Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Interesting list there Brian. I had hoped to play the Vijay Iyer disc at the last CD club but it really doesn't work as a record from which to play a few snippets. Works better as a whole listening experience. If anyone is interested he's in town (not with the trio from this CD) on Saturday August 9th playing for free.

I've had the Duke Ellington for a few years and it is a really great disc with the possible exception of the opening track "Chinoiserie" which I find overdone and rather annoying.

Looking forward to downloading the Bags and Wes and the Woody Shaw discs. The only Woody Shaw I own is a fairly recent compilation. I'm sure there are original discs I should be picking up but they seem to be very scarce anytime I check the jazz section at the local stores. Not even sure he has his own slot these days as the jazz and classical sections continue to be trimmed down to the lowest common denominator. More Mozart or Diana Krall anyone?
Hey boys, used most of my monthly emusic download on jazz this month, so thought I'd pass some of it on if you're looking for inspiration:

(1) Vijay Iyer - Tragicomic; new release, piano player working in a quartet / quintet setting, composition based, lots of variety, though generally mood-based. Really high quality.
(2) Anne Mette Iversen - Best of the West + Many Places ; Interesting combination of two recordings; one incorporates a string quartet in a third-streamish way (Iversen is Danish, a bassist), and the second is lively and creative writing/performances in a traditional quartet setting
(3) The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse - Duke Ellington ; Fantastic late-period Ellington (1971) with lots of modern elements mixed into his big band arrangements, with an overriding exotic theme of Africa Eurasia. I'm really loving this.
(4) Flora Purim - Butterfly Dreams ; some really nice early-seventies Brazilian jazz from one of the better performers in the genre. Lots of South American stylings mixed with "real" jazz arrangements and playing.
(5) Sun Ra - Lanquidity ; really cool groove-based late-seventies record from Sun Ra. For those of you who like their music a little less conventional, Sun Ra never disappoints...this one is fairly easy listening bu his standards, with lots of fat grooves, and soulful bigger band arrangements.
(6) Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery - Bags Meets Wes; great session between vibes and guitar heroes from the early 60's. Not sure how I missed this when I was collecting everything from that period a few years ago.
(7) Woody Shaw - Blackstone Legacy ; The first session as a leader for the trumpet legend from 1970, also the only bona fide WS record on emusic, but a great one (Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, other greats). If you don't know him, check it out.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I played:

Headlights - Some Racing, Some Stopping
Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
The Come Ons - Hip Check
The Raveonettes - Lust, Lust, Lust
Pete and the Pirates - Little Death
The French Kicks - Swimming

But it all sounded like Lily Allen to me.

And by me, I mean Stuart.
my picks were;
Messiaen -Quartet for the end of time
Heartworn nighways..(early steve earle etc...
Wintersleep -Welcome to the night sky
Fleet foxes
William parker Dancing on the moon
Plants & Animals

Monday, July 21, 2008

I also read both articles.    And y'all have hit on a number of the thoughts I had as I read 'em.

While I think Queenan is being admirably honest in his criticism - it takes balls to stand up and say "I think this stuff is shite" - his article does little to convince me that he knows very much about the music, other than that he apparently owns a lot of it.    But enough about his point of view.  For me, mid/late twentieth century music (and in fact Queenan included Webern and Berg among other early practitioners of atonalism in his wide-sweeping damnation) has every bit as much a place in the spectrum of classical music as the periods prior to it.  Much of it that I own I enjoy, as much for the musical challenge it presents, and the world it so appropriately reflects.   Certain pieces completely elude me....but more often than not I find myself fascinated by their elusiveness, not disgusted.    

The comparison to jazz is made in the article, and I think at its most cerebral, jazz does cross over into similar intellectual territory as "modern classical".  However I do agree with Derek that even the most challenging jazz tends to inhabit a more emotional, and therefore more accessible, space than modern compositional music.     

So onto other things.

Marc hosted a great CD Club last weekend.  I won't go on about the extraordinary food, given Mike's non-attendance (what with the 450km commute), but safe to say I always enjoy a warm summer evening on Marc and ME's top story deck.  Great company, delicious wine, all in all quite stellar.  As a bonus, the music that everyone brought along seemed to me to be of a high quality, and so well worth recording for posterity on the blog.

To kick things off then, I played: 
(1) Wye Oak - 3 tracks from "If Children" (2008).  Baltimore-based band 
(2) Phoenix Foundation (from New Zealand) - 3 tracks from "Horsepower" (2006)
(3) Maritime (former members of Promise Ring and Dismemberment Plan) - 3 from "Heresy and the Hotel Choir" (2007)
(4) Bishop Allen -  1 track from "The Broken String" (2007)...a worthwhile record only briefly touched on.

I didn't get to Foundry Field Recordings' "Prompts/Miscues" (2007), though I think its melancholy guitar pop would have been well received.

All of the above are on emusic.

Until the next, hopefully more frequent, CD outing.
I've listened to a few of the composers listed in the original Guardian article but still don't feel I've had enough exposure to (rises to the level of 'jumbo shrimp' on the oxymoronic scale) "new classical" to either applaud or deride Queenan's thesis. It's one of those 'shot across the bow' type of articles that's interesting for the back and forth it generates. While I doubt that a recording about water dripping, becoming gas, or freezing will ever thrill me, I'm also pretty tired of stations like Classical 96 in Toronto whose playlists skew heavily to the 'familiar', and at times consist solely of Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, the dreaded Pachabel or a soundtrack to every existing production of Masterpiece Theatre (when they're not slipping in a little Josh Groban).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I read the article about modern classical music, as well as one of the lengthy rebuttals. After I read Derek and Kyle's comments, I started thinking about the question of the level of knowledge of classical music fans, and when it gets right down to it, my sample size is too small. I just don't know very many classical music fans - especially in my generation. Both my father and my father-in-law are fans, and both are quite knowledgeable. I know a few others of that generation who are or were regular symphony-goers, but I can only think of one friend (outside of this blog) who regularly listens to classical music, and he is extraordinarily knowledgeable - he will actually buy the score to his favorite works and follow along while he listens. I have lots of friends who are into jazz, some who are into blues but most of my friends listen almost exclusively to pop/classic rock and/or country. And only a few of them are knowledgable music fans. I'm not sure if this can be extrapolated into a meaningful comment on society as a whole, or if it is simply a comment on the sophistication of my immediate circle of friends.

What struck me primarily about the article is the fundamental truth that musical appreciation is, above all, subjective. And I think the term "new classical" is part of the problem. Classical music is historical by definition. Perhaps a better term would be "modern orchestrial", but the fact is that the orchestra is no longer the most popular (or the most sensible) configuration. One no longer needs to assemble 100 musicians to enable a full range of sounds. Larger groups are harder to organize logistically, harder to conduct musically, and more expensive. I don't know how one would determine who are the best living composers, but it would not surprise me to learn that they were focused on electronic or other, smaller configurations as a rule.

But the other phenomenon that surfaces in this article is the fact that audiences prefer familiar things. I believe this is true across all disciplines - until the Internet created greater accessibility, it was very difficult for today's bands to get radio airtime because the airwaves are clogged with classic rock. Modern playwrights have a hard time getting their plays staged because every serious drama company is busy putting on productions of Shakespeare's plays (or at least the dozen or so that are very popular). Those of us who play in bands know that nothing clears the dance floor faster than an original song. Most of the movies coming out these days are either sequels or prequels or based on a pre-existing popular work (a comic book, as often as not). I think it is always challenging for new creations to find their audience and establish a lasting connection.
To be honest the Stone Roses disc was also more of a 90's album for me also. Visiting the UK in the summer of 1990 I picked up the Stone Roses "One Love" single on CD which was a big hit there that year and at was really only at that point that I started to give the Stone Roses LP a big listen.

As I mentioned to Brian the other night there is a also a bit of a cheat on my list with two compilations. The Orange Juice and Siouxsie and the Banshees records are both comps but for me these are the two discs by bands that I dearly love that got the most spins and, if you know neither band, are definitely a good starting point.

Bill Pritchard, who I believe is English, was actually biggest of all in France. I'm not sure he was ever CFNY material and I might have first heard him on CBC's Brave New Waves, back when I could stay up past 10 o'clock in the evening. As a big fan of Lloyd Cole it was pretty easy to fall in step with Pritchard's soft-toned story telling music.

As for classical music and it's fans knowledge or lack thereof let me be the first to admit that I am somewhat intimidated by the depth and breadth of the music that this all encompassing term covers. I never studied music in school beyond the pissing about in primary school years and as such always feel at a big disadvantage in truly understanding what is going on in the great works. I can enjoy it at an emotional level but feel I will always be left on the sidelines in really getting what is being conveyed by the composer. This is something I've never felt with jazz as it operates for me primarily on an emotional basis and I can leave it at that and not feel that I'm missing out somehow.

Having said that I don't feel that classical music fans are necessarily less knowledgeable just because a few pompous gits like to feel they can lord it over the rest of us with the sheer magnitude of their insight and connection to the classical world.

Reading an article in BBC music magazine the other day by a young Russian conductor made me want to pull what remains of my hair out. He had a valid point in that too many orchestras rely on the old war horses to make their money (Dvorak's 9th, Rachmaninoff's 2nd piano concerto etc). He also stated that too concert goers tend to scurry like rats whenever the program contains something new or less well known. The sentence that had me cringing was that this 28 year old felt that it was up to him and his ilk to "educate the concert going public".

I'd be quite happy to hear something like Dvorak's tone poem "The Golden Spinning Wheel", a Norgaard symphony or a clarinet concerto by Kalevi Aho. If the TSO is any indication too many orchestras fall back on the tried and true knowing that this will pull in the same old crowd. Why not throw in regular new or lesser known works instead of ghettoizing them like the TSO does when they shovel them all together in one week every spring. I think they might be surprised by the interest us plebs would show. I don't think educating us Soviet style has anything to do with it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

re: Derek's 80s list....

I always forget that the Stone Roses album is 1989....didn't really listen to it until 'Fools Gold' was played on the radio in 1990 so I always associate it with the 1990s. Perhaps I could include this in a 90s list, the same way that Brian was able to sneak London Calling into the 80s?

I'd never even heard of Bill Pritchard...was he bigger in the UK, played here on the radio (CFNY)?

Still working my way through 20th century classical and the Alex Ross book so I'm not sure that I'm comfortable in assessing whether these composers connect with audiences as effectively as did their coherts from previous centuries. I did find it interesting that the author can, “no longer believe that fans of classical music are especially knowledgeable - certainly not in the way jazz fans are". I tend to agree....do others?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A lot to contemplate, Derek, from your list to the posted guardian article and I plan to post some comments shortly. In an attempt to find some digital copies of the composers included in your exerpt, I came across an interesting 'free' music site: SpiralFrog.

I use single quotes because music downloaded from this site is essentially borrowed, not owned, meaning you can't burn cds with it or transfer it to an ipod. Thus, unless you're into listening to music on your computer, it's kind of useless. But if you're into listening to music on your computer--say during business hours--it can be quite useful. I've downloaded both the new Beck and Coldplay albums, as well as an older Sonic Youth disc. It tends to showcase more popular, or at least established, artists, which makes it more of a complement than a competitor to emusic. And of course, you don't get to 'own' it. But as a means of previewing new music before buying, it beats the hell out of a 30-second samples.

Btw...the Beck is interesting if not mind-blowing on the first listen. The Coldplay is kind of lame. But then, you knew this.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'm going to go way over the requested top 10 80's albums here as there is simply no way I could whittle this down. 16 at the beginning of the decade and 26 by the end this was when for me the formula became music=life. Any spare money I could scrounge up went on purchasing primarily vinyl and much of it imported from Europe. Probably drove my parents round the bend with some of the stuff I listened to (ie Big Black, Einsturzende Neubaten, Test Department) but that's what teenagers are for. Sorry for posting 40 picks but feel free to stop scrolling at any time.

Adam & the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
The English Beat - Just Can't Stop It
Billy Bragg - Talking with the Taxman
Kate Bush - The Dreaming
The Chameleons - Strange Times
Cocteau Twins - Treasure
Lloyd Cole & the Commotions - Rattlesnakes
The Cult - Love
Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward
Echo & the Bunnymen - Ocean Rain
Eric B & Rakim - Paid in Full
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (3)
The Housemartins - London 0, Hull 4
Human League - Dare
The Jam - The Gift
Jazz Butcher - Bloody Nonsense
The Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy
New Order - Power, Corruption & Lies
Orange Juice - In a Nutshell
OMD - Architecture & Morality
Pixies - Doolittle
Prince - 1999
Bill Pritchard - Three Months, Three Weeks & 2 Days
Public Enemy - A Nation of Millions
The Ramones - End of the Century
REM - Murmur
Roxy Music - Flesh and Blood
Simple Minds - New Gold Dream
Siouxsie & the Banshees - Once Upon a Time
The Smiths - The Smiths
The Stone Roses - Stone Roses
Teardrop Explodes - Kilimanjaro
Tears for Fears - The Hurting
That Petrol Emotion - Manic Pop Thrill
The The - Soul Mining
U2 - War
The Undertones - Hypnotised
The Waterboys - A Pagan Place
Woodentops - Giant
XTC - Black Sea

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thanks for the laugh Mike. Pachelbel's Canon is one classical piece that I have pretty much detested since I first heard it. Not sure why exactly as it's not as if I'm not a sucker for a "simple" classical hook like Barber's Adagio for strings for example.

For classical music with no hooks to speak of check out this column from the Guardian. Joe Queenan, the article's author, has more than 20 years of classical music listening over me and has seen 1500 concerts to my paltry 30 or 40 but he gets it right on the money with respect to new classical music. The key paragraph for me is the following:

I have tried to come to terms with the demands of modern music. I am no lover of Renaissance Muzak, and own tons of records by Berg, Varèse, Webern, Rihm, Schnittke, Adès, Wuorinen, Crumb, Carter, and Babbitt: I consider myself to be the kind of listener contemporary composers would need to reach if they had any hope of achieving a breakthrough. So far, this has not happened, and I doubt that it will.

I've never heard of Wuorinen and I've never listened to Crumb but I own discs or have listened to the rest of this crew and with the exception of Berg, who can hardly be considered new since he died in 1935, there's really not a whole lot to write home about. Like the author I should be the target market for modern composers but they're failing miserably. I'd like to hear how others have fared coming to terms with mid-late 20th and 21st century classical music.

I have some Holliger and Kurtag for anyone who'd like to give this sort of thing a listen.

I'll get around to posting my top discs of the 80's shortly.
As an aside, completely unrelated to any of the topics at hand, I stubmled across this clever, funny video rant that demonstrates how all of modern music derives from Pachelbel's Cannon.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My list, I realized almost immediately, is a complete travesty. Lacking Sonic Youth's Evol, The Chills Submarine Bells, Bill Bragg's Talking to the Taxman, Waterboys' This is the Sea, Steve Earle's Exit Zero / Copperhead Road. Many more. I'll post a top twenty shortly.
Kyle, thanks, that's very helpful. The tutorial was a little goofy, but the verbiage attached to the site should get me started.

I've been prevaricating on the 80's list, but have finally come up with a top 11. I based it on what I honestly listened to and loved at the time, not so much what now seems cool. No doubt missed some obvious ones.

I liked your list a lot, mostly because it's music I don't know intimately in some cases. You were, I guess, 9 - 18 years old in the eighties, so a very different thing from 16 - 25, plus you just have different musical tastes, and of course you grew up in Scarborough I think? (versus Kanata). All in all a good list to navigate through for me.

REM - Murmur / Reckoning (I'm cheating already)
Clash - London Calling (Dec 79 - more cheating, but this was really the first record of the 80's)
The Pretenders - Learning to Crawl
Tom Petty - Damn the Torpedoes (Nov 79)
Springsteen - Born in the USA (yes it's true)
Big Dipper - Heavens
That Petrol Emotion - Babble
Jazz Butcher - Fishcoteque
Midnight Oil - Diesel and Dust
The Church - Starfish
Paul Kelly - Gossip

New York in retrospect was mostly a 90's record for me

Monday, July 07, 2008

Making mp3s from vinyl...this site has a 3 minute video tutorial.

For those of you with time on your hands and the thirst for more new music, Wired magazine just did a feature on their '10 Hottest Digital Music Sites'.

Also, a little late to the game (hectic travel week late June + needed down time last week) but here is my contribution to the 80s album discussion:

The Queen is Dead – The Smiths
Music for the Masses – Depeche Mode
Disintegration – The Cure
The Unforgettable Fire – U2
Murmur - REM
Power, Corruption, Lies – New Order
Surfer Rosa – The Pixies
Love – The Cult
Closer – Joy Division
It’ll Take a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy

Though 'Thriller' was great at the time (I was 11 when it was released) , I don't really look back on it with much fondness, and don't presently own a copy. I'd probably say 'Purple Rain' is important and I'm sure I'd enjoy listening to the soundtrack again but don't think I could play it more than once every few years. All of the albums listed above are ones I could still listen to at least a few times a year, and were important and interesting when they were released/became popular.

Anyhow, enjoy the links.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Oh right. Bittorrent.

I thought you were saying that you were creating mp3 files from albums, something I'm interested in doing....anyone know anything about that?
I've been downloading using Bit Torrent, primarily based on the advice and guidance of this fine group of bloggers. After a shaky start, it's been going pretty well, overall. At this point, I have attempted to find and download 164 albums. I have been successful with all but 18 of them. The ones I couldn't find are generally a little obscure or regional - like Andrew Cash, Scott Merritt and the Washington Squares.

I've got one more '80s song to add to my list of overlooked top ten candidates - Lou Reed's "New York". Pretty great album. You've gotta love the wailing feedback.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Yes, that was a great record (the WPA one). In a similar vein, Paul Kelly's first record "Gossip" was really strong...though I mentioned that before. Feel free to revise your list daily. 

How are you downloading albums?
I've been steadily moving through my cassette tapes and downloading albums, and since posting that list I've realized that I missed a couple of favorites that deserved consideration for my top 10 - Scott Merritt's "Gravity is Mutual" and Weddings Parties Anything's "Roaring Days". I'll probably continue to stumble across more as I move through my collection - it's very hard to compile a definitive list of anything!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hey Mike, great list. We were obviously spending a lot of time together in the 80's; lots of common ground for me in there. Although some of them I'll admit didn't (and don;t) do much for me - Dire Straits, for example; Brothers in Arms felt like the end of a band I had once liked.

There were a few others that I was listening to a ton at that time that I'd forgotten about, and something about your post reminded me; World Party's Private Revolution; Guadalcanal Diary's Jamboree, Let's Active's Cypress.

I will put my thoughts together into a list this week. Kind of a fun exercise, because my impression of the eighties is that it hasn't aged well, and yet (a) it was a hugely defining period for all of us musically, and (b) it is (somewhat inevitably) coming back into vogue and so the only-recently kitschy sounding production / sensibilities are very popular again. Useful to go through ti, because I know it will warm me up to some music I once loved.