Friday, May 30, 2014

"And then You Shoot Your Cousin", hip-hop chamber song cycle from The Roots in NYC

I’ve used Windows environments for most of my work other than recording my piano music, but today I used it to purchase the chamber-combo-hip-hop song cycle “And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” from “The Roots”, the official band on NBC’s Jimmy Fallon Tonight show (May 20).  Apple had the correct credit card stored, and the Apple account seemed to work OK, and iTunes seemed to handle everything on the MacBook.  The cost is $9.99, comparable to mpg purchases on Amazon. The purchase link is here. You can get iTunes on Windows, but I’ve had trouble in my Windows 7 machine with it.
The title of the piece (running about 35 minutes, with 11 tracks) reminds me of what just happened on the NBC Soap “Days of our Lives”, where Will Horton has just confessed to shooting (and killing) his evil cousin Nick Fallon (no connection to Jimmy, I don’t think – but it’s all curious coincidence, isn’t it.)

The content seems to have to do with coming doom, the end of the world, and that somehow things will be better, just maybe.  The Roots is listed as the performer in eight of the items. Solosits include Nina Simone, Mary Lou Williams, and Michel Chion.  The last of these performs a bizarre setting of “Dies Irae”.  “Dice Raw” and “Greg Porn” perform in three of the items’  Raheem DeVaughn performs in the last two; Patty Crash also performs.  Several tracks are marked explicit.

The style is iconoclastic. You have to imagine hip-hop being mixed with genuine chamber music, with percussion thrown in.
The lines become “classical” and “popular” music get ever more blurred.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Law of Mosaics" by Ted Hearne, earlier quartet of Timo Andres offered in the Village; I hear it "in absentia"; also, Mozart's last piano concerto

I didn’t make it to an interesting concert May 28 at Le Poisson Rouge in New York (a favorite spot; the closest thing in DC to it is the 9:30 club), but I played some of the music today. So I guess I managed to duplicate my body after all. 
The PR’s resident chamber orchestra played two important new works (not premieres) under Christopher Roundtree.

The biggest of these was “Law of Mosaics” by Ted Hearne, link here, a 30-minute suite in six movements, which the composer describes as “How to deal with parts in the absence of wholes”, that is, how to deal with things you find when you don’t know the context.  That’s been a big issue before when people find pieces of my content online (like when I was substitute teaching – so maybe this work should get performed someday by orchestra students at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, VA).  The first movement dives in with “Excerpts from the Middle of Something”, and establishes a meandering, declamatory style with lots of masses sounds.  The longest movement follows, “Palindrome for Andrew Norman” (another composer).  Remember that Paul Hindmith’s Horn Concerto ends with a palindrome.  There’s a quote from the slow finale of the Mahler Ninth embedded. The third movement is “Climactic moments from (Barber’s) Adagio for Strings and (Vivaldi’s) The Four Seasons, slowed down and layered on top of one another”.  The Barber is conspicuous, and recalls the mood (for me at least) of the country right after the Kennedy assassination in 1963. The fourth movement, “Beats”, is such (not hip-hop) but offers a voice setting the tempo.  The fifth movement recalls the third in retrospect (Brahms did that in his Third Sonata), with “Climactic moments from Movement 3, three times as slow as before”, except that it didn’t seem slower. The finale is “The Warp and Wolf” and gets a little nearer to post-romanticism, with a passage that sounds like the Strauss Metamorphesen at the very end.  The piece (2013) was commissioned by "A Far Cry" in Massachusetts. 
Another work is an earlier string quartet (#1 ?) by Timo Andres, “Thrive on Routine” (2010),  (link) about 14 minutes, in four connected sections “Morning, Potatoes, Passacaglia, and Coda”.  This setup roughly resembles the Sea Interludes from Britten’s Peter Grimes, and the style here seems to mix eclectic with a little pastoral mood.  The “routine” is supposed to be that of a New England (or perhaps Idaho) potato farmer who gets up at 4 every morning.  (I hate getting up at 4 AM to catch flights but have to do it.)  The material gradually grows more complex as the piece progresses.  
Heane and Andres have collaborated, as in August 2011 when Hearne wrote “Parlor Diplomacy” for Timo to perform, a bit of satire of partisan politics (the debt ceiling crisis had been going on).  It seems as though “Timo” is a trendy first name these days (under age 30 right now), maybe a bit European.
I’ve covered Benjamin Britten’s “Young Apollo” before  (June 13, 2012).  That leaves the Mozart Concerto.  I’m going to talk about a different one; instead of 12, I’ll look at 27.  That’s the last of the Mozart Piano Concertos, K. 595, in B-flat.  There are many versions on YouTube, like this one by Trevor Pinnock, with the Oedipus Coloneus:
That particular performance is followed by an encore: two movements from what sounds like a Mozart 4-hand Sonata in D.
The B-flat concerto is long (30 minutes) but is remarkable for its gentleness and understated subtlety, long after the stormy D Minor and C Minor concerti, and the Coronation (which Timo “recomposed” with a modern left-hand part).  I’m going to pretend that Timo played the K 595 instead  because it’s of particular interest to me.  As a senior in high school, I studied it and got so I could play the piano part reasonably well.  (The other Mozart work I worked with a lot was the D Minor.)  Had my life gone differently and had I wound up in piano, this would have been in my repertoire early.  It seems the last work of a particular period or style.  What would follow would be Beethoven, although the Beethoven B-flat concerto is still gentler than his others.  But even the official Concerto #1 in C seems to announce a new era.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Bach Patita for solo violin on the Charlotte airport tarmac, after USAirways wouldn't allow the instruments as carryons

Zach Du Pue and Nicholas Kendall played their violins on the tarmac at Douglas Airport in Charlotte, NC Tuesday after US Airways would not let them bring their violins onto a commuter flight (to Arkansas) as carry-ons.
Listen to one of these violinists play movement from a solo Partita for violin by J.S. Bach.  His technique is really great.
The New York Daily News story is here.   They eventually got a later flight to Fayetteville, AR. 
A blog called “simple justice” weighs in on the incident here.

Independent musicians, especially those who work largely solo, have to be skilled at travel, keeping all their gear from breaking.  Now iPads are used to store sheet music and have page-turning apps (as explained here ).  My own situation is complicated by my use of different platforms:  The MacBook for music, and Windows machines for everything else.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Metropolis Ensemble performs with The Roots Crew on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show

Tuesday night, the Metropolis Ensemble of New York City, under Andrew Cyr, played with The Roots Crew on the NBC Tonight Show hosted by Jimmy Fallon in Rockefeller Center (link).  The main musical number occurred at the end of the program (after Fallon interviewed Charlize Theron and Josh Hartnett).  The music was an odd combination of microtonal computer music, percussion, and the hip-hop of the Crew. The effect was original and hard to explain.

The Roots is offering a new show “And Then You Shoot Your Cousin” on iTunes;  I’ll have to look into it soon.   

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hector Olivera, vrituoso organist, offers many CD's privately; here's a review of one of them

I missed the organ concert of Hector Olivera at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC on April 27, 2014, so I did the next best thing, bought a representative CD.  And I had to order it from him directly, not from Amazon (web site ).

I ordered the CD “The Artistry of the Pipe Organ” ($25), performed at the Ruffatti Organ of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, MO.  

The program opens with a Toccata by W.R. Driffill, the last movement of a suite which the manuscript of which the performer discovered in the Netherlands in 1985.

The “Prelude, Fugue and Variation” by Cesar Franck, Op. 18, is dedicated to Camille Saint-Saens, is relatively quiet and not as commanding as some other works of the composer.

The Voluntary in D Major by John Stanley is exuberant (I used to say "ebullient"), and alternates in the use of the Pontifical Tromba and the Royal Tuba.

The Andante Con Moto, Op. 16, No. 1 by Alexandre Guilmant uses the foundation stops of the “Great and Swell”.

The famous Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C by J.S. Bach (BWV 564) is the centerpiece of the CD. Olivera takes the outer movements of this “sonata” quickly, rather sounding like Virgil Fox, but draws out the slow movement as if from the romantic era.  This particular performance makes me feel that it is really “Sunday Morning” (the way Benjamin Britten would have said, like in “Peter Grimes”). 

The “Claire de Lune” by Sigfrid Karg-Elert is even quieter than Debussy’s, if not as sweet.  (For what it’s worth, Reid Ewing’s famous “In the Moonlight” song from Modern Family seems to relate to the Beethoven Moonlight Sonata distantly, but not to the Debussy or to this.  The song works if you play it by ear on a great organ.)  The “Claire” is the second of “Trois Impressions”.

Mario Enrcio Bossi revs us up with his Scherzo in G Minor.   The Solo Clarinetto is slight, but the “Etude Symphonique, Op. 78” gives a rousing conclusion to the disc.  Why am I recalling Schumann’s famous piano piece “Symphonic Etudes”? 

On May 4, the Chancel Choir of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC had presented an offertory anthem, “And They Drew Nigh”, by Richard DeLong, who was both a physician and a composer and led a tragically short life (1951-1994) and apparently may have been in Dallas why I lived there.  The biography is here. There is apparently no relation to the John De Long whom I knew at William and Mary in 1961.    The piece is rather modal, and was sung a cappella,  I don't recall if I've mentioned this, but a man named Danny Ray, a neighbor in a north Dallas neighborhood and who attended MCC Dallas, composed a lot of hymns in common use today in many churches.  

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Mozart's "The Magic Flute" performed at Kennedy Center, shown at Nats Park free; plenty of freemasonry, and skipping out on the Tribunals

Tonight, I attended the Washington National Opera’s performance of Wolfgana Amadeus Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (“Die Zauberflote”), libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, co-produced with opera companies in San Francisco, Omaha, Kansas City, and North Carolina, conducted by Philippe Agunin (link). This was part of the Washington Opera and Kennedy Center's "Opera in the Outfield" program at Nationals Park, and "it's free".  (The concessions are not, and they're expensive.)   There appeared to be about 20000 people at the event. 
I got into the park and toward the bleacher seats (the outfield was full) just as the E-flat overture started. Agunin treated the overture as a majestic, romantic opening, with Klemperer-like tempos.  There are several other famous orchestra passages, most of the slow (including the beautiful flute melody, all ready for "Modern Family"), and a number of famous, lilting arias.  I played the overture a lot in the early 1970s, and I recall that during that lost 1961 semester at William and Mary, a friend and I would go to Ewell Hall and he would sing some of them as I sightread them on piano. (That was John De Long, and some of his music is discussed Jan. 8, 2013). John barely knew about the "trials" (below). 

The story is metaphorical, fantastic and intricate, and well summarized online. The most interesting controversy involves the references to freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.  The SF opera explains that here.   It is said that Mozart compose the work --  other people’s ideas – for money. 

The work is in two acts with many scenes (it would have helped if the video had identified the scenes).  The libretto, presented in English, presents many political ideas, like “the right of privacy.”  The format is that of “singspiel”, allowing spoken text, like in a musical. 

In the second act, both the prince Tamino and the bird-catcher Papagino have to undergo various "trials" to earn happiness and wisdom, or (in Papagino’s case), a wife and family.  The trials include remaining silent, even about the meta-fact of the silence – something that reminds us now of Putin’s Russia.  Another is fasting, which Papagino refuses, but he is not required to provide retribution.  Papagino is forced to be willing to marry a woman who looks ugly, to prove he can give up the idea of upward affiliation in a relationship (George Gilder and perhaps Rick Santorum would love this).  Tamino is threatened with walking through fire and then being scalded in fluids, but it seems that music from the Magic Flute lets him skip out on making such a sacrifice of his own attractiveness.  This all takes on a David Lynch character (and there are plenty of abstract costumes and rainbow colors, as if to hint at a gay interpretation).  At the end, the men survive, for a happy ending.   I was reminded of how I had skipped out on Tribunals at William and Mary in 1961; rumor had it that, in some dormitory basement, “they” shaved the boys’ legs and that for at least one it wouldn’t grow back.  I never thought I would see this idea in opera, however metaphorically.