Musings @musicandmeaning.com

I'm not gonna take it easy. I'm gonna go to bed mad.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for the 'Music to help keep me sane & healthy' category


Monday, 30 November 2009

Beethoven is listening

Recently I realized that I did not have any Beethoven string quartets on CD, or really, much of his chamber music. Last week, I consulted my music list to see if there was something I could start with. (Every time I hear something I like but don’t recognize it or have a recording of it, I add it to an ever-growing, never-ending list of music.) I saw an entry for a Beethoven “Adagio” from a chamber strings piece (no piano). It was something I’d heard on Last.fm but, as is the unfortunate case for many instances of classical music digital meta data, there was no performer listed nor a reference to the original larger work. There was an album associated with the piece, but it was incorrect (Complete Symphonies and Piano Concertos — not exactly where you’d find chamber music for strings only).

Many of the classical pieces I hear on Last.fm are from the Naxos label, so I started my investigation by looking through current Naxos releases of Beethoven string quartets and quintets, one by one. I slowly eliminated all of the string quartets, moved to the string quintets, and discovered that the recording I’d heard was actually the second movement from a string quintet arrangement of Beethoven’s Clarinet Trio in B-flat major, op. 11 (“Gassenhauer”), by the Metamorphosis Quintet. Yay! It was like finding and solving the jackpot — a jackpot of lovely music so I could listen to more of it.

The find made me curious about the original work. I like clarinet, and Beethoven, IIRC from my music courses in college, was one of the first composers to include the clarinet in non-liturgical settings. So I’d successfully identified the mystery “Adagio,” but now there was this bonus of learning about the Clarinet Trio in B-flat major, for piano, cello and of course, clarinet — something I wasn’t even aware existed but was happy to find. I ended up doing some searches for it and found a few good candidates to extend my music list (there’s even a recording with Barenboim and du PrĂ©). Listened to some clips and, wow, another jackpot of beautiful music! I went to sleep a happy camper.

Sometime the next morning at work, I realized I needed some music and switched on the radio. Usually I don’t listen to live FM radio during the day, but Last.fm had been playing some recommendations multiple times, so a few days earlier, I had tuned in to the local classical radio station during the afternoons — the only FM classical station remaining in the L.A. area, KUSC. So anyway, I switched on the radio, and immediately I heard a piano and cello. “Hey, chamber music, nice,” I thought. Then I heard the clarinet. “Wow, this is cool. What a minute…could this possibly be…nah…” I finally went over to the KUSC site to see what the piece was.

“Ludwig van Beethoven: Clarinet Trio in Bb Op 11.”

Yes, really! I re-read it to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. (Here’s the playlist from that day. Check what host Alan Chapman played at 11:17 a.m.!)

Okay, so it wasn’t one of the recordings I’d added to my music list, and I’d turned on the radio a little too late and missed the “Adagio” movement (it would have been much weirder if I had turned on the radio during the second movement), but still! It was one of those wonderful, simpatico musical moments that happens every so often and never fails to amaze me each time. Thank you, Alan Chapman, Last.fm, musicians, Beethoven, and Musical God of the universe. Wherever he is, I’d like to think that Beethoven can hear, and he’s listening.


Related post: “Someone is listening”


Monday, 24 March 2008

The Fullerton and Long Beach Dave Brubeck Quartet recordings and “These Foolish Things”

In 1958, Columbia Records released Jazz Goes to Junior College, the last of the Dave Brubeck Quartet‘s live “college” albums (and the second from Columbia). It featured recordings from Fullerton Junior College and Long Beach Junior College (both in Southern California) in 1957, with Brubeck (piano), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Joe Morello (drums) and Norm Bates (bass).

The “college” series:

For some reason, Jazz Goes to Junior College has never been released on CD. I have waited for this CD for years, and judging by comments on Amazon and on AllMusic.com, I’m not the only one wondering why it’s not available.

I am a huge fan of the album — the rendition of “These Foolish Things” (one of my favorite standards) is fantastic (I definitely prefer the one on Junior College compared to Oberlin). (Another of my all-time favorite renditions of the song is on Chet Baker‘s The Italian Sessions from 1962.)

A few months ago, I found a video of the 1959 quartet (Brubeck, Desmond, Morello and Eugene Wright) performing “These Foolish Things” at the University of Rome. It has a somewhat similar feel to the arrangement on Junior College but is unique in its own right, and — as the notes from YouTube user ilbofilms say — there’s a really interesting bass solo from Wright. (Remember, Wright didn’t play on Junior College — Norm Bates was on bass.) I’d love to have it as a separate recording. [Update, August 2008: Thanks to Peggy for pointing out that the YT link no longer works...I found the same video from user pedrohmarques.]

(Alternate link in case you can’t watch it from this page.)

Posted at 12:14 am | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |  

Friday, 22 December 2006

Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin’ strong

I never thought I’d see the day when I’d post a YouTube video, but this is one of my favorite discoveries from this year (by way of Brad Sucks and MetaFilter): Stevie Wonder performing “Superstition” on Sesame Street in 1973. Safe for work, unless you’re not supposed to rock out at your desk. (This version is from YT user shukowinz RSLweblog.) [Update, 10 March 2008: Thanks to Peggy for pointing out that the video link was broken. Replaced it with new one.]

(Alternate link in case you can’t watch it from this page.)

Of course I’d heard Stevie Wonder’s poppiest of pop songs while growing up, but I didn’t hear this song until after I graduated from high school, when my friend Esteban introduced me to Wonder’s album Talking Book [Amazon link] and to “Superstition” in particular (thanks, Esteban).

It’s an excellent, fun performance that you’d never see on Sesame Street today (kids rockin’ out to six-plus minutes of really good, live, groovin’ music; what a concept!), which makes it all the more remarkable.


Monday, 18 July 2005

Music to help keep me sane and healthy VIII

It’s about time for another edition! [Previously on MTHKMSAH…]

Richard Buckner is on tour again, so check him out at a U.S. city near you.

KCRW has been touting its new (non-music show) podcasts and on-demand music programs. I haven’t tried the podcasts yet (to be honest, I haven’t tried any podcast yet) , but the on-demand feature isn’t really that new. A number of the music programs have been available in the archives; what’s new is that all of the music programs are now available on the Web as streaming RealAudio files until their next live broadcast. Yes, RealAudio. It’s not exactly crystal-clear quality, but it’s not bad if you have a high bandwidth connection. If you happen to miss a show that isn’t archived, it’s definitely better than nothing — although, for some reason, only the Saturday show of Weekend Becomes Eclectic is available on demand. I guess if I have to miss a day of WBE and I can’t tape the show for whatever reason, I’ll try to adjust my schedule and miss it on a Saturday. ;)

Speaking of WBE, Anne Litt played from Laura Cantrell‘s new album a few times recently, much to my pleasant surprise — I don’t remember hearing Cantrell on the show before. I’m still waiting for the day I hear Allison Moorer on WBE.

Speaking of Laura Cantrell, last week I tuned in to her performing live on KCRW (her debut on the west coast, apparently). She had a show at McCabe’s, which, I can imagine, was great. I first learned about Cantrell in early 2001, when I heard Bob Edwards interview her for NPR’s Morning Edition (hmm, it doesn’t appear to be available on npr.org), and bought her CD Not the Tremblin’ Kind pretty soon after that. She has a charming, honest voice that cuts right to the lyrics she sings, and she’s not a bad songwriter, either.

Cantrell’s band for the KCRW broadcast last week included Mark Spencer, a multi-instrumentalist who’s well-known for backing up Jay Farrar. (You can read a previous post, where I provide links to free and legal Jay Farrar MP3s featuring Spencer’s great lap steel work.) And I just noticed on LauraCantrell.com that J. D. Foster produced her new album. Foster produced three of Richard Buckner’s (best) albums: Devotion + Doubt, Since, and The Hill.

Well, this is fantastic…Laura Cantrell has always had free MP3s on her site, and there are a few new ones I haven’t heard yet — including a song from her McCabe’s performance! I sort of had been saving her for a future edition of "Music to help me keep me sane and healthy," but it would be a shame to wait any longer. Visit her official downloads page and download away for some folk/country music with a truly classic sound. If you’re not sure what to try first, I recommend the new single, "14th Street," "Churches off the Interstate" (written by Cantrell), and/or "When the Roses Bloom Again," which was a song (i.e. not recording) removed from the Billy Bragg & Wilco Mermaid Avenue album (turns out it’s not a Woody Guthrie lyric). I’m downloading "Letters" right now…


Monday, 20 December 2004

Music to help keep me sane and healthy VII

Continuing the list of free and legal MP3s of some of my favorite songs and artists:

  • Early Day Miners – I just discovered and am enjoying this group. I was surfing Epitonic and randomly downloaded a few songs of artists I didn’t know. So far of the Epitonic discoveries, EDM is my favorite. The band’s scenic music reminds me of the Six Parts Seven (also in this list). As luck would have it, EDM has a show at the Knitting Factory’s Alterknit Lounge on January 26th (only 7 bucks!), but I don’t think I can make it. Anyway, aside from the download recommendation below, there are more free mp3s at the official EDM site.
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic.com. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: I like "Autumn Wake" quite a bit, thanks to the strings)
     
  • Mojave 3 – If you haven’t guessed, I’m on more of a mellow musical kick right now. This is more folk/acoustic-geared songwriting than the others on the list. Mojave3online.com has become the official Mojave 3 site and offers mp3s of unreleased material and a few shows. You do have to register to be able to access the files, though, but it’s free. Epitonic (no reg req’d) offers two excellent songs. Also check out Neil Halstead‘s solo work; he’s the lead singer/songwriter of Mo3 (there’s a free song, "Two Stones in My Pocket" from Epitonic
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic.com. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: my personal favorite is "In Love with a View")
     
  • Sigur Rós – I try to highlight bands or artists that don’t really receive the attention they deserve, so I’m not sure I should list Sigur Rós here. Apparently many, many more people know about the group since it toured with Radiohead. Nonetheless, the music isn’t exactly top 40 platinum, so it’s included here. I’m not even sure which songs to recommend, because many of them are different, but Eighteen Seconds Before Sunrise (the official Sigur Rós site) has many free mp3s. I suppose I’d recommend starting with a song from the album Àgætis Byrjun, then working your way to ( ) (yes, that’s the album title). Epitonic also has a couple of mp3s from the former.
       » Go to the downloads from Eighteen Seconds Before Sunrise. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Olsen Olsen" or "Staràlfur")
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Svefn-G-Englar")
     
  • Six Parts Seven – Soundscapes…that’s what comes to mind when I listen to 6p7. I first heard this group a couple of years ago. The music is like a soundtrack — not to a movie (although it could be for a movie, I suppose), but to a personal experience that winds its way through various points. It’s sort of hard to describe, and the style of music is why Early Day Miners reminds me of 6p7. AFAIK, 6p7 doesn’t have vocals (EDM does sometimes), but I could be wrong. Most of the tunes I’ve heard are instrumentals.
       » Go to the downloads from Suicide Squeeze Records. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "A Blueprint of Something Never Finished" and "This One or That One?" are good introductions to the band. There’s also a free mp3 by Iron &Wine guy Sam Beam covering a 6p7 tune (Iron & Wine was featured on a previous list); and note that the song "Yearnin’" is actually a Black Keys song, not a 6p7 song)
     

As always, please support the artists and their music by buying their albums and attending their shows.

More music: Aside from Weekend Becomes Eclectic and the CDs pictured at left (if you’re reading this from the front page, that is…right now it’s Chet Baker, Richard Buckner, Vince Guaraldi, Jean-Michel Jarre, Patrick Park, and Wilco…all of whom I’ve mentioned before I think, except for Jarre).

Posted at 10:05 pm | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |  

Saturday, 31 July 2004

Music to keep me sane and healthy VI

Continuing the list of free and legal MP3s of some of my favorite songs and artists:

  • John Wesley Harding – I first heard JWH on a compilation CD from Acoustic Guitar Magazine, performing "Kiss Me, Miss Liberty" and I’ve always meant to listen to more. His official site houses some full MP3s: check out the "Live MP3s & Rare Singles" sub-section under "Music."
       » Go to the downloads from johnwesleyharding.com (Flash required). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: my personal favorite is "Pull" — a performance culled from a live solo session at WUMB radio)
     
  • IvyLong Distance (2001). This album is a few years old, but I’m surprised not many people seem to know about it. Or maybe they do? In any case, I first heard Ivy three years ago, when Anne Litt played "Edge of the Ocean" a few times on Weekend Becomes Eclectic (KCRW). It’s catchy music with a lush arrangement and a cool beat; the same can be said for many of the tunes on the album. You might also be interested in the band’s cover of "Sing."
       » Go to the downloads from thebandivy.com (Flash required — click "band" and then "mp3"). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: without a doubt, "Edge of the Ocean" — there are two versions available, but I recommend the 5.1 Mb, 160kbps MP3 a little farther down the list)
     
  • Anne McCueRoll (2004). Admittedly, I have not heard the full album from this Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist. Anne Litt plays tracks from Roll fairly often on her show, and although I haven’t really gotten hooked to the very ’80s-sounding "I Want You Back," but I’ve been playing "Stupid" and "Crazy Beautiful Child" repeatedly over the past few weeks. If I had to choose, I’d categorize the songs as being more pop/rock with a country flavor, rather than alt-country, but that’s primarily because of the arrangements and the overall sound. Think of a less twangy Lucinda Williams, but still catchy and with interesting lyrics.
       » Go to the downloads from Messenger Records. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Stupid" — but they’re all a little different, so try all three if possible)
     
  • Patrick Park – I’ve mentioned singer/songwriter Park a few times — his site has MP3s of various clips of songs, but only recently put up a couple of full-length MP3s: the original demos (that eventually got packaged into The Basement Tapes) of "Desperation Eyes" and "Nothing’s Wrong." "Nothing’s Wrong" is one of my favorite Park tunes, and although I can listen to the fuller arrangement (and Eric Heywood on pedal steel!) on the album Loneliness Knows My Name, it’s nice to have this sparer, more intimate sounding recording.
       » Go to the downloads from patrickpark.net (Flash required — click "listen"). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Nothing’s Wrong")
     
  • Elliott Smith – I mentioned last time that PasteMusic has many free MP3s from artists, including Smith. One of my favorite Elliott Smith songs is here: "Between the Bars," from Either/Or. If you have time, you might want to grab all four of the songs (all from Either/Or or Elliott Smith) and hear the beautiful and haunting qualities in the stark, no-nonsense arrangements of his music: "Speed Trials," "The Biggest Lie," "Punch and Judy" and "Needle in the Hay."
       » Go to the downloads from PasteMusic (reg required — Smith is under the "Indie Rock/Emo" section). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Between the Bars")
     

And as always, please support the artists and their music by buying their albums and attending their shows (if possible).

Other tunes in my playlist lately:

The latest "caught in my head" tune has to be "How on Earth" by Ron Sexsmith — excellent songwriting. I haven’t heard the entire record yet, but from what I’ve heard, I think I like it better than Cobblestone Runway (2002) — not just musically speaking, but his singing even sounds stronger than I’ve heard before.

And, of course, I’m still listening to Richard Buckner (this time, the more sparse arrangements, e.g. those in Richard Buckner). His new album, Dents and Shells, will be available for pre-order on the 1st of October! From the new songs I’ve heard in his more recent concerts, I can’t wait. It’ll be interesting, as always, to hear how he arranged the music on the record.


Thursday, 22 April 2004

Music to keep me sane and healthy V

Wow. I can’t believe I haven’t done this since October ’03.

I’m going to take a different approach this time, though. Instead of writing a standard list of artists, I’m going to try to be more helpful and link the music to specific examples you can download free (and legally), so if you’ve never heard of the artist/song, you can experience first-hand what I’m talking about.

  • Jay FarrarTerroir Blues (2003). This may be the first time I’ve mentioned Jay Farrar by name here — he’s the songwriter/main guy of the band Son Volt, one of my favorites. There are three alternate takes from this album that are available as free MP3 downloads from his site. Do not miss "All of Your Might" and "No Rolling Back" — they probably are my two favorites songs from the album (and I think I prefer these alternate takes!). Mark Spencer plays beautiful lap steel accompaniment on these tracks. I know I’ve mentioned pedal steel guitarist Eric Heywood in my blog a number of times — you can hear his work on this album. And if you haven’t already, you might be interested in the other downloads on the page as well.
       » Go to the downloads from jayfarrar.net. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "All of Your Might")
     
  • Rosie Thomas – This is the first time I’ve mentioned Ms. Thomas, and it’s because I didn’t know about her until a few months ago, when I heard her music on Weekend Becomes Eclectic. Her label Sub Pop offers a treasure trove of MP3s from its artists. One of these days I’ll download all of them, but for now I heartily recommend picking up "I Play Music" and "Two Dollar Shoes."
       » Go to the downloads from Sub Pop. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: both are really good, but "Two Dollar Shoes" is a shorter song/a smaller file.)
     
  • Iron & Wine – While we’re on the Sub Pop Records page, there are four MP3s by the solo artist also known as Samuel Beam. I prefer the earlier songs, which are ultra lo-fi tracks (he recorded them at home on a four-track): "Southern Anthem" and "Lion’s Mane" but take a listen to all of them if you can.
       » Go to the downloads from Sub Pop. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Lion’s Mane")
     
  • Hem – The band’s site offers a beautiful song called "Pacific Street" that didn’t make it onto the debut album — I actually listened to this download a year or two ago, and bought the CD solely based on how much I loved this song. Pick up "Beautiful Sea" as well.
       » Go to the downloads from rabbitsongs.com (click "MP3s" at the bottom of the band’s home page). (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Pacific Street")
     
  • Alison Krauss & Union Station – Krauss and her backing band have a bunch of free MP3 downloads at Amazon. My favorite by far is one of the best they’ve ever done: "The Lucky One". For a change of pace, there’s also "New Favorite" (penned by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings).
       » Go to the downloads from Amazon. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "The Lucky One")
     

Of course, please do Google the artists listed above to find out more about them, tour dates, etc. There’s a lot more music to recommend, but I’ll save them for a little later. If you’re hungry for more right now, check out more free downloads from Amazon and also the huge selection (lots of Elliott Smith and Pedro the Lion) from PasteMusic!

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of the above, plus Wilco and (of course) Richard Buckner (particularly Bloomed). If you’ve never heard Buckner, the even-numbered tracks of The Hill is available as lo-fi Flash audio streams from his site richardbuckner.com. It’s definitely his darkest album, with his original music set to poems from The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. If you’re not familiar with the poetry collection, each poem is a posthumous epitaph from the point of view of the deceased. The highlight of the album is "Julia Miller" (#6) — certainly a somber tune, but one of Buckner’s best and most beautiful songs.

You can also hear Wilco’s upcoming album, A Ghost is Born, online (streaming Quicktime) at the band’s site. I’ve only heard it once, and haven’t decided what to think yet…

Posted at 8:09 pm | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |  

Monday, 20 October 2003

Music to keep me sane and healthy IV

I haven’t done this in a while either…I did manage to update the "What’s in my CD player?" page recently.

Music to keep me sane and healthy: (much of this is the same from June, but I won’t repeat everything)

  • Richard Buckner (all albums, really…although I still can’t get over how powerful Since is, and how all of his songs transcend their lyrics and stories)
  • Jayhawks
  • David Gray
  • Son Volt
  • Wilco
  • Pedro the Lion
  • Linda Thompson
  • Beth Orton
  • Clem Snide
  • Jack Hylton
  • Benny Goodman + Peggy Lee
  • Brad Mehldau
  • Tom Waits
  • Whiskeytown
  • Ryan Adams
  • HEM
  • Coldplay
  • New Order
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim, again in many incarnations
  • Ivy
  • Beck
  • Nick Drake
  • Hawksley Workman
  • Frou Frou
  • Erin McKeown

Thanks, as always, go to KCRW and especially Weekend Becomes Eclectic with Anne Litt. It’s like a six-hour dose of music with a dreamy effect that lasts much, much longer.

Concert recommendations: I would be remiss not to plug KCRW’s third annual A Sounds Eclectic Evening concert, which is on 22 November at the Universal Amphitheatre. Admittedly, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend it in the past, but if you love the music that KCRW tends to play and can shell out 50 bucks, do yourself a favor and go to the show. It’s basically a KCRW benefit concert and features some great artists, including some that aren’t listed (secret guests — last year, one was Pete Yorn). A few of the currently-listed headliners this year: Beck, Jurassic 5 and Damien Rice. If you can go higher than $50, you can get even better seats and access to the exclusive dance party after the show — an opportunity to mingle with some of the artists and KCRW folks.

Before that, though, there’s also Mojave 3 at the Troubadour on the 7th and 8th of November; Lucinda Williams at El Rey on 17th-18th November. And yup, Richard Buckner is still on tour, this time with a band, but no shows scheduled for the west coast yet. Check out Backyard Dusk for tour date links.

Quote for the time being:

"I kept your poem here,
with all my other gear.
But, in the end?
– I missed what it meant."

– from "Ariel Ramirez" on Richard Buckner’s Since. Dang I love this song.


Monday, 16 June 2003

More musical musings / Music to keep me sane and healthy III

Missed Weekend Becomes Eclectic again the past two weekends, except for about 10 bright minutes of music and chat from Anne Litt, spent sitting/waiting in the car on Sunday. It feels like it’s been way too long — three weeks, after all! My withdrawal is starting to build…

Music to keep me sane and healthy:

  • Richard Buckner, of course; in his current tour there’s no stop local for me, but I hope that’ll change
  • Hem, a group I really really want to see in concert
  • Whiskeytown
  • Ryan Adams
  • Jayhawks
  • Wilco
  • Coldplay
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim, in many incarnations, including the Morelenbaums/Sakamoto
  • Beck
  • Nick Drake
  • Leonard Bernstein‘s West Side Story and its incarnations by Oscar Peterson
  • Zero 7

Monday, 17 February 2003

Music to keep me sane and healthy II

On Sunday (I missed it Saturday), Anne Litt had a great show on Weekend Becomes Eclectic. Here’s an example of the artists she played…this is from an actual set, in order:

  • Miles Davis
  • Nat "King" Cole
  • Richard Buckner (she called him "the incomparable Richard Buckner")
  • Lizzie West

I mean well, yeah, what else can I say? I’ve said so much in past entries already…if I give any more praise it may sound exaggerated.

Speaking of KCRW, if you’re a listener and haven’t subscribed/renewed yet, don’t forget…

Two musical artists I haven’t mentioned yet: Joseph Arthur and Paula Morelenbaum & Ryuichi Sakamoto. Their latest albums sound like keepers.


Sunday, 26 January 2003

Music to help keep me sane and healthy

I haven’t updated my “What’s in my CD player” page in a while, but here are some artists who have helped keep me going these days. Some of whom should be no surprise. Links lead to artist sites (official or not).

Ryan Adams
Richard Buckner
Chopin
Coldplay
Frou Frou
David Gray
Hem
Iron & Wine
Ivy
Kings of Convenience
Diana Krall
Peggy Lee
Allison Moorer
Oscar Peterson
Six Parts Seven
Hawksley Workman

Thanks to the friends who gave me CDs as gifts, and as always, to Anne Litt who often plays a few of these and other musicians/bands I love (she even played some Chopin last weekend…okay it was filler music but still…).