Thursday, June 30, 2011

braxtothon vol. 2... explanatory preamble

 ...and here i am again, again... this time facing a large-scale vista both somewhat foreboding, and filled with the promise of tantalising detail, much of which is as yet vague and undefined... 

when i completed volume one of the braxtothon last august, i (very over-optimistically) announced that volume two would commence the following month. given my track record over the last few years, this was never hugely likely - but then i had already carried out the first listening session, just before i finished typing up that long piece. at the time, it didn't seem that unrealistic... and technically, i did make good on my promise when i first laid out some plans for volume two; and then it just didn't materialise. by november, i sort of tried to force myself into getting my finger out by putting this up; but weeks became months and although i did start writing up the session, i never got very far with it and gradually pushed it further and further down the "to-do" list. so far this year, i've found other things to concentrate on and, as regards this blog at least, even those didn't all get done (yet). in the words of barry adamson... it's business as usual.

looking at all this now, i realise that braxtothon phase five just wasn't ready, however excited i got during that listening session; my thinking on the subject was far from fully clarified. as previously established, the mitchell duets album is first up in the next phase and that presents a particular problem as far as analysis is concerned; it's only much more recently that i've begun to see which way i want to approach this.

so: before the actual album itself gets covered, i will post on the subject of the supposed rivalry between these two master musician-composers (already briefly mentioned once before). it would be impossible for me to discuss the album in any depth without touching on this, but i don't want it getting in the way, as it were (and who knows?, the two musicians themselves may have felt the same way on occasion..!). hence, i will try and get it all out of the way beforehand, so that we can all just get on with the music.

 - and with that finally worked out... perhaps i can get my arse in gear ;-)  it's been such a long time coming now, the whole thing has begun to look like another one of my notorious intimidating peaks...

Monday, June 13, 2011

late birthday card (blush)

yes, so, i've already outlined in the post below how and when it all got bogged down again; but neveretheless, when i realised last night that i had missed b's birthday - and by more than a week at that - i was genuinely quite shocked. just goes to show how little time i've found lately for the matters germane to these environs. like i say, over a week!!, but still -

- though it be tardy indeed -

*****^^@@^**many happy returns of the day sir!**^"^^@@^^*****'**

( -  with love and respect as always; you are truly a credit to the human race.)

c x

[some may know that our man is a big fan of choo-choo trains and related imagery...since the date was missed, only appropriate to present a suitably botched photo, with the vehicle's face sundered by the signpost... but i trust the recipient will recognise said coveyance and the background establishment thereof, he having seen it from the front as it approached, captured a mere second or two earlier :))  ...]

easter festival (2)

[regulars will not be overly surprised to see that my recent list of planned posts was followed by... not much in the way of blog activity. i did have some time free this month, but this was accompanied by more computer problems, then internet failures; and by the time all these got sorted out, i had lost all my momentum completely (sigh). the châteauvallon 1973 revisit is actually partly written, and will get finished soonish i hope; though i am also having headaches over what to do about the sound samples for that article, since rapidshare have deleted most of my files recently (ugh... weak), which leaves me reluctant to use them in future... and the use of downloadable files doesn't seem like the best option for this sort of thing anyway... well, i expect i'll work something out eventually... meanwhile, i can at least get this one up..!]

- as mentioned in my previous post, the morning of april 18th didn't just see me listening to comp. 126. after that, i still had plenty of time alone in the house and i made sure i used all of it - ! this was the rest of the programme:
      2. eugene (1989)
      3. comp. 23e from news from the '70s
      4. comps. 277 & 287  (i.e. disc three of this baby)

(all three of these have been mentioned before on the blog, in varying amounts of detail: eugene was covered here and again here, the live version of 23e was an actual station stop in braxtothon phase three... and the four-disc set was recommended way back when.)

2. the main thing that struck me about eugene this time around is that with the programme he's chosen, b. works the audience very hard (and the musicians! mike heffley says in the liner notes that there were times when the music seemed too difficult for the orchestra to perform - though in the event they rose to the challenge marvellously). there are several "crowd-pleasers" in the form of comps. 134, 45 & 71 - each of which is based around a different repeated rhythmic figure, all three generating a great deal of tension; but four out of the first five pieces performed at the concert are really quite demanding, characterised by complex, dissonant tonalities and considerable structural density. yes, of course these are primary qualities one often associates with b's music - but still, with this set of music, b. chose to make the participants jump through a lot of hoops to get their treats. nothing wrong with that; actually, quite the reverse: since part of his task was to raise the performers to the highest level they could reach - a level presumably higher than they knew they could reach - the maestro needed to put difficult music in front of them. but that's what i kept thinking anyway: damn, he's working the audience hard here!

- comp. 59, which closes the programme, was originally one of several braxton pieces designed to showcase two soloists (comp. 63 being another*) - but unless i just zoned off completely, and i don't think i did, this version turned into a feature for one soloist, to wit, the composer-conductor. i suppose it is only fair to assume that no-one else in the ensemble was remotely close to b. either in terms of experience or instrumental virtuosity... i've played this album enough times now that several of the names on that personnel list are beginning to "ring a bell", but i'm pretty sure it's only because they played on this very album - !

- comp. 93 is a synth number with fucked-up major sound warpage right from the off. it therefore reminds me at once of stockhausen. admittedly this owes much to my crashing ignorance of modern orchestral music, i.e. my conception of stockhausen is over-influenced by that incredible solo performance by his (joint) last student, kathinka pasveer. (read about that - a bit - here. we'll come back to stockhausen in a minute.) but it's good one... for sure! still a toughie for inexperienced audience members, such as those perhaps attending out of friendly loyalty to players in the ensemble :)

- the three "treats" as mentioned above (134, 45, 71) really are very very exciting to witness, i.e. if one is privileged to be in the same room. a palpable frisson of exhilaration runs through each of these and there are some very good performances by the locals. a lovely atmospheric vibes solo by charles down, for instance. (it really took yet more repeated exposure today, for me to remember to say this.)

- and finally: the last time i picked a copy of that head-battering doorstop that is a(ny) penguin guide to (recorded) jazz, this album was awarded a crown. which sounds great - still not that many of those per 100 pages i don't think - but is actually wilfully perverse rather than knowingly informed and inspired: the damn iridium box is included in the same volume, which makes the singling-out of eugene seem... well, i've already said what it looks like to me. yes, and "they" make  mention of stockhausen also, and cite this album as concrete proof of b's abilities writing scored music for larger ensemble or small orchestra; which again is fine, but bearing in mind that no-one else of note was involved (excepting heffley who remains best known through his connection with b., if not as an author rather than as a trombonist) and the maestro's insanely inclusive played-with list... and the iridium box in case i didn't mention that mega-metamonster already... of course they may have good reason for not singling that one out, namely a lack of familiarity with the material beyond disc one, for example ;-)  i jest of course.

3. this was primarily flagged up for re-attention because i had remembered it as not-quite-there, unfinished, and wanted to see if this one still held up or was due for "opinion upgrade"... while i was working on the french '73 quartet stuff anyway... comp. 23e is "perfected" for perpetuity in the studio, a month and a half after this (probably). that's not long really, bearing in mind that my recent experiences with this piece have led me to concude that the piece was really figured out on the road, in order to get it (or at least the moment of transition into the fully ecstatic state) totally right; for some reason i was still persuaded in my head that this version was  a lot earlier than it was, like 1974, even though of course i had known that the printed date lon the liners was incorrect. now, the bremen version as described here actually "turned out" ( = purports) to be three or four days earlier than groningen (pls. visualise umlaut on that "o"!) - this is a very plausible itinerary btw, even a generous one, the distance between the two cities involving one border crossing and not many miles - and that one had seemed to me to have been played after the studio version was waxed. go figure... well, i know now that in those days, b. spent far more time than he would have liked criss-crossing the atlantic to go on the road, solo or otherwise; and the dates on boots are never reliable until confirmed... but still, go figure... cos the weird thing is, this borderline-ropey archive version does indeed sound unfinished, the transition itself being completely blurred or glossed over... we gradually realise that it is already behind us now, without having heard it as such. so the retained impression was actually correct enough, though the explanation for that may be a lot less straightforward than supposed, and entailed a fundamental misremembering in any case ;-)

4. unbelievable stuff. these two quintets are the fucking shit, as they say, and in the state i was in by now, after all that uplifting music, my ears were very well attuned to pick up many of the subtleties. a great proportion of these are supplied by the amazing gino robair, who has of course been working on b's music for a good long time by this point; his approach to the music is to change his attacks seemingly from one to the next, scarcely repeating a sound - at least, this is my impression as i stand there open-mouthed going fuuuuuck...  robair is just an ideal collaborator at this juncture, with a very full and deep understanding of what is required of him, and what is permissible for him (everything, of course!). we also lost a real talent in matthew sperry, dammit... left far too few audible souvenirs for the creative music community, and in the context of b's music especially, a fearless young player not daunted by the spectre of dresser whenever the bow is called for. scott rosenberg - this time as before, i was not listening intently throughout and didn't ever stop and notice what he was doing (for that matter i don't remember much about john shiurba's contributions this time round); but the sound is certainly very greatly enhanced by the addition of the second horn. somehow i managed to squeeze in the whole disc on the day, and mrs c. only had to endure the last few notes as she arrived home. i was to remain buoyant for some hours to come!

c x

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