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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nothing Is Free

I've just been alerted, by loyal reader Aaron, that iTunes is offering the first movement of John Cage's most celebrated piece for download, free of charge. I'm not really in the market for a new recording of 4'33"—in fact, I just bought a spindle of 50 such recordings last week—but hey, if the first taste is free... Download here. Ummmm, and check out the comments section. I can't even pick a favorite. Hey so, other than 4'33", what's the greatest silence in music, in y'alls humble opinion? There are some really spectacular silences in Mahler, but probably my sentimental fave is the series of 18 thirty-second silences that ends the Roger & Brian Eno recording of 18 Keyboard Studies by Hans Friedrich Micheelsen. You're supposed to put the record on shuffle, see, so that the tracks are not only in random order, but they're spaced apart randomly as well, for that like wind-chimes feeling—avant-garde form generated live in your living room. Why don't more people do stuff like that? I'd give you a direct link to the webpage where you can buy this CD, but apparently Mr. Electronic Visionary has not figured out how to make individual products linkable at the Enoshop, and that's the only place he sells it, so fuck him. Still, do order (or download) a copy, and then take a picture of yourself holding it, so that everyone knows how much you love Brian Eno.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

As Falls Wichita Vortex Sutra, So Falls Wichita Vortex Sutra Falls

Via GlassNotes, Wichita Vortex Sutra! One of my favorite Glass tunes. American Opera Theater, Georgetown University Program in Performing Arts:Okay but the thing is I don't like this production. I don't like their hip threads, I don't like their "dramatic" movements, I don't like staging this in front of a "country church" backdrop, as a "revival." Isn't it too easy? Doesn't the chorale in the piano part already put you in mind of a country church? Doesn't the poem already have the cadence of a sermon? How much more interesting would this be if it were staged as a cooking demonstration! Or a magic show! Or an anatomy class! Somebody give me money, I would stage this so awesome. Also, can I say this aagain, the sassy threads, the dramatic movements. Those dang boxes. Too cute! Literally! It gives me such an Up With People feeling, in a bad way. Or maybe Celebration Iowa:Hahaha and you thought nobody had a worse violinist than Belle & Sebastian. Wait what was I talking about. The End.

Monday, March 23, 2009

She's a Talker

Sometimes, in great art, there's a moment of terrifying self-recognition, as if the artist had allowed you to lift your own skull up off of a dusty shelf and gaze directly into its hollow sockets. The following video, She's a Talker by Neil Goldberg, offers me just such a sublime encounter. UPDATE: Neil Goldberg just sent me a very, very kind and polite email asking me to un-YouTube his work, so I've gone ahead and done so. Thanks and apologies to Mr. Goldberg! From the remarkable UBUWEB, via Cute with Chris.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

ALTVIOOL KAPOT

The Failblog keeps on givin', folks (this time via Collaborative Piano). You'll recognize the hapless violist as our hero Yuri Bashmet—I'm not sure what piece that is; the comments section here tells us it's the "Concerto-Poeme" by Roman Medneyev (see update below), but I can't find any information on a composer by that name. The instrument, we're told, is a 1758 Testore. I'm sure it's fine now. UPDATE: I think the piece is the Poema (or "Concert-Poem") by Roman Ledenev, Op. 13. There don't seem to be any recordings available, besides an old Melodiya LP.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Beethoven Lives Upstairs...

(From the Failblog, natch.) Loyal reader Greg wonders if this reminds anybody else of the Karl van Beethoven custody battle. Indeed, it would explain a lot.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Moog Unveils Technological Breakthroughs for Those People Who Hang Out in Guitar Stores

I know y'all trust me to keep you up to date new developments in theremin technology and politics, so I couldn't let you down by failing to post these videos demonstrating the new Moog Etherwave Plus, which can now be used to control various parameters of other synthesizers. Watch, it is extremely sweet: You can even use it to control your Moog brand guitar: But of course what I want to know is, could you use this theremin to control the sound of another theremin? Could you use it to pitchshift the output from a CD player—so that by inverting the melody, you would make a Clara Rockmore CD sound like a single droning note surrounded by wild piano pitch-bends? Oh whoops did I just BLOW YOUR MIND? Somebody buy me one. (via Boing Boing)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Update: More Obama Remixes

Just to recap, we got this in the other day from Loyal Reader Garrett:

Rock a Milli
But now DJA has pointed us to the following, which is not Lil' Wayne-related but nevertheless excellent:Music by Alex Heitlinger, though it should be pointed out that both DJA and this Heitlinger character have been linked to some kind of "secret society"—more info on that here. Wait, I mean here. (And finally, hat-tip to commenter Graham for being the first respondent, with this number here.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Where Is Thy Death?

First, let's be clear. I love this song ("Can she excuse my wrongs" by John Dowland). And what's more, this is not even as bad as most of the recordings that appeared on his awful Dowland record. These four guys have a great blend! But—really? Like, really???

Well La Di Frickin' Da

Robert Gable at aworks has been trying out lala.com, and he's impressed:

Being able to stream millions on tracks on lala, the first play for free and with no advertising, feels like a fundamental change. I've tried every other "collective-wisdom" music site but with mixed results. However, on lala, since there is only the cost of my time, I'm listening to as interesting a set of music as ever. For example, my current list of most frequently played artists on the service includes Frederic Rzewski, David Korevaar, Alexander Scriabin, David Harned Johnson, Arthur Russell, Sarah Cahill, Sir Neville Marriner, Herbie Hancock, and John Cage. This is a good mix of the familiar and the novel.
That is quite a list! Y'all know I love me some Rzewski. And I finally bought Another Thought, that Arthur Russell disc on Orange Mountain, and it's slap-your-face gorgeous. But who in the hell is this David Harned Johnson person? Naturally I ask purely out of curiosity, and not for any selfish reasons whatsoever. Say, is his album also available on iTunes?

Update: Oh, Dear

I suppose I was asking for it. Literally.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You Endured the Opera, NOW Wear the Dress

Via Mind the Gap, we can add another item to our catalog of composer-inspired merchandise! J. Peterman's new 40's Bow Dress (pictured), inspired by... well, read on:

The San Francisco Opera House is exactly the same, same coffered ceiling, same sweeping balconies, but the music isn’t. I’ve been invited to sit through 3-1/2 hours of Dr. Atomic, the new opera about Robert Oppenheimer and the first atomic bomb test. ... You made it through Parsifal, Peterman, I keep reminding myself. Then I notice her next to me. She’s leaning forward intently. ... After the bomb goes off and the lights come up, she cries “Bravo!” and flashes me a brilliant smile. “Wasn’t that wonderful?” she asks. The sight of her in this dress is almost enough to persuade me to give Schönberg a second chance.
ARRRRRRRGH CAN WE PLEASE NOT USE SCHOENBERG AS THE STRAW MAN EVERY SINGLE EFFING TIME WE WANT TO MAKE A POINT ABOUT er sorry I mean ohhh, Mr. Peterman, you're incorrigible! Of course, when I think of operas and little black dresses, I'm not thinking Atomic, I'm thinking Ariadne, but that anecdote might be a tougher sell. Still, I guess I shouldn't complain. Maybe a few more J. Petermans (J.'s Peterman? J. Petermen? What's the plural) can help us to give new music its much-deserved aura of glamor, like how Mary-Kate did for the Met Gala. Wait, what?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Semi-Awesome

Milton Babbitt, by The Bad Plus, via The Bad Plus:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Best Titles Ever?

From the promotional copy for a recent Budapest Music Center release, choral works by Zoltán Kodály:

On 1 December 1924 for the first time Zoltán Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus was performed in a version which also featured a children’s choir. Possibly it was this experience that aroused the composer’s interest in this type of ensemble. In February 1925 he encountered the choir of the boys’ school in Wesselényi utca in Budapest, led by Endre Borus, and at their folksong recital on 2 April the ensemble performed the two children’s choruses, Víllő (The Straw Guy) and Túrót eszik a cigány (See the Gypsies munching cheese), written specially for them.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Red Flag with Management

You all know Hélène Grimaud, that gorgeous concert pianist who was raised by wolves and then grew up to put out high-concept Deutsche Grammophon records. Well Hélène Grimaud (not pictured) just had one of those dreams where you get to the final exam, open your test booklet, and discover that you've been studying THE WRONG TEXTBOOK ALL YEAR LONG, only it WASN'T A DREAM, IT WAS REALLY HAPPENING, and a hapless Bryant Manning had to break it to her. So Hélène Grimaud, it says here you're going to be playing Beethoven's Concerto No. 5 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, why don't you tell us a little about that:

“I’m playing the Fourth, aren’t I? Am I not playing the Fourth?!?” she asks. As we double-check the CSO website, we assure her it’s the Fifth. The petite French pianist guffaws at her mistake and says, “Oooh-kay, then. I guess I’ll have to raise a red flag with management.” At first we’re impressed with Grimaud’s acumen, that she can easily switch gears from prepping for the famous G-major concerto to committing to memory the “Emperor” in a matter of hours. Then, just as we’re set to send this article to the printers, the CSO e-mails a press release: “Valentina Lisitsa to replace Hélène Grimaud.” The release quotes Grimaud’s management: “An unfortunate miscommunication has occurred between Hélène Grimaud and her artist management company regarding the repertoire for her concerts with the CSO…. This discrepancy has been discovered too late for Ms. Grimaud to have time to prepare Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 to her satisfaction.” Oops.
PIANO FAIL. Sigh. Well, condolences to Hélène Grimaud, and to the city of Chicago, and best of luck to Valentina Lisitsa. More on the story here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Kutiman Broke the Internet

You LOVE this! Israeli producer Kutiman made a whole little album of YouTube mashups, and put them on this website, thru-you.com, which then CRASHED, HARD, because the entire internet wanted to hear these songs at once. Of course they did! They're in them! My favorite things about this project: 1) how talented some of these people actually turn out to be when subjected to the remix treatment, 2) that these sad earnest dudes are now famous, 3) the way he works with wonky acoustics of the original samples. Here are the rest of the songs from Thru You; they are all as poignant and attractive as the one I posted above (Hey piano people, is that a Chopin sample?) 1. Mother of All Funk Chords 2. This Is What It Became 3. I'm New (see also above) 4. Babylon Band 5. Someday 6. Wait for Me 7. Just a Lady 8. and finally a video of Kutiman explaining the project. Don't thank me—thank loyal reader Greg B.! Now, Internet, I want somebody to make a band that consists entirely of YouTube kittens playing theremins and walking across keyboards, if you would be so kind.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

SLAG RAG BAGS ZINE QUEEN

Wait, what?? Parterre Box editor James Jorden is writing opera reviews for the New York Post?? The bad news: The word-count seems smaller than at JJ's gig with the Gay City News. And now all discerning opera lovers will have to [shudder] patronize the Post. The good news: JJ's prose is, I say, more potent in small doses. His GCN reviews were never anywhere near as flabby as those Times scribes', but if you've read the blog, you know that he was born to deliver a single devastating line and walk away—and somehow, maybe I'm getting a little romantic here, his sordid, old-New York sensibility fits in marvelously with the sort of thing the Post always wished it was. They need somebody classy, for God's sake, now that Liz Smith's given her notice, and maybe JJ can show that sack of shit Sean Delonas that not all gay people are a bunch of stubbly, cross-dressing weirdos. Oh, wait. Well, anyway, the New York opera scene is better off with a bona fide expert covering it for one of the city's most-read papers. And that damned paper is better off for having landed one of the world's finest opera journalists. So, everybody wins. Bravo, JJ!