Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The aspens!*

Over at Utopian Turtle Top, John Shaw as created a charming, if out-of tune piece, based off of those the letter by Scooter Libby to the journalist Judy Miller -who you know fr0m the Plame Scandal and all that business. I am quite fond of the music - though, with all due respect for Mr. Shaw, more steady voice may lead to more appealing results.

If the voice were everything, Bob Dylan wouldnt exist. None the less, its hard for me to give you an idea of the music without turning to comparisons (which wont do justice to it). The music is lyrical, dreamy, very short, 1:38 short, to be precise, and the melodic line sounds vaguely turn-of-the-century French, with chromatic inflections and lush harmonies. The music expresses a yearning- and of course there are those wonderful and unexpected enharmonic shifts.

Its also quite humorous- the text doesnt exactly lend itself to singing in all places, but thats the joy.

But i save the best for last- Here is where you can listen to the music and These are the lyrics.

Could it be possible that this piece and my own work (Trent Lott's Porch)** represent some new, politically-infused Seattle-school? I will leave that decision for Mr. Shaw.

* i like exclaimation marks in titles!
** yes, i know its shameless self-promotion.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I just finished a wonderful article written by James Wolcott of Vanity Fair- and who would have guessed that Vanity Fair would have such wonderful writing- on par with anything in the Atlantic monthly, which my house has been subscribing to for years. I’m a fan already, and mother is as well, so its probable the she'll cancel her subscription to the ever-increasing blandness and popishness that is Newsweek (which hasn’t written a really good article in a long while) What waste Newsweek is sometimes, just re-hashing the news, not intense inspection- i rarely find anything interesting in there, except their weekly collection of political cartoons and outrageous quotes, that’s always fun, but its too general to really dive in deep to anything at all.

The article was on the subject of the republican's plans for the downfall of PBS, and there were many wonderful points made, but one thing that stuck out to me was the inherent problem with the conservative's argument of "elitism" in PBS, and this very well extends to their argument for taking funding out of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA for now).

Why are the NEA and media sources like PBS perceived as "elitist"? (aside from pure political bias)- well, its simply because both assume that the public needs to know or see certain things, things which they do not know at the moment- they are elitist because the gesture is that there are certain people who understand what is good for the public, whether the public realizes it or not.

But why is that inherently a flawed argument? if we were to condemn all that assumes the reader's or viewers ignorance on some subject, what’s the point of books that reveal disturbing facts about history, or current events? they're giving the public information that they surely don’t want to know, so certainly that elitist as well. Or for that matter, any news coverage of horrible events, natural disasters, the events in Iraq, tsunamis, the events in France, whatever. Wouldn’t the public be happier if they didn’t hear of these things? isn’t it elitist to assume that its good for the public to know about things people just don’t want to know about?

I certainly didn’t want to know about Bill Clinton's sex life in the Oval office, and I’m sure many in the public had no desire to learn of those things as well. Hm. Well, then, I guess that leaves me no choice but to condemn the republican investigation and subsequent scandal as elitist in principal. Well, fuck then- i guess that argument doesnt work.

My mother is convinced that we're in a period in which much of the public simply does not want to know about what’s happening in the world- Like Galileo with the Pope who refused to look through the telescope, people simply choose to be ignorant rather than allow themselves information that could disrupt their secure world-view.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Recently, at an upper-end restaurant in a rather yuppie area, i experienced ageism.

My friends and I were treated poorly for no reason other than our age. The service was terrible, the food was bland and overpriced, and the waiters and waitresses seemed to want nothing to do with us, so it took forever simply to get bread and vinegar, to get our food and to get a properly composed check. Meanwhile, the waiters were paying lavish attention (and friendlier service) to tables of 30-somethings that were next to us. We may be somewhat poor college students, but there is no reason why we should be treated as less important by the staff of this restaurant.

There were five of us, and none of us were rowdy or loud, none of us demanding or rude, and by the end we all felt discriminated against. I felt it necessary to write a little note explaining why we gave them a $1.10 tip for a nearly $70 meal. In hindsight i might have come of a little harsh, but how else would they learn from their mistakes?

Dismiss it.

Some may have dismissed my previous post as ludicr0us in its content- "you can not sum up a composer's entire artistic achievement in two words" they might want to say.


Come on, people, im having fun. And while it aint legitimate criticism of a composer, two words like "the suck" can clearly and aptly express my emotional reaction to a composer's works. I am aware, as im sure other bloggers are, that this is not substantial or particularly meaningful way to discuss an artist's work.

Yes, it serves to provoke others, but you know what? provoking a reaction can be healthy- it can inspire thought and reflection, both good things. Im not saying launching controversy bombs is a proper method of posting all the time, but neither is stifling seriousness. Besides, i like getting comments.

Furthermore, the argument that "it shows the writer's ignorance" is based off of flawed logic, making the writer of such an argument look rather ignorant themselves. In such circumstances, the proponent of this argument is perceiving themselves to be in the absolute right, as if there is no argument or reasoning for them which could explain why the writer likes or dislikes a composer. The writer is perceived as ignorant for liking or disliking such and such artist, rather than being perceived as ignorant for constructing a bad or uninformed argument. If, when questioned, the poster shows no logical basis for their dislike for a composer, or that they show a lack of understanding of that artist's work, then yes, you can deem them ignorant if you want, but in these circumstances, that assumption only underline's your own problems.

And Goddamnit! People need to stop insulting Mr. Tchiakovsky! Please, if you insist upon damning him as a composer, give me a good argument for it- or- if you think you can write better music- please, be my guest and write me something better than the 4th symphony and/or his nutcracker and/or The Sleeping Beauty, and/or the 5th, 6th symphonies and/or violin concerto and/or The Seasons and/or Eugene Onegin and/or String Quartet in D and/or the String Serenade . I will pay handsomely.

thank you and goodnight.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Everybody's doing it!

At the Fredösphere, there is a post which clearly evaluates the artistic merit of various composers. "A concise history of Western music", thats the preface. Lynn, at A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance, made her contrabution. (*which expanded the language in this particular idiom)

Im sorry, i really cant resist. so here i g0:

Handel - Mostly Yawn, has good moments.
Telemann- sucks
Vivaldi - mostly Yawn, has good moments
Bach- (in agreement with Lynn) indescribably awesome
Johann Josef Fux - ???
Haydn -Mildly annoying, has good parts.
Mozart - very cool
Beethoven - indescribably awesome
Schubert - cool
Mendelssohn - cool
Berlioz - cool-ish
Chopin - very cool
Schumann - cool. Sometimes yawn
Brahms - usually yawn, sometimes very cool
Wagner - pretty cool some of the time. hilarious the rest.
Verdi - seems cool
Mussorgsky -very cool
Tchiakovsky -very cool (hey now, dont you be insulting mr T)
Debussy - very cool
Rachmaninoff - ehh... kinda cool.
Sibelius - very cool
Stravinsky - very cool
Janacek- very co0l
Schönberg - rarely cool, mostly sucks
Ravel - very cool
Berg - very cool
Webern - sucks
Shostakovich - cool
Prokofiev - very cool
Poulenc - sometimes cool, kinda sucks
Havergal Brian - ???
Messiaen - mostly cool, sometimes sucks
Boulez - sucks (except for that one cello piece)

I could go on into other living composers, but i shan't, t'would not be good behavior, (yeah, like saying Webern sucks is)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Is there a complaint department?

"you are finally convinced
that you inhabit the same banal world
as everyone,
everyone has found it too." **

I hate every time I hear someone playing painfully saccharine music downstairs on the grand. Music of seemingly endless and empty fifths piled on top of each other in enharmonic but perfectly consonant chord progressions. It sounds similar to a lot videogame music (or some contemporary church music)-

musical platitudes! hackneyed chords!
Do you know what im talking about- or am i just babbling on about nonsense?

...After waiting patiently for a pianist to stop the torture, i feel an urgent need to simply run up to the piano and pound out some minor seconds, but i must restrain myself.

- - - - -

round 2 of the Midterms (yes, two midterms) are over, and im slouching towards turkey day- but t0 be honest, im not particularly fond of turkeys, or of thanksgiving. I believe its my least favorite holiday.

I have received the honors of mention from Bart Collins at The Well Tempered Blog. im quite surprised and flattered. He's always run a great site, one of the earliest music blogs i read (which is to say i didnt start reading till April or so of this year)


**from A Labor more Restful by the Dirty projectors

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I am Distrustful.

...Of any "neo" movements in contemporary art. "Tradition" scares me- and, shockingly, i agree with Boulez:

"No, I do not believe in tradition, I believe in history," he says in a different tone. "The lessons you get from history are your own lessons, you are teaching yourself. Tradition is simply the mannerism of people who came before you. Tradition is passive, history is active." (Sorce!)

- - - - - - - - -

And just so you dont attack me - a word on other "neo"s -

Stravinsky's "Neo-classicism", for the most part, is very much modernist classicism, rather than the other way around. Its re-interpreting ideas rather than style(usually), and when he uses classical mannerisms, its usually quite brief and referential- as if he was beating it into you just what he's up to.

Likewise, Samuel Barber's (or Copland's) "Neo-romanticism" isnt so much looking back to a style, but rather looking to further its range and expressive possibilities. Could one of Barber's earliest and most conventional works, the Overture to the School for Scandal, been produced in the "romantic age" ? Hell no. Its starts off with a sharp bitonality that even Strauss wouldn't have touched.

I have little or no experience with the popular "neo-romantic" pieces written in the last 30 years (aside from those pieces by Glass and Adams that many have sometimes labeled as such) and this may be a good thing. It scares me that contemporary composers could be sinking into something backwards - the gesture seems nihilistic- as if to suggest that all that is artistically viable has been exhausted. What a horribly cynical and close-minded idea!

There are those in the art-history world who will argue that nothing artistic can be truly out of place, that there can be no such thing as an artistic anachronism. Artists are conscious of their times, no doubt, and even if they choose not to reflect that in their art, they're still expressing something. Artistic "anarchronisms" make a statement about the artist and their relationship to their modern world. Likewise, periods of great "anachronism", such as the victorian periods in architecture (which endlessly re-hashed and re-invented medieval architectural language) express a great deal about the society and culture of the times. (the industrial revolution, romanticism, etc).

Pardon my endless quotations around words, but i need to express in some way an idea without suggesting to you that i believe it. Its laziness, you might say, and you'd be correct.

im getting dizzy and tired. Its hard for me to re-read this.



I was honored by vilain fille's recent post which mentioned this site. She says its "chewey", a good thing i hope, but i can only ask- is my blog chewey? and if so, what does that mean?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

this mad blog-share buisiness


Thats me!

Have any of you ever heard of this thing before? Its rather strange, theres stock in this lil' blog o' mine. I've been operating it since late august and its all ready "worth"... uh... $1,921.98
What crazy equations they're using to evaluate the price of this place i dont know. You can "buy" a stock of my blog for around $15, and some nice person, who's japanese, already owns 80% of my stock. Oh yes, they too have a blog poetically titled night rain in winter. I like it already, but its unfortunately written in japanese.

Since i know practically no japanese, im at a loss- but it looks like it'd be good! Should i add it to my linkses? im not sure, i mean, i barely know anything about it, and i dont speak japanese. Part of the purpose of my links are so I can navigate to different music blogs of my interest (so i dont have to keep a ginormous list of blogs on my favorites list) What do you think?

I have been feeling rather lonely recently. No comments? i feel like Lynn from A Sweet, Familiar dissonance did recently (i cant find the particular post on her site, otherwise i'd link directly to that post) Either way, it seems like im alone again (my stock even went down recently!)

But Lynn also linked to another interesting money + blog website (again, fictitious) How much is my blog worth?

Mine? $5,645.40.

Somehow it comes up with that calculation very quickly. I cant possibly see how it's worth that much, but hey, i'll take it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Blo-blo-blo-blo-gs have a have a kind of mystery.

"What in the hell inspired M. Keiser to write that last post?" You may have asked, or probably not, but the answer is simple, my friends- i read other people's blogs (god i hate the word, i cringe while typing it) and then feel the desperate need to say something about something else entirely.

Here is a new link- and it looks to be a wonderful addition to the music bl-- community, Tim Risher's Reflection Field
Its a new blog (like mine?), and he has some nice things to say about some new music (my last post was in part due to his mentioning Music in 12 parts. )

and another site- Because Someone Had To (changed names recently) - which is apparently written by a Julliard student who's my age. (woot college!)** and he wrote a very amusing bit about bassoons. "your bassoon that sounds like glorified flatulence". I always liked the sound of bassoons, but i see his point. I've been speaking alot about creating new sounds, maybe theres a new musical instrument to be explored there

ok, enough of my lameness. I shall retire to bed. Its been an awful week, fucked-up-miserable. But hey, lifes not always a tea party.

**i feel it necessary to embarrass myself with each post i make. This is todays addition.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Music in 12 Parts - Part 1 - Philip Glass

My favorite piece by Glass is not the entire Music in 12 parts, but just this one movement, the first movement.

This particular portion of Music in 12 parts doesn’t particularly sound like Glass (or at least, the self-imposed stereotype of his music) - where are those oh-so-characteristic four-square arpeggios? none to be found. Here we have a delicate, rocking syncopation and a striking lyricism, yearning for a resolution that will never be, shifting between tones gracefully and endlessly, an expressive and beautiful monotony. This is minimalism i can get lost in!

What frustrates me about Glass is that his music sometimes touches on the sublime without ever reaching it, like a tangent point- it just touches- never diving for the center. There are several pieces where he almost has expressive perfection- but it slips away- the 5th movement of his 5th String Quartet, the opening of Glassworks. Countless other places.

Maybe thats what fascinates me about his works, they're sometimes so close to ideal.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Just keep the gears moving.

Its been a rather rough few days for me, and i honestly don’t know what to say or do when confronted by the things I’ve recently been confronted with. Its limbo, but I’ve got to keep moving, keep myself distracted so not to let emotion catch up with me.

But on another note, I’ve recently connected to a site (http://www.last.fm/) that archives all the music you've listened to recently. Its pretty interesting, and it will show you your musical "neighbors"- those who share musical tastes in common with you.

This is my page on the site, and its interesting- I don’t even remember listening to the all of the music that’s played. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, (if you have an old computer for example) as you have to download the program and it will drain some of your system resources while your playing music on your computer, and could slow down your internet if your connection isn’t terribly fast. But it works for me, and my lovely laptop is good and new. I’m no computer genius, so this is just my modest understanding of the situation.

However, you can now peek in on whatever it is I’m listening to at the moment (which I think is pretty cool, and I’m often surprised by what I see on there!), ... it will show what I’ve heard recently, and what I’m just playing over and over again. (in my defense, the music I’ve listened to a multitude of times is the music i find important to, well, my own musical development) AH enough of this pretentious-speak...

back to writing about Kant- who i love, but hate to write about.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

God bless you, Domenico Scarlatti

While i could easily spend the rest of my blogging career prattling on about the wonders of Prokudin-Gorskii's photos, i wont. I've chosen to prattle about music instead.

And what wonderful music im listening to! Scarlatti is another one of those countless underrated composers. His "Sonatas" are incredible, absolutely timeless and glittering. Within them are all different shades of emotion, unusual combinations and shifts, and ideas everywhere. These are rich works, filled with thoughts and daring (his harmonies can be quite advanced, and especially adventurous considering the period)

Is this late Haydn? Early-ish Beethoven? its almost impossible to tell in parts, truly ahead of its time. Through all this has a liveliness, the music at times hits a poignancy and depth that is unmatched in much of the keyboard music of the period. Homophony mixes freely with light counterpoint, clearly laying the ground for classicism and beyond. Listen to such beauties as his Sonata K 380, such delicacy and sweetness that could have easily been written in 1840 and still sounded modern.

Sonata K. 531 sounds like Shumann, no joke, i just finished listening to Kriesleriana and the resemblance is startling, while K 493 sounds like a Haydn Sonata, and Scarlatti's early work is clearly rooted in the baroque tradition. So you've got it all, all in on measly set of... eh... 550 works for keyboard.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

A brief Cul-De-Sac.

If heaven doesnt look like this, im not going. when this photo was taken... recently? 10 maybe 20 years ago?

I usually try to stay on the music thing here, but sometimes my mind is on other things, like early russian color photography. Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was a master of this, and the results of his work are astounding, like the image you can clearly see above- photographed around 1910.

1910!!! oh the insanity! is that not incredible? it just blows my mind to see these gorgeous, full color, life-like photos of a russia 100 years ago. Prokudin-Gorskii used a very interesting technique to do this, in which monocolor prints were laid on top of eachother- thus resulting in color. This man set out to document the entire russian empire (with help from the Czar himself) in those fateful years before WWI.

Here is one page with his amazing photographs, and another. I guess whats so shocking to me, is that its so real- Im used to seeing these black and white photos, which always give me a sense of artistic un-reality, but to see such vivid images of a truely lost world.... holy shit.

I suppose my russo-philia, my love of history and architecture are at work here. This may not be so amazing to others... i dont know.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Philip Glass- Hydrogen Jukebox (1990)

Bizzare, funny, strange in every way, fun, entertaining, interesting, boring, annoying, refreshing, insightful, silly, expressive.

I've been indulging in more minimalism than usual (calculus has something to do with this), and if im going to go about making a stupid attempt to summerize what is said by this music, i figure i should do so in a thoroughly repetitive and austere manner. Would Glass be proud?

"Allah sent me here!" Allen Ginsberg proclaims, narrating portions of the text, in between the choir steps in and wails away, accompanied by synthesizers and drums. There are echos of dance music, popular music, jazz and certainly the spectre of the 80s. oh, those 80s.

The music is in two parts and 16 songs. Its odd to hear a baritone sing "cocksucker", but at the same time, its surprisingly beautiful. Theres lyricism here, and maybe a touch of banality. And though i've already used that term "minimalism" im not afraid to contradict it- as this music isnt minimalism proper, its minimalistic, assuredly, but it aint no Einstein on the Beach.

But i've gotta say, all this vibrato in contemporary music detracts from the music's ability to reflect the contemporary world. Heavy, operatic vibrato sounds nothing short of old, outdated and ugly.