One of the things that I really enjoy doing during the course of the various editions of the Galaxy is playing live music. To me, the ultimate expression of what a band – jazz, rock, country, or whatever – represents is the experience of seeing and/or hearing them on stage, bringing their music to life. One excellent example of such a representative recording is the classic Deep Purple double-disc set, Made in Japan. Highlighted by a burning (no pun intended) rendition of Smoke on the Water, the album, which had originally been intended by the band to be limited to a Japanese-only release, went platinum within 2 weeks of its release. This rendition of Smoke on the Water was packaged with the recorded version from Machine head and released as a single, and ended up serving as an introduction for many American listeners to the abilities that Deep Purple brought to the stage.
The Czech composer Antonín Dvořák was brought to America in 1892 to serve as director of the National Conservatory of Music of America. The conservatory was part of an effort to create, in the words of founder Jeannette Thurber, a “national musical spirit”, and was modeled after the Paris Conservatory (graduates include such famous names as Georges Bizet, Paul Dukas, Claude Debussy, Neville Marriner, among others) and other similar institutions around Europe (which proved to be of great assistance to the likes of Pytor Tchaikovsky, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Modest Moussorgsky, among others). When Dvořák’s arrived in New York City, he expressed the goal of “finding American music” and using it in his music, much like he had with Czech folk music (part of a trend towards nationalism in compositions, led by composers such as Jan Sibelius and Edvard Grieg, and which can be extended to include the likes of Richard Wagner).
“I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”
Interestingly enough, when the result of this research, his Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (subtitled “From The New World) was premiered in December of 1893, it had as much to do with the music of his native Bohemia as it did with American musical idioms (note the suggestion of the “Three Blind Mice” melody during the Fourth Movement), although there is some influence, especially in the second movement, which features a theme commonly referred to as “Goin’ Home”. Tonight’s rendition of this great piece of music was performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the conduction of Kurt Masur.
We then heard a few cuts from the classic Superfly soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield. Written as the soundtrack to a 1972 Gordon Parks Jr. movie, the soundtrack was itself a classic on multiple levels, and the album is notable for its anti-drug lyrical emphasis. Two songs from the soundtrack established themselves at the top of the charts, Freddie’s Dead and the title track. We heard those two songs, plus a great album cut, Pusherman.
We then heard a few cuts from the great soul singer Al Green. We heard Tired of Being Alone (his first gold single), Here I Am (Come and Take Me), Let’s Stay Together, and finishing up with I Can’t Get Next To You. We then closed out the night with some Parliament Funkadelic – Friday Night, August 14th (from Free Your Mind, and Your Ass Will Follow).