November 26, 2012

Where was I?

Long overdue.

September

Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! at The Fox on Thu 20 Sep. Panelists were Roy Blount, Jr., Faith Salie, and Mo Rocca and the sharp CDC Director Thomas Frieden. After was dinner at the new Proof and Provision in The Georgian Terrace building (along with everyone else from the show). The following two days were the second annual return of Music Midtown. Our Saturday brunch till 1 turned extended into much later, but we made it in time to see Garbage. Other highlights were Foo Fighters on Friday (covered Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh?" from The Wall), Adam Ant and his band's crazy get-ups, and Girl Talk. By then, we were too tired to stay for Pearl Jam, so we ended up at Gilbert's for drinks+food. Sunday was Lisa's b-day dinner at Il Localino.

The weekend starting Thu 27 Sep was in Chicago to continue our year of music with the Peter Gabriel So concert. Too much mayhem to relate, starting with this:

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Curse you, gay bar above that Armenian restaurant! We made it to the concert afterwards, but it wasn't our most shining moment. The next day, Friday, was the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA!). Highly recommended and digestible in a single visit. It will be included in any return visits. Evening was science silliness with Radiolab's In the Dark show at a beautiful old theater. Saturday was a jog along the river where I did a 53-minute 10k--personal best! Later, walking along the Navy Pier (right next to our hotel) before seeing the National Theatre of Scotland performing "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This was an impulse event that caught both of our attentions and we struck gold: half of it read like lit crit cool and the other like a Three Stooges short. Five performers swapping roles and instruments as they tell a tale that both is a Scottish ballad and is about Scottish ballads. Hoping it comes on tour. Dinner at the amazing MK Restaurant. You are not as cool as us. Hell, we're not as cool as us.

[ updated 4 Jan 2014 ]

Found coasters from the Prudencia play. Quotes are from Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head" and the Scottish ballad "The Twa Corbies". The choice of these two says much about the play.

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October

October involved Lisa travelling for LSU games, so I went out a lot for soft-serve ice cream from Checkers down the street and took pics of my feet on Marta:

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More social events included Silversun Pickups at The Tabernacle w/ Lisa&Mason and the L5P Halloween Parade with Tedra&Bill. My first Halloween parade; there was so much craziness and fun that it must become a habit.

November

November has continued our Year of Music with the long-awaited Quadrophenia at Gwinnett Civic Center. The show and spectacle were outstanding, and we had the bonus prize of running into two of my coworkers. How random. Julia visited for a weekend and we nearly got kicked out of The Vortex (not really (well, maybe a little)). And the Monday after we late-in-the-day bought impulse tickets to Asia performing their first album at Variety Playhouse. We were wiped out but the battle of regret vs. exhaustion found us with the rest of the old folks once again in L5P. A week before, I swore that Quadrophenia was the last classic rock concert of the year and that the only thing that would change my mind would be if Genesis reunited and restaged their Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour. Cut to the Variety Playhouse lobby with posters advertising the Genesis cover band The Musical Box's upcoming performance of LLDoB the 12th of next month, sanctioned by Genesis and Peter Gabriel. Tickets purchased. You win, fate. Post-concert was the L5P Vortex where we chatted with the bartender who caught me trying to leave the Midtown location with a beer in my jacket two evenings prior. Yes, I am 14 years old.

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posted by sstrader at 9:13 PM in Concerts , Where was I? | permalink | comments (0)

May 20, 2012

Einstein on the Thames

London last weekend for the Barbican Center's production of Einstein on the Beach. Planned a couple of months prior.

Fri 11 May

Before we get on our flight, we realize that the tickets are to Gatwick instead of Heathrow. Derp. The change was pretty harmless, and we just had to pay a little extra for an express train in. Slept maybe 30 minutes on the flight. In London proper, we passed by Battersea Power Station. Because it's used on the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals, this was actually a scheduled destination for Sunday. Instead, I snapped a pic from the Monday morning train ride on our return to Gatwick.

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Check in at The Metropolitan across from Hyde Park. Quite posh. We scored an amazing deal at Hotwire (but made up for the savings by closing every evening at the hotel bar). Late breakfast at The Breakfast Club; an excellent bohemian restaurant that gave me beans with my breakfast. Beans?! Our first hint of foreignness in a city that felt at first like New York. After was our shopping trip around Carnaby Street which has a bunch of hipster/Mod clothing shops. Lisa spotted a shop called The Face (Mod slang for the coolest of the cool kids) down a side street. Jacket purchased there with matching shirt from a Ben Sherman down the street. Hour 26 of our first day and my EotB outfit was achieved!

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Just watched The Who's Quadrophenia on YouTube to relive all that was the Mods. Brilliant!

Prepping for our trip, Verizon told me that my new phone (HTC Rezound) wouldn't work in the UK, so I got a temporary HTC Incredible 2 for Internet and photos. Sadly, it had no SD card to store said photos, so I had to grab one at the local Vodaphone shop. Vodaphone?!? More foreignness! Vodaphone guys get the honor of IMAG0001:

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Next stop: London Eye, delicious street vendor ice cream, general walking and gawking, plus our first pub of the trip: The Camel and Artichoke. A perfect little neighborhood spot that quickly filled up with end-of-the-work-week locals and presented us with our first pub questions: How do we tip the bartender? What are all these beers I've never heard of? And why do they all taste flat? More foreign madness.

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Top of the world! Battersea is visible right above the British flag.

All of this walking wiped us out, so a 60-minute power nap brought me up to 90 minutes of sleep by hour 30 of our first day. Dinner was French cuisine at a two-star Michelin restaurant The Square; a short walk from our hotel and still in the Mayfair district proper. The three-course meal was insinuated with what seemed like dozens of amuse-bouches. The portions were appropriately small and the flavor was subtle and varied. We have never done wrong with French restaurants and this was the pinnacle. Walk back to the hotel with closing drinks at the bar where the more acrobatic bartender spun a bottle upside down in the palm of his hand. In bed at hour 36 of our first day, right well exhausted.

Sat 12 May

This is the day. Everything revolves around Einstein on the Beach.

First, a trip out of Mayfair and up Audley Street towards the Sherlock Holmes Museum, prompted by my interest that started seven (!) years ago. Breakfast of pastry and coffee at The Richoux on the way. The museum was three floors of miscellany and wax figures of major characters.

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Left: Trying but not buying. Right: Sherlock's violin!

Nearby was our second pub of the trip: The Volunteer. Glasses were replaced with plastic in anticipation of a contentious football match later in the day. After drinks, a quick walk to The Beatles Museum a few doors down then the underground to a walk through Green Park and Buckingham Palace.

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Change of the guards, change of key.

Taxi to Barbican via Fleet Street for pre-concert late lunch early dinner at Vinoteca. I had mussels and Lisa had their special of the day: hot dogs. Walk to Barbican, pick up tickets at will call, find our seats.

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EotB opens with the female "leads" simultaneously reciting a different block of text, sometimes intersecting with homophones or bouncing with accidental call and response, overtop a choir singing numerals to the meter. Prior to the official start, they sat on stage intoning their parts without choir. My heart was racing for the moment and when the choir started, starting the opera, my throat constricted with the feeling that I could hardly believe where I was. 5:30 PM to 9:50 PM. At around three hours in, I finally looked at my watch and decided that an intermission wasn't necessary. There were too many moments that were genuinely unique and varied to express without the mundane "you had to be there." Music, dance, and theater. I have little sense of the meaning of the opera, but the beauty and humor and structural brilliance were enough. I may go again this fall in Brooklyn; I recommend you do too.

After was our third pub of the trip: Two Brewers just up the street from Barbican. We chatted with the owner, his wife, and the bartender after the owner playfully mocked my mod, mod Carnaby jacket. They were, perhaps, the friendliest people we met during our entire London trip, and we'll definitely go out of our way to return during our next London trip. Underground back to the, now very packed, hotel bar and final drinks. The bar was filled with young Euro-punks, flashy dressers, and families (?!?). Female DJ was awesome.

Sun 13 May

Long days and walking everywhere catching up with us. An early start was not achieved. We eventually get to the Tate Modern for the Damien Hirst exhibition.

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The Tate Modern is obviously a product of the same architect that did Battersea. Good omen. Inside was enormous. The Hirst show contained a stunning collection of every style that he's worked in, beginning with a reproduction of his first gallery show (although, that was the weakest piece). Photography was not allowed because--I'll safely assume--Hirst is a manic businessman when it comes to marketing his art. The most stunning pieces were The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (i.e. the shark piece), A Thousand Years, and Black Sun. A Thousand Years consists of two glass boxes. One contains a smaller white box in which flies hatch from maggots. The other contains a decomposing cow's head which the flies fed on. Above it, a bug zapper. Oddly, the the boxes appeared to be sealed directly against the wood floor of the museum so that the head bled and rotted on the same floor the visitors walked across. We were safely separated from the cycle, yet a shared surface transported us into the piece. The tactile aspect was more moving than expected. Black Sun is a 12-foot circle six-or-so inches deep, jarringly black with an undulating texture. It is made from layers of dead flies. The concept is disgusting, but the result is beautiful (much more so than its images suggest). For the Love of God was impressive but, much like the Mona Lisa, difficult to separate image from icon. The most humorous pieces were his hundreds of "facsimile pills" which were replications of actual pills, to scale.

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After was a walk next door to tour the Globe Theatre. No chance for a guided tour, but we walked through the museum and discovered that an American actor championed the effort to rebuild the theater. After walking the Tate and the Globe, we were ready for our first meal of the day at around 4 PM. We ended up at our fourth pub of the trip: The Ring in Southwark (pronounced SUTH-erk, you tosser). Nothing remarkable, but I had the cottage pie and now have ambitions to make it at home. At one point, the music playing was Carol King's "I Feel the Earth Move"; lyrics used prominently in EotB.

There was some further wandering around the city, resting at the hotel and packing, then a long walk through Middle Eastern neighborhoods to dinner at our fifth and final pub: The Windsor Castle in Marleybone. Thai food! Hotel bar, early morning express train, and arrival home at 6 PM Monday night. Plans to return next year during The Proms.

posted by sstrader at 9:21 PM in Concerts , Where was I? | 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 | 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 | permalink | comments (0)

April 19, 2005

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 | 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 | permalink | comments (0)

June 4, 2004

May 25, 2004

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 | permalink | comments (4)

May 23, 2004