Archive for the ‘music’ Category

From "Hounds of Love"

I was pleased to come across a series of youtube videos, all featuring this person’s “greatest” Kate Bush selections — “greatest song,” “greatest cover version,” “greatest video,” etc.  What a discovery!  I’m fairly obsessed with Kate Bush.  She is the coolest of the cool, the most beautiful of the beautiful, the most original of the original and just super duper interesting and bad ass all around.  Such an inspiration!  Enjoy!  (Just for the record, this person’s “greatest song” is NOT what I would consider her greatest song, nor is it the best version…but it’s still super cool.)  🙂  Something to take extra note of, if you’re interested — the “greatest lyrics” was inspired by Joyce’s “Ulysses.”  🙂

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Just for fun, I’m adding my favorite line from each record.  🙂

1. Tori Amos, “Boys for Pele”: passionate, dark, improvisational, beautiful, innovative

“Don’t make me scratch on your door, I never left you for a banjo, I only just turned around for a poodle and a Corvette, and my impression of my best Angie Dickinson…”

2. Kate Bush, “Hounds of Love”: epic, symphonic, inventive, moving, revolutionary

“It breaks the cage, and fear escapes and takes possession, just like a crowd rioting inside.”

3. The Beatles, “the White Album”: imaginative, quirky, colorful, crafted, eclectic

“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping, while my guitar gently weeps.  I look at you all, still my guitar gently weeps.”

4. Joni Mitchell, “Blue”: intimate, cozy, lyrical, nuanced, unforgettable

“Born with the moon in Cancer.  Choose her a name she will answer to.  Call her green for the children who’ve made her.  Little green, be a gypsy dancer.”

5. Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon”: trippy, atmospheric, memorable, nuanced, intriguing

“Forward he cried from the rear and the front rank died.  And the general sat and the lines on the map moved from side to side.”

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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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While this may in some ways appear to be a review of sorts, it’s really not, at least not in the sense that I’m out to critique.  This is my opportunity to recommend a musician & group that are truly stellar.  I absolutely love Daniel’s music, and this is sincerely a record you want to check out this year.  I did indeed play cello on it, but I’ve played for dozens of groups/recordings & this one truly stands out.  Daniel’s music is original, heartfelt, passionate, imaginative, fun, at times dark…it really spans quite a spectrum of color & emotion.  I don’t know how to categorize it, and I’m not sure Daniel himself knows exactly either…which is part of what makes it so interesting.  There are elements of rock, pop, folk, and musical theater present — generally with a piano-based groove.  The singers are male and female, there are strings, guitars, and an incredible beat box-percussionist, Shockwave Sullivan.

Every element of this record is beautifully crafted.  Not sure I’ve ever heard a song as beautiful or moving as “Other People’s Photographs” and “Travelling III” (Sitting with My Distance Reprise) makes me happy to be a string player.  Everyone sounds absolutely beautiful on this album.

I’m normally pretty verbose with my writing, but all I have left to say is…listen to this record.  You won’t be disappointed.  And “like” it on facebook if you have a sec.  Enjoy!




“Blue Bottle Collection is singer-songwriter Daniel Zaitchik’s unique, multi voiced, dream inducing band. Daniel (voice/piano) is joined by Jeremy Bass (voice/guitar), Nathan Tysen (voice/guitar/harmonica), Carey Anderson (voice), Whitney Bashor (voice), Jody Flader (voice), Emily Walton (voice), and Chris Sullivan (beatbox/percussion.)  Also featured on our first EP, This Evening, and our upcoming album, Summer of The Soda Fountain Girls, are violinist Kate Mollica, cellist Lauren Riley Rigby, bassist Rob Jost, and percussionist/guitarist Michael Croiter.”

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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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Stonewall Kitchen peach-amaretto jam next to a Big French Haut-Medoc

Jason's chana saag + some arugula

Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer (Pickles at left)

The plank pose (not me in the photo obviously)

One of Henry Giroux's books

Maria Bonnevie from the film "I am Dina"

A beautiful view from Kennebunkport, Maine (the only thing missing from this picture are cliff-dwelling pugs)

Cat photography: Mr. Fernzee having a blissed-out moment

So my blog-skeptic friends would take one look at this and say something to the effect of, “why would you think people would find your ‘best of” list to be remotely interesting?”  Said question implies, of course, that bloggers are narcissistic enough to have the audacity to think other people would be interested in what they think.  I totally see the point.  Alas, considering the only people who read my blog (I think) are members of my immediate family and pretty close friends…I mean, if any of them wrote this sort of list, you better bet I’d be interested.  Ya know?

So anyway, spring this year has been pretty special and beautiful, so I decided to compile the aforementioned “best of” list for spring ’10.  I know a hearty handful of my friends and family share very similar interests, so hopefully at least some of you will find this interesting.  🙂

1. Music: I know it’s old news at this point for those of you who have any knowledge whatsoever of my music taste, but SHEARWATER – their entire catalog is amazing.  A beautiful combination of rock…and well, just mystical music, some of which does indeed sound a bit “folksy,” though I know Jonathan Meiburg, their frontman, doesn’t care for said label.  And two, TORI AMOS: her live catalog from the late 90s.  Anything from 1996-1999.  Watch out.  She is the world’s ultimate musical bad ass and never fails to amaze me (minus her recent ventures into plastic surgery & strange fascination with the word “sin”).  See youtube video for amazingness predating plastic surgery.

2. Food: Vegetables prepared at home.  My foodie quartet members and I always seem to come back to one topic of discussion: brussel sprouts and/or cauliflower & the preparation of such.  My personal favorite: roasted brussel sprouts drizzled with olive oil & honey with some fresh ground pepper & sea salt.  Thanks to Kate, I now know to put nutmeg on my cauliflower.  What a savory sensation!  Hannah recommended preparing brussel sprouts with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil & salt/pepper.  Wonderful!  The picture I’ve included above is of a remarkable dish that Jason made — it’s basically Indian chana saag, using whatever spices we had at home.  Cheap, delicious, healthy.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

3. Wine: I’ve had many a wonderful bottle of wine in 2010, but I think the robust red given to me by Angie Sommerfeld takes the cake (no pun intended, though she did indeed so generously give me said bottle at my 30th bday party…thanks, Angie!!!!).  It is a BIG RED: “Chateau Larose-Trintaudon Haut-Medoc” 2005.  Sadly, I am not drinking it right now, but it was bursting with cherry and just too delicious to not mention here.

4.  Treat: Stonewall Kitchen peach-amaretto jam.  I swear, I could eat the stuff by itself.  And if you’re vacationing in Maine, do visit Stonewall Kitchen.  They have outstanding cooking classes, a wonderful cafe, and TONS of food-related merch.  Thanks to Gillian for introducing me!

5. Vacation destination: Kennebunkport, Maine.  This is a beautiful, charming town with an abundance of fabulous restaurants.  Check out HB Provisions for lobster rolls, “crabster paninis,” dog treats, coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and the world’s BEST ice cream.  Last holiday season, when J & I went there for Thanksgiving (after the birth of my niece!), we got pumpkin ice cream AND peppermint stick ice cream.  Totally to die for.  Oh, and whoopie pies are native to Maine.  They’re basically giant oreos, but the chocolate part is like devil’s food cake.  Utter decadence.

6. Exercise: yoga plank pose.  After years & years of doing crunches with very so-so results, the plank pose really targets your core muscles.  You will notice a difference, I promise.  I do many reps, holding as long as I can.  I have the “squishy middle” gene, no doubt, and this has helped.  Pair it with some cardio and maybe some weight training & you’re good to go (wow, that sounded really corny).

7.  Movie: “I am Dina” with the Scandinavian actress Maria Bonnevie.  It’s a very, very intense & dark movie, but Bonnevie does one of the best imitations of a cellist I’ve ever seen.  I mean, with the exception of the narrow, nervous vibrato, she really does look like she’s actually playing.  Plus, she’s just amazing to look at, in addition to a couple other beautiful male actors (NOT including Gerard Depardieu! sorry…) in the film.

8. Authors/theorists: Henry Giroux.  He’s written on everything from Tiger Woods to the messed up messages of Disney movies to the films, “Kids” and “Fight Club” to the Bush administration to the Obama administration…  He’s a genius, in my opinion.  http://www.henryagiroux.com/online_articles.htm

9. Beauty: Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer.  After years of dealing with weird white stuff around the corners of my mouth (apparently very elderly people are NOT the only victims of this problem), I’ve finally found lip balm that does not render me with this unfortunate issue.  Happily, you can buy Burt’s Bees at Duane Reade, Ricky’s, and a million other beauty purveyors.  It also has tea tree in it, I think, so it has this lovely cooling sensation.  Long lasting too.  LOVE it.  It beats, Kheil’s, for those of you who love Kheil’s.

10.  Task of the moment: Broadening one’s career horizons.  Need I say more?

11. Hobby/pastime: Cat photography.  I have three cats & they are all like my children & my best friends.  Jason would agree, though we could both do without the unbelievably excessive amounts of white cat hair EVERYWHERE.  Anyway,  Mr. Burns is the most fun to photograph while he’s “bathing,” because he just looks sooooo happy &  blissed-out.  When anxious, look at a photo of him with that blissful look on his face.  It will lower your blood pressure, I promise.  His little pink nose is too much.

One of my favorite Tori performances from the late 90s.  It’s from “Sessions at W 54th” hosted by sexy Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne.  This performance gets more & more intense as it goes along.  Amazing.  Sorry, people, this makes Lady Gaga look like she’s in kindergarten.  With all due respect to Lady Gaga, of course.  😉  Also, a 1999 performance of Blood Roses.

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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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Taking my dissertation to the graduate office!

Having officially made my dissertation deadline, I want desperately to write & publish on this blog a “PhD Survival Guide” for doctoral students…I’m slightly reluctant to compose said guide until I officially pass my orals, subsequently get the FINAL dissertation to the graduate office, and see my work published on proquest.  But in the meantime, I’ll impart some thoughts that might be useful to people thinking about doing a PhD or those who are indeed in the trenches as we speak.

First, for my own tendency towards profound nostalgia, I have to pay homage to April 8.  I’ve had two very, very significant April 8ths in my life.  April 8, 2005 when my sister and I went to see Tori Amos at the Hammerstein Ballroom for the Original Sinsuality (pardon the lame-o name) tour, and I was in the throes of being completely & madly in love with Jason.  This was also the first evening anyone in my immediate family met him.  Very, very special.  We had only been together a month.  🙂   And secondly, April 8 – yesterday!  Making my dissertation deadline, after almost 6 years of doctoral study at NYU.

Okay, so tip number 1 and the most important thing I could tell ANY doctoral student or anyone thinking about doing a PhD program: you may love your committee, but at the end of the day — YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN.  In other words, don’t lean on them, expect them to promptly return emails, or show marveled enthusiasm re. your work.  These moments of light & positivity do indeed happen, but keep expectations low.  By the time you get to this point in your higher education career, they expect you to figure things out for yourself.

With that said, PICK A COMMITTEE THAT YOU REALLY BELIEVE IN.  Pick people you feel very, very confident will help you out, give you useful feedback.  This seems obvious, but it’s so, so important.

DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING TO BE EASY.  I know everyone’s situations are different, but I’ve had a particularly rough time at NYU.  My candidacy exams and the work that followed for said “pass with conditions” exam represented one of the worst periods of my entire life.  And unfortunately, it was right around the time Jason & I were planning our wedding – a time that is supposed to be really joyous, and I swear, those candidacy exams did me in.  In any event, I got through it…and so can you!  And seriously, some people get lucky with the people on their exam panel & have a pretty smooth time.  So it really depends a lot on luck.

BE A FANTASTIC PLANNER; MANAGE TIME WELL; PLAN AHEAD; MAKE THE TIME FOR SERIOUS WORK; KEEP PRIORITIES IN ORDER — If you’re not much a planner, become one.  If you don’t manage time well, figure out how to.  If you get distracted easily, do everything in your power to combat distractions.  There’s really no choice here.  You do it or perish.

READ THE DOCTORAL HANDBOOK VERY CAREFULLY; it seems overwhelming, but there’s no way around it.  Universities love rules, red tape, guidelines…you get the idea.

If you’re thinking about doing a PhD program, you HAVE to have a love of school, a love of knowledge, a love of research, a love of reading, a love of writing, a love of sharing new ideas, and an incredible drive to make & meet deadlines.  These things have to be really burning.  Otherwise, you’ll join the ranks of people who started doctoral programs & petered out.  Granted, a lot of people get big career breaks & realize they don’t need/want a PhD, so…well, lucky them.

DON’T EXPECT IT TO BE CHEAP.  Some programs (ahem, music) just don’t have the resources to give scholarships.  Sorry, it’s a fact of life.  Huge bummer.


Am keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well with my oral defense on June 24.  Am nervous, but thrilled I actually made yesterday’s deadline.  I’m very proud of my dissertation and have learned an ENORMOUS amount through this whole process.  However corny this may sound, this is a very real example of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

As time goes on, I would like to write more specifics on how a PhD makes sense (or doesn’t!) for MUSICIANS.  I think for most musicians, it does NOT make sense, but I’ve always been sort of on the fringes with my interests, my hopes for my career, etc.  More to follow on that, because I think it’s very important.

In any event, happy April!  And to all you PhD candidates out there, am sending good vibes, because man, I have no doubt you need them.  😉

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Tori - Boys for Pele era, circa 1996

Tori Amos is the most amazing musician I’ve ever encountered live/in person or via recording…with that said, I’ll try to keep background info to a minimum.  The point of this post is not to self-indulgently wax poetic about my “favorite musician of all time” or to try to convert people who find Tori probably one of four things: 1) too bizarre / melodramatic 2) too feminine – whatever that means, but I think we all have our, albeit socially constructed, definitions 3) too emotional – whatever that means or 4) too middle aged & plastic-surgeried to take seriously in 2010.  Particularly #4 is seriously unfortunate…because the woman is a genius.  And I stand by that after 15 years of steady listening.

To reduce a rather long career  to a succinct summation, I’ll try to keep this bio to an absolute minimum: Tori (Myra Ellen Amos) was born in North Carolina in the 1960s, a daughter of a methodist minister.  A child prodigy, she was accepted at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore at the age of 5, & was subsequently kicked out 6 years later for rebellious attitudes towards music (i.e. more of a penchant for Jimi Hendrix & Jimmy Page than Mozart…though, mind you, she can play Mozart absolutely beautifully).  She played gay bars in the DC area during adolescence & moved to LA at the age of 20-21.  During her early twenties, she played/sang in her own metal/hair band, Y Kant Tori Read.  A commercial failure & labeled a “bimbo” by the press, Tori transcended this disappointment into writing her groundbreaking solo record, “Little Earthquakes.”  LE was just that — groundbreaking.  Raw, emotional, naked piano-based music…the record was a success.  This was followed by “Under the Pink” in 1994 — both records included such sensitive & intense subjects as sexuality, religion, masochism, hate between women, and relationships between women and men & women.  “Boys for Pele” was released in 1996 & is, to many, many die-hard Tori fans, her greatest masterpiece.  A bizarre compilation of 18 songs…yes, 18…this record goes from the depths of darkness to sardonic humor, references to female circumcision, teen suicide, Lucifer in whatever form you may choose — even an ice cream vendor — blatant in-your-face sexuality, light-hearted feminist-infused funniness mixed with irony, to the plain realities of pain — loving men, leaching off of them, losing them & somehow finding the wherewithal to evolve beyond this form of vampirism.  Mix in some serious improvisational solo piano, some tripped-out Baroque harpsichord, and you have “Boys for Pele.”  The record is the best I’ve heard in my entire life.  No questions asked.  Most people would think she’s a wack-job, but after all these years, I still think she’s genius.  See youtube video…just be prepared to think she’s on drugs.  I’ll never forget when my sister and I were watching the Boys for Pele press-kit video and we both realized — in unison — that the background vocals for “caught a lite sneeze” were her singing “Inanna.”  Holy shit is all I have to say about that.

Her next few records were also masterpieces (imo) — the imaginative, electronica of “From the Choirgirl Hotel” to “To Venus & Back”…a record of covers entitled, “Strange Little Girls” followed by a concept record depicting a journey of a woman, “Scarlet,” the embodiment of post 9-11 America, “Scarlet’s Walk.”  Then her sort of cheezy, adult-contemporary record “the Beekeeper.”  The latter came out about 2 weeks before I began a relationship with my husband, so it always has a special place in my heart.

Unfortunately, the next record – released in 2007 – was “American Doll Posse,” an album with a very, very cool concept and a very, very lame delivery.  I mean, who the hell uses “MILF” in regards to oneself with any kind of self-respect?  (See Tori’s “Big Wheel”…LAME, I tell you…totally and utterly lame, and quite frankly embarrassing.)  But the record had a cool concept, which was that each group of songs had a Greek goddess archetype associated with it.  The show I saw her do was her as Athena (AKA “Pip”), who had the most awesome black leather tights I’ve ever seen.

The sad reality is that I hear so, so, so many bands & singer-songwriters for whom Tori Amos laid the ground work…and quite frankly, Tori did so with way, way more passion & originality…and yet, people just don’t want to cite her as an influence, I suppose, because she’s become such a wack-o in her middle age.  I mean, let’s face it — people thought she was a wacko back in 1991 – 92, but she was so young & waifish & new & original & I think her insanely good musical abilities looked so wonderfully different (they were!).  Remember MTV’s 120 Minutes?  Those guys loved her way back when.  Now she’s an alien-looking, plastic-surgeried 40-something with a strange obsession with the word “sin” and a tendency to appear super duper pretentious in interviews…who still happens to be a bad ass, but all people see is how weird & vain she looks & also how she her recent songs have really lame-o themes that just seem totally ridiculous for a middle aged mom.  “Abnormally Attracted to Sin”… I mean…really?

Anyway, to make a long story short, I think Tori Amos is an incredible…no, phenomenal musician, and her records from the mid-nineties will absolutely 100 percent go down in history as tremendously influential on every level.  Name one musician who plays piano like her…no one does.  Not even Lady Gaga, my friends, if we’re just looking at pop musicians.  Sorry, the two don’t compare.  I think audiences these days have become even dumber than they were back in the nineties, so I don’t think people would know quite what to do with Tori…I mean, let’s try to dissect the line “tuna, rubber, little blubber in my igloo” from “Marianne.”  But I don’t know…maybe the imaginations & intellects of listeners of 2010 haven’t atrophied quite as much as I thought.  I sure hope not.

I have no eloquent way to end this post.  Tori’s music speaks for itself.  These videos are from the Boys for Pele era.

Note the way she responds to the jackass in the audience at 1:00.  She takes it out in true Tori style at 3:24.

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