September 26, 2009

Playlist 9-26-09

* Biber: Unam Ceylam (Holloway/ter Linden/Mortensen) (ECM CD)
* Biber/Muffat: Der Türken Anmarsch (Holloway/ter Linden/Mortensen) (ECM CD)
* Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Venice Baroque Orchestra/Carmignola/Marcon) (Sony CD)
* Handel: Complete Violin Sonatas (Manze/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi CD)
* J.S. Bach: Musikalisches Opfer (Concentus musicus Wien/Harnoncourt) (Telefunken LP)
* Boccherini: Streichquintette (Quartetto Esterházy) (Telefunken LP)
* Bruggen/Leonhardt/Bylsma/Schröder: Spelen Voor (Telefunken LP)
* Stan Link: In Amber Shadows: Electro-Acoustic Music (Albany CD)
* Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel (d.5-8) (Columbia 8CD)
* Andrew Hill: Eternal Spirit (Blue Note CD)
* Lowell Davidson Trio: Lowell Davidson Trio (ESP-Disk’ CD)
* Paul Bley Quintet: Barrage (ESP-Disk’ CD)
* John Abercrombie: Timeless (ECM LP)
* Jack DeJohnette/New Directions: In Europe (ECM LP)
* David Torn: Prezens (ECM CD)
* Tortoise: It’s All Around You (Drag City LP)
* Derek Bailey/Jamaaladeen Tacuma/Calvin Weston: Mirakle (Tzadik CD)
* Herbie Hancock: Directstep (CBS – Japan CD)
* Marvin Gaye: The Master 1961-1984 (d.3) (Motown 4CD)
* Roy Orbison: The All Time Greatest Hits (Monument/DCC CD)
* Love: Forever Changes (Rhino CD)
* Grateful Dead: Winterland 1973: The Complete Recordings (11-9-73) (GD/Rhino 9CD)
* The Orb: “Blue Room” (Logic/BMG – UK CDEP)
* Yo La Tengo: Summer Sun (Matador CD)
* Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs (Matador CD)
* Robert Pollard: Robert Pollard Is Off to Business (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Robert Pollard: Elephant Jokes (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Boston Spaceships: Zero to 99 (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Cosmos: Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks (HJRR LP)
* Radiohead: In Rainbows (TBD CD)
* Jim O’Rourke: The Visitor (Drag City LP)
* Boredoms: Super Roots (Reprise CDEP)


Is there a more badly beaten, long-dead war-horse than Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? Aside from perhaps Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, I think not. But a couple of years ago, I heard a live performance by Giuliano Carmignola (violin) and the Venice Baroque Orchestra directed (from the harpsichord) by Andrea Marcon that just blew my socks off. The Sony CD manages to capture most of the excitement and humor of that performance in a studio setting, which is a remarkable achievement. If you think baroque music is prissy and boring, this might change your mind. I guarantee you have never heard the Four Seasons quite like this. The Telefunken LPs from the nineteen-seventies are, on the other hand, rather staid performances; but the sound quality is warm and super-smooth.


I made my way again through the Plugged Nickel box over the past couple weeks and it was, sadly, something of a chore. Don’t get me wrong, the music is incredible — but the mix is terrible! Miles is way out front and the rest of the band is almost inaudible at times, the volume levels rising and falling erratically. Rumor has it that the Columbia engineers deliberately slighted some of the members of the new quintet since they were all, at that time, still signed to Blue Note. It’s listenable, certainly, but it could have been so much better. Herbie Hancock sounds particularly inspired – when you can hear him, that is. The amazing thing about this band is how they could so thoroughly deconstruct a tired repertoire of old standards and render it into springboard for almost-free improvisation. They approach the edge of the avant garde, but never quite take it all the way out, a delicate balancing act that yields endlessly fascinating, yet comfortingly familiar, music.


Back in 1992, it seemed pretty audacious to release a 40-minute remix as a “single,” but now The Orb sounds a bit dated to my ears. I was way into this stuff back then, so it’s difficult for me to disassociate this kind of music from those (very different) times. But I can’t bring myself to get rid of it either. Maybe I’ll pull it out in later years and it will make me happy to hear it again. Today, its blissed-out naïveté is kind of depressing. Oh well.


I wrote about David Torn’s Prezens album here when it first came out in 2007 and hadn’t listened to it much since, having come across a number of live recordings by the group that diverted my attention. But, wow, this really is a mind-blowingly awesome album! I still contend “fusion” is a viable genre and Torn & Co. demonstrates how fresh and exciting it can be. I wish Torn would reconvene this band for another record and tour!


Stan Link is a composer and Associate Professor of the Philosophy and Analysis of Music at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University and I am honored to consider him a good friend. Stan has very interesting ideas about what music is, was, and can be and his electro-acoustic compositions allow a direct experience of some of his more radical ideas. To paraphrase his liner notes, Stan uses the computer to think about “the sounds of our world and lives” and the resulting works are emotionally gripping, richly cinematic soundscapes that amply reward the mind as well as the ear. Good stuff!

About the photograph:

Lizzy mentioned the other day that it has been fun to watch me play with the new camera: “It’s a creative outlet that you don’t beat yourself up about,” she said.

It’s true. My relationship to my musical instruments is fraught with self-recrimination and writing is just plain hard work (not to mention the fact that I do a fair amount of writing for my job). But photography I can do just for fun. I know it’s not very good and I don’t care.

I have known some very talented and expert photographers and learned a thing or two along the way, but I do not have any big aspirations for myself, except to experiment with the camera and see what happens. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a class at one of the local art schools in order to get a better grip on the fundamentals, but that might mean taking it seriously and thereby take the fun right out of it. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

Obviously, the flurry of photographs has become fodder for a daily posting schedule that would be impossible if I had to actually write something. Writing I take very seriously. As an activity, writing is not really very much fun for me, in the way that playing music or snapping photographs can be. There have been thousands of words written for this blog which were never posted because they were not up to my impossibly perfectionist expectations. Via photography, I’m going to try to adopt a more playful and carefree approach to writing (and music for that matter). Who cares if it’s any good? It’s just a blog.


Big Green Bug (55mm, 1/60sec. @ f5.6, ISO200, TTL). I think I terrorized the poor thing with the repeated flash: the next morning, I found it lying dead on the porch. I feel terrible about that but I kind of like the photograph, so that is some consolation.

1 comment:

Sam said...

I'm diggin' the photos. Keep it up!

I pulled out Torn again recently and continue to be blown away by it. It's great bedtime listening. (I'm enjoying seeing how much overlap there is from time to time between your playlist and what I've happened to listen to over the previous week--quite often there's at least 1 or 2 matches!)

I don't have a hard time listening to the Plugged Nickel at all. As soon as Wayne kicks in, all is forgiven.