A favorite of John Cage and Gyorgy Ligeti, the latter describing his music as "so utterly original, enjoyable, perfectly constructed but at the same time emotional...the best of any composer living today," Conlon Nancarrow's musical ideas were nevertheless too complex and technically demanding for human performers, and his political ideas too radical and leftist for McCarthy-era America. Expatriated to Mexico, the Texarkana-born avant-gardeist lived most of his life in isolation, in a cluttered, dusty studio surrounded by records, piles of books, empty Vodka bottles, newspapers, cigarette cartons, and the tools of his trade: 2 old player pianos and a custom-built piano roll press. [more inside]
2010 is the bicentennial of the birth of Frédéric François Chopin - a reluctant instrumental virtuoso, an immortal Romantic composer, and all-around bastard. [more inside]
The closing 4 pages are so cataclysmic and catastrophic as anything I've ever done — the harmony bites like nitric acid — the counterpoint grinds like the mills of God... [more inside]
Jerry Fielding (1922-1980) was one of cinema's most distinctive voices in the 1960s and especially '70s, the perfect musical complement to the films of Sam Peckinpah*, Michael Winner, Clint Eastwood and others. His scores are marked by modernism and intricate orchestrations but also a poetic beauty and intensity—an appropriate accompaniment to the decade's strange and often sad (but never sentimental) criminals and antiheroes, be they in westerns (The Wild Bunch) or crime films. He was, however, capable of numerous styles (he was a former Vegas bandleader), and wrote a great number of scores (from sticoms to dramas to sci-fi) for television. - Film Score Monthly [more inside]
Luigi Russolo was a futurist painter, experimental composer, and instrument builder. In his 1913 manifesto "The Art of Noises" he declaimed the death of traditional Western music and foresaw the dawning of a new music based on the grinding, screeching, moaning, crackling and buzzing of mechanical instruments. He and his assistant Ugo Piatti built the Intonarumori to bring these new sounds - "the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags" - to life. Listen to them, then and now.
British composer and TV presenter Howard Goodall presents a documentary exploring the influences and theory behind the music of The Beatles, and the transformation of their sound over their recording career. Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 on Youtube. But that's not all... [more inside]
John Dowland was a lute player and composer roughly contemporaneous with William Shakespeare. In a recent article Mark Padmore, a frequent performer of Dowland's work, compared Dowland to Morrissey and Bob Dylan. Whether that's accurate or not johndowland.co.uk is a fine website with many recordings available either in mp3 format or as videos. There are essays on the site but it also points towards many other Dowlandian treasures online, including this fine biography and lyrics. Among Dowland's best known works are Flow, My Tears, Stay, Time, Awhile and An Heart Thats Broken and Contrite [mp3 links] but my favorites are In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell and Sorrow Stay [YouTube]
Vangelis: The Man And His Music (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) profiles prolific Greek keyboardist and composer Evanghelos Odyssey "Vangelis" Papathanassiou in a rare 1984 television interview. [more inside]
Maurice Jarre (September 13, 1924 – March 29, 2009) was a French composer and conductor. Although he composed several concert works, he is best known for his film scores for motion pictures, particularly those of David Lean: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984). All three of these scores won Academy Awards. - Wikipedia
Beethoven's Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 9 in A, Op. 47 (audio) was originally dedicated to the black violin virtuoso George Bridgetower after he gave such a brilliant rendering of the piece that prompted Beethoven to jump from his seat and embrace him. Bridgetower was a musical child prodigy and composer who, despite rampant racial prejudice, reached "unusual heights in the music world of his day". Having lived and performed in major European cities such as London, Paris, and Vienna, he would later die forgotten and in poverty. A personal disagreement with Bridgetower led Beethoven to dedicate the sonata to the famous violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer instead who, incidentally, never played it in public deeming it “outrageously unintelligible”. [more inside]
"Will Marion Cook is a name to reckon with in the history of black American music." Many of us have never heard of him, but with a recent recording of his work available, along with a new biography, now would be a good time to catch up and swing along.
In 2006 Nell James was a teenage prog rocker, writing, playing and singing all instruments, and self-producing an album in her bedroom studio that paid homage to 1970s English art rock, a genre that arguably passed its zenith when her parent were in kindergarten. The result, Tempus, received positive reviews in the re-emging prog rock press. Also impressive was her cover/re-arrangement of Gentle Giant's On Reflection. [more inside]
Brazil's Gilberto Gil, now 66 years of age, is stepping down from his position as Minister of Culture to concentrate, once again, on his music career. That's good news for his fans, and here's some more good news: a huge chunk of his recorded work is available as streaming audio for your listening pleasure. [more inside]
Leroy Shield was a composer from the Hal Roach era of comedies who composed soundtracks for Laurel and Hardy and the Little Rascals, he has one cover, er, orchestra, the Beau Hunks and no less of a fan than Robert Crumb. Check the main website for more sounds and movies.
via WFMU, bonus YouTubery inside [more inside]
via WFMU, bonus YouTubery inside [more inside]
John Cage's 4'33" has been discussed previously on MeFi, but you might've missed the full orchestral version. [more inside]
You folks out there in MeFi Town been keeping up with the water themed MeFi Music Challenge? There's been some mighty fine uploads for you to check out! But if there was ever a piece of music deserving the water tag, it's this drenching wet masterpiece by Brazil's brilliant, eccentric musical genius Hermeto Pascual, in which Hermeto and his band play bottles full of water, and flutes full of water, and, well, the lake. Música da Lagoa: water music at its very best. And its very wettest. [more inside]
Frank Zappa - The Gigantic Spoken Word Project. Numerous volumes of a very large collection of Frank Zappa spoken word releases. They consist of radio interviews and journalist reporter type personal interviews. During the radio interviews sometimes music was played as background or added before the broadcast in between questions and answers. Sometimes FZ acts as D.J., plays records from his collection and talks to the radio audience. But the main focus of this series is FZ interviews which to me is as interesting as his music. (Just a quick warning; the download mechanism is a tad annoying)
If you've ever thought that music can be an extremely intuitive and effective way to communicate things, then Stanford Professor Jonathan Berger (samples of his music) is doing some research that might interest you. (via)
Gian Carlo Menotti was, until his death at 95, the most often-performed contemporary opera composer. Among his works is the first opera composed for radio, the most popular Christmas opera, possibly the first opera in which a telephone plays a principal role (Poulenc's came more than a decade later), an opera about aliens, and a masterpiece about life under totalitarian rule (which was also the first time that suicide by gas oven made it to the stage). He ignored the fashion of atonality that held academia in thrall, and never veered from his lyrical style. He wrote his own libretti, which showed a mastery and love of language as deep as his musical talents. Some of his works were Broadway successes. And he created one of the finest music festivals [includes embedded music video]. He will be remembered.
Moving an 100 year old church - via the power of rock (YouTube page) Watching a show about buildings being moved by truck, my attention drifted towards the captivating music, from composer Daniel Pemberton. One of the gems on his MySpace page is this clip in which a 40-strong choir leads an 100-year old church as it is moved down a road, to a soundtrack akin to the Beatles or Polyphonic Spree. It's bizarre and certainly not your normal documentary fare.
However interesting your life is, it probably pales in comparison to Moondog. A homeless, blind composer who transcribed in braille, he went from a career as a street corner musician in New York, to sitting in Carnegie Hall for rehersals at the invitation of Artur Rodzinski, he was invited to Germany and wrote a symphony for four conductors: "The Overtone Tree", he was covered by Janis Joplin and worked with Julie Andrews. (mi)
Was Richard Rodgers The Greatest American Popular Composer So Far? 2002 is his Centennial. He may be less cool and more bourgeois than the other greats like Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Frank Loesser, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. But even the most cursory look at the long list of the wonderful songs he wrote(try the excellent song search feature), with Hart, then Hammerstein(and some other lyricists, including himself)makes it very difficult to deny there never was - and probably never will be - a more talented and versatile tunesmith. Miles Davis was right. He was a genius. And yet...[Flash required for the (interesting) intro]
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