New CDs!

Hey everyone! This cold weather may have stopped the spring dead in its tracks but it hasn’t stopped us! Just look at these new CDs, including a modern take on sacred choral music by Gregg Smith and one of Scott Walker’s more recent albums, the sinister avant-garde The Drift, far removed from his days as a baroque pop crooner in the ’60s.

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Thomas Sleeper: Four Concerti – CD 10282

Scott Walker: The Drift – CD 10283

Gregg Smith: Music for an Urban Church – CD 10284

Jeffrey Mumford: Through A Stillness Brightening – CD 10285

 

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Filed under Choral, Library Announcements, New Arrivals, Recordings

The NYT on Coachella

Ahh, Coachella. An exotic and alluring word that conjures visions of epic, hedonistic musical retreats to the distant California desert. In high school in L.A., Coachella was what everybody looked forward to- papers and projects assigned for that April weekend never stood a chance. Now, Coachella is a distant memory for me, obscured by D.C. rain and expensive plane tickets.

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Also since high school, Coachella has truly entered its prime as a Big Deal in the music world. Its success has led to an entire culture of summer festival-going, and has caused it to expand to two separate weekends. The festival has gained more notoriety with each passing year, becoming more and more a symbol of the so-called Millenial culture and a larger sign of the times- where musical omnivorousness rubs shoulders with big money and thrill-seeking.

Because of its cultural significance, Coachella is a source of as many editorials as music reviews. There are endless thought-pieces to be found online about the event, regarding not only the music performed but the social media use, fashion and behavior of festival-goers, as well as larger meditations on the changing face of the music industry and society’s treatment of music in general.

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Yesterday, Ben Ratliff of the New York Times shared his thoughts in a piece called “Artists and Spectators, Not So Far Apart“. Featuring nice slideshows of the three days of Coachella weekend 1, this article meditates on many ideas that the festival spawned: the shrinking difference between artists and performers, the death of the bro and rise of young women as the new arbiters of music culture, as well as actual reviews of many performances in the light of these revelations.

It’s a very interesting piece and worth reading if you’re curious about the state of pop music today. Also includes shouts out to Arcade Fire and The Knife, both of whom with CDs in the music library! Check out the CDs and listen while reading for a new perspective. It’ll be sort of like mixing Dark Side of the Moon with the Wizard of Oz.

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Filed under Dance, Electronic, Events, Hip Hop, Links, Live Performaces, Pop/Rock, R&B, Suggested Reading

Sweet New Arrivals: A Menagerie of Music

Hey all you people, hey all you people, hey all you people won’t you listen to me???

I know you may be getting all excited for Chance the Rapper tonight (this blogger’s on the VIP list) but we’ve also got some great news at the music library. This week has brought our best set of Sweet New Arrivals since last semester’s finals week breakthrough.

Because of such an influx of great jams, I’ve decided not to focus on one but rather write blurbs about my five favorites. The rest are great too, I just don’t have as much to say about them. Shouts out to T. Rex, Devo, Queen, Swans and Gavin Bryars. Here come the winners!

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Talking Heads- Remain In Light (1980)

My favorite ’80s band, the Talking Heads were one of the most unique of the whole new wave crop. On their first three albums, they perfected a nervy style of futurist-primitive post-punk, which crystallized on 1979′s Fear Of Music. After that paranoid, twitchy album, which brought the band to the realization of their vision, what were they to do? Well, they made this, their best album. Their third collaboration with producer Brian Eno, Remain In Light combines their original dancey impulses with a heavy Fela Kuti influence for a set of brilliant songs, consisting of slyly pretty chord progressions tucked into wiry guitar and taut grooves, over which idiosyncratic frontman David Byrne was free to rant and scream and philosophize at will. Best songs are album-opener “Born Under Punches” and the ubiquitous hit/mission statement “Once In A Lifetime.” Same as it ever was.

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Joanna Newsom- Ys (2006)

This is an album on its way to being considered a modern classic. Joanna Newsom is a harp-playing sprite who sings over virtuosic finger-picked patterns with her peculiar, mewling voice to create a strange and wonderful brand of folk. Her first album, 2004′s The Milk-Eyed Mender, was a collection of excellent tunelets, but Ys found an expansion into renaissance fair freak folk epics, bursting with emotion, beautiful melodies and Newsom’s bookish, hyper-poetic lyrics. Songwriting veteran Van Dyke Parks supports the wandering songs with a Greek chorus of orchestral arrangement. Joanna would go on to expand her sound even more with 2010′s triple-album Have One On Me, but Ys is a collection of five songs that are a perfect expression  of her art.

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The Knife- Shaking The Habitual (2013)

Following the album that brought them massive critical and commercial recognition, 2006′s dark and bristling Silent Shout, Swedish electro-poppers the Knife waited seven years to release this deranged album. It takes the latent tension of Silent Shout and blows it up into a gigantic artistic statement that vacillates between relentless, percussive grooves (like best song “Full of Fire,” a motorik juggernaut) and experimental minimalism (such as the 18-minute recording of boiler room feedback “Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized”). Over the jagged soundscapes, singer Karin Dreijer Andersson’s voice is warped all over the place with electronics as she sings of crushing the status quo. This is an album of extremes, sometimes hypnotic and sometimes unlistenable, but always pushing the envelope.

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Beyonce- Beyonce (2013)

This album was quietly released at the end of 2013, without any promotion or singles preceding it, but its aftershocks will likely rattle through our pop culture landscape for years to come. It finds Beyonce leaving the classic pop sound of her last album, 2011′s 4, for a stark, hard-edged sound custom-fitted to suit the current rap landscape. On this album Beyonce capitalizes on the cult-worship that many Americans treat her with, comfortably filling her throne as Queen B with an absurd amount of swag and a host of one-liners (“I woke up like this,” “Surfboardt”) that are already becoming part of the vernacular.

and last but DEFINITELY not least…

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Fleetwood Mac- Rumours (1977)

What to say about this album except I can’t believe we didn’t have it already. This album, a product of tumultuous love triangles and pentagons in the band and their psychological ramifications, is one of the most perfect sets of pop songs to be found on a single album. Each member of the band is bringing their best, from Lindsay Buckingham’s gorgeous pastoral “Never Going Back Again” to Christine McVie’s sultry “You Make Loving Fun.” The true star of the show, however, was Stevie Nicks, whose brooding energy and timeless country voice contributed to my two favorite songs, the ethereal “Dreams” and album-closer, the cocaine-dusted desert trek of “Gold Dust Woman.” This album was the most rational-yet-emotional treatment of ’70s excess, and turned out to be one of the best albums of the decade.

Well, what are you waiting for? Come get ‘em!

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Filed under Dance, Electronic, Folk, Funk, Hip Hop, Links, New Arrivals, Pop/Rock, R&B, Recordings, Staff Picks

New CDs!

Hey everyone! We have some cool new CDs for you all to check out here at the music library. Come give a listen when you have a chance!

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Beyonce – CD 10273

Swans: The Seer – CD 10274

Gavin Bryars: The Sinking of the Titanic; Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet – CD 10275

Fleetwood Mac: Rumours – CD 10276

Talking Heads: Remain in Light – CD 10277

Queen: A Night at the Opera – 10278

Devo: Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo! – CD 10279

T.Rex: Electric Warrior – CD 10280

Joanna Newsom: Ys – CD 10281

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Cool DC Events: Carolina Chocolate Drops at 9:30 Club, TONIGHT

Hey readers! Got a taste for traditional folk? Heard of Carolina Chocolate Drops? If you answered yes to the first question, I sure hope you had the same answer for #2.

Originally a duo and now a four-piece, Carolina Chocolate Drops made their name in 2010 with the Grammy-winning Genuine Negro Jig, an album which conjured the sounds of African-American folk music from the ’20s and ’30s with renewed vigor. Their last album, 2012′s Leaving Eden, showed them expanding their sound with added members.

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Anyways, CCD are coming to the 9:30 Club tonight as part of their current tour, drumming up anticipation for a possible upcoming album in 2015. The lineup now includes original members Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Fleming, who alternate vocals, banjo and fiddle, as well as multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett and cellist Malcolm Parson. Their music is based around the banjo and fiddle, including strains of jazz and blues along with more traditional folk elements.

Opening acts are Birds of Chicago, a rootsy band that combines folk with gospel, soul and doo-wop, and David Wax Museum, who “fuse traditional Mexican folk with American roots and indie rock”. This is sure to be a night bursting with many musical traditions; don’t miss out!

Here’s the event page: http://www.930.com/event/472035

Oh, and P.S. come check out our copy of Genuine Negro Jig if you want to catch up before the show!

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Filed under Diversions, Folk, Folk Song, Gospel, Links, Live Performaces, Violin

AU Musical Events: Jazz Orchestra, 4/4

It’s that time of year, readers, the time when the sun makes its reappearance, finals feel just around the corner, and weekends are filled with the concerts of AU ensembles. Kicking off the season is none other than our illustrious Jazz Orchestra (neither a band nor an ensemble, an orchestra, people), performing tomorrow night!

Quite the classy poster

In what proves to be a highlight of every AU concert season, the AU Jazz Orchestra, directed by professor Josh Bayer, bring down the house with lush, loud arrangements of classic jazz charts. Most of the tunes are in the swing idiom, with a few funky exceptions.

Tomorrow is sure to be an exciting night, with a super pair of features. As shown on the poster, D.C.-based trumpeter Tom Williams will be featured, playing tunes with the full band as well as with a smaller combo. Not included on the poster is our very own Music Librarian, Nobue Matsuoka, who will be performing a marimba solo on the tune “Cute”- very aptly named! I promise she didn’t tell me to write this.

It’s happening at 8 PM in the Abramson Recital Hall in Katzen. Tickets are $5 for AU community members and $10 for everybody else- a great bargain for a great night of jazz!

The event page, with all the above information listed in a less prose-y form, is here: http://www.american.edu/cas/performing-arts/calendar/?id=5122056

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Filed under Diversions, Events, Funk, Jazz, Links, Live Performaces, Percussion, Trumpet

Cage!

Howdy ya’ll. John Cage time!

One of the most famous modern composers, Cage was a pioneer of experimental music in the 20th century. Cage’s music most often broke out of common conventions of how music and sound were interpreted.

 A new addition to the Music Library collection, “John Cage: Shock” is a largely experimental set of CDs that encompass around 120 minutes of Cage’s and friends’ performances. The compositions incorporate a range of diverse sounds and even differing qualities of sound that produce fascinating and unpredictable pieces.

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Much of Cage’s music was created to bring into question exactly what constitutes music. Cage’s efforts to break out of the boundaries of traditional Western musical practices are apparent, for example, in Sonatas & interludes for prepared piano, here performed by John Tilbury.

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For those interested, preparing a piano a la Cage involves installing different materials, such as rubber and metal, on and between the strings and hammers in the piano. This creates a less-than-traditional percussion instrument that holds to fewer conventions of “western” pitch.

 Cage’s longtime partner Merce Cunningham, a pioneer of modern dance, was a significant commissioner of many Cage pieces. Cunningham’s conscious separation of dance choreography with musical rhythm fit in well with Cage’s own unconventional styles of composition. In our CD collection Music for Merce many Cage pieces are featured, as well as pieces by David Tudor, Takehisa Kosugi, Stuart Dempster, and many more…

 

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Finally, I want to warn listeners who are new to Cage: this artist is at heart an experimental composer, which means that most of his music will require a non-traditional approach when listening. Without the use of predictable chord progressions or rhythms, Cage produces beautifully volatile pieces.

…Proceed with an open mind…

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