Archive: January 2010

Launch Microsoft Arpeggio and have lunch with Richard Gere

Somehow, Philip Glass has leap-frogged over Steve Reich on my Last.fm top artists list. I find Reich far more fascinating than Glass, and I can attribute to this jump in listenership to the availability of Glass’ early recordings on eMusic.

I downloaded Glassworks and Songs from the Liquid Days when they became available, and when I’ve had a stray download or two to eat up, Glass is usually an easy bet.

The headline for this entry comes from a 2007 review by Alex Ross. It’s mostly why I favor Reich over Glass, but I’d pick both over, say, Hector Berlioz any day.

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Arnold Schoenberg Smackdown: Verklarte Nacht vs. Pierrot Lunaire

For someone so influential to classical music in the 20th century, Arnold Schoenberg doesn’t occupy much real estate in my music collection. Actually, he didn’t occupy any real estate until I went out of my way to download some of his works from eMusic in 2009.

I’m familiar with his protégés, Anton Webern and Alban Berg. Kronos Quartet has recorded a number of their works, and I went so far as to get the Emerson Quartet’s complete cycle of quartets by Webern.

But Schoenberg? Huge-ass gap in my listening. Portions of Pierrot Lunaire were included in my college course work, though.

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I tried to be more Romantic

More than a year ago, I posted a question on Ask Metafilter for suggestions of Romantic-era classical works.

My archetype for the Romantic era is Hector Berlioz, and there hasn’t been a work of his I’ve encountered that I ever liked. One night I tuned to the local classical station during a workout, and the piece playing over the speakers alternately bored and annoyed me. The announcer came on and identified the offending work as Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet suite. Figures.

I’m a big fan of the Classical era — Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven — and of course, I listen to a lot of music written after 1900. But the 19th Century? Big gap in my listening, and for many years, intentionally so.

But at some point in 2008, I reached a point where a steady diet of serialism, minimalism, expressionism and other latter-day -ism got … tiring. So I reached out to the Internets to explore a century for which I still have a chip on my shoulder.

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On the playlist, or more like Project93 for me

A friend of mine pointed me to Project52, something like a year-long Holidailies, but instead of updating your site everyday, you update every week.

Since I’m employing GTD, I made a list of all the titles I’ve got on various playlists. As of this writing, that list has 93 items.

I don’t want to spend the next 93 weeks writing about those items.

Of course, I could group a lot of them into round-ups, and some will get deleted outright. (I’m looking at you, Van Tomiko cover albums.) But I think for the backlog I’ve accumulated, an extended Holidailies approach would be more suitable.

Adding to that backlog, though, does me no favors.

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More on Alfred Schnittke

Even though I reviewed Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso I, it’s not the only recording I had in rotation.

I was listening to two recordings of his chamber music, in addition to the Kronos’ set of string quartets. His Symphony No. 4 and Requiem are in the wings, but these days I’m not fond of orchestral works. (The way they’re recorded doesn’t allow the kind of immediacy as chamber music.)

I would have liked to review them all, but I would be repeating myself. So instead, I’m relegating the other recordings in a round-up.

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Alfred Schnittke: Concerto Grosso I / Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Strings / Concerto for Piano and Strings

For nearly 21 years, only one work defined my perception of Alfred Schnittke — his third string quartet, which Kronos Quartet recorded for its third studio album Winter Was Hard.

It took a long while before I got around to listening to the rest of his string quartets, but once I did, I became curious about his other works.

So off to eMusic I went to download a number of recordings on the Bis label, and the richness of his string quartets were amplified by the heterogeneity of his orchestrations.

Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso I is often cited as a major work, and it’s easy to hear why. His "polystylistic" writing can get dense, melody peeking out of clouds of harmony, dissonance giving way to consonance, only to dissolve back into a hazy texture.

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ABC: How to be a Zillionaire!

At the ripe age of 13, I declared to my family that ABC’s How to be a Zillionaire! was one of the best albums ever recorded.

Ah. Youth.

Of course, I would go on to expand my listening palette, and for a spell, I’d dismiss How to be a Zillionaire! as an exploratory detour of an immature music fan. Or was it?

How to be a Zillionaire! may not be the best album ever recorded — even less so compared to ABC’s bigger hit, The Lexicon of Love — but it’s not entirely bad either. Trashy, yes. Bad? Not really.

At the very least, the album cover art is pretty spectacular. (Best viewed in all glorious 12 inches.)

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eMusic + Warner Music Group = win!

When eMusic announced it would carry titles from Sony labels, I wasn’t very impressed. Yes, I’ve downloaded quite a number of Sony titles since they became available, but most of the time, I would wish I could go crazy with the Nonesuch catalog.

Well, now I can.

eMusic has struck an agreement with Warner Music Group to carry about 10,000 titles from the label’s catalog. I would have posted this news sooner, but I was too busy filling up my "Save for Later" list.

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ABC: The Lexicon of Love

My introduction to ABC was not the dapper Chic-meets-punk sophistication of The Lexicon of Love. No, it was the cartoon-y Chic-meets-DX7 trash of How to be a Zillionaire!

I bet if the order were reversed, I would find How to be a Zillionaire! thin, vapid and grudgingly appealing. As it stands, I still like Zillionaire!, but I question how I could have gone so long without knowing the wonder that is The Lexicon of Love.

It’s tough not to compare ABC with another band influenced by disco and punk — Duran Duran. Where the latter skewed its formula closer to the rock side, the former went for something more glamorous.

Between the lush strings, disco beats and funk guitars, The Lexicon of Love screams "fashion." Producer Trevor Horn’s imprint can be heard all over the album — a few more guitars and some gayer content, and The Lexicon of Love could have morphed into Welcome to the Pleasuredome.

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