The Little Folk-singer isn’t so little anymore: with more than sixteen studio albums in her catalogue, ownership of her independent label Righteous Babe Records, and now a mother to a two-year-old daughter, Ani Difranco has built a career that’s unparalleled by that of any other female solo artist. Her poignant lyrics are both bitingly honest and elegant, a result of her prior study of poetry at The New School. Erin McKeown supported DiFranco last Sunday at Symphony Hall, playing a short set of simple yet clever songs with just one guitar and her voice. She opened with a fast-paced tune in which she questioned “what kind of lover am I?”
Part of the joy of listening to contemporary music is to have the composer as reference and concordance for the works. For those trying to discover a suitable niche for Ezra Sims work on Friday evening’s Boston Musica Viva Concert, Mr. Sims delivered such a discussion on his piece <i>Four Landscapes</i> (2008). Speaking at Boston University’s Tsai Center for the Performing Arts, where the concert was held, he described <i>Landscapes</i> as a microtonal piece utilizing twelve-tone principles. As crucial as this exegesis was, what was particularly informative were Mr. Sim’s thoughts on how these pieces fit within his entire opus. Comparing himself to Chopin, he observed that this work was his “so-called Preludes.”
Chicago-based trio Pillars & Tongues don’t just play together: they talk to each other, critique each other, and advise each other—with their instruments, of course. Their frank, uninhibited musical conversations have been compiled onto a disc entitled <i>Protection</i>, released just last month on the Contraphonic imprint.
If “The Notebook” humped a car chase, the unholy spawn that was produced would be “Quantum of Solace.” Much like a Miss USA contestant named Mildred, the latest Bond film is visually impressive, has a stupid name, and is pretty much devoid of substance. While it features top-shelf action and is extremely exciting throughout, the latest incarnation of James Bond simply lacks the cool confidence that sets the franchise apart from every other secret agent thriller.
The Bill T. Jones/Anie Zane Dance Company has been established for 25 years and is renowned as a driving force in the modern dance world. The last weekend of October, the company performed a piece, “Another Evening: Serenade/Proposition,” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
The trailblazer of egoism in Jazz might be Miles Davis, or perhaps Charlie Mingus; each declared jazz to be art, not just entertainment. They didn’t smile. They didn’t laugh. If you screwed around with them, they punched you in the face (in Mingus’ case).
Sometimes I worry that my particular brand of love for Jane toes a fine, but distinct, line between nuisance and comedic relief. She puts up with a whole lot: I constantly talk to her during lecture, disturb her while she’s in the middle of her experiments, push my fiber pills on her like I were a dealer, tell her dirty jokes (loudly) when we’re in public and insist on detailing the most horrific details of my ever-faltering love life.
As Eddie Vedder has pointed out at many Pearl Jam shows, “we’ve all been benefiting from the long term friendship between Jeff Ament and [Pearl Jam guitarist] S<i>tone</i> Gossard.” It’s True that it was the songwriting duo that sent Eddie Vedder a demo tape almost two decades ago, which contained nascent versions of future Pearl Jam hits like “Evenflow” and “Alive.”
From all accounts, Gustav Mahler was a formidable grouch. It’s not hard to hear this in his music — his ninth symphony is nearly an hour and a half’s worth of rich, Wagnerian lines, rife with paranoid navel-gazing over his imminent death. His orchestral song-cycle, Das Lied von der Erde is a meditation on eastern philosophy and a hidden symphony meant to cheat fate (Beethoven had nine symphonies, so did Dvorak, Schubert1, Mahler knew where this was headed).
When did classical music become boring? It’s not hard to understand why it is: music is taught at schools on a pedestal lower than, yet not distinct from calculus, English literature or honors French. It’s been mummified beyond recognition — at some point, students are asked not to listen to music, but to <i>understand</i> the music — in fact, there are musical rules, drills and practices that students must complete with stoic integrity, an entire body of history to digest and, if you can imagine — <i>exams</i>, even.
Modern classical performance is often a rigid form — a study of strict tempos, pitches, and moods. The performers take it upon themselves to recreate the vision of the original artist, and as that artist is usually dead, that recreation can become a study in accuracy rather than exploration — what <i>not </i>to play, rather than <i>what </i>to play.
Almost a year ago, I reviewed Noah Baumbach’s <i>Margot at the Wedding</i>: a film about a damaged and grotesquely self-involved woman, Margot, returning to her childhood home to attend her sister’s wedding. The family collapses and rebuilds over the course of film, with Margot always at its center. At a cursory glance, Jonathan Demme’s new film, <i>Rachel Getting Married</i>, is the exact same story.
Last Friday’s Russell Peters show was an uproar. I hadn’t heard of Russell Peters prior to the show, so as I made my way to the website five days after tickets went on sale, I was surprised to be greeted with the message ‘SOLD OUT’ in glaring red font. Many Bakerites were also unpleasantly surprised at how quickly the tickets sold out. During the course of the week leading up to the show, I think there was a frantic e-mail sent out every day about some poor soul willing to buy tickets for double the price.
As with many things, this too started with Beethoven. It must have been a draining performance for both musicians and audience: the first three movements of the Missa Solemnis (Op. 123) and 9th Symphony (Op. 125) premiered all in one night on May 7th, 1824. These have both become monumental works that have revolutionized their genres. The Ninth Symphony is the more famous of the two because it was the first (or, at the very least, the most major) symphony to incorporate both choral and orchestral music into a symphony.
A lot of single-instrument groups can be gimmicky — along the lines of, “How many tuba players does it take to make a coherent album?” Many of those efforts are well and good, even virtuosic, but the majority are relegated to narrowly devoted fan-bases — those who, no doubt, brake for vibraphones or are the proud parents of an oboe player — without much chance at breaking through to the larger musical scene.
Things must have seemed bleak to the thirty-five year old Johann Sebastian Bach in the spring of 1721. He had composed six pieces, delivered for a commission to the Margrave of Brandenburg, Christian Ludwig, each one an exposition of the new and old instruments that were available to the young composer, each one a re-thinking of the concerto form — still relatively young in the early eighteenth century and certainly still very Italian in its conception and tradition. In short, each of these orchestral pieces were a thoughtful exposition of the musical world that Bach inhabited.