Tuesday, November 13, 2012

tunes recently enjoyed no. 2

"Telephone/telephone/demon/telephone" - Beep!
Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D, Aria #2 - Hilary Hahn

I am terrible at making mix tapes. I've never had the knack of being able to figure out what makes one tune flow satisfyingly into another. The "shuffle" option makes me happy. As long as I have a grab bag of songs I like, the order I hear them in is of negligible importance... Except, sometimes, one song falls after another in such a fantastic way completely by accident that it makes me like both more.

"Telephone/telephone/demon/telephone" is a slightly unhinged wallop of noise. Lots of weird sounds enter in weird, but impeccably placed ways. My ears want to lean right into it to try to figure out what's going on and it somehow remains a happy exploration, a pleasant confusion instead of a resentful stumble... And then the Stravinsky piece comes in, alternating piercing stringency with these smooth, fatty folds of sound... And, for some reason, my brain thought this was the most splendid, most felicitous and delightful of combinations. I had to make a playlist just so I could keep hearing the two pieces one right after another.

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Benjamin Britten

I've always thought of Britten as being full of odd sounds, and odd distances between sounds, and while I've found most of his stuff that I've heard to be interesting and full of stuff to chew on, I never really liked it in a visceral way. There's a harshness and baldness that unsettled me, a sort of bleak earnestness that made me feel uncomfortable. But this opera is a pleasure. It's beautiful and funny, and it revels in its oddity and the satisfaction of making good noise; there are bits that make me think of someone jumping up and down in a spill of paint just to see the way it splashes. The whole thing is wonderful, but I love the "on the ground, sleep sound" bit (which also happens to be the easiest thing to find on YouTube, thanks to Wes Anderson).

"It Could Happen to You" - Lorin Benedict and Sam Ospovat

This is really strange. But, it's wonderful. Trust me. A combination of intensely bizarre scatting and wild, but delicious drums, the whole Passwords album is addictive. I never thought I would say that about something like this, but it's true.

This track is my favorite. It somehow manages to parade through both pure noise and song, unmooring meaning from speech and throwing explosives at my imagination. I start filling in dialogue, then drop that in favor of images, and drop that in favor of picturing the landscape of the sound. It's like having a really awesome, impressively compressed, completely insane version of "Fantasia" attacking your brain.

Beethoven symphonies nos. 1-9

I've become a Beethoven symphony junkie. They're so grand. Immensely gorgeous. Glorious and spectacular and epic, and honestly so. They're clear-hearted and unconfused, emotionally brash and absolute. Listening to them makes me feel like I need to push the edges of my own canvas out, but they also make me want to believe harder, feel more, go galloping around in neon.

I've been listening to the New York Philharmonic versions of these, directed by Leonard Bernstein, all conveniently streaming on Spotify.

Piano Concerto No. 2, Larghetto - Frederic Chopin

I've been listening to this compulsively over the past few days and every time I do, my eyes well up at about two minutes in, all harshness, all cynicism, all coolness and flippancy collapsing under the onslaught of those sweet falls of notes. I'm not actually sure what it is about it, but this piece jerks the tears right out of me. It conjures wholesome ache and longing, somewhere deep in my gut, and I find myself wishing for things like sunny days and landscapes that roll out in a carpet of green and love. I've been listening to a bunch of recordings, but this video is Arthur Rubinstein with the London Symphony Orchestra.


Lorin Benedict said...

Well geez... I'm extremely honored to be considered alongside Beethoven, Britten, Stravinsky, Chopin... and Beep! :)

Thanks so much for your interest in our stuff!

And actually, I didn't know till now that Britten even wrote something inspired by Midsummer Night's Dream. Ever heard Britten play piano, by the way? He was fantastic. There's plenty documented in recording, included him with fellow pianist Sviatoslav Richter, and with amazing cellist Mistislav Rostoprovich!!! They're on youtube... hint-hint :) I'm trying to get people to check him out more, as a pianist.

Megan Kurashige said...

Seriously, you guys are addictive. I was quite dubious when someone first described your stuff to me, but all doubt and trepidation has been proven wrong!

I've never heard Britten play piano. I will have to check those recordings out... especially the stuff with Rostropovich. I love him! To youtube I go...

Lorin Benedict said...

Yeah, Rostoprovich is the man. One of my very favorite musicians, period. The thing on youtube that I've been enjoying with the two of them is the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata. You might know this already, but the arpeggione is a now-defunkt (for what reason, I do not know) instrument sort of like a cello. So people these days typically take stuff written for the arpeggione and rework it for the cello, and that's what was done here. This Schubert piece is very infrequently played, relative to his others.

On this recording, you really get to hear the depth of Britten's musicianship as well... he's such a sensitive accompanist. Super-deep cat all-around. And you know, I believe next year folks around the world will be celebrating his centenary. I have a friend who is a cellist in the (fantastic!) Daedalus String Quartet who is also a composer of no mean abilities; he has been commissioned to arrange many of Britten's art songs for his string quartet, for the expressed purpose of performing them in Britain at some big Britten celebration next year.

Megan Kurashige said...

I don't actually know very much about music, aside from how much I enjoy it, so I had never heard of an arpeggione before... but, seeing as I'm mad for Schubert, this Schubert/Rostropovich/Britten recording just made my day. So, thank you!

And I hope some of these centenary celebrations spill over this way. The Brits can't have all the fun! Even if he is their guy. Very cool about your friend! I'm going to go look up the Daedalus Quartet now...