Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Thelonious Monk is undoubtedly one of the most important names in the history of Jazz since you don't get many pioneers like him. Not only did he create new styles of playing and musical alterations to the genre, he also taught many young artists who came to be legends of their own. This is not an easy concept after all. John Coltrane became the man he was heavily due to what he learned from Monk and the freedom Monk explained to him while they played together. I have also reviewed the result of their collaboration. Just listening to Coltrane's earlier records and that record would be enough. Later on Coltrane went on to create his own standards and mostly paved the way for Free Jazz.
Coming back to Monk, he was a mainly "band" type of guy. He never ever did play with an orchestra before this recording. He is as always known an experimenting person and this was a direct extension of what he was doing even though it was thought to be quite a dramatic move. Monk helped change the Jazz scene from swing to Bebop and this was also a structural change in the bands. Previously we were used to Duke Ellington and his orchestra, Harry James and his orchestra, Benny Goodman and his orchestra and so on. Now there were quartets, trios, quintets. Going back to the good old days with the modern musical understanding was an interesting move.
Yet it proved to be shockingly beautiful as can be excepted of Monk. To be honest, the people in his orchestra are enough to make life easy anyway. There is Donald Byrd on trumpet, Phil Woods on alto sax, Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, and Art Taylor on drums. Each have well established solos in the album with the most striking being Phil Woods' solo on "Friday The 13th".
The tracks on the album are of course a selection. UNFORTUNATELY! The newly (2006) released CD version includes 2 more tracks which is not just in all ways. This is also a performance which should be totally released on vinyl. Maybe some day it will. The beauty of the music is capturing. Although at some points Monk returns to the quartet style of playing, the change is obvious and monumental. The orchestration is helped by Hall Overton who was a Monk follower and a very talented musician at that time.
The selection of tracks start with a 1940's "Thelonious" which was already a classic on the day of the recording in 1959. Then comes "Friday The 13th" and "Monk's Mood" for the A side. To be honest, I was out of breath and words when I was listening the new version of Monk's Mood. It is absolutely brilliant. I honestly didn't want to turn the record over. However, I never thought the B side would be the same affectionate as well. The crown of the B side is inevitably "Off Minor". You just have to listen to the depths Monk goes and the orchestration is absolutely in accordance with the state of mind Monk's in. Great piece of art. Calling it music is not doing justice. The other beauties of this side are "Little Rootie Tootie" and "Crepescule With Nellie". Both are tracks from the end 50's and show the established side of Monk.
Thelonious Monk was not an early celebrity. He was ridiculed with his "out of technique" style of playing, different approach to Jazz and personal habits. However, after 15 years of hard work and financially unrewarding times, he became everyone's man in 6 months. How this change came and went is something I don't really know (Should read a book about it obviously), but luckily it did after all. He became more productive while he was profoundly productive even before so you can imagine how he was afterwards. He was appearing at a club almost every single night of the week, was sought after and collaborated with even more artists as times rolled along. This opened him vast areas of improving and inventing. This record encapsulates just one of the "moving a step ahead" style of interactions Monk has undertaken. I will also listen and write about Monk's enormous box set of "Complete Riverside Recordings 1956-1961" sometime soon. Until then this record is enough to keep some ears happy.
To buy this record:
@ Music Stack
Saturday, December 24, 2011
There are certain moments when I face the hard truth that my German is basic and my French is composed of 20 words. As a record collector, these heartbraking moments tend to occur quite a lot. Especially on releases two legendary record labels, Erato and Wergo, this issue becomes a pain in the neck.
The record is question here is a release of the Korean Isang Yun on the German Wergo label. It is the first press from Germany and therefore includes only German notes. A Heliodor release of this record from UK would have been a little more helpful in this case, but hey, who's to complain.
Actually Isang Yun has been a quite silent character generally among the contemporary composers apart from one incident where has was captured in East Berlin by the South Korean agents with his wife, taken back to Seoul and prisoned. He was later tried and sentenced to death when the whole world of composers created an uprising. The names among them were politically strong names like Stravinsky, Karajan, Klemperer, Stockhausen and Ligeti. All these names had substantial force in their respective governments and their pressure/petition was granted after two years of imprisonment. Yun was exiled and banned from reentry from his native country.
Isang Yun is somewhat one of the most accomplished and underrated composers of the 20th Century. Honestly I cannot put this to the mainly more depressive type of compositions he wrote. Many of the composers of his era were already excessively depressive due to witnessing two world shattering events during their lifespans. Some even committed suicide. But I believe the depression in Yun's music comes from the fact that he was extremely far away from his homeland. The culture and the thought process were (And still are) totally different and this caused him to be more pessimistic. Interestingly we saw the opposite in the case of Stravinsky, but there he nourished from the artistic movements of the era in Paris and there was a hard fact that he was not in a culturally opposite culture. A little more liberal maybe, but in essence not too different.
Unfortunately for me, by the time I started listening his music, he had already passed away, better late than never. Isang Yun's music can be classified as emitonally depressive and expressionist contemporary classical music. Moreover, even though experimentation has been a crucial factor in his compositions, these trials do not strike you with the ferocity of Stockhausen or Kagel. His experiments are also within a certain regular scheme where the listener accepts without raising an eyebrow. On the other hand, the continuous depressive mood can be nerve wrecking at various points. The most attractive composition for me on this record has been Gasa and I am truly fascinated by it. He clearly represents a different voice among the contemporary composers and it is a delight to listen to him.
To buy this record:
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
This is a record which I have bought as per the recommendations of the seller. Some may think this is not the most logical way of purchasing records which you have no idea about (Especially if the price is hefty), yet this guy was someone whom I've bought from for some time and he has an idea of my weird taste after all. Anyway, the result has been pure success. Of course I was not sure about the result even until listening it since this record is a private press with absolutely no related info or music about it on the web. Hell, even Wikipedia does not feature anything on Jo Chambers.
What you hear on the record is strictly Folk music with what seems to be an Irish Folk touch in it. Some of the vocals can also be tied to Psyhedelic Rock. If I need to be more precise, I can openly state that the tone of Chambers' voice and her style reminds me of Grace Slick. So now you can get the picture. She has only her acoustic guitar with her. This may of course be due to limited finances she had for this record, but all in all it created a much more effective sound than she could have wished for. What you see in her is what you get. Simple as that.
The record was made possible by nine women who leant money to Chambers. This is uniquely a self made project. She even mentions that she was shit scared during the recording. The cover picture belongs to a friend of her's and was sketched, but Chambers didn't want it to be sexually oppressive. There is no one else on the record as she plays and sings all by herself.
She mentions that her songs are an expression of her experiences in the 4 years prior to the recording.They are mainly based on an individualistic theme. Central to attention is her loneliness. She enjoys loneliness in some tracks like "It's Raining On The Boulevard Tonight" while she feels devastatingly lonely and in need of love in "Lonesome Saturday Night". As a result, I can honestly say that listening this album is opening several windows into the life of Jo Chambers. Some commercial artists always use phrases like "I found myself in this album", "This album really feels like mine" etc. even though there is always a feeling of commercialism and of course a producer behind. This album on the other hand is totally about expressing oneself. There is no producer, no one accompanying him apart from her friends during recording sessions. She plays by herself, expresses herself without anyone else telling her how to. It is pure and simple. What you listen is totally cozy, honest and sincere.
What I've witnessed was certainly not something I was expecting. It has overaccomplished what I could have ever dreamed of. It is most unfortunate that she went unrecognized yet I have a satisfied feeling that she went so. If she had received fame, she wouldn't be so sincere anymore. This album is perfect as long as it remains being the work of one truly remarkable woman with 9 others who has helped financially for it to come alive. It is the dream of someone coming true while it is my dream come true in listening an album with pure music and ideals on mind.
To buy this record:
@ Music Stack
Friday, December 16, 2011
Dmitri Shostakovich may as well be one of the mostly misunderstood composers of all time. His tenure coincided with the most ruthless era of a country's regime. Oppression was an everyday occuring with millions dead being a statistical number. Under these conditions, he was labelled by his fellow composers as partisan, communist, supporter of the evil etc, while due to his mainly shy character, he accepted all accusations with a blank stare and unwilling resolution.
It was later on that people learned about the truths, his twice banning from composition due to him not composing based on Politburo's requests and standards. His trials for creating new ways to express himself musically all met with negative responses. He thought about running away more than once (According to records), but couldn't leave his mother land behind.
In true form, Shostakovich is probably the most established composer of the classic (Traditional) classical music works in the 20th century. While his fellow composers were trying everything new, he was confined only in traditional ways. This has put tremendous pressure on him. However, his first two symphonies on this record are totally apart from this issue since they were composed before he started to feel the chains being tied on him.
He wrote his first two symphonies when he was 19 and 21 respectively. They brought him immense fame during his early ages (Of course not to be compared with sensational Mozart anyway). Both symphonies are openly showing his eagerness in composing with full of energy style. Both symphonies are more like a shirt which someone wears while going out on a Saturday night. Everything about the symphonies seem programmed for that particular occasion. It is like Barcelona playing football. It seems preorganized, yet it is beautiful to watch. In this case, the programmed event is Shostakovich's entrance to the stage. He wanted to make a big entry and he got it.
Rhythm is fast, melodies are flamboyant, drums are aggressive. He does not hesitate. The 2nd Symphony was named after the 10th anniversary of the revolution and it is truly evident from it's massive sound. It creates a picturesque effect on the listener about that era of Russian history where everything had to be large and should show off. His standard drums vs bells style is all along both symphonies. These are truly fascinating when you think that they are beginning of one's career.
One thing that should not be taken for granted is the direction of Krill Kondrashin. He is the real expert on the symphonies of Shostakovich. Kondrashin has a personal perception of all the symphonies where he creates a different touch by taking into account the realities and stories behind that particular symphony he is conducting. When the related person is Shostakovich, there are many behind the curtain stories as well. Shostakovich told all his feelings and frustrations via his only channel, music. He shouted, objected, cried, denounced and broke all the chains with his music and that is why this record is truly important. It is showcasing the beginning of a remarkable career story told to us by an extinguished narrator.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Winter Family is a duo made up of Ruth Rosenthal and Xavier Klaine. They have released their last 2 records via Sub Rosa which is a label that I am deeply interested in. Many of Sub Rosa releases have found their way in my collection and especially their releases of Early Electronic works are something always to look forward to.
Honestly this album was not in my priority list while I was making my last purchase from Sub Rosa, but I bought it based on the recommendation of Fred from the label. It has been much of a delight to have made this last minute addition to my order. It is quite different in many ways comparing to the Drone music that we are constantly hearing nowadays.
Drone is an alternative branch of Electronic Music which has been more or less out of the spotlights for around 8-9 years which actually started around 1960's with the magical name where you see everywhere, La Monte Young. As you can guess from the starting point, it evolved with a new stylistic exploration of minimalist music, but later developed to what it is now today. More of a gothic version of the early ones.
Today the first two names you can directly mention alongside Drone is Sunn O))) and Fennesz. However, their styles are also differentiating somewhat since one is more of a Drone Metal and the other is closer to Space Music with it's wide soundscapes. Winter Family is already really apart from them based on the fact that they created an album which involves poems in a central figure, enriching them with samples of ezan (Call for prayer for muslims), religious chants, reverend and rabbi speeches. It has a religious touch, yet even having this kind of vocals within the tracks is a keen approach. What this duo uses is actually non music material in an abstract musical environment and to say the least, they have conducted a very hard job in this sense. Of course some people might get offended these days since that is the new "thing", being a racist or a discriminator. People can't get dumber than this.
Musically Drone evidently takes up the front stage with Folk Music elements supporting. During poems, music takes a supporting role with giving enough space for the narrator to give the full emotional state. Piano is also used frequently along the narration. After the vocals come the real strength of the album which are repetitive Drone timbres which are truly effective. In "Dancing In The Sun", vocals are also used more like the early versions of Drone as another musical aspect. This is not the Monteverdian style which we are used to from Cathy Berberian, but more like Karlheinz Stockhausen's and Klaus Schulze's approach to vocals.
There are quite simplistic melodies accompanying the general flow of the album like the one we face in "Indigo Sky". The basic melody is similar to old music box melodies, but then a thunder slaps to wake the listener up and bring back to reality where Drone takes back it's position and continues advancing. This is one of the worth listening works of the year with a genuine approach to Drone and Folk Music. All we need to do is support these works and hope for more to come.
To buy this record:
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Blackhawk club in San Francisco had a well earned fame with exquisite and cozy performances. Miles Davis is among the many legendary artists who has taken the stage in this club which was explained to be close to ruins even in its heydays. Nothing was as important as the music.
Maybe the true success of the club lied in this standardness. There was absolutely nothing special about here. You just came, listened and went out. Nothing fancy, nothing to distract you apart from the smokey atmosphere. They took no reservations, there were no special arrangements for anyone. They had a teenage section where they only sold soft drinks and this was closed down by the city mayor. After huge protests from the artists, jazz lovers and the media, they reopened it. This shows how crucial the club has been to the people of SF.
Many recordings have been made here and Miles Davis's is among them. Ahmad Jamal, Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, and Thelonious Monk are all there. However, these sessions were the first for Miles Davis to record live. The recording setup was prepared at the club next door called 211. It is clear that even he felt home there and this reflects on his performance. He is known to wander around the club while his band were into their own solos. It doesn't get more intimate than this.
Coming back to the records, it is also self explanatory since the records have been a story of success since their first release. The sound is totally raw and real. Miles Davis is trying to touch your heart and brain with his solos and guess what, he damn well does it. If you cramp up the volume which I advise feverishly, you just need to close your eyes and picture yourself there with Miles smoking, sipping champagne and throwing out one of his solos in between. His solos are even showing all signs of this character. Sometimes extremely talkative, telling long stories, sometimes sharp as his tongue can be, hitting fast and then retreating. Yet it all comes down to one thing only. You listen Miles Davis without any corrections, any studio hanky panky. Pure Miles, pure music.
There is one thing I need to add before ending this. In 2003, Columbia records released the full version of the performances of these two nights, Friday and Saturday. However, the guys in Columbia were only wise enough to release them as CDs. It takes 4 CDs to cover the whole nights and unfortunately we don't get the privilege to listen them on vinyl. This is one of the dumbest things I've seen, I'm sorry to say. They are reissuing tons of old releases and missing this one out has been a blast. I hope they'll come to their senses soon. These performances are meant to be on records.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Robert Fripp is a name which you can bump into a lot if you are listening Brian Eno. The contributions of these two names to the world of music and to each other have been enormous. Moreover, the fruitfulness of both names have created such works that are totally breathtaking. Unfortunately even though I have almost all works of both artists, I have been quite lazy in reviewing any of them. Another reason was that I've listened those records long before I came up with the idea of writing this blog and since I'm still trying to catch up with the records that I've bought and have not yet listened, it will probably take some while as well.
Anyway, coming back to Fripp, there is one thing I've got to mention before I move on to the album. Fripp is a well established guitarist. Even though I don't believe in the poorly prepared lists of magazines like Rolling Stones' All Time Best Guitarists etc, even a wrong clock shows the right time twice a day. Mr. Fripp himself is among the best guitarists list with a well earned place.
Let The Power Fall is an album which was prepared along the 5 month worldwide tour of Fripp for the roadshow of Frippertronics. As you can guess from the name, this is a technique devised by Fripp himself which is itself a tape looping technique. Brian Eno was a frequent follower of this technique as can be heard from his works.
The titles on this album are named after years which are designated by the composer based on where he thinks the world will be driving to. Change is the main theme of the album and structural change can be labelled as the main sub-theme. Fripp believes that structural change is needed and this can only be achieved through behavioral change. He explains that he has observed this during the tour of Frippertronics in 1979 while visiting various cities, watching people, sitting in restaurants, cafes etc.
The music can be briefly identified as atmospheric electronic music with filtered guitar sounds acommpanying. It has a more futuristic sound which is not very surprising given the year the titles were composed. You can take A Space Odyssey, Star Wars as a starting point and other futuristic movements were following. However, Fripp directly attached a philosophical foundation to his works and moved on from there.
The album as being a Frippertronics album, is sometimes feeling like a giant loop with smaller loops in it. The main sound structure of the album doesn't change very much from track to track. However, nuances are there for a more careful listener and these small changes can be interpreted as steps for a bigger change to come. Actually when we talk about change, our main idea is a drastic development of events or behavior in our environment. On the other hand if we take nature as a basis point, change is a continuous process moving slowly, but without any break. Change takes time to be fully effective and sudden alterations are never really there to stay.
After this much chit chat, it is evident that Fripp has a picture in his mind while composing these works. Moreover, this picture is somewhat very close to what we have seen and what we are to see in the near future. Some of the changes he has pointed out have been noticed, yet some changes I believe are still going unnoticed during our fast moving and consuming lives where we are not taking a break to evaluate our surroundings. Sometimes it is better to stop and watch. Nothing is running away.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
The legendary bassist Bill Laswell has a tendency to create flattering bands and all along his carreer, he has shown us enough. Moreover, drummer Anton Fier is not much of a different personality and when these two get together, the result was expected to be fruitsome. They have collaborated with so many artists along their carreers that they have a unique and versatile style of playing. Hence their joint venture in The Golden Palominos results in totally diversified tracks in their albums which stride from one genre to another.
I truly don't have any ideas when or how the project started or ended. However, I know their first album came out in 1983. It is evident that it took some time considering the people that they teamed with during the first recording phase. Just to create a note on this, the first line up included John Zorn, Arto Lindsay and Fred Firth as well. It would have been a truly fascinating feast to listen them at those days. Coming back to the album "Drunk With Passion", it starts with a surprise to some. Michael Stipe makes a guest appearance who is actually a reappearing guest after all. He also appeared in previous albums. The opening track "Alive And Living Now" gives a very positive outlook for the rest of the album. Style wise, the album is not to deviate much from this track. This is also quite contrary to previous albums of the band. This may be due to the heavy effect of the guest artists on this record. Even though they are nominated as guests, almost all are making a comeback from previous ones and they have all learned the sound of the band.
The album flows around styles like Alternative Rock, Pop Rock and Country Rock (Can't really say Southern Rock so that's why I didn't write it as such). Apart from one track,"Dying From Inside Out", where they all seem to use their energies, the album moves around the same comforting rhythms. That track may be due to the guest appearance of Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü, but anyway, it is a good addition to the album. Of course starting from the beginning and coming upto date, the band's sound has changed a lot and therefore it is hard to compare it with the days where Zorn was playing the sax. This may be the ultimate strategy of the band. It is known that Laswell and Fier are both experimentalists in their nature and this band has let them experiment along Rock subgenres with ease. Actually this has album has been their last in venturing the realms of Rock. After this one, they went on exploring electronic music with Bill Laswell taking a more prominent role during the process as his collaborations with Pete Namlook and Ambient oriented artists clearly opening him new ways to venture into. The support they received has been immense and the results have been a joy to listen. The Golden Palominos and all their distinctive albums can be listened to explore the various side roads of Rock.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Here we have a revolutionary man who had a vision to explain all his personal and political feelings, protests and anger through his music. Bob Dylan (Originally Robert Zimmerman) is not mainly famous for his music actually since man of his songs are either borrowed or inspired musically from earlier works. He openly tells this so as well. On the other hand lyrics have always been the extremely powerful side of his works.
It may be really unnecessary to explain about Bob Dylan to an established music listener. Someway or the other, you are bound to meet this man, hear his music and get down into his lyrics. However I personally didn't delve into his music until 3-4 years ago when I had a sudden rush of Blues and Folk in me. Hard to explain, yet I've been listening Blues for a substantial period of my time now. Some books I've read on the subject have also arouse my interest even further. Dylan also got his fair share from this.
I was strolling around Ebay one day when I saw this box set. Next thing I know, I ended paying for it, not with any remorse of course. And I'm sitting on my couch now listening to this fabulous box set. The set consists of various stages of Dylan's recordings as it can be understood from the name, Biograph. It features some of his most famous works like Lay Lady Lay, The Times Are Changin', Blowin' In The Wind, Like A Rolling Stone etc. There is not much need to get into detail with these tracks as they can be found anywhere. The other reality of the box set is more fruitful since it features 18 unreleased tracks and one B side. Now this is a feast.
One important aspect of the box set is the two booklets that come with it. One contains the history of Dylan's life with colorful pictures, details, stories and quotes. The second booklet has proven to be more of importance for me since it directly explains the history behind the tracks and the quotes of Dylan based on almost each song. Knowing the history behind each track has been a pleasure. Interestingly when I was younger (Not that I'm old anyway), I was not so much into learning the history of the songs that I've listened, but the more you listen and experience, the more you are curious about the stories behind the things you listen. It provides a great insight about them and also fills the holes that you can feel. Every stone falls into place. It makes the whole experience more complete and adorable. This is exactly what happens with this box set. Clearly it doesn't have the feeling or the conceptual collectivity of an album. You feel like here and there a couple of times since this is a collection which spans for over a 20 year recording period. Yet you get to feel and witness the starting point of a great artist and how he has developed through the ages. When this artist is Bob Dylan, the whole thing gets a grandiose meaning.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Arnold Schoenberg - Pierrot Lunaire Op.21/Serenade Op.24, Domaine Musical Ensemble, Boulez (Everest - SDBR(D) 3171)
Arnold Schoenberg made a comment once that he would have liked his tunes also to be whistled like Tchaikovsky's. Well, that may never happen. He may not and will probably not achieve the fame that Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Chopin or Liszt and many others. On the other hand, one thing is for sure. His legacy and the change he has brought upon classical music will live on forever. He is one of the key pioneers who shaped classical music.
The doors that Schoenberg opened are numerous. He made this change available in just the right time. Technologies evolved very fast, societies evolved, cumulative cultural understanding evolved and our view of human life evolved. The change in itself is important, but the timing was also perfect.
Pierro Lunaire is one of his primary atonal works even though he composed this work before totally theorizing the famous twelve tone technique. Therefore it is correct to say that this work is not the true sample of the change he was yet to bring yet it shows some drastic changes compared to previous century's works. Moreover, this work holds several aspects which was to be developed and used time and time again during the 20th century.
The works is the first fully use of a technique called "Speaking Voice" (Sprechstimme). Just this technique alone was widely seen in the future among the works of Berio, Nono and Stockhausen. The lyrics belonged to the Belgian poet Albert Giraud. The name of the composition derives from these poems as Pierrot is the pantomime character and some of the poems have the themes based on the moon (Lunaire).
Helga Pilarczyk is the speaker during the composition. With all fairness to her, this is a good performance under the general conducting of Pierre Boulez, but I would have preferred to listen it also from Cathy Berberian as well. After all, she is the master of this kind of works.
This composition heavily relies on the performers and therefore a choice of record to listen this work is very important. This version where Boulez conducts his Domaines Musical Ensemble is widely claimed to be the best version even though tastes may differ. I should also point out that considering the only other version (By conductor Peter Maxwell Davies) I have listened this record, Boulez's version comes out to be the better by far. It is surely a teaching piece for people who would like to take a sneak peak at how the classical music was evolving step by step during the beginning of the 20th Century.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Are you experienced? Have you ever experience listening Jimi Hendrix on vinyl? If not, well you've really not lived so far.
The first Hendrix vinyl I've bought was from a record shop Paris, near Sacre Coeur. I bought the repress of Smash Hits. Along with it I bought many other vinyls including my first Nirvana as well.
Band of Gypsys is a live recorded album at Fillmore East in Ny on New Year's Eve, '69. It is an incredible album. Not that it's live, but the record starts with "Who Knows" which is truly amazing. Recatching Salieri's words for Mozart, this should be god's music. I don't want to be sarcastic to say god is a dillusion and will not ruin the moment. "Message Of Love" and "Power To Love" are also other reasons to leave sarcasm behind based on the same concept.
The true beauty of the record and the necessity to listen it on vinyl comes from the fact that the recording is really raw. It creates a much better effect listening on vinyl. The crispy solos of Jimi Hendrix are directly getting into your veins and taking you away from any thought that you had or our pathetic brains was planning to have.
If Hendrix could have lived somewhat more, we would never have had the cold war period. The notes he flushes us with from his guitar have more than enough energy to wipe out all stupid daily problems or expectations one might have. Life itself is actually a gift.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I can gratefully state that I am a keen audience for the works of Olivier Messiaen and have a well established collection of his recordings. However, most of them are miles apart even though their structures have similarities on base level. There are some of his earlier works which stand out from the group but even on those works, his different style of approach can be seen and felt. Quartet For The End Of Time or originally Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps is one of those pieces. When compared with his later works, it has a more classical style to it even though with long passages from the clarinet which creates a chilling effect on the listener. On the other hand, this composition is not only beautiful in the musical sense, but also on the composing stage as well.
There are some compositions which are a result of uncompromising circumstances. This composition is a clear example of this type. It is essential to learn about the circumstances during the composition of this work in order to fully grasp the reality behind the melancholy and even depressive notes that dominate it. Messiaen was enlisted in the French army during WWII and he was in a prisoner camp when he wrote this work. He was accompanied by three other French musicians and he wrote a trio for them which later on became a quartet with Messiaen on the piano. The premiere was in a barrack of the prisoner camp in front of 5.000 prisoners and German soldiers. Interestingly the front row was for the German guards whom were all the more effected by the pure beauty of the piece. Of course there were some mishaps like the cello with three strings.
To be honest, it can be noted that this piece is one of the most important works of 20th century music not only because of it's emotional value, but also musically. The gloomy atmosphere along the composition was also similarly offered to us by the likes of Sibelius, but his position was merely a depression in the dense forest house where he was feeling more productive.
It is really hard to explain the composition. When you listen to it, the first thing that strikes you is that the name is extremely proper to the composition. There is a dark atmosphere. Really dark. This is the work of Messiaen, but it is more rightful to say that this is the best piece about war since it was written within the war itself. I am also a deep admirer of Britten's War Requiem which is similarly affectionate and emotional. However, there is a small difference between them and that is War Requiem is the child of grief after war and Quartet For The End Of Time is the child of grief, pain and suffering during the war. There are no more words to describe it. None needed as well as the whole piece speaks for itself.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
When you are a record collector, you get to bump into things where you are least expecting them. You also tend to find gems which may be remarkable. This record is surely one of those. Finding a record of Djivan Gasparyan is already hard in itself, but finding a test press seems like a miracle.
There are some people who were born for music. Djivan Gasparyan is surely one of this kind. His way of bringing folk music of the Caucasus and Anatolia has been truly remarkable and brought him worldwide fame. He is a master of the traditional woodwind which is also called "Duduk" in this region.
The album is Djivan Gasparyan's first. It was originally released from the Russian Melodiya Records in 1983 and than reissued via Land Records in 1989. What I have in my hand is the test press of the reissue.
The name of the album is "I Will Not Be Sad In This World". This is quite ironic as Anatolia and Caucasus are two regions of the world which has suffered thousands of years through invasions and struggles. His music on the album exceptionally pictures this longing for peace and solitude.
Even though the main genre of the album has to be listed as Folk Music and World Music, the way Gasparyan plays the Duduk is pretty much similar to the spacey rhythms of Jan Garbarek. However, the general feeling is much more depressive and emotional. This can derive from the sometimes excessive emotional states of the region he lives in.
Listening the record is a pleasure not many words can describe. I've listened to Gasparyan more than once in concerts, and sang some of the almost forgotten traditional Armenian and Turkish folk songs he brought back into life. Yet, this record has a special way with it. It may be that I have the advantage of being from the same culture. The album directly depicts the life in this region.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Some genres in music are meant to be live. In these genres, you can listen a studio recording, but it can never give you the true essence of the feeling. Blues is probably the most extreme of them since when you compare listening a studio recording and a live one with the same tracks, the result is miles apart.
The record of today is a live recording of The Cream apart from one track "Lawdy Mama". Of course the statements in the first paragraph are also related to the people in the band, but since we are talking about The Cream, you don't have a shortage of talent anyway. Cream seals the deal in the development of Eric Clapton's technique as well as the maturity of Jack Bruce.
The live recording starts with Jack Bruce's N.S.U. with long solos all along the track, but fully kicks off with again Bruce's Sleepy Time Time. It is absolutely stunning to listen to this track live since the sound is raw and filled with beautiful solos. As said before, Lawdy Mama is a studio recording, but it would have been lovely if they recorded that live as well.
The B side is all there is to it. Starting with Ginger Baker's Sweet Wine is by itself not a song that I admire, yet the solos are inspiring. Especially on Clapton's part, he is literally ripping the whole stage apart. That is probably why they chose this track. It is a 15 minute song where almost 13 minutes is like a jam session.
The last track on the album is a faster version of the Rollin' And Tumblin' by Muddy Waters. Speeding it up like they did clearly softens the real influence of the song itself, but considering the live atmosphere, it can play an essential role in a show. The Cream turns it to a show off as well as a jam session where they include the harmonica along the jam. Musically it is not jaw dropping since they are strolling along the same fast rhythm for a very long time (It may also be wrong to call it a jam). But all in all the album is refreshing and full of energy. Listen it for the true mixture of love, hate and passion which is the Blues itself.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
There are some sets which tend to be excessively crucial to some people. This and two more other entries will be about a such set (Actually three sets). This so called set was released by EMI Italiana and they encapture the memorial moments from the career of Beniamino Gigli. Even though these sets are quite substantial in the volume of material they contain, it is interesting that on Internet, you cannot find a single document or information concerning these releases. The overall set consists of three boxes which are named "Opera Arias", "Popular Songs" and "Unreleased Material". In total 30 records. As I said before, this is a huge set and it took me some time to find each of the set.
The first volume is easy to comprehend based on it's name. This volume was created after HMV was bought by EMI. Before that, both companies used to release only the material they had the rights to and did not combine their archives. The magic trick happened after the merger and through extensible efforts of EMI Italiana with the results coming in by 1978. It is not an easy task to extract material from 78 rpm records since the speeds were varying a lot due to the limited technology. I have also seen similar comments on one of Enrico Caruso's records which date even earlier than Gigli. Gigli's recordings start from 1918 in Italy.
This set holds 7 records with arias from many of the famous operas. You get to witness Gigli's performances from Tosca, La Boheme, Aida, Don Giovanni, Manon (Massenet's version), Manon Lescaut (Puccini's version), Pagliacci, and many others. Some of his better performances can be heard in Nessun Dorma from Turandot, Chiedi Al Rio from L'Elisir D'Amore, but his best performance is by far at Leoncavallo's Pagliacci opera. The aria's name is No, Pagliaccio non son. I've also listened to several other versions of this opera including the performances of Caruso, Björling and Domingo. Fairness to all of them, yet Gigli's performance by far outstrips them. It is truly crippling while you are listening to it. I have earlier said that listening to opera at home is a wierd feeling to begin with, but after listening this set, I am to change my mind effectively. A great performance can always attract the listener and leave your jaws open wide wherever you listen to it.
This is a set which all opera lovers should own and listen when they want to hear someone who is absolutely a legend with all his worth. Unfortunately he is not a Justin Bieber to get that much fame, but at least we should try to listen as much as possible to create an environment where they can outlive themselves. Life is not fair, that is true, yet we have chances to trick it to the way we want it to be. It may not be drastic, while a change is a change nonetheless.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Provocative Percussion is a series of releases started by the Command Records in order to promote their record as well as to show off their recording quality. It is sufficient to say that they made a remarkable job at that. The series are made up of 5 releases if my small research is not mistaken. These records are not really easy to come by and I happened to bump into it at an Ebay seller's list from whom I've bought Isang Yun's release from Wergo (Wer 60034). There is also another interesting record by Mustapha Tettey Addy with the name Master Drummer From Ghana that I've bought from this guy from the Chocolate and Watch country (Switzerland).
One interesting thing about the record is that the tracks chosen and performed for the record by the Enoch Light And The Light Brigade are mainly standards of Jazz with percussions given a priority during the recording sessions. There are also selected tracks from Swing and Bossa Nova as well. As a result, what we get from the vinyl is a more crispy and attractive sound. The quality of the recordings are superb. It feels as though you are listening the band directly at home in front of you while you are sipping your coffee laying on your couch.
It's been a surprise to listen to this record. I can't say that I have been musically enhanced since the material is not breathtaking in the sense of originality. It is the recording style and technique that captures the attention altogether. And of course last but not the least, this was year 1959. This makes it all the more interesting kudos for Command Records for the performance. I am now quite curious if they maintained this quality during their whole lifespan of releases. That I am yet to see.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
There are such compositions in the 20th Century which created a butterfly effect that their legendary positions have totally surpassed their beauty or intellect. "In C" is one of those compositions and we can see the similar structural compositions still today, not only in contemporary classical music, but Electronic Music, Rock and even Jazz.
Terry Riley is more of a technician or a structuralist (I may have created the word) rather than a composer. In this case, he shares the same fate like his contemporary Karlheinz Stockhausen. Of course Riley has crucial compositions which we are listening still today, but his main strength lies elsewhere. This is also quite interesting since he started his musical career as a pianist and later a soprano saxophonist. He is quite a master in both as well.
The structures in "In C" are layered and this layerizing is clearly the teachings of La Monte Young. Moreover, Riley created a duality of performance within this structure. The performers each have 53 figures to play with a chance to improvise. Also collectivity is crucial since they need to listen their fellow performers in order to interact. No two performances can be the same and the music itself comes out like a living organism.
This continuity feeling is very well established among most minimalist composers. It is quite easy to see in the cases of Steve Reich (Ie Sextet/Six Marimbas) and Philip Glass (Ie Akhnaten or Koyaanisqatsi Ost). Thus it can be said that one of the reasons for this style to gain a strong foothold in today's compositions and other music genres is this similarity to life and nature. Obviously, Minimalist producers have been the primary choice of music for the natural documentary producers.
"In C" is musically enlightening. It is a feast for the ear as well as all perceptive senses. While listening, you don't feel it as an almost 50 year old composition, but rather like a music which has been evident in many things one may have listened. The notes or the structure are not the only thing that matters for this composition, it is also what they have caused in later stages.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
The fans or at least seldom players of the legendary strategy and first person (Collective) shooter game Counter Strike, this record means a lot. The Arab Streets map of this game featured the chorus part of Leilet Hob. It was via this game I learned about Om Kalsoum and her awesome recordings. Truth be told, life is never out of surprises.
It took me some time and effort to find this record since apart from being long time out of print, you don't get the chance to find one easily. It also considered to be one of her most famous songs. Honestly I found one more record which was in a somewhat OK (VG) condition, but the pricing was clearly away from reality, so I had to pass that chance.
Majority of the records of Om Kalsoum are released by Sono Cairo label and these are recorded mainly during concerts. However, not many include the true essence of the concerts like this. First the stage opens and the orchestra starts an instrumental intro which in Turkish classical music is called "Taksim". Then the artist comes to the stage under thunderous applause and starts singing. This record shows the typical example of this classic style.
The song itself can be divided into 3,5 parts. The first being the intro, then comes the main section. The third part which starts with a flamenco type rhythm is more like a passage of alternate take. The 0,5 mentioned is because the main section comes as a shorter version at the end of the record. Before I forget to mention lyrics belong to Ahmed Chafik Kamel.
This is absolutely a joy to listen. The instrumentation, the way Om Kalsoum sings, everything is extremly clean and close to perfection. It surely will hold a special place in my collection of Om Kalsoum records and I would harshly advise anyone to listen it if they haven't already done so. Pure classic!
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Luciano Berio's companionship to Cathy Berberian has a long history with diversification in terms of intensity. They cooperated in many operas as well as shared the same bed (Presumably) at nights. They have a similar relationship like that of Britten and Pears's, though more conventional.
The record is based on a piece written by Berio for Berberian. The piece is immensely concetrated on the vocal talent of Berberian and all throughout the record, it shows. Music never ever takes the front stage, only accompanies on the background with periodical exclamations.
The recital starts with a Monteverdian style (I learned about this style after listening the record) and at first you get the feeling of listening a warm up for a rehearsal with a distant harpsichord being heard. Then Berberian starts a monologue as she seems like talking to herself. Piano, trumpet and flute enters the stage yet still distant and uncoodinated until Berberian asks them to coordinate themselves by calling out. The Piano takes on holds as a regular background near the end of the record
The texts (They can hardly be called lyrics) come from various sources including some passages written by Berio. The B side starts with a "Play It Again Sam" and continues with a song of Marlene Dietrich while in between there are fragments written by Berio.
Conceptually this is a provoking piece of self realization and wake up call while the center is the vocals and diversity of Cathy Berberian. It is frankly to be mentioned that she did not earn her fame based on nothing, she has an incredible voice with such versatility that you start to acknowledge her more like an instrument. This is a record to listen to. It is a wonderful experience of contemporary thinking and masterful techniques.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Psychedelic Rock is one of those musical styles that is hard not to like. The versatility it enholds as well as the natural sounds has attracted many followers. And of course drugs. This was the end 60s and the beginning 70s where anything could happen anywhere. It was also the glowing days of Haight & Ashbury which was a truly monumental arena back in those days. Those were the good old days since when I went there last year, that flicker of light was not there anymore.
Jefferson Airplane is just not the mother of various Psychedelic Rock offshoots (Inc. Jefferson Starship), it is also one of the pioneers of the genre. Actually pioneer is a really questionable term. Jefferson Airplane is like the Kraftwerk of Electro Pop. They were not the first band to get into it, but rather they were the first band to generate widespread success. This is how they have eventually inspired the worldwide phenomenon of Psychedelic Rock which ultimately shook Turkey as well. Interestingly, approximately 12.000 miles away, the Psychedelic Rock artists of Turkey like Erkin Koray, Mogollar, Uc Hurel and others were to be also distinguished artists in this genre. Especially in the case of Erkin Koray, he is noted as one of the top artists of this music with ingredients he has combined from Anatolian Rock as well.
Regarding the album, it is the second step of Jefferson Airplane showing their move to a step further from Psychedelic Rock and mixing it with Blues Rock which was also extremely widespread those days. From the likes of Blues Rock artists like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Peter Green and Eric Clapton, they added the essence of improvisation into their music and the guitar solos were reminding more of Blues rather than Psychedelic. On the other hand, there was one thing remaining, the vocals of Grace Slick and her astounding lyrics. The poetry in the lyrics as well her contralto vocals were to become one of the flagships of Psychedelic Rock and influenced many bands to follow the same road. It can also be said that due to their heavy touring with The Doors between 1967-1969 should have affected their music. There was also romance within this relationship as Jim got hooked into the beauty of Grace. "Ice Cream Phoenix" seems to be one of those tracks where this affection could have taken hold.
The album was the second most only being surpassed by the legendary "Surrealistic Pillow". It has moments where it reminds us of the sounds in "Surrealistic Pillow" like tracks "Lather" and "Greasy Heart". However, in reality it is the follow up of a change coming in which started with "After Bathing at Baxter's". This album is on a more cooler sound than the Rockier "After Bathing at Baxter's". The extra availability of Kaukonen's electric guitar was a bit of a too much change for the group therefore they seem to have taken a bit step back. Yet, in tracks like "Crown Of Creation", "If You Feel" and more effectively the album closing long track "The House At Pooneil Corners". In these tracks Kaukonen is left to stride along his guitar in the same sense that the British and American Electric Blues guitarists doing. It's fair to say that there is not a long, shredding guitar solo in any of these tracks while there are traces here and there which can add up to it.
These are albums which have opened the way to millions of possibilities for the upcoming generation. Of course this is a double edged sword. Thinking that this music opened up a possibility for Kaiser Chiefs is a damning thought. Yet somehow it is true. Anyway I'm sure Jefferson Airplane didn't have that in mind. Let alone the loose ends in the basket, it is pure pleasure to listen these albums which unfortunately were never really quite repeated afterwards, even Jefferson Starship couldn't do it, the offshoot after Jefferson Airplane disbanded.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Dizzy Gillespie is known to every Jazz listener as well as many people who are sort of familiar with this genre. He is the man who helped trumpet gain a leading role in Jazz. There were other important players before him, but none received the widespread acclaim or the influence. Just saying that Miles Davis regards him as an influence should be self explaining enough. Here is a man who is a guru of the trumpet and contributed heavily into Modern Jazz as well as Bebop. Of course most of us also know him by his puffy cheeks.
The album kicks off with two classic music variations, the first one being written by Guy Porter for a musical and the second by none other than Gershwin of course. We see the same on the B side's first track Jealousy. These give the record a true maturity in terms of the musical background and also notes the key transition that we have experienced (Not personally, rather historically) during the development of Jazz. He is crucial in this sense since his works can be described as the bridge between early Jazz and Modern Jazz.
After these on both sides, we are taken to a very nice journey along Jazz with the beautiful sounds coming from Gillespie's trompet and his accompanying orchestra. The solos are well accomplished, sharp and yet soothing for the listener. "The Sound Of Surprise" never fails to attract the attention. There is also the standard "Blue And Sentimental" without the vocals. The last track of the album also winks to the Afro-Cuban Jazz that he is somewhat thought to be the founding father.
Quarter tones rarely get any better than this.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Karlheinz Stockhausen is undisputably one of the most important composers of 20th Century as well as a highly respected theoretician. He was always brutally original in his both earlier and later works. It is discussed that his works after 1970s were more concentrated on conventially more standard grounds, but one has to listen Donnerstag Aus Licht and clearly can reject these views altogether.
Sirius is another example from the same era. It was written between 1975 and 77. It is a work for electronic music, trumpet, soprano, bass clarinet and bass. It is based on the concept of universe and nature. The composition of the work is such that it has 4 main parts, namely Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. They are also named as Aries, Libra, Cancer and Capricorn respectively. However, based on view and performance, these can be changed with The Earth, The Fire, The Water, The Air or The Seed, The Bud, The Blossom and The Fruit. The list goes on more. Stockhausen describes this cycle as "The Wheel". Based on performances, The Wheel can start from any part.
This work was commissioned by FDR Germany for the opening of the Albert Einstein Spacearium in the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. The work has the motto "To the pioneers on earth and in space".
The music itself can at best be described as improvisation of instruments and vocalization over prepared electronic music samples. This work is rather based on theoretical grounds instead of hardcore experimentalism that could be viewed during the 50s and 60s. Another reason for the slightly milder tone of experimentalism could lie on the reality that this was a commissioned work for an opening of a Museum where viewers would not be the standard open minded audience of Stockhausen. Even as it may, this work is structurally original and strikingly experimental in terms of perspective of composition.
On this record (2 Lp) Markus Stockhausen plays the trumpet (Yes he is related, father - son), Annette Metiweather is the Soprano, Suzanne Stephens plays the Klarinette (Also translated Stockhausen's explanatory booklet into English) and Boris Carmeli is basso profundo.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Jethro Tull is remembered for their blend of Blues Rock with their British blood. Blues was already becoming a huge scene when they entered the musical scene. It all started with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and went on with his (And John Mayall's) help in promoting bands like The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Bluesbreakers, Graham Bond Organization and the likes. Therefore when Jethro Tull came into life, they had a chance to push forward at full throttle. And they did so remarkably to become one of the most recognized bands of the genre as well as Rock itself.
It would not be really unfair to say that the key to their success was the band's founding father Ian Anderson. Anderson was heavily into the Blues explosion era during the 1960s and was doing his best to keep the first bands he started. Having seen that he cannot play as good as many of the noted guitarists of the era like Eric Clapton and Peter Green, he hang his guitar to take up the flute. This change in instrument also made a difference in the sound as well as the future music of the group. They enjoyed a very good initial career when everyone was happy (Apart from minor changes in the line up), but then came the end 1970's and Ian Anderson had a hunch to change his direction. He couldn't manage this with the current line up, let alone under the same name therefore he took up the idea of going solo with of course Martin Barre alongside. So it wasn't really a solo anyway. However, due to lower album sales of Jethro Tull, the label Chrysalis convinced the already prepared solo album to be named under Jethro Tull in the hopes of creating a Phoenix effect. So much for the high hopes.
The change in "A" is so substantial that the standard Jethro Tull fans ran away from it. And with good reason. One thing is for sure, change was there. The opening track "Crossfire" laid it all too simply to the audience. It had the feeling of Disco music more than any other sound. The keyboards were taking the front stage and the music did not have the purity of quality it had before. I mean looking back today, it is not far fetched to say that the music on the album is not very different from the Electro Disco of the Hague Concept. The guitars are missing true, but the music is quite similar nonetheless.
It is critically discussed how the bands should change or evolve themselves. One good example of this can be noted as Muse. In every new album they released, there was a minor change which inevitably led us to today and I am sure we are to see further changes coming from them. Even a Rock Symphony would not shock me if it were to come from them. They have made us acknowledge the fact that they would change something somehow. Same aspect I have already noted within the comments regarding Jefferson Airplane's "Crown The Creature". They also wanted to undergo a change, but did not do it wholly at one step. It came gradually. It may be why this actually solo album of Ian Anderson did not fit well with Jethro Tull written on it. It would have been a different solo approach whereas because of Chrysalis's demands, it became an awkward point of arrival in it's suddenness. I think I don't need to mention a similar era in Metallica's history when each of us said "What the hell is going on?".
This album can be openly classified as what Ian Anderson wanted to do personally, not Jethro Tull. One can argue that Jethro Tull is already Ian Anderson, but that is why Ian wanted to make this album solo. He knew it was way different. Actually that is what prompted this project in the first place. The feeling of needing change, the feeling of running away, maybe too cliche, but the feeling of breaking the long held chains. Unfortunately Chrysalis made a very wrong move by insisting on the Jethro Tull name. I'm sure they have regretted this after the album sales figures. Maybe they got carried away too much by the Saturday Night Fever. Who knows.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Michael Nyman is a composer who helped to shape the modern composition techniques and experimentations. It is a must to mention his name while talking about 1970 and onwards on classical music since he layed the foundations for today's young and developing composers.
Drowning By Numbers is a record that can drown you into other worlds of joy and sorrow. It drowns you into it's beauty. Even though it is a meticulously calculated experiment based on Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra, it has such a perfectness to it that listening once can not and will not be enough.
The first idea of decomposing and recomposing of the Sinfonia Concertante came from Peter Greenaway and Nyman really jumped on the idea there and then. His first project was to concentrate on the four notes (58-61) for the movie "The Falls". For the film Drowning By Numbers, he enhanced the idea to cover the full movement and this obviously opened a whole world of opportunities to Nyman.
Even before achieving this information from the back cover of the record, one can feel a completeness, a collectiveness within the recompositions. It feels like all of them are attached to each other somehow in one way and they are a part of a greater good. Therefore, I find it extremely unjust to separate and criticize on any of the recompositions by itself. They are meaningful together even though within themselves they are immensely affectionate and profound.
Friday, September 16, 2011
There are some bands which are more or less defined by a single person. This may be the vocalist, the guitarist or the drummer etc.. Kurt Cobain is an example. Others can be noted as Tom Morello, Ben Harper, Mark Knopfler, Jack White etc. However, there are also some bands who are based on a more collective approach like Beatles, Metallica, Kronos Quartet, and Pink Floyd. These are more diversified bands which there is more than a single person directing and defining the music.
When these leaders of bands somewhat leave the stage or depart the band, there are not much to do. Some bands try to go on with extreme rare success. Mostly the result is "need to be forgotten" albums. RATM tried this after Morello departed. The result was a mere OK. He came back, life is good now. Nirvana didn't even got together since the idea of replacing Cobain was plain dumb. They went their separate ways which turned out to be a much better decision. GNR is still trying to survive after the departure of Slash and what's coming out is nowhere near the good ol' days.
Why I am pushing on with this "obvious for most" issue is that the album in question tends to be the album of The Doors after Jim Morrison hit the sack. Jim Morrison was The Doors, The Doors was Jim Morrison. With all respect to the somewhat talented Manzarek, his fight to keep The Doors alive was purely financial, nothing less. The result. Oh man. Totally embarrasing.
To be frank, I didn't listen to this album before. It's probably nobody even cared to mention. All in all, life sucks after Jim Morrison. Music is not the same. It's nowhere near. The lyrics are mere -I tried hard to seem like- Jim Morrison copies and fully lacks the poetry and imagination of him. If the band did not use the name The Doors, it would have been a little milder critic, but it's not the case. Since they wanted to benefit from using "The Doors" name on the cover, it would be only fair to judge it accordingly.
The only track that had me focused during listening was Hang On To Your Life. Apart from that one, all the others are a waste of time. It is somewhat Blues oriented or to be more precise, the basis is Blues and the road that Jim Morrison has paved on it. However, Jim Morrison's music evolved through every record and came to a point where he had a similar maturation point that Cobain also felt. On the other hand, this maturity did not even pass onto his fellow band members since it is quite evident that they went back all the way to the beginning and wrote music like teenagers. I believe these explanations will suffice to say that this is a record that you should be aware of and discard. We are The Doors fans alright, but what you have on this record is not The Doors. The real The Doors closed down shop on 3rd of July, 1971. Oh by the way, these guys went on to release another record called "Full Circle". Haven't listened to that one, but seeing from this one, I'll be more wiser not to get even close to it.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Harry James is a very talented trumpeter from the Big Band era. He was the sideman of the legendary Benny Goodman until he wanted to start his own band and went on with it from there. He split from Goodman 2 years into the band and was openly supported by Goodman himself. There was unjust criticism in the beginning saying that he was not as good as Goodman, but that is quite a little off the mark since comparing someone to the biggest name of that era is not really fair anyway.
Harry James was a good band leader and a respected musician, that's the point. He was also the first big band to open his arms to Frank Sinatra even though Harry James made an unsuccessful try at changing his name to Frankie Satin. Harry James orchestra also enjoyed the services of Buddy Rich on drums later on as well.
The vinyl I have bought around a month ago is probably a private press under the supposed label Tom. It says limited edition for collectors, the front side is quite simple with the written sheet glued to the cover and the back cover is totally empty. I don't even mention the green transparent vinyl itself. However, this is a very important recording since it captures the very first three recording sessions of Harry James and His Orchestra as well as some tracks which are yet to be released on vinyl or cd. The tracks are dated between 1936-1938 and have a superb sound quality to be honest. The record itself does not have any single dating, but based on the cover, the board used etc, my logical guess would be mid 1960s.
I have no idea if this record can be found again. I stumbled by it from a guy who sells stuff he buys from Amoeba and the price I bought is ridiculous (Luckily), but if you can find it, don't even hesitate. It is a lovely record from the Swing era which naturally I have missed totally due to age. Those good ol' times when people used to dance with Jazz.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
20th century classical music has been dominated by three countries in particular, first Austria, then France and later by America. It can justly be said that the foundations were laid by Austrians, French designed the architecture and Americans built the rest. Of course this is a very general view with missing certain particular names along the way, East Europeans, British, German and Italians. They also had effect, but not as drastic as the first three.
There are certain elements for this country wise introduction that I have made. I will get into detail with a review of itself. It will be mainly about 20th century classical music, the effects of war, politics and how these shaped the current musical world.
The reason I'm stumping onto this ground is that I will be writing about some treasures which I have recently bought. They are mainly the works of 20th century composers played by either themselves or distinguished performers.
To start with, I am listening the box set "Music For A 20th Century Violinist" by Paul Zukofsky. He is concentrated on the contemporary classical works and based on his explanation, the ones composed after 1940. I guess he tried to explain himself better by putting up a starting date. Anyway... The work of Zukofsky is supported by another important performer of these works, Gilbert Kalish on the piano.
This duo put up an extensive review of the modern composers by covering 14 names which include John Cage, Morton Feldman, Stefan Wolpe, Milton Babbitt, George Crumb and others. Harvey Sollberger appears as well and he is also the conductor for these performances.
The three records are divided into three decades of American music, 40s, 50s and 60s. The set is dated as 1974. The choices of compositions are in themselves pretty much sums up the notion of an anthology very well and developments/new ideas can easily be seen to develop between the records. The performances of Zukofsky and Kalish are extremely effective with the former creating the whole atmosphere of those years. It is a great collection for the person who is interested in contemporary classical music. I'm not saying it's the only one since I'll be listening/reviewing to a similar one by Aki Takahashi as well.
If I am to note certain compositions from this box set, Peter Mennin's Sonata Concertante, Morton Feldman's Vertical Thoughts 2, Michael Sahl's String Quartet and Walter Piston's Sonatina. However, I should certainly point out that this set has to be listened from beginning to the end as all titles are worth their place and together they give an established view. Hail to Zukofsky and Kalish while we should also thank CMS and Desto records to release it.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Soliman Gamil is an Egyptian musician. He can be named as one of the few experimentalists in the sense that he experimented with classical Egyptian music in order to create the sounds closest to Ancient Egyptian Music. He is also one of the many names that I had a chance to listen after starting to collect records on a broader sense.
The music has a true authentic feeling with obvious roots to Egypt and Middle East. Some of the instruments used are known to people interested in the region, but among these there were a number of them which I couldn't identify. With the aim being creating Ancient music, it sometimes gives the feeling of Om Kalsoum's long ballads under the catalogue name of Arabesque while some of the compositions are outright nothing like I've ever heard. The music itself is at first surprising, then soothing and later you get an overall affection.
One negative aspect of the record is that, if we can call it negative, the compositions are scattered around the record without any road to follow them. None of them leads you to the other. This creates an atmosphere of detachment from a music that can be categorized as new to a listener (Which I was actually). However, the compositions within themselves were beautifully constructed with giving enough breathing ground to each note and instrument and providing the full scent of the feeling that Gamil wanted to serve.
The collection of compositions were recorded in Cairo and released by the reputable Touch records. The record itself is quite recent (1987). They have also released some other works of Gamil later on. It is always a challenge in listening these new, far away, but yet familiar sounds. Frankly I am quite thrilled to offer you this challenge.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Motorhead holds a special place among these bands due to the fact that there was always the feeling of utmost energy in their tracks on top of the heavy metal riffs. That is also somewhat the same effect Rammstein creates within me. Metallica was more melodic, Iron Maiden even more. Yet Motorhead was pure energy. Ace Of Spades album is a true classic in this sense. It encaptures the pure essence of energy that defines Motorhead for me. It is the 5th album in 3 years during a period of rapid production for the group. This crazy period points out to an extremely colorful time for the world of Heavy Metal. So many landmark albums by several bands have been released and it is evidently not surprising to see where the energy comes from. Actually the first three tracks is more than enough to explain what I'm getting at. "Ace Of Spades", "Love Me Like A Reptile" and "Shoot You In The Back". I just named the three opening tracks, but in truth, during the whole album there is no stepping back, no second thoughts. It's all guns blazing forward. What a sheer dominance.
To be honest, there is a ciriticism of Motorhead saying that their tracks are somewhat alike. It is not that far fetched for an outsider (Or dumb) to think along these lines, but the fan of Motorhead would surely oppose to this fiercely. I am one of those. First thing comes to my mind which has a similarity is saying that Techno music sounds all the same. If you are not getting into a music, deconstructing the layers and catching nuances while listening, the same would be true for all kinds of music. Blues would be categorized as a music with slide guitar where the singer may just commit suicide any moment during the song. Never judge a book by it's cover can simply be adjusted to this also. There are always different cards in everyone's sleeve. This time it's Ace of Spades by Motörhead.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
There are some art forms which define decades or a certain era. Star Wars handled that perfectly for mid 80's which also shaked me with it's wind. Nirvana did that in early 90's. Saturday Night Fever (SNF) did the same in the end 70's. Beatles, Doors, Warhol all had their shares.
SNF changed the way people walked, defined the music they listened, styled the way they dressed, altered the way they talked. It also created an icon of John Travolta. The movie in and as of itself is not world changing, critic blazing or mind shattering. But sometimes it need not be. End 60's had the flower generation, 70's had to create something also which in turn became the disco generation. Later on end 80's created the House music phenomenon
Most of the tracks on these two records are already pretty familiar to most people. Bee Gees, Kool & The Gang, KC & The Sunshine Band are everyday groups you can hear on the radio. But the essence is that even though Disco Fever started earlier, it had a huge boost with this movie. Moreover, listening them all in order is giving you the exact feeling of what came and what was to come afterwards.
Musically I cannot honestly say that the songs are enhancing by any means. They are beautiful and fun to listen alright, but that's all there is to it. Go out on a Saturday night, dance, have fun, forget about your daily problems. It can be rightful to say that today's apolitic stance in the generations born '80 onwards lay their background in the era after mid 70's. Life was too hard thinking about all the suffering, wars, inequalities, injustices. It was time to have fun now. The problems of the world would not end by blowing your minds over it. And so they went on Saturday nights and the fever reinvented a new culture.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
I have just finished a marathon of listening. It was not just a standard musical adventure, it was quite much more than that. The records that I have listened belong to Olivier Messiaen's L'Ouvre D'Orgue De 1926 A 1951. This is a 6 Lp set which features Messiaen's performances of his own works on organ at the church of Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris.
Messiaen's importance in the contemporary composer class is crucial for the fact that he is one of the few composers who has connected religious belief and composition in the same pot. He has performed Sundays in the church of Église de la Sainte-Trinité for 61 years. He has been the longest player of organ in this historical church. Most of the works he has composed have one way or another a religious background or setting. However, his compositions are worlds apart from the former composers by all means. His compositions feature structurally very complex and calculated rhythms. He has drawn sounds and structures from nature and transposed these into the compositions he had in mind. The most famous of these is Catalogue D'Oiseaux for piano while Yvonne Loriod is the most famous performer for this composition. She was also the second wife of Messiaen.
There is one more thing to say about Messiaen before moving on to the records. His idea of serialism was very much respected by the eras composers and he has taught so many of the leading composers that were to shape the modern day music. Among these are Stockhausen, Xenakis, Bolcom, Grimaud, Peter Maxwell Davies and Boulez. Of course his most intimate relation was with Loriod who was his student as well, but the most controversial relationship he had was with Boulez. Boulez was a bright student of Messiaen and they lived happily for 2 years when suddenly Boulez became a hard critic of Messiaen on the basis that he was not evolving forward. Boulez went to Darmstadt after this and moved on. Quite later on Boulez sent respect to his master, but failed to conduct any of his works which still shows the anger/frustration in Boulez never quite faded.
The box set was recorded by Emi France in 1956. The only unfortunate thing about this box set is that it contains a 12 page booklet written by Messiaen. Here he gets into details (I suppose) about the origins of the tracks as well as musical explanations. And this booklet is only in French while my French knowledge really suffers after Ça-va, Bien and Et toi. I will surely get assisstance for this.
The compositions featured are; Apparation De L'Eglise Eternelle (1932), L'Ascension (1934), Nativite Du Seigneur (1935), Le Banquet Celeste (1926), 5iptyque (1930), Les Corps Glorieux (1939), Messe De La Pentecote (1950) and last but not the least Livre D'Orgue (1951).
Livre D'Orgue seems to be the most accomplished one in terms of structural developments being brought on by Messiaen, but my favorite among the compositions is easily Les Corps Glorieux. It is a long composition with 7 parts and a very impressive collection.
There has been several other releases which feature the collective organ works of Messiaen including the famous Louis Thiry's versions (I've listened that as well), but honestly I want to point that this is by far the most touching performance. These performances were recorded in 1956, but the box set came out in 1978. I currently don't know any other release of this box set prior to this, but would not be really surprised if Erato had an earlier release. Thinking how hard it was to find this box (Thanks to 1 month of research on Ebay.com, co.uk, de and fr), it should be dead hard to even see whether that one exists. Until then, I will remain a happy man anyway.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Record collecting is an interesting process. When you are buying directly from another collector, seeing you have a sort of similar taste makes you venture into other records that they are selling. This record is one of those. I've neither ever listened to this record before nor heard about it. But I am just one lucky adventurer who found out about it.
Terje Rypdal is an important name in modern Jazz by his own right. He has made several collaborations from which I've heard his name. It was via his album with Jan Garbarek. After listening to him on that record I've fully understood the scope of his talent and pursued him from time to time.
I've first heard about David Darling on this record and what a beautiful surprise it has been. He has done a miraculous job here on his 8 string electric cello. The soundscapes which he structures along the way and the way Rypdal builds on them from his electronic guitar is magnificient. You are listening to it, feeling every note, every pause, every riff and enjoying the total adventure this whole process enfolds.
The record starts with a Stephen Malkmus styled guitar solo and continues with different sceneries that both players improvise on. It is absolutely incredible to listen to it. Full of feeling, nothing left to the listener, but to sit back, enjoy and let all those expressions fulfill your senses. Beware of the solos in "Laser", "Bedtime Story", "Light Years" , and "Adagietto". These can really take you to a million of places and memories where you are least expecting yo go.
Friday, August 26, 2011
The center was officially founded in 1959 with the support of Rockefeller foundation. Started as a one studio and shortly it developed into five studios due to excessive demand. The first people to start working and experimenting in the studio were the faculty members Milton Babbitt, Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky. Later on other composers started to flock with names like Bulent Arel, Mario Davidovsky, Tzvi and Ilhan Mimaroglu.
The album is made up of 6 compositions from the early cooperating composers, but the works are from a 20 year period. Due to this and due to the general idea of experimentation, the collected works are quite different both in terms of style and characteristics. However, they can understandably be categorized as Early Electronic Music. Of course during the early periods, experimentation was at its peak with new sounds and equipment being brought in.
The main differences between the compositions occur based on the composition years as well as techniques and equipment being used for these compositions. For instance Ussachevsky's composition "A Piece For Tape Recorder" was recorded in the late 1950's whereas Smiley's "Eclipse" was close to 20 years later. This evidently made some drastic changes in the style and other main criterias. It can even be said that Smiley's should not be added into the same category as the other ones, but hey, who says life is fair. It found it's way into the selection and based on the composition itself, it has the place.
Another important name for me is Bulent Arel and I didn't have a chance to listen his composition "Stereo Electronic Music No. 2". It has a more depressive outlook, but given his previous works as well, this work can very much be appreciated based on it's structure and layers. Pitch alterations as well as repetitions and sudden smoothness followed by percussions and more hectic climaxes create a feeling of flowing while keeping the element of surprise always in hand. This work was commissioned by the Columbia-Princeton ECM itself.
I may have mentioned it before, but I find no stress in pointing again, listening to the early works of any kind of genre is a tricky thing. Experimentalism is of course in and of itself never boring while Early Electronic Music always reminds the listener modern time techniques, structures and melodies. Even though it seems like we have travelled throughout the music world ages since 1970s, we may not be that far away as we think. I just remember having reviewed Takemitsu's record which is not that different from today's electro acoustic/drone works. The only point was that it was written 50, performed 35 years ago.