August 14, 2010

Playlist Week of 8-14-10

* J.S. Bach: Suites for Violoncello (ter Linden) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)*
* J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations/Canons (Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)*
* J.S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Vol.1 (Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)*
* Vivaldi: “Manchester” Sonatas (Romanesca) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)*
* Veracini: Sonatas (Hollowar/Mortensen/ter Linden) (ECM CD)
* Vivaldi: Violin Concertos, RV331, etc. (VBO/Marcon/Carmignola) (Archiv Prod. CD)
* Handel: Organ Concertos, Op.4 (AAM/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi SACD)
* Debussy: Orchestral Works (New Philharmonia/Chicago/Boulez) (d.2) (Sony Classical 2CD)
* Messiaen: Des Canyons aux Etoiles (Orch. Phil. Radio France/Chung) (DG 2CD)
* John Coltrane: Interplay (d.2-5) (Prestige 5CD)
* John Coltrane: Side Steps (d.1) (Prestige 5CD)
* Eric Dolphy: Out to Lunch (Blue Note/Music Matters 2-45RPM)
* Andrew Hill: The Complete Blue Note Sessions 1963-1966 (d.1-4) (Mosaic 10LP)
* Sun Ra: Space Is the Place (Blue Thumb/Impulse! CD)
* Sun Ra: Discipline 27-II (Saturn LP>CDR)
* John Abercrombie Quartet: Class Trip (ECM CD)*
* John Abercrombie Quartet: The Third Quartet (ECM CD)*
* John Abercrombie Quartet: Wait Till You See Her (ECM CD)*
* Pat Metheny Group: We Live Here (Geffen CD)*
* David Torn: Prezens (ECM CD)
* The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (mono) (Apple/EMI CD)
* Paul McCartney & Wings: Band On the Run (Capitol LP)
* Grateful Dead: McNichols Sports Arena, Denver, CO 12-12-90 (SBD 3CDR)**
* Grateful Dead: McNichols Sports Arena, Denver, CO 12-13-90 (SBD 3CDR)**
* Grateful Dead: Dean Smith Dome, UNC 3-24-93 (SBD 3CDR)**
* Grateful Dead: Boston Garden, Boston, MA 10-01-94 (SBD 3CDR)
* Tom Petty: Wildflowers (Warner Bros. 2LP)
* Soft Machine: The Soft Machine (ABC/Probe/Sundazed LP)
* Soft Machine: Volume Two (ABC/Probe/Sundazed LP)
* Soft Machine: Third (Columbia 2LP)
* Yes: Tales of Topographic Oceans (Atlantic 2LP)
* Yes: Relayer (Atlantic/Friday Music LP)
* ProjeKct X: Heaven and Hell (DGM CD)**
* Can: Rite Time (Spoon SACD)
* Flaming Lips: Embryonic (Warner Bros. DVD-A)
* Tortoise: It’s All Around You (Thrill Jockey LP)
* Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino CD)



After living with the new integrated amplifier for a week now, the word I would use to describe it is “revealing.” It is revealing of every little flaw in the source material, from the surface noise and inner groove distortion of well-loved but slightly worn LPs to the ear-bleeding brightness and annoying over-compression of most modern CDs. Indeed, badly made records sound bad; well-made records sound good. That is just the way it is, I guess. Then again, I am also confronted with the limitations of my other gear. Big orchestral music at "realistic" volume drives my poor old speakers to the brink: they are simply unable to cope with the huge dynamic swings and sharp transients required by, say, Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux Etoiles. Moreover, my almost-three-year-old stylus needs to be replaced…then again, I should probably upgrade the cartridge itself…Maybe I need a whole new turntable?…Furthermore, the electrical problems are still not completely solved as we learned one night when we switched on the microwave and the horrible hum reared its ugly head again. Perhaps I should call an electrician…And on it goes. I knew it be like this when I chose to dip my toe into the temperamental waters of high end audio equipment. I am satisfied with what I have (for the time being) and will not bankrupt the household in search of (unattainable) perfection.

I’d rather buy records anyway…


I've added some footnotes to the playlist to indicate the environment in which I’m listening to each selection. One asterisk indicates I’m listening on my iPod (an 8G Nano), usually at work and currently through an uncomfortable pair of Sony earbuds. Less than ideal, I know, but I’m still contemplating how to go about upgrading. My job requires the utmost focus and concentration (it involves a lot of close reading) and I find baroque music (and cheesy jazz/fusion) to be the perfect accompaniment because I can pay attention or not; the music is beautiful but not so distracting that I can’t do my work. By the way, I’m not a big fan of headphones to begin with because the sound seems to come from the middle of my head instead from vibration of air in real space. But I have noticed that listening to harpsichord music is a much more intimate and enjoyable experience on headphones than on speakers, where it can often sound thin and clangorous. Richard Egarr’s recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations and Canons has been a real favorite these past weeks at the office.

Two asterisks indicate I’m listening in the car during my 30-50 minute commute. Lately, it’s been Grateful Dead shows on CDR. What can I say? It’s good summertime driving music. If I listen to the iPod in the car, I will mark the entry */**. Everything else has been listened to at home on the big hi-fi. Music is almost always on while I’m at home and, of course, I’m not always actively listening to it. But I try to make some time to really listen—especially on weekends. And the sound coming out of the new amplifier is sometimes so compelling that I find myself absent-mindedly enraptured by the music when I really should be doing something else.

If you wonder why my playlist is sometimes rather banal and repetitious, it is because music is, for me, utilitarian to a degree. Adorno would frown but I’m not ashamed. Despite all the obvious negative consequences, I feel blessed to live in this high-tech world that allows this cornucopia of music to be so readily available and easily portable. Music gives life dignity—whether its high art or trashy pop noise, music makes life bearable. Let us embrace this plenitude and rejoice!


Sam said...

Couple of things: first, I never think your playlists are banal or repetitious! If music is good, you wanna listen to it--maybe more than once! heh heh

Second, the Dead is good driving music any time of the year, not just summertime! But summertime does really have a special flavor that's enhanced by drivin' Dead, for sure.

Third, I see you got "Relayer"--how do you think that stacks up?

Here's my lists for last week:

Playlist 2010-08-16

*Brotherhood of Breath: Procession
*John Coltrane: Live in Japan (disc 2)
*Nine Strings Trio: The Sounding Table
*Sun Ra: College Tour Vol. 1: The Complete Nothing Is... disc 2
*Sun Ra: Intergalactic Research (The Lost Reel Collection vol. 2)
*Sun Ra: Space is the Place (Blue Thumb/Impulse)
*Sun Ra: Discipline 27-II
*Sun Ra Quartet: Other Voices, Other Blues
*Cecil Taylor Quartet: 1998-12-06 Yoshi's, Oakland (CDR) discs 2 & 3
*Cecil Taylor & Max Roach: 1999-01-24 London (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor solo: 1999-03-31 Hamburg, Germany (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor Quintet: 1999-03-31 Hamburg, Germany (CDR)
*Henry Threadgill & Zooid: 2010-02-13 Jazz Gallery, NYC (CDR) disc 1
*UYA: "The Fan Is ..." (CDR)
*Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today
*Bollywood compilation, from soundtracks at "Music From the Third Floor" disc 15
*Dark Carpet: CDR compilation (2010)
*Grateful Dead: Steppin' Out With the Grateful Dead (discs 1 & 4)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-09-16 Boston (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-09-24 Waterbury CT (CDR)
*Grateful Dead: 1972-10-18 Fox Theatre, St. Louis (CDR)
*Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune
*Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St. (deluxe ed., remastered) discs 1 & 2

Reading log 2010-08-16

*Cambridge Companion to English Novelists, ed. Adrian Poole (selected essays)
*Nabokov, Vladimir. Poems and Problems (reread; started)
*Barth, John. Coming Soon!!! (finished)
*Heatley, David. My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (finished)
*Larson, Gary. The Complete Far Side (in progress)
*Tanner, Tony. Prefaces to Shakespeare (in progress)
*Theobald, Lewis. Double Falsehood (Arden Shakespeare ed.) (in progress)

Rodger Coleman said...

1. Well, I'd like to think I could just put on, say, Morton Feldman's String Quartet II and listen to all five hours in a sitting. But it ain't gonna happen.

2. Agreed! The Dead are great driving music. Particularly long distances...

3. I was disappointed in the pressing of "Relayer," but I like the music very much. I listened to "Tales" twice (I never do that) and I still think it's sort of plodding and overdone (though I liked it better the second time through). But "Relayer" is pretty awesome! Might have to get the CD. Gawd, I can't believe I'm getting into Yes at my advanced age. What next, Rush???