Category Archives: C – LISTENING

First-time listening for March 2014

24442. (Jean-Philippe Rameau) Pyg­malion [com­plete opera; d. Leon­hardt; Elwes, van der
. . . . . Sluis, Van­hecke, Yakar]
24443. (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) Mos­quito
(Kiri Te Kanawa) Solo e Amore — Puc­cini Arias:
. . . . 24444. (Gia­como Puc­cini) “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca
. . . . 24445. (Gia­como Puc­cini) “Se come voi” from Le Villi
. . . . 24446. (Gia­como Puc­cini) “In quelle trine mor­bide” from Manon Lescaut Read more »

First-time listening for February 2014

24241. (Henry Pur­cell) Dido and Aeneas [com­plete opera; d. Pin­nock; von Otter, Var­coe, Rogers]
24242. (Fuck But­tons) Slow Focus
24243. (Tomasso Albi­noni) Dou­ble Oboe Con­certo, Op.7 #11: Ada­gio
24244. (Tomasso Albi­noni) Dou­ble Oboe Con­certo, Op.7 #2: Ada­gio
24245. (Tomasso Albi­noni) Sin­fo­nia for Two Oboes: Ada­gio Read more »

JB Lenoir

14-02-16 LISTENING LenoirIt would be inter­est­ing to imag­ine what would have hap­pened to blues­man JB Lenoir if he had lived beyond his span of 38 years, cut short by an auto­mo­bile acci­dent. Unlike most blues artists of the fifties, he was polit­i­cally ori­ented. One of the three albums I have, Eisen­hower Blues (1954), is a satir­i­cal stab at that President’s poli­cies. He was active in the Civil Rights move­ment. Another album I have, a com­pi­la­tion put together to accom­pany Mar­tin Scorcese’s film his­tory of the blues, draws heav­ily from Eisen­hower Blues and other Chess record­ings from the 1950s. So does a 1993 Charly label com­pi­la­tion I just found, Mama Watch Your Daugh­ter. Dur­ing this period, despite some chart suc­cess with songs like “Don’t Dog Your Woman”, Lenoir had to sup­port him­self work­ing in kitchens. It’s in the six­ties, just before his sud­den death, that he achieved real recog­ni­tion. Down In Mis­sis­sippi, issued posthu­mously in 1970, dates from that period. 

Lenoir sang in falsetto, his voice float­ing like a bub­ble on waves of rhythm gui­tar, and the arrange­ments were closer to early Rock ‘n’ Roll than to tra­di­tional blues. He affected gar­ish suits, and oth­er­wise fit well into the Rock ‘n’ Roll esthetic. His later work was elec­tric boo­gie, and he should really be seen as hav­ing a promi­nent place in the his­tory of Rock. Cer­tainly, a num­ber of promi­nent rock artists were famil­iar with, and were influ­enced by his work — John May­all, for exam­ple. Per­haps, if he had lived past 1967, that would now be the case. 

Although you will usu­ally see his name printed as “J. B. Lenoir”, his first name was actu­ally “JB”, which was not ini­tials for any­thing. His sur­name was pro­nounced in the French manner.

First-time listening for January 2014

24214. (John Field) Piano Con­certo #1 in E-f, H.27
24215. (John Field) Piano Con­certo #2 in A-f, H.31
24216. (Olivier Mes­si­aen) Huits préludes pour piano (1928–29)
24217. (Booker T & The MGs) Green Onions
24218. (Gia­como Meyer­beer) Le Prophète [com­plete opera; d. Lewys; Horne, McCracken,
. . . . . . Scotto] Read more »

First-time listening for December 2013

24141. (Giuseppe Verdi) Alzira [com­plete opera; d. Luisi; Mescheri­akova, Var­gas, Gavanelli]
24142. (Wil­helm Friede­mann Bach) Harp­si­chord Con­certo in F, F.44
24143. (Wil­helm Friede­mann Bach) Harp­si­chord Con­certo in A m, F.45
24144. (Wil­helm Friede­mann Bach) Harp­si­chord Con­certo in D, F.4
24145. (String The­ory) “Applause” by Lady Gaga, for 5 Cel­los [music video] Read more »

First-time listening for November, 2013

24093. (Giuseppe Verdi) I Lom­bardi alla prima cro­ci­ata [com­plete opera; d. Levine; Ander­son,
. . . . . Pavarotti, Ramey]
24094. (Boards of Canada) The Camp­fire Head­phase
24095. (Peter Maxwell Davies) St. Thomas Wake: Fox­trot for Orches­tra
24096. (Peter Maxwell Davies) Dark Angels for Soprano and Gui­tar Read more »

First-time listening for October, 2013

24044. (Gioacchino Rossini) Demetrio e Poli­bio [com­plete opera; d. Car­raro; Gon­za­les, Sur­jan]
24045. (Gia­como Puc­cini) Manon Lescaut [com­plete opera; d. Rah­bari; Gauci, Kuladov, Saudinero]
24046. (Social Dis­tor­tion) Mommy’s Lit­tle Mon­ster
24047. (El Ten Eleven) Every Direc­tion Is North
24048. (Giuseppe Verdi) La travi­ata [com­plete opera; d. Toscanini; Albanese, Peerce, Mer­rill] Read more »

First-time listening for September, 2013

(Hes­pèrion XX) El Can­cionero de Pala­cio, 1474–1516 — Música en la corte de los Reyes
. . Católi­cos:
. . . . 23019. (Fran­cisco de la Torre) Danza Alta [instru­men­tal]
. . . . 23020. (Gabriel Mena) Aque­lla Mora Gar­rida
. . . . 23021. (Fran­cisco de Peñalosa) Por las sier­ras de Madrid Read more »

Dvořák’s First Quartet

String Quar­tet No. 1 in A major, Op. 2 was Dvořák’s sec­ond cham­ber work. He was only 21 when he com­pleted it, in 1862. It was not per­formed, how­ever, until he revised it in 1888. The revi­sions seem to have been con­fined to some cuts to make it “leaner”, so it is prob­a­bly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of his musi­cal think­ing and abil­i­ties at that early stage. If that’s the case, then his genius shines out. It isn’t a great work, espe­cially when com­pared to the divine quar­tets of his matu­rity, but it shows many of his sig­na­ture qual­i­ties: the play­ful­ness, effort­less melodic inven­tion, and the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate beauty and even sweet­ness with­out cloy­ing. The first of the four move­ments has a catchy melody, but devel­ops it very con­ven­tion­ally. It’s in the third move­ment, Alle­gro scherzando, that the future Dvořák is most evi­dent. Its trio sec­tion could have been com­posed by no one else. The ani­mato of the final move­ment is vig­or­ous and con­fi­dent. This first quar­tet can be played strictly for the plea­sure it affords, not just for its pre­sen­ti­ments of great­ness. My best copy is bril­liantly per­formed by the Kvarteto města Prahy.

Naxi Music from Lijiang

Dayan Ancient Music Association performing

Dayan Ancient Music Asso­ci­a­tion performing

Of all the provinces of China, it is Yun­nan that has fas­ci­nated me most. Remote and moun­tain­ous, and for­got­ten by the world in the last few cen­turies, it once played a crit­i­cal role in world his­tory by being the first region to trans­mit major cul­tural and tech­no­log­i­cal influ­ences between East Asia and South Asia. The old­est known hominid fos­sils of East Asia were found there. Before the famed Silk Road was estab­lished in the north, trade and ideas wormed their way through the pre­cip­i­tous moun­tain passes of Yun­nan, across north­ern Burma, then over the Naga hills to the val­ley of the Brahma­pu­tra in India. Rice cul­ti­va­tion prob­a­bly entered India by this route in pre­his­toric times, and pos­si­bly the tech­nol­ogy of cast­ing bronze. Some mag­nif­i­cent bronze art sur­vives from the 3rd Cen­tury BCE. From that time to the Yuan era, though some­times con­trolled by Tibetan or Han Chi­nese empires, Yun­nan was most often the cen­ter of its own king­doms, such as Dian [滇國], Nangzhao [南诏], and Dali [大理国]. A melt­ing pot of peo­ples spoke var­i­ous Tibeto-Burman, Tai-Kadai, and Miao-Yao lan­guages. The his­tor­i­cally impor­tant Bai language’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion is dis­puted. These abo­rig­i­nal lan­guages sur­vive and thrive despite the influx of Chi­nese speak­ers to the region, as do many ancient tra­di­tions. Shaman­ism, Tao­ism, Bud­dhism, Chris­tian­ity, and even Islam have been influ­ences on local beliefs. A syn­chretis­tic reli­gion called Dongba, related in some way to the shaman­is­tic Bön faith that pre­ceded Bud­dhism in Tibet, is still prac­ticed. It focuses sig­nif­i­cantly on the sacred­ness of trees, and once pro­vided the spir­i­tual basis for care­ful (and sus­tain­able) prac­tices in log­ging. The Com­mu­nist Party attempted to crush the faith, not only for ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons, but to facil­i­tate clear-cutting and destruc­tive exploita­tion of the forests. The reli­gion, how­ever, survives.

Most remark­ably, the region inde­pen­dently devel­oped writ­ing. The Dongba Script con­sti­tutes the only hiero­glyphic writ­ing still actively main­tained. The Com­mu­nist Party sup­pressed its use, and destroyed thou­sands of ancient man­u­scripts by boil­ing them into paste, but many copies sur­vived, about half of the extant ones being car­ried to the U.S. and Europe. This remark­able form of writ­ing presents many inter­est­ing puz­zles for lin­guists and pale­o­g­ra­phers [ READING, August 2013: item 23943 (Alexis Michaud) Pic­tographs and the Lan­guage of Naxi Rit­u­als]. Now, belat­edly, the script is being encour­aged by local author­i­ties, and appears on the sides of buses.

Of the many cul­tural sur­vivals in Yun­nan, it’s musi­cal tra­di­tions stand out. I pre­vi­ously heard some Naxi (or Nakhi) folk­songs of Yun­nanese migrants in Sichuan [items 16234 and 16239 in Sichuan Folk Song and Bal­lad, Vol.2] and thought them par­tic­u­larly evoca­tive. But the more com­plex clas­si­cal orches­tral music of the ancient king­doms has been aston­ish­ingly pre­served through all the tribu­la­tions of time. The Dayan Ancient Music Association’s album Naxi Music from Lijiang, issued by Nim­bus Records in 1997, pro­vides an aural win­dow into antiq­uity. The instru­ments used are archaic lutes, flutes, shawms and zithers, long since van­ished else­where. Twenty-four melodic qupai (leit­mo­tifs) are sub­jected to elab­o­ra­tion and vari­a­tion. This form is known as Baisha xiyue, lit­er­ally “fine music of Baisha”, refer­ring to an ancient cap­i­tal of the Naxi, sit­u­ated near mod­ern Lijiang. The music is best described as lean and unclut­tered, but ele­gant. There is none of the crash­ing pots-and-pans din asso­ci­ated with old forms else­where in China.

This is to me, a very evoca­tive and enjoy­able album, and will be replayed often.

View of Lijiang

View of Lijiang