Archive for February, 2000

A bad way to teach music history

Monday, February 28th, 2000

If I taught a progressive rock class (yes, they do exist in at least one university I know of - check out the website for the class at Northern Illinois University), my tests would not involve listening to certain salient pieces and then regurgitating everything you know about them. That’s dumb. If I taught a jazz class, my opinion would not change. Clearly (and unfortunately) my Music 145b professor disagrees with me.

If there’s no beauty, then close your eyes
If there’s no justice, just swallow lies… (and)
Feed your children to the furnace
Breathe the poison in silence!

I hear no furor. Are none appalled?
Or are my visions just madness, all?
Will the winter kill the summer?
(And) will the spring be silent?

Thinking Plague, “Dead Silence”

Hmm…

Saturday, February 26th, 2000

It’s interesting how much more I’m enjoying Dream Theater’s Scenes From a Memory having heard it live. I like it enough now that I might just have to rewrite my review.

Where to start?

Thursday, February 24th, 2000

What is the best way to approach an old (or prolific) band that one has never heard before? I think most people start with the best albums and work their way down to the not-so-great ones, and if they really love the band then they get the weaker ones “for completists only”. But I think it would be kind of neat, if one had plenty of time and money to spare, to do it the other way around, and save the best for last. I suppose some people do it chronologically, which is also kind of neat. Myself, I’m too impatient to get to the good stuff, so I always start with the most generally praised selections.

I am going to purchase a set of earplugs. Why are rock concerts almost always too goddamn loud? Loud is fine, but there’s a limit, guys. The Ozric Tentacles about killed me last July through sheer sonic firepower, and Dream Theater last night almost reached an equivalent decibel level. Yikes.

SMPTe

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2000

Says Bob Eichler about the meaning of “SMPTe” (see yesterday’s entry): “SMPTE stands for Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. It’s usually used in reference to the “SMPTE code”, which is a timing code used on all professional audio and video recordings, so that the engineers can refer to a specific spot in the recording, down to a fraction of a second.” SMPT, of course, might also stand for “Stolt, Morse, Portnoy, Trewavas”.

Still hoping my “empty” theory doesn’t turn out to be true, but my hopes aren’t too high.

Didn’t you see Amadeus?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2000

A good friend of mine, Rich Worf, points out that Richard Wagner was old - by classical standards - when he began writing music: “He was mostly interested in acting and politics and couldn’t even read music until he was 25 or so. That’s still young by jazz standards, but ancient compared to Mozart or Bach.”

The upcoming Transatlantic (Stolt/Morse/Portnoy/Trewavas) album will be entitled SMPTe. Pronounced photetically, this comes out as an odd Spanglish phrase: “es empty”. I hope that doesn’t describe the music.

Forgive me the following undignified indulgence.

Most Amusing Thread Ever in rec.music.classical: “Classical Music: Corrupting Our Youth?” in which one Scott Harper (who, strangely enough, crossposted the thread into rec.sport.football.college) complains about the “Erotica Trio”: “three young, attractive, scantily clad ladies caressing their instruments in very suggestive manners”. There is of course no such trio, Mr. Harper having actually seen an advertisement for the Eroica Trio - who, while they are young, attractive women, don’t exactly dress “scantily”. When presented with this possibility, Mr. Harper promptly called Beethoven a pervert for naming his symphony “Eroica”, and continued: “And no, I don’t ‘get it’… What does the 3rd symphony or a trio have to do with Erotica? Unless you are talking about one of those three-way things, and that is really sick.” It gets better, believe it or not. Read:

In article <38B18FFE.1EEBDC46@erols.com>, hok007@erols.com wrote:

>> Well, I guess theres another example of Beethoven’s perversiveness, eh?
>>
>
>Am I missing something? What is “perversive” about naming a piece of
>music Eroica (i.e., upon the “heroic” figure of a great man)? It is
>*possible* that the Eroica Trio chose the name in part because it
>resonates with the English word “erotic” (and is apt to cause a double
>take in those of us less familiar with its Beethoveenian origins), but
>that hardly makes it or Beethoven perverse.

It is well known about Beethoven’s perversiveness. Didn’t you see
“Amadeus?”

What this guy is even doing in a classical music newsgroup, I have no idea. In addition to his ignorance, he has absolutely no idea what sarcasm is, and he views any argument as a personal attack. What’s with all these Usenet moron types anyway? - they’re all the damn same, I swear. To the newsgroup’s credit, they were fairly tolerant at first, but once Mr. Harper showed himself as an arrogant personality unable to take criticism, they let loose with flames that would do rec.music.progressive proud. I encourage you to go to deja.com and check out this thread… the entertainment is well worth your time. :)

More on creativity in old age

Monday, February 21st, 2000

Josh Kortbein cites Miles DavisBitches Brew, completed when Davis was at a relatively “old” age, as an example of great innovation late in a career. Also some Charles Mingus. I henceforth revise the question to: “are there any composers/instrumentalists who began their work at relatively older ages?” And the associated question (thanks Josh), are such late bloomers at a disadvantage?

Incidentally, the post I cited on 2-19 was a Howard Peirce post on rec.music.bluenote.

Ok, Coltrane

Sunday, February 20th, 2000

Okay, so the obvious counterexample to my comment below about young musicians would be John Coltrane; any other obvious ones?

Creativity in old age?

Saturday, February 19th, 2000

As I read Ted Gioia’s book The History of Jazz, it’s striking how all of the artists he mentions throughout his account of the early decades of jazz began their careers at extremely young ages. I recall a post in either rec.music.bluenote or rec.music.classical a while back in which the writer said something to the effect of “young music listeners tend to have a much higher tolerance for innovation”. It seems like a truism that this carries over to “young music creators tend to innovate much more”. I’m trying to think of musicians that did more innovative or more experimental work later in their careers, but it’s a difficult thought experiment. I’ll let it stew for a bit and see what I come up with…

Stopped by the local CD store in New Haven, Cutler’s, and came out with some great new stuff:

  • John Coltrane - My Favorite Things - I’m supposed to review this for a class
  • Miles Davis - Kind of Blue - I’m very surprised that I haven’t gotten this until now, actually :)
  • Satoko Fujii - Kitsune-bi - I’ve heard that it’s one of the better recordings in Tzadik’s “New Japan” series
  • Kronos Quartet - Early Music - I’ve liked pretty much everything I’ve heard by these guys
  • Labradford - A Stable Reference - nice and cheap in the used bin
  • Schoenberg (Schafer/Boulez) - Pierrot Lunaire - the ultimate in weird music, perhaps?

Josh Kortbein, from whose blog the idea for mine came, recently let me know that the acoustic bass does have a place in rap, mostly in jazz-influenced groups such as A Tribe Called Quest. Goes to show how ignorant I am of the genre - but that may change soon enough.

Transatlantic: missed opportunity

Friday, February 18th, 2000

Hmm… I’d forgotten that the Transatlantic supergroup that’s headlining NEARfest 2000 was originally slated to include Jim Matheos, guitarist for Fates Warning, rather than Roine Stolt of the Flower Kings. Shame that fell through - I’ve always enjoyed Matheos’ work (both with Fates Warning and solo), much more than Stolt’s anyway. Oh well.

Prog: the bebop of rock?

Thursday, February 17th, 2000

I like to think of the progressive rock movement as vaguely analogous to the bebop movement. Both see an increase in musical sophistication and roots in a counterculture of some sort. So why was bebop so much more successful? Jazz was as “popular” and “lowbrow” before bebop as rock was before (and, hell, after) progressive rock. I’m just now learning about the history of these musics, so maybe there are answers… but I see these as open questions.

Spinning early this morning:

  • King Crimson - Red - see my note about “Starless” in yesterday’s entry
  • Mogwai - Come On Die Young - very mellow; hasn’t quite gotten through to me yet
  • Pink Floyd - The Final Cut - I have a love-hate relationship with this one…
  • Univers Zero - The Hard Quest - finally growing on me, in a really big way

Through the fish-eyed lens of tearstained eyes
I can barely define the shape of this moment in time
And far from flying high in clear blue skies
I’m spiraling down to the hole in the ground where I hide
Pink Floyd, “The Final Cut”