Durn kid. Git off my genre!
August 8, 2008 2:42 PM   Subscribe

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 recently, under her real name, Nell Shaw Cohen, she has turned to composing for early instruments and encouraging other composers to do the same.

This fall she begins studies in composition with Michael Gandolfi at New England Conservatory, and as of June, was added to the artist roster of the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation, an international charitable organization that supports "emerging artists of exceptional talent".

o Myspace (with clips)
o Tempus (links)
o Cover/re-arrangement of Gentle Giant's On Reflection (mp3)
o Cover of Yes's South Side of The Sky (mp3)
o Digital music created using Propellerhead Reason (links)

Time-Lapse (For English Horn, Clarinet, Viola, Cello)
o mp3
o score (PDF)

Memory (for vocal quartet)
o mp3 of entire composition (12 minutes)
o Score for pt I: Memory (PDF)
o Score for pt II: Recollection (PDF)
o Score for pt III: Inward action (PDF)
o Score for pt IV: This power of memory (PDF)
o Inspiration: Book X of St. Augustine's "Confessions"
o Nell’s essay about the composition

o Baby Blaue (auf Deutch), the essence of which is: "A musically coherent album lying at the intersection of classical, prog rock groups such as Yes, Gentle Giant, or Renaissance, and American folk rock a la Aimee Mann or Joni Mitchell . . . a soft, warm atmosphere full of harmonic complexity. A very promising debut. Recommended."
o Harp Magazine
o Sea of Tranquility
o Local coverage of her debut at the 4th Annual Playhouse Project Benefit Concert: "[M]elodious and thoughtfully constructed works that impressed with their maturity."
posted by Herodios (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Jikido at 3:00 PM on August 8, 2008

I loves me some prog, but I don't know. All of this is just so... boring.
posted by Khalad at 3:16 PM on August 8, 2008

IMO, her voice is a bit weak, lacking the kind of drama needed for Prog Rock.

The musicianship is OK, but nothing to write home about.

I agree with Khalad.
posted by dbiedny at 3:20 PM on August 8, 2008

My prog heart just exploded with delight. Thank you.

Gentle Giant! I loved On Reflection. That whole album. Especially His Last Voyage.
posted by jokeefe at 3:22 PM on August 8, 2008

good morning little schoolgirl,
can I go home with you?

I'm no prog fan, but, hell, I know a prodigy when I see one. Damn!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:01 PM on August 8, 2008

This thread is about to get creepy.
posted by basicchannel at 7:33 PM on August 8, 2008

(err, post)
posted by basicchannel at 7:33 PM on August 8, 2008

Hey, I'm just quoting the blues, basicchannel, just quoting the blues. At any rate, it was a metaphorical going home, in my usage.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:09 PM on August 8, 2008

it never sounded metaphorical when pigpen sang it
posted by pyramid termite at 8:25 PM on August 8, 2008

she's very talented but the 3 originals sound very worked out to the point where there's not a lot of oomph there - i think it would help if she played a little looser at times - her instruments aren't fighting each other enough
posted by pyramid termite at 8:36 PM on August 8, 2008

it never sounded metaphorical when pigpen sang it

And when Junior Wells sang it, it was positively dripping with lasciviousness. However, I assure you I have no designs on any 17-year old schoolgirls.

I assure you.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:14 PM on August 8, 2008

Well, damn-sam, you're getting in all kinds of trouble, aren't you Flapjax? If it helps, basicchannel and pyramid termite, she's not statutory anymore. She's 19. And Flapjax (sorry to put words in your mouth) is simply illustrating how musicians are drawn to other smart and talented musicians, especially young ones. It could be Midori or Little Stevie Wonder.

Remember Flapjax's Korean toddler singing Hey Jude post a while back? There's a fascination with young people who've mastered some aspect of mysterious music, partly 'cuz we don't really know how we do it.

If you only listened to the proggy tracks, you're missing more than half the story. Playing all the instruments is just a composer's way of a getting to hear the music in her head. It looks like she's already abandoned this m.o. and has moved on to full-on composing for small chamber groups.

For me it's not so much about being entertained by her voice or guitar playing or mastery of 1970s prog forms at this stage, as it is to see and appreciate the potential that's there.

I think we'll be hearing from Nell Shaw Cohen again. You read it here first.
posted by Herodios at 10:08 PM on August 8, 2008

Her cover of On Reflection was pleasant enough - until it gets to the round.

I found it disconcerting and distracting to hear her sing all the parts simultaneously - a triumph of multi-tracking over the natural human voice.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 12:16 AM on August 9, 2008

This set me off on an epic meditation on progressive rock and my Grand Theory of The Edge (Why Charlie Parker and The Ramones are groovy, yet Kenny G and Green Day not), but I'll save you .

If you like this sort of thing, you might like North Sea Radio Orchestra very much. I do.
posted by Grangousier at 4:20 AM on August 9, 2008

that's funny, i'm really good friends with nell's sister. i didn't realize she was a prodigy!
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 11:51 AM on August 9, 2008

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