Archive for July, 2011

cool tunes from hot places

July 31, 2011

It’s an afternoon of cool music from hot places for the first day of August, on this week’s World of Music.

We’ll venture off to exotic locales including Morocco, Peru, Belize, and the island of Trinidad – and hear from a sizzling San Francisco-based group that’s going to be playing at Nectar’s tomorrow night.

Colombian supergroup Fruko y sus Tesos, Mexican mariachi singer Alicia Villareal, and the Cape Verdean chanteuse Lura add flair to the theme with with their own unique styles.

World of Music is a long, tall, frothy boat drink of international music every Monday from 3-5pm ET on the Radiator.  Online, or at 105.9FM if you’re listening in Burlington, VT.

experimental – is it?

July 30, 2011

filmmaker stan brakhage

Questioning the term, “experimental”, as in expermiental music, photography, or films. Is it really “experimental” if the artists’ work is skilled, completely intentional, and s/he has particular results in mind for their efforts?

Or maybe “experimental” is a term meant more for those who experience the art, describing their impression of it?

I think of the filmmaker Stan Brakhage, whose groundbreaking vision quietly but surely influenced everyone from Scorsese to Matt Stone and Trey Parker. (And, no surprise that his fellow highschool classmates were “experimental” composers Morton Subotnick and James Tenney…)

When Stan adhered all of those hundreds of little moth wings to celluloid, then shot light through them and filmed the magical, fluttering results – didn’t he know why he was doing it, and more or less what the results would be? So then why is the film described as, “experimental”?

He did know, and audiences experiencing the resulting “Mothlight” (1963) and many of Stan’s earlier films were derisive. “Experimental” seemed to come about as a way to describe art that didn’t provide some of the traditional external trappings and contextual understanding for the art: narrative, programmatic or linear structure, etc.

It’s an interesting thing, the term “experimental” as applied to art. Thoughts?

ooo (‘out of office’. except there really isn’t one.)

July 25, 2011

I’m hanging up the ‘Gone Fishin’ sign, but only because I don’t have one that says ‘Gone Readin’, or ‘Swimmin’, or ‘Nappin’. (Sarah Palin seems to be really good at dropping that last ‘g’ from her verbs, maybe I can ask to borrow one of her signs for future use.)

I spent yesterday at the Marlboro Music School and Festival in Southern VT and it was a fantastic experience. I’ll be sharing that later on here when I have a chance to collect my thoughts and pull it all together. The Festival is in its 60th anniversary year this summer and there is a LOT going on down there.

So I’m taking the day off, resting up and giving World of Music a little one-week summer vacation. The show will be back next week (Mondays, 3-5pm ET on The Radiator) with our usual unusual selection of sounds from around the globe.


keeping your cool

July 23, 2011

New Englanders can be very cagey about their secret swimming spots, never giving away those special places that offer the best, coolest relief on hot days.

If you ask me what (or where) mine are I’d have a hard time choosing. There’s the waterfall at the top of my road, the other one over the hill, the lake up North, the river just East of where I live….

Here’s a montage of shots taken at one of them.

Stay cool. And look for a sequel coming along sometime later.

concerts in the meadow

July 23, 2011

Coming up on Sunday at the Stowe “Concerts in the Meadow” series – this looks great!

touareg blues

July 22, 2011

desert blues man Bombino

It’s been so d@^^n!! hot here over the last couple of days the sweet sound of North African desert blues sounds right at home.

Tonight at Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT it’s guitarist/songwriter Bombino from Niger as the last artist in the Summer Global Music Voyage series being produced this summer by Cumbancha and Putumayo World Music. Doors at 7:30, show at 8. See you there for sure!



heard it on the radio

July 19, 2011

Yellow Barn Music Festival (photo by Corey Hendrickson for the Boston Globe)

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the great pleasure of working with colleagues over at WGBH in  Boston.  Their new New England Summer Festival series began on June 4th with a program on Vermont’s Marlboro Music Festival, now celebrating its 60th year.

The idea behind the series is to get a personally guided audio tour and some insight into some of the great seasonal music festivals in the region: Rockport, Monadnock, Cape Cod, Newport…there aren’t enough weeks in the year for all of the possible destinations!

This past weekend with a little description and a fair amount of  musical imagination I hosted a program that brought listeners to the Yellow Barn School and Festival in Putney, VT. It’s been an institution in the region since the 1960s, since cellist and Manhattan School of Music professor David Wells opened his home as a summer retreat for his students. Cellist Seth Knopp has since succeeded Wells in the role of Artistic Director, and is renowned as much for his own playing as his adventurous programming, and devotion to the Festival’s youth programs.

I don’t want to give too much away. You can listen to the program online here, and we’ll also be broadcasting it on VPR Classical the evening of July 27th at 8pm EDT. I hope you enjoy listening to the program at least as much as I did working on it. Big thanks to Alan McLellan and Ben Roe and the folks at GBH for the chance to share a bit of Vermont at its musical best, with the rest of the world.

playlist #166 (7/18/11)-midsummer music

July 19, 2011

World of Music
Pgm #166 – Midsummer Music
Catch the show on Mondays 3-5pm ET – 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)
Soweto Gospel Choir: Pride (In the Name of Love) / In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 / Shout Factory 826663-10608 – (SOUTH AFRICA)
Chiwoniso: Kurima / Rebel Woman / Cumbancha 8 – (ZIMBABWE)
Freshlygoround: Unite Africa / Tribute to a Reggae Legend / Putumayo 303 – (SOUTH AFRICA)
Bombino: Ahoulaguine Akaline / Agadez / Cumbancha 20 – (NIGER) *NEW* – At Higher Ground on Fri., 7/22 at 8pm*
Mojarra Eléctrica: Parió La Luna (Deliver the Moon) / Calle 19 / MTM Records 19 – (COLOMBIA)
Cachao: Isora Club (danzón) / Master Sessions Volume I / Crescent Moon 64320 – (CUBA)
Niyaz:  The Hunt / Niyaz / Six Degrees 657036 1110 – (IRAN)
Angham: Omry Maak (My Life with You) / Oriental Beats 2 / Alam El Phan Records 626 – (EGYPT)
Jake Shimabukuro: While My Guitar Gently Weeps / Jake Shimabukuro live / Hitchhike Records 1109 – (HAWAII, USA)
Easy Star All-Stars featuring Matisyahu: With You Without You / Easy Star’s Lonely Hearta Dub Band / Easy Star Records 21622 – (JAMAICA)
Jon Balke & Amina Alaoui: A la dina dana / Siwan / ECM 2042 – (NORWAY / MOROCCO)
Gilberto Gil: Métafora / Gil Luminoso / drg brazil 3128 – (BRAZIL)
Fishtank Ensemble: Fever / Woman In Sin / Fishtank Ensemble 1003 – (USA) *NEW* – At Nectar’s on 8/3, 11pm
Orchestra Baobab: Gnawoe / Specialists in all Styles / World Circuit 79685 – (SENEGAL)
Lila Downs: La Iguana / Tree of Life / Narada World 72438-49798 – (MEXICO)
Junie Aranda: Dondo / Paranda / Stonetree 18 – (BELIZE)
Dub is a Weapon: Curva Peligrosa / Vaporized / Harmonized 38 – (NY CITY, USA) *NEW*
The Jolly Boys: Blue Monday / Great Expectation / EOM Records 2134 – (JAMAICA) *NEW*
Maria Bethânia: Cantigas populares / Pirata / Dobrazil 42514 – (BRAZIL)
Francisco Mela: Nine: Law Days / Melao / Avya 40 – (SPAIN)
Malika Zarra: Mossameeha / Berber Taxi / Motéma 60 – (MOROCCO) *NEW*
Kailash Kher:  Tauba Tauba / Yatra (Nomadic Soul) / Cumbancha 14 – (INDIA)

mandela & beyond

July 18, 2011

nelson mandela

It’s a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birthday today on World of Music – the civil rights activist and former South African President is 93.

We also have new releases from the Fishtank Ensemble (coming to Burlington on 8/2) and Bombino (at Higher Ground this Friday evening) and other great summer sounds to share today.

World of Music is a musical pool party of international music every Monday from 3-5pm ET on the Radiator.  Online, or at 105.9FM if you’re listening in Burlington, VT.

warebrook contemporary music fest 2011

July 17, 2011

There is something very special about sitting in the audience right alongside the people who wrote the music being played.

That’s a normal part of the experience at Vermont’s Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival, now in its 20th anniversary season in Newport and other area towns.

You may recall my recounting of last year’s visit, when the temps were still near 90 (and around that much humidity) at concert time and the only thing I had to offer for my ticket was Canadian dollars. (It worked!) And it was a terrific evening of new music.

This year’s Friday night concert came at the end of a gorgeous, warm (not humid) day with July’s full moon just beginning to bloom on the horizon. The venue was the same as last year; the United Church of Newport’s golden interior welcomed the audience of around 60 for another night of freshly minted music.

bill pfaff & his quintet

Earlier in the week I’d had a conversation with Dr. William Pfaff, whose Quintet for Clarinet, String Trio and Piano opened the evening’s program. He said he’d written the work in honor of former Warebrook resident composer Donald Martino, who passed away in 2005. The work is around seven minutes, a flashing and fiery canvas anchored solidly by the clarinet. For all of its airiness and heady harmonics, the lines always return to the grounding of the clarinet’s rootsy woodiness. At least, that’s how I heard it. I talked to Bill afterward and he mentioned that the piece’s dedicatee, Don Martino, was also clarinetist – so, yes, that instrument is at the center of the Quintet‘s gravity and spiritual core.

As usual the rest of the program was an eclectic, inventive and engaging combination of guitar, singing, and chamber works with none being older than 1999.

bill pfaff and martin boykan

And, after many of them, the composer was beckoned from the audience to share a bow with the performers. I just love that about Warebrook – we’re not only talking about new music here, much of it being played publicly for the first time. The composers of it are also active participants in the performance.

It was great meeting and sharing a few moments afterward with Martin Boykan, whose exquisite “Rites of Passage” Piano Trio #3 was one of the highlights of the program’s second half. This was a piece of deep maturity and expression with many elegant moments of phrases being handed off seamlessly between the instrumentalists: duet finger trills with violinist Susan Jensen and cellist Darry Dolezal; a soft answering murmur in the left hand from pianist Paul Jacobs; and the sheer beauty of fragmented melodic lines filtering into the mix like light in a forest.

Boykan said the inspiration for it was a drawing done by his wife, Susan Schwalb. The artwork features a single jagged vertical line as it’s transformed by everything from smoke and ripped paper to candle wax drippings and fire in its path across five very large panels. The Piano Trio is in five connected but distinct parts too, with the opening six notes of the cello forming the motif that changes in its journey through the work, interacting with the piano and violin.

Here are a couple of other memorable moments from the concert:

The final musical adventure of the evening was the world premiere of the Carl Sandburg Songs by composer and Warebrook executive director Dr. Sara Doncaster. The first half of the program held four other of her newly written songs, a continuation of the Songs of Whimsy and Devotion cycle that premiered at last year’s Festival. (Eventually that series will contain a total of 16 songs – hoping we’ll get to hear the final additions next year!) Where the Whimsy and Devotion songs are lyrical and almost folk-like in character as settings of verse by W.B. Yeats and Vachel Lindsay, the Sandburg Songs are harder-edged, busier and sharper but curiously for that, no less melodic than their predecessors. That is to say; these new songs evoke the urban – but not necessarily unlovely – origins of the poems they illustrate.

Doncaster’s Carl Sandburg Songs are a strong statement. As I listened they brought to mind some of the vivid scenes from Jose Orozco’s powerfully stylized mural, The Epic of American Civilization which lives on the walls of the library at Dartmouth College. Like the mural, despite their settings these songs are ultimately about people and – more importantly – they’re about humanity:

In a quick conversation after the performance, Sara mentioned she had Chicago in mind with these works because the librettist she’s been working recently on an opera project is from the Windy City. Check out her thoughts on the piece:

So, that was the evening. And the full moonlight drive south on Route 100 on the way home capped off a perfect night. Another season’s over now with the Warebrook Contemporary Music Festival. I encourage you to get there next year and experience the joy of brand new music in the hands of excellent musicians.

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