After being exposed to Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin — a piteous collection of pop dreck — I reluctantly turned my attention to the Turtle Island String Quartet’s Have you ever been…? While the latter’s set of Hendrix covers has not received the level of acclaim that Wilson’s butchering of the songs of the Gershwin brothers, it stands head and shoulder’s above it in terms of inventiveness and musicality. [I came to both these cds via NPR's music website, which features an interesting mix of artists but has never raised a critical eyebrow.]
“Reimagining” the works of classic artists is nothing new to Turtle Island String Quartet. Their previous interpretations of John Coltrane also hit the mark (on A Love Supreme). Here’s a sample, their rendition of “My Favorite Things” informed by Coltrane’s inspired 1961 recording of the Rodgers & Hammerstein composition.
Interesting article from Music Think Tank
By Keith Andrew
Recently I was reading some material on the controversial yet highly influential experimental composer John Cage –most widely known for his ‘piece’ 4’33” which if you are not familiar with, is 4’33” of silence. A bold statement indeed.
Now, don’t get me wrong- I respect John Cage. In fact I respect most anyone who is willing to explore and push the boundaries of any convention- musical, artistic, philosophical or otherwise. I may think they are wrong; I may think they are foolish or perhaps even dangerous, but I still can find something to respect in their willingness to reach for or beyond something where most are not willing to reach. From these pioneers of exploration we can usually find something of value in their endeavors even if the mission turns up nothing or ends in complete failure and disaster. There is usually some insight to be gained from another’s missteps -however well intentioned they may have been.
Woody Allen said that if you are not making mistakes you are not making progress. So let us indeed be willing to make a mistake as we refuse to play it safe while reaching for something we have not yet seen or achieved.
That being said, and after all due respect being given, on the subject of music, sound and purpose, I could not disagree with John Cage more and I think he is very mistaken. (To read more, click here).
Few artists cross genre boundaries as freely and seemingly effortlessly as Tanya Tagaq. Labeling what she does as Inuit throat singing inadequately describes what she does. Never easy listening, Tanya takes the listener “outside the box” of her or his expectations. In an interview in January 2010, Tanya discussed her work and her hope that her music can help wake people up to the “the potential of what we’ve lost and what we can gain.” (To read more go to PopMatters).
Living Outside the Box: An Interview with Tanya Tagaq
By Jeffrey Callen 16 April 2010
My introduction to Inuit throat singing was a lecture by musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez on the semiology of katajjaq, the vocal game played by pairs of Inuit women standing close together, holding each other’s arms as they sing into each other’s mouths. I remember some striking video and audio clips, a lot of charts detailing Nattiez’s semiotic analysis and a feeling that something human and vital was being elided.
A decade later, when I first saw Tanya Tagaq on a podcast from the London International Festival of Exploratory Music, I didn’t think once of katajjaq or semiology. She isn’t that kind of Inuit throat singer and that kind of analysis would not get to the questions that I was interested in pursuing.
Born in the Nunavut Territory in the northernmost reaches of Canada, Tagaq taught herself Inuit throat singing during college in Halifax when she longed for the sounds of home. In the decade since, she has taken Inuit throat singing into previously unimagined musical arenas, working in hip-hop, hard rock and classical settings.
She has also worked with a diverse set of collaborators including Bjork, Mike Patton (of Faith No More) and the Kronos Quartet. In late January 2010, I interviewed Tanya Tagaq as she was about to begin a six-month tour of North America and Europe. During our conversation, Tagaq illuminated her approach to her craft, the sources of her inspiration, the relationship of her art to the Nunavut landscape/soundscape, and her ambitions.
On the last point—her ambitions—she eloquently stated what may be an underlying reason people are drawn to the experience of art: “…(to wake up to) the potential of what we’ve lost and what we can gain.” (To read more go to PopMatters).
Swedish Hillbilly/Western Swing with some bluegrass tossed in? Bring it on! Fiddler Ralf Fredblad and company must have spent many a dark frigid Nordic night listening to the heart and soul of Appalachia. The Original Rockridge Brothers bang out some of the most authentic Hillbilly you’ll hear, without irony or any suspicious modern trappings. “Rockridge Hollerin’” is pure gold. (go to Musical Emissions)
Land of Kush -- Against the Day
Montreal composer Sam Shalabi has played or found his way to be involved in many genres, including punk, free jazz, improv. Lately he’s been composing for large ensembles, one of which is the 30 member Land of Kush. “Against The Day” is a five section piece whose foundation is haunting vocals, strings, and Shalabi’s Oud. Combining aspects of Arab pop with pysch, the piece begins with the eerie “The Light Over The Ranges,” before moving into the more trippy, Arabesque “Iceland Spar.” (go to Musical Emissions )
SPA MUSIC? New Book from Oxford University Press: Water Music Making Music in the Spas of Europe and North America by Ian Bradley.
Many of the most famous composers in classical music spent considerable periods in spa towns, whether taking in the waters, or searching for patrons among the rich and influential clientele who frequented these pioneer resorts, or soaking up the relaxing and decadent ambience of these enchanted and magical places. At Baden bei Wein, Mozart wrote his Ave Verum Corpus, and Beethoven sketched out his Ninth Symphony. Johannes Brahms spent 17 summers in Baden-Baden, where he stayed in his own specially-built composing cavern and consorted with Clara Schumann. Berlioz came to conduct in Baden-Baden for nine seasons, writing his last major work, Beatrice and Benedict, for the town’s casino manager. Chopin, Liszt, and Dvorak were each regular visitors to Carlsbad and Marienbad. And it was in Carlsbad that Beethoven met Goethe. Concerts, recitals, and resident orchestras have themselves played a major role in the therapeutic regimes and the social and cultural life of European and North American watering places since the late eighteenth century. To this day, these spa towns continue to host major music festivals of the highest caliber, drawing musicians and loyal audiences on both local and international levels.
This book explores the music making that went on in the spas and watering places in Europe and the United States during their heyday between (…to read more)
Unsound New York website
“Hello, New York: Avant-Garde Eastern Europe” by Steve Smith (New York Times) — Krakow’s “Unsound” Festival comes to New York City with “programs of club-oriented electronica, indie rock, free improvisation, ambient music and contemporary classical work. In some programs such distinctions become meaningless: at the opening event, for example, Sebastian Meissner, a German electronic artist, will collaborate with the young Polish contemporary-classical group Kwartludium in a project inspired by the seminal California punk-rock record label SST.” (to read more)