Saturday, June 11, 2011

Golijov's Azul

If you're anything like me, first of all, good. But secondly, you've been waiting patiently for a chance to hear Osvaldo Golijov's cello concerto Azul again, ever since you first heard it at the Aspen Music Festival a couple years ago.

Why would you want to hear this piece? Well, first of all, at Aspen the general consensus among the other composers was of vague disgust. One of your composer colleagues called it a "travesty"- and that's a quote. You never got a clear explanation of why exactly. You should just understand. Yet one of your percussionist colleagues called it "the greatest modern piece I've ever heard."

Any composer that can cause other composers such queezy, stomach-churning disgust must be doing something worth blogging about. So imagine my surprise when everyday I wake up to discover that there is still no commercial recording of the work available. EVERY. DAY. We're talking about a popular new work by one of the country's biggest living composers. Written for Yo-yo Ma, for God sakes. I mean, is there anything that guy doesn't record? Yes. Golijov's Azul. It's enough to make you wonder if the recording industry is in some kind of sea-change or something. Mostly though, I just wanted to hear it again to see if I could work out what all the fuss was about.

Well I'm reporting, for those who may care, because you should, that you CAN hear it for yourself, right now, on something called the "internet." No, not thanks to some kind of cutting-edge indie-classical underground release, but instead from the good folks at American Public Media and SymphonyCast. Thanks Brian Newhouse! And thanks to me for doing the research. You're great, me. In fact, I'm providing the link right here. The Golijov begins at 10:45.

Anyway, I don't have any great answers to how this music is downfall of serious artistic accomplishment in Western music, but I suspect one of the problems the haters have is that they are just not very comfortable with the idea of blissing out to serious music. To them, seriousness is to be taken in its purest form, as a sort of cold gritty porridge, which is to be contemplated, studied, and slowly digested through a well adapted series of four bovine stomachs. Seriousness precludes bliss, by definition. Well, not to get bogged down in these archaic aesthetic debates, but many rigorously acceptable composers from the pantheon have had their share of blissed-out extravagances- Debussy, Mahler, Messiaen, Beethoven, and I'm pretty sure Wagner based his whole career on the concept. Haters gonna hate, I guess. But if you're like me, your new main concern is that this recording kind of sounds like it was compressed through a toilet-paper roll for radio broadcast, and you would like a serious recording to play through your prized Hifi stereo system.

So write to the music industry and demand a formal release. Tell them I sent you. And while you're at it, maybe you should suggest they reexamine their business model or something, I'm worried about them.

Friday, June 3, 2011


As you are no doubt by now aware, Glockenspiel is pretty much the hippest, sexiest modern instrument. And I'm not just saying this because I own a Glockenspiel (and ladies, it's a really nice one). I'm saying this because one of the duties of this blog is to make sure that my loyal followers are kept abreast of the latest trends in musical hip-dom. On an unrelated note, did you know that I'm kind of a Glockenspiel virtuoso? I'm just saying.

But some some people still doubt the sublime sexiness of this truly remarkable and versatile instrument, so again I am obliged to share just a few of its pervasive appearances in popular hip-dom.

We begin with Oh Land, which apparently is this young Scandinavian phenom's name. Or maybe it's her magical country. Here she is performing in a super hip Brooklyn record store:

Notice how ironically cool her "band" bobs their heads in time to her music. That's to demonstrate their hippness. And that maybe they are in love with her.

If slightly dangerous blonde Norwegian bombshells aren't your thing, maybe you prefer grungy lumberjack math-rockers.

Need I point out what the two have in common?

As if somehow trying to take shameless commercial advantage of the grass-roots Glockenspiel phenomenon, viral-web-video-marketing-firm-turned-indie-rock-band Ok GO has this snazzy music video, seamlessly bringing together two of the hottest and hippest things in American pop culture: Glockenspiel and Marching Bands. It's almost as if they're trying to sell something.

On an unrelated note, this might be a good time to mention that I liked the Glockenspiel before it was cool.