Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Five Music-Related Items

Ives playing Ives - a decidedly lo-fi recording, but Ives brings a certain I-don't-know-what to his own composition ("The Alcotts" section of the Concord Sonata) that isn't present in any other version I've heard.

Speaking of 20th-century composers, if I ever become a full-time aesthete, haunting avant-garde salons and whatnot, I plan to adopt this look. Hearing this Boulez recording of Ionisation recently made me wonder if Brian Wilson was listening to Varèse around the time of Pet Sounds and the original Smile sessions. To me, there are some clear similarities - the layering of different percussion instruments and, of course, the use of fire sirens and (though not in Ionisation) theremins. I think there's something about the reverby room sound on the Boulez version that makes me think of the sounds Wilson was getting at Gold Star and Western Recorders. In other versions of Ionisation, I don't hear the connection as much. The Varèse-Zappa connection has been well documented (and the Varèse-Bird connection!), but, perhaps unsurprisingly, I've never heard Varèse mentioned in the same sentence as the Beach Boys.

Any list of the greatest guitar riffs of all time that does not include some version of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' "Shakin' All Over" is not to be taken seriously. Check out Jimmy Page trying to remember it here.

Last week, I saw a screening of Glenn Ligon's film The Death of Tom at the Whitney, attracted by the prospect of hearing the score performed (actually spontaneously re-composed) by Jason Moran. The film and Moran's performance were worth walking through a hail storm for, and I got a lot out of the discussion after the screening. The topics included Ligon and Moran's mutual love of Monk; Ligon's artistic decision to let his original conception of the film go and yield to the opportunities afforded by an epic camera/film stock fail and Moran's music, ending up with a very different film than he'd envisioned; and Moran and the Bandwagon's ongoing process of wrestling with Bert Williams' massive-for-its-time hit "Nobody" (a hidden track on Ten and a main motif in Moran's Death of Tom music), with renditions often breaking into violent deconstruction and stopping just short of total destruction. There's a good interview of Ligon, conducted by Moran and covering some of the same topics as the Whitney discussion, here.

I recently found a great anecdote from the history of architecture that says something about the 20th-century tendency toward refinement (in the sense of removing impurities, extraneous elements) in design (although both of the architects in question were often less restrained in practice than the anecdote may suggest). To tangentially relate this last item to music, I'll note that it comes via the website of Ken Vandermark, the great Chicago saxophonist who I saw recently with Joe Morris and a couple years ago with Jason Moran.

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