Ora sono ubriaco d'universo. (Ungaretti)

Category: music (page 1 of 5)

Everything I learned in life I learned from Lana Del Rey’s Twitter

soundtrack for this art project

5. Thank you so much to Yuri Milner for giving away millions at the breakthrough awards at NASA and bringing the world’s most outstanding physicists to our attention. Was incredible to see Sergey Brin and Mark and all of the deserving winners


4. There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

– Walt Whitman

He talked at length about receiving impressions from the world around us, impacts upon our senses, then our minds selectively filtering them, yielding useful information. She was skeptical. Maybe some objects dictate to us, never let us go.

3. Paris

I remember being rejected, walking those streets. It was a giant joke. There were so many people with real problems. What right did I have to feel bad in a rich, glamorous city?

2. Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt

The experience of nothingness.

1. You are, therefore I am

At first, a corny statement about love – adoring or being adored. At first.

“No one can make or break you, but you:” An interview with Heather Bright of “Bright Lights”

Many of you know I help run a classical music blog and I’m not averse to raving about how awesome, say, Faure is. While looking for new music recently, I encountered “Bright Lights,” which makes excellent electronic, dance and house music: check them out at wearebrightlights. Heather Bright was willing to take time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions about what it’s like being an artist and trying to make it nowadays. I was curious to hear about music school and reality tv as well.

Do give Bright Light’s facebook page a like and add them on twitter. I can’t thank Heather enough for the interview.

1. What was music school like? I imagine getting in isn’t easy and that when one’s in, life in a conservatory is rough. Since everyone’s good, is there an intense pressure to be the best? Any tips for budding young musicians?

Heather Bright (HB): Music school was a lot of fun! The best part was being surrounded by the best musicians in the world for nearly three years. A lot of the people I performed with every week went on to play for some of the greatest artists in the world. One of my former drummers is now Beyonce’s live drummer. Another bandmate tours with Cirque Du Soleil. Lots of friends from school have moved out to LA and have great careers playing out several times a week. I didn’t know any music theory before I attended Berklee. All my training was by ear. So that has helped me tremendously. I run into Berklee kids all the time in this business and there’s an immediate understanding and level of respect. We all speak the same language.

2. You’ve been on reality tv and seem normal. You’re definitely friendly, hard-working and eager to try new things. I guess your experience of reality tv was quite different from what I see on, say, “Rock of Love?”

HB: I don’t know quite what you mean by “normal” lol. I’m a good person with a good heart. I try to do right by everyone I meet, and that will always come before aesthetics and riches for me. I’m far from perfect like anyone else, but I think that’s what makes us all so uniquely beautiful… the imperfections. I was at a very strange place in my life when we filmed that show. It’s hard for me to talk about because it’s still kinda painful remembering how that made me feel. I was raised very strict as a child so I didn’t find out who I was until way later in life. Those kind of shows can be devastating to new artists who are trying to figure out who they are and light their own path. I felt like my entire career was over before it even began. The truth is, it’s television. You don’t have to be an artist to entertain. And no one can make or break you, but YOU. I almost quit after that. Good thing I didn’t :)

3. “Bright Lights” is described an “ever-expanding collective of artists.” I was curious about the challenges that are unique to collaboration. There are a lot of artists on the web who collaborate often and a lot more, I think, who don’t even realize how necessary it is. At least from my experience, I find it necessary just to say sane. I know I’ve said a lot, but thoughts?

HB: Collaboration is key for any artist. You can’t stay locked inside your black hole forever, though some of the best seeds of inspiration come out of those depths. We all need help to execute our ideas, whether that comes in the form of a great engineer, songwriter, producer, choreographer, etc. I help develop a lot of young, budding producers via Skype. It’s important to me and I love watching their growth. I don’t need to sign anyone to help them. We can all grow together. If you’re an 8 or a 9, I can turn you into a 10. I can help you make hit records, and what do I get in exchange for that… duh, a hit record! :) That’s what Bright Lights is all about.. it’s a platform designed to launch some of the greatest talent this world will ever see! All I want is better music, bigger stars, better shows… I want a revolution, and if it has to start with me, then so be it!

4. On a recent Facebook post, you talked about getting credit and paying your dues. I liked that post a lot, especially this part: “I had to believe that at some point my voice and writing style would be so undeniable and recognizable that people would HAVE to give me credit. I have to believe that everything I touch turns to gold. It’s not ego, it’s faith in nature. It’s about fulfilling a prophesy. How are you gonna change the world if you walk around worried about who gives you credit?”

I’m asking less about collaboration, I guess, and more about how one forms oneself as an artist. I know for myself I have defense mechanisms – to some degree, I have to take pride, I have to build myself up – because I have to get things done and worry about the result later. I was wondering if you had any advice on those lines, especially since I don’t know anyone realizes just how much self-doubt one encounters trying to do things independently until they’re in the thick of it.

HB: Question number 4 I will answer with a quote from another artist, one of my favorites, Andy Warhol… “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

5. Finally, some thoughts on what happens when you make it really, really big?

HB: Haha! Some thoughts on when I make it really, really big :) let’s see. The only thing I really try to keep in the back of my mind is staying humble. I’ve heard “no” a million times, that I’m not good enough, that I don’t have what it takes, that my ideas are too big, that I’ll never be able to do it all. My whole career I’ve had doors slamming in my face left and right. So when the fans make it clear to the industry that we’re here to stay and that this is a cultural phenomenon, it’s going to be very hard not to raise my middle finger and scream “SEE!! I told you so!!” LOL! I’m going to try not to do that :)

Christmas Meditation: Morten Lauridsen, “O Magnum Mysterium”

“O Magnum Mysterium:” performed by King’s College Cambridge | by UST Alumni Singers

Shared this a number of times in a number of places. What strikes me is the composer’s emphasis on “admirabile sacramentum” (wonderful sacrament) and “animalia” (animals). Where is man in the Latin text? It bears repeating the chromatism of this work lends itself to a tenderness rarely heard. For that reason I’ve provided the link to the UST Alumni Singers’ performance. I might be imagining things, but they seem to have a vocal maturity that younger singers might not always have. I’m not really talking about something technical here.

A related point. Someone asked me earlier what I thought about all the commercialism surrounding the holiday season. I think it was because I was ranting about all the schlocky, bad Christmas music I was hearing everywhere. Must every place sound like an overcrowded mall?  I punted. I didn’t want to continue ranting, not when something different and interesting and thoughtful might be said.

I’m not sure I have anything of the sort at hand. I’m simply thinking “savior” and “redeemer.” In a way, our crass materialism has it exactly right. We need to be saved from ourselves (“redeemed”) and from others (“savior”/”Messiah”). The need for justice and the good is here and now. It is so overpowering it dictates the next life; we can’t have lived in vain. We make our highest desires almost abstract. This is not a bad thing at all. As was pointed out to me repeatedly the last few months, Luke aims at presenting a savior for the world, one not tied to a particular nation or its justice.

But again, we end up at that notion from a very real – particular – hunger for our needs to be met. The coming of Christ is God fulfilling a promise. That alone, independent of how or what it means, is the celebration. Is this simply wishful thinking? Not at all. We’re all giving each other gifts today, whether sacred or secular. The hope is we recognize each other’s need and act accordingly. That was always the godly wish.

Mendelssohn, Piano Sextet in D major Op. 110

1. Allegro vivace part 1, part 2 | 2. Adagio | 3. Menuetto | 4. Allegro vivace part 1, part 2

Mendelssohn wrote this extremely accessible, charming work at 15. I’ll let the New York Times critic who alerted me to it tell more:

This four-movement piece of nearly 30 minutes is like a concerto for piano and a deferential roster of strings. The music has Mozartean elegance, with early Romantic flourishes. Mendelssohn wrote the piano part to display what was by all reports his remarkable virtuosity. (Anthony Tommasini, “A Sextet from Mendelssohn, Made for Showing Off”)

If you’re pressed for time, the 4th movement is especially good. I don’t quite feel the “pull” some slower movements should have in the Adagio & Menuetto. (I feel like I’m complaining about foie gras). It’s amazing, nonetheless: I couldn’t tie my shoelaces at 15. Hope you enjoy.

The Weakerthans, “Everything Must Go!”

Everything Must Go! (song | official lyrics)
The Weakerthans

Garage Sale. Saturday. I need to pay
My heart’s outstanding bills.
A cracked-up compass and a pocket watch
some plastic daffodils
The cutlery and coffee cups I stole
from all-night restaurants
a sense of wonder (only slightly used)
a year of two to haunt you in the dark

For a phone call from far away
with a “Hi, how are you today”
and a sign recovery comes
to the broken ones.

A wage-slave forty-hour work week weighs
a thousand kilograms,
so bend your knees — comes with a free fake smile
for all your dumb demands,
the cordless razor that my father bought
when I turned 17,
a puke-green sofa and the outline to
a complicated dream of dignity

For a laugh (too loud and too long).
For a place where awkward belongs,
and the sign that recovery comes to the broken ones.
To the broken ones.
To the broken ones.
For the broken ones.


You’ll note the official lyrics aren’t the ones actually sung. The same thing happened with “None of the Above”. It was fairly significant for the theme of that song.

Here the imagery stays fairly obvious. “Compass,” “watch” – ways of tracking space and time used, now for sale. “Plastic daffodils” – pleasant and decorative, but not lasting in any genuine way. “Cutlery and coffee cups” – stolen, indicating our speaker hasn’t really had a home. We’re willing to put up with wandering, fakeness and dependence on paid-for hospitality because of wonder. Maybe there’s something better out there. Just gotta keep searching, scratching.

Does wonder create stalkers? Not really, but I don’t want anyone in an adolescent “I love her she’s the best thing I’ve ever found I’ll never find anyone like her again” mode thinking anything less than gentlemanly is ever justified:

a year of two to haunt you in the dark

For a phone call from far away
with a “Hi, how are you today”

“Haunt you in the dark” is not describing a stalker here. This speaker is far away and in his own darkness. This just sounds like how we deal with ex-lovers that are now “friends.” We feel like ghosts in their lives until we’re approached, until we can seriously feel we were something important to them.

Our speaker moves back to the garage sale and how he actually lives. The first sign recovery will come (the phone call) is far off. (I should say that until very recently I was unaware just how much people wanted to hear from their ex, to hear something that wasn’t mere closure but also affirming.) We’re introduced to his job (“wage-slave forty-hour work week”). No surprise, it seems to involve carrying burdens full-time. How can work be a recovery when it is the same as a broken love-life?

The key is the “dream of dignity,” I think. The cordless razor, the awful sofa, the trying to please in both public and private, the bad job: we’re all there or have been there. The “dumb demands” can be every day, including that of the garage sale. But at the garage sale, everything that is our speaker is public. The outline he’s selling is all over the place. Everyone can see what’s up. Weirdly enough, this is his moment. It doesn’t matter if customers make dumb demands. He’s in charge.

That’s the ultimate sign recovery comes. The laugh, the awkwardness – that’s how it’s always going to be after a broken relationship. How we’re trying to explain her and not explain her while making a sale of something ours. Thing is, it’ll be sold, we’ll be done and ready to move on. We’re ready not so much to wander, but to wait. We didn’t need a garage sale to reveal ourselves.

Krystian Zimerman plays Chopin’s Fantasie Op. 49

Fantasie Op. 49, Pt. 1 | Pt. 2

I can’t say I agree with all of Zimerman’s views (although I’d be pissed as all hell if customs destroyed my piano). But this recording is boss. The opening feels like a case study in picking a precise tempo, one a musician can manage. He plays slow enough that this listener feels like he hears every note in every phrase, along with inflections and subtle dynamics. Zimerman still keeps the music moving, though. I can’t emphasize how hard that is to do; there are plenty of good musicians who play accurately and with feeling that put their audience to sleep. When the piece becomes an exercise in virtuosity and intensity, not only is he up to the challenge, but his phrasing still remains impeccable. The ending is delicate and elegant and leaves you hungry for more, even after about 13 minutes of non-stop music.

András Schiff plays Bach’s French Suite No. 5 in G major

Part 1: Allemande | Part 2: Courante, Sarabande, Gavotte, Bourrée I, Bourrée II, Gigue

Thanks to leadingtone for bringing this to my attention: he blogged the Gigue, which alone is a short masterpiece. Please give that a listen if you don’t have much time.

It goes without saying these recordings have been badly neglected: only a hundred visits to each part? The playing is bright and clear, but I’ll confess it is hard to remember the melodies involved after a first listen. These pieces have a complexity which requires virtuosity not unlike Schiff’s but may be masked by the sweet elegance of the tunes. I certainly don’t feel drowned in waves of melancholy listening to this, but I also don’t feel like I have to listen critically.

Jascha Heifetz plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto No. 4, III Scherzo:Trio

Heifetz: Beethoven Violin Concerto No. 4, Op. 31, 3rd movement

To say Heifetz was a rare virtuoso is like calling Einstein a genius. Heifetz is probably the greatest violinist ever recorded. You can hear that in the above link. He moves up and down scale-like passages with felicity; the notes sound clearly and distinctly and the dynamics are pure despite the speed of it all.

Another performance so good it’s almost ridiculous: Beethoven, Violin Concerto in D, 3rd Movement.  Here Heifetz takes a grand, majestic theme and milks it for all it is worth. His high notes don’t sound shrill or forced. The fluidity he achieves all throughout complements the softer tone and dynamics he uses at key moments. I imagine it is easy to be too exuberant with this piece and pound away at the main theme, leaving the rest as filler. Heifetz preserves the tension and drama that marks nearly all of Beethoven and makes it look like it was the simplest thing in the world.

Vladimir Horowitz plays Schubert’s Impromptu in G-flat Major, D. 899 No. 3

Horowitz, Schubert Impromptu D. 899 No. 3

I’m used to hearing this played a lot faster; I think it was Nelson Freire’s version I heard first. Horowitz takes this slowly, fusing what Wikipedia calls a “fluttering harp-like broken triad accompaniment” and a “spacious and languid melody” into a texture. The chords emerge delicately out of the accompaniment at the beginning; the piece becomes much more dramatic; things settle into a “relaxed flow,” but nothing is relaxed. The song seems a bit bittersweet to this listener, and the relaxed feeling one might have as a listener comes from trying to figure out what is happening with every note. Each note sounds distinct; relaxation is a consequence of exhaustion, the attempt to just appreciate brilliance.

Alfred Brendel, Schubert Piano Sonata in B-flat major D. 960

1. Molto moderato – part 1, part 2 | 2. Andante sostenuto | 3. Scherzo | 4. Allegro, ma non troppo – Presto

If you’re pressed for time, the third movement is shorter than the rest. It is excited, a bit whimsical, and certainly not lacking in depth. The sheer amount of music in the first movement alone has me overwhelmed. That starts reverent, soft but full, and then goes on the harmonic journey to end all journeys – you can read about that more here. It feels like a landscape is being painted in front of you; in order to display a breadth of vision, it seems one’s own vision must be even broader.

The second movement contains an incredible amount of drama. It builds slowly and softly to powerful heights, and Brendel’s dynamics, while always good, feel exceptionally sharp here for this listener. It’s not too hard to take in every note and get a sense of what it is doing in the piece, but that doesn’t mean the piece is simple. It probably means a virtuosic piece of piano literature is being played at an amazing level. The theme opening the fourth movement sounds playful, but actually is part of scheme meant to explore a variety of wondrous colors. It ends the entirety of the piece grandly and triumphantly. With Schubert, I’m always wondering what it means to write exceptionally mature works of music. He seems to force the issue in a way few other composers do.

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