Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Thanks to my sister’s amazingly eclectic and wonderful musical tastes, I listened to the Sugarcubes in middle school; so, naturally I bought Bjork’s first couple solo records. For whatever reasons, they never really grabbed me, as much as I had loved the Sugarcubes. Maybe for the same reasons Kate Bush didn’t grab me until I was 24; too “out there”? Not really sure, but whenever one truly discovers particular artists, it’s almost always worth the wait.

For many years, I’ve been a bit contemptuous of Bjork and her fans, because as a member of the musician community, it’s seemed very trendy and cool to love Bjork. See: http://www.bjorkestra.com/, formed by a former grad-school-classmate of my husband’s. And I guess it’s in my nature to be suspicious of trendiness, but that’s my own issue.

In an attempt to get some new music going in my headphones, I pulled out a couple of my husband’s Bjork records, and I was pretty much immediately blown away. The creativity, the sounds, the lyrics, the textures and imagination. Bjork has been written and talked about ad nauseam, so I’ll just say that I think she’s an amazing role model for people in general, but especially for young women in the age of Miley Cyrus. Listen to Bjork’s music, experience her live performances – she is totally worth it.


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There aren’t too many Joni Mitchell covers I really love — even Tori’s “A Case of You” (or KD Lang’s, for that matter) doesn’t quite cut it for me.  But I really love Austra’s version of “Woodstock.”  Joni’s music is pretty untouchable — it’s on a plane higher, more evolved musically and lyrically than most people can hope for either from themselves as musicians or as listeners.  But somehow the level of emotion and awe and earnestness in Austra’s cover is totally right-on.  So different from the original, yet totally capturing the essence of what the song is all about — hope, revolution, peace, transformation, epiphany of and through a new way of looking at life.  Katie Stelmanis of Austra and Joni are both Canadians, for what it’s worth.

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Unfortunately, I can’t stand WNYC’s John Schaefer, BUT to his credit, he has introduced me to a small handful of incredibly awesome bands, including this one, Austra.  Austra is lead by Canadian singer/pianist/musician, Katie Stelmanis.  The group is sort of 80s New Wave meets 2012.  I could cite a band or two that I think fall into a vaguely similar category, but I’m trying not to do that these days, because I feel like it pigeon-holes bands.  The music I love is generally one or both of the following: extremely emotionally charged (think: Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, the Cure) or other-wordly (think: Kate Bush, David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, Florence +the Machine), and I think Austra falls somewhere in the middle of these two.  Visually, they’re a bit eccentric (I mean, what is with those pretty twins dancing on the sidelines anyway???), but the whole presentation enhances their uniqueness.  The girl drummer with the deadpan look and the glasses?  Awesomeness.  The music is atmospheric, moody, usually thick in texture, and just beautiful all around.  Oh, and danceable.  🙂  A friend or two has tried to introduce me to some current bands that are popular these days with people with tastes similar to mine: Interpol and Band of Horses, for example.  BOR-ING.  Austra is NOT boring.  Their sounds make for great running music, and they remind me what music can be — powerful, emotional, visceral, imaginative.  Austra is great.  Check them out.  “Darken Her Horse,” by the way, starts very slowly — almost like a religious chant for the two minutes or so — and then it kicks into full New Wave glory!  Enjoy.

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I never thought I’d say this, but I am HUGELY relieved to have – for the first time in my life, starting this September – a regularly scheduled, Monday-Friday, 8 AM – 4 PM job.  Yes, a real job!  Consistency, benefits, paid holidays, health insurance…but most importantly — regular and PREDICTABLE hours!  As a musician (and yes, this is indeed a music job), I pretty much never thought this would appeal to me so much.  My reasons are below.  (I hope this post doesn’t come off as my just wanting to write about myself…it’s really to show a fresh perspective on musicians becoming employed in a way that leads to consistency.  What a novel idea!) 😉

I did 12 years of higher education, 11 years of which were spent making money with a variety of colorful (or boring) jobs, most notably teaching part-time at 3 different music academies (these were not the boring jobs, trust me!), a couple music festivals, gigging, and doing a too-brief 3-semester stint as NYU adjunct.  None of the above brought me very much money, with the exception of a relatively small handful of gigs that were fun, rewarding, and quite memorable.  Now, money was never a reason for going into music.  It sounds cliche, but let’s face it — unless you want and actually have the ability to be Yo Yo Ma or Paul McCartney — the money may or may not be okay…maybe “decent” is a better word.  I went through a couple years where I was gigging and teaching a lot, and got enormous satisfaction from actually getting by as a “working musician,” all the while moving towards finishing my last degree.  So it’s totally do-able, and I know some musicians around my age who appear to be extremely successful at doing what they do best — being musicians.  So this blog is not to get dark on being a musician or to sound woeful about the difficulties of being a freelancer.  BUT…it’s a hard life for most of us, I’m not gonna lie.

But believe it or not, money is not the main motivation in my deciding to write this.  What bugs me beyond belief and is literally the bane of my existence?  SCHEDULING.  Scheduling anything!  Gigs, rehearsals, social plans, trips, time with my husband, time to see our families.  It’s all an uphill battle.  Now, granted some of this is because I had to take a very irregular “day job” (quotations are appropriate because I basically work the night shift at this freakin’ place), which has me on a different schedule every week.  But nonetheless, scheduling has always, always, always been difficult.  Why?  Because there has never — NEVER — been any sort of regularity with my schedule.  Sure, I taught Mondays for 5 years.  But other than that?  Forget about it.  Always different.  Always stressful.  A friend emails to get together?  Oh gosh.  So difficult scheduling things that are really, at the end of the day, so terribly important.

So a “9-5”?  Now, my future “9-5” does not involve my being in a cubicle or spending excessive time on the computer (at least, I don’t think so) or sitting alone for long periods of time under florescent lights.  It’s music-oriented, has me taking my cello to work, teaching, playing, working with people, that kind of thing, which sounds so wonderful to me.  I was hired because of my qualifications, so there’s automatically a nice feeling of having been hired for the “right” reasons.  But what is a key thing I am most looking forward to?  A friend calling me to get together and here is my response: “I’m back in the city by 5:30-ish Monday-Friday…oh!  And I have Good Friday off, so why don’t we get together then?  Or maybe the following Wednesday around 7:00?  8th Street Wine Cellar?  Perfect, let’s do it!”  Or someone calls me for a Saturday gig.  My answer: “Sure, I’m always free Saturdays!  And ya know what?  Your group should play at my new place of work!  I’ll try to work that out!”  Omg.  Could it get any better?!?!

My husband and I have occasionally knocked 9-5-ers I think because we’ve viewed that lifestyle as “settling” in some way.  Like it’s boring or it doesn’t represent the “artistic life” or the “passionate life.”  There may be some truth to that, I’m not gonna lie.  But I think everyone reaches their limit on unpredictability — what will January look like?  What will April look like?  Well, we just don’t know, do we?  Ugh, I’m over it!   I’m a Taurus, I know, but still!  So stressful!

I’ll re-evaluate my “9-5” after I’ve been in it for a while, but in the meantime, I am VERY excited about the prospect of a new way of life, and I feel very, very lucky right now.  And I think my free time will be creatively utilized, thanks to these scheduling regularties…  To be continued…

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Our fat & festive tree...plus glowing cat eyes at right.

Rather than therapeutically writing about the inevitable “post Christmas blues,” which undoubtedly will befall many an individual in just a week or so from today, I’ve decided to revel in the beauty of the season by creating a “best of” list for this Christmas.  If you’re looking for a new cookie, a new Xmas CD, a new festive drink, a new holiday scented bath product, a new holiday date spot, (oh, and a way to possibly beat the post-holiday doldrums) look no further!  Well, at least here are some ideas…

1.  Music: John Erickson’s “A Feeling of Christmas” is one I highly recommend for peaceful piano tunes most likely in the jazz category.  There are a couple cheezy renditions, but for the most part, I absolutely love this record, particularly his versions of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Greensleeves,” and “Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming.”  Our bass-player friend Patrick Williams gave us the record last year…and he’s on it!  🙂

2.  More music: Frank Wallace’s “Joy: Carols & Songs for a Season of Light.”  Peaceful, Renaissance-influenced guitar music.  Absolutely fabulous, beautiful, peaceful…

(I still think Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas is my fave of all-time…)

3.  Cookies/treats: the famous Riley Holiday Nuggets (top secret recipe), but I will share a recipe I recently acquired from my good friend, Angie.  Sandwich a peppermint patty between 2 Ritz crackers; coat with melted chocolate (preferably “almond bark,” which is apparently better for coating and NO, it does not have almonds in it).  Let the cookies dry on wax paper and store in an air-tight container.  They don’t sound like my kind of thing AT ALL – I mean…Ritz crackers??? – but these are…in a word…superb.  TRY THEM!  Or at least take them to a Xmas or New Year’s party when you don’t have time for in-depth baking.

4.  Candles: holiday scented candles from Bath & Body works.  Ever since Illuminations went out of business a couple years ago, I’ve been searching for a truly wondrous scented candle.  Look no further, Bath & Body Works is the way to go.  They also have these beautiful ceramic shapes — pumpkins, acorns, apples, pine cones.  They’ve been gracing chez Rigby since October.  They had some pretty sweet sales online recently, so check it out.

5.  Drink: Riley Cranberry spice tea with Jameson.  3 parts cranberry, 1 part water & a splash of OJ if you have it on hand.  2-3 Constant Comment teabags and or mulling spice sack.  Sliced oranges.  Cinnamon stick.  Liberal sprinkles of nutmeg, cinnamon, &  whole cloves.  This is fine without the booze as well, but nothing warms a winter night like Jameson.  You could also use Maker’s Mark, of course.

6.  Decor: Strands of white/clear Moravian star lights.  This is our favorite piece of holiday decor.  You can hang them anywhere.  Since we do colored lights on our tree, we take the Moravians off the lights on which they come and put them on the colored lights.  (See photo.)  Ours came from the Winterthur catalog maybe 3-4 years ago, but I’m having a very hard time finding them online.  I’m sure they’re out there, so it’s worth the search.  Moravian stars in general are just gorgeous, so I think every home should have one.  🙂

7.  Arts/dance/theater: the 1977 version of the Nutcracker with Baryshnikov & Gelsey Kirkland.  This is the one I grew up watching…as many of us did!  🙂  Kirkland looks bizarre, but I really think this is THE quintessential Nutcracker.  Almost all of it is on youtube, but I think this is a DVD worth owning.

8.  Movie for all ages: Polar Express.  I have a rather lengthy list of holiday favorites, most of which I’ve been watching since the 80s, but Polar Express is one of my relatively new faves.  What a beauty!

9.  Movie for little ones: Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.  This is a fantastic, fun, imaginative film that Jim Henson & his ingenious team did back in the early 80s as an HBO special.  It is just wonderful!  I still have such fun watching it.  And be sure to watch the special features.  Frank Oz (Miss Piggy, Yoda, etc) originally did the voice of Ma Otter.

10. Beauty: Holiday scented shower gels & hand soaps from Bath & Body Works OR Philosophy.  I highly recommend Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin & Twisted Peppermint from Bath & Body Works…and just about anything from Philosophy (available at Sephora or philosophy.com).  Superb!  Also, any holiday scented handmade soaps off ebay.  They are easy to find…and cheap!

11. Manhattan holiday date-spot: Bin 71 or Barcibo (and/or the soon-to-open Bar’rique).  I found myself unexpectedly at Bin last night & it was just super cozy & candlelit & I ordered one of my favorite wintertime meals — meatballs in a lemon broth with crusty bread.  I can’t speak more highly of these places & they are so wonderful in the wintertime.  Cozy up to your sweetheart & enjoy!  Bin is on Columbus & 71st (SE corner) and Barcibo is on Broadway & 69th (NE corner).  The soon-to-be-open Bar’rique is on Bleecker & Cornelia.

12.  Asheville, NC holiday date spot: the lobby at the Grove Park Inn…or (if you’re lucky) a ROOM at the Grove Park Inn!  (wink, wink…)  I’m unfortunately only in Asheville a handful of times a year, but this is a go-to spot for hanging with friends and loved ones, esp. at Christmastime when GP goes all-out with its decorating.  There is also a beautiful spa there as well as shops, Christmas stores, restaurants, etc.  It’s an Asheville gem!

13. International Christmas destination: York, England.  The most Christmasey place I’ve ever been to!  Jason and I went there on our honeymoon and it was like stepping into Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.”  Beautiful, charming, interesting medieval town…they know how to do Christmas there.

14. Swanky gift-buying spot for gals & metrosexuals: L’Occitane.  This is my new favorite beauty supply place, though I really can’t afford anything there.  But…if you need a luxurious, swanky gift with absolutely gorgeous holiday gift wrap, check out L’Occitane.  They’re usually generous with their samples as well, which one can certainly pocket.  For more CRAFTY gifts, check out etsy.com.  Esp. the tattoo tights!  🙂

15.  Beating the post-Christmas blues: I really don’t have a fool-proof solution for this except to create things to look forward to in the new year.  This year for me they are: SNOW, starting up ballet classes again, maybe starting riding again, SNOW, becoming a stronger runner, seeing lots more of my family…oh, and snow.  🙂

Merry Christmas!

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pure awesomeness

Purely from a musical perspective (interpersonal dynamics aside), if there’s any band I would really, really love to be in, it would be Rasputina.  I have what could be construed as a corny, melodramatic glow-in-the-dark Rasputina sticker on my cello case, which says “Cello Magic” with a beautiful graphic of an eye, plus two bows crossed a la pirate swords.  I brandish it on my case because I kind of feel like it gets to the root of my love of the cello & my idea of the “perfect artistic-musical-theatrical aesthetic.”  The cello is a dark magic, and anyone who appreciates this type of aesthetic knows exactly what I’m talking about.  And Rasputina embodies that pretty head-on.

I first discovered them my freshman year of college back in 1998, in the throes of my first “real” romantic relationship…In fact, every time I listen to Rasputina’s masterpiece, “Thanks for the Ether,” I can’t help but remember heading home to Asheville in unceasing tears because my older, French-cellist boyfriend had dumped me.  Oh, the angst!  …I know…we’ve all been there.   I still find, “Rusty the Skatemaker,” one of the most beautiful tunes ever composed, but I’ll never forget the tragedy associated with that song!  Trust me, I can laugh about it.  But the song remains one of my favorites of all time.  What a moment in the history of the cello, along with “Any Old Actress,” off the same record.  I still find “Thanks for the Ether” to be my favorite Rasputina record.  I also love “Oh Perilous World.”  I mean, I love all their stuff, but “Thanks for the Ether” seems to have the most classical influence, which also seems to have the creepiest, coolest, most melancholic effect.

Being such a versatile instrument, cello is used in so many genres & in so many different ways.  But I really think that Rasputina has done something with the cello that is very specific and very beautiful: it’s a very particular sound, particular style, of which the genre seems for the most part relatively undefinable…I mean, unless you want to call it “slightly gothy, neo-classical/romantic, melancholic, melodramatic poetic rock.”  It kind of takes you to a different time, a different century, and I don’t think it’s because of Melora Creager’s taste for corsets & Victorian boots.  This probably sounds so incredibly cliche to those who are into this kind of aesthetic, but seriously — it’s like Tim Burton meets Neil Gaiman meets Edgar Allen Poe meets Sylvia Plath meets the Bach D minor Suite for solo cello meets the Shostakovich 1st cello concerto….embellished with sexy 19th-century female attire and a really, really unique female singer.

Anyway, I love, love, love Rasputina & I was happy to discover that their newest cellist, Daniel DeJesus, is a bad ass cellist & a great singer.

In Old Yellowcake…such a bad ass song (good running song + a nice “celli soli” section of sorts):

“Any Old Actress” off Rasputina’s groundbreaking record, “Thanks for the Ether”:

Rusty the Skatemaker:

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The monks...when they sing in tune, they're amazing, esp. Dave Gahan at right

Big Dave -- hard to beat his guitar playing, but what a voice!!!

Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater – what a voice!

The last time I sang (like, really sang — not singing Suzuki cello pieces to students during their lessons) was in Mr. Kerlee’s fifth grade chorus…we did  “All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” among other gems.  Mr. Kerlee was the best.  🙂

Anyway, despite my die-hard fandom for female artists such as Tori, Joni, & Kate Bush, I do indeed love, love, love beautiful male vocals.  And to be honest, I’d say my interest in female musicians vs. male musicians is probably split down the middle…or at least 60-40.  I mean, who in my family can ever forget my obsession with Joe Perry, Robert Smith, or Dave Gilmour?  Sting made his way in there too, probably before his days of tantric yoga and “adult contemporary pop.”

But I really do indeed find myself incredibly moved by beautiful male voices, I think perhaps because I’m such a girl’s girl, and to hear men be so expressive & vulnerable yet powerful sounding can be profoundly moving.

Okay, so here it goes…I get particular amusement from this because I really don’t know much about vocal ranges, who goes where in the chorus, etc., so I’m kind of guessing here.

1. Tenor/high tenor: Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater — stunning voice, sometimes heavenly, sweet & church-choir-esque, sometimes powerful & angry & sensual.  What a range!

2. Tenor/Baritone: Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd — such a beautiful, tender yet masculine voice.  Just check out Comfortably Numb.  Ahhh….

3. Baritone 1: Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance — one of the most gorgeous, spiritual, & sexy male voices I’ve ever heard.  Ah!

4. Baritone 2: David Bowie…need I say more?  Oooooohhhhhh…..(He can also pull off tenor, yes?)

5. Baritone 3: Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode — I always thought the guys from Depeche Mode sounded a bit like monks chanting to 80s electronica.  So ideally, we could get all of them together, including Alan Wilder who left the band in the early 90s.  The other guys would be tenors, I guess.

6. Last but not least, Bass: Jason Rigby.  Gorgeous voice & a ton of character.  Perhaps surprisingly, he has some serious singing experience under his belt…though I do believe he would not want me to disclose the details of said experience.  In any event, he is a wonderful singer and has a bad ass ear!!!!  Oh, and theatrical inclinations which could only enhance any group.  No question, he would be in this stellar set-up.

One of the best performances ever, by anybody, in my opinion.  Listen to that voice!  It’s a slow burn, but man, he is amazing in this…

And for those of you with more spiritual inclinations, this is amazing.  Again, what a voice!  I think he may be singing in Aramaic here.  This also features Lisa Gerrard (also of Dead Can Dance) who sings on the Gladiator soundtrack for what it’s worth.  Brendan Perry’s voice is soooooo beautiful.  I really think he sounds like a much, much better Eddie Vedder.  I think EV surely listened to Brendan for inspiration, which time-wise, would have made sense.

And last but not least, Depeche mode singing “Everything Counts.”  Pardon the idiot American roadies in the beginning.  Ugh.  Anyway, Dave Gahan’s singing is stellar in this, as is the rest of the band’s.  At 1:52 they have a beautiful singing moment.  Long live the 80s. (Martin Gore’s outfit at 1:39 is my fave of the whole video!)  haha…

So who would be in your group?….:-)

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