Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Considerable Sounds: In Celebration Of Motown and Randy Newman's Songbook

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By DC Music Editor Benjamin New

Today we bid farewell and adieu to November and note that this date has some interesting history for music lovers. And as cold weather arrives we consider the commonalities between ice and music.

We Salute Berry Gordy Jr, Founder of Motown Records
Berry's family had been Georgia farmers who migrated to Detroit. Berry was a boxer and won nine out of his15 fights, however his boxing career was shortened by the draft board. After serving in the U.S. Army in Korea, Berry returned to Detroit opening a record store, "3-D Music" which featured Jazz recordings. Unfortunately this business was not successful. He worked for his father during the day and later worked in the Ford Automotive Plant. Barry spent his evenings in jazz clubs. Finally, Berry Gordy III, born on this day in 1929, found his muse. He began writing songs.

For three years he wrote for the Golden Gloves champion he had once worked out with, Jackie Wilson. The songs he wrote for Wilson became hits and included Reet Petite, That is Why (I Love You So), I’ll Be Satisfied and Lonely Teardrops. Berry invested the money he made as a songwriter into producing records. In 1957 he discovered Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and began building a portfolio of successful artists. In January 1959 Gordy founded an R&B label called Tamla Records, which produced Marv Johnson's first hit, "Come To Me." At Robinson's encouragement, Gordy created Motown on December 14, 1959. Berry started Jobete Music Publishing, the Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio, International Talent Management and of course the Motown Record Corporation. The corporation’s first release was The Miracles’ Way Over There Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)," and The Miracles' hit "Shop Around" peaked nationally at #1 on the R&B charts in late 1960 and at #2 on the pop charts in early 1961 and established Motown as a major independent company.

Motown quickly outgrew it's local scene and became a prized national treasure, delivering soulful hit after hit to a delighted audience of many demographic designs. The "just good fun" sound of Motown artists played a role in quelling tensions and promoting cultural respect in these still burgeoning days of the civil rights movement in the U.S. that can't be over emphasized. Much has been said of Mr. Gordon's obsession with every detail of how artists were to be perceived once signed to his label. Mary Wells, the Supremes, The Jackson 5, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Temptations, The Marvelettes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder and many more recording stars were developed and promoted under very strict Motown rules. Berry, despite any criticism of being iron fisted in his running of Motown obviously had a vision and knew how to go about making that vision a reality.

As remarkable as the list of artists is, the artists alone were certainly one of many ingredients in the Motown stew. Motown’s staff songwriting and production teams (e.g., Holland-Dozier-Holland, a songwriting and production team made up of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr.. The trio wrote and arranged many of the songs that dominated American popular music in the 1960s. During their tenure at Motown Records from 1962-1967, Dozier and Brian Holland were the composers/producers for each song, and Eddie Holland wrote the lyrics and arranged the vocals.) and in-house musicians (including such unsung heroes as bandleader/keyboardist Earl Van Dyke and bassist ) contributed immeasurably to the Motown sound. The idea of a self-contained operation exuding soul from its every pore was all part of Gordy’s grand design. And today we say thank you to all involved.

Today is also Randy Newman's birthday.

" Ultimately, I want reach more people. That's what I've intended all my life even though it may not seem that way." -Randy Newman

Happy Birthday to one of America's greatest songwriters. Newman is the contemporary equivalent of Irving Berlin and Aron Copeland as well as one of the most prolific film composers of our time. Long ago Randy established himself as one of the sharpest and most caustic wits of our time. If you buy no other CDs this year at least treat yourself to the excellent retrospective:
"The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1", Newman's most familiar material is here appearing in a fresh, flattering light. The result is perhaps a pure distillation of the intelligent and unflinching artistry that makes Newman so unique and worthy of a serious retrospective.

One of Newman's most iconic and recognizable works is the central theme to The Natural, a dramatic and Oscar-nominated score, which I have always found absolutely magical. Newman's work as a film composer began in 1971, scoring Norman Lear's satire Cold Turkey. He returned to film work with 1981's Ragtime, for which he was nominated for two Academy Awards.

Newman co-wrote the 1986 film ¡Three Amigos! with Steve Martin and Lorne Michaels, also contributing three songs for the film. Randy provided the voice for the singing bush as well.
He scored the first four Disney/Pixar feature films; Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and Monsters, Inc. He also scored the 1996 film James and the Giant Peach and the 2006 Disney/Pixar film Cars.

Additional scores by Newman include Avalon, Parenthood, Seabiscuit, Awakenings, The Paper, Overboard, Meet the Parents, and its sequel, Meet the Fockers. His score for Pleasantville was an Academy Award nominee. He also wrote the songs for Turner Productions's Cats Don't Dance.

Randy had the dubious distinction of receiving the most Oscar nominations (fifteen) without a single win.

This changed when he received the Oscar for Best Song in 2001 for the Monsters Inc. song "If I Didn't Have You", beating Enya and Paul McCartney for the honor..
After receiving an enthusiastic standing ovation, the bemused but noticeably emotional Newman began his acceptance speech with "I don't want your pity!"

Randy Newman is currently writing the music for an upcoming Walt Disney movie called The Princess and the Frog, which is scheduled for release in 2009.

Also on this day in 1974 John Lennon appeared in concert for the last time -- at NYC’s Madison Square Garden. Lennon joined Elton John to sing Whatever Gets You Through the Night as well as I Saw Her Standing There.

It's also Paul Schaffer's Birthday, Happy Birthday Paul.

Billboard lists their chart toppers for this day, November 28 as:

Sin (It’s No) - Eddy Howard
Because of You - Tony Bennett
And So to Sleep Again - Patti Page
Slow Poke - Pee Wee King

Mack the Knife - Bobby Darin
Mr. Blue - The Fleetwoods
Deck of Cards - Wink Martindale
Country Girl - Faron Young

Incense and Peppermints - Strawberry Alarm Clock
The Rain, the Park & Other Things - The Cowsills
Daydream Believer - The Monkees
It’s the Little Things - Sonny James

That’s the Way (I like It) - KC & The Sunshine Band
Fly, Robin, Fly - Silver Convention
The Way I Want to Touch You - Captain & Tennille
Rocky - Dickey Lee

All Night Long (All Night) - Lionel Richie
Say Say Say - Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
Uptown Girl - Billy Joel
Holding Her and Loving You - Earl Thomas Conley

When a Man Loves a Woman - Michael Bolton
Set Adrift on Memory Bliss - PM Dawn
That’s What Love is For - Amy Grant
Shameless - Garth Brooks

Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end...

So what is it that ice and music have in common?
If you don't C sharp you'll B flat.

on perhaps the world's longest instrument.

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Rove Re-Writes History. Again.

Bush political adviser Karl Rove claimed that he was “opposed” to holding the pre-war Iraq vote just ahead of the 2002 elections. I truly don’t think the man is capable of a single honest thought or statement. But this is so transparently dishonest that it’s laughable. Who does this guy think he’s fooling?

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The Rudest Interview Ever on Fox News with Author of 'End of America'

Naomi Wolfe visited The Factor to talk about her book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. John Kasich, guest host for Bill O'Reilly, nervously interviewed the author and did his best to keep Wolfe from explaining the premise of her book. Just watch how he treats her like garbage for several minutes, and how she puts up with it.

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Time To Dump The Cuban Embargo?

Why it never worked and why the U.S. should end it.

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Drug gangs will plague city as long as drugs are illegal

Matt Simon, executive director of SendTheRightMessage.com, with a lucid, convincing op-ed piece in New Hampshire's largest-circulating newspaper about the real cause of drug violence, and how to stop it.

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The Lie that Iraq is NOT about Oil - FOIA docs, show division of iraqs oil

Documents obtained by a government watchdog group awhile back show the real reason were paying Haliburton to rebuild nations. The lies are perpetual, the promises never measure up. Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction or saving the world, Iraq was about Oil. It sounds obvious, but it never hurts to look at the past, to understand today.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


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By DC Music Editor Benjamin New

Charleston, South Carolina is a truly great city with character, history, and charm to amuse even the most jaded traveler. Excellent dinning spots, chic shopping, nearby beaches, and music.
Yes music. Charleston's Music Farm is a fantastic place to hear music. the Music Farm has been Charleston's venue for large-scale acts and memorable nights downtown. The room is very large, with lofty brick walls, a high trussed rounded wood ceiling, and the house sound system is well designed . Over the years, such acts as the Talking Heads, Widespread Panic, De La Soul, David Cross, Ween, and many more have graced the stage.
The Music Farm is also known for its edge; don't be surprised if you see something shocking.

The staff is very professional and friendly. The bar staff and security are dedicated and diligent.
Sound engineers Todd and Scott have been respected in Charleston for quite some time and do a fantastic job of delivering a perfect mix to the house.

The Music Farm is located at 32 Ann Street between King Street and Meeting Street. Just look for the green sign and you can't miss it. Come to Charleston and get down in a barnyard of good times at the Music Farm.

The Music Farm
32 Ann St.
Charleston, SC 29403

I had the pleasure of seeing Keller Williams and the WMDs at the Music Farm on Friday .The WMDs feature Williams on guitar and vocals, Keith Moseley on bass (The String Cheese Incident), Gibb Droll on guitar (Marc Broussard), and Jeff Sipe on drums (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Trey Anastasio, Susan Tedeschi, Phil Lesh), the guys had such a blast at their four summer festival plays, that they’re back for more.

Keller Williams

The WMD’S tour started in Baltimore on November 2.
This band is extremely talented. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. I had never heard Gibb Droll before and his virtuoso guitar stylings reminded me of my favorite Chick Corea album, Hymn of the 7th Galaxy, which featured Bill Connors on guitar. This is not to suggest the style is derivative but rather there was something about the spirit and tonal quality that struck me as similar. Bassist Keith Moseley and Drummer Jeff Sipe laid down the rhythms solidly and
contributed much more than the average rhythm section.
Keller Williams is a bit of an enigma doing very unusual things on guitar, guitar synth, and with his voice. For this outing he relied on the excellent live band more than loops to create the foundations for his songs. The set list was mostly material from the Keller Williams catalog, with a few cover songs and some Gibb Droll originals.

Bassist Keith Mosley - Remarkable!

While many different genres were exhibited, the underlying pulses seemed to be straight up funk. Keith Moseley’s exquisite bass grooves were largely the cause of that, reminiscent of funky forefathers Bootsy Collins or George Porter, Jr.

Drummer Jeff Sipe

Jeff Sipe on sticks and skins raised the rhythmic consciousness of the proceedings.
His drumming propelled the band in unpredictable directions.
This ensemble took the the audience on an intergalactic ride that was really fun to experience as Keller's humor was often evident . The sense of dynamic balance revealed a seasoned intelligence at work as well.

The mind-blowing guitar prowess of Gibb Droll was perhaps the most startling surprise for most. It remains a mystery as to how this man is relatively unknown. His skills frequently prompted incredulous looks throughout the audience and on the faces of his fellow band members.

Stunning Guitarist Gibb Droll

With the WMD’s, Keller has found a way to reinvent his songs and breathe new life into his act. Their cohesiveness as a group is quite extraordinary considering they’ve only played together in this configuration since June. A testament to the tremendous talents of these four individuals. A night with this live music dream team promises not to disappoint. Highly recommended.
Again it was a wonderful show in a great venue.

Concert Dates For The WMDs

Keller Williams & the WMD's
Keller Williams
Jeff Sipe
Keith Moseley
Gibb Droll 11/16/07
Georgia Theatre Athens, GA

Keller Williams & the WMD's
Keller Williams
Jeff Sipe
Keith Moseley
Gibb Droll 11/17/07
Zydeco Birmingham, AL

Keller Williams & the WMD's
Keller Williams
Jeff Sipe
Keith Moseley
Gibb Droll 11/18/07 Sun Lincoln Theatre Raleigh, NC WMD's 01/19/08 Sat The Pageant St. Louis, MO

Keller Williams & the WMD's
Keller Williams
Keith Moseley
Jeff Sipe
Gibb Droll 01/26/08 Sat La Zona Rosa Austin, TX

Keller Williams & the WMD's
Keller Williams
Gibb Droll
Jeff Sipe
Keith Moseley 02/23/08 Sat Sugarloaf (King Pine Room) Carrabassett Valley, ME

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FOX News Becoming International Laughingstock!

Fox minimally adheres to certain superficial conventions, it can masquerade as a "news" outfit and enjoy all the rights that accrue to that...

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Dems Are "Tax and Spend" And Republicans Are Fiscally Responsible? (Graph)

Duly Consider!

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9 Words That Don't Mean What You Think

The English language is under assault by stupid people who use words they don't understand, and is defended by pompous asses who like to correct those people. We're not sure who to side with.

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Sesame Street DVD Deemed Adult-Only Entertainment

How far we've fallen: "The old “Sesame Street” is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper “Elmo’s World” started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place — well, the original “Sesame Street” might hurt your feelings. "

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The Dark Side of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for family; it's a time to "reflect;" it's time to, well, give thanks for stuff. And to eat, of course. But just because it's a fun-lovin' holiday doesn't mean that bad stuff doesn't happen on Thanksgiving. With turkey day coming up this Thursday, we thought it'd be fun to explore the DARKER side of Thanksgiving

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The Most Dangerous Drug in the World

Scopolamine is a colorless, tasteless, odorless drug. It is also known as hyoscine and is classified as a tropane alkaloid. The drug can be obtained from plants in the Solanacea (nightshade) family. Most scopolamine comes from jimsome weed, or as in Columbia, borrachero trees. The plants it can be derived from are many, and abundantly available.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Considerable Sounds: Igor's Boogie

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By DC Music Editor Benjamin New

My childhood was a period of waiting for the moment when I could send everyone and everything connected with it to hell. -Igor Stravinsky

Le Sacre Du Printemps

Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring inspired and infected everything that followed it (depending on your perspective). Certainly it revolutionized music at its introduction. (Actually, the radical unparalleled piece was not received well at its opening, inciting riots and called "fiendish" by the Boston Herald). But since that time, Stravinsky's masterpiece has been recognized by both critics and audiences as a musical work of art. And truly, a start to a new era in music.
What made Stravinsky's Le Sacre Du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) so different from everything else?

Musically or Otherwise....
The Scandalous Stravinsky And Nijinsky

Musically there's a curious little passage that is a bit like "dangling participle" near the end of the opening bassoon solo - a descending diminished third followed by a rising augmented fourth. This is greatly expanded upon during the Pastoral introduction, so that by the time the bassoon solo re-enters, that little theme has grown into something that fills the hall, the mind , and the soul with sound. None of these permutations could have been foreseen, back at measure 5!
This alone strikes me as the genius of Stravinsky, let alone the rhythmic and orchestration leaps into uncharted territory.

While it's not atonal music by any stretch of the imagination, it's grounded in scales that are very different from those in the major-minor tonal system. This doesn't end up sounding very much like Brahms. Then when you couple that with his rhythms (Stravinsky may have been the greatest inventor of rhythms who ever lived), you've got something truly new and different.The score is not likely a representation of DNA, or anything like that. But the way the piece grows "organically" from little snippets of information, which end up yielding huge constructions that couldn't have been foreseen is perhaps a musical parallel.

I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity. -Igor Stravinsky

I have 63 recordings of the damned thing. This documents pretty well, I think, the fact that a performing tradition has grown up around the piece, and orchestras now seem a bit more adept at handling the complexities. My personal all time favorite is the 1958 New York Philharmonic version with Leonard Bernstein conducting. This is a fiery inspired performance that captures the spirit of the piece and also is a remarkably good recording (one of the earliest orchestral recordings using multi microphones, particularly effective in the percussion section). I don’t believe this document has been surpassed….yet. Stravinsky’s own reaction to this performance was one word, “Wow”.

Surprisingly, my least favorite is the one Stravinsky actually conducted himself in 1960. Stravinsky by this time had enveloped himself in neo-classicism and I suppose interpreted his previous work with the aesthetics of convention in mind..

I would imagine the tempos are probably correct, but the fire just isn’t there.

David Goza is Associate Professor of Music at Drury University and founding conductor/music director of the Chamber Orchestra of the Ozarks who recently performed this masterpiece. He was asked on a web forum what his personal favorite performance of this work was. He had once played oboe for the Memphis Symphony and related this story.

“Easter Sunday one year. The following Tuesday, the local paper was filled with angry letters to the editor about our bad taste -programming such pagan nonsense on the holiest day of the year... A week later, a small tornado came through downtown Memphis, taking the roof off the auditorium... The following Tuesday, the letters to the editor page was again filled, this time with pronouncements of the wrath of God.”

The set was painted by Nicholas Roerich.

Roerich's stage-designs for the premiere of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, given in Paris in 1913, and based on ancient Russian motifs, were highly innovative and influential. They were an important element in the success and the scandal of this epochal musical event.

Or Otherwise

Stravinsky came up with the idea for the piece in 1910 based on fantasy. A vision of a pagan ritual in which a young girl dances herself to death. While composing The Firebird, Stravinsky began forming sketches and ideas for the piece, enlisting the help of archaeologist and folklorist Nikolai Roerich. Though he was sidetracked for a year while he worked on Petrushka (which he intended to be a light burlesque as a relief from the orchestrally-intense work already in progress), The Rite of Spring was composed between 1912 and 1913 for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Roerich was an integral part of the creation of the work, drawing from scenes of historical rites for inspiration; Stravinsky referred to the work-in-progress as "our child". After going through revisions almost up until the very day of its first performance, it was premiered on May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and was conducted by Pierre Monteux. Stravinsky would later write that a better translation to English would have been "The Coronation of Spring."

The Ballets Russes staged the first performance. The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario—a setting of scenes from pagan Russia—shocked audiences more accustomed to the demure conventions of classical ballet. Vaslav Nijinsky's choreography was a radical departure from classical ballet. Gone were the long and graceful lines of traditional ballet, arms and legs were sharply bent. The dancers danced more from their pelvis than their feet, (a style that later influenced Martha Graham). Stravinsky would later write in his autobiography of the process of working with Nijinsky on the choreography, writing: "the poor boy knew nothing of music" and that Nijinsky "had been saddled with a task beyond his capacity." While Stravinsky praised Nijinsky's amazing dance talent, he was frustrated working with him on choreography.

Generally speaking, dancers have a tough time with time signatures outside the common
2\4, 3\4, 4\4, and 6\8 designations even today, as evidenced in Phillip Glass - Twila Tharp collaboration in “Einstein on the Beach”. Glass kept explaining to the dancers that 5\4 was like a bar of 3\4\followed by a bar of 2\4.

Listen to the complete Rite Of Spring on NPR by clicking here.

The Premiere

The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start with the opening bassoon solo, the audience began to boo loudly due to the slight discord in the background notes behind the bassoon's opening melody. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a full fledged major riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they could restore only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance, and Stravinsky himself was so upset on account of its reception that he fled the theater in mid-scene, reportedly crying. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the première, (though Stravinsky later said in his biography "I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.") allegedly infuriated over the "misuse" of the bassoon in the ballet's opening bars.

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted numbers to the dancers, who couldn't hear the orchestra over the rioting audience (this was challenging because Russian numbers are polysyllabic above ten, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat).

Although Nijinsky and Stravinsky were despondent, Diaghilev (a Russian art critic as well as the ballet's impresario) commented that the scandal was "just what I wanted".

The music and choreography were considered barbaric and sexual and are also often noted as being the primary factors for the cause of the riot, but many political and social tensions surrounding the premiere may have contributed to the backlash as well. Even though Nijinsky's original choreography was lost, the work is now a standard of dance troupes around the world and has been choreographed by Pina Bausch and Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

The ballet completed its run of six performances amid controversy, but experienced no further disruption. The same performers gave a production of the work in London later the same year. Both Stravinsky and Nijinsky continued to work, but neither created pieces in this percussive and intense style again. The United States premiere was in 1924 in a concert (that is, non-staged) version. It could be argued that audiences were capable of accepting the music on it’s own terms but when combined with the multi media experience of the sets and choreography were simply not able to handle it.

The Rite of Spring is often referred to as a modernist work but one could indeed argue that it was a return to primitivism. Much like Pablo Picasso ’s work in the visual arts. Whichever way you might see this piece, there can be no argument that it was and continues to be nothing short of revolutionary.

“My God, so much I like to drink Scotch that sometimes I think my name is Igor Stra-whiskey.” -Igor Stravinsky

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