Archive for April, 2010

what to play

April 28, 2010

Last Wednesday after catching opening night at the New York Philharmonic’s Stravinsky festival, I descended into the 66th street subway and was met with the sound of a saxophone playing the opening notes of Stravinsky’s Firebird ballet music. What a coincidence, I thought, of all the things he could have been playing – !

Several folks I was with who had also just heard the same piece played by the Philharmonic, remarked on the serendipity of it all and dropped dollar bills and coins into the young man’s open case. He continued playing, impassively keeping his eyes on the sheet music propped up in front of him.

The next night I left Lincoln Center again (this time following the new production of Rossini’s Armida, at the Metropolitan Opera), and heard the same familiar strains floating up to meet me on the subway stairs. It was my turn to drop a few coins in the young man’s sax case – partly for his artistry, but mostly in support of his shrewd busking savvy.

Gotta give it to him, he knew what people wanted to hear. That, too, is a big part of being a performing musician.

playlist #112 (4/26/10)-green and black

April 27, 2010
World of Music
Pgm #112 – Just for fun, today’s theme: black and green CDs. That’s it. Every recording played on today’s program has either a black or green CD jacket, or both. (Can’t do THAT with an mp3.)
Catch the show on Mondays 3-5pm EDT – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
John Lee Hooker: Bottle Up and Go / Boom Boom / Pointblank 86553 – (USA)
DJ Frane: Green Buds in the Springtime / Electric Gardens of Delight / Tuff City Massive 3 – (USA)
Kazem Al Saher: Aghazalek / The Impossible Love / Mondo Melodia 850016 – (ALGERIA)
Miriam Jarquín & Blues Latino: Quizás, Quizás, Quizás (Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps) / No Hay Palabras / 2005 – (COSTA RICA)
Tinariwen: Chatma / Amassakoul / IRL 14 – (MALI)
Luna Itzel: La Josefenita / Frida / Global e Rack 13217 – (MEXICO)
Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate: Queen Bee / Kulanjan / Hannibal 1444 – (USA/MALI)
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu: Wukun / Gurrumul / Sony Australia 80201 – (AUSTRALIA)
(Untranslated S. Korean artist): (Untranslated title) / (Untranslated Album Title) / Riverman 1 – (SOUTH KOREA)
Malinky: The Dreadful End of Marianna for Sorcery / Last Leaves / CDTRAX 190 – (SCOTLAND)
Baka Beyond: The Rhythm Tree / Rhythm Tree / March Hare Music 20 – (CAMEROON)
Fruko y Sus Tesos: Manyoma / Grandes Exitos 1 / Discos Fuentes 11011 – (CUBA)
Third World: Feel A Little Better / 96 Degrees in the Shade / Mango 162-539 – (JAMAICA)
Luísa Maita: Lero-Lero (Hey, what’s up) / Lero-Lero / Cumbancha Discovery 17 – (BRAZIL) * NEW – to be released in July *
Haugaard & Høirup: Raaby Hopsa (trad. Danish stick dance) / Lys (Light) / Danish Folk Music Production 501 – (DENMARK)
Niño Torrente and Son de Hoy: Compasión / Niño Torrente and Son de Hoy / Ardel Records 2003 – (CUBA)
Pearl Dowdell: Good Things / Florida Funk (Funk 45s from the Alligator State) / Jazzman 5029 – (USA)
Chuchumbé: La Gallina (the hen) / Caramba Niño / Ediciones Pentagrama 1366 – (MEXICO)
Robert Shaw Chorale: Patapan / The Many Moods of Christmas / RCA 68805 – (USA/SPAIN)
abc bossa: Desafinado / Evolucion / Vinicius Not Death (VND) Records 2007 – (BRAZIL)
Sonia & Disappear Fear: Telepatia Sexual / Tango / Disappear 1012 – (USA)
Thomas Mapumba featuring Ntswaki: Mwafwako / Mapumba / Next Music 25 – (SOUTH AFRICA)
Niamh Parsons: Alexander / Blackbirds & Thrushes / Green Linnet 1197 – (IRELAND)
Mathieu Mathieu: La Gloire est Morte / La Gloire est Morte / Milagro Records 1313 – (CANADA)
Emily Higgins: Bluebird Day / Oasis Acoustic Radio Sampler / Oasis 18 – (USA)
Caetano Veloso e Gilberto Gil: Cada Macaco No Seu Galho (Cha Chuá) / Tropicália 2 / Elektra Nonesuch 79339 – (BRAZIL)

black and green

April 25, 2010

I’ve been fortunate to see, hear, and participate in some really interesting and creative things over the last few days including an ‘extended technique’ workshop and concert with the Bowed Piano Ensemble, and a pinhole photography class. Both arts depend on a certain amount of randomness and chance, combined with a a considerable element of experience and preparation.

In the spirit of adventure and happy accidents, the theme for this week ‘s World of Music is “Black and Green”. All of the recordings selected for this week’s program are either green or black, or both. That’s it. There is a good sampling across musical genres and geographical distribution but the overriding consideration for inclusion is the color of the CD jacket.

With that, we’ll visit Cameroon via Baka Beyond (green); hear from Australia’s Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (black); and experience the light sambas of Caetano Veloso’s Tropicalia 2 (green and black).

Why not.

World of Music is a colorful miasma of blues (and blacks and greens), poetry, jazz, and world music every Monday from 3-5pm ET on the Radiator. Online, or at 105.9FM if you’re listening in Burlington, VT.


April 25, 2010

(photo by the students of Al Karevy)

Today is the 10th anniversary of Worldwide Pinhole Day, an occasion to honor of the centuries-old practice of pinhole photography.

At the Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro, the event is celebrated over two days. Yesterday the VCP offered a workshop with instruction and assistance with building and using a camera, and today the gallery features an open-house showcase of pinhole photos.

Instructor Al Karevy was onhand yesterday to patiently guide me through making my own camera, trying it out, working through some persistent light-leak issues, and develop the results. What fun. I even came out with a couple of passable negatives by the end of the day. Had to leave them there to finish drying, though, so I’ll have to get them mailed here later.

The thing about this process is that it is EASY to build a camera. The basic camera body can be nearly anything: the three cameras that were constructed yesterday were made of an old round metal cookie tin with removable lid; a greeting card box, and – in my case – a round Quaker oatmeal box. A little black tape, some black paint, and brass flashing with a tiny pinhole punched through are all you need for the camera. Beyond that you’ll need photographic paper or film, developer, and if you want to go all out you can also set up a means to print the results.

There are more detailed camera building instructions on the web. Once you get that far and you’re ready to take a shot, then the real fun begins. It’s about experimentation and patience, to determine everything from how long your exposure needs to be (two seconds, or ten or more minutes? It’s that variable!) to subject matter and where to place your camera for optimal stability and effect. This is just as much – and possibly more – about the refinement of technique as it is the quality of the resulting photographs.

The journey IS the destination – sound familiar?

Some (conventional Nikon digital) photos from yesterday’s workshop:

what a week!

April 25, 2010

When a few days go by and you haven’t heard from me here, it’s because I’m so wrapped up in the ‘doing’ that I haven’t had a moment to sit down and talk about it. That has definitely been the case over the past week.

Last Wednesday afternoon I departed for NY City to attend the annual AMPPR (Assoc. of Music Personnel in Public Radio) conference. It’s held in a different city each year, and this year the host station was WNYC/WQXR. In past years the conference has included music hosts, music directors, program directors from all music public radio formats, and recording label and programming reps from all over as well.

Things have been changing in the radio world in the last few years, particularly in the almost-decade now since September 11th when the need for news and information has driven both format changes and audience numbers at stations throughout the US. Changes and downsizing in the recording industry have also significantly lessened the number of  record reps who show up now at these conferences: the plain fact is, it’s not as easy or compelling to hand out mp3 samples of new recordings as it is CDs.

So these days the AMPPR conference is a smaller affair – yet in many ways, more relevant than ever. I do miss the variety of people in past years’ meetings, it used to be just as likely to stike up interesting conversations with jazz, blues and world music programmers as those who specialized in classical music. Now that public radio stations have primarily concentrated their focus on news and classical music (and both, in mixed format stations), the faces and names at the conference are fewer and more familiar. Public radio is a relatively small community of professionals. When you add that to the fact that migration seems to be a given part of public radio jobs, the degrees of separation between all of us are in the lower single numbers at best. I think of my own 25-year career history: from Denver to Northern Colorado, back to Denver, and then on to many years at stations in Los Angeles and Vermont. You get to know people after a while when you get around like that.

The guest speakers for this year’s MPC (Music Personnel Conference) #48 included:

– Bill McGlaughlin of Exploring Music, talking about working every minute of every day to make a personal connection with listeners

– American tenor Thomas Hampson, speaking inspirationally about his new Hampsong Foundation; the critical link between poetry and music; and the vitality of today’s classical music scene

– composer/writer Greg Sandow, with acute observations about how classical music doesn’t help its own image by allowing dusty and irrelevant conventions of language and presentation to represent it

– and Performance Today host Fred Child, sharing suggestions on building effective hosting skills

On Wednesday night after the conference opening night wine (nice!) reception, many of us took the subway to Lincoln Center for a performance with guest conductor Valery Gergiev and the New York Philharmonic. The concert was the first in the Philharmonic’s planned Stravinsky festival, and it was introduced by Zarin Mehta, the Society’s President and Exec. Director. His opening line sent a ripple of laughter around :”So, how was YOUR week?” With that, Mehta continued by apologizing for the night’s last-minute program change: the main piece on the night’s bill was Stravinsky’s cornerstone choral work, Les Noces (The Wedding) – except with European travel being hindered by the Icelandic volcano, many members of the Marinsky Theatre Chorus had been stranded in cities as widespread as Vienna, Tel Aviv, and St. Petersburg and couldn’t get to New York for the show. On to Plan B: the Philharmonic substituted Stravinsky’s Jeu de Cartes (the Musical Card Game), a work that wasn’t scheduled to be played at the festival until Friday. I was looking forward to Les Noces, it’s a difficult large work that one rarely has an opportunity to hear/see performed live. I haven’t heard, but I hope the Marinsky chorus made it for the performances later in the week so at least those audiences could enjoy it.

Thursday began with a light breakfast at WNYC’s newly built performance studio, the Greene Space, followed by two consecutive sessions there with instruction by top audio engineers on doing setups for live performances. Then, box lunch with a presentation by WFMT (Chicago) on the programs they’re offering, followed by the two afternoon coaching and discussion sessions with Fred Child and composer Greg Sandow. The end of the day held a music showcase with the married violin duo Adele Anthony and Gil Shaham with pianist Akira Eguchi, and several other musicians.

After a quick run to the hotel room to change clothes, I was on to the evening’s activities: Rossini’s “Armida” with soprano Renee Fleming at the Metropolitan Opera, and then a late-night CD release/Earth Day party at SOBs with Madagascar’s Razia Said. (Her newest album “Zebu Nation” has just come out on Vermont’s Cumbancha label. How could I not support that – especially once I found out that SOBs was just two blocks from my hotel in Soho!?) Yeah, it was a late – LATE – night following a long day, but how often are there all of those great options for musical entertainment? I hate to miss anything, so usually my approach is to do it all and rest up later.

On Friday I went to the morning AMPPR conference session, which was a presentation by WNYC/WQXR staff on all of the changes they’ve been through and considerations they’ve had to make in the last 8 months or so since the two stations merged. Amazing story. Then it was back to LaGuardia for the return flight to Burlington. I had to leave the conference a little early to get home Friday afternoon for the workshop/pre-concert talk and performance that evening with the Bowed Piano Ensemble, at the UVM Lane Series. Our staff have been involved in the Ensemble’s appearance (everything from planning, to hosting, to arranging for the Ensemble’s Friday night lodging) over the last year or so, since they were contracted to appear here as part of the Series. I couldn’t miss their performance – and it did not disappoint! The 9-piece Ensemble prepares a grand piano by popping the lid off and then adding everything from pencil erasers and fishing line to popsicle sticks and duct tape to transform the piano into making an amazing sound. This is called “expanded technique”, not musical “experimentalism”, as the effects are very much planned and intentional. See the photos below, and then check out the Ensemble here to put the visual and audio pieces together. It is extraordinary:

Yesterday (Saturday) I got up early to head to Brattleboro’s Vermont Center for Photography to take a workshop on pinhole photography. April 25th (today) is World Pinhole Day, with photographers from all over the globe participating. The Saturday workshop included extensive information on the technique and practices of pinhole photography, we built cameras, and then spent the rest of the day using them to shoot various scenes around the VCP building before heading into the dark room to develop them. It would have been a different experience if there had been more participants, but since I was the only one I had the Center’s two excellent teachers to myself and we had such fun! After a couple of busts (one foggy shot, one completely black – part of my expanding ‘Opaque’ series!) I was able to produce a few credible shots. It’s a fascinating process, with many variables (light source, light strength, exposure length, paper position, pinhole size, camera stability, internal camera darkness) all possibilities for affecting the outcome. It’s around a three-hour drive, 130 or so miles from my house to Brattleboro, but I can tell already I’m going to want to become a regular in some way with the various VCP programs.

At the end of the day yesterday I had lunch with three of my new photographer friends, and then hastily hauled myself back to Burlington for a special 400th anniversary performance of Monteverdi’s magnificent Vespers of the Blessed Virgin (1610) with Bill Metcalfe and the Orianna Singers. The concert got started around 7:30, so I had enough time to find a quick dinner but not enough to run home and change out of my jeans and t-shirt, and wash the black spray paint off of my hands (from painting my pinhole camera earlier in the day)…ah well. No one seemed to notice.

That brings us today, where I’m unpacking, catching up here, downloading the 200+ pics on my (non-pinhole) camera, and getting ready for the week to start all over again tomorrow. The photos below are from the AMPPR conference and my other adventures in New York over the last few days; from the Bowed Piano Ensemble workshop/performance on Friday night; and from the Monteverdi Vespers concert last night. I’ll share a few pics from the pinhole photography workshop in a separate post.

Cheers! Happy Sunday. It is just about naptime now for yours truly.

PS – Look for the Met Opera’s “Armida” in HD movie presentations at participating theatres on May 1st, with encore performances thereafter. It’s a really nice production.

playlist #111 (4/19/10)-earth day

April 19, 2010
World of Music
Pgm #111 – Songs from the natural world for Earth day’s 40th anniversary this week
Catch the show on Mondays 3-5pm EDT – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
Los Mirlos: La Danza de los Mirlos (dance of the birds) / The Roots of Chicha / Barbès Records 16 – (PERU)
Lila Downs: Los Pollos (the chickens) / Shake Away / EMI 2437 – (MEXICO)
Ozomotli: La Gallina (the hen) / Latin Funk / Rough Guide 1196 – (USA)
Emilie-Claire Barlow: O Pato (the duck) / The Very Thought of You / EMG 443 – (CANADA)
Rodrigo y Gabriela: Stairway to Heaven / Rodrigo y Gabriela / ATO Records 30 – (MEXICO) * On the Flynn Mainstage – Sat. 5/8, 8pm – FLYNNTIX.ORG *
Consuelo Luz: Las Estreyas (the stars) / A Jewish Odyssey / Putumayo 182 – (CHILE/CUBA/USA)
Buika & Chucho Valdes: Luz de Luna (moonlight) / El Último Trago / Warner Music Spain 68614 – (SPAIN/CUBA)
Color de Rumba: Estrellita (little star) / Color de Rumba / Cassava Latin Rhythms 9 – (TORONTO, CANADA)
Rose: Saisons (seasons) / Rose / Source etc. 696582 – (FRANCE)
Georges Brassens: Le Vent (the wind) / Georges Brassens / Wagram Music 3093622 – (FRANCE)
Maryem & Ernie Tollar: Il Matar (the rain) / Cairo To Toronto / 9 – (EGYPT/CANADA)
Calima: Gatito Perdido (lost kitten) / Azul / EMI 94877 – (SPAIN)
Niyaz: Golzar (come, the meadows are in bloom) / Niyaz / six degrees 657036 – (IRAN) * on a poem by Rumi *
Peret (“King of the Rumba”): El Mosquito / La Salsa de la Rumba / Sony 837122 – (SPAIN)
Seun Kuti + Fela’s Egypt 80: Mosquito Song / Seun Kuti + Fela’s Egypt 80 / disorient 56 – (NIGERIA)
Lila Downs: La Cucaracha (the cockroach) / Una Sangre / EMI 78049 – (MEXICO)
La India Canela: La Culebra (the snake) / Merengue Típico from the Dominican Republic / Smithsonian Folkways 40547 – (DOMINICAN REPUBLIC)
Tinariwen: Mano Dayak / Aman Iman-Water Is Life / World Village 468067 – (MALI)
The Idan Raichel Project featuring Anat Ben Hamo: Mai Nahar (river waters) / Within My Walls / Cumbancha 10 – (ISRAEL)
Mariza:  Vozes do Mar (voices of the sea) / Terra (earth) / 4Q 1814 – (PORTUGAL)
Kronos Quartet:  Kara Kemir / Floodplain / Nonesuch 518349 – (SAN FRANCISCO/KAZAKHSTAN)
Rajery: Gasikara (madagascar) / Sofera / Marabi 46820 – (MADAGASCAR)
Razia: Ny Alantsika (nature’s lament) / Zebu Nation / Cumbancha Discovery (demo) – (MADAGASCAR) *NEW*
The Eames Brothers Band: Earth Blues / Open Road / 2005 – (MADE IN VT)
Rupa & the April Fishes: Les abeilles (the bees) / eXtraordinary rendition / Cumbancha 7 – (USA)
Steel Pulse: Earth Crisis / Earth Crisis / Elektra 60315 – (JAMAICA)
Walela (Rita Coolidge, Priscilla Coolidge, & Priscilla’s daughter Laura Satterfield): Wash Your Spirit Clean / New Native Music / Narada 63933 – (USA)  *sung in Cherokee*

earth day

April 18, 2010

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and World of Music notes the occasion with global music about the natural world.

Among the highlights: we’ll hear Steel Pulse’s Earth Crisis; check out Ny Alantsika (nature’s lament), a new song by Madagascar’s Razia Said; and hear the Earth Blues from Vermont’s own Eames Brothers. Not to mention sets of songs about water, stars, and the birds and beasts that inhabit our amazing planet.

World of Music is a big blue marble of blues, poetry, jazz, and world music every Monday from 3-5pm ET on the Radiator. Online, or at 105.9FM if you’re listening in Burlington, VT.

hold on

April 17, 2010
Hold on to what is good,
even if it’s a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
even if it’s easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
even if I’ve gone away from you.
(Pueblo Indian Prayer)

Bella Voce Women's Chorus and the Cantabile choirs

Friday, April 16 2010

The line between choral music and poetry is more of a delta, with the best possible outcome being an indistinguishable blend that fuses the two art forms.
Last night’s combined concert with the Bella Voce Women’s Chorus and visiting Cantabile choirs (Kingston, Ontario) featured poetry ranging from ee cummings to Sara Teasdale and a Pueblo prayer, in engaging contemporary settings that new context to the verse.
ee cummings’ poem, i thank you god for most this amazing day, was realized in a setting by Vermont composer Gwyneth Walker, and the evening also held traditional Québecois folksongs, African-American spirituals, and original works by Bob Chilcott, and Cantabile’s conductor Mark Sirett. Some poems just seem made for music. I am familiar with Frank Ticheli’s namesake setting of Sara Teasdale’s beautiful There Will Be Rest, and last night I was delighted to hear another equally evocative version from Minnesota-based composer David Dickau. His setting takes its name from the last line of the poem, Stars I Shall Find. Gorgeous.
Cantabile’s men’s chorus sang first, and the highlights (besides that elegant Dickau setting) were Howard Helvey’s lush O lux beatissima, Stan Rogers’s rollicking sea chanty Fogerty’s Cove, and the catchy Québecois song J’entends le moulin (tikki tikki TAH-kah!). Very impressive sound in the bass section, particularly. Unfortunately the men’s chorus was also saddled with the only dud of the night, Jim Papouli’s simplistic and repetitive feel-good fist-pumper We All Have A Right. I was glad it opened the concert. Everything afterward was straight up.
Then the Cantabile women’s chorus sang, with a program including sacred and folksongs, and finishing up with Walker’s ee cummings setting. The sopranos were slightly overpowering, the music could have used more balance between them and the altos. But Guy Forbes’ O Magnum Mysterium was just right with a hushed aura of shimmering wonder.
Cantiamo (Bella Voce’s select chorus) and Bella Voce were up next, rounding out their set with Alice Parker’s arrangement of the spiritual, Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal and it rang, rang rang through the house.
At the end of the program the Cantabile combined choirs sang three more songs (including Cantabile conductor Mark Sirett’s serene setting of the Pueblo Indian poem, Hold On), and then for the finale, Bella Voce joined them for two more all-out Sirett arrangements: My Heart Soars, and Go, Lassie Go.
Wonderful night of music.
PS – I am annoyed with WordPress right now. Recently my posts have not been retaining line breaks and nothing I do has helped. So, sorry about the run-on formatting here, I’m trying to get to the bottom of it!

busted: tax day’s here!

April 14, 2010

pulitzers 2010

April 12, 2010

Jennifer Higdon has just been announced as the 2010 Pulitzer prizewinner in music!

This is the list of winners in the Letters, Drama and Music category (Check out the complete list of winners here.)

Letters, Drama and Music

FictionTinkers by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press)

DramaNext to Normal, music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey

History – Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed (The Penguin Press)

BiographyThe First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf)

Poetry – Versed by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press)

General NonfictionThe Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman (Doubleday)

MusicViolin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon (Lawdon Press)

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