Monday, March 30, 2009

Piano-Playing Cat

This is probably old news.

But I didn't discover it until last month.

And now, the cat who plays piano.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This Must Have Been An Awesome Field Show

Check out this footage of a marching band from Michigan playing the music from South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. It looks like it's from a show that features music from Family Guy and the Simpsons as well, which must be a hell of a field show. Back in my marching band days, we did some fun field shows like that as well. Unfortunately, we never got to play "What Would Brian Boitano Do?".

Anyway, the songs featured in the video are "What Would Brian Boitano Do?", "Blame Canada", and "La Resistance/Medley". Too bad they didn't go for the whole musical, because it's really great.

More Joy Division

Transmission/She's Lost Control (my first experience with Joy Division)
Dead Souls (sadly, poor sound quality)

A Passage To India

Check out this article. I'm pretty intrigued myself. When I get my hands on his music, I'll definitely be writing about it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Suggested Listening #7

Seeing as I spent the past five days writing a paper about Felix Mendelssohn, it's only appropriate that I write about him here.

Mendelssohn was a composer who, during the "progressive" Romantic era, chose to fall back on the Classical idiom. Thus he wrote music that, to a 19th-century audience, seemed dated. Of course, he was far too young to be old-fashioned. He simply wrote what he loved- music in the vein of Bach or Beethoven, but he wrote it from a 19th-century perspective. This quality makes his music uniquely beautiful.

So, check out Mendelssohn's 3rd Symphony, also known as "Scottish" (A Minor). It's really wonderful and moving.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Missed A Day (AKA Orchestra Readings Continued)

So, I've come to the most "wonderful" part of my orchestra reading project... PARTS. That means going through the piece with a fine tooth comb and making sure that every dynamic marking and every note translated over into the parts. Then I have to return to Staples Copy Center (my home away from home in case you haven't noticed) and print and copy and papercut myself until I have all the parts printed and enough copies made in case people lose them, which can very well happen.

Still, I'm excited about the reading. Not so much excited about the rest of the homework I have to do. There's still a twenty page music history paper to write, and a trip to the NY Public Library (Music Branch) to embark on. Among other things, of course.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Carmina Burana- Part 2

I'm not going to talk about the rest of the piece quite yet, but I just found a Carmina Burana film on Youtube from the 70s. It's pretty interesting... to say the least. Not every word is pronounced correctly and that's a little distracting, but the music is well done. It's still pretty good overall, almost comedic with the addition of actors "performing" the songs. Check it out.

Part 1

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Film Scoring Project/Orchestra Reading

The orchestra score is done! That is, if I don't have to go back and make changes. The people at the Staples Copy Center probably hate me already for asking for an 11x17, two sided, bound edition of my score. The binding part gets them especially upset, because apparently, one can't fully bind an 11x17 score at the Staples Copy Center. I really appreciate the place and have spent many an hour killing trees and making tons of copies of show fliers that everybody ever has used as birdcage lining, but they need to step up their game with this binding thing, or else I'm taking my $2.71 and going to Kinko's from now on.

The life of a composer...

Today, I started scoring that student film I mentioned a few entries back. Just a couple of cues at the moment, but I came up with a pretty cool motive to use throughout the film. Composing for film is a completely different process than just composing... your music is second to the film, only there to enhance the experience of watching the movie. So that changes the composition process. But I like the challenge of composing within boundaries.

Bring on the boundaries! Student film makers, read this: I. Would. Love. To. Score. Your. Film.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Special Opps Part 3

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Clash Bar in Clifton to see The Special Opps play. After asking pianist and composer Chris Opperman where I could find some of his videos online, I found some. And as promised, here they are.

White Willow
No Drinks For Libbie

If I can get some more videos or recordings, especially some from their show on 3/6/09, I definitely will do that.

Film Scoring

Hmm... I've had this blog for about two weeks now, yet I haven't really spoken too much about my interest in film scoring. So here goes.

Many semesters ago (I think Spring 2007... feels like a long time ago), I took a class entitled "Music In Film", taught by this man. It was there that I really developed an interest in what I feel really brings a movie, TV show episode, or video game to life: the background music. Every week during the 2 1/2 hour class, we watched a classic film and paid close attention to the score and how it enhanced the experience of watching the movies. Here's a partial list of the films we watched:

The Sea Hawk
A Streetcar Named Desire
On The Waterfront
To Kill A Mockingbird

All of these films have excellent scores. The ones that, to this day, strike me the most are the scores from On The Waterfront and Psycho. Watch these movies and pay attention to how perfectly the music enhances the film. Meanwhile, next time I watch a movie with an excellent score, I will write about it.

Speaking of film scoring, I have undertaken a film scoring project for a student film. I should start work on it this week. More on that to come.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Carmina Burana- Part 1

Last November, the Montclair State University Chorale (a group comprising of 150+ students) performed Carl Orff's Carmina Burana at the NJPAC with a group of students from the Moscow Conservatory, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Sarah Coburn (soprano soloist), Vale Rideout (tenor soloist), and Stephen Powell (bass soloist).

The show recieved much praise and great reviews, such as this one from the Star Ledger. Anyway, if I had this blog back in November, I would have definitely written about the show. Still, I would like to discuss Carmina Burana over a short series of entries.

The text for Carmina Burana comes from a huge compilation of poems that dates back to between the 11th and 13th centuries. Composer Carl Orff took 24 of these poems, notably ones with secular themes, and set them to fantastic music. Everybody's heard the famous opening movement entitled O Fortuna, whether it be in the Jim Morrison biopic, or in a trailer for a dramatic action movie, or in a Medieval Times commerical, or even when the New England Patriots march out onto the field. Yes, it's overused and overplayed, but that does not discount how dramatic and breathtaking the song is.

The next movement, Fortune Plango Vulnera, is a direct follow-up of O Fortuna, dealing with the same subject (the fickleness of fortune). As a whole, the twenty-five movements of Carmina Burana are grouped into five major sections, the first of which being Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi ("Fortuna, Empress of the World"). So next time, I will discuss the second major section, which deals with the coming of springtime and the feelings of love it brings, as the texts go.

And if I can somehow get my hands on a recording of the MSU Chorale performing the whole thing, I will most definitely put it up there. For now, check this out:

Montclair State University Website Feature

Program Notes

Friday, March 13, 2009

Orchestra Readings '09

So on Monday, the scores for our orchestra readings (which will take place the first week of April) are due. I just got to the end of my 3'30" piece, structurally speaking anyway. Now, it's time to go back and really flesh it out. After I consult with my composition teacher, I'll be spending the weekend doing that. Writing a piece and hearing 80+ people play it is such a breath-taking, mind-blowing experience, and it's one that I'm grateful to have. As a composer, it's usually more practical to write pieces for smaller groups to perform, as it's difficult and often times impractical to get such huge forces required to play an orchestral work together. It's really amazing that the orchestra director gives us student composers two full rehearsals to play our pieces for us.

Anyway, I'll be posting the recordings from the orchestral reading whenever I get them. Hopefully, that'll be around the second or third week in April. Until then... I gotta finish the last bits of my piece, and hopefully name the damn thing already.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Suggested Listening #6

Today's suggested listening is Djangology, the must-have album by legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. There was an edition re-released in 2002 by Bluebird Records that has been perfectly remastered; the quality of the original recordings was subpar. But with this remastered edition, you can hear Django's unique takes on jazz standards, and even Tchaikovsky's 'Pathetique', in his gypsy jazz stylings. Joining him on this album, as always, is creative partner and jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, whose playing is just as breathtaking as Django's.

Also, check out the Quintette du Hot Club de France, Django's all-strings jazz combo, while you're at it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ore Ska Band

Click Here

It's an all-girl Japanese ska band. Pretty wacky but cool nonetheless.

Suggested Listening #5

So, after missing a day of Suggested Listening, we come back with the fifth installment. Today's suggested listening is Social Dancing, the second full-length album from Scottish pop-punk/electronic group bis (and yes, that's in lower-case). You've probably heard bis if you've ever watched the PowerPuff Girls (they did the ending theme for the Cartoon Network series). While that song, catchy and energetic, gives listeners a good idea of the sound of some of the music bis recorded in their short time together as a band, there is so much more to their music that deserves to be heard.

Social Dancing offers a great range of music, while the band never lets up with their relentless energy. They're obviously past the PowerPuff Girls theme stage in their musical careers, and they step up and offer an album that features great diversity within the pop-punk idiom while still mantaining their youthful energy as exhibited in their first album, The New Tranistor Heroes, and in the PPG theme. This album, along with the 2000 EP entitled Music For A Stranger World, set the stage for their final album, Return To Central, which will be discussed later on.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TV Music- South Park

With the South Park season premiere airing tomorrow, I thought it was a good idea to talk about the background music in the show. Jamie Dunlap does the background music for the show, and while he is probably not a well-known composer, he has had a ton of experience in the scoring world. Check out his extensive resume, and listen to his library of musical samples. Also, keeping relevant to South Park, check out the scene from the Season 9 episode entitled Ginger Kids that he also has on his website. The music is intense and captures the "horror" genre perfectly, and keeping with the quick production time of the show, it is quite possible that the orchestral music for that sequence was composed in just a few days, two or three tops.

While many of the episodes reuse and revamp musical cues (this is not an uncommon practice, hence many film composers having a library of musical samples), there are many other episodes with excellent original scores, most notably the Season 11 finale entitled The List.

The feature-length musical film also has amazing music, however, Dunlap was not doing the background music for the show during the time it was produced.

Density 21.5... on Vibes

Density 21.5

Check out this performance of Edgard Varese's Density 21.5 performed by a talented young vibes player.

Other Music NYC

While I was out in the city last night, I rediscovered a music store that I haven't been to in years. As always, they carry tons of music ranging from local music to the Clash to Steve Reich and everything in between.

Click Here

Plus, they have a digital downloads store.

They also have some shows there, so if I ever attend one, I'll make a note of it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Suggested Listening #4

Thelonious Monk. Granted, I only have a compilation and the Monk. album, along with a couple of stray songs, so I can't really pick an album to recommend. But you absolutely cannot go wrong with Monk. Here's a couple of my favorite tunes:

Well You Needn't
'Round Midnight

Monk's piano technique, while highly unorthodox, is also extremely sophisticated in an almost primitive way. When it comes to improvisation, Monk had it down. If you haven't heard Monk yet, then listen now.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Suggested Listening #3

A few years ago, Andy Summers of the Police teamed up with classical guitarist Ben Verdery. The result of this collaboration is the 2007 album First You Build A Cloud. The combination of an electric guitar with a classical guitar, especially with two amazing players, is beautiful. This album is mostly comprised of ambient-sounding music, but the music is inspiring. I'm actually working on a piece right now for effected electric guitar (flange, phaser, delay pedal, etc) and classical guitar, which I hope to have on my senior recital.

So, go give First You Build A Cloud a listen.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Roger McGuinn's Folk Den

Click Here

This site contains a treasury of recordings and chord charts for tons of folk songs. Totally worth the visit.

Special Opps Part 2

Great show over at Clifton's Clash Bar last night. The Special Opps tore the house down with their special brand of chaotic, yet catchy, music. This group (mostly comprised of two keyboardists, one bassist, a guitarist, a saxphonist, and a trumpeter, sometimes with other players coming in) is totally worth listening to, so if I can get you a link or a video, I will.

Suggested Listening #2

Edgard Varese: Octandre

Scored for contrabass and seven woodwinds, Octandre is a very short piece in three movements (lasting about 6 minutes in total). Varese makes great use of the extremely high registers of the flute and the oboe, incorporating sounds from those instruments' registers and huge intervalic leaps into the technically challenging thematic material. Furthermore, he manages to get a huge sound out of just seven instruments.

This is a piece that is not pleasant at all, but it still affects the listener. It makes sense... but at the same time, it doesn't. Anyway, check out some videos if you're curious.

Part 1- Assez lent
Part 3- Grave

You're on your own for Part 2, Tres vif et nerveaux. That is, until I can actually get a video.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Local Bands- Special Opps

Tonight at the Clash Bar in Clifton, the Special Opps will be playing. More to come about the band after the show... hopefully I can get a link up here, therefore supporting local music like I should.

Suggested Listening #1

So check this out. Joy Division: The Complete BBC Recordings

Since Joy Division was only a band for two years (only finishing two albums before Ian Curtis committed suicide in Spring 1980), "Complete" doesn't mean a whole lot of tracks. But the tracks offered in this live album are all great. Supposedly, the band never liked the way they were produced; they felt that producer Martin Hannett took off a lot of the edge from their sound. The live albums offer a slightly edgier, harder Joy Division. And as I said before, there are not a whole lot of tracks here. In fact, there are two versions each of "Transmission" and "She's Lost Control", but it's interesting to hear the differences between the performances.

Stay tuned for more Suggested Listening. And on a side note, check out the Ian Curtis biopic Control. I just saw it this week, and it's an excellent movie.

Myspace Music Account

Check it out.

I'll put up more stuff as I get recordings, such as the recording from this year's orchestra reading. The reading will be on April 1st, so expect a recording soon after that.

First Post

I guess I should introduce myself. But I won't.

Okay, I am an undergrad majoring in Music Theory and Composition. I play guitar and a couple of other instruments, and I write music. Lots of it. Composing for media (such as films and video games) is something I want to get into. I've already written works for a few short student films, some of which are on YouTube sans music. Hopefully the ones with music will be up soon.

So, yeah... student film makers. Let's talk. Or let's get your people to talk with my people.