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Apr. 26th, 2010

vendetta, protective, v, v and anyone, eh

2010 Graduation Mixes....

That's right, folks, some of us are leaving the college lifestyle forever!  (Well, for now, anyway.)  We are finding ourselves needing some music to guide us to our next stage of life...so below is a palatte to give you all an idea of what to work with...

What Are You Waiting For ~ Gwen Stefani
Swing Life Away (the semi-acoustic version) ~ Rise Against
Awakening ~ Mae
Uprising ~ Muse
Soco Amaretto Lime ~ Brand New
"Chicago" ~ Sufjan Stevens
Something by NIN
Toxicity ~ SOAD
No Such Thing ~ John Mayer
Imagine ~ John Lennon
The Hazards of Love IV (the Drowned) ~ The Decemberists
Existentialism on Prom Night ~ straylight run
Always Wear Sunscreen (Everybody's Free) ~ Baz Luhrman, Quindon Tarver
It's The End of the World ~ R.E.M.
Closing Time ~ Semisonic
The Good Life ~ Three Days Grace


Optional (depending on your situation and how much or little you mind humiliating yourself)
Dismantle. Repair. (Acoustic) ~ Anberlin
Save Tonight ~ Eagle Eye Cherry
Good Riddance ~ Green Day
La Vie Boheme ~ from RENT
Handlebars ~ Flobots
Right Here, Right Now ~ Jesus Jones
Smells Like Teen Spirit ~ Nirvana
Back Street's Back ~ Backstreet Boys (this is great as the last track--people are like: "WHAT?!")
Stravinsky's "Firebird"
Bird and the Worm ~ The Used or On My Own
Anything by Meatloaf ;)   ("In the land of the pigs, the butcher is king" and "Life is a Lemon" are great)


I tend to find that depending on who you're giving it to, there are probably "inside songs" like inside jokes (maybe both) that you've had over the years, or maybe a clip from a funny comedian you both liked, or something like that.  Don't just make a generic mix, the one above is just a springboard.  I used maybe five of the top list, one or two of the seconday one, and a whole bunch of songs that mean something between me and the person I'm giving it to.  A good graduation mix will remind them, every time they hear it, of you and the good times you had.
Use all genres.  This especially applies if you're classical musicians and share some orchestra pieces together.  (athough it will take up a lot of valuable song mix space if you're going oldschool and burning it to an actual music CD).  Don't be afraid to find some old 40s song that sounds good or some freestyle rap song that applies to the friendship.  Portions of the above are from my highschool graduation mix in 2005, and the words still apply and find meaning today. 
Also, while throwing on a ton of classic grad songs is good, sometimes it's better to use the more unusual.  Sure, a mainstream song may remind them of the era and time the mix was made, but the more personal you get and the more unusual the music you find, the more likely you are to form a unique memory with them.  Yeah, my list above stays fairly mainstream, but I love all the songs, and my friends know that, so when they get those songs it will STILL remind them of me, even though a lot of them are used often.

Feb. 17th, 2010

foggy, misty, alcatraz

(no subject)

Thank you, Umar....

While you have already made news.cincinnati.com/article/20100124/BIZ/1250307/Higher-airport-fees-ahead-after-Detroit-attempt the norm, now you are making us get our palms swabbed in airports....


While that's not that big of a deal, I can't help but wonder how many "false positives" we're going to get out of this...

.....grr. argh.

Jan. 27th, 2010

harp, hat, antiharpist, myself

(no subject)

Ick, it's been far too long without a post.  I promise to try and be better about the blog....my grandfather was really ill recently so I've been distracted.

More soon, I promise!

Nov. 8th, 2009

harp, hat, antiharpist, myself

Tori Amos' "Midwinter Graces" Review

I also thought I should inform the masses that talented singer/songwriter Tori Amos is releasing a Christmas album this year entitled: "Midwinter Graces".  For those of us that love Tori and have been wanting to have an excuse to listen to her during the holidays without feeling anti-Christmasy, here is our chance!

The entire album can be listened to in streaming format on Imeem right now, or you can buy the album on iTunes anytime after Tuesday.  She is working with her team of Mark Chamberlain on drums, Jon Evans on bass, and Mac Aladdin on guitars.  APPARENTLY she is working with a real orchestra on this, but frankly the brass sounds really synthesized to me.  Maybe it's just over processed?  You tell me! 

From the opening track, "What Child, Nowell", you can tell this is going to be a different sort of Christmas album.  The music contains the typical Tori piano track, overlayed with some harpsichord sounds, and some (actually annoying) synthesized brass sounds.  But her cool and trailing vocal line gives some interest to the typical Christmas fare, and of course, completely changes it.   

"Star of Wonder" opens with jilty strings and Latin rhythms on tabla.  Very nice.  I do like the lyrics.

"A Silent Night With You".  Honestly, I felt this song was pretty mainstream sounding--maybe even a little too, although it did hark back to the sound of "Gold Dust" or many of the tracks in "Scarlet's Walk".  Also, if anyone has heard any of her jazz covers, her vocals are reminiscent of it.  The harmonies are pretty, but this whole track was just a little too repetitive and expected for me.  Also the tubular bells to give the Christmas effect were overdone.  But hey, how can you avoid that when you're trying to make a song sound like the holidays?!!!  Of course, this is one of the ones the advertising is promoting, which annoys me just a little bit, because I don't think it's one of her best, nor one of her most creative.

"Candle: Coventry Carol". This one, on the other hand, is beautifully dark even with the fake brass.  I approve.  The medieval vocals and drums + lute were gorgeous.  I was reminded a lot of Loreena McKennitt, and not in a bad way! I've never quite heard Tori like this, to the point I have to wonder if there is someone else singing on the track with her?  I might buy the album just so I can get the answer to this in the CD notes.....Those of you searching for something less like the typical Christmas will NOT find it with this one, though.

"Holly, Ivy and Rose" begins with pretty vocals over piano.  This song feels cold and wintry, and makes one want to feel cozy inside by a fire.  It's nice when a song can accomplish that.  Then, the texture changes, and we hear strings.  AND someone else is singing.  Wish I knew who, because it's nice.  Perhaps a relative?

"Harps of Gold" is a great track, and not just because of the title.  It's a nice alternative rock version of an expected carol.  The drums are driving too, which is nice.

"Snow Angel" begins with cymbal, piano and some soft percussion that sparkles like snowflakes.  Her vocals enter over strings.  Again a gorgeous and lush sound, and yes, harking back to "Gold Dust" in a beautiful way.   The chorus itself bothered me and I wasn't sure why.  But otherwise, beautiful and worth a listen.  The instrumentals are very pretty. And the cellist is quite talented in particular.

"Jeanette, Isabella" opens with a sound I don't hear from Tori usually, more from the likes of Sufjan Stevens.  Minimalist and maybe verging on jazzy?  Unique.  Tori's soft urging to "bring your torches!" echoes above the beat.  I like this one.  The harmonies are unique too, and for being minimalist it doesn't bother me at all.  Definitely reminiscent of Sufjan-like instrumentals!  Listen for her French accent, it's worth it.

"Pink and Glitter" The brass is no longer synthesized!!!! My second favorite track.  And suddenly we are in a big band era Christmas ball dance song!!!  I highly suggest snuggling up to your lover with this, maybe on New Year's Eve, or maybe just by a fire....you get the idea.  Tori's jazz vocals make a comeback, and are rarely drowned out by the brass, so the blend stays pretty well.  Those brass players are awesome, actually.  "Shower the world with pink, if you please".  Well, all right, then!  This will end up on my Christmas sountrack for sure.  (remember the Halloween one?  Oh, you haven't seen anything yet.....)  This is the other highly publicized track, but this one is well deserved.

"Emmanuel" Typical, and beautiful.  Again, while not a choice for those looking for something new and different, it is great. I like the way she plays the harmonies over the typical chords, and she even does the correct rhythm at the end of her first proclamation.  Then, the song changes.  Long, slow-changing strings move the melody and push the texture.  Then, about midway through, the hand percussion enters and gives one the feeling of walking though ancient Israel, or perhaps at a pagan celebration.  No matter which way your beliefs fall, it does give one a chilling sense of spirituality.  (Especially for being part of an album perhaps purposefully taking no sides!)  

"Winter's Carol" is probably my favorite track on this album.  Typically Tori, a gorgeous piano intro.  Great lyrics and strings.  And yet still Christmasy.  But the chord progression does sound very much like "Dragon"...but seeing as how that is also one of my favorite Tori songs, I won't complain too much.  Also, the low strings are simply wonderful.  The tabla/hand percussion over the bassline is also very moving, literally.  Try not to jiggle your feet or legs while listening to this at your desk, I dare you.  But seriously, this one track singlehandedly stayed within Tori's typical musical language, and yet somehow managed to capture Christmas.  I loved the sneak appearance of the low winds, by the way, whether synthesized or not, I challenge you to spot them.  The epic-ness of the ending is also stunning.  Take a closer listen to the lyrics, by the way....

"Our New Year"  is actually quite tragic for a New Year's song.  Somone left, and Tori is sad.  Good for those that are having a bad holiday and want to mope.  Bad for those looking for Christmas cheer.  For those of us just reviewing, it's a great song.  And another one that stays within the "Tori Amos" language.  This song is pretty intense, but hearkens to some of the classic alternative rock sound.  A good track.  "Could this be the year?...."  

This could definitely be the year you listen to Tori Amos at Christmas.

 Do not come to this album expecting to hear the usual!!!  Although you will hear the expected sleigh bells quite a bit....

It does give one hope for some new and refreshing songs on the radio this year.  (Especially because there are some of us who switch on the all day Christmas channels as soon as Thanksgiving is over).  It will be interesting to see what songs from this end up on the mainstream radio.  I really hope it's not "A Silent Night With You" but my expectations of what most people listen to is not very high anymore....

Anywho, yes, it's early for the holidays, but I am proud that this is my first review of an as of yet unreleased album.  Heh heh heh....enjoy it when you finally get around to listening to it (even if it's only a few days before Christmas), and a big round of applause for Tori Amos!!  Now to put this CD away for just a little longer so I don't get all Christmassed out by the actual day of....
harp, hat, antiharpist, myself

The Now Ensemble plays at An Die Musik....

Here is a brief, mostly terrible review of their October 20th concert, but at least I cover the music. 

An evening spent with a composer and one of the most unique new music ensembles out there was not a wasted night! The Now ensemble, founded by Judd Greenstein, is comprised of differing members, but the instrumentation remains about the same: flute, clarinet, electric guitar, and bass. And odd combination, but it blends strangely well. Their concert at An Die Musik at the end of last month was a great experience, and this reviewer highly recommends anyone who likes the sort of style they profess to be: “indie-classical”, to hear them whenever they get a chance. Judd Greenstein also gave a pre-concert talk that is worth noting, and will perhaps be noted in another blog entry at a later date.

The program was long, and therefore in depth analysis in this review proves a little impossible, but the main points or ideas of the night can be touched upon. The opening “Electric Breakdown” by Anthony Suter was certainly electric. The use of juxtaposition was interesting, as well as the classic rock motives and jumps in the instruments. The sweet breakdowns were reminiscent of Gershwin licks, and the extended techniques used throughout the ensemble were much appreciated. He used the extremes of color, and the flute, to explore range in the music. Quick runs, and excited jitters, infuse the texture.

“Burst”, written by the ensemble’s touring guitarist was prefaced with excited looks from performer to performer. Obviously they liked this one, or at least, they were very happy to play it. The piece consisted of a lot of dialogue: the bass, piano, flute and clarinet switched off voices. The dotted rhythm in the bass line set a pace beneath the colors and dissonances in the clarinet and flute. The piece then fell to a darker line, and the bass used a wooden snare drum stick on its strings, giving a very cool and rattling sound. The dialogue between the flute and piano, and then the guitar slipped in and out of the foreground. “Squeaks” in the clarinet follow a bouncy flute line. This part is rockin’, literally. An indie band and Shostakovich found each other in this piece and had a one night stand.

“Magic with Everyday Objects” by Missy Mazzoli was next on the program. The piano begins with nostalgic repeating chords. Then dissonance enters in a very dark and low flute. There’s a wail in the clarinet, and the guitar sets the background with a hum. The piano is reminiscent of Satie or perhaps, some sort of impressionistic version of Phillip Glass. This piece proves dissonance can be beautiful. This piece required messing with an electric amp during the piece which was something unfamiliar in a chamber concert setting, but worth it for the effect it gave.

“Night Jaunt” by Timothy Andres contained moments that were Rite of Spring like, and also, licks that almost seemed verbatim from the soundtrack to Nightmare Before Christmas. The flute carries high, piercing long tones while all the instruments exchange melody and rhythm. There are beautiful, interloping and interrupting scales that enter with a crescendo periodically above contrasting passages. The low penetrating bass seeps into hearing, and harp-like chords in the guitar arpeggiate. The changing rhythm was reminiscent of phasing done by those like Reich. Jazz elements, and Stravinsky, reign.

“Signals”, by Stephen Garbos, was a premiere of the evening. It was very misleading when it began, and did not sit well with a lot of the audience. But then, the rhythm and harmonic texture slowed, and the piece settled into itself. The piano part was like Meatloaf or Stravinsky, with a little Bernstein thrown in for good measure. The pulsating rhythm of the piece keeps interest, and the flute and clarinet share moments that sounds like a telegraph in the distance. When it came back to the theme at the end, I found it didn’t bother me as much as the opening, or perhaps it had changed. It is hard to be sure.

“Spark In The Dark”, also a premiere, by Kirsten Volness was probably one of the best pieces on the program. The piano creates a jazzy line under a dance-like clarinet. The flute then takes the line, and uses extended techniques. It seemed to remind the listener of a Latin dance, but which one would be hard to pinpoint without another listen Loud booms in unison interrupt the piece. Dialogue between the instructs turns into a guitar, bass and piano trio. This piece sounded very much like something out of Film Noir, or at least, a 70s mystery movie sound. Moonlight and Darkness can be picked out of the texture. Major/minor modal switches as the texture opens up. A second listen is much desired after hearing this piece.

“Awake” by Patrick Burke is best described as epic music. Plucked piano strings between tonic, dominant and tritone set a pretty line that the guitar echoes. Everything grows and decays throughout this piece. The general atmosphere beneath the uiet bass, clarinet and flute intervals was one of fear to breathe---for fear of missing something. Tintinnabulation in the piano with bell-like sounds come in over a dark bass, low and sustained. There was the faint tinge of something that might have been Middle-Eastern reminiscent, but it was unclear. Moments that sounded like the Halloween theme song also hid underneath the texture. Debussy-like chords filled the piece as well.

“Not Yet”, a premiere by John Altieri, looked fun to perform. Jazz and rock elements infuse this, and a particularly nice clarinet solo was within the early part of this piece. The title of this piece refers to a sort of inside joke within the piece that this reviewer will not reveal, so that future performances are not spoiled. Worth seeing, though.

The closing piece of the evening was an old standard of the Now Ensemble, “Sing Along” by Judd Greenstien, who sat in for the four-handed piano part. It is a beautiful and heartfelt piece that is worth listening to, and it can be found on their album at newamsterdamrecords.com. The reviewer will say no more of this piece--go hear it for yourself! The performers themselves were extremely talented, especially considering their bassist of the evening was not the usual bass player---the actual player fell ill a few days before! However, his replacement played commendably. A concert that will definitely go into the memory as a favorite.

I'm exhausted...long drives do not suit me well.  I spent most of the day sleeping to make up for it.  Hope everyone is having a pleasent November!

Oct. 29th, 2009

harp, hat, antiharpist, myself

The Only Halloween Playlist You'll Need....Maybe. 2009 Halloween Playlist

It's that time of year again folks----and if you're sick of the same old same old, I've got something for you: a pretty sweet list that contains very little ACTUAL Halloween music, but songs that some of us listen to all year long, celebrating the Halloween-ness of life. Ahem. Anyway, some classics, some new, and it's all great and (for the most part) danceable. 42 tracks, 2.8 hours of stuff. You can bet your booty I'm going to be playing this list at MY shindig on All Hallow's.....maybe you'll play it, too......

And a healthy reminder to dress up as a pirate---but not to pirate music!!!


Bittersweet---Villie Vallo, Lauri, and Apocalyptica


In the Shadows---The Rasmus


System (Why Won’t You Die?)---from the Queen of the Damned Soundtrack; David Draiman

Let The Bodies Hit The Floor--Disturbed

The Rake’s Song---The Decembrists (yes, yes, I know I plug this song too much)

I Put A Spell On You---Marilyn Manson

Please Don’t Touch---Polly Scattergood

The Monster Mash---Bobby “Boris” Picket and the Crypt-keepers

Don’t Fear the Reaper---Heaven 17


Superstition/Karma Mashup---Alicia Keys vs. Stevie Wonder

Heresy---Nine Inch Nails

People Are Strange---The Doors

Down With The Sickness---Disturbed

Wish I Had An Angel---Nightwish

The Killing Moon---Echo and the Bunnymen

Werewolves of London---Warren Zevon

Mad World---Gary Jules

Sway--Coal Chamber

Thriller---Michael Jackson

Come To Daddy--Aphex Twin OR: Climbing Up The Walls---Radiohead

Getting Away With Murder---Papa Roach

The Theme from “Saw”

Somebody’s Watching Me (hi-tack club mix)--Beatfreakz and Rockwell

Time Warp---from Rocky Horror Picture Show

Walking On Air---Kerli Koiv

Tainted Love---Marilyn Manson

What Have You Done---Within Temptation

Revenga---System of a Down

Time Is Running Out---Muse

The Horror of Our Love---Ludo

Pretty When You Cry---Vast

Helter Skelter---The Beatles


Insect Eyes---Devendra Banhart

Run Like Hell---Pink Floyd

Ghostbusters--Ray Parker Jr.

Bohemian Rhapsody--Queen

That Old Black Magic----Sammy Davis Jr

Wo Bist Du----Rammstein

Oct. 25th, 2009

harp, hat, antiharpist, myself

The Nightmare that is Midterm Time

LAWD Almighty!!!!!

Midterm time has passed, except for one: the dreaded arrangement of Ravel's Sonatine for piano (the Modere,) for string orchestra.

I'm barely into it and already I'm tearing my hair out.  Thank goodness it's only the first 23 measures or I'd really be screwed.  Due Tuesday.  '

Ravel is a fascinating composer who really knew how to use color well.  I am not good with color when it comes to taking someone else's work and re-arranging it. Also, this is the second thing I've arranged for strings, and I got a low B on the first one so this one really, really needs to be well done.  Ack!!!  This class is deadly.....

Is it bad the contrabasses (contrabassi?) only get about 4 notes?  I like the bass, but the whole piano version sits in the treble clef and I'd hate to lower part of it....


Oct. 8th, 2009

harp, hat, antiharpist, myself

Long Days, Longer Weekends....

OKAY So after about two days now with little food and little sleep, (and even less time) I have just now managed to get my computer into mostly working shape....that post last night was made from an outside computer, but now I can write once more from the relative comfort of my laptop.  So here we go:

......while in the vicinity of Peabody for the concert reviewed below, I got to have a great conversation with Courtney Orlando (of Alarm Will Sound), and I thought I'd share a few of the things she told me:

1.) It's who you know
2.) It's luck
3.) Follow your passion (because sometimes it's just for the love and not for the money)
4.) It is not necessary to have a backup degree unless you really want it.
5.) Be nice to people.

So there, my fellow musicians and career-starters: from the mouth of a successful woman (at least in my book, anyway.)

Similarly, I got a chance to speak with Judah Adashi, a composer that's very talented (and I think everyone should check out his stuff), and if you are anywhere near the Baltimore area, he runs a concert series that's also supposedly very good.  I'll get you the name of the venue as soon as I can, I have to look it up because I think I didn't write it down when speaking with him.....anyway, he had two things to add:

6.) Never burn your bridges, because you never know when you might see someone again in this small musical world we live in.
7.) Never show up to a rehearsal unprepared, or blow off a new composer's piece.

I have to say on that last one that I could not imagine coming into something and screwing up a new composer's piece.  There are a ton of young musicians (at my school, go figure) that sort of think they can blow off new music.  That it's not important or something.  But I mean--why would you??  These people are the future of our musical world!  Why would you ever want to piss them off?  Because word gets around that you didn't practice their piece, and then every other composer that's there won't want to ask you to play either.  You'll forever be labeled a flake. 

I don't know, maybe I'm just fortunate that my studio encourages professionalism in all matters.  But really people, get with the program!  Listen to the wise words of these people ^  because they know what they're talking about.  Network, be nice, and behave.  That's pretty much it.


Oct. 7th, 2009

harp, hat, antiharpist, myself

(no subject)

“An American Episode: Judith L. Zaimont’s Piano Concerto”[1]

                                             a musical review by the Antiharpist (copyright 2009)


            40 minutes before a concert by the Peabody Wind Ensemble, I crept throughout the gathering musicians and audience members, asking around to see whether or not attendees were aware of the world premiere that evening--and more importantly, what the players actually thought of it. There were supposedly less than 200 tickets sold for the concert according to the box office,  although the hall looked full to the untrained eye. The attendees were mostly family members of the musicians. And the players thought the piece was “pretty good”, and “active”, although some of them seemed tight-lipped and nervous. Tonight, the PWE, as called in short, would premiere “Solar Traveller”, a concerto in three movements for piano and wind orchestra by Judith Lang Zaimont. The pianist of the evening was young and talented Timothy Hoft, playing on a Steinway. Mrs. Zaimont did, in fact, attend. Zaimont has been called, by Fanfare magazine, a composer that is “capable of a broad audience appeal.” This seems to be true considering the broad array of material that can be excavated from this piece alone. 

            A background of Zaimont should be necessary to understand the influences in her music, but in this case it is not largely helpful. Born in 1945, her music seems to span anything from ragtime to Bernstein to Stravinsky (at least, in her “Rite of Spring” like passages…). But curiously, her website and most of her interviews do not list any of her compositional teachers or influences, rather, it emphasizes the fact that she is inspired at random times, even in her sleep. However, on a separate page (in very-hard-to-find print,) it states that she studied with the composition teachers at CUNY, including Perle, Weisgall, and Kraft; and later, Andre Jolivet in Paris. She did study piano, however, with Mme. Lhevinne at the Julliard School when she was young. Judging by the music of Kraft and Perle, her education was largely atonal, with some elements of (still atonal, yet,) film-like music from Weisgall. Jolivet’s music was also dissonant, so in some ways it is odd that although her professional education largely involved atonal composers, somehow, her sound today is so unique--and while not necessarily tonal--not necessarily dissonant, either.

            When asked directly what her influences were, she replied with: “I am a pianist, as you probably could tell from listening.“ I could, I said. “I like pieces with lots of stuff in it,” she concluded as a woman chortled beside her. There was certainly a lot of stuff in her music. She has also been quoted as saying: “The whole world is music,” and this is also obvious from hearing her work.

            Solar Traveller, written this year, is “absolute music” according to the program notes. It is meant to be largely coloristic, “large form”, and of course, a comprehensive work for the piano. The spoken introduction to the piece by the conductor contained a telling sentence: “Once you start a performance, you are along for the ride, and this is very much true for this piece.“ The first movement, called “Outward Bound”, is supposed to contain two themes, one heroic, one moody. But in hearing, it is harder to distinguish the themes than originally suggested by the program notes. (And the program notes read like an Augusta Thomas work--largely focused on nature and spacial ideals.)   Two harps, percussion, and the piano open with the lighter woodwinds in upward, sweeping motions. Large amounts of glissandi give us the impression of space or moving upward (highly appropriate considering the title). And yet as soon as the rest of the woodwinds and the brass enter, the piano is completely drowned out. For the first time that evening, but not the last, I was disappointed by the balance, and I was unable to discern whether it was the acoustics in the concert hall, or just poor orchestration and dynamic balance on the part of Mrs. Zaimont. (Although considering her lengthy list of works, somehow I doubt the latter....) Flourishes, modulations, and pulsating tonguing motions in the winds permeate this movement. Then the piano is solo (and heard!) with moody and beautiful passages. Influences of jazz and Stravinsky seemed apparent in the harmonic language, although there was Debussy-ian sweetness to the lilting right hand motions.

            Melodies were hard to distinguish in all of the movements. There were some beautiful moments where the harmonies and the orchestra really opened up from a soft dynamic into a full, lush, movie-music-like sound that caused audience members to sigh, but the ability to actually recall anything from the performance has left me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Bernstein, at least in his “Age of Anxiety” symphony, and Copland-like rhythmic choices seemed to also feature a lot throughout the piece, whether intentional or not. There were also Asian-like influences, most likely fourths that I kept hearing, in the woodwinds. The first movement ended very suddenly and brashly, and I felt myself a little taken aback, or at least startled. There are many pieces that end this way, but for some reason it bothered me. 

            The second movement, entitled “Nocturne (Lunar)”, was very introspective and dissonant, yet chilling on the piano. There was then an entrance in the percussion that seemed to directly quote the famous downbeats of Rite of Spring in the accompanying orchestra and percussion parts. A beautiful flute and piano duet occur, although it was, again, not a memorable melody. It did serve a purpose though, and the sudden contrast with the percussion startled all listeners. For the second time in the evening, although the first I commented upon it--there was a strange entrance in the cymbals. This proceeded to happen throughout the work. I am not sure if it was a mistake on the player’s part, just entering at the wrong time, or if it was genuinely written that way, but oftentimes the entrance of the percussionists seemed contrived and forced, and often very jarring, and not in a good way. I do not mind if composers shock or scare in a piece, but in this case it seemed like it would always happen when something else was going on, and it was chaos trying to decide what to listen to--the marching-band like percussion, or the actual piece occurring along with it. Regardless, the second movement was a movement of contrasts, and yes, a Scherzo as suggested in the program notes.

            The third movement was largely percussive--and ruined by the triangle. “Ad astra per aspera”, which means: “to the stars through hardships”, begins with what might have been a really intense percussion part--and then a triangle comes in and jars the listener, again, not in a good way. It seemed out of place and completely unnecessary.   There are John Adam’s-like shifts in quick motions; bangs and creaks throughout the orchestra. The piano part in this is also a little reminiscent of the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 1 in its contrasting motions. A strange waltz starts, and is interrupted. Rim clicks penetrate the fabric of the orchestra, and then the flute and piano fight over dominance in the high register. The “heroic” theme reenters and I am again disappointed when the piano is drowned out by the ensemble. The ending is very typically “American” old-fashioned movie like, with two chords resembling the end of Stravinsky’s “Symphony in three Movements”. 

            When the audience clapped at the end, there was not a standing ovation even though the composer was brought to the front, though the clapping lasted a long time. I think there was a general air of strangled satisfaction: the piece was quite good, but there were elements that just didn’t sit well. This is not to say the piece was not a success, or should not be performed.    The piano part, when it could be distinguished, was virtuosic and lovely, and there were many shining moments throughout the piece. It was certainly made up of a lot of “stuff”, and it is still amazing to this reviewer that a composer without a lot of formal training (according to her biography) could weld together something so intriguing. I would not agree with her that the piece has much in the way of “form” if defined by conventional terms, because I would call it more episodic with repetition; but it did carry weight, and held its own. I would hear it again, if only to answer my questions regarding the cymbal part, and the general dynamic level of the orchestra drowning out the soloist. Mrs. Zaimont was successful in creating a work with appeal to many different sources.

[1] Premiered on Wednesday, Oct. 7th, 2009.

Oct. 5th, 2009

harp, hat, antiharpist, myself


So my computer crashed and I lost everything, hence why there was no Hump Day Playlist before...

....so I'm going to make up for it by telling you all to buy and listen to the Decemberist's album: "The Hazards of Love".  I've heard their stuff before, loved it, maybe listened to a few tracks that I liked, you know...enjoyed the cover art...

...but THIS is something entirely new.  I was addicted to this album the second I started listening to it.  Lilting vocals, lyrics with a story that are still vague enough to interpret how you want them, rocking instrumentals (literally) and changing beats mixed with harpsichords and classic folk-rock/ classic rock sounds.  A well put together album--haven't heard a song I haven't liked on it yet (and I've almost finished the whole album).  That's saying a lot coming from me.  I haven't been this addicted to an album in about a year.

Some highlights: "The Rake Song", which I recommended last post......it's intense, very very dark, and weirdly catchy to the point you'll be getting it stuck in your head for a couple days.  Grungy guitars, creepy howling noises and layered vocals (listen to the song to get why) and sweet accented drum beats.   If you don't feel bad for the Rake's kids by the end of this, you're heartless, ha ha....  I like the credits in the booklet too: "yelling" for the background vocals.  Again, you'll see why....

"The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid":  Starting out simply enough, it appears harmless, acapella vocals with clever lyric pauses, over top of a harpsichord. And then the drums and the guitar enters....and after some choral type vocals beneath his singing, the music changes to a dark rock song and the mother sings her piece......dear lord, I'm terrified already and I don't even know what's going on.  But it's awfully rocking.  I'm trying to get the Moses references (reeds and baskets) but whatever, it's great!

"Isn't It A Lovely Night":  It could be any backyard Louisiana garden party, or it could be something from the soundtrack of Amelie...although the female vocals freaked me out a little and wandered from the pitch a bit (Betty Stark, I believe her name is...), the music is quite beautiful.  She does manage to sound somewhere between breathy and jazzy...reminiscent of Carly Simon.  A duet with Colin Maloy.  The harmony is quaint.  But again, I think I'd like it more if her vocals were more pitched.  Some will laugh at me for even trying to talk about pitch when it comes to some of Maloy's vocals, but he really does keep pitch!

"Annan Water": Opening with driving rhythm with the accordian, this piece actually gave me chills when the guitar first started in.  Colin's vocals lilt overtop, and grow.  I'm kind of sad because a folk song I wrote actually uses some of the same words as this song (and I didn't know this before I wrote it!!!)....so....yeah.  I'm just going to say a lot of folk songs borrow from similar sources and sound alike!!!  But yeah, back to the song.....the percussion is nice too, and this song is somewhere between alternative rock and folk again (as usual)  So it's nice.  But then the driving rhythm disappears and a major-key-playing-organ sits beneath a capellla harmonized vocals.  Very Fleetwood Mac,-ish very nice.  And then it drops back to minor again.  Sweet. 

I should probably add this is all set up like the old Pink Floyd concept albums.  The songs all connect, and it's great. It even has interlude and scene changes with clever musical moments (including some bluegrass-harking songs and silky strings.) The story follows the troubles that befall a woman named Margaret...and beyond that, it's better if you just listen to the album yourself, because a lot is open to interpretation!

And the girl, Shara's, vocals, are simply chilling, recalling both old 60s singers like Joplin and Joni Mitchell, as well as overtones of some more modern females with lower-sitting voices like Fiona Apple and Tori Amos.  Colin Meloy's vocals are the same as always--slightly emo, slightly whiny, slightly folksy.  Quintessential Meloy. 

This album is strange, too, in comparison to their other things--it doesn't sound like anything they've really done before.  I mean, Hazards of Love IV has a definite country music slide guitar moment!! And maybe I haven't listened to enough of the old Decemberists but...still.

SPIN magazine has a pretty negative take on this album, calling it a gambit, but frankly, I like it.  I haven't really liked everything that the Decemberists did, before. (Not entire albums, anyway).  Maybe it's just because I can tolerate long operas and stuff so this "17 track Opus" as SPIN calls it doesn't really bother me.  But really, it's gorgeous.  Don't just take my word for it...listen and form your own opinions!

This is the Antiharpist.....out!

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