Posts Tagged ‘music

07
Aug
10

Home is wherever there is you.

A live radio performance from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes. If you’ve not heard of these guys, you should read up.

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07
Aug
10

Lightnin’ Hopkins on the blues


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Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins (1912–82) was one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th Century, with something like 1,000 tracks to his name. Born and raised in Texas, he got his start hanging out with Blind Lemon Jefferson, whom he credited as his major influence. Lightnin’ began his career in the early 1930s, but it was not until the 1960s that he achieved international notoriety. Toward the end of his life he traveled all over the United States and made festival appearances in Europe.

His unique style centered around the “talking blues,”  of which this video is a fine example. It’s a clip from Les Blank’s 1967 documentary The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins. Hopkins was a highly influential “blues man’s blues man,” whose sincerity and musicianship made an impact on the likes of Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Frusciante, and even REM. Today his famous Gibson resides in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

27
Nov
09

10 fresh and underrated classical holiday pieces

Holiday music can be pleasant and refreshing as long as it’s . . . well, good. We comfort creatures don’t mind the familiar, but even the most spirited among us eventually tire of Messiah, The Nutcracker, and Sleigh Ride.

That’s where andante mosso steps in, bringing you, courtesy of YouTube, 10 classical pieces that can make for fine holiday listening—and you won’t find sleigh bells or whip cracks in any of them:

1 – Ubi caritas from Four Motets on Gregorian Themes – Maurice Duruflé

Maurice Duruflé (1902 – 1986) was a French organist and composer whose works, including the famous Requiem, are largely based on melodies from plainsong chant harmonized and developed in interesting ways. This motet, Ubi caritas et amor (Deus ibi est) / Where there is charity and love (God is there), is a simple, warm, lovely tribute to the spirit of Christmas, performed here by the Cambridge Singers.

2 – Chorus: “Jauchzet, Frolocket” from The Christmas Oratorio – J.S. Bach

One of the most underplayed Christmas masterworks in the repertoire, Bach’s monumental Weinachtsoratorium deserves, even among speakers of English, no less attention than Handel’s vastly more famous contribution. In the opening chorus, presented by John Eliot Gardiner and his amazing Monteverdi Choir, the listener is extolled to “rise up and praise” the Christmas miracle.

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25
Nov
09

brahms in the autumn of his year

Johannes Brahms (1833-97) is, for me, a silvan composer—his music reminds me of a great rambling wood. We can rather clearly see the succession of the seasons in his work: from the fiercely beautiful, compelling springtime of early efforts like the piano sonatas and ballades, the first sets of songs, and chamber works such the first string sextet and the piano quartets, to the bursting summer of his symphonies, mature lieder, and Ein deutsches Requiem; and then there is the august and demure autumn of Brahms’ year, in which he composed chamber works, piano music, and a few last songs, all of an intense intimacy which represent to me the best that the Romantic period has to offer.

The particular works I have in mind are the trio for clarinet, cello, and piano, Op. 114; the clarinet quintet, Op. 115; the final collections of character pieces for the piano, Opp. 116-119; the two sonatas for clarinet and piano, Op. 120, which to my mind are still the finest music written for that combination; and of course the Four Serious Songs of Op. 121 and the chorale preludes for organ of Op. 122. After these, Brahms was no more. In all this music we hear the life force waning, represented by long, sinuous melodic phrases and a preoccupation with harmonic progression by descending fifth. Brahms’ late interest in the clarinet came  from his association with Mühlfeld, a clarinetist from the orchestra at Meiningen whose playing inspired the master to continue composing during a period of creative vexation.

I believe it is in the Four Pieces for piano of Op. 119 (1893) that we can most directly experience this heaving forth of a great many leaves onto the musical landscape. We sense Brahms’ prescience of his own impending demise, but not through any sense of panic or terror in his voice, because there is none. Maybe there is some regret, some longing to revisit the springtime of youth once again, but we can find no internal disarray in this music. It reminds me of Bilbo Baggins at Rivendell, continually dozing by the fire as he looks over the journals of his great adventures while the younger generation prepares to quest on.  There is no rage against the dying of the light—only placid enjoyment of its last warmth and, one feels, some pleasure in solitary respite at the end of a full life.

Continue reading ‘brahms in the autumn of his year’