December 29, 2006
Derek Bailey: guitar
Tony Coe: clarinet
When I first heard Derek Bailey, I really didn’t know what to think. Here was a guitar player who built an entire style around the plinks and plonks, thumps and scrapes, and “accidental” harmonics of the mis-fretted note. My first response was: “This guy can’t play!” But once I realized that these sounds were deliberately and expertly executed, I began to comprehend just what an amazing a guitar player he really was. Like the painter Cy Twombly, Bailey attained an adult mastery of lost childhood creativity, unbounded by society’s rules and rigid expectations. Also like Twombly, these childlike “marks” serve a deep and very personal expressivity. But what really amazes me about Bailey is that he could also play with any other musicians, in any genre, and sound perfectly at home and indubitably himself without sacrificing a smidgeon of his utterly unique sound.
I don’t know much about Tony Coe. He plays clarinet exclusively here and sounds really good. Let me tell you from first-hand experience, the clarinet is one of the most difficult instruments in the world to play well and Coe sounds masterful. His woody tone contrasts nicely with Bailey’s plucked and bent wires and they’re intently yet playfully interacting with one another. Coe’s note choices are definitely interesting, obviously informed by his “modern classical” background. Each of the pieces, according to the BBC announcer, is named after a street in New Orleans (“Bourbon,” “DuMain,” “LaFitte,” etc.) and Coe’s clarinet sound evokes a Dixieland feel, though, to be sure, this is angular and abstract music. Superb!
Too bad, but this not available in stores.
Fortunately, John Zorn’s Tzadik label has released a number of wonderful CDs over the past several years of Bailey playing in a variety of interesting settings. The place to start for anyone wishing to encounter Mr. Bailey’s guitar playing for the first time should be Ballads (2002), a solo guitar recording of hoary old jazz standards that is simply stunning. One listen and there can be no doubt that Bailey knows exactly what he is doing and his deconstruction of familiar tunes like “Laura,” Stella By Starlight,” and “Georgia On My Mind” clearly demonstrates his mastery of the instrument. Once you accept his premise, check out Bailey in a pure free-improvisation setting with the Joseph Holbrooke Trio: The Moat Recordings (originally recorded in 1999, reissued in complete form by Tzadik 2006): two CDs of incredibly inventive music with drummer Tony Oxley and bassist (and “classical” composer) Gavin Bryars. My favorite of the Tzadik releases (or at least the one I listen to most often) is Mirakle (2000), which combines Bailey’s singular electric guitar with the heavyweight funk rhythm section of Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass and Calvin Weston on drums. It shouldn’t work, but it does and it’s great fun. By the same token, Bailey’s collaboration with the Japanese noise band The Ruins (Saisoro (1995)) seems ridiculous, but is actually quite captivating. Again, Bailey is simply himself within a literally foreign context and creates something wholly unheard-of.
Tzadik has also issued Bailey’s last recordings on Carpal Tunnel (2006), which is as painful as its title. Be forewarned, this is not for the newbie or casual fan. Suffering from the above referenced disease, Bailey documented a course of re-learning the guitar in the form of an audio diary. The results are touchingly heroic, but ultimately hopeless and sad. It is a testimony to Bailey’s devotion to his art that he would struggle through a debilitating disease to continue playing the guitar, and perhaps given more time, he could have forged a new, new way of approaching the instrument. Alas, Derek Bailey died on Christmas Day, 2005 at the age of 75.
December 20, 2006
I will try to write some more detailed reviews of these records, but for now, here are some examples of the best that digital technology has to offer us music fans, right here, right now:
Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Live at the Fillmore East March 6&7, 1970 (Reprise)
The original Crazy Horse headlining over Miles Davis (!) at the famous Fillmore East in New York City, this is unfortunately only about 40 minutes of music. But what glorious music it is! Classic songs like “Down By The River” and “Cowgirl In The Sand” are given epic performances in spectacular (stereo only) sound. This is a must-have for all Neil Young fans. And, by the way, Miles Davis’ March 7, 1970 set is available on the 2001 Sony/Legacy CD, It’s About That Time, a mind-melting performance of Bitches Brew-era material with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, and Airto Moreia.
David Crosby: If I Could Only Remember My Name (Atlantic)
(originally released 1970)
A neglected masterpiece recorded with the cream of the West-Coast musicians including members of the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Joni Mitchell. This one remains largely unknown even among fans of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and (sometimes) Young. Maybe this deluxe reissue will change that unfortunate fact. Crosby’s ethereal, often-times wordless harmonies are angelic and the musical backings are superb. Hippie Heaven.
The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin (Warner Bros.) (originally released 1999)
The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Warner Bros.) (2002)
The Flaming Lips: At War With The Mystics (Warner Bros.) (2006)
Back in 1984, I never would have imagined the Flaming Lips, a scrappy little punk rock band from Norman, Oklahoma, would still be around, much less making the most ambitious symphonic pop music of our time. Exploiting the near-infinite potential of the Pro-Tools platform, this is digital recording technology pushed to its limit and the CD can hardly contain it all. The high-resolution DVD-A versions are a revelation: spacious, airy, three-dimensional, and utterly compelling. This stuff is the most sumptuous pop music since the Summer of Love. Oh, and these discs are loaded with bonus tracks, b-sides, videos, and other ephemera – you certainly get your money’s worth. At War With The Mystics features a video of Wayne Coyne’s commencement address prepared for his alma mater’s 2006 high school graduation ceremony which is both hilarious and earnestly inspirational.
Buy these records!
December 11, 2006
>Sounds better than CD, but it's NEVER COMING BACK!
The amazing thing is that VINYL NEVER WENT AWAY!
Vinyl sales are going up. How are CD/DVD sales going?
Look, I do not suffer from mere vinyl nostalgia. Vinyl is a pain
in the neck. I just want high-resolution digital at a fair price.
Until then, boy am I grateful that vinyl is still around. That doesn't
make me a luddite. It makes me a music lover.
December 10, 2006
Lots to think about in your latest rant, but I have to respond to this:
>DVD-A failed, as did SACD. Please, let it go. One world is >enough, for all of us. And in that one world, there are two channels...
Maybe. But does have to sound so mediocre? When digital music
can sound as good - maybe even better - than VINYL?? You
know what I mean: not just a two-dimensional simulacrum of music, but
a compelling, emotionally involving, rapturous listening experience?
People steal MP3s because they know they're not worth anything.
Fremer's right: People aren't buying music because they're not even
LISTENING to music. They're in the car, or through crummy ear-damaging
ear buds all the while doing other stuff and, for that, MP3 is "good enough."
But some of us care what it actually sounds like and would, you know,
like music to sound really good instead of really not so good. And
we're people who actually buy records - lots of 'em. MP3 is not even
remotely good enough to actually pay money for it.
Sony blew it again a-la-Betamax with SACD. Vastly superior to CD sound,
but a stupidly proprietary scheme that was too expensive to implement for
anyone but the truly hardcore. After predictably tepid sales, Sony
promptly abandoned the format (leaving those of us who actually bought the
things wondering if I'll still be able to play it back in 10 years).
DVD-A has a chance of remaining a viable format for high-resolution digital.
Sure, most folks don't have 5.1 setups, but they probably wish they had
the $/space to do so. Everyone has a DVD player and any DVD player
can play a CD. A high resolution stereo PCM soundtrack can be played
back on any DVD player. The difference in sound quality is stunning.
Please, let's let the format wars go. Let's admit that records are software
and deliver it via the most efficient - and high quality - media standard available.
Let's continue to upgrade the software, just make it backward compatable
with whatever 5 inch disc you throw at it. Throw on an MP3 track you can easily
load onto your i-Pod. This is easily and cheaply possible right now. Why is
it too much to ask?
Well, I think you know the answer to that. You write about the foolishness of the
music industry better than anyone.
December 9, 2006
Southeastern Career College
December 8, 2006
My fellow graduates, faculty and staff of Southeastern Career College, families, and friends, we are gathered here this evening to celebrate a great accomplishment and to look forward to a great opportunity. I am honored to have been asked to speak to you and I hope that my words will reflect some of the thoughts, feelings, and aspirations of my classmates.
In an essay entitled, “An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man,” Albert Einstein wrote: “Alongside the development of individual abilities, the education of the individual aspires to revive an ideal that is geared towards the service of our fellow man, and that needs to take the place of the glorification of power and outer success.” According to Einstein, “only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.”
My experience at Southeastern Career College has convinced me that Mr. Einstein is correct. On behalf of my class, I would like to thank the staff and faculty of Southeastern Career College. Every one of you embody Einstein’s ideal with your boundless dedication to your students’ education. I want to thank you not only for the knowledge and expertise you so generously shared with us, but also for your enthusiasm, humor, and compassion. Thank you all.
I personally want to thank Mr. Joe Childress, with whom I had the pleasure of taking a number of classes. On the first day of my first class with Mr. Childress, he began by saying, in that inimitable voice: “Contrary to popular opinion, I am not a hard-ass.” Maybe being a little bit of a hard-ass is part of what makes Mr. Childress such an effective teacher. Mr. Childress is truly one of the very best teachers I’ve ever had, for any subject, anywhere. With only six weeks in which to learn a semester’s worth of material, it was something like trying to drink from a fire-hose. But Mr. Childress has a remarkable gift in his ability to make the most complex concepts understandable – indeed fascinating -- to every student in the classroom. He is deadly serious about the subject matter yet often laugh-out-loud funny and everyone walked out of every class having really learned something. My only regret for having graduated this program is that I will not have the privilege of taking another class with Mr. Childress. Thank you, Mr. Childress.
I want to especially thank my mom and dad; both of whom I wish could be here tonight. I was talking with my mom the other night about graduating and what this diploma means and she told me a story about my dad that I’d like to share with you all. My dad grew up dirt poor during the Great Depression and was the first person in his family to ever go to college. Through his own hard work and with the help of the GI Bill, my dad earned a degree from the University of Texas and was promptly hired to work for a big corporation in Houston. His boss at that time was a kindly and mentoring fellow and one day my dad asked him, “Why did you hire me? I didn’t really know anything about this business. What did the degree mean to you?” His boss replied, “The degree didn’t mean that you knew anything, but that you knew how to learn.” Thank you, Mom & Dad.
I also want to thank another great teacher, Ms. Diane Kuhn for not only giving life to a class about wills and estates, but for recommending me to an attorney friend of hers, Mr. Martin Sir, when he was looking for student to work part-time in his law office. And I want to thank Mr. Sir for taking a chance and hiring me almost a year ago when I was barely half way through the program and really didn’t have a clue about the reality of a law office. But, he trusted that I knew how to learn. This generosity of spirit is indicative of Mr. Sir’s devotion to public service that manifests itself not only in his law practice, but also in his community activism and his spiritual life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to apply what I was learning in class to the service of actual clients and for the opportunity to learn more every day. I am now proud to be a full time paralegal at the Law Office of Martin Sir. Thank you, Ms. Kuhn and Mr. Sir.
Finally, I want to thank my beautiful and marvelous wife, Elizabeth for marrying me more than 12 years ago, for believing in me, and for being so supportive of my returning to school so late in life. Elizabeth is a constant inspiration to me. As a reference librarian at the Nashville Public Library, Elizabeth truly lives a life in service of others. Now that we know how to learn, we know how valuable a nice library and a helpful and knowledgeable librarian can be. The Nashville Public Library downtown is one of the most wonderful libraries in the world. As paralegals – as citizens - we should be grateful for such a library and librarians so magnificent. Thank you, Elizabeth. I couldn’t have done it without you.
And so, my fellow graduates, let us now celebrate our great accomplishment: we have learned many things, but most importantly, we have learned how to learn. As paralegals, we will have a duty to continue learning and Southeastern Career College has enabled us to fulfill that duty. As we go forward, the work that we will be doing as paralegals will have a profound impact on people’s lives, and it is an awesome responsibility. So, let us also rejoice in this wonderful opportunity: we now have the opportunity to live a life worth living: a life lived in the service of others.
Congratulations, Class of 2006.
While I don't see the point of writing about music exclusively, it is something I think a lot about and I've got stuff to say. I figure if I can use this blog to focus on music, I will be more inclined to actually do some writing. We'll see.
In the meantime, I formally graduated from SECC last night. I was "valedictorian" and gave an address. I may post it here. Anyway, it was a nice evening. I was even filmed for a potential TV commercial for the school. It would be a hoot if they used it.
But, see, I'm already getting that nauseous feeling writing about myself and my personal life that just freezes me in my tracks and makes me not want to write in this blog. Maybe I just need to get used to it. I mean, it's not like anyone actually READS this blog.
October 16, 2006
Having my own intense feelings about Tower Records, I sent Bob an email. I was not expecting to see it published on his blog/email list, but here it is:
Rodger Coleman: I've spent countless thousands of dollars at Tower
Records stores in Boston, New York, and here in Nashville. Yeah, the
staff always treated me like shit, even if they knew who I was and
that I was likely to spend money there week in, week out. And that
was annoying. But what really killed the Tower experience for me was
when they decided to start charging $1 or MORE over list price for
non-hype records. CDs are just TOO DAMN EXPENSIVE and THAT is
what's killing the music industry. Give me a break about downloading MP3s. MP3s
sound like shit. Hell, CDs sound like shit compared to a well made vinyl LP, but
MP3 or AAC is a joke. It might be fine in the car, but for serious listening? -
forget about it. I suspect that the CD pretty much killed the "home stereo"
experience for most people, hence the rush to portable, disposable MP3s, i-Pods,
and a musical culture on the decline. I'm willing to bet that if the record
industry and (former) market leaders like Tower priced CDs at $10 or less (like
what the vastly superior LP cost), they would still be selling and Tower Records
would still be in business. But no, the RIAA has decided it is more profitable
to hire mercenary law firms to sue their own customers. Now, there's a business
model! Hah! Sometimes I truly believe the record industry DESERVES
to die on the vine. And this is coming from someone who LOVES music, who
LOVES records, who LOVES record stores and spent his entire life spending EVERY
DISPOSABLE DOLLAR on records. But, it got to the point where I just simply
could not justify $20.00 for a crummy CD in a crummy jewel box with crummy
liner notes. You could walk into Tower and buy a DVD of the latest movie
with bonus features and multiple soundtrack options FOR LESS THAN
THE COST of the soundtrack CD. What an insult to musicians and music
Anyway, sorry for the rant. The part of me that loves browsing record stores will
miss Tower. There will be no other game in town for jazz or classical records and that is a shame. But, to hell with $20.00 CDs. Enough is enough.
Heh. Well, then Bob publishes a bunch more emails and the one and only Michael Fremer had this to say:
Michael Fremer: Rodger Coleman wrote: "It might be fine in the car, but
for serious listening?" The biggest problem today is that most young people
don't do "serious listening." They don't know what that is. Music is for
background while you exercise, eat, screw, read or whatever. Even live music is
for the background. That's why people yap through concerts ---sometimes on
their cellphones. Serious listening means, stopping one's minds from yabbering
internally, and letting the artist communicate. A generation growing up
now doesn't know what that means. They can't sit still and just stop everything
going on and just LISTEN.... It needs to be taught, like meditation or it
will be lost forever. What we have now is "listeners" using musicians in a
parasitic relationship. They are there to provide an energy for the
parasite/listener to suck on to energize his or own lame thoughts instead of
shutting the fuck up and PAYING FULL ATTENTION......
Wow. The Lefsetz Letter goes out to tons of music industry honchos and musos. I am blown away that perhaps some of these people read what I wrote. So, I wrote Bob another email, which, again, much to my surprise was "published" today:
Rodger Coleman: I never expected that my email rant to you would wind up
being sent out on your mailing list. If I'd thought so, maybe I would have toned
down the profanity! But, to have Michael Fremer respond to something I said -
wow, what a rush. Fremer is largely responsible for making me realize that vinyl
is truly superior to CD and that you don't have to spend a fortune on playback
equipment to realize this. But, anyway, after sending you that email and talking
with my wife about all this stuff, I had a dream that night about shopping in a
funky record store, crawling around on the ground searching through every nook
and cranny for weird and wonderful treasures. The next day, I decided to make a
trip to Grimey's here in Nashville, a funky record store where the staff is
actually friendly, helpful, and enthusiastic about records. I bought the last
four Robert Pollard LPs (all of which were released this year!) and Sonic
Youth's latest on LP. Yep, that's right - brand new vinyl records. With
Pollard's latest LP on Merge you also get a coupon to download the album AND a
free CD of a live gig opening for Pearl Jam this past summer. Now THAT is
getting some value for your money (a whopping $13.99)! I couldn't wait to get
home from work and peel off the shrink wrap, savor that new vinyl and printer's
ink smell, and spin them all in a row. I drank too many beers and sat enraptured
to the glorious sound - or, got up and danced around the living room. It was an
experience I hadn't had in a long time, and it was thrilling in a way that no CD
has ever been, no matter how much I like the music. So, I got to thinking. Maybe
the death of the CD is necessary to have the music industry move forward. Maybe
the labels will move towards DVD as the delivery method. Maybe they'll embrace
lossless compression schemes like FLAC for downloads, price them reasonably, and
have DVDs (with or without video content) for physical goods (any DVD player
will reproduce a high-resolution PCM soundtrack). Maybe pricing could be more
dynamic and fair. Maybe the equipment manufacturers could adopt a uniform
standard that will play any 5 inch disc you throw at it. Maybe the MP3 could
serve as a free promotion tool, whetting the appetite for the high-quality
product. In any case, it sure looks like vinyl LPs will outlive the CD. Whoulda
thunk it a decade ago? So, Tower is dead. Long live the indie record
I think that about sums up what I have to say about Tower Records. Check Out the Lefsetz Letter. You won't be disappointed.
October 8, 2006
We got the word that he'd suffered a massive heart attack and drove as fast we could from Nashville to Bella Vista, Arkansas.
Amazingly, once the whole family was there in the hospital, he woke up.
He tried to speak, but his mouth was full of tubes. He started to cry when he saw his grandchildren. He was getting upset and we had to let him get some rest. He waved goodbye like he knew it really was goodbye.
He was dead before dawn.
It's been a long hard year for me - for everyone in the family - but most especially for Mom. I am grateful that she has come out the other side of a most horrible grief.
A year is a respectful amount of time to mourn. I am hopeful that this anniversary will mark a new beginning for the family.
It seems glib typing these words, but what worth is having this blog without immortalizing such occasions.
This one's for you, Dad.
This is my first weekend without having to worry about homework, studying for exams, working on projects or otherwise stressing out about school. What a relief! It has been a long two years, but I have achieved my goals: 1) an A in every single class and 2) a job when I'm finished.
Now, I just have to complete 120 hours of work to satisfy my "externship" and will officially graduate with my ABA-approved AAS in Paralegal Studies. I will don a cap and gown on December 8, 2006 and receive my diploma. Also in December, I intend to sit for the certification exam so I will then be: Rodger Coleman, Certified Legal Assistant.
I wish that Dad were still alive to see me now. I know he would have been proud.
September 24, 2006
I have come to rely on blogs for news and information, as the corporate media has become nothing but a propaganda arm of the Republican Party. I do not pretend that I have much to contribute beyond what the big-name bloggers like Digby, Atrios, Kos, and others provide. But I do have something to say about subjects other than politics - even if the dire political situation we find ourselves in deserves our complete and undivided attention.
But music, art, and culture are the fruit of human existence, and need to be celebrated. Music, art, and culture intersects with and comments upon the political, but also seeks to be eternal, where politics is ephemeral and, hopefully, changing.
I don't know who exactly I'm writing for, as I have yet to tell anyone about this blog and I have no aspirations for becoming a public voice. Perhaps this blog can merely serve to keep my friends and family informed of my thoughts and the day-to-day activities of my life. I'm not even sure they would find any of it interesting. In fact, I suspect that my family might well find much of what I have to say objectionable.
Well, so be it.
As mentioned earlier, the first incentive to establish this blog is to learn how for my job. I set up my boss's blog this weekend, and he seems very happy and excited about it. That alone is worth the effort I've put in so far.
A blog post, in and of itself, is not worth much. What makes blogs worth checking out is regular continuous posting. That is the challenge: to write every day, to provide content that is worth seeking out. I'm not sure I'm up to the task, but I'm willing to try and be somewhat disciplined about it.
Let's see what happens.
September 23, 2006
More work to do to make it how I want it.
I'm essentially doing this for work, as the attorney I work for wants to set up a blog himself.
The internets are a glorious things!