The Galaxy – 11/15/2010 – The joys of listening to other voices

Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland - Image via Wikipedia

Over the course of my lifetime, I have found myself experiencing an extended process of growth and examination.  At times I have come to explore different musical experiences that I once thought I would not be interested in, but upon further reflection, experimentation and examination, I would come to change my mind.  You could say that my life has been a constant process of reexamination, of finding interest in things that once seemed uninteresting, or may be not so interesting.  Maybe we can call this a side effect of maturation.  Maybe we can credit this to the enhanced perspective given us by life experience.  Or maybe we can say that life experience and maturation are part and parcel to the same process.

The band that we begun the show with is a fairly known quantity, System of a Down, and their Grammy-nominated song, Chop Suey.  However, if you saw the video for Spiders, from their first album, you might have thought them closer to Rob Zombie – but this is not the fact (Rob Zombie’s music is not even 1/10th as politically motivated as System’s tends to be.  The fact is that I had not played any SOAD for quite a while, so maybe I was due.

The centerpiece of tonight’s show is a rendition of Aaron Copeland‘s Appalachian Spring, in appreciation of Copeland’s birthday.  Appalachian Spring fills two separate roles: great piece of music, and great example of 20th century ballet.  Alas, radio does not allow us the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of Martha Graham‘s wonderful choreography, but the music, with its central Shaker theme, is truly timeless music.  Graham commissioned the piece in 1944, and it was premiered at the Library of Congress, with Graham herself dancing the lead role.  The work earned the 1945 Pulitzer Prize.  Copland rearranged the work in 1945 into an abbreviated suite form (similar to Tchaikovsky rearranging the Nutcracker into the popular suite version).

There is a 1959 film of the ballet, with Martha Graham dancing beautifully in the title role.  It is in 4 parts, and I have clipped them below:

Now, I say this about growing to appreciate certain pieces, or types (or whatever) of music because tonight we have a few samplings of music for which my appreciation is not the result of first impressions.  At one point, in the halcyon days of my youth, I told myself that I “didn’t like 20th century classical music as much.”  Maybe you can say that first impressions meant more to me then than they do now.  But with time and experience, my appreciation for 20th century classical music has grown by leaps and bounds.

The same can be said for some of the other bands that we are playing tonight.  Following Appalachian Spring we heard a nice set by Siouxsie and the Banshees that is pulled from their wonderful 1983 live album, Nocturne.  Siouxsie and the Banshees is a band that has really grown on me over the years, especially their early ’80s work.  Of course, one aspect of this recording that never fails to escape me is Robert Smith‘s razor-sharp guitar lines.  Yes, this is the same Robert Smith who is more well known for his work with the Cure, whom we have also heard this evening.  At one point in the early ’80s, Smith befriended the Banshees, even going so far as to record a side project with Banshee bassist Steven Severin (that album, Blue Sunshine by The Glove, is occasionally heard on the show).  Of course, fans of the Cure will be quite familiar with Smith’s guitar skills, but this live album features him playing in a style that is somewhat different from what we usually hear him doing with the Cure.  Quite refreshing, really.  I’ve also been able to find some video of those performances, including a good shot of Smith, with short hair, doing some of the sort of guitar work that we really wouldn’t hear in the Cure’s music until several years later (consider the acoustic guitar part on Inbetween Days).

Another band that I can say this about is August Burns Red, who made significant advances in their songwriting in their 2009 album Constellations.  Based on that album, I now see them as a band with a lot of exciting long-term potential.  Now, here, I tie two songs together that feature some rather interesting songwriting.    While I would hesitate to call Marianas Trench “progressive metal”, it does feature some truly interesting, thoughtful songwriting.  It felt quite natural for me to follow this up with a song that is quite progressive, yet defies categorization, Mastodon’s Hearts Alive, from 2004.  I’ve found a rare(ish) live clip of the song that was featured on The Workhorse Chronicles (which I dearly wish I had).  It is only a portion of the song, as YouTube time limits make it impossible to post a clip of the entire song, but is highly worthy of examination.

Of course, given that my chosen mission in life is to demonstrate the common threads between seemingly disparate forms of music, I’m going to remain progressive while moving from metal to jazz, with Return to Forever’s Captain Señor Mouse, from their album Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy.  This is easily referred to as “fusion jazz“, but this was as hard rock as fusion really got, with some smoking guitar parts from Bill Connors, not to mention Stanley Clarke.  It would have been interesting if fusion jazz had continued in the direction that this song seemed to point in.

So below you will find a copy of the Official Playlist. The original, as always, is posted on the Galaxy website.

Composer Performer Title Genre Label Notes
System of a Down
Chop Suey!
Metal, Alt
American, 2001
P.L.U.C.K. (Politically Lying Unholy Cowardly Killers)
American, 2000
American, 2001
American, 2000
The Cure
Other Voices
Rock, post-punk
Fiction, 1981
Play For Today
Fiction, 1980
Fiction, 1981
Sanity Assassins
Rock, Post-punk, Goth
Beggars Banquet, 1985
She’s in Parties
Beggars Banquet, 1983
Aaron Copland
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Dimitri Kitayenko, cond.
Appalacian Spring (Ballet for Martha)
Classical, 20th Century, incidental music for ballet
Sheffield Labs
Siouxsie and the Banshees
Pulled to Bits
Rock, Post-punk, Goth
Polydor, 1983
Night Shift
Sin in My Heart
Slow Dive
August Burns Red
Marianas Trench
Metal, Metalcore
Solid State, 2009
Hearts Alive
Metal, Progressive
Relapse, 2004
Return to Forever
Captain Señor Mouse
Jazz, Fusion
Polydor, 1973

3 comments on “The Galaxy – 11/15/2010 – The joys of listening to other voices

  1. I dig the SOAD vocals and the songs, at least until I start thinking about the lyrics. Between the religious/faithy content, and the Charles Manson doofiness, it’s hard to reconcile.

    • dougflummer says:

      It may be easier when you separate religion from organized religion. Religion is a personal matter about personal choices. Organized religion if often dogmatic and forgetful, without understanding of the very nature of the rules they are attempting to establish, at times willfully ignorant (i.e. “if we hide our heads in the sand, the world stands still”). I do not consider myself as subscribing to religion, but rather to a faith that rises above the imperfections of humanity. Even Martin Luther had his bad moments – human history is filled with stories of human screwups. That sort of history is at the root of SOAD and what they have tried to do.

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