Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Video Gifts, Part 6

Jin Hi Kim, Korean-American composer and electric komungo player.

On Facebook

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Video Gifts, Part 5

Steel pan player and composer Andy Akiho.

On Facebook

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Video Gifts, Part 4

The selection below is from Bradley Fish, an Israeli/American guitarist who is here improvising on a Chinese guzheng.

On Facebook

The Video Gifts, Part 3

This is Turkish theremin player Cihan Gulbudak, performing under the name Meczûp. You can also find him on Facebook and MySpace.

On Facebook

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two Holiday Choir Programs Today

The Monmouth Civic Chorus performs its Messiah and Christmas Oratorio program 4 p.m. today at the Count Basie Theatre. Visit the group's website for more information.

The Arcadian Chorale also performs at 4 p.m. today at Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church, 705 Second Ave., Asbury Park. The group is performing holiday favorites, including some in Spanish. For more information visit the group's website or call 732-775-0030.

On Facebook

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Video Gifts

There are a whole bunch of videos out there in YouTube-land that I have fallen for in recent months. Some of them are professionally staged performances, some are living room performances. At least one is an audition tape. All of them are apparently single-take live recordings (even where the video is clearly edited, the audio appears to be a single performance).

Most of those I'm interested in are experimental music--but not all. The players are spread around the globe. If one thing unites them, in my mind at least, it is the need to reach an audience with a simple live performance. This seems a little ironic, given that the video is recorded and posted online. But that disconnect only serves to underline the effort they are making to reach an audience. And that's where we come in. The material generally is raw musical sound--not studio manufactured--and the intention is open and pure. We delight in the music as the musician delights in the music.

I'll present these in a series of posts over the coming weeks. First up is a find I shared with Facebook friends about a month ago, featuring Keith Rowe, pioneer of prepared guitar.

For those interested in learning more about Rowe's music, there's a wonderful video available with him talking about his music as a voiceover, with video of him performing.

On Facebook

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Springsteen Video

Here's the video of the recent Springsteen and E-Street Band performance in the Asbury Park Carousel Building. I mentioned in an earlier post that my grade-school-aged son more or less accidentally was among those in attendance, albeit outside in the cold. The video was made available online starting this morning, as a promotion for the newly released box set compilation, The Promise. If the video below doesn't display properly, click on the title displayed on the video and it will take you to the full screen view on

On Facebook

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monmouth Civic Chorus' 'Messiah'

Note: I've added ticket information at the end of this post.

The Monmouth Civic Chorus presents its annual Messiah, with orchestra, 4 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 19, at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. The group presents the traditional Christmas portion (Part 1) plus the "Hallelujah" chorus. They'll also perform selections from Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Featured this performance in a column in the Asbury Park Press recently.

Soloists are Elisa Singer and Silvie Jensen, sopranos, David Kellett, tenor, and Andrew Cummings, baritone. Conductor is MCC director Mark Shapiro.

The MCC is one of my favorite groups in the area, and I've said so in the Asbury Park Press many times--ambitious, creative, well-rehearsed, highly organized. Artistically, Shapiro is first rate and the group's administrative machine seems a model for other regional ensembles. I haven't agreed with every choice the group has made, but on the whole, it obviously offers a positive experience for its members and some terrific performances for audiences.

On Facebook

Tickets are $45 and $25 with discounts for seniors, groups and students. Tickets are available at the group's website,, or by calling 732-933-9333. The audience is encouraged to bring nonperishable foods to donate to Lunch Break.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christ Church, New Brunswick

Christ Church Choir and the New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra will present two programs at the church in the next two weeks. The first is the "Holiday Choral Concert," 7 p.m. Sunday Dec. 12, featuring the Christmas portion of Handel's Messiah, Gloria of Vivaldi, and "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" (BWV 61) of J.S. Bach. Soloists are Diana and Cathryn Whitener, sopranos, Giulia Utz, contralto, William Ambert, tenor and Frederick Fischer, baritone. John Sheridan conducts. Tickets are $18, $15 for students and seniors available at the Parish office or at the door.

The second, "Lessons & Carols," will be a free concert of traditional and contemporary music and carols, 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19, conducted by Sheridan and Renata Koumendouros. On the program of shorter works will be music of Brahms, Renaissance masters Orlando di Lasso, Orlando Gibbons and Palestrina, 20th Century genius Benjamin Britten, and many others.

Christ Church is located at 5 Paterson St., New Brunswick. For more information call 732-545-6262.

On Facebook

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lennon Assassinated

Hitchhiking home to Trenton from the middle of Ohio, I couldn't get a ride. Eventually had to give up and take a bus from Steubenville to Pittsburgh and a train from there. Plus, I had to change trains in Philadelphia, where I got to the old Reading Terminal somewhere around 2 or 3 a.m. on Dec. 9, 1980.

So at this moment, 30 years ago, I am on an empty train, taking it's sweet time crossing the black farmland along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I am 22. Full of wonder at the world, writing songs as steadily as breathing (most of them bad, but I was making progress), irresponsible and uncaring about the present, uncertain about my future, terrified and thrilled at the impossible twists and turns my life would take.

The hitchhiking and waiting for the bus and the train and the rides themselves, all of it had taken something like three days. Maybe longer. A long, long time for such a short trip. One scene I remember is standing by an exit ramp, my thumb out, where I'd been for many hours, when I flock of white birds landed all around me like a surreal snowfall. I walked out of the birds and soon after got a ride a short distance. Then more waiting.

The oddest part was, I had dreamed about the birds a few nights before, lying in a dorm bed on Antioch campus, where I was visiting. Both in the dream and in reality, they were a beautiful spectacle.

But the rides were few and didn't last long. And after all the weirdness and delay, after finally giving up and taking the bus to the train, I found myself, days later, in Philadelphia.

Reading Terminal was a cool, gigantic cave, with these focused breezes filled with dusty smells that would blow, wrapping around your legs and making your clothes and your hair smell of metal millwork, concrete dust, pale engine exhaust. It was one of those old-fashioned railroad stations like I imagine might still exist somewhere in Europe. Great iron beams arching over the tracks and platforms, the ceiling laced with dim, filthy glass, wooden benches in wide rows in the interior waiting and ticketing area, a dozen concessions all shut tight.

It's not like that now. Now it's a shopping mall, linked by walkways to another station a few blocks away and filled with lights and noise. The modern ambience is as connected to the machinery of the trains as a penthouse is to the services in the basement. But in 1980, the station and the trains were still one. Imagining the industrial age as a living being, these giant buildings were like lungs. And I was standing inside one of those, the organ of a massive, busy monster, as it slept, feeling its breath curl around me.

Waiting there, it was hard to get comfortable and impossible to sleep. But I was waiting for the next train to Trenton, had already bought my ticket back in Pittsburgh, in fact. I had no choice but to wait. I overheard a young black man telling the woman he was with, shaking his head, "I couldn't believe that was who they were talking about when I heard it, you know? It didn't make any sense." That was all I heard.

I waited. Another hour, maybe two. Now it's about 5:30 a.m. and I give up on the song I'm trying to write in my head and the daydream surrounding it that had for a couple hours held out some hope of escape from the grind of the station. I look around and get up and start to walk and I pass a man with a newspaper up in front of his face and the headline says, "Lennon Assassinated" or something to that effect. I think it was the Daily News. I remember for a fraction of a second thinking it couldn't possibly be John Lennon--assassinations happened to political figures and John was a pop star. But then I immediately put that headline together with the scrap of conversation I had overheard and realized that, if it was true, then I was having the same reaction as that young black man. I, too, simply couldn't get my mind around the information. And I realized, before I knew for sure, and partly because it was so incredible, that it probably was true. It probably was John Lennon.

I had already bought the new John and Yoko album, Double Fantasy, and had owned all the Beatles' albums at one point and of course each of the Beatles in turn had been a boyhood fascination. But as an adult, only Lennon had remained a hero--for his intelligence, his wit, his artistry, his characteristic struggle to use his public image to overhaul public sentiment on a variety of issues. His songs were the best Beatles songs, I was convinced. And his voice, among the many pop stars who spoke on public issues, was singular in its ability to make compassionate, critical sense of the world and to demand more from it. I liked the other Beatles, but Lennon stood apart--from everyone.

So there I am on Dec. 9, 1980. I had walked over to the guy with the paper, asked him where he bought it. I thought all the concessions were still closed. No, he told me and pointed around the corner. I went and bought my own paper and read as much as I could of the account. Asleep, traveling, bored for all of Dec. 8, alone and far from a radio or TV, I had missed it completely.

And now, in the train station, my train is boarding. I am 22. Lonely. Exhausted. Stunned. The sun is coming up over the tracks, shining in line with the trains straight down the tracks, straight onto the concrete platform, red and gold and glorious.

On Facebook

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Growing Up ... in Asbury Park

See my note of corrections at the end of this story.

I helped teach a class on Springsteen's lyrics as literature earlier this semester. A great experience, but I only mention it here as background for another story. I've known about Springsteen since I was in high school in Pittsburgh. Have studied his songs. Thought about his work.

My son came home from school today, idly talking about his day. Bunch of kids absent. No homework because they had extra time in class to do it. Blah-blah-blah. Oh yeah, and they watched Bruce Springsteen today.

"What was he singing?" I said, curious. What video would his teachers be showing a group of elementary kids?

"Christmas songs," he said. "Can I play a game on your phone?"

My daughter, sitting in the room, piped up.

"Yeh, I heard Springsteen was at the Carousel building today."

"Oh, really?" I said, curious. "I hadn't heard about that."

"But that's what I just said!" my son yelled, irritated that clearly we hadn't been listening.

Silence. My daughter and I looked at each other. Two plus two were beginning to add up.

"Um," I said. "You saw Bruce Springsteen--live--performing--at the Carousel building?"


Well, a little investigation and we find out Springsteen was filming a video on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, to be broadcast on the Web at some future date. A lottery was held for tickets to attract a small audience, advertised through Backstreets Magazine. Somehow, my son's school got tickets. The plan was to have the whole E-Street Band there ...

"You saw Clarence Clemons?!" I asked my son. Blank stare. "Was there a big, black guy, playing saxophone?"

"Yes," he said. I had to explain to him how expensive tickets to a Springsteen show are. How the E-Street Band doesn't play together much any more ....

Mind you, one gaping hole in my Springsteen knowledge is I have never seen him live. Never. Ever. I've seen him in person, but not performing. It goes without saying, I've never seen the E-Street Band.

To my son, all this is just funny. Not even funny, just a cool distraction from the school day. An interesting, unplanned field trip. Otherwise, no big deal. Some old guy playing Christmas songs. Let's get on with the video games.

On Facebook

NOTE: Spoke with the teacher this morning and it turns out we got some big details wrong. First, my son's class didn't actually get inside the Carousel building. They were among the 150 people standing in the cold outside. Second, he didn't actually see the band, as anything more than shadowy figures behind the glass and plastic sheeting. He thinks Clemons was there but he wasn't sure. Third, the band wasn't playing "Christmas songs." They were playing classic Bruce tunes, mostly from the newly released box set, The Promise. His teacher had said specifically that the class could tell people they "heard" Bruce Springsteen play live. It was so cold standing there that they stayed for only a few songs, so when Springsteen came out to shake hands with a few people, they had already left.

8:10 a.m. 12/8/10

Apparently, Bruce
did play some Christmas songs after all. And Clarence Clemons was there. My son's report turns out to be more accurate than I was giving him credit for.

8:28 p.m. 12/12/10

Monday, December 6, 2010


For tonight's performance of Pierre Boulez's music by the Talea ensemble at Miller Theater, the theater provided a short video, below, including some tantalizing excerpts of Derive I and the new (2006) Derive II. The video is provided as a promo and I guess it worked: tickets for the Miller's 600-plus seats are sold out.

Pierre Boulez Composer Portrait Preview from Miller Theatre on Vimeo.

My experience with Boulez began as an undergraduate at Trenton State College, introduced to his music by my composition professor, Laurence Taylor, who was a friend of Boulez's. While some of the early revolutionary scores like Le Marteau sans maitre and Structures for two pianos mystified me, I fell in love with Pli selon pli and Le Soliel des eaux, both of which highlight voices, and, later, Rituel, a more impressionistic work evoking monastic ceremony. I attended the New York premiere of the massive "Repons", a landmark score for its use of interactive computer transformations among other things. Through reading about him I discovered the music of Berio, Ligeti, Xenakis and others, composers that still serve as inspirations for experimentation and models for what is possible.

Someday, when I sort it all out, I'll be able to talk about the ways in which my exposure to Boulez's music in particular has shaped my own. I recall studying his treatise on his compositional technique, "On Music Today" while I was writing my first works in extended forms. Definitely there were some practical ideas that incorporated. But it's more than that. While my music is vastly different, far simpler, I am deeply moved by this stuff. Listening to a Boulez score is like watching patterns in cloud formations, or patterns on the surface of a lake--ephemeral, chaotic, astoundingly beautiful.

On Facebook