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Archive for the ‘Philip Glass’ Category

[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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5dials34SOUNDTRACK: MATT HAIMOVITZ & CHRISTOPHER O’RILEY-Tiny Desk Concert #426 (March 14, 2015).

matthThere’s no introduction or fanfare for cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley’s Tiny Desk set.  They just start right in with a romping Beethoven piece.   I don’t know these two, but the notes say the duo has a new album out called Shuffle.Play.Listen., in which music by Stravinsky and Astor Piazzolla mingles with Cocteau Twins and Arcade Fire.  There’s no contemporary music in this set, but it’s very cool nonetheless.

The Beethoven piece sounds alive and wild and very modern.  The Glass piece is slow and beautiful  The final piece is lively and playful (with hints of darkness).  It introduced as reminding O’Riley of a scene in The Unbearable Lightness of Being when Daniel Day-Lewis gets a quickie.

It’s especially fun to watch how animated Haimovitz is.  The set list:

  • Beethoven: Cello Sonata No. 4 in C – IV. Allegro vivace
  • Philip Glass/Foday Musa Suso: The Orchard
  • Leoš Janáček: Pohádka – II. Con moto

[READ: April 6, 2015] Five Dials 33 Part II

After several themed issues of Five Dials we get back to the ones that I really like–random things thrown together under a tenuous idea.  It’s got some great authors and a surprising amount of large scale doodles–full page scribbles and some drawings that go from one page to the next (which works better online than in print).  Some of the giant illustrations also are fun–they are of jokey images like a memory stick that states I have only memories.  The art was done by JODY BARTON.

As with a previous issue there is a page of contributors and “The Unable to Contribute Page.”  These are journalists unfairly imprisoned (see more at cpr.org).  The Table of Contents is back, along with the FAQ: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMcSweeney’s #6 comes with a CD.

Most of the music on the CD is performed by They Might Be Giants (a rather perfect fit for McSweeney’s).  Some other musicians who appear are: M. Doughty, Philip Glass, Michael Meredith. Roger Greenawalt & S.E. Willis

Instructions included with book:

#3. The compact disc contains music.  There are 44 discrete pieces of music –“Tracks”–on this compact disc.  Each Track corresponds to a picture, series of pictures, or story–a Piece–in this journal.  When you are reading or looking at a certain Piece, we ask that you cue your compact disc to the corresponding Track on the disc.  The appropriate track number will appear prominently, usually under the title of each Piece.  Note: The track number will no appear on subsequent pages of the Piece.

#6. Please note that you may listen to Tracks without reading their Pieces and you may read Pieces without listening to their corresponding Tracks.  But this is not recommended.  You fucking bastard.

[READ: December 8, 2009] McSweeney’s #6

I’m finally getting back to reading some older McSweeney’s issues.  This was the final issue that I received from my initial subscription.  I distinctly remember being excited by the CD and maybe reading some of the book, but clearly never finishing it.

So yes, this issue comes with a CD.  The intro note explains that each Piece in the book has an accompanying  Track on the CD, and, you are to only listen to the Track that accompanies the Piece you are reading…never read a piece while listening to the wrong track.  Ever!  It explains that each Track has been created to be as long as it would take you to read each Piece.  But there are obviously many exceptions. The first story for instance is well over ten pages but the song is about 5 seconds long.  And, the Arthur Bradford Track is 8 minutes long when anyone could read the Piece much more quickly.

The bulk of the songs are by They Might Be Giants.  Anyone who knows TMBG knows you can’t summarize their work, and this book exercise is ideal for them: there are several pieces that are just a few second long.  But they also write some nice longer pieces as well.  And, of course, they are perfectly suited for mood music that works well with the writing.  Some of the songs have words which is a bit distracting while trying to read, but that’s okay.  I did try my best to follow the prescription about only listening to the appropriate song, but I admit to getting off pace from time to time.  (more…)

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ny413SOUNDTRACK: DEPECHE MODE-Black Celebration (1986).

blackcelebrationSince the previous entry was all about The Smiths, I include Depeche Mode in this entry as the other big album that influenced my appreciation for college rock (or just British music, apparently).

My friend Garry, in addition to playing me The Smiths, also played me Black Celebration.  At the time I either didn’t like or didn’t know about Depeche Mode.  But I was really struck by this album.

DIGRESSION: It would only be years later that I would call them Daypatch Commode thanks to the Dead Milkmen!  Incidentally, “Instant Club Hit (You’ll Dance to Anything)” become something of a namechecking song to know go British bands back in college.  “You’ll dance to anything by…Book of Love… The Smiths…Public Image Limited…”

The thing that most impressed me about Black Celebration was the way the tracks…not necessarily melded together…but that they had all kinds of effects and things that sort of linked them.  It’s most noticeable on the first three tracks, or with the ticking clock that links “Stripped” to “Here in The House.”  It’s a little thing that adds a nice continuity to the disc, and was something I hadn’t really heard before.

But even beyond that, the sounds were totally new to me.  There’s all kinds of sound effects thrown in and experimentations that simply didn’t happen in the metal I enjoyed.  And the keyboards weren’t Top 40ish, they weren’t sounds that I didn’t like, they were just new.  There’s even moments that sound straight out of Phillip Glass.  The tracks were certainly downers, and yet there was something angelic about them.

Or maybe angelic’s not the right word…pretentious comes to mind.  There’s something so archly British about Dave Gahan’s singing voice on this disc…quite different from the heroin addict voice on Violater and later.

  “Black Celebration” has, at one point a cool whirling sound effects that plays with stereo in a way you wouldn’t expect from this kind of band.  And, as is Gore’s speciality, it is upbeat musically, yet clearly a downer lyrically.  “Fly on the Windscreen-Final” has the obviously unhappy lyric of “Death is everywhere” and yet again, musically it remains somewhat upbeat.  

Martin Gore also sings a lot on this disc, which helps to balance out the tone (even though at this stage he doesn’t sound radically different than Gahan). “A Question of Lust” is a delicate ballad, while “A Question of Time” shows the way of their more rocking songs later on.  The disc also features the fantastic “Stripped,” which has been covered like half a dozen times.  (Although DM’s is still the best version).

The disc also has a couple of short tracks (from under 2 minutes to just under 3 minutes).  These tracks seem somewhat less fleshed out than the rest of the disc, which may be why the disc isn’t as popular as their other ones (I just learned).  They act more like interstitials between songs rather than songs themselves.

Evidently the American release included “But Not Tonight” the one majorly upbeat track on the disc.  I’m not sure why it was excluded elsewhere (although it really doesn’t fit thematically), but it does add a happy note to a dark disc.

I’ve enjoyed Depeche Mode ever since, and has been quite pleasantly surprised by the rocking tone they have taken in the last few years.

[READ: April 9, 2009] “The Color of Shadows”

There was some interesting synchronicity in reading this story when I did as we had just watched The Savages a few nights before. The Savages stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as siblings whose father is placed in a nursing home, and how they deal with the emotional strain this causes.

“The Color of Shadows” concerns a man named Paul who is in the unfortunate position of having to put his Aunt in a nursing home.  And what made this story so good was that this main plot point was in no way the most moving part of the story. (more…)

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