Friday, April 21, 2006

Forthcoming inspirations

To commence my packing for the cruise ship, I tackled the most arduous part of it: the media I'll be sequestered with for nearly three months. During my undergrad I grew out of the habit of pleasure reading, which I hope to rectify on board.

Tom Wolfe - Bonfire of the Vanities (currently being read); Fyodor Dostoevsky - The Idiot; Notes From the Underground & The Double; George Orwell - 1984 (no, I haven't read this yet, I know, shame on me); Rainer Maria Rilke - Letters To A Young Poet; Jack Kerouac - The Dharma Bums.

I won't bore you with the full list of CDs I'm taking, but a quick summary include my "desert island" standbys of Herbie Hancock - Speak Like A Child and Thrust, Chick Corea's Now He Sings Now He Sobs, and Jaco's self-titled debut, as well as the requisite dose of Billy Joel, Keith Jarrett, Bruce Hornsby, and hip-hop (K-os' Joyful Rebellion). I'm also taking some CDs I have recently acquired and need to immerse myself in (John Hollenbeck's A Blessing, Bob Brookmeyer's Waltzing With Zoe, a disc of Ligeti chamber music), and discs I've neglected for far too long (A Love Supreme, Mingus Ah Um, Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth, Beethoven's "Eroica" as conducted by Bernstein, and Shostakovich's Piano Concerti #1 and #2).

And in case there are readers unfamiliar with Darcy James Argue, check out his latest set from the Bowery Poetry Club. Fantastic.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Music and language (part 2)

My first post on the connectons between music and language was more metaphorical and abstract in nature, treating genres or styles as languages or dialects. Fittingly enough, I'm listening to BBC3's web archive of Dave Douglas' Blue Latitudes (and Douglas' own musings on musical collisions were one of the catalysts for the first post), and I think he successfully relates the domains of "classical" and "jazz" or "composed/notated" and "improvised" - either by linking and bridging or full-on collision.

This post is more concrete and literal, on a subject that's raised its head on occasion during my time in Montreal. It was brought into relief by this entry by Québécoise percussionists/vocalists DobaCaracol, chronicling their experience at Canadian Music Week (CMW). For those who don't speak French, the quick translation/redux is that there's a segregation between the francophone and anglophone music scenes in Canada. While Doba have not faced such ill acceptance in other anglophone countries (they've apparently got quite the tour of Australia lined up), their appearances in Ontario, Greater Toronto Area specifically, have received a lukewarm welcome, to be kind. Their performance at Live 8 in Barrie, Ontario, was greeted by a bunch of blank stares.

Doba characterises this division as being between Quebec and Canada, which I don't abide by for a few reasons. Aside from the fact that Québécois despise Céline and Bryan Adams in equal proportion to the rest of Canada (if not with more vehemence), the distinction isn't drawn by location - it seems to be drawn by language. Chanteuses like Ariane Moffatt get quite the turnout from Franco-Ontarians (and, I would presume, Acadians); and even in Montreal there's a stark delineation between the anglo and francophone pop scenes. If I don't diligently read the French entertainment weeklies, I'll miss out on knowing about francophone shows. While Voir will write about anglophone and/or international bands, Hour and Mirror rarely write about anything French unless it's the Francofolies. In fact, Hour's interview with Plaster was admittedly the first time English press had contacted them. Plaster is an instrumental band, whose members happen to be francophone. It even extends to venues - places like Le Va-et-Vient and Cabaret La Tulipe are generally regarded as francophone venues. For a while, Café L'Utopik and Divan Orange were thus categorized as well, though McGillians have started to infiltrate both of them.

This segregation seems to exist more in the pop world, and less so in the jazz/improvised (musique actuelle)/classical communities here. The OSM has both francophone and anglophone members; not quite sure about the Orchestre Métropolitaine. There's an increasing rate of collaboration between French and English jazz musicians, though I'm told that around 15 years ago they were pretty separate as well. As an anglophone that does attempt to follow the francophone scene, I can attest to the multitude of music that anglos are missing out on. Okay, so no one's missing anything by not watching Star Académie, but it's really a shame that they're unfamiliar on Doba, Ariane, Karkwa, and many other talented local musicians that have nothing to do with Arcade Fire. Moondata's LABProjects pride themselves on joining both languages and multiple genres in their improvised monthly mashups, and they garner a fairly linguistically split audience. EDIT: props to Moondata for doing a Moondata vs. Plaster mashup! This needs to happen more often!

And honestly, it seems like quite a one-sided thing. I had no trouble finding francophones at a K-os concert, but I might have been the only anglophone who caught Séba & Ghislain Poirier at Francofolies the other year. Why should we be content with our linguistic lot?

Question to fellow bi- or multi-lingual music lovers (e.g., paging Mwanji): does this happen elsewhere?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Progress report

I have finished class time as an undergrad. All that remains is my final performance exam on April 19. Then I'm off on a cruise ship until mid-July. I hope to use the spare ship time (which is abundant, I'm told) for composing. It'll be an exercise to improve my discipline and self-motivation, which will be handy for my out-of-school life. I'm rather looking forward

My colleagues in the Giusto Brass Quintet asked me to arrange some material for them, and they're taking my arrangement of "Paranoid Android" on their Ontario tour. I wish them the best, and hopefully our artistic relationship will continue into the future. I'm increasingly interested in the instrumental possibilities of chamber music that complement the potential of more jazz-based ensembles.

A couple of weeks ago I participated in a "Manhattan on the Rideau" master class at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. It was one of these teleconference things set up between the NAC and the Manhattan School of Music - the McGill Jazz Orchestra was playing student compositions/arrangements while composer/arranger Michael Abene critiqued them from an MSM classroom. He had interesting things to say: some remarks were rather obvious, and others were pretty subjective and could be taken with a grain of salt. It was a fresh, welcome perspective on the craft though, and he seemed like someone I could work well with, if the opportunity should arise.

Recent inspirations:
Guillermo Klein y los Guachos - Live in Barcelona
Gyorgy Ligeti - Trio for Horn, Violin & Piano; Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet; Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet; Sonata for Solo Viola (Sony Classical)
The collected poems of Kenneth Rexroth
Michael Herring's Vertigo featuring David Binney - Coniferous Revenge

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Unfortunate losses

Via DJA: Jackie McLean and Don Alias both passed away this week.

I'm not nearly as familiar with Jackie's music as I should be, which I'm rather ashamed to admit. It's really a pity that I'll be checking his work out under these sort of circumstances. I've heard nothing but good things in regards to his involvement with education at the Hartt School.

I'm no expert on Don Alias' work either, but I remember the first time I heard Jaco's opening salvo of "Donna Lee" on the self-titled record. While Jaco's bass playing is quite incredible, the simpatico he had with Don, and Don's responsiveness, was really quite impressive. His multifaceted expertise on both kit and percussion graced many records, and was always tasteful. The first record I heard him on, if memory serves me correctly, was Herbie Hancock's The New Standard. He never got in Jack DeJohnette's way.

The one thing that strikes me at the news of any musician's death is how cultural history seems to fade away, and that I'm saddened by the possibility of youth growing up in a world devoid of such work. Will kids born today know what McLean, Alias, Steve Lacy, Derek Bailey or Elvin Jones did? Will they know about Ray Charles or Johnny Cash past what was portrayed in the movies?