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Archive for the ‘Philip Glass’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DEVONTÉ HYNES interviews PHILIP GLASS (Field Recordings, September 21, 2017).

This is the final video under the “Field Recordings” headline [‘When You Gonna Get A Real Job?’: Philip Glass And Devonté Hynes Compare Notes].  Unlike the other videos I have watched, this one is actually an interview, not a song.

I was unfamiliar with Devonté Hynes.  He is a 31-year-old British producer and songwriter who performs under the name Blood Orange,  He has made many hit records with the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen.  And Philip Glass was at the time of this interview, 80 years old (and calls the cast of Hamilton hipster, instead of hip-hop, but he did rave about the show (which Hynes was unable to get tickets to!).

Walk into Hynes’ third floor loft in New York’s Chinatown and you’ll find a photo of Glass on his piano. He discovered Glass’ music by chance as a London teenager, when he bought the 1982 album Glassworks on the strength of its crystalline cover image alone. What he heard after he brought it home transfixed him. Today, he says Glass’ influence “seeps” into his music.

This spring, Hynes invited Glass to his apartment where they sat at a piano, compared chords and traded stories. Ninety minutes later, their wide-ranging conversation had touched on the pulse of New York City, the pains of striking out on your own as a musician, what role the arts play in society today and Hamilton. Plus about a hundred other ideas.

This clip is only 6 minutes, and they don’t touch on all that much.  We learn that Glass grew up in Baltimore and worked in his father’s record store.  His father knew nothing about music but loved it and soon enough young Philip was the store’s record buyer.

Glass moved to New York in 1957.  His mother told him that being a musician would be a terrible life of travel and hotels.  And he thought that sounded wonderful.  He worked day jobs loading trucks and moving furniture–he never took a job he couldn’t get out off if he had the opportunity to play.

He says that Einstein on the Beach was a hit but he knew nothing about money and they actually lost money on the deal.

For his part, Devonté came from London to New York ten years ago.  he says you can hear Glass’ jobs in his music, like the sounds of the city as he drove his taxi around.

Glass concludes, “When bad things happen in the country the artists become the voice.  Without the arts our society would be a prison.”

[READ: January 17, 2018] “Sans Farine”

I really couldn’t believe how long this story felt.  Even with enjoying most of it, it seemed like it was 50 pages not 9.

The narrator, Charles Henri Sanson is an executioner in France around the time of the revolution.  He was a real person.  I didn’t know that while reading this but it doesn’t really impact my take on the story.

His father and his six brothers were also executioners.  There is quite a stigma to the job–most people are not allowed to even communicate with them, much less marry them.  And yet ask any soldier what his profession entails  He’ll answer that he kills men.  No one flees his company for that reason.

There’s a lot of detail about his life, both before and after the revolution,  He and his family have negotiated the revolution well and he still works,no killing the royals,

He talks about Joseph Guillotin reinventing the penal code–a less barbaric, swifter execution for all condemned. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THIRD COAST PERCUSSION-Tiny Desk Concert #747 (May 29, 2018).

I have always been taken with percussion.  I especially love vibes and marimba.  But I love it even more when bands make music using unusual items.  Third Coast Percussion does both of those.  And the songs are beautiful as well.

The quartet of gentlemen who form the Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion [will] play their sophisticated, modern marimbas and vibraphones, but be on the lookout for the subtleties of tuned cowbells and 3/4″ galvanized steel pipes, like those found at the local hardware store. Add to that a glockenspiel, a MIDI synth, a melodica, a drum kit, children’s deskbells, crotales, a Thai gong and a singing bowl, and you’ve got significant noise-making potential behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

They play three beautiful pieces.  And the blurb sums them up quite well:

The mesmerizing opening number, “Niagara,” written by the group, is from the band’s latest album, the aqua-centric Paddle to the Sea. This water is fast-moving, with pulsing, repeating patterns in the vibraphone, punctuated by drum beats and a bed of low synth.

David Skidmore behind the drum kit is also playing the synth while Sean Connors has the main up and down melody on the marimba. The other two (Robert Dillon and Peter Martin) are playing the same glockenspiel until Rob starts with some drum hits (while David behind the kit plays accents of that main drum beat).  There is just so much going on!

There’s a wonderful moment about half way in when the marimba starts playing a slightly different melody and it’s really quite enchanting.  I am quite taken with the song.

The Third Coasters follow with another from the album, their own arrangement of a slowly rippling ode to the Amazon River by Philip Glass. Beginning with droplets on the glockenspiel and evocative bowing of both vibraphone and crotales (small bronze discs), the music flows softly, taking its time to fan out in all its quiet beauty.

The group busts out the children’s desk bells on the second song, a cover pf Philip Glass’ “Amazon River.”  Sean plays them while also hitting the glockenspiel.  David is bowing the crotales (which he later hits with mallets) while also playing a melodica.  Rob plays a four mallet marimba while Peter plays a four mallet glockenspiel melody.  Sean gets to hit the Thai gong before it almost stops and then he goes behind the marimba to join Rob with three mallets.  Meanwhile for thee second half of the song, David is hitting some small bell-like instrument and Peter has the singing bowl.  As the song ends, David gets to conclude with the Thai gong.

The final song is completely intense.

Torched and Wrecked is, as David Skidmore mentions, something that once happened to his band mate Sean Connors’ automobile. It’s also a butt-kicking ride that includes those steel conduit pipes, which the band cuts to specific lengths to get the desired pitches. Skidmore wrote the piece, but it’s Connors who appears to achieve a kind of cathartic glee pounding on the metal tubes.

There’s no funky instruments om this, but the song is great.  David (2 mallets) goes behind the marimba with Rob (4 mallets).  Peter is at the glockenspiel (4 mallets) and yes Sean has the metal tubes.  The song is fast and intense and I get lost with just who is playing what sounds by the end.  It’s really cool.

It’s also fun to see them all pop up at the end when they all finish at the same time.

[READ: January 14, 2018] “Six More Considerations”

Lydia Davis writes short, short pieces.  Flash fiction, they call them. Sometimes I think they are great. Other times they just irritate me.

This group falls into the irritation camp.

Anyhow, the six stories are

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANNA MEREDITH-Tiny Desk Concert #713 (March 2, 2018).

I have never heard anything like this.  From sound to melody, to intensity, to instrumentation, this whole thing just rocked my world.

The melody for “Nautilus” is just so unexpected.  It opens with an echoed horn sound repeating.  And then the melody progresses up a scale, but not a scale, a kind of modified scale that seems off kilter just as it seems familiar.  The cello plays it, the guitar plays it, the sousaphone (!) plays it.  And it continues on in like fashion until only the high notes remain and then a menacing low riff on sousaphone cello and guitar breaks through–a great villain soundtrack if ever there was.  While everyone plays this riff, Anna returns to the keys to play the modified scale.

Meanwhile, the drummer has looked like he’s asleep behind his small kit.  And then 3 anda half minutes in he wakes up and starts playing a loud but slow rhythm.  The guitar begins soloing and as it fades out that main riff begins, now with a simple drum beat–not matching what anyone else is playing, mind you.  The sousaphone (which must have an echo on it or something and the cello pick up the low menace and it seems like everybody is doing his and her own thing.  But it all works amazingly.

So just who is Anna Meredith?

Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. Two of the three songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints.

Bob Boilen was also impressed when he first saw Anna Meredith live:

I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.

Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. … But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.

Lest you worry that she couldn’t translate it to the Tiny Desk (she says they normally have 23 suitcases full of crap so this has been an exciting challenge to squeeze in here)

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

The second song, “Ribbons” is quieter.  It’s and new song and it has vocals.  Her vocals aren’t great (“hard when you’ve got the voice of a five-year old boy”) but the melody she builds around it shows that her  voice is just one more instrument (albeit saying interesting words).  Actually, that’s not fair, they are just so different from the noise of the other two songs that it feels very faint in comparison.

It opens with a quiet guitar and electronic drum.  And slowly everyone else joins in.  A nice string accompaniment from the cello (Maddie Cutter), bass notes on the sousaphone (Tom Kelly) and even backing vocals from everyone.  By the third go around the drummer (Sam Wilson) is playing the glockenspiel.  By that time the song has built into a beautiful round and the quietness of her voice makes complete sense.  As the song nears its end, Sam has switches to a very fast but quiet rhythm on the floor tom.

She introduces the band and wishes a happy birthday to guitarist Jack Ross.  She says this is a great present as “so far all we’ve gotten him is an apple corer, the gifts have been a bit low grade.”

They make some gear switches, “we have a bit of a logistics problem with all our gear we can’t quite afford to bring enough glockenspiels, we pass the pure crap glockenspiel  around ans everyone gets to go ‘my turn!'”

“The Vapours” opens with a wonderfully wild guitar riff–fast and high-pitched and repeated over and over.  Anna Meredith adds waves of synths and then in comes the sousaphone and plucked cello.  Then fast thumping on the floor tom propels the song along.  The song slows a bit a Anna plays the clarinet (!).  The song dramatically shifts to some complicated time signature while Anna plays glockenspiel.  After a few rounds, while this complex guitar riff continues the drum and sousaphone start playing a pretty standard beat the contradicts everything else that’s going on and then Anna just starts pounding the crap out of some more toms.

All through this there are electronic sounds adding to the chaos and I have no idea who is triggering them, but it’s really cool.

The end is almost circusy with the big sousaphone notes and yet it’s like no circus anyone has every heard.  When the camera pulls back and you can see everyone working so hard and yet smiling ear to ear (especially Maddie), you know this is some great stuff.

The end of the song winds up with a hugely complicated tapping melody on the guitar and everyone else working up a huge sweat.

I couldn’t get over how much I loved this.  I immediately ordered Varmints and checked her touring schedule.

How disappointed was I to see that Anna Meredith had played Philly just last month and has now gone back to Europe!  I do hope she comes back soon.

[READ: August 30, 2017] McSweeney’s 48

For some reason, I find the prospect of reading McSweeney’s daunting.  I think it’s because I like to post about every story in them, so I know I’m in for a lot of work when I undertake it.

And yet I pretty much always enjoy every piece in each issue.  Well, that explains why it took me some three years to read this issue (although I did read Boots Riley’s screenplay in under a year).

This issue promised: “dazzling new work; a screenplay from Boots Riley with a septet of stories from Croatia.”

LETTERS

GARY RUDOREN writes about using the Giellete Fusion Platinum Razor every day for 18 days and how things were good but have gotten a little ugly.  On day 24 he had a four-inch gash under his nose.  Later on Day 38 it was even worse–a face full of bloody tissue squares.  By day 67 he is writing to thank McSweeney’s for whatever they did perhaps it was the medical marijuana but now his face is baby butt smooth even without shaving.  He wants to change the slogan to Gilette Fusion the shave that lasts forever. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: March 2017] The Organist

organistAfter really enjoying The Organist in 2015, the season ended and I hadn’t heard that there were going to be anymore.  So I stopped looking for them.  And then the other day I got an email reminding me about recent episodes.  Well, sure enough there had been an entire season last year and they were already part way through this year’s season.

So I’m playing some catch up here.  But they are timeless, so it’s okay.

Each cast has a section in brackets–this text comes from the Organist’s own site.  The rest is my own commentary.

The Organist is a free podcast from KCRW & McSweeney’s.  As of this writing, they are up to episode 82. (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-Tiny Desk Concert #237 (August 20, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

rufusPreceding his sister by a few months at the Tiny Desk was Rufus Wainwright.  I love Rufus’ delivery and style.  I really like his voice too.  The problem is I don’t really like his music all that much.  I wish I did, because I love hearing him sing.  But for some reason it doesn’t do anything for me.  We even saw him live (on a bill with Guster and Ben Folds) and left half way through his set because it’s such a different energy than the other two.

But I love this little bit of information about this show:

We’d never tried to squeeze a piano behind the Tiny Desk, but when I saw a chance to have Rufus Wainwright play here, I wouldn’t — and he probably wouldn’t — have had it any other way

That’s particularly funny because now some five years later they have had all kinds of things behind his desk.

He plays three songs on the piano.

“The Art Teacher”is a sad story about, yes an art teacher.  Really listening to the lyrics (full of art references) makes the song come alive.

Before the second song, he says I’m promoting my new album Out of the Game…yes, you may applaud if you wish.  Covers a lot of genres of music, one is, briefly, country.  Today is a lazy hazy day in the South–while we’re near the South.

“Respectable Dive”is a slow song (the country song, but not sounding country here) and again, the lyrics are great.

“Montauk” is about several people.  His daughter Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen and his fiance.  Viva’s bilogical mother is Lorca Cohen who is Leonard Cohen’s daughter.  The last verse is about “my mother, the great Kate McGarrigle” (Rufus’ father is Loudon Wainwright III).

This song is, as the blurb says:

Wainwright at his best. The piano lines flow with forward motion in a Philip Glass way, and there’s also a hauntingly beautiful story. Wainwright sings to his daughter Viva, [imagining her] grown up and visiting her two fathers in Montauk, a small community on the eastern tip of Long Island.

So I am torn between really liking his voice but feeling that his delivery is a little too slow to fully understand the great lyrics.  There’s so much greatness in his stuff, and yet I can’t find my way in.

[READ: December 20, 2016] “Defamer”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

I really liked yesterday’s story and I really liked this one as well, even though it is very different.

This is a the sad story of a woman named Birdie.  Boy oh boy everything goes wrong in her life.  She works at an office.

Big boss takes a four-hour lunch.  He has suffered no major disasters in his life.  [He and his wife plan] their vacation to Maine a year in advance.  This is one way to live.

Birdie works in a corner cubicle near Bog Boss’ office… [She] makes $20,000 a year forwarding emails to people who make $15,000 a year.

Birdie assumes that her boss is having an affair on his four-hour lunches.  But one day she see him during his lunch break working at a deli, frantically making sandwiches for customers.  Nothing makes sense. (more…)

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town-boy SOUNDTRACK: DUBLIN GUITAR QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #409 (May 15, 2015).

dgqWhen I first listened to this brief concert for some reason I didn’t realize that the quartet were playing Philip Glass.  Of course, once he stated that that’s who they were playing, it became quite obvious–but having Glass played on acoustic guitars instead of synths or violins, is quite an unusual experience.

The music is still rigidly repetitive, but there is a great deal of warmth added with the guitars (and the human element as well).

The Dublin Guitar Quarter has been around since 2002 and they play pretty much only contemporary and new pieces (despite being dressed in suits and playing on “classical” guitars).

They play two pieces, with two and three movements of each piece respectively.  They were originally recorded for strings, so these guitar transcriptions change things quite a lot (especially in Mishima).

The first piece is called “Company.”  They play Movements 2 and 3. What’s most impressive about the first piece is that you can hear all of the musical lines.  Glass often interweaves line up line of music ad you can see each guitarist playing these lines on high guitar notes and low notes while the other play accompaniment–transcribing these must have been a real challenge.

The loud chords are practically heavy metal chords on the guitar as opposed to what the strings might sound like.  And for all of the repetition, these two movements of clock in at less than four-minutes total.

It’s interesting to listen to the original after this and hear how it’s clearly the same piece but it sounds so very different.  From tone to drama, everything is changed.

The final pieces are three movements from Mishima.  In Mvt 3 there is some fast picking while the other three play chords.  It’s also fun to watch them all doing similar but distinct things through the middle of the movement.  This doesn’t have the fast lines that Glass is known for but it has a lot of loud repetitive notes.

What’s so interesting is that original is full of drums–and parts of only drums.  Obviously these aren’t present here, but the music resonates in a similar (but again, distinct) way.

Mt 2 is a slow meditative piece, and is far shorter than the original (which is also full of drums).

The final piece opens with some chords and then grows very beautiful as the Glass riff takes on an almost prog rock feel because of the guitar and the way the bass notes contrast so wonderfully with it.  It is short in this and the original and is great excerpt to listen to.

  • Glass: String Quartet No. 2, “Company,” Mvts. II & III
  • Glass: String Quartet No. 3, “Mishima,” Mvt. III, “1934: Grandmother & Kimitake”
  • Glass: String Quartet No. 3, “Mishima,” Mvt. II, “November 25: Ichigaya”
  • Glass: String Quartet No. 3, “Mishima,” Mvt. XI, “1962: Body Building”

[READ: March 24, 2015] Town Boy

This book was written (and drawn) in 1980.  First Second books had it translated and published in 2007.

I found Lat’s first book, Kampung Boy to be quite charming.  It was about a boy growing up in a small village in Malaysia in the 1950s.  This is the sequel and it is about moving from the village into the town and being a teenager.

This book is a little less episodic than the first.  Most of the story is laid out as text on one page and a drawing on the next.  But the drawings also have speech bubbles, so there’s a lot of different things going on. (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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