Friday, March 31, 2006

My Favorite Composers (an ongoing series moving through history chronologically like a mathematical bluebird flying through a grandfather clock)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
















As far as the accepted canon of the West's greatest composers go, one must admit that Franz Joseph Haydn got the shaft. Forever overshadowed by the astronomically talented freak of nature, as well as young friend and collegue 24 years his junior by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Haydn has always played a little bit of zweitens bananna to the giggling bastard. His status also doesn't benefit from a tempremental and brutish little genius he once taught by the name of Ludwig Van Beethoven.
Far from being a stale leftover from the end of the classical era who died after Beethoven had already cemented musical Romanticism in his Eroica, Haydn's later works are incredibly interesting in their experimental use of phrasing, form and orchestration.
It seems Haydn's genius though is the incredible healthiness of his life and musical output. The music is witty, full of invention, life and color, muscular and solid as a lamppost.
As a matter of factuality, Haydn's London Symphonies (some of the most Haydnesque of Haydn's works) seem almost 'neo-classical' at times. The rhythmic verve of Symphony 104's opening movement, the intentionally awkward phrasing of some of the finales, the long-limbed melodies of the Andantes that twist and turn and hide and pop out; is not Haydn peeking out of every page of Stravinsky's Symphony in C? (Is Not He!? as my friend Thad used to say.)
The charming second movement of the 93rd Symphony is the perfect example of Haydn's Haydn-ness. A lilting dance who's conclusion is a series of final sighs of violins and flutes like two lovers blowing dandileons and making wishes after a delightful Springtime picnic. After a few stops, starts and long drawn out notes... a silence: then, like the worst Burger King Rodeo Burger belching fatman interupting the springtime fun, a ridiculously loud bassoon squacks a low note from the bowels of the orchestra. While Stravinsky might have indulged the cruel irony of such a moment, Haydn's belching fat man who ruins the picnic easily wins the hearts of the two lovers, and the three laugh and trip over each other on the way back home.
This is Haydn.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Debussy and the New York Times

















Being a librarian and a college student has it's perks, including kindly elderly librarian groupies and endless drugs. Another perk is the ability to use great academic search engines like Proquest with it's searchable New York Times (complete with Digital images in PDF of all pages) back to the late 1800s.
I've pulled up this gem of an interview* from June 1910 with Claude Debussy. Appréciez!

*Sorry it's a pain to download in PDF from this web host but it's fast and bug free. Proquest is a subscription service and wouldn't let me link you there. Bastards-I know.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Name that Sample!

















I think it's about friggin' time we had a little fun up on this old internet how bout it, whattya say whattya say?

Here is a little ditty me (beatmaster DJ Kid Icarus) and my rappin' partner Chaz Kangas (Sam Kammerude) did a little bit back. We decided our album notes from the underground, for which Chazzy Wazzy did all the words and I did all the beats and instrument playing and composin' (www.myspace.com/notesunderground-feel free to contact us to buy! It's a boner-fried masterpiece), needed some off the cuff song that would include a improvisitory, messy little beat and a 100% freestyle from the MC. I decided to record a couple silly tracks of me playing a little fragment of a famous piece of Classical music to which Chaz would freestyle over. The whole song was recorded in about 10 minutes. My keyboard playing is evidence of this although I do admit to trying to make it sound wacky tobackky. Chaz's freestyle however is incredible and deserves it's own attention, especially for it's final 15 seconds or so in which he manages to reference a deadly disease, two Minnesota staples (a pie restaurant and the State Fair).

Listen here and first one to tell me where the music is from gets a PRIZE!


EDIT (03/27/06)-I'M NOT KIDDING. THERE IS A PRIZE IF YOU ARE THE FIRST TO TELL ME THE EXACT TITLE OF THE PIECE I'M PLAYING FOR THE BEAT. GODDAMN IT.
Bloomsday


















I don't read the New York Times Book Review. It isn't 'written', so why should I 'read' it?
-
Harold Bloom

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pretentious Video Games



























SomethingAwful.com has an incredibly funny and smart addition to their Photoshop Phriday series today: Prententious Videogames.

Favorites of mine other than the above would have to be:




























































































































































When some dudes on an internet forum destroy your philosophical pretentious in a couple of well done photoshop jobs of videogames, you know you need to reassess yourself.
Let's consider some of these another small internet victory on Post-Modern and Deconstructionist theory.
Bravo SomethingAwful!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mozart's Final Contemporary...

















...dead at 250.

Monday, March 20, 2006












Vladimir:
I don't understand.
Estragon:
Use your intelligence, can't you?
Vladimir uses his intelligence.
Vladimir:
(Finally).
I remain in the dark.

-Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Nigeria










" Hello Dear Friend,

I apologize if the contents in this mail are contrary to your moral ethics,
which I feel may be of great disturbance to your personal life, But please treat
with absolute secrecy and personal. I pray that this email reaches you in the
best of health. I am Mr John Ogbeka the Director of Operation with Community
Bank Cotonou, Republic of Benin.

One of our customers Engr Ron Morris, with his entire family were among the
victims of December 25, 2003 Air-Crash. For more about the Air Crash you can
visit
the CNN web news for the tragedy.
http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/africa/12/26/benin.crash/


Before his death, he has an account with us valued at Two Million, Six hundred
and Fifty Thousand US Dollars ( $USD2.650M)

According to the Benin Law, at the expiration of three years the money will
revert to the
ownership of the Benin government if nobody applies to claim the funds.
Consequently, my proposal is that I will like you as a foreigner to stand in as
the next of kin or Distant Cousin for us to claim this money, so that the fruits
of this old man's labour will not
get into the hands of some corrupt government officials who will latter use the
money to sponsor war in Africa and kill innocent citizens in the search for
political power.

Please note that there will be no problem as my bank has made all effort through
your embassy here in Cotonou, Benin Republic to reach for any Relation but all
was fruitless.
My position as the Director of Operation in this bank guarantees the successful
execution of this transaction.

If you are interested and in agreement with me, please write back immediately.
This money will be shared 50% each once the funds is transferred to your account
in your country or anywhere else. If not interested please distroy the mail
because of the confidentiality attached to it.

I promise that this transaction will be done under a legitimate arrangement that
will protect both of us from any breach of the law.
please reply me with this e-mail address johnogbeka0@walla.com
Best Regards.
Mr John Ogbeka"
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No more bloggin' for me! I'm RICH!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Poem for Purim
















I am spitting up fir planets of spinning crystal
perfumed with weightless cherry boughs of peacock feather tips
that write my Christian name over and over again on your breasts

You are now falling into a black river that carries the image of
the city in it backwards and upside down while lemon scented mists
veil the phonenumber Daisy the Chiropractor spelled out to you
on the collective beaks of cardnials and bluejays flying together down stream

I am now waking up and remembering the rainbow balloons the clown
gave me outside the tent in the filthy grass soaked with the rain after I skinned my knee chasing my cousin with the Strawberry cotton candy she paid for with the Sacajawea coin
she found in the robin's nest under the miserable fern tree behind the Cathedral

You are now brushing your teeth and touching the freezing bathroom tiles from scratch and going on with your day

I am looking for you in the mall in front of Sox Appeal

You are now sleeping

I am now sad

You are not thinking of that

I can't think or write right now good

You laugh

I now forget th one g bir f y

You ar go ng omo ow o t k a ou m on o ce

I n h s h 3 k f

d m W s m .


d q J v



a h

?








k







.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Stanley Crouch is a big fat idiot who is ugly and stupid and an idiot.













Stanley Crouch, in between writing laughible articles about jazz and culture, critically derided novels, fellating Wynton Marsalis, punching people in the face, insulting brilliant musicians who haven't recorded Autumn Leaves 381 times (Matthew Shipp and Dave Douglas) and generally being out of shape and goofy looking, sometimes takes a break from being unpleasant and petty. These few breaks he gets, albeit brief, are usually spent eating and pretending to play drums. Before getting back to doing what he loves (see above.), he usually will eat some more and sit. As he sits, and looks goofy, he prepares his next assault on something that isn't quite dull enough for him.
His latest assault on John Coltrane's late period in Slate magazine is particularly bothersome to me, as it is obvious he isn't even trying anymore. Though ostensibly a piece praising a recently released Coltrane album, he still manages to get a few of the nonsensical and simplistic barbs in there that make him so well-loved by Ken Burns and similarly unadvernturous and superficial jazz fans who have all the money and power (while Matthew Shipp sits in a crappy one-room apartment in New York):
Coltrane died in 1967 and has since achieved a mythic status that obscures the fact that he redefined jazz for the better and for the worse. The better meant an inspired use of minor modes, pentatonic scales, and original melodies that brought a Play Mediabrand new lyricism into the music, which can be heard quite clearly on Crescent, perhaps the greatest studio recording of mature Coltrane. The worse meant undisciplined and formless improvisations of epic length that were more about possession than inspired design—feeling, thought, and technique became lost in the overwhelming aesthetic event. That is why when Coltrane jumped off the cliff into hysteria, he began to lose his audience, which was not prepared, like the rock audience, for formless chaos.

To Crouch, the greatness of Coltrane was not his supernatural talent and singular vision, his passion and power so evident on the early works and the later, more challenging work from Sun Ship to his dates at the Village Vanguard with Eric Dolphy, but it was his "use of minor modes and pentatonic scales"!
Ladies and gentleman: Beloved jazz critic Stanley Crouch.

Let me try to understand this. So Crouch loves Coltrane's use of modes and scales, but hates the "formlessness" and lack of "inspired design." This is too easy.
The 'formlessness' argument's best rebuttal has been Keith Jarrett's note to Marsalis in the liner notes of the great and completely improvised "Inside Out": "They ask, 'Where's the form'? The music forms itself. That's the form."
As for 'lack of inspired design', Crouch is evidently referring to the fact that Coltrane avoided in his final years using the classic "Melody/Improvisation/Melody-Coda" form, and cliche-ridden bop-inspired (by way of blues and white showtunes) melodic solos full of predictable ooh and ahhs and clear-cut story arcs.
Crouch has probably never heard Eastern music before, or if he has, didn't quite think it up to par. There is quite a bit of music in the world that is improvised, and doesn't seek to make childishly simple statements of A and B followed by A. There is also music that is passionate as any black soul but doesn't have any blue notes and plagal cadences. Not willing to see "his" beautiful art form tainted by anything European (even though every thing in jazz except the blues element is taken from European music to some degree-from the instruments, to the tuning to the tonality to the structure) or (gasp!) African or Asian, Crouch only accepts a bastardized music that he can call "black" or "American". For someone who has been so hard on white musicians for their abilities, it seems Crouch will deem any idea taken from his ancestor's continent (Coltrane's Africa Brass) "jumping into an aesthetic abyss". Perhaps it's too "black"?

To charge Coltrane with just trying to be hip and being tempted by some chic avant-garde noise is disrespectful and untrue. Coltrane had no desire to be "cutting edge" or "different". He saw himself as going back to a more essential music, more raw, primitive, and free from tradition, so important to him as a highly spiritual and roots-orientated musican and human being. It was not putting on love beads and squeeking and squaking for the delight of the intellectual elite. It was not making an "aesthetic" choice. It was a act of pure, untainted soul, authentic and in your face.

There is more 'jazz' in one second of a 1966 Coltrane solo than in the whole of Wynton Marsalis' catalog. I'm sure if I wasn't a nobody know-it all white kid from Minnesota, and a established journalist Crouch would find me and try to punch me. Both ways I'm all ready for the goofy looking bastard, and will proudly follow the great Matthew Shipp in calling him an "Uncle Tom and a fucking loser."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Elliott Carter Festival Day Three









Classes prevented me from catching much of today's Carter Symposium though I skidaddled in to catch John Roeder's dissertation on the "Autonomy, Dialogue and Concilliation in the Music of Elliott Carter". Just as much fun as it sounds, the 30 person room filled to capacity with the nerdiest of older music fans laughed at every joke about 0-4-7 pitch classes and metric modulation. It was a little over my head and I was saddedned to see I'd have to miss Paul Griffiths' presentation on working with the man to catch my ride. I did get to sit next to the Cosby sweatered Welshman (who looks like a more weedy Ludwig Wittgenstein), and noticed that he scowled at me pretty heavily (Britishness?) perhaps do to my painfully inappropriate school clothes in such a situation. Afterwards he seemed friendly and I forgot to ask him what it was like working with Tan Dun, composer of pieces for amplified origami.

Tonight however was the big event, at which the spry and vivacious 97 year old was present. A moving little presentation preceded the concert as Carter received his Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa and Effecta 8521 to the fifth power. He looked good and despite using a cane, moved with relative ease. We also received the promising news that he's working on a Horn Concerto and song cycle on Wallace Stevens for Levine at the moment.
The concert itself was an interesting combination of Carter's wonderful early choral works, along with those by some composers special to Carter such as Stravinsky and Petrassi (and opening with Ives' beautifully peculiar setting of Psalm 97). Before the intermission, Ursula Oppens came out and wrung hallucinatory drowiness fireworks from the piano in the simultaneously lethargic and prickly Night Fantasies.
The concert concluded with the austere Variations for orchestra and the joyful neo-classical Holiday Overture, bringing the evening full circle. From a row in front of me on the side of the stage the tiny but forceful little body stood up and joined the conductor in applauding the orchestra, a bright smile on his bright face.

During the intermission, a friend chided me to approach him as he was only a couple seats away. He sat with his cane and was engaging some young fans in a spirtied conversation. As they left I approached and shook his hand and asked him:
When are you going to get on that second opera!!?
He smiled and laughed and shook his head: One is enough! Trust me, one was enough!.
I would have loved to sit down with him for hours and hear his stories and talk with him about his incredible life but I decided to give the man a little time to himself.
Thank you for all the music Mr. Carter.
Oh, thank you!


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Elliott Carter Festival: Day One














I've just back from first night of the University of Minnesota/Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Elliott Carter festival: the premiere of Frank Scheffer's Carter documentary Labyrinth of Time. In a word...excellent. In more than a single word (in stream of unconsciousness that boreders on Rosie O'Donnellissmmsss!)...

Walking through the strangely active streets of the usually dead downtown St. Paul (Minnesota Wild game at the nearby Excel Energy Center). Finding parking is a pain. A homeless man screams and spits as I walk by. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra building is part of a larger complex of office buildings, banks and shops. All is quiet on the streets. Saint Paul is Minneapolis' strange, inward and depressed cousin.
The SPCO is a darkly swanky little place. Marble floors, large elevators with mirrors. Third floor in a small little auditorium a crowd of no more than 30 well-dressed older men and women. I am the youngest and the only person not in a suit. (I'm wearing a t-shirt and jeans).

The film is, like it's subject, exquisitely refined, slightly dreamy, troublesome and unsettling. Tons of wonderful footage. The old man breathes heavily while composing. The painful process of writing his music. He walks the streets of New York City. He mentions the 'confusion' of modern life he expresses in his music. He points out a car on fire as sirens blaze on a corner in Brooklyn-"See? Confusion" he smiles. Beautiful footage of the man riding in a car in Berlin at night (around the time of the performance there of What Next? with Barenboim conducting-Barenboim makes amusing comments about Carter as an American barbarian from the land of Coca Cola taking the snobby European artistic elite by storm). The city lights blur. Carter looks like a mafia hit man riding in a fancy car. Touching footage of the man and his late wife of so many years. Carter: "She does the cooking...But I make the beds." Boulez and Carter talk about the difficulty of the Clarinet Concerto, and Mahler and Berg's scoring methods. Carter offering helpful and fascinatingly romantic comments to Ursula Oppens on the opening of his Piano Concerto. "Don't listen to me though-play it like you feel." he keeps saying-too much of a gentleman to exercise his will and smother the performer. Carter visiting his old Parisian haunts from the Boulanger days-searches Boulanger's teaching diaries and smiles when he finds a mention of himself. A luminescent choral performance of an early 7 part counterpoint exercise written in Boulanger's class for the composer who hasn't heard it in 60 years.
Lots of bittersweet footage of the composer's work window looking on the Twin Towers. The workers at Ground Zero are edited perfectly to look like the policemen in What Next?.
Carter walks the Brooklyn Bridge at night; a singular, kindly old man with a smile admist a chaos of movement around of him, bikers cars lights horns.

I am humbled. An entirely convincing and smart portrait of a great musical mind and a important composer. A great movie that is required viewing.

I walk out into the city and drunken hockey fans cheer and laugh the homeless man is screaming and being tortured by some invisible demons and the Cathedral is on the hill.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Wow.










I never made a list of "The Things That Are Most Unlikely to Happen in My Lifetime", but all the times spent laughing with my friends about Southern Rap group Three 6 Mafia's exceptionally horrible and filthy songs such as "Slob on my Knob" and "Azz n' Tittiez" I can honestly say the thought never crossed my mind, even for a single millisecond, that one day the group would win an an Oscar for best song.

I cross it off my list, but keep the other most unlikely event that could happen, "Chimeras are found by scientists on the day that Three 6 Mafia wins an Oscar."
There is always next year.
Fake Composer Bios!
an ongoing series of profiles of some of America's leading contemporary composers that will show that the classical music scene in America is FAR from dead!*















Charles Campbell Richardson
Charles Campbell Richardson caught the music bug at an early age, and has been composing ever since he was 3. Born and raised in Norfolk, Virgina, Richardson attended Norfolk Music Conservatory and earned a degree in Composition and Ethnomusicology, where his specialty was the musics of Pokomoke Indians of the Eastern United States.
To date he has written over 9000 compositions from large operas to children's songs. He has written over 400 pieces for the Kazoo, including a concerto for Kazoo, Pokomoke Pan Flute and Brass entitled The Dream of Standing Bull.
2001 saw the premiere of his 6-hour opera on the Diary of Anne Frank, Dear Kitty, premiered at Shenanigans Dinner Theater Cabaret in Norfolk to rave reviews from Richardson's wife, Gail.
The year also saw the premiere of a large cantata for soprano, mixed choir, and large orchestra (with organ) inspired by the events of September 11th, 2001, We Will Never Forget. Dedicated to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, it is a 2 hour long, emotionally harrowing work of great pathos, which quotes the National Anthem, Sousa marches and Copland for it's triumphant ending. Written and completed in the 20 minutes after the second plane hit the tower, Richardson's score was premiered at a charity concert in the park by the Norfolk Policeman's Choir and Orchestra, with Richardson's wife Gail as soprano soloist.
For his future projects, Richardson remains quiet, but admits to working on a set of songs on the poems of singer-songwriter Jewel ("A great talent" says the composer), another opera on Yann Martel's Life of Pi, a set of ballets for Norfolk's Johnson High's dance troupe on Dan Brown's Da-Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, and another large work for orchestra and chorus about September 11th, Martin Luther King, Indians, and Anne Frank.
Whatever he writes, when Richardson puts pen to paper it's solid proof that America's composers rival those of Europe's and can write great music without being too "ugly" as Richardson puts it. Richardson is also currently eagerly waiting the deaths of Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen and Milton Babbitt.
We can expect great things from this composer in the future.