Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Aggravated Assault

Here's my take on Oscar Bettison's Breaking & Entering (With Aggravated Assault).

I grew up playing really loud, really fast music with my most excellent friends in Sofakingdom, a band started in high school that graduated to playing about a gazillion sparsely attended shows in Minneapolis and mounting a handful of unbelievably fun (if not lucrative) smelly-dudes-in-a-van tours.  So when I first peeked at my Breaking & Entering drum part with it's expertly-notated blast beats I laughed out loud at the fact that I'd get a chance to use those skills I developed in beer-soaked basements and scummy dive bars for the higher call of "contemporary music".  However, it resulted in a personal highlight when I took the stage with my colleauges at the 2010 Bang on a Can Summer Institute marathon concert (with Brad Lubman conducting!) and proceeded to play this piece.  Loud.  Really loud.  I was told the janitors had to use extra mops that night clean up all the melted faces.  OK, not really, but you can imagine.

Give a listen from that night.

Yeah, I know, it's all about the "genre busting" these days, but I never expected a collision between my two worlds of "classical music" and full-on thrash attacks.  My friends from one never really understood the other.  So thanks, Oscar.  But hey, who's supposed to play that part anyway?  There just aren't many people schooled both in Darmstadt and Cannibal Corpse.  I mean, David T. Little of Newspeak just happens to be a composer extraodinaire/rock drummer with good taste in metal and he had to learn double kick pedals just for this piece.  And admirably; the Newspeak recording rocks [B&E was written for them, and they play it like it was].
Either way, I guess I missed playing with my sofakingdom dude-lifemates so much I just relished the opportunity to make an unholy racket and channel my inner Dave Lombardo once again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Videotime: The Anvil Chorus

I guess since this thing has my name all over it and even a photo of me trying to look cool I should go ahead a put a video up of myself playing.  Makes sense, right?

One of my very favorite pieces in the solo percussion repertoire is David Lang's The Anvil Chorus.  It's also one of the most popular ones out there and according to the composer possibly the most oft performed piece he as ever written.  It also involves the most ninja-like balance and control in the rep. because of its intricate foot work from pedal to pedal [editor's unsolicited opinion: playing it seated totally eliminates the Ninja Factor©, and where's the fun in that?]

When David stopped in last spring to hear the UT Percussion Group play the so-called laws of nature he commented that even after all these years he doesn't get bored listening to performances of The Anvil Chorus largely because it always sounds radically different from one performer to the next.  Obviously there's lots of reasons for this, but musical execution aside he was referring to it's largely open instrumentation.  Wherever you go a piano sounds pretty much like a piano, and a violin like a violin, but a piece of "non-resonant metal" could be anything from a wok to the hood of a car. 

Hearing him say that about this piece at least made me less squeamish about trying my hands and feet at it after someone like Steve Schick put a pretty indelible, Sony-recorded stamp on it years ago.
Makes me glad I don't play the piano or violin.

It was still pretty fresh when I recorded this almost a year ago, but nonetheless, enjoy!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A dance party is keystrokes away.

This post is short, sweet, and dangerously full of slammin' beats and slow jamz.
Austin's best and my personal favorite DJ Mel has a ton of downloads on his blog here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sleeping Giant

One of my favorite things about music is simply trying to keep up.  Trends in art, literature, and music (and pretty much everything else) move so fast these days that it can be tough to stay aware of what's going on out there.  And after all, knowing what's up can  be directly related to one's own relevance.
As any classical music student, performer, or enthusiast can attest it's hard enough to get thoroughly familiar with all the essential composers from centuries past and that list is pretty finite.  What I mean is that they wrote music, they died, and now we study them; it's not like more are popping up every year and writing new jams we have to learn to play.  However, in the case of new music, things are much more fluid.

Keeping abreast of what composers are doing right now is more like following bands.  It's daunting since there's like, a million of them out there but aggregate music sites like Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan as well as reviews from festivals like Austin's South by Southwest can help one learn who exists, who's blowing up, and even just who has the most awesome band name.  However, generating buzz and generating quality music are two very distinct things.  In a perfect world they would go hand in hand but remember, there's a lot of noise out there...
[Editor's note: check out The Onion's hilarious annual compendium of band names, both excellent and bogus]

 Which brings me to my Power Focus Topic© for the day and a real live example of quality work nabbing attention and critical acclaim:  the Sleeping Giant Collective.  This group of 5 New York based composers has been writing really great music and people have been taking note (you would do well to acquaint yourself with Ted Hearne's Katrina Ballads, just saying).
Next week they are putting on two concerts, one at the Yale School of Music and one at the evercool le poisson rouge.  I played drums on the premiere of Robert Honstein's Why are you not answering? this summer while we were both fellows at the Bang on a Can festival.  Robert and I go back to the University of Texas where we became masters by degree and played in a band together, so it was great to make music together again.  Next week marks the 2nd and 3rd performances of his piece and this time I'll be joining some Yale students as well as bassist Lisa Dowling (aka Lil Miss Dolemite). 

Here's more information on the shows from Facebook, and LPR.

And since you read all those words here's a video from Katrina Ballads in which Ted has set some of Barbara Bush's dubious and now infamous post-hurricane utterances to music.  Really good music.

Ted Hearne - Katrina Ballads (Barbara Bush 9.5.05) from Satan's Pearl Horses on Vimeo.