December 8, 2015
|Marion Harris with Banjo Uke|
Give me some of that [fill in the blank] music: a trope of reflexive self-advertising by which popular music never ceases to tell us how much we should love it, from Alexander's Ragtime Band to Roll Over Beethoven. Apparently we are all and have always been just completely OK with commercials for a product embedded in the product.
Men - Carl Ruggles - Buffalo Philharmonic, Michael Tilson Thomas
Solid, tense, immovable. Not turned to stone, but jammed tight in the pile-up of its own mirrorings. Brief as Webern but battled, recklessly muscular.
I Want My Life To Testify - Hendersonville Double Quartet [from Alan Lowe's Really the Blues]
The microphone placement leads to an odd balance, with the baritone part way up front and everything else variously behind. One imagines a live performance would sound completely different, but here it becomes a very strange piece of music indeed. The piano, when it breaks in, does so in a completely different tempo than the singers.
December 10, 2015
Hungarian Sketches - Béla Bartók - Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Reiner
Bartók's piano style is overtly orchestral, and so one could regard these literal orchestrations as lessons in how to play the piano pieces: play this tune as though it were an oboe, play the accompaniment like soft strings - keep the voices clear!
At the end of the first long phrase a chime rings out alone in glorious chimey dissonance, uncompromised, physical, present. From that point on the music prolongs the sensibility of that dissonance, carefully weaving its chromatic counterpoint. This focus drops in a few places for some 'happy southerner' hokum, which I suppose might be read in a similar way to some of Shostakovitch's contemporaneous satirical romps. I'm not sure I buy that here, but am willing to pass over it anyway for the long moments of really stunning stuff.
In Session at the Tintinabulary
December 6, 2015
Sextet 151206 - Keith Eisenbrey
At first I thought I might just make two trios, but I decided I could fold all six instruments on top of each other successively, then combine the whole thing into a Sextet. The instrumental tracks are: viola (A, E, F), selection from the big red bag of fun (A, B, F), toy steel drum (A, B, C), amplified acoustic steel string guitar (B, C, D), frame drum (C, D, E), and alto horn (D, E, F). The selection from the big red bag of fun was a plastic mayonnaise jar, a tin can into which the jar just fit, and a wine cork. The alto horn came to us, as most instruments do, circuitously, purchased at a thrift store by my late Uncle Jim Meyer and given to us (he had one already). On the case is stamped "U.G.S.D." - for Union Gap School District.