NPR Music shares footage from Mantra Percussion’s recent visit to a Lowes in Alexandria, Virginia. An ad hoc performance of Michael Gordon’s Timber was involved.
Mantra will give the West Coast premiere of Timber on September 21-23 at the Carlsbad Music Festival.
This week, one of the topics being avidly discussed on the blogosphere is a post written on the All Songs Considered blog by NPR intern Emily White (read here). There have been a number of passionate replies to her suggestion that those in her age group simply are not buying music: they’re too accustomed to “appropriating” it. David Lowery (of the band Camper Van Beethoven) provided an in depth and thoughtful response (a must read at the Trichordist here). One can also read Ben Sisario’s article for the NY Times here and Jonathan Coulton’s blog post here.
All caught up? Good.
I won’t go through all of the merits and moral quandaries associated with file-sharing and streaming services. Full disclosure: I use NML regularly in my work (we subscribe at Westminster Choir College) and also have a paid Spotify subscription. While I’m a big proponent of physical media, and also feel that streaming services must work to do a better job to compensate artists, I am pleased that these technological options are available, as they are invaluable references for scholars and music lovers.
Thus, I’m certainly not interested in piling on or, goodness forbid, admonishing Emily White. In some ways, I feel sorry for her: a DJ and station manager who doesn’t have a record collection strikes me as someone who’s missed out on a very fun part of that gig. Instead, let’s zero in on those records. In the various posts on the subject of apathetic interns there is an almost unmentioned other segment of the populace that should be introduced into this conversation about purchasing music: young people who, you know, purchase music.
I support lots of artists by buying their music, often in physical, sometimes esoteric, formats. I feel about LPs the way that former Senator Phil Gramm feels about firearms, about which he famously said, “I have more of ‘em than I need and less of ‘em than I want.”
But I’m not the only one with this penchant for owning a physical artifact instead of ripping a friend’s CD. Why is it whenever I go to a record store I’m surrounded by people, many approximately Emily White’s age, who are digging through the bins and buying vinyl? New vinyl – nice 180 gram pressings of current albums. That’s a lot of latte money!
Maybe, in the midst of all of the doom and gloom about the decline of CDs as a distribution model, we are overgeneralizing by taking the casual listener as the barometer for future music sales. The casual listener has long “stolen” or, at the very least, freely acquired, music: well before the advent of file sharing and mp3s. Mix tapes, listening to the radio in a restaurant that doesn’t pay royalties, borrowing music from libraries, friends, etc.
Yes, the arguments regarding “fair use” settled some of these issues, but it took lengthy court battles to do so. At the time, most teens remained blithely oblivious of the issues at hand, continuing to dupe their friends’ copies of whatever they couldn’t afford that week at Sam Goody. What’s sad is that Emily seems to fall into this group of casual consumers: one might hope that NPR would attract folks who get the point of supporting those who entertain, educate, and even move them.
Physical product continues to be viable in the digital age, even if it proves to be a more modest stream of revenue than it was for artists during the boom years of the CD era. The physical product that seems to be on the rise at the moment is the LP, with good reason: it’s a very fine artifact. The bigger format helps – you can actually read the liner notes and the artwork can better be appreciated. Many audiophiles (myself included) love ‘em.
That said, the industry should continue to explore other modes of distribution, new platforms that will help to keep them in business and recoup at least some of artists’ lost royalties. In no way am I suggesting that streaming media isn’t going to be the prevailing method of experiencing recorded music in the future. From an archival standpoint and one of accessibility, this is an exciting thing indeed. However, I can’t help but think that the lack of engagement with a record collection, except in the digital domain, divests the listening experience of some of its vitality.
Readers: what do you think? The comments section is open for civil discourse.
Saturday, April 21, 8:00 PM
Church of St. Mary the Virgin
NEW YORK – Miller Theatre’s Early Music series, which regularly presents concerts at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in midtown Manhattan, concluded its season with a concert by the English vocal ensemble Stile Antico. It was the group’s last concert of their Spring American tour, and featured a program that was described from the stage as a “whistle stop tour through the music of the Renaissance.” Indeed, in a single evening the group covered a wide range of repertoire that encompassed the entire chronology of Renaissance polyphony. The program included a number of works that choral music aficionados would consider its chestnuts. These were complemented by less famous, yet still musical engaging, pieces and several works by lesser known composers who seem undeservedly underrepresented on concert programs and recordings.
Two of the latter were Spanish composers Rodrigo de Ceballos and Sebastian de Vivanco, whose Hortus Conclusus and Veni, dilecte mi, stood toe to toe with fellow countryman Tomas Luis de Victoria, despite his representation on the program being the superlative – and superlatively sung – O Magnum Mysterium. Two other Continental standouts were Nicolas Gombert’s Magnificat primi toni and Clemens non Papa’s Egos flos campi. The latter was particularly sumptuous (below, I’ve included a YouTube video of the group performing it in 2008).
Stile Antico excels in their presentation of English Renaissance repertoire, which was abundantly present on the program. Often, composers were represented by two contrasting works, demonstrating their responses to different texts and, during the Tudor era, their differing responses to Catholic and Anglican liturgical settings. Thus, William Byrd’s affirmative Laetentur coeli contrasted with Vigilate, a work that would seem to be a covert nod towards the suffering and tribulations of recusant Catholics during the Elizabethan era. Likewise, Thomas Tallis’ O Sacrum Convivium (another gorgeously blended performance) was later contrasted with Why Fum’th in Fight, one of Eight Tunes from Archbishop Parker’s Psalter (probably best known for its reincarnation in Vaughan Williams’ Fantasy on a Theme by Thomas Tallis - or, as some of my less astute students recently said, “The theme from Master and Commander). John Sheppard was represented by a single work, but his Lord’s Prayer (with an earlier version of the wording that was quite moving) was another work performed with particular clarity and beauty of tone.
Commissioned for the ensemble, John McCabe’s Woefully Arrayed, a visceral and rhythmically charged Passion motet, was the program’s sole representation of non-Renaissance music, but it indicated theatStile Antico is more than up to the task of assaying challenging and chromatic repertoire. Generally speaking, here and elsewhere, the group’s intonation and diction were superlative. Their approach is faithful to current performance practice research, while embodying an immediacy and effulgent expressivity that is quite stirring. For example, the crisp consonants and tightly interwoven phrases they lent to Byrd’s Vigilate, when compared to the sensuous luxuriance of Stile Antico’s performance of Lassus’ Veni, dilecte mi demonstrated a broad range of approaches that were both imaginative and stylistically faithful. One area in which the ensemble might endeavor to improve is their diction in works with many divisi: some of the texts were difficult to decipher in their performances of Thomas Tomkins’ O Praise the Lord and the concert’s closer Tota pulchra es by Hieronymus Praetorius. But to dwell overlong on these minor infelicities would be hairsplitting: Stile Antico provided a wonderful evening of rousing singing.
They even shared an encore by Thomas Campion – a teaser from their latest CD on Harmonia Mundi, Tune thy Musicke to thy Hart. A collaboration with early music consort Fretwork, the disc is a collection of Tudor and Jacobean music for private devotion. This less formal, and more intimate, repertoire is approached by the groups with refinement, delicacy, and characteristic musicality. Both the CD, and Stile Antico’s next visit to a venue in your area, are wholeheartedly recommended.
Stile Antico performs Clemens:
Here they are on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series:
This morning, NPR Music has an article on “Estonian Chillwave” artist Maria Minerva. Although they’re a little late to the party (Tallinn at Dawn came out last year), NPR’s spotlighting of album track “California Scheming” is a welcome playlist addition anytime.
Below is another excellent track by Minerva. Creeping Wave’s post of her track “Gloria” via Soundcloud.
Offbeat collaborations have become a hallmark programming preference for Merkin Hall’s Ecstatic Music festival. But the combination of a cappella group Anonymous Four with indie rock songwriter Josh Darnielle of the Mountain Goats and multi-instrumentalist/arranger Owen Pallett is a standout even in this season’s diverse set of offerings.
Our friends at WQXR were kind enough to share the concert on Q2: it’s streamable via the embedded player below.
Transcendental Youth (Darnielle)
Lection: Apocalypse 21:1-5
The Lord’s Prayer (John Tavener)
Motet: Salve virgo regio/Ave goriosa mater/[DOMINO]
Motet: Gaude virgo nobilis/Verbum caro factum/ET VERITATE
Benedicamus domino: Belial vocatur
Conductus: Nicholai presulis
Song: Novus Annus Adiit
Trope: Gratulantes celebremus festum
The Scientist (Richard Einhorn)
Religious Ballad: Wayfaring Stranger
One of the many reasons to love NPR: their stellar coverage of this year’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. A highlight at ATP 2011 was Oneida’s marathon free improv set. Titled “Ocropolis III” and clocking in at nearly eight hours in duration, the event featured a number of indie luminaries joining the band onstage: members of Yo La Tengo, Chavez, Portishead, Boredoms, and more.
In a generous gesture, NPR is sharing the entire set as a free download on their website.
Oneida’s Absolute II is out now via Jagjaguwar.
This past Saturday, guitarist Glenn Jones was on NPR’s Weekend Edition promoting his new album The Wanting (out on Thrill Jockey). The upshot of the Jones piece was that he had “stepped out of John Fahey’s shadow.” It’s true that Jones collaborated with Fahey, and is a fellow traveler to Robbie Basho, Jack Rose, Stephen Basho-Junghans and other “American Primitive” acoustic folk string-slingers. But once you hear him, you’ll likely think that his shadow itself looms plenty large.
The Wanting is Jones’s solo debut on Thrill Jockey, although we certainly expect from this relationship than a single release. A point of nostalgia for me: it was recorded in an intimate space: a fourth floor apartment in Allston; a Boston suburb that was my stomping grounds in grad school. While I didn’t hear Jones during my time there, I did get to hear many a stimulating solo guitar set at Beantown coffeehouses and bars. But nostalgic connections or not, the musicality and versatility brought to bear on The Wanting is undeniable. Jones plays all of the instruments himself: acoustic steel string guitar, six-string, 10-string and bottleneck, and 5-string open-back banjo. The tunes are originals, but they contain soulful resonances and folk-inflected affinities that make them seem timeless and, quite quickly, fondly familiar.
Check out the video clip and MP3 below: it will likely make you want The Wanting. Better yet, catch Jones live on his upcoming tour (dates follow).
Oct 14 Boston, MA Villa Victoria
Oct 16 Chicago, IL The Hideout
Oct 17 Iowa City, IA The Mill
Oct 18 Dubuque, IA Monk’s
Oct 19 Bloomington, IN Russian Recording
Oct 20 Lexington, KY Collexion
Oct 21 Louisville, KY TBA
Oct 22 Knoxville, TN The Pilot Light
Oct 23 Asheville, NC Harvest Records
Oct 24 West Columbia, SC Conundrum Music Hall
Oct 25 Atlanta, GA TBA
Oct 26 Atlanta, GA Grocery On Home
Oct 27 Chapel Hill, NC The Nightlight
Oct 28 Takoma Park, MD Potts-Dupre Schoolhouse
Nov 1 Brooklyn, NY Zebulon
Nov 3 Easthampton, MA Flywheel
Nov 5 State College, PA Schlow Centre Region Library
Chris Thile & Michael Daves
Sleep with One Eye Open
Chris Thile is best known for his work as vocalist and virtuoso mandolinist with the bands Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek. And while his fancy finger work frequently dazzles, he’s been criticized in the past for allowing the production values imposed on his music to have to glitzy a sheen: blunting the “authentic-sounding” quality that connoisseurs often prize in traditional music-making. But his recently collaboration with guitarist and vocalist Michael Daves restores a sense of folksiness, grit, and yes, authenticity to the proceedings.Daves is a wonderful foil for Thile. His stomping grounds are in Brooklyn, but his sound is a spot-on reanimation of old-time Nashville. Ironically, the recording takes place in that very city, in a new studio with vintage equipment – Jack White’s Third Man studios.
The concept for the album is beautifully simple. Thiles and Daves went into Third Man and, in four days, recorded all sixteen of the album’s cuts: traditional songs and material by beloved Bluegrass icons such as Flatt and Scruggs. Just two guys standing toe to toe, playing with youthful energy and nimble virtuosity and singing their hearts out. No backing band, no overdubs: none necessary.
In an era of glitzy presentation and overproduction, of far too many cooks spoiling an often thinly appointed stew, Sleep with One Eye Open is an object lesson on how to do it right. Recommended.
I’m so glad to learn that NPR is hosting Robert Hilferty’s documentary about Milton Babbitt on their Deceptive Cadence blog (Video embed below).
Some scenes from this were screened at a Babbitt event I attended a few years ago at CUNY Graduate Center, but, due to Hilferty’s passing in 2009, a finished film never appeared publicly.
Today, Alex Ross ran a post about the film at The Rest is Noise, indicating that Laura Karpman has helped to edit this posthumous version of the work.
Ross also wrote his own tribute to Babbitt here. He was kind enough to include several links to other Babbitt-related media and articles about the composer. He even linked our coverage here (Thanks Alex!).