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Archive for the tag “Music”

rockstar violinist

English: Violinist Joshua Bell following a per...

Even if you’re not a fan of classical music, you may know about violinist Joshua Bell from the “Stop and Hear the Music” video that’s been circulating around the internet. In January 2007, The Washington Post got Bell to agree to perform what he called “a stunt,” playing incognito in L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington D.C. for tips, and what the subsequent Post story about it called “an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”

Sadly, it did not.

Three days before, Bell had played at Symphony Hall in Boston, where tickets went for around $100. Shortly after the January gig at L’Enfant Plaza Station–which netted him a little over $30–he appeared at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to accept the Avery Fisher Prize for best classical musician in America. You can read the detailed, chatty April 2007 Post article here and watch “Stop and Hear the Music” here.

The number of people who passed by Joshua Bell on their way through L’Enfant Plaza Station that day without stopping (1,070) has now been exceeded by the number of Joshua Bell videos that have been uploaded on You Tube (1,090).

I could listen to him play all day.

Joshua Bell performing Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor

Please do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to stop and hear the music.

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5 takes on Take Five

Jazz really is a universal language. If you don’t think that’s true, listen to these renditions of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” from around the world–beginning with, of course, the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Dave Brubeck Quartet (live in Belgium 1964)

Igor Presnyakov (Russia)

Bolyki Brothers (Poland)

Sachal Studios Orchestra (Pakistan)

Diego Figueiredo (Brazil)

intoxication

Liquor Bottles

The bar in the basement of my parents’ house held all sizes and shapes of bottles; big ones in the back and tiny decorative ones along the side; whisky, gin, and vodka—serious stuff—as well as colorful concoctions like sloe gin and blackberry brandy. The men in my family all drank lots of beer, too. At parties and gatherings, it was carried into the house in cases. Nothing exotic there; mostly Stroh’s and Budweiser, if I remember right.

Once I got drunk on vodka and grapefruit juice in the basement of a girlfriend’s house when her parents were away. We spent the evening listening to records and drinking our vodka mixed with too little grapefruit juice out of paper cups. It was briefly exhilarating. Later, when I felt sick and dizzy and out of control, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Subsequently, I remained sober.

When the wind was red, like a summer wine
When the wind was red, like your lips on mine
It caressed my face and it tossed my hair
You were there.

I don’t recall ever seeing a bottle of wine in my parents’ house. John often brought wine, though, bottles of deep red wine made from grapes grown in Italy. He was Italian. The red wine John brought tasted of other, older worlds, of things mysterious and sophisticated and foreign. It also tasted of him and of this reckless, improbable, and hopeless love.

Does anyone even remember that song? I’d never heard it before I met John. I’d never heard of Chris Connor.

When the wind was green, at the start of spring
When the wind was green, like a lving thing
It was on my lips and its kiss was fair
You were there.

He gave me that scratchy old 78, and listening to it puts me right back inside my dark apartment in 1967. It’s 2 or 3 in the morning, after John has gone—after John has come with a bottle of red wine and this old music, and gone. If the few hours with John were the height of my week, the hours following his departure were the depth. I’d always leave his wine glass on the floor or table where he’d left it, at least until the next day. And I’d sit in the dark for a while and look around the apartment and out the window at the night sky in a kind of pained ecstasy or ecstatic pain, if you know what I mean.

Then came the fall and all of love came tumbling,
stumbling down,
Like leaves that lost to frost and found they were
flying, crying, in a brown wind
dying.

My father knew a disc jockey, and he used to bring home dozens of used 45s. I grew up listening to The Mills Brothers, Patti Page, Theresa Brewer, Gogi Grant. The Gandy Dancers’ Ball was one childhood favorite. And I’ve never completely gotten There’s a Pawnshop on a Corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania out of my head. My brothers and I always watched the Hit Parade on TV on Saturday night after we took our baths. Snookey, Giselle, Dorothy, and Russell performing the top 10 tunes of the week.

And of course my girlfriends and I were glued to the TV every afternoon for “American Bandstand.” As soon as I had a disposable income of my own, I invested part of it in growing the collection of 45s, favoring Sam Cooke and Connie Francis.

In college, I listened to folk music and tooled around town in my 1966 Candy Apple Red Ford Mustang listening to a guy with a gravelly voice sing about The Eve of Destruction. What the heck did I know? There was other music around—Sinatra, Streisand, Nancy Wilson. A few of my friends listened to jazz and blues, but the music always seemed too ripe for them. Most of them hadn’t even started to live.

John was eight years older. When he played the blues, it sucked me right in. He filled my head with his recollections of sitting in smoke-filled clubs in downtown Detroit listening to all of these musicians. He brought me No Sun in Venice by the Modern Jazz Quartet. It took me 15 years to track down a copy of that album at Tower Records in San Francisco after I looked for it in record stores all over the country.

In turn, I introduced John to Simon and Garfunkel and The Moody Blues. He said 59th Street Bridge Song reminded him of me. “Feelin’ groovy?” Really? Was I like that? Or was that just how he preferred to see me? For that matter, was he the person I thought he was? Who can say?

The two of us spent so little time together, and being with him was so intense, that all the incidental elements—his cigarette smoke, the wine, and most of all the music—fused together. I couldn’t separate those things from him. He left a couple of his albums with me, the one by Chris Connor and another by Billie Holiday. They evoked such bittersweetness for years and years, long after the end of John and me.

But the winter’s come and we both should know
That the wind is white like the swelling snow
And we’ll never see all the wonderful things to be seen
When the wind is green.

I never drank enough of that Italian red wine to get drunk. I got drunk on John and his music instead. It was briefly exhilarating. Later, when I felt sick and dizzy and out of control, I decided it wasn’t worth it. Subsequently, I remained sober.

turn it up!

The Band, Hamburg, May 1971. Left to right: Ri...

The Band, Hamburg, May 1971. Left to right: Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Richard Manuel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Band was part of the background music of my life for a while, but at the time I couldn’t have distinguished one musician from another. I wasn’t really paying attention until Robbie Robertson released his first solo album, Robbie Robertson, in 1987. Loved it the first time I heard the first track; love it still–especially the mesmerizing “Somewhere Down the Crazy River.”

Much later I came to appreciate Rick Danko. His voice is the one in my head when I think of The Band. Danko recorded this beautiful acoustic version of “When You Awake” in 2009. It seems even more moving and powerful than The Band’s version.

One of the songs Levon Helm is best known for is “The Weight.” There are a lot of versions of this song, but this one from the documentary The Last Waltz is so good.

Van the man

The Last Waltz has been called the best music documentary ever by some critics. I haven’t seen them all, but it’s definitely my favorite. All the music is fantastic, but the performance that tops the rest is Van Morrison doing “Caravan.” It’s worth watching the whole thing just to get to those five or six minutes. It’s too bad there’s no video available, but this audio gives a sense of the electricity in the auditorium. Turn it up! Little bit louder. Radio!

And then, of course, when we did “Caravan,” which was something that we really just wanted to play together, and I wanted to play some guitar on, and we wanted to do that. And we did this. And we had the horn section and the whole thing, and the way the song built and it built and it built. All of a sudden, at the end, when Van starts kicking his leg up in the air, we were like, “What’s happening here? This is the most wonderful out of control I’ve ever seen him.” And it was just magical, you know, just that whole song, and the performance of that. When we were finished playing that song, when I turned around, you know, to the other guys in the band, and I was like, “Okay,” you know? We were just feeling so good at that moment.

— Robbie Robertson, VH-1 interview on the making of The Last Waltz.

playing (great music) for change

If you have just returned from interplanetary travel and don’t know about Playing for Change, do yourself a favor and check them out. What they’re up to is “connecting the world through music”–and what beautiful and moving music it is. These are four personal favorites of the over 70 videos they’ve produced. I can hardly wait for the next CD to be released.

You can never ever have too much music!

episode 63: a change is gonna come

Live from Folsom Prison, the PFC Band at its most soulful.

episode 53: la tierra del olvido

Translates to “land of the forgotten.” 75 musicians from all over Colombia. Just amazing.

episode 49: satchita

A musical journey from Brazil to India (from the PFC2 CD). So joyful.

episode 38: imagine

John Lennon’s song around the world. Still gives me chills

music made visible

Violin_CymaGlyphA3_280108_pdfPlease check out the website for Cymascope (music made visible), where you can see music notes as “holographic bubbles.”

musicmadevisible is a new concept in musical expression, a stream of cymatic images representing an analog of music in visual form. If our eyes could see music we would not see waves, as is commonly believed, but beautiful holographic bubbles, with shimmering kaleidoscopic patterns on their surface. The CymaScope allows us to see this previously hidden realm of beauty.

There is much more information about how this works on the website, which also has a CymaPiano. You can click on the keys to see what each note looks like. Plus there’s a “cymatics experiment,” a short video of Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine. So cool!

CDZA: collective cadenza of crazy good music

CDZA is composed of many musicians, some from Julliard School of Music and other music schools such as Manhattan School of Music, Berklee College of Music, and Brooklyn College of Music, along with several Broadway singers. For the past nine months they have been working on a project to create “musical video experiments.” These are some of my favorite results. But there are many more, so check out their website.

What a Wonderful World as you’ve not heard it before:

It’s too late to order fries:

Great singer–and I love the guy in the Elton John glasses:

A little sad; a lot funny:

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