Wednesday, November 30, 2011

rachmaninoff, winter

Earlier I wrote about a guy in my class who has big hands, who taught me the opening chords to the second Rachmaninoff piano concerto. Welllll, I spent more time with him today, and I can't believe how much I learned from him, and on how many points our opinions coincide.

He asked me if I had learned the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C-sharp minor (an extremely popular and famous piece,
you would recognize it if you heard it), and I told him I ran through it a few times and basically taught it to myself, but was never formally taught it. His eyes grew wide and he told me to play it for him! I was really shy, which was unusual because I can normally talk quite freely with him, but consented. The shyness came in part, I think, from the fact that I do not know this piece with the amount of familiarity required to play it well. Anyway, I started it, and he said, "No no no no NO!" and I giggled because I knew deep down that in no way had I played it in the way it should be played. He turned his back on me and told me to start again, over and over again, and came to the conclusion that I know what I want from the piece, and that I have the correct technique and everything, but I am not convinced of myself. He told me that, as a performer, you should maintain a degree of narcissism and a "diva"-like attitude. I knew this was true, but it is hard for me. I never like to show off, but I do like to be in control when I play...

He then told me to play the first three notes as if they were the very end of a long concerto - as if I had been playing for 45 minutes and these were THE FINAL NOTES, the final triumphant bells, dying away in the distance, and they should be played as such. The next three chords were like a memory, or as he put it, a ghost of a memory that is slowly coming forth from the depths of consciousness into clarity. I was in awe of such an intense interpretation of a piece he had never even played, much less looked at. It was like he truly understood where the music was coming from, and what it was saying! He told me that after I played the first A's, I played the G-sharp's "apologetically"... as if I was sorry for playing the A's so loudly, or something. I told him it was because I was nervous with him in the room, but I knew that it was true, I am scared to let myself go and play with all of the force my body can create. I KNOW how to play an A in each hand, but those first notes might be the most complicated out of the whole piece.

I think the most important thing I learned from him was that I shouldn't be constrained to copying what others have deemed as perfection. Every time something is played, it is played differently. Nothing is ever copied, there are no repetitions. As such, it is my job to tell the audience the story - a story they have never heard before! They have heard versions of it, but I have the glorious privilege of revealing my own version of the story, as loudly, boldly, and heartfelt as I want. No one can stop me. I can create my own version of perfection, can't I? The music is about the music, not about me - I want to feel it flowing through my veins, I want it to be me. It is not so easy, shedding your earthly body, sitting at the piano in front of so many other bodies, and simply letting the music take it's course. If you know the piece well, the last thing on your mind should be notes. My friend even told me "No one cares about the notes. Don't worry so much about them." I giggled again (I tend to do that, ugh), saying that I do worry too much about making everything perfect, perfect like everyone is used to, which leads to pressure, etc. But that is soooo wrong, as I've now realized.

I feel liberated, almost. I have a job to carry out, and I know exactly what it is. Making mistakes is, I don't know, an elementary or juvenile thing to worry about. What I should truly be focusing on is the way with which I play the piece, and tell the story. I want my whole body to be engaged, my entire soul full of the emotions and the story and the pure sounds in the air. I don't even feel vulnerable at all, saying this... it's the truth.


I'm studying, eating pink grapefruit jellybeans and listening to Have A Nice Life. Just yesterday it was raining very gently outside, around 9 PM, and the sky was a light grayish black color - I walked back from the music building listening to "I Don't Love" with my eyes on the moon the whole time. I noticed that I walk looking up a lot. You know in the winter how the very air seems to hum with the chilliness? It's like there is always the distant sounds of trains, or traffic, or something. I don't know. In winter I always feel like the sounds of the world are amplified when you are outside, at night. It's an intensely quiet but overwhelming sound. I love it.

I remember about two winters ago when I was first getting into music and and whatever, I was obsessed with three bands - Empyrium, Alcest, and Dornenreich. Dornenreich and Empyrium especially, because at the time Alcest only had Souvenirs out and that is not a very wintry album. I really wanted to have a black trench coat and a snow white iPod so that while waiting outside after school for my mom to pick me up I could listen to, I don't know, Hexenwind through those cool elitist white earbuds, and tuck them into my black coat. I wanted to be dark and mysterious and grim, I suppose. Listening to HANL yesterday evening in the chilly winter rain with my black coat and butterfly-covered umbrella, I felt like I had definitely achieved my goal. I was happy.

About one winter ago I listened to Tim Hecker & Aidan Baker's Fantasma-Parastasie, Popol Vuh's Nosferatu and Korouva's "Bloodsuckers" a lot. I imagined I saw lost souls peeking through the light gray winter clouds, which moved fast across the night sky, and I called out to them. Here is a picture of Korouva, and I think it quite accurately describes my thoughts during the winter.

Every winter it is something new... a new artist, a new sadness. A new thought to cling to, a new hope for the future. A new style, a new smell. A new world of possibilities, regrets, dreams. Visions. Colors and images and worlds. I suppose what I am trying to say is don't let the winter pass you by. Let it leave a mark on you.

Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal - Chamber Music

2011; 10 tracks

Here is an excellent example of Western and Eastern styles of music blending to create a wholly unique and wonderful sound.
Ballaké Sissoko is a noted Malinese player of the kora, which is a magical (not REALLY, but it sounds like it) West African harp producing a sound akin to plucking piano or violin strings. He was born into the griot caste, and it was traditional for him to learn how to play the kora at a young age. Vincent Segal, on the other hand, is a French cellist who grew up learning his instrument at the conservatory. The two create otherworldly-sounding pieces where the souls of the two instruments dance as if they were created to only be played together. Both performers are extremely connected with the music they perform, and this connection brings about only the most true of listening experiences.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rat At Rat R - Rat At Rat R

1991; 8 tracks

Rat At Rat R was a noise rock quartet formed in the early 80s by Victor Poison-tete. After moving from Philadelphia into New York, they quickly became a major part of the underground NYC scene alongside bands like Sonic Youth and Swans. Rat At Rat R was the group's third and final release, and it is full of noisy, artsy, Swans-y no-wavey greatness.

I can't stop listening to my recent mix, Moons In Her Eyes. I love every song on there so much (except, maybe, "37°C"). It is a very pretty winter mix, I think.

My friend told me that if I learned Brahms' First Piano Concerto he would arrange the orchestra part for a wind quintet (because he is an oboist and composer, I guess it would be easier for him to do that). Still, I can't waiiitttt.

Currently reading: Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. Holy fuck is it amazing. I'm basically spending like 30 minutes on each page because the edition I have has many, many notes in the back that are so full of historical and lingual connotations and connections between the text and things like operas and Christology and Soviet ideals and Goethe's Faust. "A devil-temptor coming to a scholar." The writing (as it has been translated) is also very nice, not so convoluted that I can't make out a single idea or line of thought, but very educated, colorful, and rich with pure knowledge and inventiveness. Not very often can you literally just open a book and feel your mind soaking in new information, new ideas, and new stories with such fervor. And it just so happens to be information, ideas, and stories that I am genuinely interested in learning more about. I am in love!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kylie Minoise - Psychedelic Satanism! EP

2006; 7 tracks

Kylie Minoise is the solo project of Lea Cummings, an English noise artist currently residing in Glasgow. Psychedelic Satanism!, while not his first release, is his first EP. The first 6 tracks are all under 2 minutes in length, while the final track is nearly 7 minutes. Truthfully, the last track, titled simply "!," is one of the most gorgeous noise tracks to ever be composed.


Satan's Pilgrims - Psychsploitation

2009; 13 tracks

Fun and groovy psychedelic rock - from the future! Well, it was released 2 years ago, but I think it sounds rather futuristic. Anyway, I don't know how you could not like this.
Satan's Pilgrims, a band formed in Portland, Oregon in the early 90s, made instrumental surf rock blend with psychedelia to dazzling effect. According to (a very trustworthy source in regards to music, let me tell you):

"The Pilgrims are one of the most influential surf and instrumental bands of the 90s. While much of their sound has a definite Southern California influence, what sets them apart is the legacy of their Pacific Northwest rock 'n roll ancestors: The Ventures, The Wailers, The Sonics and The Kingsmen."

This strikes me as interesting because I actually used to be completely obsessed with The Ventures. They were one of the only bands my dad listened to that I really liked, honestly. They also played instrumental surf rock, along with covers of tons of songs, such as the James Bond and Batman themes. Satan's Pilgrims is slightly different than them, though, because they have a definite psychedelic edge to their tracks, and with a name like Satan's Pilgrims you might even find yourself listening to this in a smoky room of druggies, surfers, and fortune tellers.

Favorite track: "Wylde Tymes." Makes me want to dance.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Manuel de Falla - Complete Piano Music

2004; 21 tracks, 2 discs
Benita Meshulam, pianist

Manuel de Falla was a Spanish composer of classical music. This collection of his complete piano pieces, played by Benita Meshulam, is truly incredible.

Disc 1
01 El Sombrero de Tres Picos, I. Danza del Molinero
02 El Sombrero de Tres Picos, II. Danza de la Molinera
03 El Sombrero de Tres Picos, III. Danza de los Vecinos
04 Danza de la Vida Breve
05 Homenaje de Claude Debussy
06 Serenata
07 Mazurka
08 Serenata Andaluza
09 Nocturno
10 Cancion
11 Fantasia Baetica

Disc 2
01 Cuatro Piezas Españolas, I. Aragonesa
02 Cuatro Piezas Españolas, II. Cubana
03 Cuatro Piezas Españolas, III. Montanesa
04 Cuatro Piezas Españolas, IV. Andaluza
05 Ritual Fire Dance (from El Amor Brujo)
06 Cortejo de Gnomos
07 Vals vapricho
08 Allegro de concierto
09 Canto de los remeros del Volga
10 Pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas

Disc 1
Disc 2

Elevator to Hell - Parts 1-3

1996; 27 tracks

I love the album Purple Blue by
Eric's Trip (which I might be posting in the near future), and Elevator to Hell was a sort of solo project for Rick White, of Eric's Trip.

Elevator to Hell was a Canadian lo-fi/indie rock project active during the later 90s through the 00s. Parts 1-3 is a combination of the band's first release, a self-titled album, and a mini-LP entitled Part 3. It is absolutely amazing - one of the greatest things I've come across in a while. Every single song is great.

"Haunting lo-fi psychedelia."

one day as i walked down the street
i found a cat at my feet
and when i asked it it's name
the cat said hooray,
you're what i needed today

n.b. they have a song entitled "Why I Didn't Like August 93," which is one of my favorites on here, but I am mad that they didn't like August of 93 because that's when I was born! >:(

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quasi - The Sword of God

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gorge Trio - Open Mouth, O' Wisp

2004; 22 tracks

Two words I might use to describe
Gorge Trio, an instrumental band from New England: seemingly aimless.

"With Open Mouth, O' Wisp, the group moves from the broad strokes of the past to a series of densely packed miniatures, all 22 of which clock in at a running time that just breaks the half-hour mark. There have always been Russian egg constructs within their previous lengthy jams, but here some of the layers are given markers, allowing listeners to step into the fractured crossfire as well as enjoy this as a well-constructed whole. The more constructed pieces here, like 'Intimate Addition,' recall the Gorge Trio's other incarnation as Colossamite stripped of the heavy rock gestures (screaming vocals and two volumes: loud and louder) that aligned that group with the math rock of Don Caballero, placing the trio closer to the source, Captain Beefheart. There are other moments worth calling out, too, like guest Keiko Beers' flute turn on 'Invisible Student,' but they all amount to points on a very busy map that begs to be taken in as a whole. And the whole is quite marvelous, an epic in miniature that encourages repeated listening."

"It's not easy music, but it's also not difficult to like. It fulfills the ears you didn't know you had, shaking a brainstem in its ozone with an ether fiddle. Every note seems compressed to the last degree and scratchy pitches burst forth like mercury through steel wool, scattering about a Donald Judd surface of maximum refraction. It's darned near impossible."


Milkmine - Braille

1994; 13 tracks

I love this album so much - even as the only release by the quite obscure Cincinnati-based noise rock band
Milkmine, Braille could easily be one of the greatest noise rock gems of the 90s. From what I've read, they consist of two bassists and one drummer. There is so much noisy and sludgy fuzziness to enjoy here, so, enjoy. Highlights, aka songs that either made me break down and cry or want to scream: "Snapshot" and "An Evening Gown."


Big Black - Songs About Fucking

1987; 14 tracks

I feel a little behind, but even if I found out how incredible Songs About Fucking is today or in 500 years the effect would still be the same: this is incredible.

Big Black was a noise rock/post-punk band from Illinois founded in the early 80s by guitarist/vocalist/lyricist Steve Albini, who you might also know from Shellac (I suggest reading more about their background here). Along with his work with his bands, Albini has also engineered hundreds of albums and recording projects, all of which are top-notch releases - check out the full list here. It is clear why so many people see him as the father of the independent noise and post-punk scenes.

It is a very brutal album, surely, but Songs About Fucking is essential listening.

got a headache like a pillow

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Klaus Doldinger & Giorgio Moroder - The Neverending Story OST

Empyrium - Songs of Moors & Misty Fields + Weiland

Songs of Moors & Misty Fields

1997; 6 tracks

Why can't we be stars?


2002; 12 tracks


This is a very personal band to me, mostly because of how long I listened solely to them and how they were one of the very first bands to actually inspire me. Empyrium was a German neo-folk/doom metal band founded by Markus Stock (Ulf Theodor Schwadorf) active through the mid to later 90s and early 2000s. More recently they released a new track on the 2010 Prophecy Productions compilation Whom the Moon a Nightsong Sings.

These two albums, Songs of Moors & Misty Fields and Weiland, are, in my opinion, the band's most wondrous releases. I do enjoy the rest of their discography, which includes four other full-lengths, one of which was self-released, and an EP, but I have listened to these two countless times in the depths of night, the depths of winter, when I was just coming to know how amazing music can be. Songs of Moors & Misty Fields is, quite simply, a masterpiece of doom metal and neo-folk. Weiland, also, is pure acoustic neo-folk and seems to have been recorded within the heart of a magical forest. I just wanted to post these as the year is coming to an end, but my love for this band will never fade.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mix No. 11 - Moons In Her Eyes

Friday, November 18, 2011

Madredeus - Um Amor Infinito

2004; 13 tracks

Madredeus is a Portugese band who combines traditional Portugese music with modern folk and neo-classical. They have been making music since the late 80s, but this is one of their newer albums. Un Amor Infinito actually reminds me a lot of neo-folk music I used to be really into, like Empyrium, Vàli, Forseti, etc. The primary instruments used are the classical guitar, cello, and keyboard synthesizer. I've had this album for a while, but I thought I'd share it because I love it.

suave tristeza

Savage Republic - Customs

1989; 8 tracks

Savage Republic was a tribal/noise rock/experimental/post-punk band hailing from the 80s L.A. underground scene. Their sound is a mixture of many elements - psychedelic drones, middle-eastern cantillation and tribal rhythms. Influences include Einstürzende Neubauten, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, Throbbing Gristle, and others. Customs, their last album before splitting then getting back together with a different line-up, can accurately be considered a masterpiece.

I know that much, much more could be said about Savage Republic, and I find myself wanting to go through their entire discography (which is quite large), but standing alone Customs is a terrific album.

"Their brand of ritualistically tribal exhibitions blurred the boundaries of post-punk and industrial music. Their music incorporates minimalist bass rumbles, exotic and/or militaristic drumming, Arabic melodies, primal chants and even a bit of surf guitar."

guilt is a luxury I can't afford

Blue Daisy & Anneka - Raindrops EP

2010; 4 tracks

This is really nice.
Blue Daisy is Kwesi Darko, an electronic musician based in the UK, and Anneka is a vocalist/instrumentalist who's worked with bass/electronica producers such as Falty DL, Starkey, Ital Tek, Vex'd and Blue Daisy. Raindrops is their first collaboration.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

lost, lungfish, music

Someone please enlighten me.

Hand to me, for instance, something that might inspire me to entirely re-create myself and my artistic vision.

I want to be an artist - I want to use my thoughts, as jumbled as they are, and put them to use. I know I have something to offer the world, or at least something to offer myself. I can feel deep inside something wanting to be said and expressed. I don't want to think too much about it, I've found that thinking more often than not solves nothing in these kinds of situations. The best thing would be to not think, but that leaves me at a loss of what to do next. Maybe being a pianist can be considered as being an artist, but I could never compare myself to, say, a visual artist, or even a composer.

The most I am is a messenger. But what particles of art are there to be found in one who spends their time conveying messages? I want to know. Should I not strive to be an artist, but rather some prophet who has dedicated an entire lifetime to painting someone else's canvas, writing someone else's novel, or even sculpting someone else's self portrait? I willingly give up my own self to convey another's self. Am I looking at this wrong? Is there even a right way to look at it, though? I can fall in love with the painting, the novel, the self, but in the end, it is not mine. I can make you see it through allie-colored glasses, I can make you hear it through my ears, feel it through my fingers and understand it through my understanding, but it is not mine. It is a warped view of someone else's creation. Who knows. Maybe their creation really wasn't that great to start with. But in most cases, their life works have been told by many different messengers in many different ways. There are even others, though I'm not sure under which category these prideful few may be put, who dedicate their entire lives to critiquing and judging from afar these varied, multi-colored interpretations of human passions.

This is not only the pianist's dilemma. Any performer who performs material that wasn't self-conceived gives themselves up to another. I don't want to be that anymore. I can appreciate Brahms, Ravel, Shostakovich, Chopin and others all I want, and they may have even dedicated their lives to putting their selves into things that can be taken and used for countless desires of a crowd of anonymous messengers, but I feel like I would be undermining my own worth by living a life in the footsteps of those I used to look up to. I'm still young, I know, and it's possible that life holds so much for me, yet. I can discover something about myself tomorrow that may change the course of my life forever. Virtually anything can happen. But in thinking of the path of my life, I see it going in the direction of... To put it plainly, something I don't want for myself.

I spent two hours today playing the piano non-stop. Not in the way that you might imagine, either. I wasn't really practicing. I "practiced" plenty yesterday, and by that I mean I played through all of my pieces one by one, countless times, until I felt like nothing more could be done that day on them in terms of improvement.

No, today I played notes... an endless series of disconnected notes, leading to nowhere, ending at a place far more lost and hopeless than I ever intended for them to go. I felt like weeping. I want to say that music has failed me, but I know that that would be a lie. I have failed music. Or at least it feels that way.

This may seem depressing, perhaps even overly so, but I haven't yet lost all hope. I am not necessarily giving up. I am, instead, forcing myself to view my situation, my talent, my path in a different way. And who better to lead me in the right direction but the visual, poetic, and musical artist Daniel Higgs? If you haven't heard of him, he is the mind behind one of my favorite musical ensembles -
Lungfish. I will attempt to describe some of his ideas on this.

Music is always unfolding. In the words of an old Native American proverb, "The music never stops; it is we who walk away." So, if it always occurring, then it is not only the performer who channels it, but also the artist. The composer, the brain behind it all. Perhaps music cannot even be grasped, or if it can, that hold is only temporary. Music is like an unknown, omnipresent being we reach out to - "It is still a mystery to me as to how and where music is coming from" (Higgs). We take hold of it, attempt to control it and make it ours, then tell ourselves that it was born in our minds. How can this be true? After we die, the music lives on. It does not die with us. It lives forever. It might have even existed, in whatever form, before the concept of "time" began. Music transcends notes, staves, voices, instruments, guidelines, technology, and even history. Music, in the purest sense, is the formless shadow that existed in our minds, in the earth, and in the universe far before conceptual thought. Once we discovered it for the very first time, the pure glory of it, we wanted it to be ours, and we wanted to be able to call it ours.

Where does this tie in to anything? As a pianist, I must realize that I am also part of the audience. I may know the notes that I am to be playing, but those mean nothing compared to the vastness of the entity that is Music. What unfolds to the audience is what unfolds to me. I place my fingers at the keyboard, straighten up and think hard, and in this process I am actually contacting Music. Imagine an endless stream of colors, long thin threads of them that have no end, dangling eternally above the heads of the masses of people in the world. These colorful threads represent Music, a stream flowing soundlessly (it has sound, but maybe in it's true form we, as human beings, do not have the ability to hear it) towards an unknown point. I contact it. I grab a handful of threads and yank it down so that I have it in my hands. It is stained with the fingerprints of thousands of other people who have touched these very same threads, and finally, with the very prints of he who first conceived it. The one who first arranged this particular section of Music after his own heart. I grab it and I let it unfold in the way that only it can. I stand back and watch this magnificent revealing take place with the same amount of awe that those in the audience are, if there is an audience.

The special thing about this is that there is the incredible potentiality - meaning that it doesn't always happen this way - for the both the performer and the audience members to have an intense, private, and solitary experience with the Music being heard by all. This forms a dynamic of group solitude, with the sounds of music being a sort of psychic foundation. A framework in the air that we can feel, however briefly, and is then stamped into our minds forever.

When I look at music in this way, I feel a little better. I feel part of something greater than this endless competition to be the best messenger, the best pianist, the best conveyor of audial invisibility. Music is and never should be contained in such a small frame of mind.

Here is one of my favorite Lungfish songs, "Hear the Children Sing," off of the album Love is Love. Higgs has also stated that the repeated patterns many often say they hear in Lungfish's music aren't really patterns at all. It is impossible to repeat something infallibly, and each time something is repeated it is going to be different. This refers back to the idea of the performer being a member of the audience, and how that makes the audience a performer as well. The audience's perception of the repetitious nature of Lungfish's music is a testament to the experience they have while listening - whether it was intended or not, the fact is they responded to the music in such a way that they were able to interpret it into something they could understand and appreciate. That is how Lungfish works. You hear it, you think about it, and you just accept things as they really are. It is not as easy as it sounds.

You are the unknown in which we must trust.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.

Today I saw two short films by Maya Deren, a Russian-born avant-garde filmmaker with a strong background in choreography and dance, as well as an intense interest in both the music and ways of life of cultures from all around the world.

The first film was Meshes of the Afternoon, made in 1943. Maya's first husband, Alexander Hamid, plays the man in the film. The music is composed by Teiji Ito, who just so happens to be Deren's later husband. Honestly, I think it might be exactly what I could ever want from a film. Maya plays the lead role, and I was struck instantly by her exotic beauty. The mystery surrounding the events in the film are dreamlike, haunting, and unlike anything you would ever find in this time period.

The second film is called At Land, from 1944, and it is completely silent.

I'm not quite sure why these films affected me so much, but I adore them. They are so mysterious and beautiful and thought-provoking and unique. Both seem to deal with the concept of multiple selves - or perhaps multiple layers to one's self. In Meshes, the shadow is a prominent theme, and the shadow, in general, is seen as the side of the self containing, maybe, the most feared aspects of one's personality. Someone once told me that there is nothing inside of you that you can't trust - Maya Deren's vision challenges that. She is often cited as the mother of modern experimental film, and it's pretty easy to see why... she was incredible!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Polvo - Cor-Crane Secret

1992; 11 tracks

I am so in love with this album. It is so alive - pulsing, breathing, ever-changing. As you listen, you will get a sense of what I mean.

The first release by the NC-based noise/math rock band (personally I think they transcend mere "math rock")
Polvo, Cor-Crane Secret is a treasure trove of wonderful things. They do everything right, but the rhythm changes are so unpredictable you may as well give up on following along (when "Kalgon" is first getting started it could go in a variety of directions, but it builds up to an incredible stop-and-start melodic pattern that is really astounding) - but I think that might be what draws me so much to Polvo's sound. The unpredictability, the impreciseness, the layers upon layers of musical ideas and approaches, they all add up to one beast of a debut release. I love the song names, too: "Vibracobra," "Ox Scapula," "The Curtain Remembers." I really, really recommend this.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

I just updated my Coil post - added a few new things, switched some links, etc. There is so much stuff out there.

I've been listening to a lot of Coil and Pogo.

Found out about a bunch of new bands to give my attention to: Asteroid Galaxy Tour, Soft Kill, The Ocean Blue, Wrangler Brutes, Ed Hall, Chokebore, Eggs, Love Battery, Big Black, Troy von Balthazar, Icky Boyfriends, Elevator to Hell, Need New Body.

My lips taste like grapefruit.

It's still a mystery to me as to where music is coming from.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dead Elephant - Lowest Shared Descent

2008; 8 tracks

It is slightly difficult for me to describe this, but I will try.
Dead Elephant is an Italian group specializing in vicious noise rock-infused post-hardcore. You might like them if you like Cherubs, or Neurosis, but I have never before heard something quite like it.

Psychedelic and sludgy, sometimes incorporating elements of noise rock, black metal, post-hardcore, doom jazz ("Post Crucifixion"), and even industrial, Lowest Shared Descent really does stand apart from the rest. "Black Coffee Breakfast" is a highlight, the melodic lines particularly captivating (and preeetttyy).


Monday, November 7, 2011

Is not nothingness a form of perfection?

A lot has happened today... I attended a very interesting recital about which I find myself having mixed feelings. I enjoyed it, surely, but there is a certain uneasiness I have been left with. I shall try to explain.

One of the piano professors at my university is a master of early keyboard instruments - in fact, they are his specialty. He gave a performance of himself playing on an 1848 Pleyel piano alongside a visiting artist of the violoncello, a professor of cello at a university near here. Here is what the program has to say about the Pleyel piano, pictured here:

"The piano heard at this performance is Pleyel grand #15270, made in Paris in 1848, the year before Chopin's death. As a close friend of Camille Pleyel, Chopin chose the Salles Pleyel as the site of both his Parisian debut and of his farewell concert. He always kept a Pleyel in his rooms, and he recommended them to his students, observing, 'when I am somewhat indisposed, I play an Érard piano and I easy find a sound ready to hand [un son tout fait]. But when I am in form and feel strong enough to find my own sound [mon propre son à moi], I must have a Pleyel.'

A contemporary Parisian piano technician reported that the Pleyel possessed '... a special satisfying quality, the upper register bright and silvery, the middle penetrating and intense, the bass clear and vigorous. The striking of the hammers has been designed to give a sound that is pure, clear, even, and intense. The carefully-made hammers produce -- when one plays softley -- a sweet and velvety sound that gradually increases in brightness and volume as one applies more pressure on the keyboard.' (Montal, L'art d'accorder soi-meme son piano, Paris, 1836)."

Together they performed works by both Frédéric Chopin and Gabriel Fauré, written between the years 1829 and 1898. Here is what they played, together:

Frédéric Chopin - Introduction and Polonaise, Op. 3 (1829-30)

Gabriel Fauré - Après un rêve, Op. 7, No. 1 (1877)

Gabriel Fauré - Sicilienne, Op. 78 (1898)

Gabriel Fauré - Élégie, Op. 24 (1880)

Frédéric Chopin - Sonata in G minor, Op. 65 (1845-46)
I. Allegro moderato

II. Scherzo: Allegro con brio

III. Largo

IV. Finale: Allegro

The pianist also played Chopin's Étude in C-sharp minor, Op. 25, No. 7; Chopin's Impromptu in G-flat Major, Op. 51 and Fauré's Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 63, but I wasn't as interested in those as the combined pieces. The Fauré pieces were certainly lovely. I have barely heard ANY Fauré music, least of all piano or cello, in my entire life! :( After tonight, I feel like that should definitely change, for his pieces were so, so beautiful.

Chopin's Polonaise for piano and cello was written for an early patron of his in Poland, the Prince Antonin Radziwill, who was an amateur cellist. Chopin composed it at the Radziwill hunting lodge in the forests of central Poland during October 1829, when he was only 19 years old. A polonaise is of course a Polish dance that was already well-known throughout Europe (Bach wrote some), and it was enthusiastically revived during these years when Poland did not exist as a nation.

My piano teacher is learning a Fauré Barcarolle on the piano, and played it for me today after my lesson. I really didn't like it - the melody, if you even want to call it that, meandered in an unappealing way, and it wasn't even that pretty to start with. But, I suppose, the piece's most effective qualities lay in the textures rather than the harmonies. Or something. I still love Fauré's vocal music (most of all with the voice of Véronique Gens), and music for other instruments combined with the piano. My teacher also said that he wouldn't mind if I started learning the first Brahms Piano Concerto!! I mean, seriously? I want to, a lot, but it looks super extremely hard. It would be so amazing if I could really, really work on it, though.

In a semi-similar vein, I have found a series of photos taken by Armand Wagner of ballerina Anastasia Sinitsyna performing alongside cellist André Mergenthaler at the Magical Castle Night 2011 in Beaufort, Luxembourg.

We're all in this made-up world together.

Edvard Grieg - Cello Concerto & 8 Songs for Cello and Orchestra

Sunday, November 6, 2011

True Widow - I.N.O. EP

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mix No. 10 - plastic heart attack

I just got back from my recital. Everyone in the recital played Liszt pieces, and I was the third (and, one of the two girls out of sixteen performers, also I was the only first-year). A lot of pressure.

The piano was really nice, though. I could have played the softest note and it would have still come out beautifully.

My legs seemed to be shaking uncontrollably, I have no idea why :( But at least it's over with...

^ One of the most incredible performances I've seen in a long while. A cello and a kora. It is like watching two instruments make love, but instead of love, it is music. This is what I'm talking about when I say that music is constantly unfolding. Just listen to how immaculately it enters your ears...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell - Lágrimas Mexicanas

2011; 10 tracks

Bill Frisell and Vinicius Cantuária's Lágrimas Mexicanas epitomizes the junction of extraordinary musicians. Though the music of both artists have clear and distinct origins, their styles are complelementary. Through the combination of emotive rhythms and harmonies, and the mixture of classical and experimental sounds, the two artists have found the perfect mix of classical, jazz, and experimentalism.

As a guitarist, composer, and bandleader
Bill Frisell is a recognized visionary talent in American music, best known for his innovative and improvisational guitar playing. The singer, guitarist and percussionist Vinicius Cantuária flawlessly merges the sounds of bossa nova with contemporary music, creating distinctive compositions and arrangements.

Having played together on many occasions during the past 25 years, Lágrimas Mexicanas is an opportunity to work together in a complete project.

When he came to New York from his home in Brazil, Cantuária discovered an amalgam of sounds from the streets of the city. What influenced him, particularly, was Hispanic diversity. Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Mexicans and many others were a rich multi-cultural collage. When these sounds filled the hearts and minds of Vinicius, he began writing Lágrimas Mexicanas in his apartment in Brooklyn.

Similar to the bossa nova movement of the 50s and 60s, Cantuária and Frisell's collaborative album merged Mexican traditional Latin rhythms with jazz improvisation methods. Bill understood the vision of Vinicius, and spontaneity inspired musical orchestration. While Vinicius wrote the lyrics in Portuguese, Spanish and English, both musicians went into the rhythm and together wrote the arrangements. At the heart of this album, Frisell and Cantuária demonstrate their ability: Frisell experimenting with arrangements and poetic lyrics whil Cantuária weaves the rhythms into motion. Together, these two great guitarists create a sublime, beautiful and accessible musical universe, one that will communicate a passionate sense of optimism, opportunity and hope.

Also, the title track fucking owns. I KNOW I've heard it in a movie at some point in time, but I have no idea which one! :(


Pogo - Texturebox

2010; 13 tracks

I have been extremely obsessed with
Pogo lately. He is Nick Bertke, an an emerging electronic music artist in Perth, Western Australia known for his work recording small sounds from a single film or scene and sequencing them to form a new piece of music. Many of the clips are from old Disney movies from when I was a little kid. *sigh*

Texturbox is his only full-length, and consequently his most recent release. Every single song on here is fucking amazing.

try / buy

Vijay Iyer, Prasanna & Nitin Mitta - Tirtha

2011; 9 tracks

The Sanskrit word "tirtha" (THEER-tha), literally 'crossing' or 'shallow passage of a stream,' denotes a place of pilgrimage near sacred waters. It suggests a liminal space between the fixed and the fluid, a threshold between worlds.

"Jazz" and "Indian music" are two imperfect labels for massive systems of information, archives of knowledge, zones of activity, fields of possibility. These traditions are "as wide as all outdoors," to borrow Julius Hemphill's phrase; they both embody the great legacies of their respective heritages, and yet they have spanned the globe, evolving and adapting, constantly heralding things to come.

It's no secret that the two histories have intersected many times already. Tirtha is the latest in a series of such tirthas (crossings). But it also represents a unity that only recently became possible, after several decades of South Asian global mobility, transition, and flow.

Vijay Iyer is a very involved and prolific American jazz pianist, working in several groups as well as solo. Tirtha is his first album with collaborative partners Prasanna, a guitarist-composer, and tabla player Nitin Mitta. The band formed in response to an invitation. In 2007, Iyer was asked to put together a concert celebrating 60 years of Indian independence. He wanted to steer clear of fusion experiments that attempted to mix styles - to "create something," as John Coltrane famously admonished, "more with labels, you see, than true evolution." Prasanna and Nitin Mitta, two outstanding musicians from India who have settled in the states, had been traveling alongside Iyer. The trio had never collaborated before, but of their first rehearsal Iyer says, "We felt a jolt of recognition. There was no question of 'fusion,' no compromise, no attempt to sound more or less 'Indian'; just a fluid musican conversation among three individuals, an atmosphere of camaraderie, a sense of beginning.'"

the sound of a new reality.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

space, and the overlanders (piano-related ramblings)

I am skipping my first class today, which is Ear Training. Sorry, but I'd rather be snuggled in bed than counting rhythms to Tool and Metallica songs. Yes, my teacher makes us listen to Tool.

Last night I went to a concert of student composers. It was really quite nice, and I heard pieces composed for a variety of instruments, though not always performed by the composer - computer, organ, electric guitar, piano (+ piano strings), bassoon, and an ensemble consisting of electric guitar, bass, soprano saxophone, and drums. My favorite piece was called "The Vomit Comet" by a senior composition major, and he played it on the organ. This is what he wrote about it in the program notes:

"The 'Vomit Comet' was a modified airliner used to train astronauts for the zero-gravity environment of spaceflight by simulating a ballistic trajectory. The aircraft alternately climbs and descends to produce a series of zero-g 'humps' during which its passengers experience about 30 seconds of weightlessness. Unfortunately, pitching motions also induce nausea. What a ride it must have been."

He incorporated the elements of the ride into the piece using a variety of techniques. The electric guitarist was up there with him to assist, for at a certain point the organist had him turn off the organ completely, even as he was playing notes, so that the air in the pipes died away slowly. It was an incredible effect. I really did feel as if I was experiencing pitching motions, and falling through space. None of the other pieces, save for the small ensemble (the composer noting that it was a "piece written for jazz musicians that isn't jazz" and that it is "the result of soothing parallel harmonies being abused by a rock band"), really captured my attention. It was mostly "modern classical fluff," or something. The piano piece, especially. If you've ever heard a generic, stereotypical performance of something that could be considered "modern classical," this was it right down to the last note. I just wasn't impressed, even though the composer looked all serious and had long hair and a beard and stuff. Anyway.

I have had a recording of Ravel's piano music on my computer for what seems like forever, and yet I have no earthly idea who the performer is. No, it is not Rogé (I do not like him), but whoever it is, they are one of the greatest performers of his works on earth, and I now compare every other recording to them.

There's this thing called the
International Music Score Library Project which enables you to download virtually any sheet music your heart could ever desire. I downloaded Ravel's "Ondine," because it is seriously anything and everything I could have ever wanted in a piano piece. Ever. I've been dying to learn it for probably 2 years... Here is Michelangeli's interpretation:

I have learned, now, the first two pages! Not bad for just starting it today. I also got some Sibelius piano pieces, and Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante défunte," which should be instantly recognizable. It is slightly more difficult than it sounds, but it is so unbearably gorgeous I am up for the challenge. Here is Richter playing the piece in a recording that I seriously think must have been recorded in heaven (excluding the obnoxious noises from the audience):

(I also like this recording a lot, it's just as beautiful but without the live audience aspect)

I love learning things on my own, with the recordings of great artists as my teachers.

I almost forgot!! My piano teacher right now is actually a former student of the great pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher! I feel like a second-generation student of his, or something :3 I think that's pretty cool.

I play "Un Sospiro" for a recital dedicated to Liszt's birthday (which was actually October 22) on Saturday. I'm looking forward to it! I played this annoying Scarlatti sonata last Monday in a recital in which all of the piano students, undergraduate and graduate, played the pieces they were going to play for the final examinations in December or something. One of the graduate students played Chopin's Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60. OH. MY. GOD. I had never heard it before in my life, but honestly the way she played it was like a dream... She was an incredible pianist. But anyway, I told my teacher how much I liked the way she played it, and he told me some things that Fleisher had told him about the piece. The beginning note is like a rock being thrown into a lake, and the splash and the ripples and the circles are the following chords. And then the amazing motif in the left hand comes in and it is one of the foundations for the rest of the piece... it sounds like a boat floating along the waves. I don't know if I really "love" this piece, but I was definitely moved and completely awestruck as she played it. Here is Zimerman playing it:

Every time I have a lesson with my teacher I learn so many interesting things. He apparently went to a master class with Russian pianist Marina Lomazov over the weekend, and he seriously could not stop going on and on about how beautiful she was, and tall, and striking. He told me what she had told him about the Russian school of piano, and how the way they teach young pianists is very different from the way many do here. There is a lot of hands-on learning, the teachers placing their hands on the students' elbows, forearms, and often right on top of the hand in order to mold it to be in the correct position. The most important thing to teach aspiring pianists, above all else, is sound. Anyone can play a note on the piano, but can they play two notes? Musically? Beautifully? To play a C to a D, beautifully, is the true meaning of a musician. I mean, listen to Rachmaninoff playing his pieces. Or just listen to the nature of his pieces - sound is everything! There should be no fear involved, but the intrinsic connection with the keys causing an extremely rich and deep sound to usher from your fingers. Otherwise, the piece is lost in notes gliding upon a frictionless surface. Boring.

I have some cool stuff to post soon, and I made possibly the best mix cover art in the entire world the other night. But I'll hold off on that because I don't know if I should post so many of those in such a short time.


The For Carnation - Promised Works & Self-titled

Promised Works

1997; 9 tracks

This is a compilation of the band's first two releases, Fight Songs (EP, 1995) and Marshmallows (1996).


The For Carnation

2000; 6 tracks


Out of the ashes of Slint, a Louisville, Kentucky post/math rock band with a somber disposition, there arose The For Carnation. It was created by Slint's vocalist, Brian McMahan, whose melancholic and achingly cute and sexy voice (to me) pervade the glorious, sonic landscapes. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes slow and sad, sometimes upbeat and sludgy, The For Carnation plow on in unfaltering assurance. Imagine an old-fashioned train, endlessly circling around some distant planet or moon, far off in space where no eye has ever seen. It has been happening for as long as time, maybe longer, and it will continue forever, unnoticed. Listening to this band makes me feel as if I'm observing this train's movements from a distance, captivated by such fearless monotony.

I apologize for lousy album covers, and also THANK YOU to Selim for turning me on to these guys. Get the self-titled first, if you're unsure. The first track, "Emp. Man's Blues," is a portrait of perfect solitude.

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