Musings @musicandmeaning.com

So I stood at the station with a plan and a pocket of poems.
"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 'Radio, NPR, etc.' category


Thursday, 14 November 2002

The best things in life are free

    ‘A’-list music: David Gray‘s new album (A New Day at Midnight) sounds pretty good, from the few tracks I’ve heard. A bit more down-tempo than the last, but still very much DG. Also don’t forget Richard Buckner‘s new album (Impasse) and EP (Impasse-ette) are available now! Buckner is also touring as I type this, so be sure to catch him if you can.

     Lost & found, sorta: I’ve been listening to a lot of old songs as well recently, thanks to a few projects I’ve been working on. Aside from Buckner, my CD player right now has a CD of tunes from Peggy Lee early in her career. There are so many great non-standard standards out there — tunes you don’t hear very much these days. A songwriter whose work fits in this category (unfortunately) is one of my favorites, Ray Henderson. He wrote and/or co-wrote some great songs — some of my all-time faves — that may sound a little dated, but are still fun to listen to and sing: "If I Had a Talking Picture of You," "The Best Things in Life Are Free," "You’re the Cream in my Coffee" and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue." In any case, I’ve thought of reviving some tunes that I personally like but are hardly ever performed these days (except by traditionalist bands). Not just Ray Henderson songs, but there are so many others out there. I’d arrange them very simply — guitars, vocals, and maybe have a friend or two play along if they don’t mind — and not get worried if the arrangements are anachronistic for the songs.

     Just because: Last week’s Says You was one of the funniest ever. I’m not sure if it was a repeat, but it sounded pretty new. I kept cracking up, thanks mostly to Tony Kahn‘s "obsession" with Paula Lyons‘ poker tell and later her turning the table on him.

     On the TV front, I am really enjoying the first-season repeats of Gilmore Girls — I really think that it is the strongest season of the show to date. The writing was just fabulous — what more can I say? I hope this season picks up a little. Alias is consistently fun and still the king of cliffhanger series.

Posted at 12:00 am | Filed under Music, Radio, NPR, etc., Television |  

Tuesday, 25 June 2002

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Wow, already summer is upon us! Amazing.

Lately I’ve become more and more addicted to Says You!, the NPR panel-based wordplay quiz show. I thought I was keen on puns — boy was I ever wrong. Carolyn Faye Fox, you’ve won a place on my People List with your nabbing of the Most Punning Award. Not to just single her out, either. All of the panelists — even the pinch hitters — are, as Paula Lyons might say, "Excellent!"

BTW, if you’re a Says You! fan: I think I’ve come up with a pretty good way to tell who has the correct definition in the bluffing rounds. I figured it out a few days ago, so I’ll have to test my theory in the coming weeks. But it’s true… knowing who has the real definition does pretty much drain the fun out the mystery. In any case, I’m surprised that Richard and the panelists haven’t figured it out, either. Unless they have and they’re just not revealing their secret weapon… Maybe I could send the panelists some tips on how to be a better bluffer (and it’s true, Ms. Lyons really is called the Baddest Bluffer on the Block for some good reasons… one of those reasons would fit nicely into the alliteration).

Richard Buckner has three CDs in my player again. At least one of his CDs has been playing in there for over a year and a half straight now. Look for his new album, due out this fall. Coldplay has a new album released even sooner. Look for it later this summer.

Speaking of Richard Buckner, I specifically wanted to mention Eric Heywood. I admit I don’t know a lot of pedal steel players by name (maybe two?), nor have I heard many, but multi-instrumentalist Eric Heywood is undoubtedly up there with the most talented of them. If you haven’t heard his work (…you mean you haven’t run out and bought any Buckner or Son Volt CDs yet?), then please do yourself a favor and listen to him play sometime. Recently I tried Googling for him, but found no Heywood-based site. Anyone know of one?

Concert recommendations: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings play the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on 1 July (this Monday night). I won’t be attending, sadly, but it should be great. There’s no supporting act, so it’s all Gillian and David… they’ll perform two sets with an intermission in between.

Quote for the time being:

How could you be untrue to yourself
when nobody is watching?
Your life isn’t over —
the clock is still tocking.
One day you will wake up
and you’ll be able to forget the sadness,
get into the gladness of love;
and it’s waiting, you will not fight it.
While everyone dozes, you’re coming up roses.

— from Owsley’s "Coming Up Roses" on Owsley

Posted at 12:00 am | Filed under Music, Radio, NPR, etc. |  

Thursday, 8 November 2001

The power of music and WBE

It’s been nearly two months since I last updated this page… the last time was just after the attacks on 11 September, and me trying to begin to deal with it, through written words.

In nearly all the difficult periods of my life, I have found music to be extraordinarily healing. I remember that on the weekend after the attacks happened on 11 Sept., I tuned in to KCRW to hear Weekend Becomes Eclectic, and was relieved to hear Anne Litt at the mic again. I think at that point, everyone was just trying to get back into some sort of post-trauma life as best as possible. But it was very, very helpful to hear the show again, and the music that Litt selected was just spot-on for the moment. I remember thinking that she knew just what to play. Some of the tunes: U2‘s "Walk On," David Gray‘s "My Oh My" — which got cut off, unfortunately, leading into an NPR news report — Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Dave Alvin, even some strong>Beatles and Kinks tunes…and music that I learned to love thanks to my dad: some Glenn Miller, Nat King Cole… she played a lot of older tunes that would definitely not be played much by any other station in the same weekend.

I felt better after listening to the shows, and I’m sure that I was not the only one. In a time of chaos and confusion — and we all felt it; no doubt the folks at KCRW were just as affected as anyone — it was good to hear my favorite radio music program on the air. When I wanted news, I’d go to a network TV station, but by the time the weekend arrived, I needed to break away from the hard reality and I needed to know that the world that I used to know wasn’t completely eradicated by terrorism — that "my" world was still intact…still going forward in spite of sustaining a huge wound. Hearing the show that weekend, live as usual, was a clear sign indicating that we would go on and we could go on.

It may seem like a small event, really, or even a non-event, but to me it was important. It wasn’t just the music that was healing (I think Litt herself said that the music she chose was for "comfort food"); it was also because of the fact that she showed up to work as usual, as did all of the KCRW music program hosts (and other programs, but I won’t go into that here). Music is an extremely important part of life — for me, anyway — and, as I mentioned, can be especially important during difficult times. So, thank you Anne Litt and thank you KCRW. And thank God for the gift of music.

Moving on to less serious things… I’ve given this some thought, and I’ve decided that at some near point in the future, I am going to start using this space (probably) to write more formal entries. More like an infrequent column. I guess you could already call this a sort of column, but they’re more newsy bulletins than personal essays. For example the opening topic of this entry (about KCRW after 11 Sept.) would actually be an ideal subject for a column, IMO. That’s the kind of stuff I would write about. But maybe more in-depth. With titles. 🙂 The last time I wrote a regular column was over six years ago. I guess that I miss the experience, so I’m creating my own opportunity here.

Other news: Was that one of the best World Series ever, or what?! Absolutely amazing.

Music of the moment: Richard Buckner is remarkably still very much a factor here. Especially "Pull," "Goner w/ Souvenir," "Lucky Buzz" and "Once." As for other music, well, I’ve been listening to a lot more than just five CDs lately. But for a sampling: I finally
updated my CD player inhabitants.

Quote for the time being:

Hey Jude,
don’t let me down.
You have found her,
now go and get her.

Remember
to let her into your heart.
Then you can start
to make it better.

— what else? The Beatles’ "Hey Jude"


Sunday, 2 September 2001

Disbelief (the good kind) over Weekend Becomes Eclectic

     Firstly, I’ll repeat the relevant concert
dates around Los Angeles that I mentioned last time:

Tuesday,
4 Sept.
Pete
Yorn
performs at the Viper
Room
.
Wednesday,
5 Sept.
Pete
Yorn
performs at El
Rey Theatre
(sold out already, but KCRW
might give away tickets — if you’re a member, listen to Morning
Becomes Eclectic
this week). Also — PY plays on the David
Letterman show 24 Sept., and he has some more So. Cal. dates later
on, one at the Pond (28 Sept.) and one at the Greek Theatre (27
Oct.).
Friday,
7 Sept.
Gillian
Welch & David Rawlings
perform at El
Rey Theatre
. Unbelievably, there are still tickets available,
as of 2 Sept. If you’re not in the area, check out their tour
schedule
from Pollstar. They’re even playing a few shows in
the UK, and so far, one in Dublin.
Saturday,
8 Sept.
Richard
Buckner
performs at Largo
Pub
in Hollywood (across from Canter’s). He’s on a solo tour
with Anders Parker
of Varnaline
. If I remember correctly, he’s working on writing
some songs with Anders Parker; I think he played one of them when
he performed in the area in April. Again, if you’re not in the area,
take a look at Buckner’s other U.S. tour
dates
. He’s also headed for Italy in November.

     If any of you go to these dates, I’d be interested
in hearing about your experience(s) — just
out of curiosity. If you’re a member of the Doubters
list, and plan on sending a message there, then I guess I’ll read
about it anyway. 🙂

     This weekend I got a chance to listen to most
of both Weekend Becomes Eclectic shows on KCRW. I pretty
much caught the last couple of hours yesterday and today. "Yeah,
so what?" you might be wondering…

     If you’ve read the KCRW section on my "Radio
programs" page
, then you know how highly I think of Anne
Litt
‘s music selections. Well, just when I think that she can’t
get any cooler, she closed out yesterday’s show by playing some of Beethoven’s
"Emperor" piano concerto (a.k.a. no. 5), which is one of my
all-time favorite classical pieces.
She was giving away tickets to a performance of Beethoven’s second PC,
I think, but played the fifth. Anyway, it was definitely one of the
many "No way!" moments for me. I actually said those two words
when she played the excerpt. I said them again near the end of WBE this
afternoon. I was on a high because she’d played track from the new album
by Gillian Welch (whose concert at El Rey, BTW, is
partly sponsored by KCRW).

     That wasn’t the end, though. The second-to-last
song of the show came on, and I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard
the opening chords of Richard Buckner‘s "Elizabeth
Childers" from The Hill. "No way" indeed
— but there it was, and yup, I was definitely still listening KCRW.
Wow. It was the first time she’s played a Buckner tune while I was listening,
and as dopey as it might sound, it got me in a very good mood (in spite
of the theme of the song of course). I don’t know if there is a DJ-friendly
version of The Hill — I would hope so. Does anyone know?
If you’re not familiar with the album, all 18 songs run together on
one track. That’s right, one track makes up the entire album. So I’m
thinking, if there isn’t a DJ-friendly version with 18 separate tracks,
then it’s even cooler that Anne Litt took the time to cue up "Elizabeth
Childers" (the eighth song) and not play the first tune ("Mrs.
Merritt") or something from his other three albums. She rocks +
KCRW rocks. 🙂 What other station would play those songs?

     Music of the moment: Still speaking
of Buckner, his albums still occupy two spots in my CD
player
but I’ve changed the other three discs. The theme this time
around seems to be old favorites.

     That’s pretty much it. I’ve updated a bunch
of the pages, mostly in the TV section to reflect the upcoming new season.
Take it easy.
 


Monday, 23 July 2001

Gray and Buckner in L.A.; behind the camera

     Well, I’m finally back. Alive on the Web again! Quite a lot happened in the last three months, and I’m really sorry that I wasn’t able to fix this no-Web-presence problem until recently.

     In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, this site used to be housed at a different server, but there were some problems with the domain for a few months (rendering the site inaccessible), so I had to move it to a new place. So here I am, at a brand new location: musicandmeaning.com. If you’re wondering where "music and meaning" comes from, it’s a reference to something that happens in the movie Howards End (it’s something that is not in E. M. Forster‘s novel, but one of the brilliant things that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala wrote for the screenplay. In the novel, there’s a crucial scene that takes place at a concert, but Jhabvala turned the concert into a lecture about music, entitled "Music and Meaning"). I like it because there are lots of layers/possible meanings to the phrase, plus on the obvious side, it makes sense for music-addicted me and the contents of this site.

David Gray plays -- can't tell which guitar.  But there's a Kyser capo...     What’s happened since the last time? Big things that come to mind: I’m working on a new writing project. That’s all I’ll say about that for now. Aside from that, I got to see David Gray with a couple of friends (hi Ed, hi Jay) when he made a local stop for his North American tour a couple of months back. I had a great time. DG was in top form and played many of my favorites that I didn’t think he would play (although he did not draw from his Lost Songs collection, unfortunately). And of course the "Please Forgive Me" experience was ridiculously fun. My friend Ed (who was not that familiar with DG’s repertoire aside from "Babylon") later commented to me that he’d never seen so many people "head-bang to a piano song." 🙂

     I could write more but I don’t want to make this entry too long; plus there’s an old, "missing" entry about a Richard Buckner concert that I’ve included just below. I wrote it back in May but was never able to upload the file because of aforementioned server issues. So here it is now:


     11 May 2001 — Greetings! I know that an update is long overdue, so here I am again. This time, though, I’m going to focus mostly on a concert I attended recently.

     A couple of weeks ago, a few friends and I went to see Richard Buckner perform — it was an excellent show. He (as well as Eric Heywood, who played pedal steel guitar, electric guitar and electric mando) played for nearly two hours, including three long encore sets. The repertoire included a nice sampling from all four albums (Bloomed, Devotion + Doubt, Since and The Hill), as well as some new, unreleased (and in a couple of cases, still unrecorded) tunes from a forthcoming EP or album. I didn’t keep good track of all the titles but there was definitely an emphasis on The Hill, naturally — after all it’s the latest release. Both performers were in good form, and Heywood was really impressive with his accompaniment and solos. They both seemed to be really into the music, too (Isn’t it odd to see someone playing and s/he’s so far away from the music, and apparently not enjoying it? Well, that was thankfully not the case here). It was a really small venue, kind of a mid-sized room with a tiny stage, and my friends and I got there early enough to sit in the second row. Keep in mind that there were probably around 10-15 rows total, definitely less than 20.

     After the concert, I was fortunate to talk to Buckner a little bit (i.e. I thanked him, gushed over his music, and basically tried not to ramble on). I think he might have sensed my nervousness, because he smiled and said thanks, and then kind of patted my shoulder as if to reassure me. He also graciously signed my copy of Since. I wanted to talk to Eric Heywood too, but he didn’t come down to chat with the guests. In any case, it was a memorable evening. If you ever have a chance to see Buckner in concert, I highly recommend it.

     Buckner played two acoustics: I think both of them were Gibsons but I might be wrong about one of them (not familiar enough with Gibsons to tell you what models they were). He also had a red Danelectro U2, which he played pretty clean. It sounded surprisingly good. After the show, I took a look at the effects he used… among them he had a Boss Line Selector, two Boss Dual Overdrive pedals, a couple of delays, and a tuner. There was one another small black box but I couldn’t read what it was. Both acoustics were plugged into L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic D.I. boxes. I’m pretty sure there were at least two different Fender amps, one for Buckner and one for Heywood, but I didn’t check carefully. Don’t know what the acoustic pickups were, but both sound holes were blocked. I should have asked about them, huh? (Tangent: as I was looking at the pedals, one of the venue’s sound guys coiling mic cables saw me, smiled and said, "Sure are a lot of gadgets, huh!" as if I were about six years old, and I managed not to roll my eyes or laugh. I just paused, amused, and said, "Well, not really. It looks like he just has two of everything [for the acoustics]." The guy didn’t respond and left me alone after that. BTW, this is why I’m not naming the venue here, but you can probably figure it out by reading elsewhere…) Each of the amps was miked with a single Shure SM57, and I’m pretty sure that Buckner’s vocal mic was a Shure SM58; all going through the house board to the PA. I think the mics belonged to the venue.


     Yes, I really enjoyed the Buckner concert. Could you tell? 🙂

     Music of the moment: Quite varied, actually, but right now I’m mostly on a folksy kick. Richard Buckner (not surprisingly) still holds a spot in my CD player. I’m finally giving David Gray’s album White Ladder a break (gasp) for the time being (BTW, thanks to his newfound popularity, all of his previously out-of-print albums have been re-issued…I feel sorry for the people who forked over 50+ bucks for his old CDs on eBay). As for new material, I’m really looking forward to Buckner’s new album (coming later this year or next?) and to Gillian Welch‘s new album (released next week!). I have Jason Falkner‘s latest CD, Necessity at the top of my wish list right now, thanks to its introduction to me by Anne Litt of KCRW’s Weekend Becomes Eclectic. Thankfully she seems to play it every weekend!

     Take it easy. See you soon.


Wednesday, 14 March 2001

Latest news

     Hey there. Wow, it’s been over a month since the last update! How did that happen? 🙂 It rained felines and canines for a while (with some awesome hail and lightning/thunderstorms to round out the madness), then there was a respite for a few days, rained again, repeat cycle 2x…now we seem to be in sunny/cloudy/rain-free weather. Latest goings-on: Still swamped with projects, and I dearly miss playing guitar and recording some new stuff that I’ve wanted to work on. Soon, I hope…

     Good news (for me, anyway) since the last time I wrote: I’m going to see David Gray perform! (A big thanks again to Jay for picking up the tickets.) 🙂 I’m really looking forward to the show. I know that DG postponed his European tour because of an illness in the family, so I hope that by the time May rolls around things will look better and that he and his family will be in good spirits. I also heard an interesting interview/live performance (taped in January) of him on Ground Zero with Chris Douridas over the weekend, where he played three unreleased — and I think still unrecorded — songs. Now, if you don’t know who David Gray is, then (1) you haven’t talked to me recently, (2) it’s either your first time reading my plan here (welcome!), (3) you did read my previous plan(s) but managed to block out my DG raves or (4) you did talk to me but managed to block out my DG raves (hmm…). 😉

     Music of the moment: David Gray and Richard Buckner still claim two spots in my my CD player but I have changed three discs since the last update. I’m sure that by this time next month there will be at least another CD change; DG’s wonderful acoustic album Lost Songs will finally be released in the U.S. on April 17th! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy. 🙂

     And last thing: I finally got a cable release for my camera. Yay! I haven’t gotten a chance to try it out on some nice long 3-minute exposures though. Maybe I’ll wait a week or so when the moon isn’t so full, to be able to get some good star shots.

     Quote for the time being: "[When] a guy reaches for his wallet and pulls out the periodic table, you know you’re in for a good night." — Michael Feldman, commenting on his guest, geology professor John Valley (Whad’ya
Know
, 13 January 2001).


Wednesday, 3 January 2001

Happy new millennium!

     Hope everyone’s holidays were enjoyable, how
ever you spent them. I’m thankful that I was able to see many friends,
a few whom I hadn’t actually seen in ages, over the past few weeks.
As for holiday gifts, well, I’m lucky to have gotten some fabulous CDs,
some of which are dominating my CD player
as I write this. The newest/main attractions are David
Gray
, Richard Buckner and the soundtrack to my favorite Rodgers
& Hammerstein
-based film. 🙂 Thanks to those people (you know who
you are!) who knew what to get me.

     One thing that I’m bummed about: I missed
both Weekend
Becomes Eclectic
shows on KCRW (30 & 31 December). It’s
not the first time I’ve missed both shows over a weekend, but the Sunday
show was a "best of 2000" retrospective, I think, and I probably missed
a truckload of good stuff. And you know, reading a playlist just isn’t
the same…

     Recently I got to visit a music store (a new
branch of a big chain which shall remain nameless here). It’s so amazing
how a roomful of guitars, all asking to be played, can brighten my day
(I guess you can tell by reading this that I don’t visit music stores
that often) 🙂 Anyway, I mostly looked but did play a few, including
a Martin
000M that sounded surprisingly good. Unfortunately the place didn’t
have any of the particular brands/models that I’d heard about and was
looking for (Martin 000-16 and variations, Martin 000-15 and variations,
Larrivee
OM models and Parlors, Tacomas). But my time there did allow me to come to the conclusion that if I ever
have the chance to get another guitar, I would prefer something smaller
than a dreadnought. I played a few, including a Martin D-15, and they
were way too boomy for me. I also played a Guild
D4
and a Gibson
Working Man 45
. Again, too big, but the WM45 also sounded too trebly.
Maybe it was the fault of the strings? I wasn’t there long enough to
test drive anything else, but there were definitely enough guitars in
there to last an entire afternoon. 🙂

     I also saw two movies, both of which I liked,
but one more than the other: I highly recommend Finding
Forrester
(the character of Forrester is a writer — played
by Sean Connery — but I doubt it has any connections to either C. S.
Forrester or E. M. Forster). I also "kind of" recommend Cast
Away
, which just pummeled its way to the top of the box office.
Finding Forrester is a much better executed movie — and
has a much clearer story — than Cast Away, which feels
aimless and completely immersed in its own confusion in the last third
of the plot. Forrester is genuinely thoughtful, but the
Tom Hanks vehicle (by the way, Hanks still does a good job) only makes
a half-successful attempt to be profound; it could have been much more
powerful if the ending/resolution had been more developed.


Sunday, 24 December 2000

Love for WBE

     First I’d like to wish a belated birthday
(yesterday) to my friends Meredith and Andrea. Happy B-day ya’ll. 🙂

     Not a whole lot to report, but I just wanted
to talk a little bit about music. Yeah, I know I do a lot of that in
their appropriate sections, but bear with me for a few moments. I cannot
say this enough: I absolutely love listening to Weekend Becomes
Eclectic
on KCRW. You can read more about it in the Radio
section, but sheesh. Every week, every time I tune in, the show never
fails to capture my complete attention (and more than once too). I’m
actually typing away right now as I’m listening to the show (it’s about
15:58 PST). I might be here at the keyboard, or eating a meal, or folding
laundry; a new song will start playing, and it’ll make me stop whatever
it is I’m doing and just listen. Plus, I can’t tell you how many times
I’ve just chuckled or smiled because of some song that I love ("I
can’t believe she’s playing that!") and then a few minutes later
another song I like will come on — one in a very different style ("No
way"). I have never found this kind of consistent — what can I
call it — parallelism? with any other radio show, not even Morning
Becomes Eclectic
(although I enjoy that too). I can’t thank the
host (Anne Litt) enough. It’s almost like listening to the soundtrack
of my life: being able to appreciate music that I already love, as well
as being able to discover new music that I’d missed. The best thing
of all: there are other people out there who share in the enjoyment
of listening to the show! No, "I’m not the only one." 🙂

     Happy holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah,
Kwanzaa and New Year! ‘Tis indeed so amazing how another year has gone
by … I hope everyone is doing well! See you in 2001. 🙂