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Archive for the ‘Arnold Schoenberg’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHILLY GONZALES & KAISER QUARTETT-Live at Massey Hall (February 5, 2016).

Years earlier, Chilly Gonzales had signed a record deal in Toronto but it didn’t go well “because I wasn’t prepared for what the job of being a true musician was.  I didn’t really have a narrative.  I couldn’t draw people in and guide them.  I thought the music would be enough.”

He went to Europe–Berlin–taking the name Chilly Gonzales and creating this persona.  He wanted reassuring satisfying elements and surprising, uncomfortable elements.  He wanted to  take a page out of the rappers playbook–embodying superficiality and depth ant the same time ridiculousness and seriousness at the same time.

Toronto was like the place where lighting hit the lab and turned him into a supervillain.  The failure of the label is his origin story.

They play primarily instrumental compositions, but ones that are very different and unlike anything else I’ve heard.

“Green’s Leaves” is a staccato piece with great melodies from the Quartett and lovey piano sprinkled throughout.  It’s a short piece with a lot of beauty.

He tells the audience he thinks of the Kaiser Quartett (Adam Zolynski-violin; Jansen Folkers-violin; Ingmar Süberkrüb-viola; Martin Bentz cello) as the world’s most expensive sampler.  He tries to use them in ways that string quartets might not be used.

“Sample This” is a simple request to rappers or producers to feel free to sample this piece of music (and of course call my lawyer beforehand).   He says you don’t have to have a rapper to make rap music–it is an attitude.  He says, “see if you can rap along in your mind.  Imagine what a rapper might say over this.”

This song moves along prettily at a rapid pace.  As it reaches the middle it slows down to a gentle piano with pulsing low notes from the strings and just as it feels like it has hit the end, Joe Elory (I wish it was filmed better) gets up and thuds the drums for one loud beat as the song resumes and picks up the pace.

The fact that he ends the song with quiet piano melody and a rapper pose and says “bitch” is really quite funny.

He says that a sampler can contain the history of all recorded music.  The Quartet plays  a bar of “Eleanor Rigby” which he introduces as “Elizabeth Ridley by the Rolling Stones.” Then they play Joseph Haydn–the song we all know– but says he wants the gansta version–put it into a minor key.  Then they play the opening of Schoenberg’s “The Rites of Spring.”  When Schoenberg played it, it caused a riot.  The dissonance is something.  He jokes that that was the verse now here comes the catchy part (it’s the same).  Is this offensive to you?  Or is this offensive that I’m wasting so much time playing this terrible music “hashtag fuckscheonberg.”

He mashed all the above together to make “Advantage Points.”  The loud and quiet parts balance nicely and its really quite catchy.

“Supervillain” has lots of high notes on the piano before the strings kick in.  And then its a rap (!).  The lyrics are good but the flow is only okay.  It’s funny but not comic.  When it’s over he affirms: “So you like rap music when it is over a waltz beat.”

“Knight moves” is a fast piano piece that builds to some really fun rollicking piano and even adds (minimal) drums by the end.  As it moves along he starts playing very very fast and heavy, including more or less pounding on the low notes for a low rumble.

“Smothered Mate” has a kind of action movie vibe.  There’s also percussion for the whole piece.  Unfortunately, he speaks over it for the end:

In the pre-Drake era there were not a lot of reasons to think that Toronto was on the musical map.  But Charlie Parker and Neil Young  showed this hall had glamour you dint get in a lot Canadian venues.

[READ: June 19, 2018] “Edison Labs, 1891”

This story goes in a direction I never expected and the anachronism of the humor is terrific.

Thomas Edison is working in his lab when his assistant, Jed, confesses that he screwed up again–he used centiliters instead of milliliters.  Which leads to a beaker exploding.

Edison believes that this boy is an idiot–useful only as a subject for medical experimentation.

Except for one other possibility.

He asked Jed to stand there in one spot.

Then he pulled over his new contraption, an apparatus made of metal and glass. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARBARA HANNIGAN-Tiny Desk Concert #698 (January 26, 2018).

It has been some time since Tiny Desk has had a classical singer.  As with many classical Tiny Desks. I like to let the knowledgeable NPR person tell us what’s happening.  But I’ll say that her voice is stunning and although I don;t understand the German, it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

The night before this Tiny Desk concert, extraordinary soprano Barbara Hannigan and her accompanist Reinbert de Leeuw gave a beautiful and intense recital at Washington’s Kennedy Center. The songs, all in German, came from a heady period in Vienna, when music was transitioning from the swells of romanticism to the uncharted waters of modernism. Four of those songs make up this Tiny Desk performance. The bonus here is that these impassioned dispatches become even more intimate.

[Hannigan tells us that they will play four songs all from amazing moment at beginning of 20th century when music just started to depart from harmony as we know it.  It sounds tonal but it is representing the end of all things].

Consider the opening song, Alexander Zemlinsky’s “Empfängnis” (Conception). The harmonies are sweet, but almost too rich, like overripe fruit, when Hannigan sings lines like, “Und wie ich sehend meine Arme breite” (And as I open my arms with longing). You can hear the end of a musical era.

An indefatigable champion of new and modern music, Hannigan (who is also a conductor) has given the world premieres of more than 80 pieces. The voice is simply gorgeous — silvery, buttery-smooth throughout the registers, with crystalline top notes emerging from thin air and charged with emotion.

[Hannigan tells us that Alma Mahler (Alma Schindler) married Gustav Mahler and was the most beautiful, intelligent girl in Vienna.  She was Zemlinsky’s student (and probably more), but she married Mahler and he said there was going to but one composer in the family.  The next song was written when she was studying with Zemlinsky].

In Alma Mahler’s “Licht in der Nacht” (Light in the Night), Hannigan taps into the mysterious sparkle of a little yellow star twinkling through black skies as de Leeuw’s piano explores wayward harmonies. Hugo Wolf’s “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” (Only One Who Knows Longing) is a hymn to the yearning heart. De Leeuw explains that the key of G minor, in which the song is written, never materializes. It’s all about the longing for G minor.

[Hannigan says that for the Scoenberg piece, poet Richard Dehmel wrote the words.  He was an important poet put on trial for obscenity for his work Woman and World.  Even though he seemed to be talking about reflections in water the imagery was beloved to be quite obscene.  In this song, Jesus is singing to Mary Magdeline, saying “give me your comb and sponge I want to be close to you.”  It is very erotic].

The final song, “Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm” (the first music by Arnold Schoenberg to grace the Tiny Desk), offers a double dose of sensuality. Hannigan’s beautiful middle register and creamy phrasing paint the scene: Jesus asks Mary Magdalene for her comb because it will remind him every morning that she once kissed his hair. Hannigan calls the song “erotic” and she delivers on that feeling when, at the end, she cries out the name “Magdalena” with a lustrous, silken tone, touched with anguish.

It’s quite something.

  • Alexander Zemlinsky: “Empfängnis”
  • Alma Mahler: “Licht in der Nacht”
  • Hugo Wolf: “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt”
  • Arnold Schoenberg: “Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm”

[READ: November 20, 2017] What Happened at Brent’s

This little book came to my desk at work and it seemed like a charming diversion.  The only problem with it is that it is set on Hallowe’en and I read it at Thanksgiving (and am now posting about it around Valentine’s Day).

Aside from some of the mannerisms and the language, this book could very easily have been written today and could easily be staged today.

The play is 31 pages (running time 75 minutes).  There are ten characters in the play, all but one are played by children.

Set on Halloween night, a group of 8th graders are having a party.  There are four girls and three boys.  The fourth boy is on his way shortly.  The children are all aflutter because their favorite actress Rita Rose is filming a movie in the town nearby.  They are all infatuated with her and think she is the best. (more…)

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ktelkSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Lula Lounge, Toronto ,ON (Mar 23 2011).

NickBuzz-23Mar2011-1There is only one Nick Buzz concert at Rheostaticslive (although there are a number of videos online from an earlier show (from Dec 9, 2010) which could be turned into an audio download, I’m sure.

Anyhow, this show occurred nearly two years before the release of the (thus far) final Nick Buzz album.  It’s interesting that there are some songs that will appear on that album performed here (and there is no mention of it, of course).

As with many of the Tielli solo shows, the band plays songs from Nick Buzz, from Tielli’s solo albums, and even two Rheostatics albums.  But this is primarily a Nick Buzz performance (with Tielli, Goldsmith, Marsh and Piltch).  What I find interesting is that I believe that Martin is only singing (maybe a guitar here or there?) with Pitch on guitar, Goldsmith on piano and Marsh on violin and effects.  It’s a very different dynamic (no drummer!) and really changes the nature of some of these songs.

“Just Because” is a beautiful ballad.  It’s sightly more raucous than on the record, but still sounds beautiful.  Tielli’s solo song “I’ll Never Tear You Apart” sounds very different from the record–the awesome guitar line has been simplified and there’s a piano now.  In fact, piano is the main instrument for most of these songs, which is quite different.

The band then plays three of the four songs from the Arnold Schoenberg record (Martin says he should put on gloves as this is forensic music that’s over 100 years old).  They also sound great–I love they way they can recreate the weirdness from that short album.

When he introduces “Eliza” he says the music is by Schubert, although I don’t believe that is the case (unless the intro is).

In explaining “Milchig” he says that it’s about a dwarf-like creature who taught him “the relax.”  “The relax” is how they describe it in Italy (he wishes he had learned more Italian as a kid but he was too obstinate).

“Spilling the Wonderful” is not as dramatic as on the record–it’s a bit smoother but still really good.  And for “That’s What You Get for Having Fun,” a song which he has played in almost every solo concert, they really pare it down–it’s nowhere near as raucous.

The band goes for a cigarette break for 15 minutes and then comes back with “Beauty On” and the funny moment where Martin sings the intro, “I hate you all.”  When he gets to the “Are you with me Cincinnati are you ready to rock?” rather than singing it, he slurs it.  It’s a great effect.

The only song not on another album is “Now That I’m a Railroad Boy” which was done by John Southwith.  It’s a pretty ballad that fits in perfectly with the other songs.  “The House with Laughing Windows” and “Uncle Bumbo’s Christmas’ sound fanatic live.  And then they play the fourth Schoenberg song “Galathea” which Martin says is his favorite.

“Farmer in the city” has been my least favorite Tielli recording, but this version is fantastic.  It starts on piano and has melodies provided by the violin. Rather than being elliptical and standoffish, this new arrangement really brings you in with some lovely Marsh melodies.  Then the play “Love Streams.”  Martin says that their take on the record was the first time they played it.  It’s gorgeous!  This version is quite different with more violin up front.

“Sane, So Sane” adds a drum machine which is a surprise but a very welcomed one. It really picks up the tempo of the show and creates wonderful new textures.

For their last song Martin says “we’re going to confound you with this one.”  It’s a Jacques Brel song, “If You Go Away.”  It’s not unlike on the future record–slow and pretty.

When they come back out for the encore, Martin says they have played their entire repertoire.  He seems at a loss for what to play so they play a lovely version of “Take Me in Your Hand,” and a shockingly different version of “Shaved Head.”

Check it out here.

The setlist for that 2010 YouTube show is quite similar: Spilling the Wonderful, That’s What You Get For Having Fun, Just Because, Gigerlette, Persian Kitty, Boom, Hymn to the Situation, Milchig, Eliza, L’astronaut [a hilarious explanation of what the song is about], The House with the Laughing Windows, Sane So Sane, Love Streams, Uncle Bumbo [Martin on bass], If You Go Away

[READ: July 12, 2015] Mr Kiss and Tell

I loved Veronica Mars.  The show was great.  We supported the Kickstarter.  And I was pretty psyched when the first post TV show novel came out.  But I never actually read it.  It is still sitting on my shelf (Sarah really liked it).

Well, Sarah got this one from the library and since it was due back soon I decided to push it to the front.  The good news vis a vis the previous book is that they are unrelated.  The better news is that this book follows up the events of the movie!  And it has a new mystery as well.

The new mystery involves a man who has raped a woman and left her for dead. As with any good mystery there are dozens of twists and turns.  And Veronica is not willing to let go.  Unlike the TV show, this mystery lasts for months.  She is fairly certain she has a suspect and even manages to get some DNA but his “confession” reveals a whole new twist to the story that Veronica was not expecting and which really undermines her case. (more…)

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zambraSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Arnold Schoenberg and the Berlin Cabaret (2003).

schoenIn 1901, Arnold Schoenberg wrote eight Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs).  The songs were short and fun with naughty (cabaret influenced) lyrics.  Some 100 years later, inspired by the Art of Time Ensemble who commissioned Nick Buzz to play pieces for their Schoenberg show.

So the guys from Nick Buzz got together and recorded four of the eight pieces.  Then Martin Tielli released this disc as number 2 of his Subscription Series.  Some of us were a little disappointed when this came out since it was only 15 minutes of music, but the art is wonderful and I have recently rediscovered this disc and have enjoyed it immensely.

Basically the Buzz guys have interpreted the songs in their own style, but they have remained faithful to the original melodies and lyrics (which were in German but are now in English).

“Gigerlette” explores electronic manipulations (presumably by Hugh Marsh) and offers lots of fun samples (what I assume is some earlier recordings of the song in German).  It opens with sampled female singing and staccato piano as well as other unusual effects. Then Martin’s vocals come in and the effects clear out and the song becomes simple piano ballad for a brief moment.  Then the noises come back in again, playing around with this amusing song.  It’s a song of romance and love with the sweet punchline being that cupid is driving their coach and four.  At over 5 minutes this is the longest song by far, even if the basic song is just over two minutes.

“Der genugsame Liebhaber” (The Modest Lover) opens with what sounds like a distorted harp (presumably the piano) and scratchy records (from Marsh).  This song is about a man going to see his lover, but his over’s pussy loves his bald head so much that she continually climbs atop it.  It is charmingly naughty. There’s some wonderful violin from Hugh Marsh on this song

“Galathea” is the most conventional of the three songs.  A lovely piano ballad to Galatea.

“Arie aus dem Spiegel von Arcadien” (Aria from the Arcadian Mirror) is super fun. The music is weird and goofy with a very drunken feel.  And the chorus is just wonderful “my heart begins to thump and dance just like a hammer’s blow it goes boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom (getting faster and faster).  I’ve listened to the original and it is very much the same, although Nick Buzz’s version is much better.

You can find some of these songs on line from a recording at Lula’s Lounge (Dec 9, 2010)

It’s cool to see how they recreate the album so faithfully in a live setting. It’s only a shame that the video isn’t a little closer so you could see just what they are doing.

Nick Buzz-December 9 2010 Lula’s Lounge

[READ: September 1, 2015] My Documents

I have enjoyed some of Zambra’s stories in other locations, so I was pretty excited that McSweeney’s released this collection (translated by Megan McDowell).  The book is pretty much all short stories, although the first items feels a bit less fictional and more memoirish.

“My Documents”
This is a brief historical account of Alejandro as a child and as a writer.  He talks about when he started working on computers and what happens when the computer dies with the information inside.  He explains that this file is in his My Documents folder and he’s going to publish it “even though it’s not finished.  Even though it’s impossible to finish it.”

“Camilo”
I read this story in the New Yorker.  It concerns the relation of a man and his godfather, whom he has not seen since his father and godfather had a falling out years ago.  See my link for a more complete synopsis.  I enjoyed it just as much the second time.

“Long Distance”
The narrator worked as a phone operator in 1998.  He liked the job–his boss was cool and would let him do anything he wanted so long as he answered the phones quickly. The job was in a travel insurance office and one day he received a call from a man named Juan Emilio. After speaking for a time about various things, the narrator realized it had been 40 minutes since they first started talking.  They were expected to call clients back 14 days later as a follow-up and this time Juan Emilio talked with him foe a while and, upon learning that the narrator studied literature, asked if they could meet and discuss books.   The narrator was already teaching classes at night, and these two situations overlapped somewhat.  I loved the way all of this information is used as backdrop to a romance he has with a student known as Pamela.  And the final line is great.

“True or False”
The titular phrase is uttered by a boy, Lucas,  who declared, based on an inscrutable internal feeling, that things were True or False.  An armchair might be true, while a lamp might be false.  Hid father Daniel had a cat, Pedra, even though pets were forbidden in his building.  Lucas loved the cat.  Then the cat had kittens.  There is a metaphor at work about the fatherless kittens and Daniel’s own behavior toward his son. I really enjoyed this story and the strangeness of the true or false brought a fascinating childlike quality to the story

“Memories of a Personal Computer”
The conceit of this story is great.  A PC remembers what it was like to observe a relationship as it begins and then ebbs–and how the PC was moved around into different rooms as things changed in the relationship.

“National Institute”
At the school where the narrator went, they were called by number.  He was 45.  The main subject of his story was 34, although he doesn’t know the boy’s real name.  34 had failed the grade and was made to repeat it, but rather than being sullen about it, he was popular and fun.  All of the students were worried about failing–the final test was very hard.  But one day 34 approached 45 and told him he had nothing to worry about.  The other students didn’t know what to make of it, but he slowly assessed everyone and told them whether they had anything to worry about.  By the end of the story, when 45 is brought to the inspector of schools, he is told a lesson he will should never forget.

“I Smoked Very Well”
A look back on smoking and how quitting smoking made him a different (though not necessarily better) person.

“Thank You”
She is Argentine, he is Chilean and they are not together (even though they sleep together).  They were in Mexico City when they were kidnapped together.  The incident has unexpected moments. It’s a weird story (with some really unexpected moments) but a really good one.

“The Most Chilean Man in the World”
A Chilean couple has decided to separate once she was accepted to school in Belgium.  After several months he is convinced that she wants him to visit, so he spends a ton of money and heads out to Belgium.  Without telling her.  And it goes very badly.  But he can’t just leave Belgium, now can he?  So he goes to a pub where he meets some new friends who call him the chilliest man in the world.  The story hinges on a joke, but the story itself is not a punchline.

“Family Life”
I read this story in Harper’s.  I thought it was fantastic–it was one of the stories that made me want to read more of his works.  This is story of a man house sitting and the false life that he constructs around him.  It was surprisingly moving.

“Artist’s Rendition”
I loved the way this story began.  It tells us that Yasna has killed her father.  But we slowly learn that Yasna is character in a detective story that an author is trying to write.  We learn how the author constructs details about this character and the things that she has experienced which make her who she is.  As this story unfolds we see how those first lines proved to be true after all.

This was a great collection fo short works and I really hope to see more from him translated into English.

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