Saturday, May 26, 2007


Get into the Books. They have a new DVD--PLAYALL--for sale on their website, they're going to be playing a free set at this year's massive Ban on a Can Marathon (alongside such other awesomenesses as Juana Molina, Yo La Tengo, and many, many, many more), and their '05 record Lost & Safe has some of the most ingenious uses of found sound I've ever heard in music. But most importantly, they have created... the Spoon Box: The Spoon Box uses two speakers emitting low-frequency sound to make a pair of ordinary measuring spoons bounce up and down on columns of air. The piece playing on the Spoon Box in this clip also samples everyday kitchen noises so that the spoons won't feel out of place. You can even order your own Spoon Box from the Books website, and wow visitors to your home with the power of sound. Spoon Box.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Mark Adamo: Wrong About Harps

It's already a little weird that Mark Adamo's article on harp writing suggests that the instrument is "tragically ill-suited" to music "based on the transformation of the ostinato." (Joanna Newsom, among many, many others, might beg to differ.) But then there's this...
Britten, the very model of the composer who shrugged at dogma, gave us some of the most substantia and moving pages written for harp in the last hundred years: but where's the Britten harp concerto? (He wrote one for piano.) ... [W]here's the Prokofiev, where's the Schnittke harp concerto? (As opposed to their piano concerti.) Bartók? Lutoslawski? Corigliano? [Zing! - DSJ] If, as these have, you can write a contemporary concerto for the piano—an equally percussive, harmonically resourceful (albeit chromatic) instrument—why not do so for the harp?
Definitely not Mark Adamo.

Okay, there are plenty of reasons why composers would write piano concerti and not harp concerti. For one thing, most composers play the piano, and so they write reams more piano concerti, piano sonate, and piano etudes than anything for the harp. But Adamo's also got his facts wrong! There is most definitely a Lutosławski concerto for harp and oboe, available on a sexy Philips recording starring the Holligers. He should--everybody should--give it a listen.

(Maybe he's not counting concerti for "harp and x"? But that would be splitting hairs, and I don't think I'll accuse him of being so uncharitable.)

I probably shouldn't pick these nits. His heart's certainly in the right place--classical music is full of instruments that never get a fair shake in front of the orchestra, or end up smothered in cliché, the harp not least among them. What's more, he seems to have given the Harp Problem a lot of thought and come up with some worthwhile, even exciting workarounds.

I look forward to his concerto for tuba.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

I Have a Sneaking Feeling This Isn't Gidon Kremer's Official MySpace

Tularosa?Unless by "Latin" he means "Latvian." I just watched Back to Bach (EuroArts), his new DVD of the Bach Partitas for solo violin, and it was an odd experience. Never having seen him play in person, Kremer has only existed for me as photographs and disembodied sound; I'd never heard him speak or seen the way he bends his knees when he fiddles. It's nice to get to "know" him. And of course the performance itself is phenomenal. I have found Kremer's recent ECM recording of the Sonatas & Partitas literally mesmerizing--no, I mean literally mesmerizing, as in, it's no use talking to me while they're playing, because at some point you'll ask me a question and discover that I have been hypnotized by counterpoint for the past three minutes and have not heard a word you've said--and while the video editing is occasionally a little choppier than it has to be, the sound is good, and I'm delighted to actually see Kremer's amazing bowstroke pick all the different lines out of a string of sixteenth-notes. The accompanying documentary is engaging enough. Kremer warms up, tunes his fiddle, makes a face after a bad take or two. In interview, he confesses that he's actually still fond of his first recordings of the Partitas (now unavailable; thanks, Philips): while he has a few interesting things to say on the subject of Glenn Gould and Bach interpretation, his urge to re-record isn't as quite like the fierce revisionism of Gould's New Goldberg-Variation Testament of 1981. Sir Simon Rattle and Sofia Gubaidulina, two more musicians I've never seen sit down for chit-chat, also put in talking-head time, and while I was glad to hear from them, I found myself wishing by the end that the gang at EuroArts had just padded the disc with more fiddle-porn. Why not show us the Sonatas, too? Ah, well. Maybe worth buying, even if you already own the CD (you do own the CD, right?), and definitely worth renting. Netflix has it! Trailer & more info here.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Incredible Shrinking Googoosh

Thanks to one of the Gregs for this amazing link. Googoosh: is there anything she can't do?

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

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