Thursday, May 8, 2008

169. AKIRA KUROSAWA: Rashomon (1950)

The quote which captions Chapter Eight of Galbraith's masterpiece (entitled "Gate to the World") is certainly worth sharing here. I never saw the episode, but I think it's wonderful:

"MARGE SIMPSON (Trying to get her husband to see a subtitled film): C'mon, Homer, you liked Rashomon . . .
HOMER SIMPSON: That's not the way I remember it!" [SG, p. 127].

Monday, April 21, 2008

168. AFFZ CD: GRAHAM CONNAH'S JETTISON SLINKLY: Sparkly (4:39)

Sparkly (4:39)





A true jewel from the AFFZ CDs!

First off, Mr. Connah is such a gifted composer. Check out all the themes and countersubjects and little interjections of previous material at just the right time!

This tune just never stops grooving. There is quite a bit of room for improvisation. For example, Rob Sudduth plays a beautiful short eight-bar solo after the initial written-out section; a short return to a previous theme; Alex Candelaria follows with a probing guitar solo.

Eventually, Mr. Connah himself plays a funky synth solo. Noel Jewkes on flute is particularly impressive. Connah puts a cool little background behind the end of his solo.

If your musical tastes are anything like mine, listening to this will literally compel you to seek out more Connah music. [I ended up playing all of JETTISON SLINKY: Dank Side of the Morn after writing this!]

Thursday, April 3, 2008

167. The Tokyo String Quartet Live in Tucson

It's a sad fact that I don't get out much these days to crowded events, because my back completely freaks out if someone so much as bumps into my wheelchair...

But when I heard that the Tokyo String Quartet was in town and was doing 131, my heart went pitter-patter and the three of us scored some tickets to this Arizona Friends of Chamber Music offering, which quickly sold out (we saw several empty seats -- but not many).

I downed my meds and prepared to be bumped. Bonk. Big green apples landing on my head.

Incidentally, the above link to "131" will take you to what I consider to be the finest recording, not only of this particular quartet, but of the entire cycle, by the Amadeus Quartet in the early 60's.

For years, I had to satisfy myself with my cherished 10-LP box, which I reverently managed to keep click-and-pop free for all these years.

But now the PTB have made me repurchase it on CDs. And you kids (and grown ups) who've never owned a turntable can now avail yourselves of this incredible set...

I say this all to set the stage for my manic passion for Opus 131. To miss a local live performance of this greatest masterpiece would be unthinkable. So off we went to the Leo Rich Hall at the Tucson Convention Center...

The program:

HAYDN: String Quartet in F Major, Opus 50, No. 5 ("Der Traum")
WEBERN: String Quartet, Opus 28
WEBERN: Rondo (1906)
BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Opus 131

[The link to the Haydn is a budget Naxos recording. The Kodály Quartet is well up to the task. The Webern links take you to the recent Complete Works, Boulez conducting the orchestral stuff. The set is a joy filled with quality performances, recorded beautifully -- well worth the price.]

From the opening notes of the Haydn, the boys were in the groove. This quartet is full of Beethoven-ish playfulness (where do you think LvB got it from?) and the TQ made the music come alive, providing a silky texture when called for -- at other times, fusing their four voices into one intense musical thought.

The poco adagio, for example. The sweetness never became too sugary, and they held back just enough to leave an ethereal impression.

I could quibble with a bit of inappropriate Romantic inclinations at times in the finale -- but all in all, it was wonderful.

**

I was completely psyched for Opus 28 and I was not disappointed!

They attacked this difficult music aggressively and confidently. Every pizz was in place and, again, they made a wonderful unison sound -- this was delicate musical communication, and they pulled it off flawlessly.

The Rondo (1906) is an early work which has several very melodic moments -- including a very clear statement of what would later turn up as Bernstein's "There's a place for us..." (at about the 5:00 minute mark). Having prepared them ahead of time, Joannie and Rebecca got a kick out of that.

**

Intermission and more bumping. Having noticed that there would be plenty of light for me to score-read, I studied my 131 score in excited anticipation. [by the way, you can't beat the price for this Dover edition of the complete quartets!]

The start of the second half of the program seemed to be delayed. Finally, they came out and began.

I admit to disappointment at their choice of tempo. I might have been able to live with this very fast Adagio ma non troppo e molto espressivo if they had achieved the level of in-the-moment intensity that the Amadeus project at a true Adagio.

Yes -- ma non troppo (not too much) -- but in this case, it felt like quarter note after quarter note with little emotional involvement.

I have no definite information about this -- but my guess is the initial delay might have been due to some kind of problem with Martin Beaver's E string. When we arrived hereI definitely got the feeling that something was wrong -- this delicate duet sounded just slightly out of tune.

I don't know what happened here:but they weren't together, and I heard none of the subtleties of the cresc. and dim.

Things immediately got better. The second movement was delightful, moving along with spirited energy.

However, in the transitional third movement, Mr. Beaver's E string betrayed him again in this lovely run:Not only that, but the all important movement to the new dominant (E Major going to A Major) was shaky and unconvincing.

The long Theme and Variations (fourth movement) was pretty fine. I liked the march, and the famous "weird trill" section.

The Allegretto (open-string double-stop section) was too fast and had zero intensity (see Amadeus for the way I hear Beethoven's thinking).

The 9/4 section had some more problems, intonation and otherwise.

The big ornamented theme restatement (2nd and viola) was splendid.

The fifth movement was pretty excellent. My only quibble is that the sul ponticello marvel was not quite as pronounced as it might have been. Again, I think Amadeus nails this idea better than any quartet I've ever heard.

In 131 performances, what will happen by the time we arrive at Movement Seven is predetermined by the quartet's ability to stay focused on the myriad sweeping emotional arcs which have challenged them heretofore.

This is the "March to Death" -- but of course, it's not so simple. Life is sweet and wonderful, and the soaring, passionate second theme sets off the march with burning sweetness -- bittersweet, sorrowful, nostalgic -- even stubborn.

Forgive the genre switch:

"Please don't cry/
We're designed to die..." [WILCO: "On and On and On" from Sky Blue Sky]

That's how I feel about this movement.

And I'm sorry to say that the Tokyo lost it at the crucial moment:The march -- persistent and threatening -- is suddenly interrupted by the non ligato pp section.

Played correctly, the perfectly executed dim. to pp should just start a cascade of shivers down your spine. They failed.

They brought it all home and, overall, I'd say it was a pretty good performance (despite my nit-picking above!).

Although the Haydn was the epitome of quartet playing, in the Beethoven I felt that they weren't quite as connected.

In particular, I thought that Beaver and Ikeda did not blend their tone and timbre well. (It's possible that this was a result of problems that Beaver was experiencing, I don't know.)

Isomura, the violist, had a fine tone -- but my violist daughter agreed with me that at times he could have been more assertive.

Greensmith, the cellist, seemed the most intense of the four.

Concert experience: way above average!

Friday, March 28, 2008

166. AFFZ CD: GEIR CORNELIUSSEN: Orangutan Man Meets Frankenstein (5:36)

Orangutan Man Meets Frankenstein (5:36)





Makes me miss the old days at affz. Geir, wherever you are -- crank it up to eleven...

165. My Great-Grandfather's Obit (1921)

Isaac had Harry who had Sam who had me.

Wow.

Monday, March 24, 2008

164. AFFZ CD: ANTAL ADRIAANSE: In Isolation/Getrommel (4:23)

In Isolation/Getrommel (4:23)





Wow! This is simply splendid music. Great writing, great playing, and -- like Zappa -- truly surprising!

Check it out!

163. DARK HOPKINS: Nightscope (2:48)

Nightscope (2:48)





DARKness...

162. MASATOSHI SADAKANE: Into The Sky (3:18)

Into The Sky (3:18)





More beautiful Masa music...

161. LEWIS SAUL: Toadmarch (6:22)

Toadmarch (6:22)





At the very end of Horizontal Wipe you can hear the 9/4 theme which was originally this little ditty which I wrote in Paris in 1971.

A very early MIDI experiment (1990), we combined two different sources (without a mixer handy!) into one mix. Tons of noisy hiss, but folks seem to like the creative energy here, so here it is, blemishes included ...

160. JOHN GUMMERE: Sandario (3:25)

Sandario (3:25)





Picture yourself on Sandario Road
Just west of the Tucson Mountains
It's 3:45 A.M.

The stars...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

156. RON MOSES: Ned (4:38)

I can't believe it's been 109 posts since I've put up some Ron Moses music.

Abundant Chromatic Shifting with Mary Tyler Moore on Saxophone...[see Ron, someone reads your liner notes!]

Ned (4:38)

155. JOHN GUMMERE: Cibola (2:08)

I met John over 30 years ago. He taught me how to do MIDI (and I'm definitely a Computerese Challenged Person...), we played in a few bands together, and he was always a real good friend. [see here and here.]

It's possible I influenced him a little -- getting him to see that you can "rock out" in meters other than 4/4!

This one's in seven. You can hear John's love of Brazilian music in some of the comping, and the seven flows along beautifully throughout. It's a short and sweet piece of ear candy. I hope you enjoy it.

Cibola (2:08)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

154. Joe Zawinul RIP

I am a huge fan of Jozy and Weather Report and Jozy's post-Weather Report stuff (The Zawinul Syndicate).

Therefore, it was a shock to learn that he passed away last September and I somehow completely missed it!

Joe Zawinul was an amazing musician. He left behind a body of work that will continue to thrill big-eared musicians for centuries.

RIP, Jozy.

Friday, February 22, 2008

148. FRANK ZAPPA: Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

A detailed analysis of the above work.
Cruising With Ruben & The Jets (1968)
Zappa Records Release #5
Rykodisc RCD 10505
LP: The Old Masters, Box 1 (Barking Pumpkin BPR-7777-3)

Original LP version: Greasy Love Songs

Although we seem to be a distinct minority, unlike the re-recording of the bass and drum tracks for , the new (bass and drum) additions in this release don't bother us as much as the ones in 
We're Only In It For The Money. In fact, the acoustic bass in "Cheap Thrills" (Jay Anderson) is gorgeous! Perfectly mixed, it does not stick out sort-thumb like, as does most of the Money material.

An amazing zigzag wanderer from the master of all possible styles! In this milieu -- perhaps the one which meant the most to FZ, nostalgia-wise -- the doo-wop of the 50's is transformed into something new in the same manner in which FZ reworked the traditional pop song in Freak Out!

It is fun and enjoyable music. If it seemed like a slight let-down after the astonishing We're Only In It For The Money, it is likely due to the unfamiliarity of doo-wop to many of FZ's fans at the time.

1. Cheap Thrills (2:37)
2. Love Of My Life (3:07)
3. How Could I Be Such A Fool (3:33)
4. Deseri (2:07)
5. I'm Not Satisfied (4:07)
6. Jelly Roll Gum Drop (2:23)
7. Anything (3:04)
8. Later That Night (2:58)
9. You Didn't Try To Call Me (3:57)
10. Fountain Of Love (3:22)
11. "No. No. No." (2:14)
12. Anyway The Wind Blows (3:01)
13. Stuff Up The Cracks (4:37)

147. FRANK ZAPPA: The Chrome-Plated Megaphone Of Destiny

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition, including notated musical examples.
The Chrome-Plated Megaphone Of Destiny

LYRICS

Other Official Versions:

The Lumpy Money Project/Object (2009)


This is a MASTERPIECE! A short breakdown of what takes place:

  1. A hissing sound and a lower and slower electronic effect starts us off.
  2. The final "chord" appears here first, panned between channels! What does this sound like to you? To our "ever-alert for Musical CC" ears, it sounds like a PIANO WITH ITS DAMPER PEDAL DEPRESSED and the resulting resonance from an unheard note-event (just like we discussed in "Who Are The Brain Police?" from Freak Out! -- and which, of course, is a major "theme" of both Lumpy Gravy and Civilization Phaze III.
  3. The rhythm of the panning creates a "musique concrète" ("mc" from now on) accelerando leading to
  4. Piano music, which eventually covers the bottom, middle and top of the keyboard all at once and a chord is suspended in air until
  5. A typical nasty FZ downbeat composed of found sounds ... followed by a mix of orchestral music and "mc" -- lots of percussion and possibly an alto flute -- the "mc" sounds assert themselves in the mix as orchestral music fades lightly into the background.
  6. At 2:35 a voice is heard, faintly but distinctly...
  7. At 2:48 a gorgeous woodwind choir strettos (that means each instrument follows immediately after another instrument) into a strange chord. A contrabassoon splats out some low notes -- more "mc" and then
  8. 3:16. Sped up laughing and coughing. Once again, FZ achieves the perfect effect with the "tone" of the laughing to completely integrate the music into the "programme" (Kafka)! oh abatray
  9. At 3:41, a change in the "mc" background texture occurs as the vocal laughs become more like laugh-moans. The oh abatray line is repeated three more times at various speeds...
  10. 4:23. The voices drop out and a short quiet "mc" section. Then at
  11. 4:37 begins the beautiful "Harry Partch" section. Very nice Partch-like timbres. Can you say Just Intonation?
  12. 5:29 a few quick interesting "mc" sounds and then
  13. 5:35 the "chord"

146. FRANK ZAPPA: Mother People

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition, including notated musical examples.
Mother People

LYRICS


What time is that in, man? a very FAQ! So, man, here's the answer:

TEMPO 1

Bars 1-3: 3/4
Bars 4-5: 3/16
Bar 6: 3/8
Bar 7: 3/4
Bars 8-9: 3/16
Bar 10: 3/8
Bars 11-14: 3/4
Bars 15-16: 3/16
Bar 17: 3/8
Bar 18: 3/4
Bars 19-20: 3/16
Bar 21: 3/8
Bar 22: 3/4

TEMPO 2

Bar 23: 6/8
Bars 24-25: 9/8
Bar 26: 12/8
Bar 27: 7/8
Bar 28: 12/8

TEMPO 3

Bars 29-30: 7/8
Bars 31-32: 4/4

TEMPO 2

Bar 33: 12/8
Bar 34: 7/8
Bar 35: 12/8

TEMPO 3

Bars 36-37: 7/8
Bars 38-39: 4/4

TEMPO 1

Bars 40-42: 3/4
Bars 43-44: 3/16
Bar 45: 3/8
Bar 46: 3/4
Bars 47-48: 3/16
Bar 49: 3/8
Bars 50-53: 3/4
Bars 54-55: 3/16
Bar 56: 3/8
Bar 57: 3/4
Bars 58-59: 3/16
Bar 60: 3/8
Bar 61: 3/4

TEMPO 2

Bar 62: 6/8
Bars 63-64: 9/8
Bar 65: 12/8
Bar 66: 5/8

Notes: Bars 23 and 59 start with two JCB 1/8th-notes.
Bars 31 and 38 are subdivided (3-3-2).
Bar 63 has a short fermata on the fifth beat.
1:40
A shorter section of turntable arm-dragging than before, but extremely effective is followed by a beautiful orchestral excerpt.
First we hear a plaintive English Horn accompanied by low strings; a clarinet adds a tender lick (which will be re-used in Lumpy Gravy!)

2:02

A gorgeous, very typical, FZ phrase follows in Mandolin and Bells and then
Another double bar!
Let me take a minute
Tempo 3 above
Segue to

Next track

145. FRANK ZAPPA: What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? (reprise)

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition.
What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? (reprise)

LYRICS


A true Reprise! More effective panning during another great vocal "sound portrait" at the end. Snorks, do it again do it again, and a beautiful 16-note "musique concrète" figure segue us to

Next track

144. FRANK ZAPPA: Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition.

Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance


LYRICS




Here's some "stuff that's better for you in the long run!" The chords:
In G Major:
ii / iii / ii / iii / iv7 / I / vi / ii / V / I / vi /
Second verse with delightful stereo dee-da-li-da-lee's
Third verse full-blown and
segue to

Next track

143. FRANK ZAPPA: Lonely Little Girl

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition.

Lonely Little Girl

LYRICS



Another great composition!

If the CD is on pitch, this is in the key of A-Flat!

After a beautiful little I-v intro, the I-v carries over into the first six bars of the verse, then

(the) things they say
a beautiful little sequence of ii-V-iii-VI (Bbm-Eb7-Cm-F)
(to) understand
G Minor!

world for them is too unreal
Ab Major Sharp Eleven! And we weave our way back to G Minor when suddenly we hear
all your children are
some familiar music

... a minor third higher here, and with different effects and a beautiful "Indian sitar-type" ending.
Some musical burps segue us into

Next track

142. FRANK ZAPPA: The Idiot Bastard Son

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition.

The Idiot Bastard Son

LYRICS



Another brilliant 3/4 melody! The Idiot Boy! (snorks)
Yet another screech-to-a-halt double bar. Beautifully composed vocal "sound portrait." From the very first sound -- sort of a roooeenntt sound -- on the second half of the third beat to the final anyway -- we feel an implicit musical tempo and the panning between channels suggests its own rhythm, as well!
covered in green
Very musical snork here. Note how bare the orchestration is! Guitar and voices suspended in air until
warming his pew...
which segues to

Next track

141. FRANK ZAPPA: Let's Make The Water Turn Black

A detailed analysis of the above Frank Zappa composition, including notated musical examples.
Let's Make The Water Turn Black

LYRICS



One of FZ's most covered composition...

More cool piano arpeggios start us off...

The CD is a whole step lower than the LP! (C Major on the CD; D Major on the LP!)

We'll give this to you in C Major, from the CD:

Now be-lieve me when I tell you...it's a-

I-iii6/4-vi-(vi)-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-(vi)-ii-iii-IV-V
C-Em/B-am-(am)-F-G-am-G

bout some little people...neighbors didn't know
I-iii6/4-vi-(vi)-bVII-III-bVI-V
C-G/B-am-(am)-Bb-Eb-Ab-G


Once again, a beautiful turnaround in the last four bars above -- using half-steps to insinuate new keys, yet he goes right back to C here...

Next verse -- however:

feeding all the boys at Ed's Cafe

Everything's the same as the above until the Bb chord. Then another fine modulation -- he descends to A Major from the Bb which then goes to D, (bVII-VI-II in C) -- and turns II into the pivot chord -- now a V of G...going to

Whizzing and pasting

G Major. Notice how he gets back to C Major, with a very dramatic modulation at

Kenny's little creatures on display

Wait till the fire turns green

IV-V-vi. Then for the final chord, just like all those dudes with wigs did in the Baroque Era (if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it), he goes to Major! We hear A Major for only the second time on the last note of the piece! Constant ear surprises, both obvious and subtle, are a major tool in FZ's compositional palette.


Another nice electronic transition to