Feature Fridays: Like Minds

Feature Fridays: Like Minds

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Ryan Jacobs will review Like Minds by Gary Burton with Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, and Dave Holland.

Like Minds

Like Minds is a jazz supergroup album featuring Gary Burton on vibraphone, Chick Corea on piano, Pat Metheny on guitar, Roy Haynes on drums, and Dave Holland on bass. Each musician is a legend in their own right, having worked with Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Lester Young, and many others between the five of them.

The liner booklet contains a recollection of the recording process from Burton’s perspective. It is an insightful look at how the album came together and the mutual respect between the musicians, and was a very interesting read. It recounts the initial conceptualization of the album and how each of the musicians brought in some of the best songs; each wrote at least one new one specifically for this project.

The album showcases the group’s immense musical skill and mastery of jazz, and I would like to highlight the opening track, which sets up the rest of the album perfectly. Metheny’s “Question and Answer” is a melodic masterpiece showcasing Burton and Corea, and demonstrates the guitarist’s compositional ability.

The entire record is filled with first-rate ensemble skill, composition, and improvisation, and I strongly recommend anyone interested in experiencing true jazz masters display their craft check this album out immediately.

 

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Broadway Double Feature Friday: Heathers The Musical

Broadway Double Feature Friday: Heathers The Musical

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Dan McCahon reviews Heathers The Musical with music, lyrics, and a book by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy.

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Heathers The Musical is based on the cult-classic film of the same name released in 1989. It is a dark comedy of twists and turns, with the main protagonist Veronica grappling with the dramas and woes of high school, strung together by the girls at the top: the Heathers.

The opening track “Beautiful” is a ballad based on Veronica’s diary entry, as she struggles with the changes that come with growing up. “Then we got bigger that was the trigger…college will be paradise if I’m not dead by June.” Veronica’s morbidity and cynicism are put up against her hope for the future: “If we changed back then, we could change again, we can be beautiful…life can be beautiful.” The song introduces the Heathers, the main antagonists for a majority of the show. “They float above it all,” referencing their inability to be bothered by the stressors of high school, which students attribute to their beauty. Veronica aims to cozy up to the Heathers to make high school more bearable, and succeeds, with the song concluding with Veronica becoming beautiful just like the Heathers. “Heather, Heather, Heather, and Veronica?!”

“Candy Store” is the second track and denotes the first act conflict between Veronica and the Heathers as Veronica tries to understand her identity among the Heathers against who she is to her childhood best friend. These two songs underscore the main themes of the show, at least until it runs off the rails into the second act. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that this is a musical worth listening to if not for its fantastic vocalists, then for the plot twists that accompany its stellar tracks.

Broadway Double Feature Friday: The Wild Party

Broadway Double Feature Friday: The Wild Party

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Elisabeth McCarren reviews The Wild Party by Andrew Lippa.

Wild Party

The Wild Party is a musical with the book, lyrics and music by Andrew Lippa, based on the 1928 poem of the same name written by Joseph March.  It coincidentally made its debut during the same theater season as a Broadway production with the same name and source material, which many blame for its lack of popularity and visibility.  The musical opened Off-Broadway on February 24, 2000, at the Manhattan Theatre Club and ran for 54 performances.  It was directed by Gabriel Barre and choreographed by Mark Dendy and starred Julia Murney as Queenie, Brian d’Arcy James as Burrs, Taye Diggs as Mr. Black, Idina Menzel as Kate and Alix Korey as Madelaine True.  The show was before many of these stars had their breakthroughs and showcases their raw, immense talent.  The Wild Party is one of my favorite musicals and in my opinion, it is also one of the most underrated musicals of all time.  The music is phenomenal and the storyline is enticing and exciting.  It also showcases all the personalities of the characters and talents of the actors.

The show is set in the 1920s and the main character, the beautiful and young Queenie, although she tries, cannot find a lover able to satisfy her desires.  She then meets Burrs, a vaudevillian clown with a voracious appetite for women.  Both Queenie and Burrs have now met their emotional and sexual match.  For a while, they live together happily.  Eventually, however, the relationship sours.  Burrs’ violent nature, which once thrilled Queenie, now scares her.  Still, she longs to generate the same excitement that brought them together.  She suggests a party and Burrs agrees.  This introduction sets the scene for the rest of the show.  The entire plot is over the course of one night, during the party in Queenie and Burrs’ home.  The party begins with a parade of eclectic guests: Madelaine the lesbian, Eddie the thug, Mae the dimwit, Jackie the dancer,  the brothers d’Armano, Dolores the hooker and Nadine the minor.

After the supporting characters are introduced, the other two leads enter.  The vivacious Kate arrives with her new friend, Mr. Black, who Queenie plans to make a move on.  Mr. Black is equally as taken to Queenie as she is to him.  It is later revealed that Kate had a plan to bring Mr. Black and Queenie together, in order to leave Burrs, whom she desires, single.  However, this simply angers Burrs and leads him to violence.  This main plot develops throughout the show.  If you’re looking for a new, jazzy musical to listen to, I highly suggest this one!

Hidden Gems: Beethoven Facsimile

Hidden Gems: Beethoven Facsimile

Hidden Gems is an exploration of the music library’s extensive selection of music scores and CD collections. Student Assistant Caroline Hana Salant reveals this week’s hidden gem: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Opus 109 Facsimile.

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The genius and influence of Ludwig van Beethoven are undeniable to the modern scholar. He wrote over 240 major pieces in his 56 years, including nine symphonies, five piano concertos, 16 string quartets, and 32 piano sonatas. Often considered “ahead of its time,” his work was critical in the historical transition from the Classical to Romantic periods of Western concert music. Though his direct influence can be found in the works of artists ranging from Mahler to Pink Floyd, many music lovers feel intimidated or even alienated by Beethoven and his legacy; he feels untouchable – deified by the constructed culture of Western music.

But, here’s the thing: Beethoven was not above hissy fits. He had them all the time, and there are even traces of him becoming annoyed with himself in his original manuscripts. This is especially evident in the manuscript for his 30th Piano Sonata.

The Sonata itself is fantastic. It contains moments of lyrical beauty, angsty intensity, and sincerity that will tug at your heartstrings. You can stream a recording of it through our streaming service here with an AU login.

As you pour over the pages of the manuscript, two things are immediately evident. The first is that Beethoven’s handwriting is all over the place. The pages are full of scrawls, swoops, and squiggles. I can make out the melody of the piece primarily by the contour of the notes rather than their actual pitch content. The forward to the manuscript, provided by musicologist Oswald Jonas, amusingly notes that “Beethoven, in sending his original manuscript to the publisher, was optimistic when he wrote in his accompanying letter (March 7, 1821), ‘My manuscript will probably be legible.’” Uhh. Sorry, buddy.

The second notable aspect of the manuscript is the plethora of cross-outs, ranging from dark and frustrated to light and loopy. Here is Beethoven, one of the great masters, changing his mind (a lot!) and getting mad at his own mess-ups. There is a would-be passage in the manuscript’s second movement where almost an entire page is blotted out. He played with, reworked, and sometimes full-on gave up on material he wrote. Through bearing witness to these processes and exasperations, we see that Beethoven, while a great composer, was also more human than we often give him credit for.

More information about the history of this piece and its original manuscript can be found in the facsimile. We have a sizeable collection of facsimiles at the Music Library, and you can check many of them out as you would any other score. I highly encourage you to explore this collection – there is much to be learned about the creative process of great artists within their pages.

 

Feature Fridays: The Grateful Dead

Feature Fridays: The Grateful Dead

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Emily Langlois reviews The Golden Road box set by The Grateful Dead.

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The Grateful Dead is known as one of the most groundbreaking psychedelic rock bands of their era. Although they are placed in the same league as The Rolling Stones and The Doors, their laid-back attitude and experimental music style allowed them to develop a uniquely dedicated fan base (aka “Deadheads”). This box set, The Golden Road, is an anthology of 10 albums recorded from 1965-1973. It also includes a booklet which provides in-depth information about the band’s beginnings, rise to fame, and impact on modern rock music up to this day.

 

The first album in the set, Birth of the Dead, is a collection of songs from their early years. Their defining sound shines through in songs such as “Early Morning Rain” and Can’t Come Down”. Unlike other guitar-heavy classic rock songs, The Grateful Dead seamlessly integrates folk and blues elements to create an upbeat yet relaxed sound. Their music can appeal to almost any listener, from those looking for pleasant background noise to even the most advanced rock n’ roll connoisseurs. My favorite album is Workingman’s Dead, one of their most acoustic pieces of work. It represented a large shift in sound for them, but the quality of its lyrics is unprecedented and complemented by the lack of synths and clashing symbols.

 

With such a diverse style, The Grateful Dead’s live and studio recordings provide something different for everyone. I highly recommend exploring their discography and finding what album is perfect for you! For those interested in classic rock anthologies, the music library is also home to box sets of The Velvet Underground, The Doors, and The Beatles.

CD Spotlight!

New this week: Kendrick Lamar Damn CD 10566

Compton rapper and Grammy award-winning artist Kendrick Lamar has made a huge impact on the Hip-Hop/Rap genre since he released his first album Section 80 in 2011. His beautiful lyricism and amazing instrumentals/beats have been praised by many. Working with a broad range of producers and instrumentalists such as Flying Lotus and Thundercat, Kendrick has made a name for himself in music history. Another thing that Kendrick is known for is his deep and personal storytelling that he has within his albums and songs.

The Pulitzer Prize Award Winning DAMN is the most recent release from Kendrick, dropping just last year. The album had some stand out singles such as “Humble,” “DNA,” and “Loyalty” which featured Rhianna. The album, unlike his previous, tells many stories from different periods of time, rather than following one collective theme like his album Good Kid/M.A.A.D. City. DAMN has some references to many controversies and the critical reception he’s had over the course of his musical career. The opening of “DNA” features the famous Fox news clip where Geraldo Rivera of Fox News comments on how harsh Kendricks lyrics are and how his BET performance might have been too provocative. It’s a brilliant work of art that showcases some old sides of Kendrick as well as a new side to his styling.

One of the best parts of Kendrick’s music is that he is not afraid to speak his mind and say what he wants to say. Same goes for every album he has made. I recommend checking out his latest studio album DAMN which is currently on the new music shelf in the Music Library! It’s worth a couple of listens.

Feature Fridays – Morning Phase by Beck

Feature Fridays – Morning Phase by Beck

Welcome to Feature Fridays! Every week, the AU music library staff will be highlighting a different CD or artist from our collection.

This week, Student Assistant Matt Francisco reviews Morning Phase by Beck.

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Beck has been known since the 90s for his wide range of musical skill and the creativity within his songwriting. His discography is quite dynamic and ranges from sample-based breakbeat hits to soft rock ballads and psychedelic melodies. His 2014 release Morning Phase ditches the spirit of his more experimental work, marking a return to the soft-rock, singer-songwriter hits of Sea Change. The result is a solid, ubiquitous album that blends his talented production work with excellent musicianship and songwriting.

The opening track of the album, “Cycle” is a soft but grand string overture that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The strong build of beautiful string chords leads straight into the second track: “Morning”– a slow ballad that echoes the title of the album. This intro to the album shows Beck’s talent for creating an atmosphere– within the first few seconds, the listener is immediately immersed into the feeling of a bright, sun-drenched morning– a feeling quite familiar to Beck and his hometown of L.A. As a result, the record already feels warm, welcoming, and strangely familiar to any listener.

Other highlights– such as “Blue Moon” and “Blackbird Chain” are well worth the listen as well. Both include his signature immersive production style, but incorporate classic folk and rock elements. The result is a very deep, full sound that’s a welcome addition in reference to older, more classic music genres. It adds to the familiar, homey style, but adds a more modern interest.

Altogether, Beck’s recent album Morning Phase is quite remarkable, and is definitely worth checking out!