Hot Weather Music

No songs-of-summer-commercial-pap-to-get-you-to-buy-beer here, but Summer music, music old and new that I listen to in the hot weather. This is a pretty personal list, it comes out of how I want music to make my mind feel in the middle of a heat wave like we just had, and it’s inseparable from my NY City days of early summer manhood, when summer was also a time to discover new things because I wanted to spend as little time as possible in my hot, horrible, SRO room. Music that offers cool clarity or the galvanizing energy and hope of youth.

  • Don Cherry, Home Boy. I can’t say this enough, avant-garde jazz musicians make the best funky music, and this is one of Cherry’s finest recordings. “Avenue A Avenue B Avenue C Avenue D / Ain’t no E now.”
  • Max Goberman conducting the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, The Symphonies of Haydn. This is an excellent set from a conductor who is now essentially forgotten, but was instrumental in bringing more life and attention to these great works. He died before he could record all of the symphonies, but this is a substantial selection, and the thinking and playing exceeds the famous Dorati set.
  • Billy Bragg and Wilco, Mermaid Avenue, The Complete Sessions. A fundamental component in a good music library.
  • Grant Green, Idle Moments. Cooler than cool, hipper than hip. Beautiful and soulful.
  • Wes Montgomery, In the Beginning. A terrific find. A set of recordings from live dates with various musicians lost to time, but the music is swinging and strong. Montgomery is undervalued in our era, and these dates catch him in his youth (1949-58), and his playing is terrific, exciting and pleasing. Sound quality is a little stuffy but the music exceeds that.

  • Jordi Savall conducting La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Monteverdi: L’Orfeo
  • Helmut Koch conducting the Kammerorchester Berlin, Monteverdi: L’Orfeo
  • August Wenzinger conducting Orchester der “Sommerlichen Musiktage Hitzacker 1955”, Monteverdi: L’Orfeo
    • A Monteverdi kick? Not really. I have been thinking a lot about opera, trying to finish writing something, but I listen to L’Orfeo every month, and everyone who claims a love for opera and/or a desire to write operas should be doing the same. L’Orfeo does everything that operas do, from the beginning of the form, and does these things better than everything but a small handful of other operas. The piece is also open to important interpretation, and so it is rewarding to have multiple versions on hand. Of these, Savall’s is newly released, though was recorded several years ago, and is terrific. Even better, in my opinion, are the two historic recordings. The playing and singing don’t have the same knowledge and skill that you’ll hear today, but in the 1950s Monteverdi was essentially unknown, and Koch and Wenzinger’s recordings have the fulfilling sensation of discovery, and are just fascinating and moving to hear.
  • Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation. The real last word on the Tompkins Park riot, and the death of an era.
  • Nordic Affect, Clockworking. Brand new, cool and brilliant. A fascinating and involving set of new chamber music with that particular, contemporary Nordic touch: ineffable yet steely.

  • Egberto Gismonti and Nana Vasconcelos, Duas Vozes. A special record from two unique musicians, a series of duets, loosely formed, that are soothing and dream-like, then coalesce into substantial song. One of my all-time favorites.
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At the Solstice

The heralds of summer are as bright as always, although with the planet’s temperature inexorably rising we may greet them with more ambivalence than one might expect. Baseball marks spring and promises that summer is on its way, but it doesn’t really feel like summer baseball until the endless NHL and NBA seasons finish their championships. But that time has come, despite the ravages of weather. Modern Woodmen Park, Davenport, Iowa, April 20, 2011

The real mark of summer, especially in New York City, is music festivals, especially the al fresco kind. And what a weekend, and following days, the city has in store. The concerts in the parks have started, and although the New York Phil has unfortunately withdrawn from their summer concert series, the enterprising Brooklyn Philharmonic and their new director, Alan Pierson, have offered to fill the gap (they just need a little help, and this seems the perfect use for the buffoonish boosterism of Marty Markowitz). Lincoln Center Out of Doors fills the plaza too, but for concentrated summer rituals, make a choice on Sunday and get out of the house on Tuesday.

Tomorrow, you might have to flip a coin. The annual Bang on a Can Marathon – itself part of the River to River Festival – has the run of the World Financial Center Winter Garden (beautiful, comfortable and resonant inside – the air conditioning was a relief last year as we were already in a run of 90+ degree weather – although it looks like it will be a beautiful day tomorrow) for a scheduled thirteen hours of live music, music of all kinds. It starts at 11:00am with the Asphalt Orchestra, outside, and the amazing Matthew Welch. Inside, the emphasis this years seems to be especially on new music; artists include JACK Quartet, Prism Saxophone Quartet, Todd Reynolds, Sentieri Selvaggi, Maya Beiser, Michael Harrison and Signal. There’s notable pieces fro Michael Gordon, Poul Rouders and Goran Bregovic and the Sun Ra Arkestra. The event is capped by Evan Ziporyn’s gnarly hive and the Glenn Branca Ensemble doing The Ascension: The Sequel, which I suspect is there because it will be the loudest piece (I will be glad to be proven wrong in my anticipation of its quality). I want to mark out for highlight, though, the set that starts at 6:00pm: the feature of it is the Talea Ensemble playing Fausto Romitelli’s Index of Metals, and their playing of Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip last year is still rattling around in my brain. It’s going to be gripping:

The Talea Ensemble play Professor Bad Trip at BOAC Marathon 2010

Excerpt from Index of Metals

More kewl videos here, full schedule here. It’s a lot of music, and it’s rare soul who will stay for the duration – I will be live-blogging as much, and for as long as I can, at my tumblr site, so check there for what you might be missing.

If you prefer the great out of doors, spending time in boats and extreme, all-day loudness, then high-thee-ho to Governors Island for the opening salvo of Make Music New York’s fifth annual day-long musical solstice celebration, Punk Island (full disclosure, I have been writing and editing the excellent MMNY Blog – check it out! – and the fun, witty twitter feed, since early this year, so no critical evaluation in this paragraph). In terms of quantity and concentration, nothing beats Punk Island, not even the BoaC Marathon, and it’s over by 5:00pm, so catching dinner will be no problem. It looks like the rain will hold off, so bring your sunscreen, wear a hat and stay hydrated. Or not. Have a great time, though, if there was no choices I’d be there with you.

On the 21st, the solstice itself, is the main body of Make Music New York. Sunrise that day is 5:23am, and you can greet it in Central Park while performing and experiencing Yoko Ono’s Secret Piece . There is music to see all day long, everywhere, into the evening, the main event among a group of special events will probably be Inuksuit , John Luther Adams massive percussion piece, played, as intended, out doors, in Morningside Park. The festival is participatory, and it’s still open to anyone performing under certain circumstances; you can play a street piano (they have popped-up as of today), you can sing, you can use your iPhone, but most of all you can have a great time, and celebrate.

All these events are for me, you, all of us citizens, they are all free, made possible by the city, generous businesses, armies of volunteers and the composers and musicians who create for all of us.

How To Pass The Dog Days

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Yes, he’s cute, but don’t end up like Arlo, lost in ennui under the oppressive summer heat. This is the time for relaxing, but stimulating, listening and reading. The Big City Recommends™™™™™™™™™™™™:

Reading: Anything by John Le Carré, P.G. Wodehouse and Georges Simenon (depending on your relative taste for tragedy, lethargy or murder), the “U.S.A. Trilogy” by John dos Passos, Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye” (the very best Chandler, it will inspire to drink Gimlets which are truly excellent in hot weather), The Forever Way by Joe Haldeman for a good taste of our likely future, and, even though it doesn’t come out until the end of the month, Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” looks like it might be something special. And the author has a sense of humor:

Just don’t read anything off Jamie Dimon’s list. It may make you rich (doubtful), but it will also bore you and make you a boor (certain). Instead, read WIlliam Lindsay Gresham’s amazing “Nightmare Alley,” by far the greatest noir novel . . .

. . . or Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, fantasy that’s not embarrassing. And if you’ll be preparing the bounty of the season, I can’t recommend “The Frankies Spunito Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual” enough, it’s more than a cookbook, it’s a beautiful guide to the purpose and beauty of cooking itself.

Listening: The best hot weather music gives you a sense of cool, refreshing focus, not matter the style, tempo or activity. There’s a core of that inside EMI’s “Mahler: The Complete Works“, the Haydn Symphonies, Quartets and Piano Sonatas,Live Evil” and “Jack Johnson” from Miles’ electric period, and two hard to find but excellent CDs, this ultra-glitchy collaboration between Gunter Müller and Jason Khan, and Don Cherry’s wonderful pop-funk recording, “Homeboy. “

Cool during the day? Tchiakovsky’s Symphony No. 1 and Debussy, try Biosphere at dusk and at night, with a good book (see above) and a cold drink, Don Byas. You may not want to listen to all of Steve Lacy’s great “The Window,” but Flakes is what you need when it seems you can’t remember the cool air of autumn, and Herbie Hancock’s “Thrust” is cooler than cool. This is dedicated to the ladies . . . oh yeah . . .

UPDATED: Correct videos . . . and no I haven’t had a drink yet today . . .

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