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I have another music recommendation: Tanya Tagaq. Tagaq is an Inuk throat singer. If you've heard Tuvan throat singing, this is--not the same thing. Her music is very visceral. I would recommend listening to Aorta from her latest album. If you like that, you'll probably like other of her stuff. If you hate that, well. At least you'll have been exposed to something novel.
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This time of year is kind of like New Year's for auditors. I've actually been talking about my new year's resolutions at work, even though it's March. Um...happy Nowruz?

One of them is to actually post. I still write LJ posts, just...in my head. And never get around to actually typing them. I also want to put more of my photo albums into photo books, and I love adding email and lj posts for flavor, so I'm falling down a nostalgia hole that's reminding me that I do enjoy reading my own posts, at least, even if no one else does. So!

Two random things make a post.

1) Saw Logan. A++. spoilers )

2) I am continuously on a new music discovery voyage, and man, I found something incredible. Maxida Marak and the Downhill Bluegrass Band. Marak is a Sami singer (the indigenous people of northern Sweden). The collaboration with the bluegrass band seems to be a one-off, which is a shame, because the album "Mountain Songs and Other Stories" is flawless. It includes fantistic covers of "Darling Corey" and "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive," as well as traditional Sami songs with bluegrass arrangements. If you are a fan of bluegrass at all, check it out.


Sep. 4th, 2016 01:16 pm
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On Tuesday, I saw Hamilton.

It felt like I spent the evening on a different planet. I bought the ticket a year ago, because I realized if I wanted to see it, I should buy the ticket before the Tony nominations, and I refused to pay more than $100. This meant clicking through every single performance till I found the first one with a single ticket for $100. Since I bought the ticket so long ago, I've had several dreams about seeing it, and I was incredibly anxious I'd forget the date or the time or lose the ticket or they wouldn't let me in or something. Even when I was waiting in line, I didn't believe it until they actually scanned my ticket and let me into the theater.

There was also the anxiety of, I was pretty sure this was my only chance to see the show. Since I'm an accountant, to put it an accountant way, the book value of my ticket, that is the historical cost, was $100. But the replacement value was $400 or $600. So I kept thinking, what if I get a headache? What if I have to pee? What if the people sitting next to me are jerks?

What I'm saying is, I see a lot of live theater, and the little imperfections are just part of it and usually don't bother me much, but because this was HAMILTON, and because I had to wait so long, OMG WHAT IF IT ISN'T PERFECT.

Then I got into theater, and holy crap, I've never seen merch move like this. I mean, it makes sense. If you spend $80 on a theater ticket, no, you're not going to spend another $40 on a sweatshirt. But if you spent $2,000 to take your family to see it? Then hell yes, you're going to buy a $35 T-shirt. At least then you'll have something tangible for what you just spent.

All this meant that people clogged up the lobby; you could barely move. The restrooms were also in the basement. I was sitting in the rear mezzanine, which was three flights up. I ran up and down those stairs three times--twice before the show, because I am an anxious dooby, and once at intermission. The bathroom line for intermission wrapped all the way into the orchestra section and down the aisle. I booked it from my seat as soon as the lights came up and still only made it back just before the second act started.

Then the seats themselves, which were just the minimum size I could wedge myself into. My thigh bone was too long for the distance between the rows, which meant it was one of those where you have to twist your feet to the sides and angle your legs and that's the one position you can sit in. For the next three hours.

The atmosphere was also something else. It was like a rock concert or opening night of a Marvel movie. The lights went down and everyone was like WOOOOOO! Every time a new person came on stage WOOOOO! And I was in the nosebleeds, which is where the true fans are, the ones who are just grateful to be in the theater. It was electric. In all my performances, there have only been one or two times when I could tell the audience was on board like that, and there was energy between them and the stage. And Hamilton gets that electricity every night?

The show then has so many words, you have to watch it with laser-like focus, attention unwavering or you'll miss something. All of this to say, I entered into an alternate physical reality that ran by its own rules.

Then the show itself.

I managed to avoid listening to the score at all (except for snatches of three songs) before watching the show, and that was the right choice for me to experience. Odd to talk about spoilers when it's based on historical fact, but a) I knew the broad strokes of the history, that doesn't mean I knew the granular details, and b) even if I had known all of that, the choices made in presenting the story are their own kind of spoiler.

So the rest of this is going under a spoiler cut )

I realize I am late to the party on this one. It's so weird to suddenly be a newbie in a fandom that I've strenuously avoided so far. So I know it's been discussed to death by everybody already. I'm just going to enjoy getting to know the soundtrack recording, and finally getting to dive into this really awesome thing.

Real World

Sep. 3rd, 2016 12:25 pm
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Back in July, I picked up a bunch of used CDs from the Princeton Record Exchange (still my favorite music store--seriously, if you're ever in Princeton, check it out) and have been slowly working my way through the stack.

So far the real gem was Afro Celt Sound System. I looked into it a little bit, and discovered they're released by Real World Records, a label founded by Peter Gabriel that focuses on world music (and that means the whole world, including Europe and North America). Based on that, the next time the local used record store set up a stand at Grove St, I scanned the boxes for Real World releases (they have a distinct color band on the spine, so are easy to id) and picked up a few more.

So far, everything has been excellent (Jocelyn Pook, Geoffrey Oryema). I've never been a fan of a record label before, but I'm thinking I will repeat this plan in the future, and focus on picking up Real World records whenever I'm buying used CDs. I'm sure there are some stinkers in the over 200 albums they've released, but whoever gives the musical direction to the label seems to have tastes very close to mine.
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The concert season is over for my choir, and so I've been feeling a little wistful and listening to recordings of old Dessoff concerts. I keep the recordings of everything we do--in fact, I have recordings all the way back to high school, though those are still on tape. As I've been in Dessoff for more than a decade, we are talking several days worth of music. And that's not even including the recordings of my a cappella group.

This spring, we sang Rossini's "Petite Messe Solonelle," which I sang in high school and haven't sung since. It's been more than fifteen years since I sang it, and well over a decade since I listened to it. But when we sat down to our first rehearsal, I could sing the fugue at full speed and full volume with almost no errors--I remembered it completely. There's something about the things you learn in high school--both the incredible number of repetitions as compared to what I do now (which is sometimes run it once then go) and the plasticity of the teenage brain. Those pieces are lodged in there. I can remember a snatch of music I heard at a concert when I was sixteen and have never been able to find since. I can sing the entirety of a song about fog I sang in middle school and haven't heard since.

But these concerts over the last decade? Some of the pieces I remember all the way through. Some I remember the conductor talking to us about the piece, but I don't remember the music. Some I only remember one eight bar section--the tricky part we rehearsed over and over--and the rest is a blank.

And then there's an entire concert I don't remember at all. If you played it for me, I'd tell you I'd never heard those pieces before, let alone performed them. Yet I'm sure if I looked for it, I'd find both the program to that concert and the music with my markings in it. Maybe it's just cause that concert is Monteverdi and Gabrieli, and if there's a period of music that speaks to me less than Italian Renaissance, I haven't found it. Or maybe I'm just getting old.
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Because studying for the CPA is so intensely boring, I've been acquiring new music at a prodigious rate. This is not helped by either a) being about two blocks from a good music store and b) mp3 downloads.

Mostly I've acquired a lot of Philip Glass. Wow, that guy is prolific. And a lot of his stuff sounds substantially similar. The stand out has been "Facades."

Since the guy at the check out asked me, when I walked up with a handful of Glass CDs if "that was the guy with the train stuff," I went home and looked up who the guy with the "train stuff" was, which turns out to be Steve Reich. So I finally acquired "Music for 18 Musicians," which had been on my list, and have ordered "Different Trains." So far, really enjoying "Music for 18 Musicians."

I also picked up another Olafur Arnalds album, "For Now I Am Winter" (already had "Dyad 1909," which is great). "For Now I Am Winter is good, except for the stuff with lyrics which I can't study against.

Now I'm eyeing other Max Richter albums...somebody stop me, this is getting ridiculous.
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I have acquired a new album of Bulgarian choral music (that is not as random as it seems--Bulgarian singing is AMAZING), and was listening through it, and came to this. Have a listen. Sound familiar?

That's because James Horner completely stole it for the main theme of the Willow soundtrack.

Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares was kind of a craze in the eighties. (You know the Xena main theme? Bulgarian.) I will bet you anything you want that I know what cassette was in Horner's tape deck sometime around 1988.
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I am listening to Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" as I do CPA questions, an album that is half awesome and half terrible.

- The best part of "Black or White" is the sound of Macauley Culkin changing the cassette in his tape deck. Man, I miss that sound.

- I still cannot understand like half the lyrics. "Cause the will has brought no--" Frictions? Functions? What?

- There is a song called "In the Closet" that is explicitly heterosexual. It's so explicitly about a WOMAN and a MAN, that it feels like it's overcompensating for something. Like, really, what could a song called "In the Closet" be about?
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I have another case do, so you're getting a post on not that!

Watched 20 Feet from Stardom last night. It is fantastic. It gives a history of pop music over the last 60 years, highlighting the exploitation of black female voices. I mean, that's not the only thread going on, but one of the singers said, of British rock and rollers, "They wanted to sound black. So they had us." It also points out the disconnect between talent and success, talking about the failed solo careers of many of the singers. But they also talk about a woman, my new idol, Lisa Fischer, who put out a solo album--and won a Grammy for it--but didn't really want to do that. She really enjoys singing backup, so that's what she does. She doesn't want to be out front. Several people talked about the power of voices in harmony, and how some singers just prefer that to singing solo. That's certainly something that resonates with me (and my small talent). I get a lot more out of being part of the group than I do out of being out front.

What I found most interesting was to realize that the backup singers on like 90% of everything you've ever listened to are the same dozen or so people. It is a small world, session backup singers, and as each artist strives to capture the sound of other artists, they use the same backup groups. Makes me wish they were more frequently credited so that I could more easily track their careers. I mean, I'd like just to have a playlist of all the things I already own with these singers on them.

It was also heartening to see that, when I plugged 20 Feet from Stardom into amazon, looking for the soundtrack, it brought up all of the failed solo albums of the featured singers as things I might like. I bet this doc has actually done a fair bit of sales for them. I hope they get some of the residuals.

In conclusion, a great documentary that looked at a lot of different issues, not just failed ambition, and features amazing music. It's streaming on netflix--check it out.
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When I'm listening through my (extensive) music collection, I create playlists where I pull out the tracks that I like so I don't lose track of them. I then usually put these tracks into some sort of sensible order.

Right now I'm listening to one of these dumping ground playlists that I never got around to organizing. Which means I just listened to the Flower Duet, followed by "Adagio" by Albinoni, "Bolero," "The Musical Typewriter," and then "Night on Bald Mountain." This is...weird.
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I am listening to a radio documentary on John Cage's "Four minutes thirty-three seconds." Does it ever get performed any more? I've never seen it programed. I mean, it is fundamentally changed if the audience knows what it is, and it's so famous now that most classical audiences would know it. So can it even be performed anymore?

I think it's one of the most important modern classical music compositions, but I've never heard it in concert, and a recording would be pointless. And maybe a performance would be pointless now, too. Maybe it's just important that it happened.
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It is old home week on my iPod. I've been listening to stuff I haven't really listened to since high school.

Riverdance by Bill Whelan - I know, I know, Riverdance all became something of a joke, but the CD still holds up. I have to be all hipster about this album, too, and say I bought it back when it was a $17 import, before the show had come over here. (I bought it from Borders, too. All the money from my first job went to the music section in the Borders at the Atrium Mall. Before amazon, Borders was the only place with any decent selection, where you had even a hope of getting good classical or international music.)

When I listen to Celtic music now, I tend to listen to stuff that hues a little more closely to traditional--LĂșnasa or Navan. Riverdance is definitely fusion with a pop sensibility, and consequently sounds very nineties. I would say Riverdance can be credited with bringing traditional Irish music into popularity, but Irish music never really went away in the US. But it certainly worked as a bridge for me to get into Celtic music. And I still like it.

Yes, I did see the show, but years later. And mostly what I remember is that the lead dancer fell over.

Ray of Light by Madonna - This is, by any objective measure, a terrible, terrible album. It's all crap techno. I can listen to it and think about how awful it is and yet still enjoy it. This came out when I was a Junior in high school, and there was a time where if you went into the hallway of my dorm, you'd hear either this album or the Titanic soundtrack coming out of every room.

I bought my copy bootleg in Turkey, I'm afraid to say. I did buy a legal copy later, though it was used, so no royalties to Madonna either way. But buying the Turkish version, I got a bonus European release only track.

I think if I listened to this for the first time now, I wouldn't get through the first track before turning it off. But back before Napster, I had much more of a tendency to doggedly listen through the whole album every time, instead of just picking my favorite tracks and skipping the others. I'd say it was a consequence of owning less music, but I had more than 200 CDs at the time. But it does mean, though I bought the album just for "Frozen," I kind of like the whole thing, through sheer repetition.
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I am doing some packing, which means I'm finally ripping some CDs my mom picked up in a bargain bin and thought I might like and--what the hell is coming out of my speakers? The CD jacket showed an Indian dancer, so my mom assumed it was Indian dance music, and it is a twee little folk song about Italian coffee shop workers.

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I do not normally do pimping posts, but a former coworker of mine, one who sang in my choir for a while, just released an album: The Never Content

She's been promising an album for years. In fact, I first asked her when her album would be out six years ago (I just looked that up--jeez, that's a long time) when I went to her band's show in one of the most ill-advised excursions of my life. It started with seeing X-Men 3, and then going to this show, which didn't end its sound check until midnight, and I had a bad stomach bug, so getting home on the subway at three AM was possibly the worst I've felt in my life, but ANYWAY. It is a good band.

The album sounds most like Emiliana Torrini's first album Love in the Time of Science. It's in that electronica, Massive Attack type of style. (Amazon calls it dance pop, but...not really?) You can hear extended clips on iTunes, but if you like that type of music at all, this is really good. I've been listening to it almost continuously since I downloaded it.
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I saw Carmina Burana at the Phil last night. I went to the pre-concert talk cause why not, but don't think I will again. If you closed your eyes, the lecture was delivered very well, but the speaker was quite physically awkward. He had his eyes rolled up to the cieling the whole time and kept taking one step forward, then one step back, and he was hugging himself. Also, he clearly was way more interested in the other thing on the program than the Carmina Burana. He talked a little about the Carmina Burana, but mostly to say gosh it's popular, probably because it's so repetitive.

The other thing on the program was Atlantida by Falla, a composer I've never heard of but the lecturer kept talking about as if we all knew, of course, all of Falla's music. Atlantida is almost never performed, which is why they tacked on excerpts from it to a concert whose program draw was the other piece, so that people were actually in the audience for it. And I'm sorry--there's a reason it's not played. it's not very good. And it's just dripping Spanish nationalism, especially with this idea of Spain's conquests in the New World being just a reunion with the Old World. Plus it was written during the Spanish Civil War, so there's some baggage there.

So--anyway--the Carmina Burana.

I was sitting in row J, which, since they'd extended the stage, was the second row. From this close, the acoustic is very odd. It's not just that I'm five feet from the violas and yards away from anything else, it's that the stage and and violists are in between me and most of the orchestra, so it sounds a bit like they're playing out of a well. I knew this when I bought the seats--I wanted to be close enough to feel the sound. And I was. The bass drum made the floor vibrate.

The performance was very, very good. It was a guest conductor, who brought a choir with him from Spain. As a chorister, I could tell they were doing an excellent job. I could hear every consonant. And of course I was close enough for the loud sections to blow my hair back. There was only one section that didn't quite pull together--"In Taberna" was very wudgy. If the conductor points at the violin section then, still looking at them, at the chorus, you know something's gone awry. This conductor had some unusual tempi, so my guess is he rehearsed it with the choir in advance so they were absolutely with him, but the Phil probably only had one or two rehearsals, and didn't follow the tempo changes quite right.

The soloists were fantastic. The Swan absolutely had the audience in the palm of his hand, and I was close enough to see his facial expressions. The bass was also acting up a storm. The soprano was on the far side of the stage, so I couldn't see her, but I am just awed at her "Dulcissime." She did a run up to the high note, just touching on each passing note, that sounded like those little fairies in Fantasia skipping over the surface of the water.

I had an enormous grin on my face practically the whole time.

The one thing that was slightly irksome is that they had supertitles. And I get that this piece is supposed to be the most accessible piece in the classical music canon, so it makes sense to do that, but I know the gist if not the specifics of the lyrics, so found it kind of distracting. If you're reading, you're not listening completely. So my favorite sections I listened to with my eyes closed. (And of course the person sitting next to me was extremely annoying and kept elbowing me, but when is that ever not the case?)

In conclusion, fantastic performance. If they put it up on iTunes, which they sometimes do, though I doubt they will since they had guest artists, I would definitely buy it.


May. 16th, 2012 01:11 pm
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As I hinted in my previous post, I spent last night recording bits for Radiolab.

I knew it was going to be an unconventional night when I showed up to the church early and was told I couldn't go in until the trampoline class had finished. Yes, the class was in the sanctuary. It's a traditional older church, but has chairs instead of pews, so they clear the chairs and set up trampolines and tumbling mats. I snuck in to use the bathroom and was stuck downstairs for five minutes as an enormous rolled mat blocked my way. They were wrestling it onto a shelf above the stairs, climbing over the railings, and balancing on ledges. Trampoline class with kids jumping in a space with great stone pillars and climbing on stacked chairs and over staircases? I see no liability issues at all!

Once they'd cleared, about 120 singers from a couple dozen different choral organizations showed up. There was a core of people from the Young New Yorkers Chorus, whose rehearsal space we were using. I was briefly in the YNYC about eight years ago, where I discovered that it was where old college a cappella singers go when they retire. This is apparently still true as I had a surprise encounter with a Tigression I haven't seen in at least five years.

So. Radiolab.

Super duper ultravioleeeeeeeeeeeet )

I am eager to hear how this all pieces together for the episode. This episode will air next Tuesday.

Afterwards, I of course had to tell him what a big fan I was, and how fun it was to see how he puts a piece together. He said this was all a bit of an experiment--I told him he could experiment on us anytime. (Heh.) From the emails from his producer, it seems they didn't expect to be able to get a choir of 120 people to show up. Oh little does he realize how many fans the show has--or how many choirs New York has. (According to a fellow Dessie, 150.)
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I just had one of the more bizarre experiences of my life.

Turns out if you get eighty choral singers from 20 different choirs together in a room, and ask them to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" with no music and just a D major chord to start, they can do it. Even if you randomly swap some of the words for "mantis shrimp."
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Just got back from a Dar Williams concert. Dar has always been one for random banter. This time, there was this gem: "It's like being vindictive about death. Or time. Like, eternity. So this isn't vindictive or triumphant. It's a hydrangea. ...Or a peony."

Also, the opening act was a soft and sweet folk duo in the mold of Simon and Garfunkel with hilarious stage banter. But more to the point, their albums are free to download off their site, which I will be doing. Check them out: The Milk Carton Kids (sooooo hipster omg)
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Just went to a Red Molly concert with [livejournal.com profile] jethrien. Imagine if Eliza Dushku was a folk singer--that is the newest member of the group, Molly Venter.

I loved Carolann, but I bought Molly's CD, I confess.
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I just got Johnny Cash's album The Man Comes Around. "Hurt" is really the most emo song ever written. (Yes, I know it's Trent Reznor.) From now on, if someone asks me what emo is, I will play this song. I love it so.


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