Cool DC Events: JAZZforum- Sun Ra in Century 21, 10/22

Attention jazz heads and space freaks! Your icon and idol, Sun Ra, will be featured at this week’s UDC JAZZalive event. It’s part of an ongoing series of exhibitions, discussion forums, presentations and concerts hosted by UDC that will extend into the spring and likely the distant future as well!

While we sadly cannot attend an actual Sun Ra concert, this event still promises to be a great one for fans of the psych-jazz master. Funk scholar Thomas Stanley, who teaches sound art and sonic culture at George Mason U, has put together a monograph called The Execution of Sun Ra, which “is an attempt to bore into the late jazz oracle’s remarkable ideas about history and human development.”

At this lecture he will speak on his findings. This should be an incredibly interesting experience, considering the intellectual depth and strangeness that defined Sun Ra’s view of our species. The event is tomorrow night (Wednesday the 22nd) at 7pm. It will be held in the Recital Hall of the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives, on UDC’s Van Ness Campus (4200 Connecticut Ave). It is free and open to the public, and books will be available for sale at the event.

Also, if this talk engenders a deep interest in Sun Ra in you, the reader, take the time to stream some of his albums online or, highly suggested, check out his Space is the Place DVD- sure to be a trip!


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Filed under D.C., DVDs, Events, Funk, Jazz, Recordings, Video

Sweet New Arrivals: Hip Hop Classics

This is a very exciting week for the music library, in which our modest hip hop collection gains some serious firepower with the addition of four excellent CDs (continuing a trend of re-imagining our collection which also resulted in the recent acquisition of the Wu’s first release). And now four other certified classics can join the ranks in a quickly-getting-awesome rap CD collection:


Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)

The first album of four (and the only ’80s rap album to make the cut) comes in the form of this 1988 landmark. On It Takes A Nation, this New York crew defined their sound and edified rap’s flirtation with noise music. The production, courtesy of the Bomb Squad, takes the funkified sound common in 1980s rap and takes it through some horrifying, traumatizing experiences, from which it emerges unsettled and unsettling. Layer upon layer of samples build on drum breaks and machines to build an atmosphere of chalkboard-scratching tension. Frontman Chuck D dominates these beats, aggressively spitting lyrics of distinctive radical politics, while idiosyncratic hype man Flavor Flav shouts ridiculous slogans. Between the two of them they fill the album with uncompromising lyrical content, paving the way for the hardcore rap of the 1990s.


Nas – Illmatic (1993)

If you know the bare minimum about rap and you saw the word “classic” in this post title, you probably assumed that Illmatic would be somewhere on this list. Widely considered the best rap record of all time, Nas’ debut was recorded when the Queens rapper was a mere 19 years old. But age mattereth not; on Illmatic Nas spits arguably the strongest verses of his career, verses that few if any rappers have matched. With effortless polysyllabic rhyme schemes and an unbroken flow that sounds fresh even today, Nas alternates a melange of cultural references with street stories of  surreal, lurid detail. And with an all-star lineup of producers including Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Large Professor and Q-Tip, the entire album knocks with hard but musically ingenious beats. To many, this album is an endless source of musical and intellectual inspiration, the artistic high watermark of hip hop, and is something to which all should aspire.


Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt (1996)

Coming two years after Illmatic, Jay-Z’s debut was one of the only albums that could stand up to it in terms of near-perfect 90s hip hop. It’s hard to imagine a better introduction to a man who would become one of the biggest stars (if not the biggest) in rap in decades to come. This album, like its star, overflows with style, talent and personality, with Jay’s distinctive voice making an indelible impression. His rapping, polished for years before this release, emerges hot out of the gate, with a smooth but aggressive flow, stellar imagery and wordplay and uncompromising braggadocio applied to various mafioso fantasies and the occasional wise-hustler life lesson. The beats are a lush, sparkling take on the usual boom-bap mid-90s fare with producers such as DJ Premier, Clark Kent and Ski applying their nimble touch. While Jay-Z would evolve in many ways throughout his career and release several landmark albums, this was indeed a peak.


Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)

Lastly, this album has quite the soft spot in my heart, because it is the only L.A. album on this list (hometown pride). New York certainly has the lion’s share of ’90s rap classics (Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, 36 Chambers, Ready to Die, etc.) but L.A. has The Chronic, an album with possibly the greatest influence (for better or worse) of all previous mentioned. Coming early on in the 90s, The Chronic was a massive update of the genre from the decade preceding it. Influenced more by the smooth, lush funk of Parliament than the quick beats of James Brown, Dr. Dre forged his sonic stamp on this album. All the beats simply riiiiiide out, slow and with layer after layer of keyboard and sample. And with a distinctive, frosty synth sound (which came to characterize G-Funk as a rap subgenre), Dr. Dre dripped lazily beautiful melodies all over the place. Meanwhile, Dre and his 20 year-old sidekick (soon to become superstar) Snoop Doggy Dogg delivered flows that were the polar opposite of, say, Chuck D, taking the form of languid, laid-back menace rather than all-out bluster. Their lyrics, often ridiculously violent, explicit and offensive, have not aged well, but the sound remains gorgeous- the perfect album for cruising right after sunset on a warm summer night.


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Filed under Funk, Hip Hop, New Arrivals, Recordings

New Sheet Music Arrivals!

Happy midterms, everyone!

To help ease the stress of everyone’s week, here are some new pieces of music to come in and check out:


H. Leslie Adams – Loving Touches: for Oboe and Piano, M246 .A33 L68 2014

C.P.E. Bach – Double-Choir Heilig, Wq 217 M3 .B103 v.V/Suppl. 3

Jason A. Chapman, arr. – Kendor Master Repertoire: 8 Grade 4 Works for B-flat Trumpet, M260 .K46 2013

Michael Daugherty – Lounge Lizards: for 2 pianos and 2 percussion, M485 .D38 L69 2014

Brian Fennelly – Tableux: for Piano and Ten Instruments, M947 .F327 T33 2014

Tom Flaherty – Wagon-Wheeling: for piano and percussion, M285 .P4 F615 2014

Johann Herbeck – Selected German Works Part 3: for unaccompanied mixed chorus, M2 .R23834 v.64

Kamran Ince – Road to Memphis: for viola and piano or harpsichord, M226.I53 R63 2014

Pierre Jalbert – Les Espaces Infinis: for chamber orchestra, M1045 .J34 E76 2014

Serge Prokofiev – Piano Concerto No. 5 in G, Op. 55: reduction for two pianos, M1011 .P95 op.55 1933

Michael Salzman, arr. – Kendor Master Repertoire: 8 Grade 4 Works for Tuba, M264 .K46 2013

Franz Xaver Süßmayr – Der Spiegel von Arkadien Act I and Act II: Piano/Vocal score, M2 .R2381 v.93-94

Loreto Vittori – Complete Solo Songs, M2 .R238 v.188


Feel free to come in any time and ask us about locating these items!

Good luck with the rest of your week, folks!

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Filed under Library Announcements, New Arrivals, News, Scores, Sheet Music

New CD Arrivals!

We’ve got some pretty cool new CDs ready for you to come check out – including some hip-hop & hard rock classics!


Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Neil Patrick Harris: Original Broadway Cast Recording – CD 1979

Hairspray, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – CD 2428

Sweet Chariot, Alvin Singleton – CD 1805

Lady day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Original Broadway Cast Recording – CD 1795

Tagoriana, Songs on Poetry of Rabindranath Tagore – CD 1866

Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging!, 2014 Un-Original Cast Album – CD 1969

Songs, Paul Creston – CD 1937

Bamboo Lights, Lei Liang – CD 2363

Suicide, S/T – CD 2379

Reign in Blood, Slayer - CD 8284

Master of Puppets, Metallica – CD 2215

20 Jazz Funk Greats, Throbbing Gristle – CD 6541

It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, Public Enemy – CD 2467

The Chronic, Dr. Dre – CD 2488

Reasonable Doubt, Jay-Z – CD 2479

Illmatic, Nas. – CD 8291

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NPR’s Interview with Music Producer/Hero John Congleton

This guy is truly all the rage these days. I’ve seen his production credit on more 2014 albums that I can remember, and all of them (including albums by Speedy Ortiz, Cloud Nothings, Earl Sweatshirt, Swans, St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, and more) have been super quality.

What’s more impressive is that all of the above artists (and the scores more he has worked with) are extremely different. His greatest skill as a producer is to bring the best out of whoever he’s in the studio with, and he’s done it time and time again, no matter what kind of music is being recorded.

Producer, engineer and musician John Congleton.

NPR just had him on All Songs Considered as a guest DJ, speaking to him about his musical interests and influences, as well as some of his favorite recordings, such as “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes (thanks, Phil Spector!), Suicide (the band), The Jesus Lizard, and “Mother” by Pink Floyd. Wide range, huh?

My favorite part was the discussion of his musical taste, influenced by John Peel: he assumes that if he doesn’t like something, the problem is with him, not the music itself. This open-minded approach hints to his success with producing a variety of different styles of music.

This segment/interview should be of great interest to anybody who likes audio production, the modern music scene or simply the appreciation of good-sounding and well-written music. And if you were truly inspired, come check out St. Vincent’s self-titled, which he produced!

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Filed under Audio tech, Hip Hop, Links, Pop/Rock, Recordings, Streaming Audio

Sweet New Arrival: Become Ocean

Happy October! If you’re not buried in a punk documentary and are more the modern enviro-classical type, you’ll love our sweet new arrival!

John Luther Adams' new album, Become Ocean, comes out Sept. 30.

NPR recently did a “First Listen” feature on John Luther Adams, an Alaskan experimental composer whose previous works include a piece for 9 to 99 percussionists and a piece where the audience walks through the performing musicians. However, the focus of this feature was Adams’ new piece, a Pulitzer-winning work for three mini-orchestras called Become Ocean.

Become Ocean, like its forebear La Mer (Debussy), is meant to evoke, well, the ocean. The NPR review describes it as “sweeping… briny surges of sound”. The journalist also waxes philosophical on the implications of an ocean-themed piece in a time where the ocean is in flux due to global climate change. Whether or not this is but an intellectualizing of the art or not, the piece is a beautiful one.

And now you can play it, thanks to your friendly neighborhood Music Library! We just received the score this week. While you may not yourself be three mini-orchestras, you can still familiarize yourself with it, learn every part, show it to your conductor, whatnot. Here it is, get lost in the sea.

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Filed under Classical, Contemporary, Links, New Arrivals, Scores, Sheet Music, Streaming Audio, Suggested Reading, Symphony

Epic DVD Review: Minor Threat Live DVD

Hello all, Jesse here, music library bloggist. If you remember, I reviewed one of Media Services’ many music-related DVDs, 20 Feet From Stardom, last semester. Starting with this post, I will be reviewing about three Media Services DVDs a month. The idea is first to cover all of our D.C. music-related DVDs and then branch out into the larger variety of music DVDs that Media Services offers. Welcome to the Epic DVD Review.

Anyways, when many hear the phrase “D.C. music scene,” a prominent thought is the D.C. hardcore punk scene of the 1980s. Led by bands such as Bad Brains, Void and the Faith, D.C.’s punk scene epitomized the intensity and wild spirit of the American punk subculture. Because D.C. bars allow all ages (minors just get ye olde X on the hands), punk bands could hold shows in legitimate establishments and this helped the scene thrive.

Of course, the scene was taken to a new level when Ian Mackaye and his crew showed up. Out of the ashes of Teen Idles, Mackaye and drummer Jeff Nelson recruited guitarist Lyle Preslar and bassist Brian Baker to form Minor Threat, a band that would become the champions of the D.C. scene, building it along with their own fanbase. They were Mackaye’s first platform to introduce his punk ideals to the masses, including the importance of an independent music scene and the idea of the straight-edge lifestyle (abstaining from alcohol and drugs). Their insanely fast and angry sound, coupled with Mackaye’s wild stage presence and shouted vocals, were a major influence to just about every hardcore punk band that followed them.

Minor Threat only lasted four years but the impact they had on their scene and genre was enormous. Luckily, some prescient camera people were able to capture some great moments of their hometown performances, and three such performances are collected on our Minor Threat DVD.

The first, a short set in a second floor gallery above a D.C. jazz club, is nearly mythical: in extremely grainy black and white footage, the strikingly young band (including a not-yet-bald Mackaye, gripping a soda can) plays to a small group of spirited fans whose moshing bodies often jostle the camera or block its view of the band, giving you a feeling of participation.

The second set, two years later at Buff Hall, is filmed in better quality (still not quite prime but at least it’s in color!) and shows the effect of the band on a larger crowd. After a surprise funky intro, the band explodes into full rage, and fans who were sitting onstage begin jumping into each other and off the stage with wild abandon. Mackaye, head swollen from a car accident earlier that day (what a champ) sings into the faces of the crowd, and a second microphone is set up stageside for a group of fans to sing along in.

The final set captures Minor Threat at the height of their powers, performing a set at the 9:30 club in 1983. Mackaye begins the set with a goofy monologue while the rest of the band set up, giving the sensation of a room full of friends. Throughout the set the crowd’s energy is explosive, something I’ve never seen at the 9:30 club. The audio/video quality of this set, meant for a documentary that never was finished, is the best- Jeff Nelson’s brutal drumming benefits most. At the end, an exhausted MacKaye leaves the audience with a heartwarming comment: “Nobody sings like DC.”

Finally, the DVD includes a quick interview with Ian MacKaye after the show. Awkwardly divided into question-only and answer-only sections by the makers of the DVD, it is nonetheless worth the watch. Sitting in front of a piano, the frontman fields questions from an interviewer who seems to be very ignorant of the scene. However, his responses are very enlightening, revealing his strong views on the punk scene, scenes in general, straight edge, stagediving and moshing, and organized religion. When the interviewer compares punk to another youth movement, the hippies, he acknowledges the similarities but implies that while the hippie movement faded away, punk will be longer lasting.

I’d recommend this DVD to any Minor Threat fan, any fan of hardcore or punk and anybody interested in musical subcultures in general. If you’re not a punk fan, the performances may get a bit repetitive, but the interview with MacKaye holds significance far beyond the genre of punk. Even if you don’t like punk, it’s still worth it to see the dynamic devotion of the band’s fans, and to witness the beginnings of an essential DC scene. Check it out (again, DVD 4394), and if you like it, come listen to their complete discography at the Music Library!


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Filed under D.C., DVDs, Live Performaces, Pop/Rock, Video