Monday, April 30, 2012

ALLENTOWN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 2011-2012 SEASON - “In dearest conclusion”


Lehigh Valley became my residence at the end of November in 2010. I was well aware of the existence of Allentown Symphony Hall before I ever stepped foot in eastern Pennsylvania. I was able to experience classical music from two different seasons at this point in time and I am constantly amazed by each event. Enjoyment of live music is not necessarily based on the virtuosity of the musicians. There are literally millions of complex factors that contribute to every output of live music. There is no possible human calculation to know if a performance will win a majority of an audience. U2 in Los Angeles, California is not comparable to a moment of traditional native music in a small town in Mongolia. The point is, you never know what you are going to get and that's why sifting through countless live performances will expand your values and intellect beyond belief. If you do not agree, I challenge you to go to 10+ live performances over the next three months and then have a conversation with me over lunch (no joke, message me at sachemclark@hotmail.com).

Let's discuss the final two concerts of the symphonic season and then summarize the year. The first of these is highlighted by an original piece, a guitar soloist, and Beethoven's 6th Symphony. Philip Rothman wrote “Timeline.” This sequence wasted no time! It was painfully intense on the first beat. The melodies were profound and traditional. If I can enjoy something traditional, it must be articulate! It led to a long serene section and then ended with more ferocity. It was a scary-calm-scary as hell type of classical structure. The keys may be less relevant. Rothman and I connected over our love of the “Rite of Spring” after the show. We both had similar experiences of mind blowedness upon our first listen of Stravinsky's “Analgesia” if Raymond Watts' magnum opus proves a good analogy here (hint: it does). The soloist was truly notable as a guitarist but the interesting thing is that my guitar student accompanied me to this performance and did not care for him. Like I said, you never know how each individual will react. Beethoven's 6th Symphony, end thought.

The finale of the concert series was all about them damn planets! At least, that is what I had expected. This program would arise long of my expectations. Oversit? The ever-lovin' Michael Toth played a Debussy piece all by himself. His piano playing was highly emotional and never let me feel too shy. When music changes you as a whole person, there is no conscious decision. Michael, thank you. Your gifts are excessively generous. The Mannheim Rocket by John Corigliano was a shocking area of the set list. Do classical musicians ever change the set list like rockers? I like fun (yay!). Corigliano wrote something that was out of the ordinary for small-town orchestras. I really commend Diane Wittry for letting this groovy thang breathe some tasty oxygen. Oh yeah, The Planets by Gustav Holst was pretty good too. Maybe you should just come hear this stuff rather than read me all the time :).

Throughout the season, I was permitted to hear a famous red violin, watch a young Rory Lipkis become a man, have a handsome English gentleman force me to like Mozart and then question my statistics about Depeche Mode, meet and connect to fellow composers, and spend time on Mars. I felt like a Stranger in an exotic locale. I strongly encourage all to visit www.allentownsymphony.org and become a subscriber for next season. I'll even let you sit by me so we can laugh and enjoy together. You'll recognize me as the 24-year-old blond hair/blue eyed beauty with an ear piece and a notebook. Come say hi next time!

-Sachem Orenda (www.sachemorenda.com)

Friday, April 13, 2012

February 17th, 2012 - ERIC MINTEL QUARTET “You have a good ear.”


Each of these blogs have been recorded during indeterminate nonsense-time. They have been experienced in something insultingly similar to the actual time. Let us move to February 17th of this year. I wandered to the Rodale Community Room at Allentown Symphony Hall and sat down for some smooth jazz (the original musical choice of the Mohawk group of indigenous people). We were all here to see the Eric Mintel Quartet and were informed that they recently performed at a white house. That is my usual criteria. If it's good enough for the commander-in-chief, it's good enough for Commander Kool. Perhaps that should be the other way around.

The Eric Mintel Quartet consisted of Eric Mintel on piano, Nelson Hill on saxophone/flute, Jack Hedgyi on bass, and Dave Mohn on drums. These four gentlemen tore it up. They said “hey you, I dare you not to enjoy this onslaught of sound” No one had the courage to respond. A friend of mine approached me during intermission and said “they are what I would call one talented group of mofos.” I cannot recall if he actually said the abbreviated version.

In the beginning, I felt energy from Eric, Nelson and Dave but it took some time for Jack to win me over with the bass. At one point he was playin' dat solo that you always dreamed about and then he was showing me some sadness in his chord structure. Eventually he started swingin' that bass like he drunk with jazz. I found Mr. Hedgyi to be most appealing in the way that he bonded with his instrument. It was clear that he loved his bass and was not afraid to show it. He was sexy and he knows it.

Eric Mintel was very open about spending some time to answer my questions after the performance. I asked him about his writing process and his response was interesting. Eric told me that he often learns through performance. After a show he will reflect on different passages that came to fruition and rework them in his head. He will start humming melodies on his drive home and then record them on his smartphone so that he does not forget. Alike to me, he dislikes scoring out music. It's always great for me to hear when successful musicians work around that in the high art scene.

As our conversation continued, I realized that Eric and I had much in common. I was asking him about his chord patterns and how they subtly allude to some scary realms. He said “You have a good ear.” John Goldsmith, you ever see that complement coming my way? Yeah, neither did I. Moving on, I asked him what he listened to lately. Eric told me that he tends to not listen to any jazz. I was stunned for a second and then he proceeded to explain how he did not wish to be influenced by other music. His intellectualism was being cultivated from within. When I was about 16 or 17 years old, I had a similar conversation with my father. He kept telling me that I needed to listen to various guitarists and bass players but I exclaimed that I did not merely want to be an amalgam of existing ideas. It was not my intention to be under the influence or what have you. After this conversation occurred, I have desired to watch Eric play again. If you are curious, visit their website @ www.ericmintelquartet.com

-Orenda


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

SAM & NICK - "Subconscious Integration"

Enjoy.  This is the lone command that Christopher Tucker and I loved to give to citizens of the City of Bridges.  Few could receive it correctly but they all lusted after it.  We would walk for miles, hang out in strange places, and spark conversations that attempted to make people happier.  We would call each other up and say "yo when is the next enjoy day?"  I have no idea what the long-term results were for others but Chris and I enjoyed every minute and if you are reading this, I reflect on these events regularly and miss you dearly from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Why was the enjoy concept vital?  Human beings tend to act alike.  Perhaps we were hoping to transmit through [insert future concept here].  Hold that thought.  The title claims that this is about the acoustic duo known as Sam and Nick.  Everyone knows that C.T. and S.O. are CLEARLY electric.  

Sam & Nick are singer/songwriters from Lehigh Valley.  Sam Hoagland sings intensely while Nick Wilson rips up some jive guitar licks.  I could end this here but please, may we continue?  If the universe were ever silent, I would take that silence as a yes.  I will also receive the fabricated concept of silence positively.  S&N have become the tangent.  Speaking of them, I played a show in Allentown, Pennsylvania and they were first on the lineup.  Everyone in the audience loved what they witnessed.  Contact was made after the show and another performance was coming up two weeks later.  

Sam and I had a conversation when I picked up my ticket for the encore.  Need I stress the importance of buying tickets and attending the performances of your friends/local favorites?  Support artists.  Most of them give free music these days, it is the least you can do for their hard work.  Returning to topic, I asked Sam about her views on music and composing.  She emphasized her interest in expressing current and past feelings.  A particular energy and emotion was what she wanted to portray.  I drilled her with questions about how she conceptualizes the process and intent of putting a piece together.  What was I looking for?  It was some sort of exaggerated hope but we accidentally stumbled upon an area that engaged me.  She stated that she believed composition comes out of all types of music in your life, whether you realize it or not and additionally draws from all of your knowledges and memories.  If you know me, you should have guessed that I would have said something off the wall after a pause of thought such as "Let us call this:  Subconscious Integration." [Realization Point] We both decided that we liked the term and continued onward.  This woman could follow my unique conversation style and completely won me over with her intelligence (far too rare of a task in my current community).  By the time I made my escape, Sam extracted my full respect.  I was anxious to re-experience her art.  

A few days later I roll up to some strange joint that purported itself to be a music venue.  I talked to Nick and Sam (see how I switched that up a bit?) briefly, met a few people, demanded some shy hearts, and entered the building.  Before the music, I spoke with the members of Mansions, one of the touring acts at the show.  I bought their album because they were great people and the drawing on the cover gave me maddening pleasure.  A future review of this album is inevitable.  

When the two stars entered the stage, we all gazed intently.  Without hesitation, they beautified the sound space.  It began with my demands.  "Heart Shy" is the track that I had remembered most from the first Sam & Nick performance that I attended.  My ear has a strange reaction to the chorus melody.  It is not exactly a brilliant melody yet it somehow shines into a fist that thinks I'm G. Zimmerdude (too soon?).  There was a cover of "Wagon Wheel" by BD and the OC.  The genre worked fine but I reacted quite indifferently in comparison to their originals.  Replication of feeling is drastically inferior to the pure message of a writer.  The audience loves you the way you are.  You have no need for the music of other composers.  All of Nick's guitar riffs are legit and he does some great backing vocals in the mix of it all.  I am rather fond of his musicianship.  Sam is either angelic or she sold her essence for one hell of a voice (errr that joke was an accident).  Together, these two majestic individuals have the divine ability to touch the audience with sentimentality.  

I caught Nick (with a fragging net!) after the show.  He had "chill rocker" written all over his face.  We talked about his other punk band and "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" by the Ramones.  What a blast from the past!  It took the both of us to fully remember the title of that song.  Nick said he mostly writes musical ideas that "sound good" to him.  I get this response frequently from rockers.  Is this not a watered down presentation of what you think?  Mankind needs to elaborate on this "good" sound.  Then again, Jack Handey does say that "Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself. Basically, it's made up of two separate words — "mank" and "ind." What do these words mean? It's a mystery, and that's why so is mankind."          

How does this lengthy article fit together and conclude?  Enjoy.  Sam gave me a CD of their work.  I threw it into the Oliver Queen.  I couldn't get enough of it just like Depeche Mode always said.  I didn't want it to end in much the same way that you do wish this article to end by now.  It made me feel energetic and happy.  I have been living far away from my family and friends for over a year now.  Most of us end up in difficult life situations like this eventually.  Every day that someone or someones can make you truly enjoy your life is a great fucking day.  Practice the Tucker/Orenda command of enjoyment and life will get better for everyone through means of Subconscious Integration.   

-off to Pittsburgh for the weekend...        

Excerpt - Deep Thoughts With Jack Handey, http://www.deepthoughtsbyjackhandey.com/