Tuesday, November 4, 2014

i love evil


I mean what is there to really say about Morton Feldman? A lot of things. American composer, BFF's with John Cage, changed the way people read and listen to music, thrived in obscurity, yeah, that Brooklyn boy that said FUCK Rachmaninov, I bet he did lines with Johnny while Webern's Symphony played in the background. How else can you stay awake for a six hour string quartet?

Still, something's to be said about this work, dedicated to Frank O'Hara in 1982 as a "thanks bro" for dedicating a poem to Morty himself called "Wind." Is this supposed to sound like wind? I mean, yeah, it sounds like wind, mainly because he only uses like two sentences of the original text. I like how he experiments with stereo sound. Where the audience is sitting matters- there exists a left right and center channel- you gotta be right in the middle of it to experience its full effect. His graphic score was organized into cells, where the performer is given specific approximations. The piece can last from between 45 minutes to almost two hours, depending on how fast the soprano decides to take it. When Joan la Barbara performed it first, it took almost 90 minutes. She practiced the fast spots to make the recording half the length. Here's what she thought of it.

I personally like the way that "snow falls" sounds like "narwhals" starting around 22:10.

There's a discussion about this piece tomorrow in Rogers Park moderated by the Morton Feldman Chamber Players founder and fellow Columbia alum, Andy Costello. I wanna go, but it's soooooo far.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


take all that heartbreak, put it in a food processor, add some salt and pepper to taste, maybe some serrano peppers and cumin, a little sugar, all the fixins, make it something you'd want to dip these chips into:

1. the way he says "flower" in the bridge of the second verse

2. the "conversation" in the beginning, and conversions of like-minded souls at bars on dearborn

3. when the beat kicks in

4. the candid non-seriousness that adds to the tiredness of this song

5. at 1:24, where you're left suspended in mid-air, gasping over the horizon, waiting and questioning the inevitable sweet release of everything beautiful about this whole world

sometimes you have to puke out your guts to stay hungry.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Favorite Bass Lines of 2013

I meant to post this before it became 2014. Oh well.
I listened to a lot of Arcade Fire last year.
I saw Atoms for Peace twice.
Nope, three times.
I saw Sigur Ros twice.
I solidified my flirtatious little lover's tryst with dance music. Not necessarily dance music. I'd say house music.
Matt Berninger wore my Blackhawks hat in Milwaukee.
And honestly didn't really write any music in 2013.
It reminds me of a conversation I once had with female extraordinare, Aviva Jaye. Words and music are two completely different things, and to marry them is a delicate art; for the precise musician, I mean, you just can't settle for okay.
I started performing my poetry in 2013, and subconsciously, it was the solution to this quicksand sorta problem.
Bass lines have nothing and everything to do with this. So, here are my favorite, or most accessible at this time of me being drunk, bass lines of 2013.

5. Cage the Elephant - Take it or Leave it

I don't know nothin about this band.

4. Cut Copy - In Memory Capsule

I gave Cut Copy a chance and it left me dancing. I just love the feel Daniel brings to a simple, beautiful track. So sad you can't see him in any of this video.

3. Arcade Fire - You Already Know

Reflector is my way of pretending James Murphy came out with an album last year. Some really, really great stuff. I love it all. The costumes, the walking bass line, the precision, the weirdness that isn't so weird, the living fantasy of an artist's nourished intentions, all of it.

2. Strawberry Girls - Agua Verde

This is mainly, like 72% because of my favorite narcissist of 2013, Zac Garren. Who knew Dance Gavin Dance's merch boy could whip up a gem like this?

1. Atoms for Peace - Before Your Very Eyes (live)

When Gina and I saw them at the Daily Show, Thom said he wanted to tour with Flea because he plays the bass like a melodic instrument.

THIS version. Shit gets real around 4:50. Flea pretty much stole the year. I had the most fun watching him beat the fuck out of the bass.

Next: New York City.

Friday, January 3, 2014

in retrospect...

yeah. i suck.

i will say, though, the muses filed out of my skin like little G.I. Joe characters digging through the mud onto a better, more non-realistic place and nuzzled itself into the always forgiving arms of spoken word. 2013 was all about the severe (and i mean severed) disfigurement of the notion that denotation destroys art's purity, in the sense of, well, my favorite one. hearing. hheeeeaaarrrrriiiiiinnnngggg. well.

it's that little corner where you have to climb onto (never end a sentence with a preposition but)

you know, it's kinda hard. at some point you just have to get used to your own little black rule books of what ideal means to blah blah blah

you hold your desires in your hand because fear outweighs all the bullshit ideals you'll ever think you never had in the first place.

Friday, September 13, 2013

riot fest day 1

this was probably the highlight of my night. tipsy, dancing in the crowd with missy and two random underage lesbians we joined forces with, snaking our way up to a relatively close spot. i kept repeating how bad ass joan jett was. it was true. she was fucking bad. ass. "hey, stop taking selfies and fucking dance." danzig blew my mind right after, in a different way. different energy. i felt so excited. it was like there wasn't a 10 year gap between me and the kids getting bloody in the pit. by the way, there was a 10 year gap between me and the kids getting bloody in the pit. when did that happen?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Composer Quotes

This is pretty wonderful. It makes me feel not alone.

Quotes by famous composers/musicians

The one that got me the most was good ol' Franz Liszt. Note: he's from Hungaria, not France.

"Mournful and yet grand is the destiny of an artist."

Imagine being in your late 20's hanging out with Chopin and Bizet and all the French writers, probably smoking and getting drunk and just absolutely slaying at everything you play, creating what would be the absolute idealist way of life, having these European women fighting over everything you touched and creamed themselves every time you got on stage. You will be considered one of the best pianists of all time, and you die alone. Yup. I mean he had kids and had lovers and his writing just got better and better with every breakup, but the motherfucker knew he was going to die in a fashion opposite of his legacy. He wrote the most introspective and amazing pieces knowing he was on his way out, but he was still alone.

"I carry a deep sadness of the heart which must now and then break out in sound."

I mean, is it worth it?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

the 18th variation

I think it's time to share my favorite piece of music ever written.

I was introduced to Rhapsody my junior year. Everyone in my class had to analyze a different variation, or part, of the piece. My professor Philip chose the 18th variation for me to analyze. I fell in love with it immediately.
Weird thing is, so did my Mom. It was used in one of her favorite movies, Somewhere in Time, scored by the great John Barry. She knew the piece before I even heard of Rachmaninov. I don't really think it was coincidence that this variation was chosen for me. I mean, maybe Philip saw my interest in Romanticism and thought I would do justice to its analyzation. I think I did. Perhaps it was art's way of connecting my mother in me, giving us something to share without even knowing it. Are people really connected like that?
Nonetheless, Somewhere in Time became one of my favorite movies too, you know, those love stories where there is no real happy ending; either he dies, or she dies, or they both die, or in this case, you have to save France, and you'll co-exist in the world but not together, knowing your greater purpose in life has outweighed the physical pleasures of actually being with the love of your life.

What the fuck kind of sacrifice is that?

Anyway, I wrote this paper in 2006. I wish you could see a score so you knew what the hell I was talking about. Still, reading it again has given me a slight motivation to finally. Finally. Finally get back into classical music.

Or in my case, music in general. Get back into life... and save France.

Sergei Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Sergei Rachmaninov was a Russian pianist, composer, and conductor born in March of 1873 in Oneg. He was regarded as one of the greatest pianists of his time, and his virtuosity is reflected in his compositions. The outbreak of World War I caused the demolition of his estate in Ivanovka, and after the October Revolution in 1917, he and his family escaped Russia and eventually ended up in the United States (MacDonald). The Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, his last work for piano and orchestra, was composed in 1934 on a visit to Switzerland, where he rebuilt his estate. At this time, Rachmaninov was focusing on his parallel careers as pianist and conductor; he was the piano soloist at the premier of the Paganini Rhapsody in Maryland. He died of cancer on March 28, 1943, but the Rhapsody remains one of the greatest compositions for piano and orchestra to this day (Norris).
The Rhapsody is a piece made of 24 variations on a theme by Nicoló Paganini, a famous violin virtuoso who lived from 1782 to 1840. Paganini’s Caprices for solo violin, first published in 1820, are nicknamed the “Bible” for violinists. The theme of the 24th and last of the Caprices, which in itself is a set of variations, has been borrowed and reworked by other composers, notably Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms (Norris). Why did Rachmaninov use a theme that was already used by other great composers? Surely his audience and colleagues would have recognized the melody. Perhaps Rachmaninov wanted to prove that he was indeed one of the greatest musicians of his time, and did so by associating himself with one of the greatest violinists of history. Some scholars have argued that a second theme appears circa variation VII, based on the Dies Irae plainchant of the Requiem Mass of the Dead. In comparing the plainchant as it appears on Grove Dictionary Online to the score, this argument is clearly valid. The Dies Irae does appear in Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody, as it was “a leitmotif of his entire composing career.” However, it is absent in my particular variation, and therefore, will not be a greater part of this paper. Nonetheless, its importance to the overall work cannot simply be ignored. Before Paganini died in 1840, he was charged with impiety by the Bishop of Nice, and was forbade a religious funeral (his body was not formally buried until 1876). In my personal theoretical opinion, by introducing the Dies Irae in the middle of a theme on Paganini, perhaps Rachmaninov is giving the violin virtuoso the proper burial he deserved.
The overall form of the piece is obviously theme and variation with an introduction. Often in the piece, one variation has a form within itself, which is usually a type of binary form (AABB). Taking into consideration the piece as a whole, it is hard to ignore the dramatic changes in tempo and mood throughout the 24 variations. Although Rachmaninov wrote in a letter to his sister-in-law saying that “it is no concerto!” it is hard to ignore the fast-slow-fast concerto tendency of the form of Rhapsody (Bertensson 304). The first 10 variations are fast, and cadence from V – i at the end of Variation 10 into Variation 11. Until then, the music was very periodic and organized into specific phrases. The change in mood of Variation 11, marked off by the pianissimo tremolos of violins, offer a sort of ambiguous tempo in where it seems like the piano is improvising. The faster Variations of 13, 14, and 15 stand out so much in this middle section that it seems as if they were not supposed to be there. A segue at the end of Variation 18 leads back to the fast section and through the end of the piece. Using this analysis of Rhapsody helps to better the understanding of where Variation 18, my variation, fits into the spectrum, which will be discussed later in the paper.
As mentioned, a fast introduction starts the piece off. The preface of the musical score published by Boosey & Hawkes says that it is a “brief introductory call to arms,” which is clearly evident upon listening (MacDonald). In my analysis, I noted that the whole introduction was a tonicization of A minor. Although there are a few chords outlined by the strings and a few wind instruments, they are overridden by the iteration of the note “A” in three booming octaves in the piano, giving a sense of key center and preparing the listener for what is to come. This prolongation of the tonic allows the listener to absorb the key of A minor and the fast tempo set by Rachmaninov. Uniquely, the first variation precedes the theme, marked in the score as “precedente.” The first variation acts as almost a second introduction, giving the listener even more time to get used to the harmonic and rhythmic feel that Rachmaninov is going for. The piano is absent, but the texture is full enough to give a sense of harmonic rhythm and where the phrases begin and end, which is more clearly stated in the theme.
The actual theme is comprised of three parts: an “A” section, made of the first eight measures; the “B” section, made of the second eight measures, which repeats to make the third section, labeled “B1.” In the rough draft of my paper, I wrote that the theme was comprised of two parts instead of three; I combined the “B” and “B1” sections instead of separating them into two totally different parts. The reasoning behind this analysis is because I thought that the “A” section was really made of a four-bar phrase, which repeated. The “B” section, then, was made of an eight-bar phrase, which also repeated while adding ornamentation, creating an overall form of A-A-B-B1. I thought that the symmetry between the two parts formed a pseudo-antecedent and consequence between sections. Also, in Paganini’s original theme in Caprice 24 (Decca), the “B” section did not repeat itself, and therefore the sections were made of eight measures each. However, after a class discussion concerning the different forms in this piece, I have changed my viewpoint and now think that there are three sections in the theme, not two, making the form A-B-B1. Truth lies in the fact that the “A” section is made of a four-bar phrase that repeats itself, but I did not count each four-bar phrase as a different section. This new analysis of the theme still gives it symmetry in that each section is made of eight measures each.
The first section, “A,” is one huge prolongation of A minor; although E major appears, the chord is on a weak beat and therefore is not strong enough to be labeled as the dominant. In addition, the fast tempo suggests that the harmonic rhythm changes at every measure, not every beat. In the “B” section, Rachmaninov creates a harmonic sequence descending in diatonic fifths, starting at the tonic and ending on the dominant, with a hint of the diminished ii chord. This sequence then repeats itself both harmonically and melodically, except with a thicker texture created by the addition of instruments (oboe, clarinet, and horn) that act as an embellishment of the melody. Accompaniment in the piano gets a little bit more interesting, this time playing successive eighth notes instead of singular eighth notes, and in both hands instead of just one. The theme itself is very straightforward: a singular line, marked by swift moving sixteenth notes and do-able octave jumps. My reduction of the “B” section shows the pattern in the melody notes of the harmonic sequence- they are being ornamented with upper-neighboring tones and passing tones. The simple melody is very standard for a violin; in fact, Rachmaninov doubles the theme in both violin parts. In a piece written for piano and orchestra, one would think that the piano would present the opening theme. Rachmaninov further emphasizes the ties to Paganini by putting the opening theme in the violins instead, and the piano acts as an accompaniment, slowly creeping up in the “B1” section and coming into full swing into the second variation.
In the second variation, the piano takes the theme, adding grace notes and chromatic neighboring notes in the melody; a chromatic grace note G# precedes the first note of the variation, directly followed by another G# substituting the A that appears in the original theme. Rachmaninov actually substitutes notes that repeat in the original theme with chromatic passing notes, so that in this variation, every note is different from the one that precedes and proceeds it. In other words, the melody does not sit on any one note- the melody is always moving. With only lower brass as support in the “A” section, Rachmaninov creates an angular, jumbled discomfort, answered by the familiar harmonic progression in fifths in the “B” section. Rachmaninov also creates a sense of cluster and discomfort physically; motivic phrases that can be played in just one hand are notated to played with two hands, positioning the two hands on the piano relatively close together. The “B1” section has the right hand piano doing sixteenth note runs while the strings act as accompaniment. Descending eighth note runs in the left hand of the piano act like a bass drum, keeping time while right hand jumps all over the place, creating peaks and valleys by the use of non-harmonic passing notes. But instead of repeating the harmonic sequence of the “B” section exactly, the “B1” section makes use of a Neapolitan sixth that appears at the bottom of page seven, acting as a predominant to the cadential 6/4 prolonging the dominant for only a few measures. Variation 2’s tempo and key stays the same, and the texture is still relatively thin.
As the variations continue, they move further away from the original theme. The Dies Irae theme appears in Variation 7, and from then on each undergo a transformation to Rachmaninov’s liking. As mentioned before, the slow variations pop up around the middle of the piece. In a traditional concerto form, the piece modulates in the slow section. Variation 12 is a minuet in D minor, the first major shift away from A minor; Variation 16 moves to the key of Bb and into the dim Variation 17. The meter changes to 12/8, and the end of the variation presents a perfect authentic cadence straight into Variation 18.
The longest variation in the set, Variation 18 is also the most famous, having appeared in many movies and has often been included in compilation CD’s or records as a freestanding movement, without the rest of the piece. The variation’s appeal nests in its outstanding nature, not sounding remotely similar to any of the other variations. Variation 18 is the most lyrical, with a slow, flowing melodic line, holding fast the idiom of beautiful melodies and character music that first emerged in the Romantic era. The variation is also very organized within itself, structured in specific musical phrases. Moving to 3/4 time and to Db major carry the listener to a place so dramatically distant from the original theme. At first listen, the correlation between the two is almost inaudible, but at closer glance, similarities do exist.
The variation is made of three parts, somewhat mimicking the outlay of the original theme; in addition, each of the three parts is broken up into smaller parts within themselves. The first, “A”, is made of the first twelve measures. Triplet eighth notes introduce the new rhythmic feel and tempo, marked as “Andante cantibile,” or song-like, and the third beat of the second measure introduces the motif of the piece. A closer diagram shows that it is an inversion of the original Paganini theme, and shares similar intervals (a minor third and a perfect fifth, inverted). Like the original theme, the first four measures repeat themselves, creating an eight-measure phrase. I labeled this as “a” and in blue pen in my analysis. Db is iterated in the harmony of the first six measures, until the seventh measure, where a harmonic sequence appears once more, labeled “b.” This time, instead of moving in descending fifths, the harmonic sequence moves in ascending fifths, further emphasizing the use of inversion. Then, a pivot chord appears in measure 11, leading to a borrowed iv7 in V (Ab major) resolving to an inevitable modulation per se in Ab. I am actually not sure why Rachmaninov modulates to Ab here, although typically, in a work with three sections, the first section modulates to its dominant into the second section. Maybe Rachmaninov wanted to trick experienced listeners into thinking that he would introduce new material in the dominant key, and then surprise them with nearly the exact same material already heard (déja éntendu). The hemiolas of the sixteenth notes against the triplet eighth notes in the third beat of some measures create a rhythmic ambiguity and adds to the anticipated drama of the variation. Setting off the “B” section, the violin and cello enter at a rubato marking in measure 13, almost exactly quoting the melody line presented by the piano. This choice of ornamentation almost sounds like the strings are answering the call of the piano, which is now providing chordal accompaniment behind the melody. The enharmonic spelling of a diminished iv7 chord appears before rehearsal mark 51, offsetting a cadence of the “B” section in the original key. The strings then repeat the theme, this time an octave higher and with more instruments backing them up, creating the third period and ending of the variation.
At the end of the third variation, two measures before rehearsal mark 52, the piano takes the theme once more, heard faintly through the long tones in the strings. Although I did not notate specific chords in this part of my reduction, I believe that mm. 28-33 act as a prolongation of I, almost like a coda; a Db pedal tone is held in the piano and the bass, while the cello voice moves stepwise to scale degree one in a fake authentic cadence in measure 33. In this section, the long tones in the violin again act as accompaniment, creating movement and tension that build up until measure 33. Here, the cello and the bass continue the violin and viola lines, halting when the piano reaches a modified V chord, creating the greatest dramatic pause in the whole variation, and arguably the whole piece. After a seemingly long pause, the piano re-enters with the main motif an octave lower, and the whole world releases its breath. The instrument that brought us into the movement brings us out, signaling our last chance of hearing that beautiful melody before ending on a soft, open Db chord.
The drama of Variation 18 is a result of various things. First of all, the echo of the violins of the beautiful piano melody creates a thick, warm texture that is absent in the “A” section where the piano stands alone. In the ornamentation, particularly in the strings playing the melody in the “B” and “B1” sections, the listener is faintly taken back to Paganini and the original theme. No matter how separate this variation seems from the rest of the piece, Rachmaninov still manages to tie it back to its roots, never letting the listener forget that this is a variation set on a theme by Paganini, after all. The inversion of the melody itself causes it to start on a high note in the higher register, and then “resolve” to a more stable pitch in the staff. This whole idea of tension and relaxation is what makes music interesting, evident in melody. Then, an exchange of sixteenth notes and triplet eighth notes in the melody line gives a sense of variety and adventure. Rachmaninov uses modal mixture to make specific chords stand out, like the iv7/V in measure 12 and the diminished iv chord in measure 23. The diminished iv chord is emphasized by a high E natural in the melody line (the violins), which is the seventh of the chord and the most unstable. The chord acts like a predominant at a cadence, and its quality implies an ominous foreboding of some sort, in this case, a dramatic crescendo into the “B1” section. Dynamics also evoke emotion from the listener, starting off very soft, then building in every section, until a fully orchestrated forte rubato marking in measure 24, where the whole orchestra participates in the final statement of the theme, and then slowly dying, one by one, until only the piano is left.
After a fermata on the final Db chord, the meter changes back to 2/4 and a segue appears from Variation 19 to Variation 18. I do not perceive this as part of Variation 18; however, it serves as a return to the final “fast” section of the concerto form, and the movements continue fast until the rapid ending of Variation 24. Because my variation is so offset, first by a long preparation made in Variation 17, then by a very definitive break to Variation 19, I would support the notion that a hidden concerto form lives within the theme and variations. My theme stands out so dramatically from everything before it and everything after it. The entire Rhapsody of a Theme on Paganini truly appealed to me greatly; as a learning composer and young musician, I was eager to see exactly how Rachmaninov treated his subject throughout the whole piece. **Blah blah blah there was some sort of stupid generic fucking conclusion here at one point, it's not worth it. This is my favorite thing ever written not by Chopin and you know what? It kinda makes me believe in love's energy again.
So there. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

back to square one.

Happy September 1st.

I wrote this as I was coming down from white lightning and what was probably 15 shots of Jameson.

Download: comedown

Literally, I'm back to square one. I feel like I've just been swimming around and the pool turned into an ocean and I'm stuck on certain currents that won't let my heart heal.

I had to convince myself that love wasn't real.

I convinced myself that love wasn't real.

Love isn't real.

But The September Project is.

Happy September 1st.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

we couldda made it cruisin'

Once I had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out had a heart of glass
Seemed like the real thing, only to find
Much mistrust, love's gone behind

Once I had a love and it was divine
Soon found out I was losing my mind
It seemed like the real thing but I was so blind
Much mistrust, love's gone behind

In between
What I find is pleasing and I'm feeling fine
Love is so confusing there's no peace of mind
If I fear I'm losing you it's just no good
You teasing like you do

Once I had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out had a heart of glass
Seemed like the real thing, only to find
Much mistrust, love's gone behind

Lost inside
Adorable illusion and I cannot hide
I'm the one you're using, please don't push me aside
We coulda made it cruising, yeah

Yeah, riding high on love's true bluish light

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Brake Up the Breakup!

click playlist to stream mixtape

That's the thing about breakup mixtapes. Emotions change so fast. I swim through the various levels of heartbreak: feeling devastated, still feeling in love with her, not understanding anything, getting wasted to deal with not understanding anything, feeling the rage come over my body like a fever, the anger, the SPITEFULNESS, the realization that nothing will come from the situation but terrible and sad memories, the almost vengeful return to what you think might be sanity, only to come to terms with the fact that you won't have a happy ending.

I started this about three months ago. I probably switched these songs around so much that only three or four or a handful of them are part of the original draft. I don't think I feel like this anymore. Nonetheless, it's a great fuckin' mix, and part of me feels embarrassed to share this spinning ferris wheel of feelings with phantom friends and foes. They're not my words, obviously, but I wrote them.

Notes: I first ended with "Give Up The Ghost," but thought the chorus for "Cars Can't Escape" better fits what lingering emptiness manifests in the small, private moments of my every day ado. I don't know if Ben Gibbard does it better than Phil Collins (he doesn't). "Against All Odds" appears on the Give Up 10th Anniversary release, which I purchased on vinyl on Record Store Day. It still amazes me how Ben was pretty much making dubstep before dubstep was dumbstep. If there's any song that I live the most, it's probably "I Walked." While bullshit critics talked mad shit about Age of Adz, it is one of the best breakup albums of 2009. However, "Sluttering" is still my favorite breakup song of all time. It's what a real heartbreak is: stingingly ugly and permanent. Ashanti is terrible, but the bridge was written for me and all the women who don't know how to take themselves out of a detrimental situation. The acoustic version of "You Oughtta Know" isn't as annoyingly girl-anthemy as the original. Alanis is more hurt than she is angry, and you feel compassion for her instead of spite for Uncle Joey. "Beer" is the song I pretended to write and execute throughout my every day life. It's also the reason I'm being sober for six months. And I chose "Anyone's Ghost" instead of "Sorrow" solely for the third verse. I'm starting to wonder if Matt Berninger and I are both meant to be miserably, brilliantly, mediocrely muddling through society's expectations of human growth. I'll say yes just to make myself feel better.

Notes part 2: "Cars Can't Escape" doesn't appear on the Spotify stream because it's a local file. AKA it's on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot demos (NOT the Engineered Demos) and I should have made and uploaded a sound file for this. But. I didn't. The only way to make up for things I didn't do is to never make the mistake of not doing them again. But. I probably won't do that either.

Notes part 3: I still and will always love her.