choice is, simply, a reinforcement of the key of D-flat.

The second coda begins in C major and quickly works back, through a series of half-step progressions, to D-flat major and a somewhat ambivalent cadence tonicizing the dominant. Within the context of the exposition repeat, this acts as a jarring deceptive cadence to the vi (B-flat minor) and the minor tonic of the first theme. For the development, this acts as--and I could be wrong, so don't quote me--the V/V of F-sharp minor. More later.

I have the exposition in my hands now and need to work on consistency, expressiveness, and velocity as I continue with the rest of the movement. I'll try to spend 80% of my time on new music and 20% on refining what I have.

Continue reading "Chopin, Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 35, in B-flat minor, 1st Movement, Exposition"
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April 22, 2006

Currently listening to

I just recieved the Leon Kirchner double CD of historic recordings and the Vincent Persichetti CD with his Symphony No. 5 and Piano Concerto. I discovered Kirchner from the New World Records album with his Piano Concerto, checked out from the local library in 9th or 10th grade (?). I was stunned. It was beautiful and wild and new and my dad was perplexed ("do you really enjoy that?!?"). The very same recording is contained on this set--I immediately recognized the nuances of the performance even across the many years--along with various other mostly chamber music that is equally engrossing.

Persichetti was introduced to me by my first piano teacher here in Georgia, just post high school, whose name I hate that I forget. She presented me with the invaluable set of his Poems for Piano and it really opened up a new world of piano repertoire. Without digging out the sheet music, I remember one piece that I played from that set was "To whose more clear than crystal voice the frost had joined a crystal spell." I've listened to little of his works since that time, but expect the best.

Something brought me back to the Koyaanisqatsi score but I don't know what. I've been curious to watch it again just to see the masterful closing scene with the decending rocket. It also coincides with my Genius Idea that wine bars and coffee shops, instead of having live jazz, should have live music like that in Koyaanisqatsi. It would be similar to the trip-hop soundtracks of Very Cool Bars, but with a more unique flavor. Everyone does electronica. No one does minimalism.

So far, my workshopping of the idea to friends hasn't gone over as well as it does in my head.

Finally, the Saint-Saens Piano Concertos. I really have no familiarity with his music, so that needs to changes. These were recorded off of RadioWave.

Continue reading "Currently listening to"
posted by sstrader at 10:21 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 12, 2006

Rhapsody, 25 free

Rhapsody is offering 25 free streams a month without subscription. This includes content either from their custom radio stations or from their songs online. If you're just testing out new music, it's probably worth using it as a resource. Not sure how long they've been doing this, so I may be stating the obvious.

posted by sstrader at 4:05 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 5, 2006

Moresight at Graveyard tomorrow

Going to see Moresight at Graveyard Tavern tomorrow. Not my favorite bar: too bright, not dive-y enough. Maybe it needs some power-ups?

posted by sstrader at 9:58 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 15, 2006

Ring

I think a new cube neighbor at work has one of the Einstein on the Beach themes as his cell phone ring.

glass einstein theme

Seems unlikely, but I've been waiting for it to ring again and now of course it's not.

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March 14, 2006

Good night

I had a good, short performance over at Eddie's Attic open mic last night. The rules are two songs/10 minutes, blah blah, so unfortunately you're just really getting warmed up by the time they kick you off the stage. It's sometimes a benefit for listeners but kinda sucks for the performers. Isn't that always the case?

Several friends came by to be my fan club--oddly, I could hear them as if they were the only ones clapping. I know: weird. As it turned out, my keyboard got more attention than me with no less than three other keyboard players performing that night. That is to say, there were exactly three other keyboard players. Since I was the first, it was easier to use my keyboard (the sexy P90) than to break down and set up a different one. Eddie was gracious at the end of the evening and, seeing as I was not the winning recipient of $60 and not even one of the three finalists, he offered to play roadie and help me lug the sexy-but-heavy P90 down the precarious Attic Stairs. We chatted pleasantly and I resisted the urge to ask "What were you thinking?!?" Nah, he's a really nice guy, and the atmosphere and structure is perfect. A good experience all around.

I did however forget to sign up for the next available evening. What was I thinking? Anyway, I really appreciate the friendly support. These things can be tedious if you're not reallyreally into it, so thanks again for puttin' up with everything and maybe next time Lisa will figure out how to use my camera phone and I'll have a visual document to post here displaying the incredible rock that I laid out to all the pa-zizzles. Indubitably.

Continue reading "Good night"
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March 13, 2006

Open mic at Eddie's Attic tonight

I signed up for the 7:30 slot and will be playing two songs--the rules limit you to two songs or 10 minutes. We went two weeks ago and they had an entertaining group. Since I'll be adding my 10 minutes to that entertainment, tonight will probably red-line the entertainment meter. Golly!

Continue reading "Open mic at Eddie's Attic tonight"
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March 7, 2006

Kill, kill

The stupidity of the concept of the noble savage in music ("don't learn to read music! it will ruin your natural skill!!) set bare by Gershwin [ via Alex Ross ]. This has long been an irritant to me primarily because it's born of ignorance and passed on like folk wisdom fighting against the Big Bad Intellectuals who complicate what's just basic common sense. The fear as it is manifest in the Fine Arts possibly originates with the artists' understanding that inspiration is fleeting. Examine it too closely and you may purge the force that through your inner fuse drives the art. And there's the real issue of too incisive religious examination purging the force of belief, as was recently outlined in The Washington Post's article on Bart Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus.

The writing of those who have spent time researching their subjects to the point of obsession provides a more clear truth. I recently listened to Sarah Vowell dissect the history of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Her love of historical nuance provides a more nuanced understanding of the subject. And read any Feynman essay or Brian Greene book to feel their deep love of natural science and the workings of the universe. The capacity for appreciation, and belief, is proportional to knowledge.

posted by sstrader at 12:46 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 3, 2006

Two steps forward

One of my frustrating inabilities has always been The Inability to Play Piano While Drunk. I know, I know, anyone will point out that the most important point to focus on is that you're trying. Yes? Anyway, today at work we were talking about our first experiences in programming. One co-worker told of how he snuck into classes after the CS students left and saw WorkPerfect at an unattended terminal (years ago). He decided to try out this thing you call "programming" and began typing 2+2=? etc. After some frustration the teacher returned and explained the important and missing components to his attempted wooing of the word processing compiler. Funny story. And true. And I love how he has that vivid memory.

My first programming memory is not so funny, but still cherished. I had saved $300 from my paper route and planned on eventually purchasing my first computer: a $600 TRS-80, Model I (all geeks can either bow down or chuckle). One day, a large box arrived (you can see it coming) and my parents told me that they had paid for the difference. They were very supportive that way and I really should be a more appreciative son. Anyway, it came with a BASIC Programming Manual that eventually taught me enough to code a text adventure haunted mansion which my brother summarily dispatched in a couple of minutes. How long did it take me to code his two minutes of distraction? It doesn't matter. All of the messy re-arranging of line numbers and stumbling over logic--as I'm in awe of the power inherent in typing commands and having them realized--is the important thing.

And I remember, learning an instrument, the point in time when I didn't understand what a musical key was. This is a more vivid memory because the contrast between knowing and not knowing is more ... vivid. I even remember exactly where I was when I had the epiphany of The Concept of Musical Keys. I had long pondered on what it meant to be in "E" or "A-flat," when eventually it hit me (it's really not that difficult) in 5th (?) grade as I was walking home from school and was in front of City Hall, just a block from home. I guess I remember the feeling of revelation more than the understanding of ignorance. That is: I can remember the awe and the knowledge I have now, but I don't really remember well enough the feeling of notknowing. It's important to remember as best as possible our ignorances.

So I began watching La Dolce Vita tonight (I had--embarrassingly--never seen a Fellini film, but this is definitely the one to choose as introduction) and got an hour and 50 into it before I realized that it's almost three hours long. So I paused near the end of the second hour and my second bottle of wine and decide to hit the piano for a while ... damn the neighbors! After about a half hour of improvising, I decided to play some of my own music. To my surprise, I actually made it through some of the more complex pieces. That's sort of a milestone (he writes with one eye closed), maybe I can play drunk. Now if I can just be a little less sloppy with rhythm when I'm sober...

posted by sstrader at 11:10 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 2, 2006

Albums and downloads

Free Albums Galore [ via Tim Rutherford-Johnson ] offers links to full album downloads, permanently hosted, and DRM/copyright-free. Their welcome message describes their purpose, and they provide an album directory where all posted albums are compiled (although unfortunately not alphabetically).

I finally listened to Soundcheck's show "Orchestras for the 21st Century," discussing how orchestras are approaching downloaded music, on WNYC. Interesting comments on what has already been done and the great potential that's there (think of the recent Beethoven offerings from the BBC). A good point that was made though: MP3 service search engines are almost useless for finding classical music in their catalogues. The show also talked about an orchestra giving away live recordings of their evening performances to patrons as they leave the performance. Nice.

posted by sstrader at 8:09 AM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

February 25, 2006

A small setback

Trying to get booked at Smith's Olde Bar for their SongSmiths Songwriter Series--Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, they book three or four bands to play. I finally got a reply from the lady that does booking and I'm not sure what I was expecting, but getting my music labeled as a "lounge-y stuff" was definitely not one of my original concerns. My concerns have now been duly updated. They were very nice though and provided a list of other venues that might be more in line.

Continue reading "A small setback"
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February 18, 2006

Recent piano exercises

A couple of simple exercises I've been warming up with lately (in all major and minor keys):

Continue reading "Recent piano exercises"
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February 3, 2006

Fiery Furnaces at Smith's Olde Bar on the 22nd

I have tickets. Shouldn't you? There's no chance of missing out this time.

posted by sstrader at 12:45 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

February 2, 2006

End part one, turn tape over

Last night finished my four week re-introduction to playing out. Present this time--and suffering through another late start of 10:45--were Alicia and Dan (thankyouthankyou). The music had its rough moments in the unlikliest of places, but I got through the Yes almost without a hitch. The broken chords in contrary motion at the end of the piece (a la the middle section of Chopin's Etude in E Major, Op. 10, No. 3) were the riskiest section and make it a nice piece to show off with. I realized afterwards that I need to start positioning the keyboard at an angle to the audience--people will still hear mistakes but they might not notice as much if they're focusing on my hands. Sneaky. I also need to start looking at the audience when I'm talking in between songs. There's sortof an I-can't-see-them-so-they-can't-see-me deceit that I slip into.

This was by far the least interesting open mic. It started out with several new faces and some promise, but devolved quickly into Starbuck's pop and lesbian folk. I have refrained from criticizing because (1) we're all just trying to play some music and have fun, and (2) if I'm going to be part of this "community," I maybe need to hold my tongue. However, the music critic in me really couldn't take much more by the end of the evening. I feel that people get so wrapped up in the sound of their own voice or the resonant feel of an acoustic guitar miked to a large room, that they forget that there's a need to actually write interesting songs that are carried by those instruments. And if you feel bored strumming F C G for the millionth time: listeners are going to be even more bored. And if I hear one more cliched metaphor about love, I'm going to puke out a rhyming dictionary (no more saying that someone is your "world," "the love of your life," or that they mean "everything" to you, and if you're "put on the back-burner" it certainly makes no sense that you're also "crawling on the floor").

That being said, there were still some pleasant surprises and a few very entertaining songs. The Tom Waits-duo were there with some gravelly fun, and a couple of kids played some expletive-laden Dinosaur Jr.-type pop at the end. Rock.

Also, one of the other performers told me that Smith's Olde Bar has something called the SongSmiths Songwriter Series on Sunday's, Monday's, and Tuesday's. They look booked up most of February (with our friends from last week, The Annunaki, playing on Sunday the 19th!) but it looks like a good option.

Continue reading "End part one, turn tape over"
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February 1, 2006

Open mic at The Red Light Cafe tonight

I'll be playing "The Photograph" from The Journalist along with Yes's "Starship Trooper". Both are knuckle-busters. After this, the only night I have planned is March 13th at Eddie's Attic. I'll be digging around for more. Some other musicians had mentioned Apache Cafe, but it looks more like a spoken work joint. I have nothing to say.

Continue reading "Open mic at The Red Light Cafe tonight"
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January 27, 2006

3rd open mic

I got the last slot again and my playing was a mess, but Shelby and Robert came by and there were some high points in the line up so all was well. I felt good and Lisa said I sounded good--still not "emoting" very much though. I'm getting the experience I need.

I've decided I just don't understand the signup process. I finally delicately pushed myself to a decent place in line, only to be rebuffed when one of the older guys (good friends with the owner?) started picking out who arrived earliest and then moved them to the front of the line. Oh well, I was quickly back to the 11:00 slot. There were some grumblings about how most other places use a lottery and how badly the random system at Red Light Cafe sucks, but ... well, they control the means of production, so we can do little else but submit. I think another problem is that I don't socialize well with those in power, so I have no cache. No cache!

High points were Alexander on electric bass doing some sort of beat poetry/Tom Waits type of thing. We were completely freaked out. Then, just before me, a band called The Annunaki played a couple of songs: piano, female voice, and acoustic guitar. Their second song was an ~10-minute epic, called "In Transition," that had some nice interplay between the two instruments. Check out their songs on Myspace.

Next week'll be the last week at Red Light for a little while in order to try to play at different places. I'll be playing my transcription of "Starship Trooper" and "The Photograph" from The Journalist.

Continue reading "3rd open mic"
posted by sstrader at 8:25 AM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

January 25, 2006

Open mic at The Red Light Cafe tonight

I hope to get an earlier slot for my 3rd try (i.e. before 11). I'll be playing the last three songs from The Journalist: "Through the Woods," "Where Was I?", and "(coda)". I think of these three songs as sortof a reverse sonata, with the tocatta at the beginning and the more thoughtful piece at the end. Many of the songs contain repeated themes from earlier songs.

"Through the Woods" is a perpetuum mobile chase scene in 9/8 with constant eighth notes throughout. The section using syncopated arpeggios (E D Bb C) is a theme that appears varied in two other songs ("The Crossing" and "The Photograph"). The middle instrumental section is based on the progression that opens the first song of The Journalist. The ending was inspired by the ending of King Crimson's "One More Red Nightmare" from Red. I like how the alto sax improv over a driving 6/8 just drops into silence as if pulled into a black hole. I don't think I quite acheived the same impact though.

"Where Was I?" is a short interlude. It's framed by a melody, for the left hand alone, which first appears in "The Map." The bulk of the song interrupts this melody with a symmetric structure of A B B A. The B is taken from "My Beautiful Day" and rearranged with power chords.

"(coda)" opens with a somewhat orchestral instrumental section. The subsequent verses segue into a final verse based on the chords from the closing section of "Falling" (and re-used as the close of "(coda)"). The lyrics for the final verse, I hear messages from the ether coming down into my short future, came to mind when I was naming my blog. The melodic motiv for the final words is the germ for the melody of the orchestral section, repeated immediately after.

Although I feel more comfortable when I talk between songs, these three work best uninterrupted. I think I'll open with some observational humor about Ovaltine. They really should call it Roundtine, you know.

Continue reading "Open mic at The Red Light Cafe tonight"
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January 19, 2006

2nd open mic

Last night had its problems, but my performance wasn't all that bad. I got signed up for the 11:00 slot which wouldn't be so bad but some friends came at around 9:30 (thanks Cathy, Allison, and Steve!), so I felt responsible for making them wait so long. To top it off, everyone was running long, so I didn't make it on until ~11:30. Someone in the audience from last week (Tracy?) gave me some unsolicited encouragement--which felt wonderful--but unfortunately she and her boyfriend had to leave before I went on. They said something about meeting George Glass...

Anyway, what I learned:

  • They really need to get a lottery for the sign-up. Everyone gathers inconspicuously around the signup table waiting for the owner and then decends on him like ... well, inconspicuous vultures, I guess. And obviously I'm not very good at it. Lisa offered to be my signup thug next week.
  • The etiquette of musicians staying until the last musician plays is apparently only in my mind. And some will sign up, leave, return at their time, then head out.
  • Keep positive no matter what. The last guy that played (there were two after me) was out there and gave it everything. Keeping friends so late kindof discombobulated me, so I wasn't as focused as I should have been. I need to just ignore that and play.
  • The etiquette of the owner not sitting in for a second session of his own when the schedule is running late is also only in my mind. Nice guy and a good musician, but when he started a set a little after 11, and there was still one person in front of me, that put a damper on things.
  • Did I say "keep positive"?

Highlights: a treacherously difficult and well-executed They Might Be Giants cover, and another nice set from this older guy ("Lint-head" Johnson? IIRC) who has a wonderfully fat-tounged voice that works so well over his slide playing. Also Bill? (and Babette?) recommended a good place for custom keyboard cases--which of course I can't find now.

As one of our few late-night dining choices, Lisa and I went to DaVinci's again afterwards--open till 2:30 on weekdays. I'd like to make it a regular thing (play out, eat at DaVinci's and bitch about what went wrong/right), but Lisa's getting a bad vibe from the staff like we shouldn't be ordering food so late. I'll give it a few more tries. Maybe we just need to become regulars.

posted by sstrader at 12:48 PM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

January 18, 2006

Moresight at The Red Light Cafe this Friday

Lisa just pointed out that Moresight is confirmed to play Red Light this Friday. We'll be there. So will you:

hypnotoad

posted by sstrader at 1:20 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Open mic at The Red Light Cafe tonight

I'll be playing open mic at The Red Light Cafe tonight. I plan on playing "Oscillations" and "The Source" from The Silent Spectrum and then "The Photograph" from The Journalist if there's time. "Oscillations" is a short instrumental introduction where the heroes of the story attempt to triangulate the source of the mysterious radio signals. "The Source" is an extended 3-part song, around 12 minutes long, where they discover the intentions of the evil Kronenfeld and decide to save the world. Maybe.

If I don't get booted, I'll finish with "The Photograph." In it, the protagonist returns home to get help but discovers that everyone he tries to contact has already been disappeared at the hands of the fanatical cult that's chasing him.

Then tea and cakes.

Continue reading "Open mic at The Red Light Cafe tonight"
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January 17, 2006

Communities

From the afterward to the 1994 edition of The Recording Angel:

Unlike text or images, music doesn't lend itself to being scanned or searched or 'surfed' (except, perhaps, by musicians with particular questions in mind). Music happens in real time. Despite all the talk about real time in cyber circles, few cybernauts have the patience for real real time. So music will be reduced to hooks, riffs, melodic fragments (something rap is already doing). People may download whole songs or whole symphonies, but when will they find the time to listen? One's state of being online is not unlike one's browsing--interest and desire constantly tickled and frsutrated.
posted by sstrader at 11:57 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 12, 2006

Walking the talk

So I went to The Red Light Cafe for the open mic night last night. It went surprisingly well.

Everyone gets 15 minutes to play. That ends up being around three songs, so I played "No One Receiving" and "Resonance I" from The Silent Spectrum and "My Beautiful Day" from The Journalist. People seemed to like my summation of the stories (wacky!). Red Light does this every Wednesday, so I'll probably start making a regular event of it.

I was in the restroom when they came out with the sign up sheet, so I ended up with the next-to-the-last slot at 10:45. That gave me extra time to fret. Oh well. Playing in front of people always gives me the shaky, adrenaline hands. Last night, they started early. I need to start bringing gloves. It wasn't at all cold in the place, but I couldn't keep my hands warm and it only got worse as I sat there. Then I decided to go over the music in my head. Big mistake. Whatever I was playing should have already been learned, no amount of reviewing beforehand would help an hour before going on stage. I only succeeded in freaking myself out because I couldn't remember voicings for a few sections of "Resonance." Gah.

Lisa came for some much-needed support, and a few guys from Moresight serendipitously came in just before I went on. They were setting up an as-yet-unconfirmed gig for the 20th (next Friday, go!). Lisa gave a thumbs up on the performance and even said my voice sounded good (the wonders of a good microphone and mixing board). She did however warn me that the nervous tics I had while talking about the songs (hand waving and such) veered away from the Woody Allen type neurotic to a less presentable psychosis. I need to reign that in. The Moresight guys were very supportive. Brandon had good comments on the song structures and Matt immediately picked up on a Philip Glass influence. I was very lucky to have musicians I (kindof) know there.

There were many really skilled musicians there. That made the 10:45 thing even more nerve-racking. However, and this sounds cruel but isn't, all of the people who made skillful and less-than-skillful mistakes made me feel more comfortable. It's not that I was reveling in their failure, rather it helped me put my own performance in context. Even a complete meltdown was Just Not That Important. I had to focus on the thousands of times that I sat at home and played and really really got into it. And this should be no different. If I had had a meltdown, I maybe wouldn't next time I performed and there'd at least be a funny blog entry to write.

I hadn't been on stage for several years, but I feel more comfortable now--despite all of my neurosis--because I'm much better prepared.

Continue reading "Walking the talk"
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January 11, 2006

The long way

Listening to the first 15 minutes of the 50-minute Echolyn piece Mei, I was reminded of The Mars Volta's Frances the Mute--considering it to be, basically, one long piece. The Mars Volta has its roots, prog-wise, in what I could never warm up to: prog metal--even though their stuff is more Last Exit-styled free jazz. I like The Mars Volta because I like At the Drive-In, but no matter how technically accomplished bands like Dream Theater were, I can't really enjoy that style.

Anyways, I need to purchase Mei and Frances and give them a chance. A random reviewer of Mei threw around more references to Kansas/Yes/Genesis that would be polite, but I think Echolyn has their own style. That simple, forced heritage may be too unfair.

posted by sstrader at 12:54 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 10, 2006

Nina

When I play a record it's as though someone else were expressing my feelings. When I play the piano, it's as though I were expressing someone else's feelings.

"Nina" quoted from The Recording Angel.

posted by sstrader at 12:45 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 5, 2006

Currently listening to

A year ago I started re-listening to I, Robot--within the first five albums that I ever owned--and it's really stuck with me. Early imprinting, I guess. It came back into my consciousness when, a year or so prior, a pot smokin' friend played it at a party. Apparently, not unlike Genesis' Selling England by the Pound which I learned from some art rock afficianados, Alan Parsons too is well paired with drugs. Who knew? Anyway, I don't own the CD (listening on Rhapsody) so I can't put it up on Radio from the Ether until I shell out the $9.90 (which very well could happen). I just wish that Rhapsody had Alan Parsons' Pyramid album too.

I know. I'm so gay.

Got the itch to revisit the Beethoven Quartets. I know and love the rawness of his early quartets, so I need to get more familiar with the middle ones. I can listen to one or two movements on the way to work if traffic's not heavy. CDs are in the car right now, so they'll get added to Radio from the Ether in a few days.

I knew the name Alan Hovhaness but had never heard any of his works. An Armenian-American, very tonal and pleasant. This music is so approachable, why are people listening to crap new age/wallpaper music when there are well-constructed modern compositions that are more pleasing and with greater depth? It's an old argument, and Hovhaness' works bring it back up (I've recommended Part and Gorecki for the same reasons).

I recorded the Liapunov and Scharwenka Piano Concertos on RadioWave on a whim. Late romantic, over-zealous. They should be fun.

Finally, I had first heard about Avet Terterian from the always-interesting Tim Rutherford-Johnson. Terterian completely freaked me out on first listening, so I took a break. I'm back and hope that the poor streaming quality doesn't completely destroy the sonorist subtleties of the works. (Oh, and that Wikipedia entry for Terterian was stubbed in by me before I had an account!)

Continue reading "Currently listening to"
posted by sstrader at 10:56 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (1)

December 31, 2005

Wozzeck, Alban Berg

RadioWave just finished recording the Met's broadcast of Wozzeck (110+ meg). It'll be available for a week. Check here for tips on listening and cleaning up the audio file.

posted by sstrader at 5:24 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 23, 2005

Music and style

I walked by someone's cubicle and heard Rachmaninoff. I wanted to stop and comment but then I thought: I don't even like Rachmaninoff that much.

Ignoring the issue of The Secret Club that people who listen to classical music are in and that places in them a desire to acknowledge one another, I wondered about my dislike (not strong, but there) of Rachmaninov. To me, his music feels 20-years out of place: a Romantic composer witnessing the modern world. Even if his music was out of place it's not now--at least, not any more than other older music--so what does it mean for me to define it like that? Can you feel in the work its style's stuggle with the different style that surrounded it? His densely voiced 9th chords sound a bit archaic when set alongside Stravinsky's stacks of thirds (similar but different), and even more so when they both feel so Russian, but is there anything internal to Rachmaninoff's music that illustrates the external changes where Chopin's music does not?

posted by sstrader at 3:45 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 5, 2005

Freedom

I've been improvising alot lately without taking notes later. Generally, I use improvisation as part of the writing process. I mean, ideas come out of nowhere anyway, so improvisation is just a part of that process whether you write the melody in your head or in your hands. I've been putting off writing to work instead on technical skills, so I just don't have the mindset to pick out what's good and what's bad or what's useful. There's part of me that doesn't want to examine that too much--just in case I let something valuable slip by.

posted by sstrader at 10:14 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 17, 2005

Domain changes

Two quick thoughts: first, art feels more relevant to the observer not only when it's externally familiar but also when it's internally familiar. Pop songs are externally familiar. Internal familiarity is when the artwork contains internal repetition and variation of themes or structures. Poetry illustrates this with its use of alliteration, assonance, consonance, and other rhyming techniques. Phrases are made more compelling with rhyme no matter their content. This should be classified under the same rule as that of external familiarity.

Second, there can be a related disconnect of content and structure in music performance. Music that feels good in your hands can start a feedback to your ears. This is partially why beginning students enjoy playing "Heart and Soul," but also points to a relationship with the first idea of familiarity. To put it in an extreme: you can hate listening to music you love playing (although it could never be that extreme).

These seem very related, although my opinion may change tomorrow. Both ideas involve art that is structurally beautiful but expressively deficit.

posted by sstrader at 7:50 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 7, 2005

Genesis

BBC et al. quote Phil Collins on the possibility of a Genesis reunion. This is pretty much a non-news news story, but it could be signs of something that is happening behind-the-lines. As old geeks are hoping for a Gabriel-era reunion with life-sized flower and slippermen costumes, old pop kiddies will be happy to hear songs from the "first" Genesis album, aka Invisible Touch. Blech. As a good omen for the former, we heard "The Carpet Crawlers" from LLDOB while eating lunch at Einstein's yesterday.

a flowa!?!

posted by sstrader at 1:48 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 1, 2005

Where was I?

Working, that's where.

Continue reading "Where was I?"
posted by sstrader at 11:54 AM in Music , Where was I? | permalink | comments (0)

September 23, 2005

Currently listening to

Finally giving a listen to Paul Creston's Symphonies. I'd breezed through them before and actually got hooked on a section from #3 listening to NPR late at night, then impulse bought the CD. They're pleasant enough, and might have some surprises. Not sure what to expect from the Penderecki Symphonies. He can be all over the map.

(These are going with us on a road trip to a friend's wedding this weekend, so they probably won't all make it onto Radio from the Ether until Sunday or Monday of next week.)

To balance out the Penderecki, I'm digging into my RadioWave files and listening to some Brahms: Piano Concertos #1 and 2, Piano Trios #1 and 3, and the Violin Concerto. Come on: who couldn't love Brahms?

Continue reading "Currently listening to"
posted by sstrader at 12:44 AM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 20, 2005

DJ Shadow has spirit, how about you?

Matt sent this to me today: a high school percussion ensemble performing DJ Shadow's "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" and "Changeling." What fun. And these kids gotta be diggin' that they've had at least a few weeks where they weren't forced to play "Louie Louie" or the evil march music from Star Wars. Their teacher, Brian Udelhofen, needs to do a full arrangement of the whole album.

Continue reading "DJ Shadow has spirit, how about you?"
posted by sstrader at 10:07 PM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

September 1, 2005

RadioWave feed

I've added an RSS feed to RadioWave. It consists of the shows that have been recorded as listed on the Schedule page.

posted by sstrader at 2:37 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 25, 2005

Heard your name the other day...

I really dug Sonic Youth's song "Karen Koltrane" when I first purchased A Thousand Leaves. In its exposition it has moments like Steve Reich's "Electric Counterpoint" [Amazon]. In fact, A Thousand Leaves as a whole--despite some insightful sarcasm--is no slouch of an album: "Female Mechanic Now On Duty" had that "Swimsuit Issue" fuck-you vibe thatletsfaceit is what we all love about Kim Gordon--women should get that pissed off at times. And the coda/B-section is nice. I was comfortable with the familiar structure of pieces like "Wildflower Soul" with its deft return to the opening riff, but, and I hate to say this, I wouldn't recommend the final disintigration of "Ineffable Me" on anyone. They're at their most art brut/expressionist there, and it's a difficult style to absorb.

I guess that's like complaining about death metal, but you see what I mean. Anyway, on the much-maligned Murray Street, they have what I've always assumed to be "Karen Koltrane"'s pair: "Karen Revisited." Duh. I often revisit that pair of songs--even if the 7 minutes of guitar noise closing out the 11-minute "Revisited" is sometimes a little too much to take.

a thousand leaves

I hadn't really realized (not so consciously) how unnerving the cover art is. The symbols are all there, and yeah I get it, but I guess there were a few things I missed. Although it, again, reminds me of one of my drawing teachers critiquing my (somewhat) anguished style in college: "You're young and you're going through changes, that's coming out in your art." Since then, it's been difficult to appreciate such brutal artwork (no matter how deeply ingrained it is).

Anyway, the two "Karen"s are a good listen all the same.

posted by sstrader at 12:19 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 24, 2005

Listening...

ling-ling

Not all that interesting, but it's what I'm listening to right now while programming. I had forgotten how wonderfully tasteless independent radio could be. And check out the description of DJ Messy's show on Kill Radio ifyoudare. Whatdya expect, she plays Peaches, yo.

posted by sstrader at 10:37 PM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

August 23, 2005

Death of Klinghoffer tonight

I just heard on the radio about its British premiere at the Edinburg International Festival tonight. Similarly but different, a small-staged opera called Manifest Destiny is playing through the 29th at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (with an interesting concept but unfortunately a poor review). How is it you always hear about fascinating events not where you live?

posted by sstrader at 9:58 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 21, 2005

An evil genius visits Atlanta

Went to see MF Doom [Wikipedia] at The Loft last night with Scott (not me, the other Scott). Great show for my introduction into live, underground hip hop. Check out Doom's colorful history on Wikipedia. And, yes, he raps with that metal mask. Cool.

mf doom

The (many) opening MCs were mixed, but Mobonix stood out for me. And Doom's DJ, DJ Kool Akiem, introduced me to some kool music, although I unfortunately have no idea who it was he played (I was the only one in the crowd with that problem, as everyone was singing along).

Odd event of the evening: on the walk over to The Loft, some scruffy guy started walking with me and either offered or asked for sex, I couldn't really tell which. Once my position on that subject was clear, he went on a rambling monologue that ended with a somewhat schizophrenic list of items that he knows: Motorola vacuum tubes, the electromagnetic spectrum, sine waves, heraldry, ley lines, etc. It went on and on until we had to part as he made his way back to Peachtree Street. Crazy kids.

Continue reading "An evil genius visits Atlanta"
posted by sstrader at 1:35 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 13, 2005

Currently Listening To

Picking up a couple of the Naxos CDs I had purchased for future listening.

First, the Elliott Carter. I was dumbfounded at first listening to the Copland-styled tonality of the Holiday Overture and Symphony No. 1. He was, apparently, still finding his own style in these early pieces. A style I would praise from Walter Piston I only tolerate from Carter, possibly because of the unique experience of hearing Carter's own voice in his two-movement Piano Concerto that closes the CD. Difficult but enjoyable.

Ginastera is one of those composers I know of but don't know. Time to get more familiar with his Piano Concertos (yesyes, Keith Emerson did an arrangement of No. 1's Toccata on Brain Salad Surgery [Amazon]). These come after his overtly nationalistic period and can be compared with Bartok's works: both composers created very nationalist works that then influenced their more, say, international styles.

From RadioWave, I've got the two Romatic era Violin Concertos of Max Bruch.

Finally, some nerdcore from MC Frontalot. Poor programming, I know, but it's new so I gotta listen to it.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 12:24 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (1)

August 11, 2005

Nerdcore

It takes WNYC to introduce me to this?!? Apparently, there's a music genre called Nerdcore hip hop [Wikipedia]. Some songs: "Message No. 419" (about Nigerian spam), "Fett's Vette" (obvious), and "Entropy" (from MC Hawking [Wikipedia], who back in January I thought was merely a one-off joke). This might get on my nerves eventually, but it's pretty damn funny right now.

Check out MC Hawking and the anti-fundamentalist video "What We Need More Of Is Science" and MC Frontalot who was interviewed on WNYC. Playing the HTML geek, he suggested that his Behind the Music story would speak of his "tragic open end-bracket."

posted by sstrader at 11:53 AM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

August 3, 2005

Woo?

Apparently, keyboard cases and stands travel faster than the keyboards themselves. Let's try this again tomorrow.

ups keyboard

posted by sstrader at 9:26 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

RealOne sucks

I am so incredibly pissed at RealOne that it's inconceivable.

I've used it for years to organizize my ripped CDs. It has it's usability problems, but generally gets the job done. Until earlier today when I had it rename files in my collection en masse to take care of some several dozen that had been tagged correctly but that were in various wrong folders. Like other organizers, RealOne has a feature to move files based on a directory structure that matches the file information: Artist\Album\Track.mp3, Album\Track.mp3, Album\Artist - Track.mp3, etc.

Well, after I did the simple re-org, a large number of the files have been renamed as fucking duplicates of existing files! The second movement from Beethoven's Piano Sonata #15 is "Kool Thing," or rather "Kool Thing (2)" sitting in the same directory of the actual "Kool Thing" and with the exact same ID3 information as the actual "Kool Thing." Elvis Costello is now apparently Kansas, and Prokovief symphonies are part of the Hip Jazz-Bop! collection.

Mother. Fuck.

I have over 3,000 tracks recorded and from a certain amount of very frustrated looking, it appears that there could be hundreds of these mis-labels. I am so infuriated that--and I say this with complete seriousness, so arrest me now--I am going to BOMB THE FUCK OUT OF THE REAL.COM HEADQUARTERS!!

I don't even know how to begin fixing this.

Continue reading "RealOne sucks"
posted by sstrader at 5:14 PM in Music | permalink | comments (5)

August 2, 2005

Woo-hoo!

ups keyboard

posted by sstrader at 9:38 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 30, 2005

It's my keyboard, baby

To celebrate my pending (abbreviated?) unemployment, I just bought a keyboard:

yamaha p90

And a case:

keyboard case

All from Musician's Friend (with a little help from Kabao, thanks!) and for a pretty nice price. Aaaand, the P90 came with a with a free keyboard stand!

posted by sstrader at 8:22 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

July 29, 2005

Behold: Pure Crap!

Stereogum points to--what should be laughable but has become merely offensive--the videos for R. Kelly's opus "Trapped In The Closet." The comments are sometimes funny, and one commenter links to his earlier and scathing review. I'm sure there're many more out there, but I've been avoiding it recently out of embarrassment for all involved.

Although I'd like to dwell on the inexplicably horrible lyrics, we shouldn't forget that they're laid over some of the most plastic pop-hop around. A string of melismas does not make a good song no matter how skilled the vocalist. At some point, technique becomes tiresome and you really want to hear something actually composed and not just fumbled together with a bunch of expensive production. Are we ready for a backlash--a la IDM where, I believe, techno branched out from a limiting and cliched style--towards more conscientious pop music? Maybe it's impossible in mainstream broadcasting with payola defining the hits.

We need Curtis Mayfield.

posted by sstrader at 12:19 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 22, 2005

July 17, 2005

Rawk!

Lisa & friends went to the 99x Weezer, et al. show last night. I was a-workin' late, so I met up with them at the end of the evening at North Highland Pub. Anyway, sounds like I missed a great show and VIP tickets from a friend who works at 99x. Free beer and a crowd-free viewing experience. And was there really some guy who climbed on top of a lamp post for the show?

Anyway, anyway, here's a humorous Weezer video, for "We Are All On Drugs," that they created from the remains of a Grim Reaper video [via Stereogum]. Silly and good for you.

posted by sstrader at 1:57 PM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

July 6, 2005

June 30, 2005

Fallen

Today's edition of Soundcheck on WNYC is titled "Recorded Music and its Discontents" and discusses how the process and technology of recording has altered music itself, based on the central theme of Evan Eisenberg's book The Recording Angel [Amazon] (duly wishlisted). This has been been a frequent topic on music blogs since pre-NYC trip--in fact one of the original articles was in-flight reading. Probably an Alex Ross piece from The New Yorker ...

... searching ...

Bingo. With a follow up piece. Very good articles. David Byrne wrote a piece about it, as did A.C. Douglas (if you think I'm a snob, you haven't seen anything until you've read his blog). I'm recording the WNYC show in case I miss it.

posted by sstrader at 1:18 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 28, 2005

Sarah Vowell, NPR, and Coldplay

Some items from Sarah Vowell's book Radio On: A Listener's Diary [Amazon] concerning "good" music and whether public broadcasting should exist, and from the more recent critical discussions on Coldplay (smoothly continued from a recent entry/argument).

Continue reading "Sarah Vowell, NPR, and Coldplay"
posted by sstrader at 12:42 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

June 24, 2005

Stupid, mindless

I often go off on pop music for its obvious crappiness and on people for refusing to attach criticism to it. That absolute is, of course, not so absolute, and the Guardian provides us with an excellent example of how desparately in need pop music is for a good lashing [via Tim Rutherford-Johnson's equally entertaining rant].

posted by sstrader at 12:27 PM in Music | permalink | comments (4)

June 21, 2005

Currently Listening To

More music from RadioWave. I'm listening through all of the Schumann works that I've aquired. Some of the major piano suites (Papillons Op. 2; Carnaval Op. 9; Fantasiestcke Op. 12; Scenes from Childhood Op. 15; Kreisleriana, Op. 16; Arabeske, Op. 18); his Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54; two String Quartets Op. 41 #s 1 and 3; his Symphonies #s 2 and 4; and Marchenbilder, Op. 113 for viola and piano. I know Papillons and Carnaval and Scenes (mostly from my fractured readings in college), but several of those other works are new. These RadioWave recordings, far from hi-fi, are great for getting familiar with the standard repertoire--and to share them with others.

Someone had recently recommended the new recording of the Ligeti [Wikipedia] piano etudes, but I swear I can't remember who. This disk includes book 1 (1985), book 2 (1988-1994), and the first etude from book 3 (1995-2001). The dates are according to Wikipedia, although I believe Ligeti says in the liner notes that he hasn't finished the third book.

The CD was released in 1996, so the third book of the Ligeti is probably floating around somewhere.
Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 1:15 AM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

Alex Ross on Koyaanisqatsi

Alex Ross is on target with his review of the recent performance of Koyaanisqatsi at the Rose Theater in NYC. Lisa & I saw Naqoyqatsi in the same series--hey, I wonder if Alex Ross was that hirsute guy sitting in front of us! Either way...we generally agree with critics when they (1) enlighten us in some way, or (2) agree with us.

I'll take 2.

Lost in the corporate email archives of either Sterling Commerce or Xcellenet is my review of Koyaanisqatsi at The Fox Theater sent to a co-worker in the day-after excitement--still shocked by the astoundingly perfect ending. I'm lucky I didn't encounter the movie in college or else, like Ross, I might have dismissed it as a trippy, slick, MTV-ish thing, to which some well-meaning soul had attached hippie messages about the mechanization of existence and the spoliation of the planet. I was not the sharpest student in the pencil box, and, hanging around liberals much more rabid than me, would have been pelted with Groovy Theories. And those are the terms that I heard used when the movie was discussed in musical circles. When I finally saw it, my excitement came from a response to it's much more nuanced statement: that we're part of a complex system. Love it or whatever. The crushing mechanization, displayed alternately in frenzied time-lapse and langorous slow motion, is paired directly with scenes from nature using the same techniques. You can view 10-hours-as-10-minutes of factory workers in the same manner as of clouds passing. Our social systems are not necessarily a problem; they're what we are.

One point Alex Ross missed that hit me during The Fox performance was the sublime parallel of the images in the movie (e.g. workers as part of the machine of society) and the actions of the musicians--struggling to keep time with the flow of the movie and to match the sometimes very precise entries and exits. For me, it was a perfect introduction to Koyaanisqatsi.

Continue reading "Alex Ross on Koyaanisqatsi"
posted by sstrader at 12:57 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 19, 2005

Transcription: "Our Love Was" by The Who

Another arrangement relatively loyal to the original in structure. I struggle about my possible over-adherence to the source material--this is related to the various discussions on cover songs from a couple of months ago. Ontheonehand, I don't like the bar band human jukeboxes who copy a song exactly as written (and I'm generally not alone). If people are just lookin' for some good timin' noise, sure, those types are OK for background whatever. And it takes a certain amount of skill to reproduce a song. However, skill is one thing and artistic expression is another, and audiences respond differently to each.

Ontheotherhand, although a switch from guitar-bass-drums to piano is a notable change in itself, which takes a certain similar-but-different skill, it is still skill v. artistry. I think that I've put enough of "me" into the songs, but I realize that I may be overlooking an area for personal expression by sticking so strictly to the original structures. It's not necessarily wrong, but it could be, and I need to consider it when I work on other covers.

Continue reading "Transcription: "Our Love Was" by The Who"
posted by sstrader at 8:46 PM in Music | tagged the who | permalink | comments (0)

June 15, 2005

Scandinavian composers

Ah, Sibelius! Who else comes from your wacky lands (at least, the ones I'm most familiar with)?

Continue reading "Scandinavian composers"
posted by sstrader at 12:57 PM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

June 13, 2005

(boom)

Alex Ross has pointed out that John Adams [Wikipedia] is working on his third opera (libretto by bad boy Peter Sellars [Wikipedia]) to premiere in San Fran this October. It's titled Dr. Atomic and covers the hours leading up to the first atomic test [Wikipedia].

I may be clinging to a dead form, but I wish that there were a more active culture of modern historic opera. Adams' first two also covered relatively recent events: The Death of Klinghoffer [Wikipedia], about the Palestinian terrorist hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, and Nixon in China, about Nixon's 1972 visit to China. Why do historical operas seem more compelling than a fictional re-telling in, say, novel or movie form? I'm not sure.

posted by sstrader at 1:17 PM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

June 10, 2005

Music subscription comparison sites

My bro might be interested in joining a music subscription service. I've really only had experience with Rhapsody but have heard with interest that new, more competitive pricing structures have appeared, along with greater competition. My observations of Rhapsody:

  • Pros
    • streams content (some services are only for download)
    • allows you to view items missing from their library (good for reference)
    • lists artists' influences and contemporaries
  • Cons

Here are a few comparison sites I've found:

2 September 2005

BoingBoing posted this link to the EFF article "The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music". iTunes v. Microsoft v. RealNetworks v. Napster.

Continue reading "Music subscription comparison sites"
posted by sstrader at 10:36 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 26, 2005

Chopin list

Yay.

----------------------------------------------------------------
This shipment contains the following item(s):
----------------------------------------------------------------
Chopin, Frederic: Piano sonata B flat minor op. 35
Qty: 1 at $19.95 each (HE.289)

Chopin, Frederic: Piano sonata B minor op. 58
Qty: 1 at $17.95 each (HE.290)

----------------------------------------
Items Subtotal:             37.90
0% tax:                      0.00
shipping & handling:         2.99
----------------------------------------
Total:                      40.89
Continue reading "Chopin list"
posted by sstrader at 11:10 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 19, 2005

By Person added to RadioWave

I finally got back into the RadioWave code and added a By Person tab. This first iteration lists all current, future, and file-based content by person. Past content is excluded unless it was recorded, and any content where the person couldn't be determined is excluded. It's still a little shakey, but that'll work itself out. I plan on adding a filter for the content type (only files, only recorded streams, etc.).

After using it, I was immediately reminded of Clay Shirky's admonitions against classifications and praise for dynamic linking (acyclic graphs). My impressions with regard to the new RadioWave feature may be based on the limited content, but I think that the search feature is more useful than this new categorization. However, the tabs that provide hourly and station-based filters are also classifications, and they seem very useful. I suspect the difference between those classifications and the person classification is the amount of data and the semantics of that data. The current hour of the day far outweighs the importance of any other hours. Similarly, a specific station's content is unique and worthy of emphasizing on its own. I thought that categorizing artists/DJs was the next logical step. Instead, I think it's easier to search for "Shostakovich" than to navigate to the correct (Sa-Sz) page.

Continue reading "By Person added to RadioWave"
posted by sstrader at 12:45 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Currently Listening To

Piano works by Shostakovich performed by Konstantin Scherbakov. It doesn't get much better.

I anticipated being absorbed with the preludes and fugues, yet the odd characteristics of the opus 34 preludes have taken over my interest. It's been great driving-to-work music. The opus 87 pieces need more focus and promise to be more rewarding. I'm anxious to get the scores (just received the shipping confirmation yesterday) in order to examine more closely his dissonances and key relationships. I long ago bought and fell in love with his string quartets (#1 through #15 in six CDs by the Emerson Quartet).

I've also been cleaning up my RadioWave recordings and have begun listening to a few of those. I have Vasily Kalinnikov's Symphonies #1 and #2. I had never heard of him before--kindof an exuberant Rachmaninoff, but a little more corny. They're worth a listen. I've also got more tasteful works from Sibelius. His Symphonies #1, 2, and 5, and his wonderful Violin Concerto. I never listened to enough Sibelius, so now's my chance.

Just recorded the Sibelius Symphony #6, so I added that to the list.
And now I recorded the Sibelius Symphony #3, so that's been added also.
Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 12:20 AM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 13, 2005

Rats

Dear Scott D. Strader,

The following title(s) in your order is now permanently out of print at the publisher:

Chopin: Sonatas

They also have nicer editions with only #2 and #3 for about $18 each (instead of the more frugal $10 for all three).

At least they haven't canceled the Shostakovich scores. I'm getting familiar with the opus 34 preludes and have been very much enjoying them. For anyone who says that our culture is decadent with irony, listen to these works from 1934. Specifically #6. It's like everything he's saying has air quotes around it. I'm reminded first of the second movement from Prokofiev's Violin Sonata #1 with its rhythmic schizophrenia, yet that doesn't come close to the sarcasm that Shostakovich puts into this music. In an episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin learned to play piano but could only play when he was drunk (naturally). During his recital, he began playing the theme song from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and was drunkenly shifted at the piano bench so that one hand was in a different key. That's Shostakovich. He doesn't use polytonality (at least not here, maybe not anywhere?), but he writes familiar passages with just-the-right non-harmonic tones. It gives a sense of desperate invention when faced with the boredom of conventional tonality. The final two pages (if you've read it) of Dave Egger's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a good parallel. It's a cry of "please make this mean something!"

Or maybe it should be viewed as less anguished. Like when Shostakovich's contemporary, Chico Marx, is playing the piano and mugging for the camera as his fingers literally walk up and down the keys. He too is saying "I'm bored with this," but his response to that boredom is a joyful capriciousness.

Continue reading "Rats"
posted by sstrader at 9:51 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 12, 2005

Kabao show tomorrow nite

Gotta support the team.

- David Puddy

Many of us will be meeting up at Northside Tavern at 8 tomorrow before the Kabao show (Music at an art gallery? We must balance it with drinks at a hole-in-the-wall!). I just found out from Ms. Kabao that [i]n the Vibes section of Creative Loafing there is an article about the show tomorrow night. Everyone was metioned EXCEPT KABAO. Curse those free newspapers! Is there no quality control?!? I suspect that word-of-mouth will have more of an effect on attendance anyway.

And tonight we venture to Spice for their every-Thursday $10 bottomless glass of wine (!) and then to Einstein's. Am I the only one who hated the old Einstein's and loves the new Einstein's?

Continue reading "Kabao show tomorrow nite"
posted by sstrader at 1:43 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Tofu marketing

These MP3 download sites kinda bug me.

They seem to be on everyone's mind these days sparked by Tofu Hut's meta-aggregation (see the recent BoingBoing and The Rambler entries). I had been tracking some MP3 sites after Mingaling recommended a few to me, and I got the genius idea to aggregate the links from them.

What I'd hoped is that people are posting Cool Music That They Love. What I often see are the same MP3s (of some band that just happens to be touring right now) plastered across three or four sites. Now, I can imagine that (a) a popular band going on tour would spark many fans' interests, and (b) that interest would result in having many sites just-happen-to-post the exact same MP3 from the band. I can imagine it. Is it that likely though? Or is it more likely that these sites have become guerilla marketing outlets?

Say that many of these MP3 sites are just corporate shills. Is that such a bad thing if, in the end, you get the music you want for free?

It's similar to actors on the talk-show circuit when their movies come out. But that again is corporations controlling the pulse of media. Wasn't this supposed to be some New Way? Weren't individuals supposed to control this pulse?

posted by sstrader at 9:23 AM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

May 11, 2005

Sheet music purchase

I haven't purchased any new scores in quite a while. I finally received the Shostakovich piano pieces from Amazon (24 Preludes and Fugues for Piano, Op. 87 and 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34) and heard a review of a recent recording of the Chopin Piano Sonata #2, so I decided to purchase the scores to study. A quick Google search took me to Sheet Music Plus, a site that I believe I've been to before. I finally committed to the Mel Bay edition of the complete Chopin sonatas. When I think of Mel Bay, I think of glossy, 20-page how-to-play-beginning-guitar books, but the publisher is also listed as Koenemann which brought up some favorable comments in Usenet. Also, they appear to be Urtext editions. All for just $10. Nice. The Shostakovich editions are published by DSCH [Wikipedia] of Moscow, with text in Russian and English. His music, I think, is still controlled by family copyright (not really sure how that works internationally), so these should be like getting them from the source.

Based on the search and purchase process, I highly recommend Sheet Music Plus. They rival Amazon in clarity and simplicity of page layout and processing. I hope to soon buy much more music that is beyond my skills!

Chopin: Sonatas (MB.800172)
  - Ships from our warehouse within 24 hours. 
  - Qty: 1 at $9.95 each, $9.95 total

Dmitri Shostakovich - 24 Preludes and Fugues for Piano, Op. 87 (HL.50484225)
  - Ships from our warehouse within 24 hours. 
  - Qty: 1 at $32.50 each, $32.50 total

Dmitri Shostakovich - 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34 (HL.50484224)
  - Lead time before shipment - 4 to 6 business days. 
  - Qty: 1 at $22.50 each, $22.50 total
Continue reading "Sheet music purchase"
posted by sstrader at 9:56 AM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

May 10, 2005

Two unrelated points on creativity and skill

First:

Write as though everyone you know is dead.

I know I've heard this before, but hearing it again helped reassert its importance. Are you writing from yourself or writing as guided by a perceived audience? The counter-question being: is your work completely self-indulgent?

Second:

Amateur musicians practice a piece until they can play it right; professional musicians practice until they can't play it wrong.

It's tempting, when practicing a difficult passage, to move on to the next difficult passage after a few successful run-throughs. Instead, phrases must be practiced hundreds (etc.) of times alone and within the whole before they're actually successful (the counter-rule being: don't let the passage become mechanical). I had never heard the can't-play-it-wrong quote before, but it's a good consolidation of the intent.

posted by sstrader at 4:28 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 3, 2005

Another music coincidence

During a lunch last week at one of my co-worker's homes (a fish fry of King Mackeral from his most recent fishing trip), three of us got to kick around on the instruments in his home studio. It gave me an opportunity to play through a little of my "Starship Trooper" arrangement and lament, to the guitarists, the difficulties of a pianist playing guitar music. Today, one of them pointed out that the newest Guitar Player magazine arrived, and its "How To Play Like..." article features Steve Howe along with his apparently knuckle-busting fingerwork from the acoustic section of "Starship Trooper."

posted by sstrader at 10:27 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 2, 2005

More on The Who Sell Out

Found a short interview with Petra Haden on NPR. She's so funny and harmless and almost valley girl (nasal) sounding. She talks about both her album with Bill Frisell and also her cover of The Who Sell Out. She seemed almost embarrassed about what she did. I guess it is kinda silly. There's this review from Pitchfork (released on April 1st to probably suspicious readers), this one from Stylus, and finally this extremely angry review from PopMatters (listening to her work her way through this material in such a manner is just nauseating).

And there are these wonderfully detailed liner notes to the original: Most of the commercials that we recorded ourselves were done at Kingsway Studios in London. Me and Keith thought them up in the pub next door. Those crazy kids. And it was interesting that [Who manager] Chris Stamp tried to interest advertisers in paying for the adverts inserted by The Who on the record but, with only 50,000 copies of the album expected to be printed, none of the companies would buy. Take that, Prince. It sounds like the pop music scene in the late 60s was considerably less ... artsy and pristine. I can imagine maybe L Lo succumbing to product placement on an album, but what's the equivalent today of a band like The Who searching out sponsors?

All this revisiting because I just made my first purchase from Rhapsody. Sorry, Petra, I had to go for the original first. Twenty-three songs (13 + 10 bonus) for $9, burned to a CD, and immediately ripped to (apparently non-DRMed) MP3s. I'll probably/maybe still buy the original to serve some obsessive, completist impulses, but it was an otherwise pleasant experience.

Continue reading "More on The Who Sell Out"
posted by sstrader at 9:36 PM in Music | tagged the who | permalink | comments (0)

April 30, 2005

Upcoming Kabao show

Friend and electronic musician Robert Bao will be performing at the Dojo Yakko Gallery on Friday May 13th along with Dames A'Flame (burlesque, no less), Elevado, Soulhound, and DJ Eric Yerlow. Should be a cool show in a cool space. I'm hoping to meet the chick on the 3-speed to trade baseball cards.

dojo front

dojo back

Continue reading "Upcoming Kabao show"
posted by sstrader at 10:50 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 27, 2005

Rock criticism as fandom

A fan began his review of a recent album by saying that to truely [sic] appreciate this album, you must understand everything about it. I've got a problem with this.

Continue reading "Rock criticism as fandom"
posted by sstrader at 10:57 AM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

April 24, 2005

Wherefore cover?

The issue of transcription and arrangement has been in my head recently (working on the Yes and Who songs, listening to Petra Hayden's remake of Who songs, and listening to Yes's different versions of their own songs), so Confidential Report's recent entry on cover songs was a timely coincidence. He points to a CBC article that attempts to come to terms with the concept.

Continue reading "Wherefore cover?"
posted by sstrader at 6:03 PM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

April 21, 2005

Video of Sonic Youth on KCRW

Found a 40-minute stream of Sonic Youth in the KCRW studios playing to promote Sonic Nurse. I think it's from July 2004. Nice rough set.

Continue reading "Video of Sonic Youth on KCRW"
posted by sstrader at 8:50 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 19, 2005

"Throwing away a perfectly good white boy..."

Elodie Lauten wreaks havok with her wonderfully depressing question to fringe composers: Are we better off dead? Responded quickly by Beth Anderson who replies (kindly) I’m not willing to stop composing just because the world isn’t paying me for it. And she isn’t either, even though she has not yet discovered the logic to support her activities. And finally by Corey Dargel who points out (one of the few truisms that constantly needs to be pointed out) We keep composing because we can’t not compose.

An image my painting teacher always used, and one that I will always remember, he stole from the opening lines of Blake's "The Tiger." We can't stop, because there's something in us that's burning and keeping us illuminated. The religious connotations of Blake's lines parallel Corey's observations that [art's] primary value lies in the spiritual realm. I've often said this--perhaps too often, and perhaps too drunk--to friends. I guess it might be annoying if it wasn't coming from such an atheist.

That being said, I don't think Elodie gets enough credit for her observations. It's wonderful to really enjoy striving to realize what's in you, but the need for others' acceptance shouldn't be ignored.

posted by sstrader at 11:57 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Currently Listening To

Still listening to The Who Sell Out (still loving it), and just beginning an arrangement of "Our Love Was" which I'm completely smitten by. But--gotta move on. I have been waiting for an Amazon shipment of several CDs of Shostakovitch preludes and fugues, but they are still weeks away. Gah.

I've been really sweating over the "Starship Trooper" arrangement, so let's get some more Yes in my head to seal the deal. Close to the Edge and Relayer are both the Rhino re-release with a few b-sides and demos (studio run-throughs). I've always drooled over doing a piano/voice arrangement of "The Gates of Delirium." Hearing the studio run-through provides some insight into the process of the song, but it's still far off. I was blown away to read in the liner notes that Jon Anderson was the primary composer of Gates. Patrick Moraz (the keyboardist) comments:

Jon actually led me through the compositions and through the core of the arrangement and the construction of most of the themes of 'The Gates of Delirium,' which were composed by the time I came in. Not all of it was complete, but everything was in his head. I think he had the plan for the whole symphony. It was like a symphony. In the world of rock 'n' roll, although very influenced by The Beatles and the English music scene at the time, I always acquaint Yes with what Stravinsky would have dona as a rock musician. Yes music has that kind of symphonic approach and arrangement. The sophistication of the orchestration is absolutely staggering.

This from someone who worked on the album, but all the same. I never considered Anderson the "big picture" kind of composer. The Close to the Edge album has a similarly illustrative run-through of "And You & I" and "Siberian Khatru."

Decided also to re-investivate the backgroundy-but-enjoyable Kid A from Radiohead. Brad Meldau played the opening track at the recent Variety Playhouse concert, so it's been in my head. Its simple harmony was used as an example of modal mixture in rock in a recent MTO article (which I tried to make sense of back in January).

Finally, Schnittke's Concerto for Two Pianos and Concerto for Cello. I can't pretend to understand his manic shifting of harmonies, but that's what makes it so compelling. And I-shit-you-not I actually find myself humming melodies (as best I can) from the cello concerto. He reminds me of the harmonic "wow" I felt when I first heard (and still feel when I listen to) Messiaen.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 10:51 PM in Current Interests , Music | tagged the who, yes | permalink | comments (1)

April 16, 2005

April 15, 2005

Oh drat

Got to Emory on time, but they had already closed the Fiery Furnaces show to non-students. Curse my age!

Went to Everybody's for dinner instead.

Continue reading "Oh drat"
posted by sstrader at 9:13 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Schnittke's grave stone

Schnittke's grave stone. Nice. And just as I was about to dive back into my Schnittke [Wikipedia] CDs.

Continue reading "Schnittke's grave stone"
posted by sstrader at 12:16 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Hipster doofus

Reading Lori's wonderful rant against hipster lingo got me pondering the hipster backlash she links to at Stereogum. The Stereogum rants were mostly people recognizing the current buzz and then mocking that buzz--as long as you mention The Arcade Fire or the iPod or PBR, you're on your way to a quality mock. Waitaminute, am I mocking mocking?!? Anyway, how does what's (fringe) popular become something popular to mock? I guess when you're part of groups with specific interests, it can seem that you're immersed in flotsam--flotsam that's being taken too seriously.

But then, sometime people do take it too seriously. Like that scene from Garden State where Natalie Portman says such-and-such band will "totally change your life." You can imagine all those hipsters nodding along with Zack Braff as he confirms the life-changingness of a ... pop song.

posted by sstrader at 8:49 AM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

April 14, 2005

Heart

I guess prog is bigger than disco. Gramophone has Yes' "Heart of the Sunrise" available for download, along with praise for its narrative structure. Yes' love of Stravinsky is well-known, but here's some good trivia about "Heart of the Sunrise." The unusual technique used in the opening instrumental section, where a theme in 4/4 fades out as a contrasting theme in 6/8 fades in, is paralleled in Stravinsky's "The Firebird." (I need to listen to it again to pinpoint the exact location.)

Continue reading "Heart"
posted by sstrader at 1:04 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 13, 2005

Fiery Furnaces dls

Fluxblog's got two Fiery Furnaces tracks for download. Both are live tracks. Pared down and quirky. Gettin' ready for the Emory show this Fri.

Continue reading "Fiery Furnaces dls"
posted by sstrader at 12:23 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 11, 2005

Tapas and jazz

meldau

After a late Sunday afternoon jog to leech out the toxins from the previous three days (ouch), Lisa and I headed out for dinner and music in L5P. First off, some tapas at Miro's Garden. This is interesting: there were several problems during dinner and yet I'd still recommend this restaurant. It was nothing too big (dirty menus and only two bottles of white wine in stock), but our waitress--Cat--was quick to do what she could and friendly throughout. Good food and great atmosphere.

Continue reading "Tapas and jazz"
posted by sstrader at 11:16 AM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

April 10, 2005

Transcription: "Starship Trooper" by Yes

I finished the transcription last Tuesday and have made a few minor changes over the past few day as I've been practicing it. Here are the MIDI and MUS files. I need to buy the upgrade to Allegro so that I can save the sheet music to PDF.

My scribbled notes on the manuscript say I began on the 24th, so it took about two weeks to complete. Much of it came very naturally and practically wrote itself. The most difficult section, and most of the effort, was the instrumental crescendo in part III. Three chords repeated and strummed over a three-minute period doesn't offer much to a pianist trying to get the same effect across. I'm happy with the results. I'm still not sure about the ending and how I've solved the issue of the fade cadence, but I think with the right pedalling it will work out.

I'm shooting to get a recording done in the next week or so.

[ updated 28 Feb 2006 ]

There's unfortunately a shortage of transcriptions online, so I'd like to emphasize to anyone looking at mine that I took many liberties to arrange it for piano. I've added too many variations for anyone interested in studying the source or playing along with the album. The most prominent alterations are:

  • The turn at the end of the first measure is a scale step higher than recorded. I wanted to use it against a IV-V harmonization.
  • The chords in the "Disillusion" section are slightly different than recorded. I changed the voicing to fit the hands better while still trying to mimic guitar finger picking on the piano.
  • The harmonized vocalizations at the end of "Disillusion" (at the point the first theme returns) are reduced to octaves in the right hand.
  • Several of the ornaments in the final guitar solo are removed, and the deuling guitars in the stereo recording are changed to swapping between the hands and registers.
  • Throughout, strumming and drum figures are replaced with arpeggios and runs that are not in the original.

Overall, the most prominent bass lines have been retained as has, what I value most in the song, its structure. If you want the keyboard solo from Yessongs, Ian below has kindly offered up his version. For more information, you might want to search Steve Howe's site for references to "Starship Trooper." I haven't been able to find any other information on Wakeman's solo.

Continue reading "Transcription: "Starship Trooper" by Yes"
posted by sstrader at 12:38 PM in Music | tagged yes | permalink | comments (11)

April 7, 2005

Meldau and Scofield at Variety Playhouse this Sunday

We'll be enjoying a groovy, jazzy evening at Variety Playhouse listening to the pianist Brad Meldau and the guitarist John Scofield perform. (If we can get tickets tomorrow at the box office because we refuse to pay Ticketmaster's jackass order processing charge along with their jackass "convenience" charge. The unmitigated nerve--someone needs to take them down.)

I heard Meldau years ago on WREK and scribbled his name, spelled incorrectly, in my Newton for later reference. I guess I could blame the Newton on the spelling mishap. I wasn't as hooked as I should have been when I finally got his CD--I was listening to bop mostly, and his style is much smoother--but his stuff eventually grew on me. During my sabattical, I finally heard his epic version of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" on WERS's jazz show.

I first heard John Scofield after a Dave Matthews concert. I was dragged to the concert against my will by a certain person, but was amazed to see that Herbie Hancock [Wikipedia] and the Headhunters were opening. At some point after the show, they gave out cassette tapes with a few tracks from The Headhunters and a few from John Scofield. Before the wife got me my six-CD changer for the Beetle all I had was the tape player, so that got a lot of play.

posted by sstrader at 12:23 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

April 4, 2005

"I hear prog is making a comeback..."

Maybe even bigger than disco.

"In prog we trust" from Guardian Unlimited.

Strangely, I don't listen to new prog. I've listened to a few Live365 and Shoutcast stations with newish prog, but there was no real spark. Some of the songs had too much repetitive jamming over a complex chord progression or rhythm or both. They were reminiscent of the technical playing of speed metal bands but with "jazzier" progressions (9ths, added tones, diminished chords). The obsession with technicality suggests emphasis on skill over art--but I guess these are the criticisms of all prog. What qualities make such experimentation successful rather than self-indulgent?

posted by sstrader at 10:58 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

March 30, 2005

Intent

Somehow in college, I picked up New Criticism [Wikipedia] (trust the Art, not the Artist) and have been stuck with it ever since. This came up in yesterday's floundering about in the minutiae of pop music. Yet at the same time, I sometimes slip into Historicism's [Wikipedia] environment-aware analysis. Reagarding the fade out in music: I think that the only effective way to understand it in terms of an artistic choice is to view it only in terms of musical arrangement and performance. At the same time, it's at least interesting to try to understand how it came to be an artistic choice above any number of other techniques that are not common. Those are two different questions each with their distinct value.

posted by sstrader at 2:41 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 28, 2005

The fade cadence

I have a problem with pop songs that fade out at the end. Maybe. There's a restless uncertainty about it as if the musicians couldn't decide what to do. So they do nothing. There are two important points to consider. First, what are the possible intentions of the musicians involved (the composers, performers, engineers, etc.)? Second, what are the possible impressions it leaves on the listener?

Continue reading "The fade cadence"
posted by sstrader at 11:04 PM in Music | permalink | comments (6)

March 27, 2005

Busy?

Pretty busy this weekend (until today) and pretty out of it. I batched it while the wife was in Knoxville, so it was piano and pizza and joggin' and drinkin'. Went to a co-worker's house after work on Fri to see his home studio. I tried out his Alesis keyboard: yuk. Very fluffy touch to it. He said it's an older model, so maybe I can find an (affordable) one with a better feel.

I started Working on a piano arrangement of Yes's "Starship Trooper" (geek). I was thinking of doing a Radiohead or Fiery Furnaces song, but wanted something a little longer. I've always wanted to do "The Gates of Delirium," but that's a little too ambitious right now. Anyway, got a good arrangement for the first third of the song. Much of that music is shared throughout the rest of the piece, so the rest will be cake. The most interesting part will be getting a good accompaniment for the last section and filling out the antiphonal guitar solo. I'm going to try to have the final arrangement later this week.

Man, I love the 40-hour-a-week contract gig. No more hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime for this worker bee.

posted by sstrader at 6:26 PM in Music | tagged yes | permalink | comments (2)

March 25, 2005

Player

For musicians who hate the fact that Condoleeza Rice is a pianist:

posted by sstrader at 6:36 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 23, 2005

Music and context

The idea of musical context came to mind after a few of the recent writings and readings on pop music. Specifically: is it unfair to judge pop music with a rigor that certain other music might be judged? Or, to avoid the prejudice of "rigor," is pop governed by different rules? Maybe pop works within a different domain. Is it as unfair to criticize pop music composition as it is to say, for example, "this limerick doesn't have the impact of a Shakespeare tragedy"? Or: "this sit-com episode didn't move me as much as To Kill a Mockingbird."

I guess the important point is that I hope to see all music as Music in a single context. If we say that one is meant to be ephemeral and another timeless, then what are the qualities that bend each in those directions and, most important, what then are their shared qualities? Are there universal responses to those shared qualities? If one type of expression only deals with certain subjects, is that choice part of the aesthetic or is it unnecessarily self-limiting? And when we talk of the universal, we have to look at extremes--the avant guarde, folk, archaic--and how they fit into our responses.

Or might Art just be like shedding skin? No matter its importance at one time, after a while it dies and is absolutely meaningless.

Questions such as these always require something concrete, but I just don't have anything in my head right now.

posted by sstrader at 10:48 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 9, 2005

RadioWave: MP3 aggregation added

I've added a tab to the RadioWave Web page that lists links to MP3s that are available from a few Web sites. RadioWave attempts to parse relevant information from the source sites along with the file URLs. Results are updated once-a-day and accessible through the search page. Parsing is somewhat basic right now, as is the choice of Web site, but I'll try to increase the quality of both. This is a work-in-progress and may-or-may-not be a useful addition.

posted by sstrader at 8:45 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

March 7, 2005

Piano fingering for diminished scales

I've recently been warming up before practice with the diminished scales [Wikipedia] and the chromatic scale. I'm quite the idiot for having never practiced diminished scales before. The Kansas piece "The Spider" hints at diminished scales in several phrases, and the rondo from the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 7 ends with the chromatic scale in the right hand. A thread in rec.music.makers.piano provides the fingering for diminished scales in the right hand. I'll append to those and add the fingering for the left hand along with some cues for practicing them.

Continue reading "Piano fingering for diminished scales"
posted by sstrader at 7:07 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

The process of listening

It confounds me to no end, and is probably very "site specific," how impressions develop the longer we listen to a piece of music. I'm focused now on several new works (if I hadn't heard them, they're new-to-me), so it's the short term process that's interesting right now. As much as your opinion can develop over a month or so, it takes even stranger turns over the years.

Continue reading "The process of listening"
posted by sstrader at 1:44 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 5, 2005

New Mars Volta

Thanks to Stereogum for pointing out that Mars Volta has a new release [Amazon]. Their first CD was more metal than progressive, so it's nice to see them flip that ratio around and tackle more ambitious projects. I'm (obviously) tired of listeners and critics complaining that complex rock is "self-indulgent" or "pretentious." You get to the point where the strummy strum strum strummy strum strum bubblegum is just not enough. This can be a more mature art than it generally is.

More later on Mars Volta...

posted by sstrader at 4:41 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

March 4, 2005

Recording for dummies

home studio

[Studio-sweet-studio. Here's the current state of my little corner of the condo. I'm currently working on the rondo from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 7 in D, Op. 10 No. 3. After playing nothing but my own music for-it-seems-like-forever, it's refreshing to get back to some Beethoven or Bach. On the top of the piano is my binder for The Journalist (I'm re-learning a couple of songs from there), for The Silent Spectrum, and the sheet music for "The Spider," an instrumental by Kansas that I'm also re-learning. Out of laziness, I haven't put away any of the recording equipment yet. The wife may put an end to that laziness soon enough.]

Mason recently asked about my recording process: I'm afraid it isn't all that interesting. It's the home studio equivalent of pressing PLAY and RECORD on a Radio Shack tape recorder. I didn't want to labor over it--I just wanted to get a listenable version of the music recorded. The equipment is:

Software:

I recorded the piano first (2 tracks) with the top lid of the piano open and the mics positioned right next to the strings. I then recorded the voice separately (1 track) while listening to the piano part on headphones connected to the MR-8. I can only store 128 MB on the MR-8 CF card (too poor right now to buy a sweet 1 Gig card), so for longer songs I had to burn an MP3 and use my iRiver player to listen to the piano as I sang. I'm sure the neighbors were thrilled. Some of the songs' piano parts were recorded in several pieces because their WAVs were too big to fit on the card, but also because of convenience. There are some very obvious and distinct sections in many of the songs, and those were easier to record separately.

You can connect the MR-8 to a computer through USB, but it's not convenient so I just take the card and copy the files to the PC. I then drop the WAVs into separate tracks in a Cakewalk project. The only editing I did in Cakewalk was to paste the sections together, cut out glaring mistakes (then paste in the re-recorded fixes), adjust the tracks that were recorded too quietly, and split left and right piano.

posted by sstrader at 2:54 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

March 1, 2005

The Silent Spectrum (demo)

Here are the MP3s of the demo for The Silent Spectrum.

Continue reading "The Silent Spectrum (demo)"
posted by sstrader at 4:19 PM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

Currently Listening To

My demo of The Silent Spectrum is up on Radio from the Ether along with The Journalist. I don't own any of my other listening choices and have only been able to listen to them on Rhapsody, so it's all me all the time.

I read some references to and favorable reviews for The Who Sell Out. I had never listened to it, so I thought I'd give it a chance. During my research, I found the Petra Haden (daughter of jazz bassist Charlie Haden [Wikipedia]) remake of a good portion of the album a capella. Should be interesting.

Still wowed by Blueberry Boat. I love the negative reviews on Amazon--there appears to be a lot of hatred for The Fiery Furnaces (and for Pitchfork for praising them).

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 1:38 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

February 23, 2005

...an intuitive shudder...

Alex Ross is musing over the dread inherent in the key Eb minor. He suggests that, after string players emphasized to him the physical difficulty of performing pieces in Eb minor, the physical stress felt by the performer and heard by the listener produces an intuitive shudder even in listeners who do not think they know the difference. This is important.

Continue reading "...an intuitive shudder..."
posted by sstrader at 4:34 PM in Music | permalink | comments (3)

February 22, 2005

A flurry of Nancarrow

Ahead of his time or a tangent to his time, or whatever, Conlon Nancarrow [Wikipedia] is one of those modern composers that you absolutely must know about to appreciate the weird world of modern composition and its relation to today's landscape of music. It's often difficult to fit the more experimental composers into a framework without understanding the depths and nuance of what other experimentalists were creating and the techniques they were developing (many now dead, to be either forgotten or rediscovered some day).

Continue reading "A flurry of Nancarrow"
posted by sstrader at 10:25 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

February 20, 2005

Fiery Furnaces in Atlanta

I really gotta keep up with things. WMRE is a streaming radio station out of Atlanta's very own Emory University. I did not know that. It'd be nice to add them to RadioWave, but they have a crappy online schedule. Not-only-that-but-also: newfavoriteband The Fiery Furnaces will be performing at a free concert at Emory on April 15th. This deserves exclamation points:

!!!

I. Must. Be. There. The Fiery Furnaces Web site has a full list of upcoming shows.

Continue reading "Fiery Furnaces in Atlanta"
posted by sstrader at 9:45 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

February 18, 2005

Another example of music wanting to be free

Ars Technica recently reported on the Napster To Go trial period hack that I first read about when marv on record's now infamous blog entry got passed around. Within the 14-day free trial period, you can easily set up a few machines dedicated to downloading, ripping, and burning for 24-hours a day. Voila! 252 free CDs!

I love how he categorizes it as theoretical fun. Tee-hee. A few months back I went through some similar steps using Rhapsody, hypothetically, and found them too tedius. However, all of the technology is there, and no amount of DRM could ever defeat it. The solution is to have some more automated software--apparently Winamp with its open-source friendliness does the trick.

What a wonderful future we live in.

posted by sstrader at 2:42 PM in Music , Science & Technology | permalink | comments (0)

February 17, 2005

Today's reading list

  • Wil Wheaton: So, ASCAP to *license* podcasts? Readers respond.
  • Composing at the keyboard
  • Groupware
  • Color Rules of Thumb
Continue reading "Today's reading list"
posted by sstrader at 1:45 PM in Art , Culture & Society , Music , Today's reading list | permalink | comments (0)

February 16, 2005

February 15, 2005

Music stuff

Notes on some new(ish) music:

Continue reading "Music stuff"
posted by sstrader at 4:57 PM in Music | permalink | comments (7)

February 13, 2005

Today's reading list

  • ALAN MOORE "CHAIN REACTION" INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
  • Wake up and smell the fascism
  • Whither Apple, Google, Blogs, and DVRs
  • Reinventing Physics: the Search for the Real Frontier
  • Interface Culture
Continue reading "Today's reading list"
posted by sstrader at 10:35 PM in Art , Music , Politics , Science & Technology , Today's reading list | permalink | comments (0)

February 9, 2005

Adios Kleptones

During the last two days I was pummeled with Kleptones downloads with no end in sight. Sorry, had to de-share them. I tried throttling back, but I need to first set up a separate Kleptone site in IIS so that the requests don't block me from my blog. It'll just have to wait.

posted by sstrader at 1:15 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 31, 2005

Score and MIDI for The Silent Spectrum

Here's the score (in Allegro's MUS format) and MIDI for my rock opera The Silent Spectrum. The MIDIs were exported directly from the scoring software, so there is no articulation and the vocal melody is represented by a string sound. Information on getting the free Finale Notepad client required for viewing the score is here. The premiere program with lyrics is here (lyrics are included in the score also). Total running time is around 1 hour 10 minutes.

Continue reading "Score and MIDI for The Silent Spectrum"
posted by sstrader at 5:33 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 30, 2005

January 29, 2005

Genius idea #5

Create a site that indexes all online MP3s into a database. With this, users can search for bands or songs in one place without having to scramble from site to site. I've recently discovered several sites with free, legal MP3s that are regularly updated. A Web indexer could automatically compile these into the database. Google searches with "filetype:mp3" return very few hits.

Continue reading "Genius idea #5"
posted by sstrader at 2:19 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 28, 2005

Joanna Newsom video

The video of that cutie-pie harpist Joanna Newsom's song Sprout and the Bean from her album Milk-Eyed Mender [Amazon]. I was pointed to this a while back and was prompted (by her interview in The Wire) to revisit it. File it under new folk.

posted by sstrader at 7:57 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Deep in the new

I got sidetracked on a spelunking tour of the Internets and found some new music sites. Those along with a few previous acquisitions need to be enumerated:

Continue reading "Deep in the new"
posted by sstrader at 7:12 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

Phew

I performed my rock opera, The Silent Spectrum, to a roomful of friends last night. It went off fairly well--nerves made me hack about 30% of the music, but no one really noticed. In a post-performance poll, some friends remembered the couple of quick false starts yet none of the glaringly wrong notes or ragged tempo. I'll take whatever I can get.

Here's the program (PDF) I created for the occasion.

Continue reading "Phew"
posted by sstrader at 12:13 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 26, 2005

References: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Whilst working through a transcription of one of the arias in this Nyman chamber opera, I found these sites:

  • The Nyman Bug by Grant Chu Covell.
  • A collection of short paragraphs on possibly every Nyman recording published with some interesting background on the composer. Only comments on the Sacks opera with regard to the movie [IMDB]. Sounds horrible.

  • Music score from Chester-Novello publishing.
  • andante's review of a performance of the opera presented to the World Congress of Neurology.
  • The performance obviously went a little wrong: Was Dr. S tapping the wrong joints as he tested the reflexes of the unfortunate Dr. P? I wouldn't know, but the German neurologist to my right was snickering behind her programme and she was not the only one. Medical accuracy in performance aside, the author criticises the work for its narrow range of emotional expression:

    And as Hugaas sang "Ich grolle nicht" and quoted "Auf einer Burg," it was diffcult to resist the impulse to leave the theatre and head for the nearest recital of Dichterliebe or Liederkreis. If that's the point — if Nyman is comparing agnosia to a world without musical beauty or emotional variety — it's a very, very risky gambit.

    Condemning the Nyman work for its Schumann quotations is like condemning Zorn for his trespasses into Mozartean sonorism in between the atonal noise. The quotes are used functionally (the character portrayed is actually a singer) and dramatically ("Ich grolle nicht" is about a person who is suffering greatly but who "won't complain"--an obvious parallel to the patient).

  • A biography and discography from autumnleaf.
Continue reading "References: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"
posted by sstrader at 11:06 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 18, 2005

Currently Listening To

Missing tracks 3 ("Guide Vocal") and ("Heathaze") for Duke, but they may be acquired and added later.

I've been piecing together the eight Walter Piston symphonies and finally ordered CDs containing the last three to complete the collection. They (1, 3, and 4) just shipped and will be added later (to 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8). It'd be nice to have one conductor/orchestra, but honestly if someone recorded them all now I'd be pissed.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 10:30 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 16, 2005

Music ordered and to be ordered

Aw shit. I had to order the CDs from B&N despite their grievous affront to my sanity earlier this week. With it, I aquire three CDs that give me the final recordings in my quest to get Walter Pison's complete symphonies. It was like a Kazaa search trying to piece together all eight of them. Look for those in my next playlist. As you can guess, those will be paired with Duke and probably Nyman's operetta The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

And the more I listen, the more I realize I must own Nyman's opera Facing Goya. Maybe after I actually get a job.

I ordered the Piston CDs in a moment of resolution on the trip back from Knoxville (great time!) since I pawned off driving duty to the wife (most people think my Beetle's a chick car anyway...). I browsed some nonsense over my recently replaced phone and decided to see how difficult it would be to purchase using the small form factor. It's difficult. Damn difficult. Web pages are bloated; images don't have the alt property set; field values aren't retained. But whatreyagonnado?

Continue reading "Music ordered and to be ordered"
posted by sstrader at 12:51 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 15, 2005

Rock's tonal systems categorized

The current issue of Music Theory Online has an article by Walter Everett titled "Making Sense of Rock's Tonal Systems". Here are a few notes and thoughts on the content.

[ via Scott Spiegelberg -> Music Theory Online ]

Continue reading "Rock's tonal systems categorized"
posted by sstrader at 9:27 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 10, 2005

Operas today

The Brit bloggers are all a-buzz over the buzz over the recent broadcast of Jerry Springer: the Opera [Wikipedia] on the BBC. You can get a dose of the religious uproar in this Manchester News article. [A]bout 45,000 protesters contacted the BBC before the show was screened. And as if to create some meta-reference on decency vis-a-vis the media, to the right of the Manchester News article was a titillating ad for figleaves.com's Winter sale. Thongs only 7.

Continue reading "Operas today"
posted by sstrader at 12:05 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 7, 2005

A Kleptone Web

Waxy has a great list of the music sampled for each track of A Night at the Hip Hopera along with a list of mirrors. I'm not in there, thank god, but if anyone really needs the files they're on my site here.

Continue reading "A Kleptone Web"
posted by sstrader at 8:57 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Tape heads

Here's a timely t-shirt design from Downhill Battle: Home Taping is Killing the Music Industry. Supposedly, this half-brained slogan was the creation of the record industry in the 80s. In my recent teary-eyed memories of my music tapes from high school, I complained that taping wasn't as reviled in the 80s as ripping is today.

I stand corrected.

[ via BoingBoing -> Downhill Battle ]

Continue reading "Tape heads"
posted by sstrader at 6:36 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 5, 2005

A fond memory of music

I was 14 or 15 when the Genesis album Duke [Amazon] came out. I had heard of them but had no idea what the range of their music was like (except for "Misunderstanding" which was popular at the time). The album cover was odd and evocative, and a few of the song titles hinted at contiguity ("Dutchess," "Duke's Travels"). Every Friday evening at 12 o'clock, the local rock station would play The Sixpack: six complete albums played with no interruption from 12 to 6. Where was the RIAA then?!? Anyway, at the beginning of the show, the DJ would list the albums in order so that you (me) could have your fingers ready on the record-play keys on the tape recorder. Sweet.

Continue reading "A fond memory of music"
posted by sstrader at 3:43 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

January 4, 2005

Premiere: The Silent Spectrum

This is tentative pending the wife's consent (and if Carlos the piano tuner doesn't bump my appt.), but anyone who's interested is invited to come over to our condo and listen to my new rock opera, The Silent Spectrum, on Thursday January 27th at 8 PM. It should last until around 9:15. Drinks and appetizers will be available.

This is partially a vanity project--I've been working on this for over a year and a half and would like to prove to my friends I've actually been working on something--and partially a milestone before recording. I did a "home premiere" for the first one and I don't think it was too painful for people. Again, there'll be drinks.

As further bribery, attendees get a cool program to follow along and a free copy of the CD whenever it happens.

This is very casual and more of a public run-through than a hoity-toity performance. No one's ever said I had a riveting stage presence, but the music is cool and the story is engaging. I'll post changes or updates if they occur and will tell any non-Internet-addicted friends off-line (there's an off-line?!?).

Continue reading "Premiere: The Silent Spectrum"
posted by sstrader at 12:43 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 27, 2004

Support for recording shows added to RadioWave

In between X-mas stuff, I've been adding support for scheduling recordings and adjusting time zones. The results aren't perfect, but it's very close to providing a functional tool.

Continue reading "Support for recording shows added to RadioWave"
posted by sstrader at 9:34 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 20, 2004

Basic search added to RadioWave

I've added a Basic Search tab that allows keyword searches throughout the listings. Schedule listings are available for one week in the future and are kept for one week in the past. Search parameters are passed as URL parameters, so searches can be kept as links and be re-run at a later time.

Continue reading "Basic search added to RadioWave"
posted by sstrader at 1:42 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 19, 2004

AudioFeast

I was pointed to AudioFeast as a similar Web utility to what I'm trying to create with RadioWave. It has downloadable radio channels including music and specialty news channels. There are eight free "basic" channels and then additional ones that seem reasonably priced. Their What You'll Hear page lists the major categories and shows, with everything they offer listed in their Audio Library.

I suspect that most of the content is simply redistributed from the source either by contract or by some sort of fair use. For example, NPR offers access to archives of many shows such as Fresh Air or The Motley Fool. AudioFeast simply rips them and provides them as downloads instead of streams. Much of the streaming content out their is open for anyone to grab.

Continue reading "AudioFeast"
posted by sstrader at 11:09 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Currently Listening To

My Life in the Bush of Ghosts should be required listening for anyone interested in pop electronic music. Released in 1981, this work was both a product of its time and a milestone. Byrne and Eno drew from existing pop and experimental styles and fltered them into a definitive expression of those styles. Their daring may seem at points quaint now, but I always find something that still surprises. Greater minds than mine have dissected this many times prior, so I'll just point out the line from the seminal opening track "America Is Waiting." The track samples what sounds like a venting talk radio host, punctuated against the jerky, clumsy 5/4 rhythm: America is waiting for a message of some sort or another. Out of context, the emptiness of that phrase is brought to the surface. A medium dispersing "messages" can only recycle the presence of need but itself can offer no content.

I got into a knock-down-drag-out last night during a family dinner over George Winston of all things. Invariably, Philip Glass came up as the perfect counter-example to the spare-but-cliched music of Winston. The Hours is a pleasant collection of short pieces from the film. There is also a solo piano release available. I don't have either and am listening to them on Rhapsody, so this CD's not on Radio from the Ether. I purchased the Symphony No. 3 CD from a birthday gift card but hadn't taken the chance to give it a good listen.

My friend's label, OttoTone Records, released its first sampler last week. The Web site is a little in flux (I swear I'm working on it...), but there's an abundance of tunes on the sampler from the best of what west Georgia has to offer. Check. It. Out. Why don't you?

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 12:06 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 17, 2004

RadioWave in Firefox

Someone commented on a JavaScript bug with RadioWave in Firefox (why not FireFox?). I have a release version of Firefox and everything looks OK. The only JavaScript in RadioWave exists with the selection of stations in RadioWave > By Station > Schedule in the drop down. That seems to be working OK.

Continue reading "RadioWave in Firefox"
posted by sstrader at 7:23 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 15, 2004

RadioWave updated with database support

I've updated RadioWave with a few more stations and now have them cached in a database. Loads should be much quicker (~5 seconds instead of ~30 seconds) and it's the first step in adding a search page.

Continue reading "RadioWave updated with database support"
posted by sstrader at 8:55 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Context

I've been previewing the next rock opera to the wife. I have eight of the songs somewhat playable and memorized. The piano playing is still a little shakey and the vocals are even more shakey because I sitll have to focus on the piano (and, well, it's my voice). Otherwise I'm ecstatic to be this close--the end of the year is the goal to get the last four songs (~22 minutes) playable and memorized. Go team.

She commented yesterday something along the lines that she's not sure how to listen to a rock opera--how to listen to a collection of songs that tells a story--because she's used to listening to just "pop" songs. I told her to think of it as a "musical" instead (ew). I would blame the confusion on sub-par playing and mumbled singing, but I had the same comment from a couple of other people--friends--on The Journalist. Strangers have ripped me a new a-hole for poor quality in this or that regard, but friends have understood the labor-of-love aspect so I'll discount any unlistenability as the source of the confusion.

One friend, after listening to The Journalist, said they didn't know how to judge it because they didn't know what a rock opera was. It may just be context. Listening to a song on the radio or from a CD or in a bar is just somehow different than having someone you know belt it out. And then there's the old joke of dihydrogen monoxide: labels can be as confusing as they are helpful.

Continue reading "Context"
posted by sstrader at 5:16 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 12, 2004

Music Gutenburg

Wow. Mutopia offers free sheet music for anything in the public domain (70 years after the composer's death and 70 years after the editors' and arrangers' deaths). Scores are available in Postscript, PDF, and Lilypond formats.

Mutopia currently contains 468 scores.

[ via The Rambler -> Mutopia ]

posted by sstrader at 4:57 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 9, 2004

RadioWave

A first, basic version of my Radio TiVo utility is now available here. The site is called RadioWave and contains browseable listings of six different radio stations:

  • NPR - Internet news stream
  • WABE 90.1 FM Atlanta classical
  • WCLK 91.9 FM Atlanta jazz
  • WCPE 89.7 FM Wake Forest classical
  • WRAS 88.5 FM Georgia State (no stream, possibly outdated Web schedule)
  • WREK 91.1 FM Georgia Tech

RadioWave screen-scrapes the Web sites and presents the program schedules hourly or daily by station. You can browse future days, but detailed listings are generally only available the day of the broadcast. The "Now" tab returns to the current time and day. Clicking the musical notes starts the stream; clicking the call letters navigates to the that station's tab. On the station tab, you can also navigate to the station's Web site and schedule page.

Besides adding more stations, I plan on making the following changes (feel free to post any suggestions or complaints):

Continue reading "RadioWave"
posted by sstrader at 6:44 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

December 5, 2004

Lyrics: "Question" by The Kleptones

[ 22 Jan 2007 ]

I've just moved this to Wikipedia. It may-or-may-not be appropriate there, so it may-or-may-not last. We'll see. Thanks for all of the assistance.

"Question" is the last song on The Kleptones CD A Night at the Hip Hopera. I'll try to label the source of the lyric samples as best as I can. I'm not sure what Queen clips are used for the music.

Continue reading "Lyrics: "Question" by The Kleptones"
posted by sstrader at 1:43 PM in Music | permalink | comments (17)

November 29, 2004

Categorized music examples

Here's a listing of music examples categorized by chord progression. There are around 300 examples in SWF (with performance recordings), PDF, and MOV form covering the following categories:

  • Scales (27 examples)
  • Parallel Voice Leading (23 examples)
  • I, V, V7 (39 examples)
  • I6, V6, vii06 (21 examples)
  • Inversions of V7(32 examples)
  • IV, II and II6 (32 examples)
  • Cadential Six-Four Chord V6/4(34 examples)
  • VI and IV6 (33 examples)
  • II7 and IV7 and their inversions (41 examples)
  • Moving Toward V (major only) (30 examples)
  • III and VII (32 examples)
  • Modal Mixture (44 examples)
  • Neapolitan Sixth Chords (23 examples)

[ via Scott Spiegelberg -> Music Theory Supplemental Examples ]

Continue reading "Categorized music examples"
posted by sstrader at 10:20 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 23, 2004

Currently Listening To

I discovered Amy Beach's [Wikipedia] music at the public library back when I was in high school. New World Records published her Violin Sonata under the name Mrs. H. H. A. Beach--in the halcyon days of pre-feminism and pre-suffrage, women went by their husbands' names with the quaint 'Mrs' attached. Anyway, post-feminists re-branded her works and she's now herself again. She was part of the New England School of composers. I'm generally not a fan of early American music or art, but at around this period our composers start getting interesting. And I'm a sucker for this Romanticism.

The Kabao CD was handed out during his recent show at Django. A cool time was had by all, and now you can relive a few songs of that cool time.

Red is classic King Crimson from 1974 (30 years ago?!?). I can do without the free improv on "Providence," but the rest of the songs are models of creative rock composition. The mix of alto sax (?)--carried over from their earlier days too influenced by soft jazz--and noisynoisy guitar and drums is perfect. Some notable musical features: check out the diminished scale [Wikipedia] used in "Red" and the single-note solo played over a 13/8 meter in "Starless." Two sites provide analysis: King Crimson: Red - An Analysis by Andrew Keeling and Chapter Six: King Crimson III and Brian Eno from the online book Robert Fripp by Eric Tamm (who mistakes the opening scale in "Red" for the whole tone scale [Wikipedia], probably because of the tritone in the harmony). Correction: Mr. Tamm has below corrected my sloppy misreading of his analysis. In his book, he points out the whole-tone-scale root relationships. Subtle and different than my misrepresentation. Apologies.

I've been enjoying my recent acquisition of Kleptones music. They combine Queen and The Flaming Lips with various rappers by replacing the former's vocals with the latter's. It's called mash up [Wikipedia] for all you groovies out there. With these recordings, the pallid harmonies and limited song structure of rap is replaced with music that excels at both. The Yoshimi tracks contain the exact songs with the vocals replaced. The Queen tracks are more scattered and fragmented--The Kleptones create a new structure using Queen's harmonies.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 10:30 AM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (2)

November 21, 2004

Analysis: Chopin Prelude Op. 28, No. 2

Scott Spiegelberg recently published an analysis of the Chopin Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 and suggested that number 2 was ripe for analysis also. It got my curiosity up, so there goes a few hours of my time ...

Continue reading "Analysis: Chopin Prelude Op. 28, No. 2"
posted by sstrader at 1:01 PM in Music | tagged chopin | permalink | comments (11)

November 17, 2004

New acquisitions

A resource for some music from The Pixies, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, etc.

Continue reading "New acquisitions"
posted by sstrader at 10:46 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 15, 2004

Viewing music transcription files

The geniuses over at Allegro software try to make it as hard as possible for users to get their free viewer (Finale NotePad) by forcing them to register. As I had said many times before, Finale could simplify our lives and promote their software by taking the path that Adobe did to propagate their PDF format. They made the PDF viewer simple for users to download!

Let me explain what I had to do to get NotePad:

  1. I went to the login page
  2. I logged in as my email address with the password "password"
  3. They provided the serial number WNNR-31557245
  4. I downloaded the viewer and installed it
  5. I am pestered to "Locate Dealer" or view "Trade-up Offers" everytime I run it

Granted, it didn't take a PhD, but registration is completely unnecessary. Their format could become the accepted standard for distributing sheet music. Instead they discourage casual users by asking for their email address. Again, not horrible, but little inconveniences like registration only hold back wider adoption.

Continue reading "Viewing music transcription files"
posted by sstrader at 4:11 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Minor music

In an article from The New York Times titled The Critical Masses, author Anne Midgette attempts to understand the future of classical music and comes up with this:

If this discussion underlined anything, it was that classical music is a niche market — rather, a blanket term for an agglomeration of niche markets. There are organ aficionados who hate opera, contemporary-music fans with little use for Elizabethan lute songs. Perhaps because critics are expected to address all of these niches with equal expertise and authority, we forget, when we worry about the future of our field, that each niche is doing pretty well.

The biggest crisis in classical music today is taking place in its major (possibly outdated) institutions: the symphony orchestras trying to sell thousands of tickets, the record labels looking for blockbuster recordings.

I agree. Naxos is doing fine selling its 20th/21st century symphonic catalog to the small group that listens even though they can't fill stadiums and sell t-shirts to go along with it. The market's not equal to the GDP of a small country, but it exists and will continue to exist for a while.

posted by sstrader at 11:29 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 14, 2004

Transcription: "Down and Out" by Genesis

[ Updated 15 November 2004 ]

I took interest in this song when I noticed the chromatic mediant relationship with the key of B moving to D (early on in the instrumental opening). I also liked the D min to D maj relationship (introduced in the second verse)--in my songs I'll periodically switch from the major chord to the minor, and so I'm shocked when it's done in reverse. Anyway, the transcription is average but adequate.

Notably I had recently read that Tony Banks disliked this song on the album (And Then There Were Three [Wikipedia]). It's weird to like a song that is disliked by (one of) it's composer(s). This album was always low, probably the lowest, on my list of Genesis albums. Why?

Why?

Continue reading "Transcription: "Down and Out" by Genesis"
posted by sstrader at 12:13 AM in Music | permalink | comments (10)

November 10, 2004

Music meeting tonight

Kevin (of OttoTone Records fame) Robert (of Kabao fame) and I (...), are going to a 730 Atlanta meeting over at Smith's Old Bar tonight at 7:30. Kevin says it's a very informal musical meeting-of-minds with musicians and industry people around Atlanta.

Should be fun.

Continue reading "Music meeting tonight"
posted by sstrader at 1:33 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 7, 2004

Music and the Brain

An article from Scientific American titled Music and the Brain. Nothing too enlightening, but it's got some hard data on what is generally taught in class. I'm in a constant battle with relativists who believe that there is no such thing as good and bad music. Studies such as those reported in the Scientific American article may help to support the universals that I argue for.

Continue reading "Music and the Brain"
posted by sstrader at 12:32 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

November 1, 2004

Currently Listening To

After previously listening to the Glass arias, I got my mind on Glass operas specifically and operas in general. I had never learned enough about operas and am still quite inexperienced when it comes to the major stories. A sabbatical is a good a time as any to pick up new knowledge.

The only Glass opera I have is the experimental Einstein on the Beach [Wikipedia]. I purchased my copy used (with a $39.97 sticker still on the box) not long after I graduated from college and not long after I recorded a special on it from PBS. It's at times difficult and would be categorized with his more experimental works. The PBS special had scenes of the opera being practiced along with many interviews of Glass and director Robert Wilson.

Chosing The Magic Flute [Wikipedia] as the other opera to listen to falls under the same category (limited choice in my library) and also under coincidence. It was given to me, IIRC, last Christmas by my mom-in-law, and after I finally decided to listen to it, I found out that she went to see it performed last week. This copy had burned a hole in my Wish List for a while because it was both inexpensive ($14) and a highly rated introduction to the opera. The Black Dog Opera Library publishes their operas in small hard-back books containing the libretto and history. That plus two CDs is a great deal.

A word of caution: Amazon is cataloging them under 'books' now, and some of the comments suggest that there is miscategorization with the complete opera and recordings with only excerpts. Very unfortunate, but just be cautious when you order.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 9:43 AM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (1)

October 30, 2004

More musical geek humor

This guy's outta control (You might be a theory geek if...). Yes on #29, but I'm actually embarrassed that I have to say no on #75.

posted by sstrader at 2:41 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 28, 2004

Musical geek humor

Yeah, there's Richard Strauss's hi-LAR-ious insturmentation in Till Eulespiegel (yawn), there's Peter Schickele's many watered-down Monty Python skits as P. D. Q. Bach (get it? the proliferation of initials when talking about Bach's sons is satirized as Pretty Damn Quick--tee hee!), and then there's the Animal House humor of Frank Zappa. Music is really wanting, and failing, in the comedy category.

So it's with caution that I pass on these Letters from camp from Musical Perceptions. They are various summer camp letters as if they were written by great composers ... great modern composers, so the humor is even more esoteric.

They made me laugh, though. Take two years of music history (or listen to these guys regularly) and you'll laugh too.

Continue reading "Musical geek humor"
posted by sstrader at 8:35 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 25, 2004

Currently Listening To

I added the Glass arias to the Radio from the Ether playlist. Ripping audio from a stream and converting it to MP3s is ... hypothetically, mind you ... is tedious. Even unemployed, I think my time is worth more than that.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 8:22 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 18, 2004

Kabao show

Robert Bao of Kabao fame will be performing at Django on 19 November with DJ Chris Coleman. Here's some of Kabao's music to sample.

Django's a cool, shotgun bar in Midtown. We had gone there only once before to drink with Robert as he was scoping out the joint and to enjoy a 4-piece jazz ensemble (sax, keyboards, bass, and drums). Looks to be a good venue for both music and food--and they had a fortune teller out front!

Continue reading "Kabao show"
posted by sstrader at 5:56 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 15, 2004

Audio Culture

Reading the editorial reviews of Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music [Amazon]. The Rambler tossed off the recommendation without comment, but I think he's got something there. From Amazon:

Via writings by philosophers, cultural theorists, and composers, Audio Culture explores the interconnections among such forms as minimalism, indeterminacy, musique concrte, free improvisation, experimental music, avant-rock, dub reggae, Ambient music, HipHop, and Techno.
Audio Culture includes writing by some of the most important musical thinkers of the past half-century, among them John Cage, Brian Eno, Glenn Gould, Umberto Eco, Ornette Coleman, Jacques Attali, Simon Reynolds, Pauline Oliveros, Paul D. Miller, David Toop, John Zorn, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and many others.

Hello, Wish List!

Continue reading "Audio Culture"
posted by sstrader at 3:55 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

October 11, 2004

Currently Listening To

With this entry, I've begun broadcasting the music listed and that I own over Radio from the Ether. Enjoy.

This recording of A Musical Offering [Wikipedia] is a perfect CD: superlative performers playing on period instruments performing one of Bach's most shining examples of counterpoint. Take a look at the very chromatic melody (a bitch to write tonal counterpoint for) in the short Wikipedia entry. This site displays the canons in Bach's cryptic notation and provides a short explanation of the riddles included. Such musical trickery could have turned out sterile sounding in any other hands.

Trespass is the second Genesis album, recorded in 1970. It's hopelessly quaint, but I'm a sucker for some of the arangements and continue to go back to it.

The Glass songs are arias from his three operas based on great visionaries: Einstein on the Beach (1976) [Wikipedia], Satyagraha (1980, Ghandi) [Wikipedia], and Akhnaten (1983) [Wikipedia].

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 11:24 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (1)

September 18, 2004

Green Day's rock opera

Green Day is coming out with a rock opera (punk opera) on the 21st called American Idiot. I'm not a fan of Green Day, and although some reviews praise the complexity and experimentation of the tracks ("Jesus of Suburbia" is a 9-minute, 5-part song), the title track is the only one currently available on Rhapsody and it is the same-old-pop-punk-stuff. I guess they get high marks for trying. I'll definitely have to listen when it comes out.

posted by sstrader at 4:56 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 10, 2004

Augmented 6th chords

In which we quickly revisit our old friends--the Italian, French, and German sixth chords--via the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 30, opus 109.

Continue reading "Augmented 6th chords"
posted by sstrader at 9:21 PM in Music | permalink | comments (2)

September 7, 2004

Currently Listening To

I was recently drawn back to the Beethoven sonatas while thinking about music form and content in my recent post. I once played the prestissimo movement from the Sonata #30 (in a definitively un-prestissimo manner), and we had heard it performed at Emory a couple of seasons back (by whom?). I really fell in love with the epic theme and variations in the final movement. I love solo and chamber concerts for their intimacy and for the connection you have to these musicians as they perform at the height of musical ability. It's exhausting just to listen to the climax of the final movement with its double-trills, fluid changes in key and meter, and expansive handling of style. Watching it performed 20 feet away was exhilarating.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 12:20 AM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 3, 2004

Eldorado

This song [Rhapsody] made me happy. It's "Eldorado" from ELO's album Eldorado. The song has a schmaltzy, stolen Motown kinda feel like Jeff Buckley would steal. ELO could really have their heart on their sleeve (it was the 70s after all), but they hold back just enough on this one. Much better than their excruciatingly awful rock-Haydn from the same album--but that same album's also got "Can't Get It Out Of My Head" and several other unknown tunes, so that makes up for it.

Here it comes, another lonely day, playing the game,
I'll sail away on a voyage of no return
To see if eternal life is meant to be
And if I find the key to the eternal dream.

Tangent: I thought their song "Telephone Line" and Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me" were well placed in the wonderful movie The Virgin Suicides from the Jeffrey Eugenides novel.

Continue reading "Eldorado"
posted by sstrader at 9:35 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

September 2, 2004

The content of form in music, part 1

The book German Essays on Music includes an essay by Eduard Hanslick from 1854 titled "'Content' and 'Form' in Music." In it, he argues that instrumental music has no meaning beyond the notes themselves.

Music consists of tonal sequences, tonal forms; these have no other content than themselves. They remind us once again of architecture and dancing, which likewise bring us beautiful relationships without content.
[People] think that composing is the translating of some kind of conceptual content into tones. But the tones themselves are the untranslatable, ultimate language. Indeed, from the very fact that the composer is forced to think in tones, it follows that music has no content ...

This goes against the more recent theories of formalism, which suggests that meaning is derived from the structural assemblage of the work, and (possibly) the older Aristotelian ideas of empiricism. Form, in the work as a whole and recursively in its constituent parts, provides basic characteristics of expression in both music and the visual arts.

Continue reading "The content of form in music, part 1"
posted by sstrader at 8:11 PM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

August 29, 2004

Rock music is dead

MTV Video Music Awards: Jet playing a polished version of "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" and I can't help but think:

  • The Woggles are the kings of retro-60s garage and they're wallowing in nobodydome, but at least they have the credibility of like 5,000 releases. Seriously.
  • The Who would have destroyed the stage and never been invited again.
Continue reading "Rock music is dead"
posted by sstrader at 8:41 PM in Music | tagged the who | permalink | comments (0)

August 28, 2004

Currently Listening To

One of the best concerts I ever went to was a movie. Philip Glass was touring with an ensemble performing his movie music in theaters while the movies were projected on the screen behind them. They came to Atlanta and performed at The Fox. We only got to see Koyaanisqatsi, but it was stunning. I had never watched it before but had heard much about it. The performance, often blazingly fast, was flawless.

I had originally listened to the Stravinsky piano music from inexpensive albums purchase through The Musical Heritage Society. They were white covers with no-frills, black & white printing and liner notes on the back (Naxos seems to have similar intentions). MHS always had some good obscure stuff that I could experiment with--I got a recording of the Messiaen piano preludes from them. This Stravinsky recording includes two works from his neo-classical period: the sonata and the concerto.

Continue reading "Currently Listening To"
posted by sstrader at 12:17 PM in Current Interests , Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 23, 2004

Bach studies

Here are two excellent composition study guides covering J. S. Bach's music.

Thanks to The Rambler for posting these.

Continue reading "Bach studies"
posted by sstrader at 6:34 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 22, 2004

Pocket PC MIDI editor

[ updated 23 August 2004 ]

For a mere PP $15 (PayPal dollars), I ordered MidNote from PDAMusician. MidNote is a MIDI editor that has a staff notation interface.

Continue reading "Pocket PC MIDI editor"
posted by sstrader at 7:31 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 21, 2004

Samuel Barber

He's much more than just "that music from Platoon" (although that is a stunning piece).

Continue reading "Samuel Barber"
posted by sstrader at 3:38 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Trying to talk myself down

Have you ever tried practicing piano with the television on? Or with someone watching? Doing your scales and arpeggios and velocity exercises, and then repeating a phrase over and over, screwing it up, then repeating more slowly and again. You try to focus and get in your head--or outside your head, whichever--so that it's just the music. You work through the longer, difficult sections in one pass, hoping that when you get to that last phrase you don't think too much about it and psych yourself out. It's a balance of thinking (about the music) and not thinking (about you playing the music). Or something like that. And then something breaks your concentration.

I don't know how people with children get anything done.

Continue reading "Trying to talk myself down"
posted by sstrader at 1:26 AM in Music | permalink

August 14, 2004

Rhythmic invention in compound meters

Here's a quick look at the Kansas song "The Spider" from Point of Know Return (1977), the 2nd movement of Philip Glass' Symphony No. 3 (1995), the 3rd movement of Walter Piston's first String Quartet (1933), and the 3rd movement of Sergei Prokofiev's seventh Piano Sonata (1939-1942).

Continue reading "Rhythmic invention in compound meters"
posted by sstrader at 11:53 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

August 12, 2004

Classical music order

More music!

46527HaydnString Quartets Opp. 33 & 74$5.98
46730HaydnString Quartets Opp. 55, 64 & 71$5.98
46831Georg Kulenkampff, Vol. 1Schumann & Brahms—Violin Concertos$5.98
46921BrahmsSymphonies Nos. 1-4$11.96

I'm continuing with my collection of the Pro Arte Quartet's recordings of Haydn. Also inexpensively trying to fill in some of the standards that I'm missing.

Continue reading "Classical music order"
posted by sstrader at 11:36 AM in Music | permalink | comments (4)

August 6, 2004

VW

Listened to Vaughan Williams' 2nd String Quartet (1942-43) today. Also relistened to The Lark Ascending. The quartet had a touch of Bartok via Sibelius: folk rhythms in the primitive vein; long, irregular, impassioned phrases. Oddly, his Wikipedia entry mentions that from 1924 a new phase in his music began, characterised by lively cross-rhythms and clashing harmonies. They suggest that the time of the 2nd quartet came after that period, and in a period where he entered a mature lyrical phase. So much for the relevance of online reference material.

Continue reading "VW"
posted by sstrader at 9:44 PM in Music | permalink | comments (1)

August 5, 2004

Notes: Seven (2004), Tony Banks

Cashed in a b-day gift card and got the new Sonic Youth, Philip Glass's 3rd Symphony (1995), and this CD of Tony Banks' recent orchestral work.

It's a suite of seven pieces for orchestra, orchestrated by Simon Hale and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Mike Dixon.

Continue reading "Notes: Seven (2004), Tony Banks"
posted by sstrader at 11:17 PM in Music | permalink | comments (5)

August 4, 2004

Notes: Nursery Cryme (1971), Genesis

I've been re-listening to a very old album from Genesis. Nursery Cryme was their third and came out 33 years ago.

Continue reading "Notes: Nursery Cryme (1971), Genesis"
posted by sstrader at 5:22 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 17, 2004

Penderecki

My parents recently Wish Listed me four Penderecki CDs from Naxos containing his Symphonies 1 through 5, Violin Concertos 1 & 2, and his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. The last being his, sort of, "Stairway to Heaven" in terms of popularity. I'm digging into the Violin Concertos now--great music, and his style became much more romantic than I expected. The liner notes aren't that fun though. They give a very short historical and stylistic description and then a long blow-by-blow of the pieces (each a single movement concerto). Those descriptions, especially in some modern music, are hard to follow when being followed in a continuous 40-minute piece. Some time-stamped signposts would be nice.

Anyway, I then found a Brit blogger who (despite an embarrassingly irritating use of the word "milady") has some good background on Penderecki and modern composition. He'll certainly be a source to find other opinions on modern music. Aaaand, he's a Messiaen ('rents also got me his Turangalila Symphony) and Sonic Youth fan.

But, geez, "milady"?!?

He also linked to the recent and recently interesting Shape of Song MIDI applet. It displays MIDI files graphically by linking their repeated sections. The result is layers of interconnected loops of different sizes depending on the length of the section that's repeated. Another possibly cool-but-what-do-I-do-with-it tool.

Continue reading "Penderecki"
posted by sstrader at 12:49 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

July 14, 2004

July 4, 2004

Transcription: "Ritual" (coda) by Yes

In a previous entry, I transcribed the 1st bridge of Yes's song "Ritual" from Tales from Topographic Oceans. This entry contains a transcription for the coda lasting from 19:50 to 21:33, the end of the piece. I was interested in this section because of its freeform melodic development and harmonic structure similar in style to the bridge.

The full MP3 is here and an excerpt with only the coda is here.

Continue reading "Transcription: "Ritual" (coda) by Yes"
posted by sstrader at 12:10 PM in Music | tagged yes | permalink | comments (3)

July 1, 2004

Rhapsodic lies

Now, I still love Rhapsody, don't get me wrong, but I've been noticing that the "Just Added: Albums" section on its client's home page lies like a dog. Apparently, to make it appear that new albums are constantly being added!! they just cycle through already-added albums.

That kinda irritates me.

Continue reading "Rhapsodic lies"
posted by sstrader at 1:39 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 30, 2004

Criticism criticism

Why are people defensive with regard to Art criticism? Analyses of books, movies, or songs are often scoffed at as pretentious, and the author of the analysis is dismissed as some opinion thug. Just mention that critics loved or hated a movie and you'll get the standard reply: "what do they know?" Music is particularly off-limits; listeners know-what-they-like and plant the flag of relativism in defense of it.

Is there any justification for Art criticism ('art' with a capital 'a' covering all of the arts)? Do any universal laws of aesthetics exist?

Continue reading "Criticism criticism"
posted by sstrader at 1:40 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 29, 2004

Radio Free Web

Here's an article from Wired that lists several of the best streaming radio sites available. Most are still free but are struggling to stay free because of The Evil Music Industry. I remember listening to Live365 a couple of years back and watching many of its user-broadcasted stations drop out as outrageous fees and restrictions began to be enforced. Groups under the title Save Internet Radio attempted to counter-lobby with some success. And there still are, of course, all of the foreign radio stations available. Cool.

And I was just reminiscing last night about when I started to listen to Internet radio as long ago as 1994. Broadcast.com (pre-yahoo) had a CD Jukebox with a bunch of random music. Some of it was obscure, but they eventually had a David Bowie CD and DJ Shadow's CD.

Continue reading "Radio Free Web"
posted by sstrader at 8:41 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 23, 2004

The language of music

A recent article in Nature talks about a paper written by an Argentinian physicist named Damian Zanette in which he relates musical compositions to written (or spoken) texts. His theory is that note frequency (the number of occurrences of each note) in music matches the word frequencies found in linguistic expression. Zanette found a relationship between the number of different notes and each note's number of occurrences. He based his research on a linguistic property called Zipf's law.

Continue reading "The language of music"
posted by sstrader at 5:51 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 19, 2004

June 12, 2004

DJ Spooky

DJ Spooky's CD Riddim Warfare is always difficult to listen to. Where DJ Qbert's Wave Twisters is humorous, dense, and wildly virtuosic, and DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... is stylish and generally groovy, Spooky's music is erratic. He has a lot to say, but his aesthetic efforts are too unfocused. He should be the Sonic Youth of the genre. Instead, his music veers too close to the "art school fuck you" that Kim Gordon strives to avoid.

Continue reading "DJ Spooky"
posted by sstrader at 5:22 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 10, 2004

Transcription: "Ritual" (1st bridge) by Yes

The song "Ritual" (15-meg mp3, or this excerpt) is the fourth in the four-song cycle by Yes called Tales from Topographic Oceans. Each song is aproximately 20-minutes long and many of the musical themes are shared throughout each.

"Ritual" opens with an instrumental introduction after which a short section for guitar transitions to the first verse. This is a transcription of that bridge which lasts from 4:01 to 5:24.

Continue reading "Transcription: "Ritual" (1st bridge) by Yes"
posted by sstrader at 12:47 AM in Music | tagged yes | permalink | comments (3)

June 9, 2004

20th Century symphony

Earlier tonight as I was out recyclin' and grocery shoppin', WABE replayed the ASO's April performance of Olivier Messiaen's Turangalla-symphonie (the one made famous in Futurama). I'm continually stunned by that work.

Continue reading "20th Century symphony"
posted by sstrader at 12:09 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 8, 2004

Kabao

Kabao (the band formerly known as Bao, aka Robert Bao) has a new two song CD out titled Half the way / Devil or another sucker (remixes) available at CDBaby and Tower Records. This was originally available at the infamous 1/23/2004 Vinyl show. Break out the Red Bull & vodka and kick back for two new down-tempo tracks previewed from his upcoming CD. If you can't get enough then check out his first CD Warm As Sweaters also on CDBaby and Tower.

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posted by sstrader at 11:15 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

June 4, 2004

May 30, 2004

Two Radiohead songs

I've been re-listening to Radiohead's CD Hail to the Thief. I want to do a piano arrangement of "Myxomatosis" and "Scatterbrain." They're tracks 12 and 13 on the recording, but they work well together paired in isolation.

"Myxomatosis" would be an interesting challenge with the polytonality of the dense keyboard chords introduced above the doubled bass line. "Scatterbrain" is musically less interesting, but it requires a transfer of the hi-hat rhythm into the music. Transferring the sometimes dominant role that the percussion plays in rock songs to the piano is always a good exercise.

Continue reading "Two Radiohead songs"
posted by sstrader at 6:41 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 28, 2004

Notes: Chapter 7 from Harmony, Walter Piston

The mental steps involved in the process of harmonization make it one of the most valuable exercises in the study of harmony. ... The attempt to solve the same problems as the composer will afford an insight into the nature and details of these problems and into the manner and variation of their solution.


True harmonization means a consideration of the alternatives in available chords, the reasoned selection of one of these alternatives, and the tasteful arrangement of the texture of the added parts with due regard for consistency of style.

Continue reading "Notes: Chapter 7 from Harmony, Walter Piston"
posted by sstrader at 4:13 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 25, 2004

Classical music order

I'm such a sucker for inexpensive classical CDs. Just got the new Daedalus catalog:

46283 Haydn String Quartets Op. 20 & 76 $5.98 46288 Haydn String Quartets Op. 1 & 54 $5.98 46294 Haydn String Quartets Op. 64, 74 & 77 $5.98 47200 Bartk Piano Transcriptions—Italian Keyboard Music of the 17th & 18th Centuries $6.98 47252 Arthur Foote Piano Quintet Op. 38; String Quartets Nos. 2 & 3 $6.98

Haydn quartets are models of classical chamber music and always worth picking up. The Bartok sounded interesting ... I'm completely unfamiliar with the works. They may be similar to Stravinsky's arrangement of Pergolesi's music for his ballet Pulcinella (the opening was our wedding party exit music).

I have only a violin sontata by Arthur Foote, so it will be interesting to hear more of his chamber works.

posted by sstrader at 11:46 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

New CD by Tony Banks

Groovy. Tony Banks, the keyboard player from Genesis, has a new CD of orchestral music called Seven: Suite for Orchestra.

Amazon gives us five, minute-long clips to help make a decision.

Continue reading "New CD by Tony Banks"
posted by sstrader at 12:07 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Analysis of Quadrophenia: Part I, Primary Themes

The Who's Quadrophenia (1973) was their sixth studio album and their second rock opera. Much has been written about the story (see Quadrophenia.net and thewho.net), but little of it covers the musical themes and structure contained in the songs, or how those themes are shared and modified across the songs. I intend this analysis to be a description of the music and a musical map of Quadrophenia as a whole.

Unless necessary, I will avoid aspects of Quadrophenia involving themes that are textual (repeated words or lingo such as "street," "scooter," or "face"), dramatic (isolation, youthful rebellion), or conceptual (symbolic use of water or physical transformations). Although the aesthetics of these are most effective when viewed in combination, it is beyond the scope of the current discussion.

This is a work in progress, and may be updated periodically as I research and write subsequent articles.

Continue reading "Analysis of Quadrophenia: Part I, Primary Themes"
posted by sstrader at 1:11 AM in Music | tagged the who | permalink | comments (4)

May 23, 2004

Musical focus

Pop music often has an irritating flaw w/r/t focus.

In some instances, the music focuses too much on one theme without developing it in any way. This is the general character of jam rock. The primary, and only, theme is stated over and over with no variation. The composers never give a second thought to investigating the theme for further creative expression. More importantly, the uninventive repetition loses the listeners' interest.

The opposite problem with focus is when a good theme is presented but then neither developed nor repeated. The idea is thrown into the song and then abandoned.

Are these issues bad writing, or is the very style of pop music flawed? A style limits expression by limiting what is generally acceptable. This is more likely just bad writing.

posted by sstrader at 4:17 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Notes: Chapter 11 from Harmony, Walter Piston

I've been re-reading chapters from Walter Piston's book Harmony, 3rd Edition.

Chapter 11 is titled "Harmonic Rhythm."

Continue reading "Notes: Chapter 11 from Harmony, Walter Piston"
posted by sstrader at 1:19 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

Weekend music experience

Music at the Earl again. This time, it was planned.

Telegram was up first with some slightly Jeff Buckley-esque songs. The singer mixed it up with some short, noise-heavy solos that really worked with the music.

Elevado was the integral part of the plan (friends of friends), but damned if I can remember exactly what went on. No offense to them, it's just that I think we were socializing too much. And the upright bass player for Telegram almost spilled a drink on me. Golly!

The headliner was Hope for a Golden Summer, and although they looked to be some fun we first got pelted with an extended acoustic set from an unnamed refugee from Eddie's Attic. She. Went. On. For. Ever. Around half the crowd was driven away, including us, so we abandoned friends and music to go do the Atkins Park thing.

posted by sstrader at 6:52 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 20, 2004

Misconceptions

Overheard misconception about keyboard players:

Musicians who can play two keyboards at once are extremely skilled.

Continue reading "Misconceptions"
posted by sstrader at 1:11 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Permanence

I always admired Ernest Bloch for a statement he made on his composition process:

I always write in ink.

I don't particularly like his music, but the skill required to compose in that manner is both impressive and terrifying to me. I'll always consider myself a hack or hobbyist as long as I am unable to compose completely away from an instrument.

Continue reading "Permanence"
posted by sstrader at 11:57 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 15, 2004

Schumann Symphonies

I've been re-listening to Robert Schumann's symphonies recently on Rhapsody.

I have the MP3s ripped from a ShoutCast feed, but for convenience I've begun using Rhapsody as my primary music source. I can use it at work (IT doesn't keep track of bandwidth comsumption) and at home and it keeps track of "my library."

As a further digression, I recently discovered Schumann's violin sonatas on Rhapsody. Very nice pieces.

Continue reading "Schumann Symphonies"
posted by sstrader at 11:43 AM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 13, 2004

Glass. Works.

Minimalism in music arose in response to the sometimes astringent academic serialism of the 1950s and 1960s. (This is an oversimplification, even if admitted to by some of its practitioners, but let's go with it for now--shorthand definitions can often help us absorb initially foreign concepts.) If we look more closely at minimalism, we can see that the rebellion against "difficult" music has only shifted complexity from one dimension (melody and harmony) to another (metric).

Continue reading "Glass. Works."
posted by sstrader at 10:10 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 11, 2004

Musical thesaurus

musicplasma just got posted on BoingBoing a few days ago. It's one of those fascinating-but-what-to-do-with-it-after-five-minutes technologies.

Continue reading "Musical thesaurus"
posted by sstrader at 2:08 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)

May 10, 2004

Weekend music experience

Friday nite we ended up at The Earl in East Atlanta to see whatever-bands-were-playing. That turned out to be:

  • Good Friday Experiment - Groovy, noisy, hippie-rock ... maybe too many "jams," but overall enjoyable for the venue. Ironically, their last song they cut short just as they were warming up to a very strong dramatic story.
  • Trances Arc - Pure 99x (take that whichever way you'd like), very solid, but they never gave us anything surprising at all.
  • The Corsairs - Inventive, edgy power-pop. What! No Web page? Well, I know I've heard their name for a while, so maybe they live by word-of-mouth. Probably the most interesting band of the evening.

    Only 5-bucks from each of us (that's only $1.66 per person per band) and an evening of fun ensued.

    posted by sstrader at 1:28 PM in Music | permalink | comments (0)