Archive for the ‘ideas & thoughts’ Category

Circa 1982 (Pornography era)

Back in 2000/2001-ish I was asked to play for a band called Asciento, based in Boston/Somerville, MA, because they wanted to cover the Cure’s “Pornography” in its entirety, and specifically for the song, “Cold,” they wanted cello.  Being a long-time (and no doubt obsessive) Cure fan, and a huge fan of black leather clothing and dark make-up, I, without hesitation, said “yes.”  And I’m really glad I did, because it led to many musical revelations & interesting relationships from which I learned a great deal.

In middle and high school, I was a huge fan of “Disintegration,” “Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me,” “the Head on the Door,” and “Standing on a Beach: the Singles,” plus some others.  Some of the older stuff, like “Pornography,” was a bit too…well, I don’t know…it wasn’t quite accessible enough to my teenage ears.  A bit too dark maybe (hard to believe since I love all things dark, but really….this record is going into the depths of the darkest dark), a bit too repetitive in a minimalist New-Wavey kind of way…a bit too obscure with the lyrics, at least for my brain at the time…but through that performance in 2000/2001 and through just maturing as a musician and an avid listener, well, I just love this record.  Some of the songs have a similar rhythmic/tempo feel, so it almost feels like the songs run together a bit.  But I think that’s part of what makes it interesting.  I find it sensitive, angsty, depressing, torturous, moving, and fraught with the deepest feeling.  And it’s honest.  Robert Smith has always been tremendously honest, I think.  He’s not trying to be anyone but himself, he’s not trying to be trendy or to fit in with anyone or anything…he doesn’t really sound like anyone but himself.  The Cure sounds like the Cure.  No question about it.  And I think this record is unbelievably unique.  “Siamese Twins” is probably the most depressing song I’ve ever heard…but man, what a beautiful song.  The record kind of grooves on itself; it’s not over-done, there’s not a whole lot going on except for dense sound & grooves.  Robert Smith is heartfelt as ever, in the most honest way.  I think this record is a masterpiece.

What an opener (omg, holy 80s)”

Almost danceable…”Short Term Effect”

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I recently read an article entitled “Birth of the Uncool: in Defense of the Tori Amos Fan” via Bitch magazine (http://bitchmagazine.org/article/birth-of-the-uncool).  Great article and sort of hit the nail on the head of something that has been rather a mystery to me the last, say, 6 years or so — that Tori really has become “uncool.”  Now, I never, NEVER loved Tori because she was considered “cool,” but yes, I did indeed have a pretty hearty group of friends & aquaintances who appreciated her, particularly in the mid-late ninties & about up to 2003-ish.  Then suddenly my Tori stickers on my cello case seemed…well, less cool.  But especially as a musician, I can’t help myself — I LOVE her.  And will forever.  She is the ultimate consummate musician and a total bad ass.  Her music has been my best friend through every major event in my life since 1995.  What more can I say, her music has changed my life.  And “cool” or not, it is worth considering.  It is worth revisiting.

I’ve already written (probably ad nauseum) about Tori and how awesome she is, but I really think the music speaks for itself.  I STILL think she is a phenomenal pianist, though I’m far more impressed with her material from the 90s – her live material, mostly – than from anything since Scarlet’s Walk.  But man, she is awesome.  Her playing, her voice, her timing, her originality of lyrics & compositional techniques (see: Springtime of His Voodoo, etc.) her natural feel for rhythm and nuance of phrase.  One word: superb.  Take this live clip from 1994…sorry, no Regina Spektor or (god forbid) Lady Gaga comes close.  (Trust me, I have FAR more respect for Regina than Gaga, no doubt, man!) http://www.hereinmyhead.com/sounds/files/bees/UpsideDown_LiveInBoston1994.mp3

I think the important thing to me, as a musician, is that no one sounds like Tori.  Her piano style and vocal style are totally hers.  Sure, sometimes her high range may echo Kate Bush or Joni Mitchell, particularly with the piano material accompanying it.  But really, they are all so incredibly different that the comparison may not really be fair.  Perhaps such a comparison is just cliche.

Who knows why Bjork is trendy with professional musicians & Tori is considered a little quirky & “uncool”

My sister did this as a CD cover. 🙂

.  Doesn’t seem like a fair evaluation, but the masses are a tricky bunch.  I would actually much prefer that jazz musicians NOT do Tori covers…oh geez, let’s pray that doesn’t happen (and I absolutely love many, many branches of jazz, so that’s no offense here)…but it would mean that Tori had indeed become…well, trendy.  So Bjork can hold that place, and that’s cool.  😉

Tori’s music speaks for itself…Nevermind the crazy, tribal dance at the beginning…and the scrunchy.  Tori rules:

A different era, but totally awesome:

One more clip; my favorite Y Kant Tori Read song and a great “running mix” addition.  80s Tori rules:

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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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Examining data...and probably reaching a state of perplexedness at some lame-o sentence I wrote 2 years ago...

I’ve decided to include a relatively small blurb on the research I am undertaking for my PhD.  My blog, as many of you know, began as a purely fun endeavor, a way to talk (and perhaps dialog with people) about things in life about which I am passionate…namely, music, food, & wine, with the occasional nature or holiday-inspired essay.

Now I’ve decided to include some information regarding my dissertation research, perhaps mostly for people close to me who aren’t 100% sure of what I’m doing exactly.  Totally understandable, no doubt.  I wake up each day with the assumption that most people’s eyes will glaze over the second I start talking about said research.

But I am also doing this for the cellists who agreed to be part of this study and were so generous with their time and were so articulate in discussing their experiences with music, school, and improvising.

Please be aware: the following is a synopsis and only begins to touch on the purposes behind my research.  It is actually very helpful to me to be able to summarize this without a tremendous amount of explanation.

My research deals with issues of ideology, hegemony, resistance, and identity construction in the experiences of classically trained cellist-improvisers.  Through interviews with five cellists, I investigate how identity construction is related to performativity (that is, actually performing music, though ‘performativity’ refers to much more than just that) and also to established institutional hegemonies, namely the hegemony of classical music indoctrinated in conservatory training.

To clarify: Certain groups constitute counter-hegemonies,meaning that they resist the established paradigms (“norms”) inherent in the ideology.  (I keep thinking of the Sex Pistols, so those who know them…well, keep that in mind).  Through this “resistance,” their identities evolve and subsequently new paradigms evolve, and the established systems (i.e. music conservatories in this case) are challenged.  By examining the existing ideologies–and also by understanding how and why certain groups choose to challenge certain hegemonies within the ideologies–we can move forward and transform reality through critical ways of being (thinking, reading, listening, performing, acting).  If we can understand our individual realities as directly relating to the intricacies of our history, background, education, etc., we can see ourselves in the broader scope of society.  Through this understanding, change can occur on personal and institutional levels.

Moral of the story: roll with the times…and if you don’t, someone or something is going to push you out of the way, rendering you obsolete.  …I could quote Bob Dylan here, but I’ll refrain…okay, okay, it’s just too perfect:

The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast

The slow one now will later be fast

As the present now will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin’

And the first one now will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’

So I would like to thank the cellists who are involved in this project.  My research wouldn’t be what it is without the experiences of these musicians:

1. Stephanie Winters

2. Will Martina

3. Tomas Ulrich

4. Jody Redhage

5. Daniel Levin

(I will do another blog post, if they’re in favor of my including them, that will give more information on them as individuals, their work, etc.).

Gotta love Butler!

Butler's Gender Trouble - key source for exploring issues of identity construction

Gramsci, Freire, & Adult Education: Possibilities for Transformative Action

Paulo Freire...please don't be worried that this has the word "oppressed" in the title...I realize the text is backwards thanks to my computer's 'photo booth.' The book is called Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Afterthought:  All my life I have been fascinated by institutions and people who went against the grain (pardon the cliche).  Kids who talked back to teachers, the “alternative” crowd at Reynolds High School in Asheville, NC, of which my sister was a part (and I would have been a part had I not gone through that rebellion rather early on), the punk movement, any music that sounded innovative to my ears, sex stores geared towards women’s freedom & education,  you name it.  I tend to be attracted to most things considered to be “on the fringes”…with the exception of the hipster “movement”…wait, is it even a movement?  I mean, come on.  And sadly, the impression I get is that hipsters love to think they’re “on the fringes,” but they’re just fooling themselves.  And maybe I’m fooling myself, but I’ve always felt like an outsider.  And as I get a little older, I realize how much I appreciate that about myself.  And even more importantly than that, how much I appreciate that in other people.  And now I’m lucky enough to be writing about people who are literally changing the course of history.

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If there’s any blog post that may arouse my fear of seeming narcissistic, it’s this one…sorry!  This is my going-into-the-new-year reflections, therapeutic perspectives, etc.  But I couldn’t pass the holiday season without a tribute to the many sides of this time of year.

Harkening back to the dog days of summer, I have to say August is my least favorite month of the year.  Way too hot, the city seems to lack its usual hustle-bustle, there’s usually not as much gig work, etc., etc.  BUT…I do often find myself traveling in August, either to my parents’ house in Asheville or to my in-laws’ in beautiful Bath, Ohio.  And the last two summers I was lucky enough to head to Trinidad for two weeks, and for work no less!  I digress…one of the really nice things about August is that fall is right around the corner.  When I get to the end of the month, it’s like, YES!  Thank GOD summer is almost over!  And then there’s September with the same kind of early-fall anticipation, (plus I usually feel like September is really my ‘new year’), then beautiful, golden October, November with the first cold-weather runs, hot cider on the stove & Thanksgiving, and alas, the gloriousness of December and its festive spirit.  So basically from August on, I’m pretty darn happy.  Oct., Nov., Dec. constitute the most beautiful (and fun-filled) months of the year if only from a visual/nature-inspired perspective.

So how does one get his/her head around the months following all of this beauty & anticipation???  Lucky for me, I LOVE winter.  I mean, I LOVE it.  I live for it.  I don’t mind the short days, I don’t mind bundling up, I very, very, very rarely have to deal with any sort of winter driving, and I think we’ve only had to dig our car out a small handful of times…and I don’t remember minding it one bit since I love snow so much.  I think I probably spent a few former incarnations in Scandinavia or Russia…or Canada.  So the winter thing is not an issue.  I suppose it starts to get old when you’re still frigid in March, but leading up to that, I’m totally fine.

But every year — and I mean, every year, I have a bit of post-Christmas doldrums.  I always try to beat it, and I think the last couple years I’ve done a good job.  I was talking to Jason about this, and we agreed that it’s easier now that we have each other.  It used to be that we would respectively spend a good chunk of time at our parents’ house at Christmas, then reluctantly head back to the city…alone.  So it does indeed make a big difference heading back with each other to our cozy apartment and our super super sweet baby kitties.  🙂  This year also I’m lucky enough that my fabulous in-laws, George & Eileen, are coming to NYC for new year’s eve, so that keeps the spice going.  They are truly fabulous!   And we are actually heading to Ohio later in January to formally celebrate Christmas with them…so this may actually be a year when Christmas does indeed go on for quite a while.  I mean, we’re obviously not going to ditch our date with the Polar Express in George & Eileen’s super cozy basement just because it’s January!

But sadly the question remains…how do I get over missing Mom & Dad, Mom & Dad’s house, the festive spirit, the music, the feeling of anticipation, etc., etc., etc.  Here is the answer:


Which equals: me hunkered down with my computer while it’s windy and frigid outside, a steaming cup of hot chocolate to my right, Pickles on the table standing guard over the library books I’ve had in my possession for at least a year, Burnzee curled up on the couch, Shmoo no where to be found…and maybe some hot apple cider brewing on the stove, fingers typing away furiously.

And really, for me this year, that’s the answer.  And I’m turning 30 in April too, so am hoping to do some serious springtime celebrating!

And my hopes for 2010 and next Christmas?  My number one wish is that my mom’s health continues to improve…which it has – dramatically- these last few months.  Other than that – and that’s BIG – I do indeed hope I am completely 100% finished with anything & everything school-related.  I hope for Jason that his artistic pursuits continue to move in the direction of his ultimate dreams.  I hope to spend lots of time with my beautiful niece who is hands-down the world’s cutest, most gorgeous baby, and I am so incredibly excited to see her grow. As for Asheville/Ohio logistics of next holiday season, my number one wish is that we do what we’ve done in previous years, which is to fit it all in!  I wouldn’t mind doing new year’s in Asheville next year, but we’ll have to see.

So I’m putting my writing hat on, and wishing everyone a happy 2010!  Thanks to everyone for a fabulous holiday season!  Let’s all beat the post-holiday doldrums and embrace the glories of winter.  There are indeed many.  🙂

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Blogs… narcissistic?

I’m having tremendous fun with my blog, but I’m starting to wonder if it seems narcissistic.  I had a lovely dinner with my good friend Angie the other night at Cafe du Soleil (Broadway & 104) and if I’m remembering the details of the conversation correctly, she said that if she did a blog she would want it to have a specific focus.  My friend/colleague, Joe Phillips, is a composer/conductor, and he has a blog exclusively devoted to his ensemble, Numinous.  It’s very impressive, informative, and quite to-the-point: http://numinousmusic.blogspot.com/

My blog, on the other hand, is really just my ramblings about things I love.  I guess that’s okay.  I’ve been trying to make it somewhat ‘informative’ in a pragmatic sort of way — recipes, restaurant recommendations, wine recommendations, etc.  Who will find it interesting other than those very close to me?  Probably no one except for the rogue Tori Amos fanatic who comes across my Tori-related postings via google searches.  But would that even happen?  Not sure.

Am still wrestling with this question of narcissism online.  In the meantime, way to go to all those brave souls doing the NYC marathon today!  I’m jealous, but my five-miler was just fine.  🙂

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A close friend of mine made a comment a few years back that she didn’t get the idea of blogs, because creating one assumes that people find you interesting enough that they would even care to read.  In a way, I agree, so I started pondering this idea of, “ok, why am I doing this?”  The original spark was really that I thought my sister & I should do a blog exclusively devoted to cooking, but then I thought of all the other things about which I am so passionate.  I mean, people even have blogs devoted to their doctoral research!  So I’m thinking of this more as a diary of sorts and a way to share ideas about things that are fascinating & important to me.  I’ve been enjoying a couple colleagues’ blogs recently too, which also got me started on this.  Would love to start dialogs too.  I guess that’s part of the idea of a blog…  Happy fall!

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