The Galaxy – Music with Muscle

English: The main gate at the former Nazi deat...

English: The main gate at the former Nazi death camp of Birkenau. Note that this is inside the camp looking back from the loading ramp to the “Gate of Death”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, April 8th, is the day established for Holocaust Remembrance Day.  I thought it would be appropriate to program some music tonight that would be appropriate for the occasion, and the easy choice would be Krzysztof Penderecki‘s 1961 composition Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.  While the title mentions Hiroshima, and that and the music immediately calls to mind the horrors of atomic warfare, Penderecki has stated that “the problem of the great Apocalypse (Auschwitz), that great war crime, has undoubtedly been in my subconscious mind since the war when, as a child, I saw the destruction of the ghetto in my small native town of Dębica.”  The work is aggressive in its instrumentation and in its harmonies, in a clear effort to bring to mind the weeping of the collective soul of humanity.  In this set of music, we also heard Penderecki’s De Natura Sonoris, another aggressively avant garde work that was written after Penderecki changed his compositional philosophy, fusing earlier ideas with various electronic elements and adding elements of humor and jazz.  The two pieces were recorded in 1975 and 1976 respectively by the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of the composer.

Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy Cornell...

Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy Cornell 1964 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is interesting to follow Penderecki’s avant garde compositions with that of Charles Mingus.  Mingus was not a serialist like Penderecki was at that time, but Mingus was no less of a serious composer.  His work was quite varied, and at times featured multiple sections.  When he would perform live, he would stretch many of these works out towards the 30 minute range, including the work we heard this evening, Meditations.  Meditations was performed at various times under various names – its primary title was “Meditations on Integration”, and it was also at times known as “Meditations on a Pair of Wire Cutters”.  This is only natural for a man influenced by a various collection of resources, ranging from gospel music to classical to Duke Ellington (himself a notable jazz composer).  We heard the version found on Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric DolphyCornell 1964 release, with Johnny Coles on trumpet, Dolphy on flute and bass clarinet, Clifford Jordan on tenor sax, Jaki Byard on piano, Dannie Richmond on drums, and Mingus of course on bass.

English: Punk rock hardcore band The Bad Brain...

English: Punk rock hardcore band The Bad Brains at Nightclub 9:30, Washington, DC, 1983. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re playing some rather muscular music this evening, and it seems natural to continue on that note with some material by The Bad Brains.  They were one of the more influential bands to come out of the American punk-hardcore scene in the early ’80s, and also one of the more interesting of these bands, with their unique blend of hardcore and reggae.  We actually heard two sets from The Bad Brains, done in part because their songs are generally short, and I wanted to include a variety of their matierial.  We heard I, Rock for Light, Light Brigade (all early songs), House of Suffering (originally found on their I Against I album from ’87), a reggae medley of Day Tripper (Beatles) and She’s a Rainbow (Rolling Stones).  We then heard a second set, with The Youth Are Getting Restless, Banned in D.C., Sailin’ On, Fearless Vampire Killer, and At The Movies.

Black and white photo of Neil Young singing at...

Black and white photo of Neil Young singing at a Neil Young concert November 9, 1976, in Austin, Texas. © 1976 Mark Estabrook. Submitted to Wiki by copyright holder: Mark Estabrook. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neil Young‘s muscularity is of a different manner.  His is of song-craft and guitar sound, not so much sound and fury (although he’s been known to put out a little bit of fury – see Arc/Weld).  While at times he will leave the ragged edges on his songs, the skill of his writing is undeniable.  We heard four songs from him – Winterlong (first written in ’69, and recorded live that year in a version that has been released in the last few years; this rendition was recorded for the 1973 album Tonight’s The Night but not fully released until the Decade compilation), I Believe in You (from After the Gold Rush), Cortez the Killer (from Zuma, 1975), and Cinnamon Girl (from Everyone Knows This is Nowhere, from  1969.

We closed the show with some live Mastodon, another band known for their “muscular” musicianship.  From the Live at the Aragon release, we heard Circle of Cysquatch, Aqua Dementia, and Where Strides the Behemoth.



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