I'm Stealing the Towels

This week it’s Frank Zappa. I was a fan as a kid, long before I knew that he was also a “composer”, and long before I really knew what a composer was. In particular, Just Another Band From L.A. was a staple in our house, thanks to my older brother, and I was the only tween in our neighborhood who could recite and sing “Billy the Mountain” in its entirety.

When I was in college, I encountered 200 Motels for the first time via an obsessed friend. I never got that familiar with it, but some of it made a lasting impression on me. Roger blogged about it a few weeks ago, and I was more recently reminded of it for other reasons.Read this post

Categories: Admired, Popular MusicTags: ,

Something For Everyone in "Sparrows"

Last month aworks wrote something that has fascinated me ever since:

I just have no interest in harmony. I can’t hear it, I don’t enjoy it when I recognize it, it’s boring to read about, etc. Timbre on the other hand…

It had never occurred to me that one can enjoy music without enjoying harmony. You might read that and think, “Goodness, how closed-minded!” That’s a matter of opinion; to me it’s a perfectly valid point of view, although I don’t share it. (I do agree that harmony is pretty boring to read about, but sometimes we just have to.)Read this post

Categories: AdmiredTags: ,

Mexico's Bartók

Last night I encountered for the first time the music of Silvestre Revueltas. I liked what I heard, and will be seeking out more of his work. (How have I come this far without knowing his music? As I’ve mentioned previously, I live under a rock.)

I say “Mexico’s Bartók” because, like Bartók, he infused his music with folkloric musical elements from his country, creating an original “Mexican” style of music. The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra treated us to two short works: a chamber version of the Orchestral work Sensamayá, and the “Duelo” movement from Homonaje a Federico Garcia Lorca.

In both works, the Stravinsky influence is more apparent to me than the folkloric influence. (I’m not that familiar with Mexican folk music.) Sensamayá is a wonderful series of polyrhythmic ostinatos underpinning layered melodic fragments. To my ear, there’s also a strong influence of Edgard Varèse in his choices of instrumental sonorities. Something about the blends of muted brass and woodwinds.

Here is some more information on Revueltas with links to some audio excerpts, including one of Sensamayá.

Also on this program was a very enjoyable piece, Altar de Neón by contemporary Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz Torres. This was one of those edge-of-your-seat pieces, also largely based on ostinatos and exciting rhythms, culminating a hair-raising percussion cadenza, making the most out of the four percussionists on the stage.

Categories: Admired, Folk MusicTags: , ,