The Galaxy – Let the pledge drive begin!

Deutsch: Miki Berenyi von Lush

We started the show with some music from the ’90s.  I find some music from the ’90s (the time frame of my young adult-hood) to have not dated too well, but this is not universal to music from the period.  One band that I find to have dated pretty well is the English band Lush.  I always found their unique brand of thick guitar chords (usually featuring Miki Berenyi‘s 12 string guitars) and delicate female vocal harmonies to be quite attractive, even if one might not completely grasp the words they are using.  Of course, it was always the instrumental aspects of their music that always drew me.  So we heard some of their earlier material – De-luxe, Ocean, and Leaves Me Cold (from the Mad Love EP, and their first album Spooky).

Mat Cheslin, Ned's Atomic Dustbin playing Shep...

Bassists Alex Griffin (playing the Rickenbacker) and Mat Cheslin, with Dan Worton on drums, as Ned’s Atomic Dustbin plays Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London in December 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We then went to another English ’90s band, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.  Like with Lush, their music had a unique instrumental style, owing largely to their hyper-active drumming style and their use of two basses playing along-side one-another, one playing low and the other playing high, with a heavy guitar taking up the middle.  Happily, they are still playing, which is nice to see.  We heard Throwing Things, Trust, and Capital Letters (all the songs recorded for God Fodder, but only the first and third song being included on that album, with the second being released on an EP from that era).

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

I’ve found a number of occasions over the last year to program in bits and pieces of last year’s release of Jimi Hendrix’s complete Winterland performances.  The reality is that, while Hendrix made some extraordinary recordings, the ultimate Hendrix is the live Hendrix.  He had a knack for doing wonderful things on stage with his guitar, and we are happily blessed with a good number of recordings that amply document this.  I’ve always known that the Winterland set (from October 10-12, 1968) was one of his better moments (going back when there was an edited single-disc release, issued by Rykodisc in ’86, which has long been out of print), but this recent box set really does an excellent job of showing us just how good that 3-night stand really was.  We heard 4 songs from the fourth disc: Foxey Lady, Are You Experienced (a bit of a rarity, as there aren’t very many live recordings of that song), a rendition of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) that comes in the same month that Electric Ladyland was released, and a spectacular fifteen minute rendition of Red House.

Orlandus Lassus

Given the philosophy behind the music selection for the Galaxy, I enjoy the opportunities when I can highlight the contrasts between musical genres.  So I had a special joy when I could contrast Jimi Hendrix with the music of Orlando di Lassus.  Di Lassus was one of the more important composers of the mid to late 1500s, mainly of liturgical music (there is no evidence of any strictly instrumental works by him), but also of madrigals, lieder and chansons.  He wrote in multiple languages, to include Italian, French and German in addition to the Latin used for his numerous masses.  The work we heard this evening is especially interesting because it is a sample of a style of music known as musica reservata, an unusually chromatic style of a cappella vocal arrangement that appealed to a select group of musical connoisseurs.  It was never all that popular, but its techniques anticipated what one would see in 20th century avant garde music by hundreds of years.  Tonight’s recording, by the Hilliard Ensemble, was a lovely recording of di Lassus’ Prophetiae Sibyllarum, a secular dramatization of the Sibylline verses (where certain Greek prophets supposedly foretold the birth of Christ; the Sibylline legend had become popular during di Lassus’ time).

Hüsker Dü in 1985. Left to right: Greg Norton,...

Hüsker Dü in 1985. Left to right: Greg Norton, Grant Hart, Bob Mould (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Its been a while since I’ve been able to program in some Hüsker Dü.  Hüsker Dü dates back to a time when the term “hardcore” was rather elastic, hardcore bands were largely regional, and the indie scene that “hardcore” existed in sat largely under the surface, depending on where you lived.  I had heard of Hüsker Dü long before I was actually able to listen to Hüsker Dü, an unfortunate side-effect of having grown up in Cairo (indie scene?  What indie scene?), where I was doing good just to be able to listen to REM.  So, while I came to an appreciation of this music late, the impact of this music on the larger music scene in general is undeniable.  We heard three songs from Zen Arcade: Something I Learned Today, Pink Turns to Blue, and Turn On The News.

We closed the show with another ’80s classic, the Smiths’ How Soon is Now.

WDBX Opera Overnight – Johann Strauss II, Berlioz

Johann Strauss II with a large beard, moustach...

Johann Strauss II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our first opera for the evening is actually an operetta, Die Fledermaus, by the legendary Austrian “Waltz King” Johann Strauss II.  The opera was based on a farce by the German playwright Julius Roderich Benedix, and Strauss also used a French vaudeville play, Le réveillon, by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, as source material.  The operetta was premiered on 5 April 1874 in Vienna, and has been regularly performed ever since.  Not only is it a fine operatic work that serves as an excellent showcase for the lead soprano (I’ve seen some lovely video of the excellent soprano Nathalie Dessay performing the lead role with great panache), but it is also a rare, maybe even unexpected, combination of waltz and opera.  If you love waltz, then Die Fledermaus is a treat for the ears.

Tonight’s recording is from 1971, and features Nicolai Gedda, Anneliese Rothenberger, Renate Holm, Adolf Dallapozza, and Brigitte Fassbaender.   The great Willi Boskovsky directed the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and State Opera Chorus.

English: Poster advertising the first performa...

English: Poster advertising the first performance of the opera Benvenuto Cellini by Hector Berlioz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our second opera of the evening is an opera by Hector BerliozBenvenuto Cellini is an opera in two acts that is loosely based on the memoirs of the Florentine Renaissance era sculptor Benvenuto Cellini.  Berlioz first devised the opera with his librettist Henri Auguste Barbier in the opéra comique style, with spoken dialog, but it was rejected by the opera company that he intended to submit it to.  So he reworked it into a more conventional opera format, omitting the spoken dialogue.

English: French Romantic composer Hector Berli...

English: French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The opera was first performed at the Paris Opera on September 10, 1838, conducted by François Antoine Habeneck, and with Gilbert Duprez (the first tenor to be able to sing the high C naturally, without going into falsetto) in the title-role.  The opera was so radical in its construction that the audience rioted, and the musicians branded it impossible to play.  It was only performed two more times in Berlioz’s lifetime, with one of the performances being conducted by Franz Lizst (who also suggested changes).  It is not frequently performed, although there are occasional revivals, and several recordings.

Tonight’s recording is from 2004, and features Gregory Kunde, Patrizia Ciofi, Joyce DiDonato, Laurent Naouri, Jean-François Lapointe, Renaud Delaigue, Eric Salha, Marc Mauillon, Roman Nédélec , Eric Huchet; the Orchestre National de France was conducted by John Nelson.

The Galaxy – You don’t have to have words to sing!

Sigur Ros

Sigur Ros (Image by planetschwa via Flickr)

What a combo I have this week: new material that comes from a live recording!  In this instance, the new material is Sigur Ros‘ recent cd/dvd release Inni, issued last fall.  Sigur Ros has earned their reputation as an excellent live band, and their live experience translates well to live recordings, as has been evidenced by their previous live video release.  We have been long-time fans of Sigur Ros here on the Galaxy, and I am pleased that they have put out a live album that captures some of the beauty that one sees in their concerts (regrettably, I’ve been forced to miss several shows that they have played in St. Louis, so I unfortunately have yet to actually see them).  We heard a lovely set that included Svefn-g-englar, Glósóli, Ný batterí, Fljótavík, Við spilum endalaust, and ending with Hoppípolla.

Rachel Harrington

Rachel Harrington

I’ve been listening to a lot of bluegrass lately.  Actually, I’ve been playing quite a bit of it on my bass as of late (resulting from a 6 hour jam session I participated while in Florida over the Christmas vacation).  So it feels quite appropriate to play some this evening.  We started with a pair of nice songs from IIIrd Tyme Out, from 1993: I’m Working On The Road to Gloryland (with Earl Scruggs guesting) and He’ll Take You In.  Then we heard some nice harmony singing from Kentucky Blue, with Joshua (from 1997’s Eighteen Years Ago), and also a great song from Dale Ann Bradley, Steady as a Rock (from her 1999 album Southern Porches).  We then heard two songs from Rachel Harrington, from 2007’s The Bootlegger’s Daughter: Sunshine Girl, and then a lovely rendition of the gospel classic Farther Along.  Rachel Harrington is an artist with some promise, and we shall look forward to hearing more from her in the future.  We then concluded the set with Alison Krauss and Union Station‘s My Poor Old Heart, from 2004’s Lonely Runs Both Ways.

As it so happens, I have several recent releases to feature on the show this evening.  The second item up for our perusal is the recent offering from August Burns Red, Leveler.  We started with the title track, then heard a nice piece, Meridian, from their previous album Constellations.  From the new album, we heard Internal Cannon (which features a rather interesting flamenco instrumental break).  From Constellations, we heard White Washed, then we heard Pangaea from the new album.  After a station break, I played two extra cuts from the extended edition of Leveler, instrumental renditions of two songs, Internal Cannon (done as a Spanish guitar instrumental), and a performance of their Boys of Fall by their friend Zachary Veilleux, which takes the form of a classical piano piece.

Album cover for Coltrane's Africa/Brass album

We closed out the show with an excellent bit of John Coltrane, the title track from his Africa/Brass album (with the jazz orchestra conducted by Eric Dolphy).  The orchestra is interesting, as it not only featured Coltrane’s usual quartet (McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones), but some other notable names pitching in: musicians such as Booker Little, Pat Patrick (of Sun Ra’s organization), Art Davis doubling on bass, Bill Barber (of the Birth of the Cool sessions) on tuba, in addition to Dolphy’s own instrumental participation.  Freddie Hubbard also participated in the session, playing on another one of the songs but not on Africa. All of this makes for one of Coltrane’s most distinctive albums.

The Galaxy – Living In A State of Siege

Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Messolonghi (1...

Greece Expiring Upon the Ruins of Missolonghi (painting by Eugene Delacroix)

I find myself continually drawn to the history that comes with music.  In some ways, music provides us with an interesting glimpse at history, a portal to the thoughts of the composer at the time that the music was written.  As such, music not only has artistic implications, but also sociological implications, as the composer is surely impacted by the world around him.  For instance, Beethoven initially was going to dedicate his Third Symphony to  Napolean Bonaparte, and even had gone so far as to give the symphony the working title of Bonaparte.  But when Napolean declared himself emperor in 1804, Beethoven was so disgusted that he tore up the title page in a fit of rage, and when the symphony was finally completed in 1806, it bore the title of Sinfonia Eroicacomposta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand Uomo (“heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”).  Just one example of the ties between music and history.

Tonight’s major musical work is also inspired by an event, the siege and eventual destruction of the Greek town of Missolonghi by the Ottoman Empire in 1826, that inspired outrage and condemnation throughout Western Europe (Lord Byron was among its defenders, and died of an illness contracted during the siege).  The incident inspired a poem by Victor Hugo, a notable painting by Eugène Delacroix (Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi, which we see at left), and the opera that we are listening to tonight, Gioacchino Rossini‘s L’Assedio di Corinto (The Siege of Corinth).  The opera is actually a revision of an earlier opera of Rossini’s, Maometto II, that had not been well received in its initial performances.  So Rossini, having moved to Paris two years earlier, acted to revise the opera for French audiences.  He moved the setting from Italy to Greece, translated it from Italian to French (although it is most commonly heard today in the Italian), and made some other modifications (including inserting two ballets, something that was then popular in French opera).  Audiences quickly picked up on the allegorical reference to Missolonghi, and as a result the opera remained popular through the 1830s.

Although the opera disappeared from the repertory for a number of years, it experienced a revival, starting in 1949 with a production led by Renata Tebaldi.  It was next seen in 1969, with Beverly Sills, Marilyn Horne, Franco Bonisolli and Justino Diaz, under the conduction of Thomas Schippers.  It is this production, recorded live at La Scalla in Milan, that we are hearing tonight.  The recording itself has its own bit of historical significance, as it captured Sills’ European premiere, an occasion notable enough to grant her an appearance on the cover of Newsweek.  This was also the year that Horne made her own debut at La Scala (one of the great opera houses of the world, and a great reason to visit Europe), an achievement of great significance for any opera singer.  Sills was truly special in this role (her aria, Cielo! che diverro?, from the start of Act 2, was indeed something to behold), but one should not miss Horne, or bass Justino Diaz, one of the top basses of the late ’60s/early ’70s.

I was watching a documentary the other day, and some song lyrics jumped out at me.  A section of the song in question reads thusly:

All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It’s really just a question
Of your honesty
 
One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity.

Inspired by that thought, I thought it would be nice to hear some Rush.  So we started with the quoted song, Spirit of Radio (from 1980’s Permanent Waves), followed by Circumstances (from 1979’s Hemispheres), Closer to the Heart (from 1978’s A Farewell to Kings), before finishing with a brief set from their classic live album All the World’s a Stage (consisting of Bastille Day and Anthem, both early Rush classics).

One of the things I like to do as part of the weekly broadcast is give observance to the birthdays of special composers and performers, and we had the birthday of the great American composer Charles Ives this last Thursday.  Charles Ives was a unique character with one of the most interesting stories in the history of American classical music, with a musical catalog to match that level of interest.  Ives was aggressive musically, using the sort of avant garde techniques that were at that time still being pioneered in Europe.  Yet, at the same time, he infused his music with a distinctly American feel.  He unabashedly used as source materials American marching band music, and church hymnal music, and he credited Stephen Foster as being a major inspiration.  One popular story about Ives tells of him sitting in the town square of his hometown of Danbury, Connecticut, while his father George conducted an experiment where four different marching bands would march towards the square, all playing different pieces.  All of these things we heard in the material we sampled from tonight.   We started with a recording of Ives’ The Unanswered Question.  Then we heard a selection of his songs (His Exaltation, Lincoln the Great Commoner, At The River, General William Booth Enters Into Heaven), before finishing up with Three Places in New England.

“It’s Too Damn Early,” 2/19/11

(Note: I’ve edited a bit of my original post.)

I was disheartened to find multiple copies of a rude flyer posted about myself at the station this morning. Apparently, some random passive-aggressive type took offense at my mention of disliking Bob Dylan last week, and decided that the proper response would be to mock my sexuality. 

Remember when that last flyer about hating my show got me into the New York Times? Maybe this time, I’ll end up in a better class of rag, like MAD.

Until then, enjoy your playlist:

Eyes Like Saucers — Owl Creek Bridge (from “Parmalee, Tribute To a Dog,” on Ikuisuus/Ruralfaune
Charlamagne Palestine — A Sweet Quasimodo Between Black Vampire Butterflies (from album of the same name, on Cold Blue Music)
Thollem McDonas, Rick Rivera — The Sun Don’t Wait (from “I’ll Meet You Halfway Out In The Middle Of It All,” on Edgetone Records)
Thollem McDonas, Rick Rivera — War Is Terror, Terror Is War
Thollem McDonas, Rick Rivera — I’m No Different From You Now
Eyes Like Saucers — Sea Song (from “Still Living In The Desert, And Mostly In My Own Head,” on Last Visible Dog)
Eyes Like Saucers — Delusion of Reference
Eyes Like Saucers — Still Living In the Desert (And Mostly In My Own Head)
Eyes Like Saucers — I Want To Believe
Conure — Amsterdam and 81st, A Reverie (from “Strings, Locations,” on Edgetone)
Conure — Feedback Location String
Kevin Kastning, Siegfried — Umbra I (from “Gravity of Shadows,” on Greydisc)
Kevin Kastning, Siegfried — Umbra II
Kevin Kastning, Siegfried — Umbra III
Kevin Kastning, Siegfried — Umbra IV
The Stumps — The Black Wood, pts. 1-3 (from “The Black Wood,” on LVD)

Update: Here’s the link to view both flyers. Be sure to click them to view in full size.

“It’s Too Damn Early,” 2/5/11

Although it may be more artistically fitting that shuffled mp3s accompany our world being slowly buried in whiteness, I’m still happy to be able to bring a bit of warm human energy to the station this morning. Enjoy today’s show before retreating back to your caves ’til summer.

T.D. Skatchit, Scott Looney — Regrets (from “Skatch Migration,” on Edgetone)
T.D. Skatchit, Kyle Bruckmann — Flammable Skatch
T.D. Skatchit, Ron Heglin — Shring Shrong Skatch
Daniel Lentz — Wolf Is Dead (from “On The Leopard Altar,” on Cold Blue Music)
Daniel Lentz — Lascaux
Daniel Lentz — On The Leopard Altar
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Pulse Widthed Doors (from “Blaue Blooded Turen,” on Resipiscent)
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Helilude
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Dark Waldung
Thollem McDonas — For All Those Yet To Come (from “Gone Beyond Reason To Find One,” on Edgetone)
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Aufzahlungszeiche
Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet — Fanfares
Renato Rinaldi — Hoarse Frenzy (from album of the same name on Last Visible Dog)
Ross Bolleter — Unfinished Business (from “Crow Country,” on Pogus Productions)
Ross Bolleter — Under Rookwood
Inhabitants — Far Away In Old Words (from “A Vacant Lot,” on Drip Audio)
Renato Rinaldi — We Shall Overtone, pt.3 (from “We Shall Overtone,” on Last Visible Dog)
Christopher Roberts — Kon Burunemo (from “Trio For Deep Voices,” on Cold Blue Music)
Scott Looney — Rumination (from “Repercussions,” on Edgetone)
Scott Looney — Janus
Univers Zero — Les Kobolds (from “Clivages,” on Cuneiform Records)
Univers Zero — Warrior