Morricone is the Man

 

I’ve had this in a browser tab for a couple weeks because I knew if I started to play these videos, there went the afternoon. And there it went.

You’ve heard this music before, I’m sure, but what a pleasure to see it being played, to see how it’s made. Morricone is simply a titan among composers, one of the finest melodists ever, and a master of structure, especially rhythmic, and form. And oh, that orchestration! The instruments he uses give the music so much of its meaning and effect, and in that he’s a peer of Mahler.

If you want to waste spend your day doing something constructive and fulfilling, play through this entire mix of live movie themes from the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. And if you don’t have any Morricone in your library—you should—I highly recommend these two discs, which give you music from the Westerns, and also some extraordinarily fine themes from movies you will probably never have the chance to see.

“I dig the jacket!”

Kurt Elling

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

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This is What You Want, This is What You Get

 

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This is what you want. Five CDs with singles, B-sides, 12” singles, remixes, unreleased stuff, and a complete live show from the Ritz, 1989. There are two DVDs with videos, two more concerts, and more.

A PiL box set may strike some as odd, but not me. Where the Sex Pistols were a sham group manufactured to take advantage of a commercial trend, PiL is pop without guile—meant to be popular—as well as musically kick-ass. Indulge yourself with a pre-order (out July 20)

In Other News

Ahead of more “rich” content here, check out some new writing elsewhere.

In the Brooklyn Rail, I’ve reviewed two new, worthwhile booksAll Gates Open: The Story of Can, by Rob Young and Irmin Schmidt (out June 12, order here).

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And a collection of writing on Steely Dan, Major Dudes: A Steely Dan Companion, edited by Barney Hoskins (out now, order here).

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I’ve also written an article for VAN Magazine, which I hope will lead to more, about my current situation, which is listening to music through depression.

“I dig the jacket!”

Kurt Elling

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

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Bringing Back the Dead

There’s more than one way to breath musical life into the dead.

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Open THIS LINK in another window, and play. Trust me. (WordPress.com does not support ArteTV video.)

I’m not a purist—graduate school cured me of that—but lately I’ve developed misgivings about completions of works left unfinished when the composer died. The Mozart Requiem, as commonly performed, becomes less interesting and more irritating, and though I need to know every note Mahler ever wrote, my latest concert experience with a completion (Deryck Cooke’s) of Symphony No. 10 left me cold.

There are exceptions, and what makes them so is that they are not completions in the standard sense, i.e. finishing a work. Rather, these are completions where the standard formed is filled out by some other music entirely. That’s the magic of this wonderful recording of the Requiem, with Pierre-Henri Dutron’s original modern music, in a sort of classical style, talks with Mozart, offering him the use of contemporary ideas.

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The same is true with this extraordinary concert that you should have already started playing! Teodor Currentzis has produced some of my favorite recordings of the past few years, entirely rethinking how some of the old classics should go (if you don’t want to start with the Da Ponte operas, get this amazing disc with Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and Les Noces). In this SWR Symphony program (Currentzis will be their next music director), he leads Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 and leaves it in the accidental and sublime perfection of its unfinished state. But he still delivers a four movement symphonic performance, by segueing from the peaceful end directly into Ligeti’s atmospheric and mysterious Lontano.

Not a completion, but an extension. If Bruckner’s music passes into the afterlife, Ligeti’s picks up the thread from there, traveling through a post-life dimension. I find the effect incredible and aesthetically and intellectually fantastic. Music is a continuum, and music from the past lives on in a timeless dimension.

Available to view to July 18, I’ve seen internet rumors that there will be a recording, but ¯_(ツ)_/¯ .

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“I dig the jacket!”

Kurt Elling

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

This Terrible Week

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The last time I saw Matt Marks was in the middle of March. I was heading into the stage door at Carnegie Hall to pick up my press ticket for the concert in Zankel Hall where Alarm Will Sound was to present Ligeti. He was hanging around outside, and before he caught sight of me I pointed at him and said “I’ve got my eye on you tonight, I’m going to be extra tough on you.” Now, sure, I can be an asshole, but I’m not that kind of asshole, it was a joke I could pull on Matt because he had a sense of humor about what he was doing.

And at the same time he was serious about it, and he was a seriously fine musician and performer (not the same things) and also a talented composer who was working at the edge where contemporary opera and contemporary rock-based musical theater meet. I don’t need to go on, best for you to read Steve Smith’s obit and the interview with him by Will Robin at NewMusicBox. I have only to add my personal experience, which is that we were friendly but not friends, the time I interviewed him was to talk about the TV show Hannibal, which I started watching because I knew he was and I respected his values and taste, and that those close to him have lost even more than those of us who care about music.

And then Glenn Branca went. I never knew the man (Phil Kline did, read this). My thoughts about his music was that it didn’t always succeed, but it was necessary. Before Branca did it, no one thought about a guitar ensemble playing rock in symphonic form, and once he started making his Symphonies, we all realized we had wanted and needed someone to think about it and do it. My personal favorite is still The Ascension—not just the music, but the Robert Longo graphics are part of my life’s experience—but he demands attention and he has a permanent legacy in modern music. And I will always admire him for putting Cage’s disparagement of his work on one of his albums.

Debussy Conquers the World

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It’s true. As Steve Reich said in an old issue of The Wire, 20th century music was an argument between Debussy and Schoenberg, and Debussy won. That is, tonality endures (atonality has turned out to be a passing mania) while form and structure have opened up dramatically.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the Warner Brothers Complete Works box:

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Dipping in to its contents over the past few months has convinced me that this is essential, not only for completeness but the quality of the performances inside. Everything has been great, the orchestral recordings of course, but the Preludes and Etudes are gorgeous, and this version of Pelléas et Melisande (which was new to me) has become my favorite.

So how does this DG box compare? It’s $8 or so dollars cheaper, and that gets you 9 fewer discs, so no bargain. And with 9 fewer, is it really complete? The WB box is everything Debussy left on paper, including obscurities that had never before been recorded and works discovered only recently. The caveat from the DG description is that this is the complete “published” works, i.e. everything previously known and extant—with a bonus DVD performance of Pelléas.

Musical quality is equal between the two. Debussy’s work is some of the best recorded in classical music in terms of performance and sound quality—the great musicians have loved this music and produced great documents. If the money saved is valuable enough for you, the DG box is an excellent purchase, but overall the WB Complete Debussy is superior.

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“I dig the jacket!”

Kurt Elling

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice

 

Ambient Zen

What is uncanny about music notation and recording technology is that they document thought and feeling that have passed but become part of us each time played through speakers or by musicians live.

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There is no I, a conscious being separated from the world (the universe, really) by the limits of the physical self, an invisible border that demarcates each individual as they move through time and space.

The I is integrated into the universe in every way, large and small. The sun shines on me and you, and affects processes inside our body and mind (themselves inseparable); we breath in and breath out, consumers and producers of atmosphere; we touch and hold things, and at the smallest level our own atoms intermingle with every object; ourselves would not exist without elements forged when stars explode, stuff that has somehow made its way across billions of light years.

We are also intermixed with sound and music. We hear because sound waves actually touch us, reaching our bodies from a distance and vibrating hairs in our inner ears. In this way, music is a discrete and unique subset of sound in that it is intentional—what we are entangled with are someone’s thoughts and feelings. What is uncanny about music notation and recording technology is that they document thought and feeling that have passed but become part of us each time played through speakers or by musicians live.

Ambient music is a part of this and is an ideal representation of Zen existence because it is meant to be integrated into the immediate universe-the ambience-that surrounds. A set from a band in a club is a performance that takes place in a space, a recording of ambient music creates the space in which it is experienced (in specific situations, especially with Sunn O))) live, the performance creates its own ambient space, and can only exist in that particular, transitory arena).

If the idea and experience of ambient music move you, than you are in a golden era. Ambient music is prolific, broad, and deep. Sound recording and simple—to—complex sound creating technology is plentiful and inexpensive. People are making fantastic music in their basements and bedrooms and distributing it globally via sites like Bandcamp and individual net labels. Styles range from Sunn O))) and their avant-garde communal mysticism to Christopher Cerrone’s compositions, from the drone songs of Sister Grotto to the processed field recordings of Kate Carr, from the black painting aesthetic of Jeremy Bible to the gone—away—world collages of Fossil Aerosol Mining Project.

I listen to a lot of this music. At the point of personal desire and need, I listen at home to more of it than jazz and classical music combined. I am not a zen acolyte, but beyond how the beauty of it appeals to me, it has the effect on my mind, my sense of time, and my connection to the world that feels like a practice.

Like the world itself, there are myriad ways to experience ambient music, from the hypnagogic to the sensual. I suggest exploring the playlist below and checking out some of my favorites from the past 18 months on Band camp, the only place to find many of these artists.

 

 

 

 

 

For further reading:

Sounds of Futures’ Past at New Music Box

Sadie Starnes on Japanese ambient music at the Brooklyn Rail

• My survey of post-apocalyptic ambient music at Band camp

Ambient Church

Like what you read? Subscribe for 2018 to have access to all content. Only $20 for the calendar year!

“I dig the jacket!”

Kurt Elling

“…Edgy models include Brooklyn Rail…”

San Francisco Classical Voice