Category Archives: Music

Aufersteh’n, ja aufersteh’n

So it would seem that my posting in November was both terribly accurate and terribly inaccurate. Accurate insofar as it clearly really is always hard to get started writing again after a hiatus, as evidenced by the fact that the posting in November can be referred to as THE posting in November. And further by the fact that it is the only posting in nearly ten months, since my postings centered on the Ring cycle in Seattle in August. The posting is terribly inaccurate insofar as, when I made it, I thought I would be starting to post once more. Clearly, that didn’t happen.

The easy thing to say would be to reiterate what I did in November, that there was very much going on with work and family. And as a consequence, I was in one of those dark, melancholy places like I described in Mood Music.

Indeed, that’s so easy to say, really tells the reader nothing new that I hadn’t planned to do a “why I’ve been gone” posting. I have a posting in mind that I was going to craft (which is coming soon) that brought me back to the blog.

But then, when I was talking about the hiatus with friend Jenny, I realized that the silence on the blog represented more than simply being busy or a bit down. I realized that stopping the blog for me was rather like what people who are fleeing war and persecution with their prized possessions must sometimes do: they must urgently cast off and away things that they value, treasure, are expressions and representations of who they are in a desperate effort to simply survive. The act of casting off and away is so urgent, done under such duress that questions of what you’re losing or what you feel about it simply don’t exist. All that does exist is the base, primal instinct to simply survive. Cast it off and away: we’ll worry about those questions later, if we survive.

Well, I have survived. Battered and bruised, but ultimately bettered for it all. And like survivors in my analogy sometimes do, I have taken stock of what I’ve lost and now have come to the blog. Reading through the past entries, I begin to remember how much I was digging into music when I was writing it, how much I was reading about it and listening. And I realize it’s been months since I cracked open a book on music, months since I went looking for something new and interesting, months since I really listed to anything outside of the music that has been my guide through these hard times like like I described in Mood Music.

And so, as I re-read the blog and remember that all, I realize that this past year plus (for all these things were going on well before August) has been a time not just of difficulty and stress and strain. I realize too that it’s been a time of loss. A time where I have lost some things that are important to me, that are a part of me.

So, sitting down to write isn’t simply a mere posting, it’s me, like my survivors, returning to the place of loss to see if there’s any way to retrieve what I lost once again.

The fact that I’ve realized all this, that I have a posting in mind, and that I felt the desire to go through the blog this morning and clean it up, fix broken YouTube links and generally make it neater and nicer tells me that I have recovered this part of myself. It’s been a while, I’m not sure what the person and voice moving forward will be like, but I’m back.

And as I realized this, I realized that before I could sit and write the posting I had in mind, I had to write this. To make a statement about what this all is, if only to preserve it for myself. And so too, I realized that I needed to listen to something on the drive in to put me in the right frame of mind for this posting, something that speaks to where I’ve been, where I am, what this all is.

And the answer presented itself to me, with the single, simple clarity of a trumpet solo rising above the din of the orchestra. It was time to dust off a dear, special friend whom I’ve not listened to in a couple of years but who has been there for me in times of major turmoil and transformation since we first met my sophomore year of college: Gustav Mahler’s second symphony.

For all the sense of Mahler as being dark and gloomy and depressed, I know of no piece that is so ethereal, that describes rising to new heights from the depths, that conveys such a sense of beauty and serenity as Mahler 2, especially the music and text in the fifth movement.

And so, with this posting, I and my blog heed Klopstock’s and Mahler’s call to Rise again, yes rise again. I believe now that the trials and loss of the past year plus were not for nothing, that what perished has indeed risen again.

Meditation and Reflection: KOYAANISQATSI

Inspired today by the music of Philip Glass and the film work of Godfrey Reggio who worked together on the Qatsi trilogy. Speficially, from KOYAANISQATSI.

From the definitions page:

ko.yaa.nis.katsi (from the Hopi language), n. 1. crazy life. 2. life in turmoil. 3. life disintegrating. 4. life out of balance. 5. a state of life that calls for another way of living.

Hopi Prophecies quoted in the film:

  • If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.
  • Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky.
  • A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky which could burn the land and boil the oceans.

New Seattle Opera Blog Guest Post

Be sure to check out my new guest posting over at the Seattle Opera blog, Seattle Ring 2009: A New Wotan for the Ages. In it I share my thoughts on Greer Grimsley as Wotan, what his portrayal tells us about this year’s cycle, and how I’ve seen a new Wotan in this production.

Check it out, and my thanks to the Seattle Opera for letting me guest post.

It’s Wagner Season

I’ve been offline a bit but it seems appropriate to do a short post announcing with great joy that it’s time to celebrate another week of greed, murder, incest, destruction, loss and, finally, the end of the world.

Yes, dear reader, it’s Wagner season! The Seattle Opera has started their first cycle in the most recent of their every-four-year cycles.

Last night began with an excellent staging of Das Rheingold. Tonight we move on to the lovely, and poignant Die Walküre.

We actually kicked off the season last Sunday by attending a preview performance of Das Barbecü at ACT Theater which is a wonderful, light filling-in of details in Götterdammerung in country-western musical style.

I’ll also be doing some guest postings over at the Seattle Opera Blog. And it looks like I’ll have the opportunity to be interviewed by Zach Carstensen over at the Gathering Note blog during Götterdammerung. I’ll be posting links here to those as they go live.

Should be a good week.

Music of the Distant Past

One thing that I had in mind in starting this blog was for it to be a place where I could note those particularly rare and unexpected musical finds. The world of music is really so much more diverse and interesting than most realize as they travel everyday through their well-trodden top 40 radio stations.

To be fair, the world is changing thanks to things like satellite radio, iPods and “genre-less” radio stations.

But, still, there’s a lot out there that I’m convinced I’m nearly the only person to have found it some days.

A prime example of something like this is Music of the Ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Greeks by Ensemble De Organographia. This wonderful CD is an attempt to reconstruct music from the Ancient Near East by Ensemble De Organographia an Early Music group based in Oregon (how interesting and wonderful that there’s so much good music work in my neck of the woods) that’s also part of the Early Music Guild of Oregon. This CD features a recording of Sumerian, Hurrian, Egyptian, and Greek music. Of particular note is track 20 Musical Instructions for “Lipit-Ishtar, King of Justice” (c. 1950 BC), the oldest piece of notated music in the world.

Reconstructions are always dicey but this is really a first rate job. And the music doesn’t require the listener to stretch his or her ear too much: it’s not nearly as foreign as you’d expect after nearly four thousand years.

David Bowie Days

I’m a bit of an archivist. If I like something or someone, I really want to lay hands on all that I can get (you saw reference to this in my Ute Lemper post in fact). And David Bowie is one of those artists I just love: I proudly have all of his studio albums.

Every now and again I’ll decide to really dig in and focus on one musician, composer, or group. And when it’s one where I have a complete collection, it’s very nice to listen to their complete oeuvre and hear how the artist grows and develops over time.

So yesterday and today have been David Bowie Days for me, especially focusing on the albums I don’t know nearly so well, like Station To Station and The Man Who Sold The World.

The nice thing about the Internet for me at times like this is I can dig in more broadly and find out more about the music and his background over at Wikipedia (which may even be accurate!).

And after some looking about, I find there’s a YouTube David Bowie channel now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much on there right now, but hopefully they’ll add more.

While this isn’t posted on the David Bowie channel, someone else has also posted the great video for “Wild is the Wind” off of Station To Station.

Of course, going through David Bowie’s works end to end also underscores how versatile an artist he is. More than nearly anyone else, he is is able to learn different music forms, understand them, master them and adapt them to make them his own. The difference between Low and, say, Hunky Dory is more like the difference between different artists than the difference of six years with the same artist.

It’s no wonder that an old girlfriend in High School who was a violinist and generally didn’t like Pop/Rock counted him as one of her favorites (at least back then). I’ve said for years that his ability to master forms makes him the closest thing to a Mozart in the Pop/Rock genre.

NewMusicBox

When I talk about this being notes from a walking tour of music, I really do mean it. I really see this space as a place to share the various and sundry things I find, discover, learn and experience in my own journeys through music.

One thing that I like to use this for is when I find new or interesting online resources. Today, thanks to Alex Ross’ The Rest is Noisesite I’ve found a new website, NewMusicBox. Turns out, NewMusicBox is celebrating their ten year anniversary. As they say on their “About” page, they’re “to the music of American composers and improvisers and their champions”.

I’m just now starting to look at the site and it looks promising. Given how hard the classical music space is in general these days (and American composition space in particular) it’s great to find another new resource. Even better to find out they’ve been able to make it ten years. Here’s wishing them another ten.

Ute Lemper Online

I’m a huge Ute Lemper fan. I actually didn’t so much “discover” her as I “realized” who she was. When I was in college, I bought the Threepenny Opera on CD. A couple of years later, I saw Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books, fell in love with Michael Nyman’s music for the film and picked up the soundtrack now sadly out of print). After a bit, I realized that someone named Ute Lemper sang on both of these. After I discovered another Nyman album, Michael Nyman: Songbook (also sadly out of print), with her singing, I was hooked and have been avidly following her ever since.

I’m proud to say I have every album of hers I’ve been able to lay hands on (the Ute Lemper playlist has 196 items right now) and she’s easily one of the main people I want to see perform live in my lifetime.

So, it’s quite the thrill for me to find that Ute Lemper is on Twitter now. It also looks like she’s got an official channel now on YouTube.

Of course, this Ute Lemper online moment is made a true social networking Trifecta because I found out about these through her Facebook page.