Monday, August 27, 2012

2'42" Moscow

Please enjoy this second installment of 2'42"




2'42" is an online series that reflects on the evolving nature of duration and form in this globalized new millenium.

A claim has been made that 2 minutes and 42 seconds is the perfect length for a pop song. This statement has been circling the internet, independently initiated by bloggers Joshua Allen and John Scalzi. It has been perpetuated by the likes of Boing BoingWiredNPR, and many more.

2'42" takes that statement to heart. Music written and/or recorded in cities around the world has been "corrected" to fit that "perfect pop song" length of 2:42. Each track is named after the city where its source material originated.

A single installment of 2'42" will be released online every week until further notice. As they are released, they will be available for free on sites like BandcampSoundcloudSonic SquirrelInternet ArchivesReverbnationYoutube, and Vimeo.


Previous installments of 2'42":

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shows in LA I will soon miss

I am excited to visit my Alaskan homeland, but am also sad to miss what will be happening around LA during that time. Below is a list of things I would otherwise love to go see/hear. I'm sure there are plenty more I am forgetting:

Aug 24 (my birthday, FYI...)


Aug 25


Aug 25, 26


Aug 28


Aug 29


Aug 29 onward


Sept 1




Sunday, August 19, 2012

2'42" Cologne

Allow me to introduce 2'42"

2'42" is an online series that reflects on the evolving nature of duration and form in this globalized new millenium.

A claim has been made that 2 minutes and 42 seconds is the perfect length for a pop song. This statement has been circling the internet, independently initiated by bloggers Joshua Allen and John Scalzi. It has been perpetuated by the likes of Boing Boing, Wired, NPR, and many more.

2'42" takes that statement to heart. Music written and/or recorded in cities around the world has been "corrected" to fit that "perfect pop song" length of 2:42. Each track is named after the city where its source material originated.

A single installment of 2'42" will be released online every week until further notice. They will be made available for free on sites like Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Sonic Squirrel, Internet Archives, ReverbnationYoutube, and Vimeo.

Please enjoy this first installment: Cologne


Thursday, August 16, 2012

James Tenney's Sonatas & Interludes

On July 30, Hat Hut Records released a CD of James Tenney's studio rendition of Sonatas & InterludesJohn Cage's seminal prepared piano work. It was recorded on July 18, 2002 at the KPFK studios.

When considering the significance of a CD like thisArt Lange's quote from the liner notes says it well:

"How rare, and valuable, it is to be able to experience one composer’s masterwork through the sensibility of another significant, stylistically distinct composer – via a performance that reveals unexpected aspects of both. That is to say, an approach to performance not as an act of self-conscious, flamboyant or dramatic interpretation, according to the concerns of technique, expression, and projection that are at the heart of an instrumentalist’s presentation of a musical score to an audience, but something completely different; rather, an examination of the music’s premise and complex details from a contrasting, individual, compositional curiosity."

Tenney performed Sonatas & Interludes with some frequency, along with Ives' Concord Sonata (sometimes playing the pair as two halves of a concert, preparing the piano during intermission). Given that a 1951 performance of S&I purportedly influenced Tenney's decision to pursue music, it is surprising that piano preparation didn't find it's way into more of Tenney's own music. When he did use prepared piano, it was in a unique way, like pairing it with Balinese gamelan in The Road To Ubud.

Most people that read this blog already know about S&I, so I won't go into too much detail about the piece itself. The recording quality is crystal clear, with what sounds like a healthy dash of Lexicon. The expressivity of the performance is superb, making a lot of potentially alien gestures sound very natural and ultimately human. That is a trick which some other recordings fall short of - talking through the prepared piano as a native speaker, without a dodecaphonic accent.

Listening to Tenney's version of S&I inspired me to go back and listen to my other recordings of the piece (which I have three of...). It is fascinating to compare each performer's approach to timbre in the same way classical connoisseurs compare orchestras' and conductors' interpretations of standard orchestral repertoire. Performative interpretation is obviously important, but when so much idiosyncratic pre-performance handiwork is requested of someone (the actual preparation of the piano), his/her approach to it speaks volumes about his/her relationship to the music.

In the end, I am reminded of a poster that Greg Hollowaymy first percussion teacher, had in his studio. It read: Worry Is Not Preparation.

Here are a few videos of Tenney performing S&I at the Schindler House, Los Angeles:




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Revising Boulez

Re-tooling an old warhorse of a quote for my own intents and purposes:
Any musician who has not experienced — I do not say understood, but truly experienced — the musical metaphor of astral/trans-dimensional/space travel is USELESS. For his whole work is irrelevant to the needs of his epoch.

Original quote:
"[A]ny musician who has not experienced — I do not say understood, but truly experienced — the necessity of dodecaphonic music is USELESS. For his whole work is irrelevant to the needs of his epoch." 
Pierre Boulez ("Eventuellement...", 1952, translated as "Possibly...")

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Because I Am Always Talking

On August 21, Eric Lindley will be releasing his third album under his Careful moniker.

While the album continues to embrace the acoustic guitar-based aesthetic of his previous work, Because I Am Always Talking expands the electronic sound world that subtly enwraps his music (and brings more Xiu Xiu comparisons to mind). There are even several songs that feature electronic drums, providing a surprising propulsive drive when applied.

There is also a surprising cover of Frog Went A'Courtin, also known as King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O on Harry Smith's Anthology of Western Folk Music.

You can pre-order it as a digital download, CD, or limited-edition vinyl via Bandcamp.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Southwest Francophile

On July 29 I had the pleasure of attending an outdoor concert by Southwest Chamber Music at the Huntington in Pasadena. The program, like most of their performances this summer, focused entirely on the music of French composers from the turn of the 20th century (every concert of the summer features at least one piece by both Ravel and Debussy).

As darkness settled on the grounds of the Huntington, it became quickly apparent that the loggia of the Huntington Art Gallery was the perfect setting to hear chamber works by the likes of Debussy, Ravel, Milhaud, and Franck. Those who could afford seats in the loggia were treated to splendidly intimate performances by the ensemble, who performed from the outer edge of the space. Those who sat on the lawn had to listen from behind the musicians and through the open piano lid, but to the same great performances.

To start things off, pianist Ming Tsu played Debussy's Suite Bergamasque, a crowd-pleaser for sure. She played through it expertly, and there was a subtly humorous moment in her final cadence that I bet few in the audience noticed. As Tsu finished the final chords of Passepied, the engine of a distant airplane hummed a minor second above the tonic of the last chord. It created a fascinating, unavoidable dissonance that reminded me of the ending of my own solo piano piece, Sigils, which Vicki Ray premiered last November at Pianospheres.

Ravel's Chansons madécasses followed, sung by soprano Elissa Johnston with Larry Kaplan, Peter Jacobson, and Ming Tsu on flute, cello, and piano respectively. Johnston did a fine job walking the fine line between chamber music repose and the inherent drama of the sexual and racial content of De Parny's text.The performance somehow reminded me of Virgil Thomson - somewhat anachronistic, I know, but I found myself wondering if the two composers ever actually exchanged words or ideas during Thomson's time in Paris studying with Nadia Boulanger.

Milhaud's La Création du monde, Op 81b is described in the program as an "impression of le jazz hot he experienced from the Hotel Brunswick Orchestra and the New Orleans-flavored jazz of Harlem." Fittingly, the piece is far more Gershwin than Grappelli (I overheard one patron even say they expected to hear Rhapsody in Blue nested in the middle), and I again wondered if Gershwin and Milhaud ever sat down and had a conversation. The ensemble (Lorenz Gamma, Shalini Vijayan, Luke Maurer, Peter Jacobson, and Ming Tsu) played the quartet and piano arrangement of the piece wonderfully.

After an intermission, the same group launched into Franck's Quintet for Piano and Strings in D Major, Op. 45. In contrast to the previous pieces, the Franck felt dense and heavy (in a good way). The interplay between the members of the ensemble was superb; Franck's omni-directional orchestration revealed no weak links in the group.

If you can afford it, the Huntington Art Gallery loggia is a great place to hear Franco-centric chamber music on a mild summer night. It looks like they have 2 more concerts in August...