Your Community Spirit 2013 May 31

News includes Illinois Fracking Bill Passes; Fracking Accident Leaks Benzene Into Colorado Stream; Local Elections In Washington State Are Big Deal For Coal And Climate; Illegal Monsanto GMO Wheat Found In Oregon; As World Marches Against Monsanto, Senate Protects GMOs From Labeling; Support For Climate Is New Normal In U.S. Happenings include Brown Bag Concert and Lunch Series; Friday Night Fair; Open Mic At Gaia House; Carbondale Farmer’s Market; Carbondale Community Farmers Market; Saturday Night Music.

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WDBX Opera Overnight – Wagner’s 200th birthday; Mascagni

3-dimensional model by Angelo Quaglio for the ...

3-dimensional model by Angelo Quaglio for the set in act 3 at the premiere production of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde on 10 June 1865 in Munich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We start the evening with one of the great works of operatic history.  Normally, I would not be returning to the music of Richard Wagner so soon after having completed our Ring Cycle last week.  But I belatedly learned that last week was Wagner’s 200th birthday.  Given the circumstances, and even when considering how controversial Wagner’s personal life is, I would be remiss if I failed to do something appropriate.  Really, the only realistic option would be to take a listen to Tristan und Isolde.

Wagner wrote Tristan und Isolde between 1857 and 1859, but it took Wagner 6 years from the time of its completion before he was able to premier it in Munich.  The opera was way ahead of its time musically, and is widely considered as one of the great works in operatic history, if not the history of music in general, and some historians credit the opera as laying the groundwork for where classical music would go in the 20th century.

Kirsten Flagstad as Isolde, 1932, the Norwegian National Theater

Kirsten Flagstad as Isolde, 1932, the Norwegian National Theater

However, the particulars about tonight’s performance are about as interesting as the opera itself.  The recording captures two of the great Wagnerians of the 20th century, Kirsten Flagstad, and Lauritz Melchior in a 1936 performance in London, along with Sabine Kalter, Herbert Janssen, Emmanuel List, Frank Sale, Roy Devereux, Octave Dua, and Leslie Horsmann.  The London Philharmonic Orchestra, along with the Chorus of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden,was conducted by the great Hungarian conductor Fritz Reiner (an early recording of his; he later became famous for his tenure with the Chicago Symphony).  The sound quality may not be up to 2012 digital standards, and there are some portions cut out of Acts 2 and 3, but when considering the technology available at the time, this must be considered to be an incredible live recording.  As there are only a few recordings of Flagstad at this point, in the early portion of her career, this one becomes quite a treasure, and a must-have for the lover of great voices.

Mascagni in c. 1890.

Pietro Mascagni, c. 1890

For our second opera, we’re going to hear a classic example of the verismo style of operatic composition.  Pietro Mascagni wrote his one act opera Cavalleria Rusticana as part of a competition held in 1888.  The competition was for new Italian composers who had not yet had an opera performed on stage.  Mascagni heard about the competition three months before the deadline, but was able to compose and submit his opera on the very last day of the competition, with the help of his friends and librettists Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci.  The opera was selected as one of three finalists in the competition, and at its premiere in 1890 won the first prize after a sensational performance that incurred 40 curtain calls for the composer.  Although the opera is one of only a few of his 15 operatic compositions to remain in the regular repertoire, it has been performed regularly in opera houses around the world, and has been recorded many times.

Tonight’s performance is a 1989 recording that features Agnes Baltsa, Plácido Domingo, Vera Baniewicz, Juan Pons, Susanne Mentzer, with Giuseppi Sinopoli leading the Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Opera House Chorus right here on WDBX, Carbondale, 91.1FM, community radio for Southern Illinois.

The Galaxy – Remembering Ray Manzarek

English: The Doors performing for Danish telev...

English: The Doors performing for Danish television in Copenhagen (Gladsaxe Television-Byen studio) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We start tonight’s show with a memorial for the great keyboardist for the Doors, Ray Manzarek, who died this past Monday at the age of 74.  Manzarek’s keyboards were an integral part of one of the most interesting bands in rock music history.  Maintaining the bass part with his left hand while doing propulsive melody and harmony lines with his right, Manzarek’s keyboards became a key part of the musical soundtrack of the ’60s.  In reality, the Doors were an unusual unit – a band where all four members had equal input, where the creativity was truly balanced between each member.  While we easily remember Jim Morrison’s poetry and magnetic stage presence, each member’s input was crucial to the success of their music, and all three of the instrumentalists were superior in their craft.

Ray Manzarek (1929 - 2013)

Ray Manzarek

So, we heard:

And these live tracks:

  • Petition The Lord With Prayer/Dead Cats, Dead Rats/Break On Through (Dead Cats, Dead Rats was essentially a vocal improvisation over the primary Break On Through riff)
  • Celebration of the Lizard (poetry set, with Not To Touch The Earth in the middle.  The piece was originally intended to be recorded and used as an entire side of a LP, but the band members and producer thought that the length of the piece made a complete recording impossible.  They did make several attempts to record the piece, but were dissatisfied with the results.  Not To Touch The Earth was eventually used for the Waiting For the Sun LP.)
English: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C...

English: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. closeup view of vocalists Joan Baez and Bob Dylan., 08/28/1963  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Going beyond our Ray Manzarek memorial, we also have the birthday of Bob Dylan.  Of course, Dylan is just one of the most influential writers and performers of the last half of the 20th century.  His influence on the Beatles, the Byrds and Jimi Hendrix alone would have established him as one of the most important figures in rock history.  But his music goes beyond simple matters of influence.  So, from the relatively recent (2003) Live 1964 release, we heard:

We finished with a couple of Billie Holiday tracks, Summertime (from 1936, featuring Bunny Berigan on trumpet and Artie Shaw on clarinet) and I Can’t Get Started (with Buck Clayton on trumpet, and Lester Young doubling on clarinet and tenor sax).

Your Community Spirit 2013 May 24

News includes Illinois Fracking Bill; 10 Cities That Will Be Hit Hardest By Climate Change; House Votes To Take Keystone Out Of Obama’s Hands; Climate Activists Protest At Obama Group’s Climate Events; Future Of Urban Farming Is Pink. Happenings include Anti-Fracking Demonstrations In Springfield; Open Mic Night; Brown Bag Concert And Lunch Series; Friday Night Fair; Carbondale Farmer’s Market; Carbondale Community Farmers Market; Book Signing For Change.

WDBX Opera Overnight: The Conclusion to Wagner’s Ring Cycle (officially, Part 4); Mussorgsky, Bizet

Deborah Voigt

Deborah Voigt, as Brünnhilde in a recent performance of Götterdämmerung at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Tonight, we reach the last portion of Richard Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle, Der Ring des NibelungenGötterdämmerung, like last week’s Siegfried, was premiered on August 17, 1876, at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus as part of the first complete performance of the cycle.  The title is the German translation of the Old Norse phrase Ragnarök, which in Norse mythology referred to a prophesied war of the gods that would bring about the end of the world.  Of course, Wagner took liberties with the myth, as he did with much of the plot for the cycle.  This opera features the only time in the entire cycle that Wagner would use a chorus.  Wagner was also especially aggressive in his use of tonality – starting with act 3 of Siegfried, he transitioned from traditionally defined keys to something close to “key regions”, with a heightened use of dissonance and chromaticism.  His use of such techniques (which we also find in Tristan und Isolde) is considered a direct predecessor to the methods developed by Arnold Schoenberg, only Wagner’s work here preceded Schoenberg’s by a full 25 years.

1875 engraving of the Bayreuth Festival Theatre

1875 engraving of the Bayreuth Festival Theatre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tonight’s recording, as with the recordings that we have heard over the last three weeks, is from a legendary 1966 live recording at the Bayreuth Festival.  The cast is comprised of top-notch Wagnerians, led by Wolfgang Windgassen, Birgit Nilsson, Josef Greindl, Thomas Stewart, Ludmilla Dvoráková, Gustav Neidlinger, and Anja SiljaKarl Böhm directed the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus.

Português: Retrato por Repin, 1881

Portrait of Modest Mussorgsky, by Retrato por Repin, 1881 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our next piece of music is a song cycle by Modest Mussorgsky.  He wrote The Nursery (Russian: Детская, Detskaya, literally Children’s [Room]) between 1868 and 1872, using his own lyrics.  This was written right around the same time that he wrote his operatic masterpiece, Boris Godunov.  It is not sung very often in the West, due to the difficulties that come with singing in Russian, but it is widely considered to be one of the more important song cycles of the late 19th century.  We shall hear the Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Alexandrina Milcheva singing, with Svetla Protich accompanying on the pianoforte.

For our final piece of the evening, we will hear a set of 5 songs by Georges Bizet, all written between 1866 and 1872.  The set includes two settings of poems by Victor Hugo, Adieux de l’hôtesse arabe and La coccinelle, a poem by Alphonse de Lamartine, Chant d’amour, a poem by Édouard Pailleron, Tarantelle, and a poem by Louis Delâtre, Ouvre ton cœur.  Cecilia Bartoli sings to the piano accompaniment of Myung-Whun Chung.

The Galaxy – I’d have a cigar, but I don’t smoke

Cover of "Miscellaneous Debris"

Cover of Primus’ Miscellaneous Debris

We began the show with some Primus.  I find it interesting when a band chooses to do an album of covers.  They display their influences, while at the same time giving us what can be interesting interpretations of the material in question.  Such is the case with this Primus covers album, Miscellaneous Debris, from 1992.  While we usually hear their great bassist Les Claypool playing with a four string bass, here we hear Claypool playing on a six-string fretless bass, with allows for a excellent, full, and chunky bass sound.  We heard their cover of Pink Floyd’s Have a Cigar, XTC’s Making Plans for Nigel, and Peter Gabriel‘s Intruder.

English: Arnold Schoenberg seated, painted in ...

English: Arnold Schoenberg seated, painted in 1906 by Richard Gerstl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arnold Schoenberg wrote Verklärte Nacht (trans: Transfigured Night), Op. 4, in 1899, at the age of 25.  He was inspired by a poem by Richard Dehmel, which tells the story of a distraught young woman who confesses to her lover that she carries another man’s child.  The man’s response is that the child will be transformed by their love into his.  The emotions are expressed in the form of a tone poem, written for a string sextet.  His abandonment of classical tonality was still a thing of the future when this was written, but this is far from a standard Romantic-era piece – even if his 12-tone method did not yet exist, he was even then quite the harmonic adventurer, at one point calling for an inverted ninth chord (which caused the piece to be rejected by the Vienna Music Society).  The piece, with its frank treatment of sexual themes, was controversial when it was published in 1902Schoenberg wrote an arrangement for string orchestra, which is performed and recorded frequently.  Tonight’s recording is of the original version for string sextet, a 2000 recording by the Concertante Players.

English: James Brown, February 1973, Musikhall...

James Brown, February 1973, Musikhalle, Hamburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We next heard some classic James Brown, music that helped define what we would come to call “funk”, music that would set the stage for 30 years of funk, soul, r&b and rap, and which brought a social consciousness into play.  Much of this influence was due to Brown’s business and musical acumen.  His attention to detail in the musical arrangements were a major part of his success.  We have this testimonial from long-time Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker:

You gotta be on time. You gotta have your uniform. Your stuff’s got to be intact. You gotta have the bow tie. You got to have it. You can’t come up without the bow tie. You cannot come up without a cummerbund … [The] patent leather shoes we were wearing at the time gotta be greased. You just gotta have this stuff. This is what [Brown expected] … [Brown] bought the costumes. He bought the shoes. And if for some reason [the band member decided] to leave the group, [Brown told the person to] please leave my uniforms ….

We heard Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, from 1965, Cold Sweat (Parts 1 and 2), and I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself).

Cover of "Telephone Free Landslide Victor...

Cover of Telephone Free Landslide Victory

One of the more musically interesting bands of the mid to late 1980s was Camper Van Beethoven.  The band was one of the key parts of the indie rock movement, and their songs blended aspects of country, ska and punk, often injecting humor into the lyrics.  While they broke up in 1990, they reformed in the early 2000’s, and have since then put out two albums (which I have regrettably been unable to acquire).  Inconvenient, but not a bother, as there are plenty of classics for us to enjoy.  We heard Where the Hell is Bill and Mao Reminisces About His Days in Southern China, both from their 1985 album, Telephone Free Landslide Victory.  We then heard Sad Lovers Waltz and I Love Her All The Time, from their second album, II & III.  We also heard a selection, One Of These Days, from their 1988 album, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, before finishing with Take The Skinheads Bowling, also from Telephone Free Landslide Victory.

We finished the show with some classic Metallica: Creeping Death, from Ride The Lightning; The Thing That Should Not Be, from Master of Puppets; and Harvester of Sorrow and …And Justice for All, both from 1988’s …And Justice for All

Your Community Spirit 2013 May 17

News includes 97 Out Of 100 Climate Scientists Agree Humans Responsible For Warming; Climate Disasters Cost Taxpayers $96 Billion; Colorado Farmer Ploughs Ahead With Hemp Farming; America’s First Climate Refugees; App To Buycott Terrible Companies; Vermont Passes GMO-Labeling Law. Happenings include Open Mic At Gaia House; Bike To Work Day; Carbondale Farmer’s Market; Carbondale Community Farmers Market; Forum On Freedom To Marry Act; Book Signing For Change.