Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kammermusik in a Box

Paul Hindemith's Kammermusiken hailed a new style that was beginning to emerge in the world of musical composition. Although, his earilier works drew on the sources of Webern and Schoenberg, Hindemith's work in the 1920s began to take on a more contrapuntal style similar to that of Bach. The genre was described as neoclassical but this was a different neoclassicism when compared to the works of Stravinsky.

The piano parts in the Piano Concerto, for example, had a very polyphonic layout and were reminiscent of Bach's keyboard Inventions- less in harmony but more in the linear style of the piece. While the second movement evokes memories of Bach's concerto movements, due in part to its emphatic ostinato theme which withdraws into the background only to return to the surface later.

Kammermusik No.6 introduces the viola d'amore, a favorite instrument of the Baroque period, and was played by the composer himself when performed publicly.

Hindemith's compositions were in direct opposition to the Romantics and shunned the public's fascination wtih large symphonic orchestras. Favored instruments such as the horns and trombones were completely stripped out of the works and the strings, once used to employ a sensuous profusion, were now only used in rhythmic pulses. Rhythm that hints at jazz but without being caught up in the mass hysteria that existed in that day.

Later, in the 1930s, the German government had trouble discerning the "validity" of the work that Hindemith churned out. Some describing it as nothing more than Entartete Musik, while others stating that it was worthy of recognition due to the frequent references to folk music. The Reich Music Chamber eventually employed him (despite being wed to a Jew) but only after he swore an oath to Hitler. The work he was commisioned for never materialized.

Here is the entire recording of the 7 Kammermusiken box set performed by the Concerto Amsterdam released on Telefunken.

For more information about the work of Hindemith, see his book The Craft of Musical Composition.

Rants & Chants

At the time of its release (1965), Om was considered to be the worst album that John Coltrane had ever recorded. Manic instrument-playing interspersed with chants of the sacred Hindu syllable and text readings of The Tibetan Book of the Dead litter the eardrum.

Due to the initial impression that people had of the original release, it's no big shock that the album is currently out of print. The recording below is from the LP. If you're unfamiliar with this album, you should check it out and make up your own mind about it. The album has never been re-issued to CD but rumors abound that it has been seen on recently, so if vinyl doesn't do it for you, it would be advised to seek it out there.

Stubs on Keyboards

In November of 1968, CBS released Thelonious Monk's last album on their label. They had intended on putting out another release afterwards- an album of Beatles covers. Interest in jazz was waning and they were looking for a way to make Monk's music appeal to a younger generation. To add insult to injury, they even had a record executive come over to his house and play him the tunes as if he couldn't read sheet music. As a result of this bombastic event, Monk left CBS and went his own way, playing live performances in New York City and doing radio shows in Japan.

These were the last recordings he made as a band leader. The Black Lion sessions were recorded during the Giants Of Jazz tour with Art Blakey, Al McKibbon, Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie, and Kai Winding in 1971. The Vogue sessions were recorded much earlier in 1954. The complete box set was released by Mosaic Records as a 4-LP package and only 7500 copies were printed. Although, the majority of these tracks are solo performances, the dissonant harmonies and angularity of his compositions still shine through.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Post at a Moment's Notice

John Coltrane's release Blue Train was a powerful album to put out as a first-time band leader on Blue Note Records. To top it off, he was also performing in Thelonious Monk's Five Spot quartet on a regular basis. This was definitely a bright time in the history of jazz music. Exuberant solos from all the hornmen in the band can be heard on this single, as well as Chambers' fine bowing on the bass.

This 7" was released to promote the album back in 1957. Record companies were big on releasing albums in many formats in the 1950s, hence the release of Blue Train in a 7" box.


Monday, March 26, 2007

It Ain't A Party Until Some Dead Presidents Are Thrown In The Mix

Gil Mantera's Party Dream.

Purveyors of contradiction.

Images of neatly-coiffed Euro Fag boys dancing politely behind their synthesizers are immediately demolished by a barrage of two hard-drinking truck drivers dressed in leopard skin panties and tassles, performing calisthenics while singing into vocoders and playing bass guitars.

A synth-band on a blues record label. These are the guys who Depeche Mode met when they decided to get tattoos.

Gil Mantera's Party Dream are at once retro and modern. Ferocious and fun.

You haven't lived life until you've seen them on stage. Until that day, you are just another mechanized drone in the seabed of mundanity that passes for the music industry.

The album posted here is out of print and very difficult to find. It taps slightly into the excitement of experiencing the Party Dream as it's unfurling before the eyes of its onlookers, transforming them into participants whose goal is to make the Party Dream a living reality.

Live the Dream.

To go into Party Dream REM sleep mode, check out the Fat Possum Records release Blood Songs.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Popular Genres for Gentiles as Well as Jews

This is an out of print LP originally released by Folklyric Records. The album consists of recordings of klezmer music released on 78 RPM disc from 1910-1927. Touted as being "the first GOOD collection of remastered klezmer '78s," Dr. Martin Schwartz, of the University of California at Berkeley, helped breathe life into an almost unknown musical genre through the compiling of this musical collection. It has recently been updated and remastered by David Julian Gray (one of the original Klezmorim) and is now available on CD with added tracks.

Klezmer is a Yiddish term, which basically translates to 'musician.' It was derived from the late Hebrew k(e)ley-zemer (vessels of tune). Although, the use of the term klezmer music refers to instrumental music of the folk-tradtions of the "Yiddish-speaking Jewry of Eastern Europe," it should be noted that as late as the 1960's in Romania, Gypsies were the only source for traditional Jewish music.

Some of the most remarkable tracks on the collection include the clarinet playing of Naftule Brandwein (Brandwine). Until the late 1920's, Brandwine was the most recorded clarinetist of klezmer music; Dave Tarras was virtually unknown up to this point.

Although the clarinet is the most important instrument in this genre of folk music, one can hear solos performed on other instruments in this collection, like the cembalo (the cymbalon, or the cembalom, a type of hammered dulcimer), the accordion, and even the xylophone.

Recommended reading for further information on klezmer music would be any text written or music compiled by Henry Sapoznik.

Klezmer Music

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Suicidal Blaze of Musical Glory

Music bloggers? Ha. Aural romantics are we!