Happy Halloween!

Hey music library readers! Are you going to spend tonight trick-or-treating or pranking suburban dads? Or will you spend it like our esteemed leader, Sam, indoors hiding from the debauchery? If you’re going with the last option (nothing wrong with that), might as well have some spoOoOoOoky classical music to play, just to keep in that holiday spirit! (what’s the point of this holiday, anyway?)

Well looky here, what’s this? A compilation of all the scariest classical music you’ve ever imagined? Right here? In the Music Library? What a shock! Known as “Fright Night,” and subtitled “Music That Goes Bump in the Night,” this CD has spent centuries as a dark rumor passed around occult souvenir shops and witches’ fires. Through some kind of Faustian bargain, I must guess, we now have one of six hundred and sixty-six copies (that’s 666, everyone) sitting in our shelves.



This demonic CD boasts a great selection of dark & creepy classical pieces, such as Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night On Bald Mountain” (originally from his “Pictures at an Exhibition), known as the song from the Fantasia scene where giant ghouls descend from the mountain onto the small town below. Other highlights include Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (also of Fantasia fame) and of course Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Berlioz’s “March to the Scaffold” is here. Bach’s “Toccata in D minor” is here (the creepy lightning-flash haunted castle organ music). Even Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” makes an appearance (is that one scary? not so sure…).

I can see why this CD is the stuff of legend. Even looking at its track list makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It’s the perfect pick for a paranoid Halloween night at home, so come grab it before we close!

Here’s the link: http://catalog.wrlc.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=400046

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Filed under Classical, Events, Organ, Recordings, Romantic

Epic DVD Review: In Search Of Blind Joe Death

Here comes another DC-related DVD review for y’all! But while its subject shares a hometown with the punk stars of our last review, that’s about it. In Search of Blind Joe Death follows the life of the enigmatic, eccentric and iconoclastic guitarist John Fahey. Fahey, who invented a style of richly harmonic, fingerpicked folk guitar dubbed “American primitive” in its day, reinvented the sound of American acoustic guitar in a transcendent way.

In Search is a documentary on Fahey’s life, from childhood to his death in 2001. Fahey was born in D.C. and grew up in the neighborhood of Takoma Park. As a child, he was inspired by the verdant, sylvan forests that surrounded his home. His search for musical expression began in the District, inspired by the sounds of the old Delta Blues of the American South. Fahey, who began playing guitar at a young age, quickly formed his own musical vocabulary, equally informed by these old bluesmen and the harmonic compositions of Stravinsky and Bartok. He began to release recordings on a label he founded, named Takoma Records after his hometown.

After graduating from American University (once an Eagle, you know the rest), Fahey moved to California, where he continued recording as well as finding new (old) artists to release on Takoma. The documentary describes his unique sleuthing process of tracking down old Delta Blues artists and recording new material with them for Takoma.

Once he was done with school, Fahey began touring and his eccentricities began to bubble up to the surface. He would disappear for long periods of time, turning up after a point in a random location (such as Tasmania). He began uncalled-for, one-sided rivalries with other musicians, and his alcoholism became a problem. After a time, a doctor prescribed him sleeping medication, which he began to abuse in alcohol’s stead (along with heavy Coca-Cola drinking).

As he aged (rather quickly thanks to his various indulgences) he became more and more eccentric, as did his music. He ditched the acoustic guitar for the electric, creating strange, experimental music influenced by the noise-rock of the ’80s. He also took up painting. Meanwhile, he had relocated to a motel room in the middle of nowhere, Oregon, where he spent the remainder of his days selling thrift shop records to collectors. He died at 61. His music lived on, its echoes audible everywhere from Nick Drake to Sonic Youth to Led Zeppelin to Beck. Essentially, any artist wrenching more than simple open chords out of an acoustic guitar can thank Fahey for the idea.

This DVD does a great job of revealing the many sides of John Fahey, with the guitar master’s hauntingly beautiful music providing the perfect soundtrack. It includes interviews with many who knew him well, and many acolytes, from deranged Maryland record collector Joe Bussard to rock superstar Pete Townshend. It also features several performances of his works, as well as the type that influenced him, by a parade of musicians such as Bussard (playing with a screwdriver!) and George Winston, as well as members of the Decemberists and Calexico and good-natured rival Stefan Grossman. There are also a couple of rare performance and interview videos with Fahey himself from the late ’90s.

I’d recommend In Search of Blind Joe Death to any Fahey fan, as well as any fan of folk music and the guitar. It’s a close look at somebody who redefined the language of the instrument, drawing from a deeply ingrained musical culture but emerging with something 100% original. There is also rich inspiration to be found in the life of Fahey itself, in his virtues and vices the embodiment of a truly American musician. And if you like it, check out some choice Fahey CDs from us, your loyal Music Library!

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Filed under Recordings, DVDs, Country, Folk, Guitar, Blues, D.C.

New Arrivals – Joy Division and Aphex Twin

Hiroshi Sugimoto_1.tifImage copyright Hiroshi Sugimoto

Hello folks.  Just hipping you to two new arrivals here at the AU Music Library.

unknown pleasures

The first is Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures.  You’ve probably seen this on some hipster’s Urban Outfitter’s shirt, but it’s famous cause it’s the cover of a record.  Joy Division make dark music; cold sounds in bare-surfaced places.  If Brian Eno made music for rooms, on this record, Joy Division make music for nite-time alleys, for industrial hallways, for walls made of concrete.  You can hum along to these, unlike some recent industrial additions, but you might be too sad.  CD 2432.


The second I’m here to tell you about is a personal favorite, a record that opened me up to a lot of other music, like Cage, Xenakis, Riley, Eno, and a whole lot of drone and minimalism that got made in the middle aughts.

It’s Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, Volume 2.  Aphex Twin is the moniker for one Richard D James, a man who makes lots of electronic music, and has a few seminal records under his belt.  We chose this one cause we, ok I thought it’d start more conversations, perk more ears here in our beloved music library.  Soft and contemplative, it kinda sounds like that Sugimoto photo up there.  The grand sound of small phenomena.

It’s a neat record.  There are no track names: just opaque, suggestive images of moss or a grate or some string, all in a monochrome rust color.  Pieces repeat slowly for 5 to 10 minutes generally, certainly going nowhere.  This is music about texture and not about getting from point a to point b.

Music to take a bath to.



yep, also Sugimoto.

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Jeff Goldblum’s Laugh – TRANSCRIBED!

Remember Jurassic Park? Classic childhood film. Dinosaurs and all of it. But I bet this little oddity slipped past you:



DID YOU HEAR THAT LAUGH? Actually more of a composite of several different laugh ideas, and almost certainly overdubbed after the fact (his mouth doesn’t move at all), Jeff Goldblum’s laugh in the helicopter scene (following a puzzlingly unfunny joke) is one of the strangest and funniest slip-ups in a major film (that I can think of, at least). Thanks to one clever YouTuber, it has become modestly internet famous, with about 500,000 views and counting at the time of this writing.

But it’s about to get a lot more popular, because the brilliant Evan Kent has made it available to be played and taught in any household or school where music is played. That’s right, he’s transcribed the laugh into musical notation. It proves to be quite the accomplished composition, complete with time signature changes and dynamic leaps. Kent even had the acumen to notice that the “huh” in the 3/8 section of the laugh was possibly performed by the man sitting next to Goldblum, making this a duet! Play it with your friends and coworkers!some quick sketches from my new masterpiece

And John Cage thinks he’s all that.

P.S.- for the very interested, here’s a hilarious remix video of the original laugh:

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Filed under Links, News, Scores, Sheet Music, Video

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