Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Ben Hardt has walked from Symphony to Victory.  I met this fellow back in my days at the University of Pittsburgh.  He was doing a sort of pop-rock with string players under the name Ben Hardt and his Symphony.  Despite the nice effect of the string section, it was a little too standard for my musical tastes at the time.  He was an exceptional performer/musician and a really genuine person so I logged him in my mind under R for "remember".  At some unknown point, Ben reinvented himself for the New Victorians.  

How frequently do you have a friend that posts an original song via Facebook/Twitter/Whatever?  What is the likelihood that you will listen to that track?  I would think there are minimal odds.  Discovering new music is important to me in my career, and I even ignore these at least half of the time.  Ben posted the piece Love and War (Tangled), and I almost skipped over it.  At the last second I was like "What the hell?  I can give it a quick sample."    I experienced sounds that changed my entire perspective on the way I was going to attack my day.  It was rockin'.  It was twangy.  It was a "fuck yeah!" of sorts.  The percussion, guitar, and vocals created a scene that was attractive and energizing.  My mediocre morning turned into a day of positivity.  That is the true authority of new music.    

I sent Ben a message or two and asked him if this was part of an upcoming release.  He said that the New Victorians just finished a new E.P., and he  gave me a download link.  II begins with a piece called Still Falls the Rain.  We hear a series of claps that create the foundation of the percussion.  This reminds me of Steve Reich's Clapping Music.  I find it a bit difficult to tell how much classical music is actually part of the composer's musical vocabulary as opposed to just a love for instruments that are traditionally orchestral.  You can judge that for yourself!

Love and War (Tangled) was going to be hard to match with the rest of the collection so I could not foresee what I was in for.  Ghosts In Machines solidifies a tradition.  The violin mini-melody is what grips me tightly in this song, but a synthesizer is utilized in many passages as well.  How appropriate for a Ghost in the Shell type of theme!  These Victorians surely are modern.  Maybe they can eventually become the New Wave Victorians.  That would be hot!  

Lastly, the final track of II, Letting Go, is one of the other stand-out compositions.  A mixture of emotional vocals, strings, piano, and synths creates a powerful ballad to finish a captivating album.  I'm not just reviewing a release here.  There is an important point out of all of this.  We have to remember the significance of listening to new music or experiencing new art in many forms.  The familiar is enjoyable, but only the new can change the course of your life.  You might have to sit through 10 boring tracks that friends of yours have made to get that one fresh experience, and those are some perfectly good odds to me!  We all need to support emerging musicians and experience new art to progress through our lives.  Extra note:  Depeche Mode are listed as an influence on the NV Facebook page.  I thought I heard some of Martin Gore's sentimentality in these recordings!

-Sachem Orenda   

Like New Victorians on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/newvictorians?fref=ts
Love and War (Tangled) is FREE here:  www.newvictorians.bandcamp.com
Sachem Orenda's Apology for Popular Music and the Nihilistic Demiurge is now available:


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

KEEP RACHIN' (THE SEQUEL) - Haircut Strike!

[WO]MAAAAN!  That felt like forever.  I was counting seconds from the end of Allentown Symphony Association's last classical season until the start of the current one.  On that note (pun!), I just had a sudden realization.  Summer is imperfect because it lacks orchestra.  I just solved the meaning of life.  Thank me later.  The latest concert had two stars, Diane Wittry and Conrad Tao, that led me down a path of inspiration for my new blog series - Keep Rachin'.  Last year we explored an ASA performance of Rachmaninoff so why stop there?

The evening began with the Overture to La Gazza Ladra by Gioachino Rossini.  Two snare players were positioned on the floor to attack a different sound direction.  They migrated to the stage and continued with the orchestra.  To me, it sounded like the snare drums functioned as the lead instrument.  This could be a psychological focus due to the fact that they were given the spotlight, but my ear believed that this was the obvious musical presentation.  Hmmm percussion as the lead instrument?  Where have I heard that claim before (cough cough Barren Lovers cough)?  I also saw another splendid example of Diane Wittry being an orchestral ba dass.  It's that rock and roll in her hands.  Wittry is the Hendrix of conductors.  'Scuse me if I say she's fly.

It's transition time!  After Rossini, there were some heavily romantic themes in a Symphonic Suite by Prokofiev.  Is music romantic because of a label or is it labeled “romantic” from involuntary human interpretations of scientific vibrations?  Forgive me for asking cliché questions.  We also heard a piece by Mikhail Glinka.  I turned to my mezzaninian neighbor and asked her what she thought of the pieces thus far.  Olga Tsurkis responded: “I may be biased because I'm from Russia and I grew up with this music.  Rachmaninoff is my favorite of tonights composers because of the emotional response that he elicits.”   I, sir Orenda, was coincidentally fortunate to end up at these particular coordinates (thank you, Dan + Natalia!).  

Conrad Tao entered the stage with a Keep Rachin' kind of aura.  He was an 18-year-old professional.  You could feel the jealousy of other men in their career struggles.  Possession of extraordinary discipline is the holy grail for artists.  Tao complemented the ferocity of Rachmaninoff's compositional prowess.  The piano concerto annihilated the previous works on the program.  It was more mature, majestic, and malevolent.  Olga's comment resonated with me as I listened intently.  Emotionally speaking, I was scared and vulnerable.  I cannot convey the incredible feelings that enhanced my life's progressions since this moment.  Allentown Symphony's audience agreed.  Applause was decadent and of great length.  It was truly the most intense and sincere reaction I have seen at the hall to date.  I turned around and snapped this glorious photograph!    

I like to refer to classical performances as "rockin'" for 2 reasons.  First, it annoys uptight classical music fans.  Secondly, rocking is a type of energy and attitude, not instrumentation or genre.  Actually, there are "3" reasons.  I want to bridge the gaps in musical appreciation for people of all ages and backgrounds.  Listen to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.  It's exactly what I would expect Sid Vicious to write if he were a classical composer instead of an angry punk.  You might say Igor is an anarchist with pen and paper (but the harmonic progressions and melodic themes are so controlled, Sachem!).  Speaking of defiance, I have been listening to much punk rock lately and have elected to go on haircut strike!  Yes, this is definitely relevant.  [Insert another great transition here]  I grew up on rock, electronic, and avant garde forms of music, but for some reason I attend every Allentown Symphony Hall seasoned concert.  Join me for the rest of the season, and discover the true reason patrons are magnetized (or Magnetoized) to this place.


Get tickets to Allentown Symphony here:  www.allentownsymphony.org
Diane Wittry's website:  www.dianewittry.com
Conrad Tao's website:  www.conradtao.com

Sachem Orenda's Apology for Popular Music is now available:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

KNACK IT OFF, FRAG-FACE! - A less than reasonable eyewitness report on Zen for Primates

Lotta talk about these Zenful chaps in the Lehigh Valley.  Descriptions have been odd and attractive to an oddly beautiful guy like me.  They say you have never lived until you've seen Zen for Primates.  If I'm an unborn 24-year-old man, my mother's uterus must give her a lot of pain (thank you, Dan Mintz).  Zen were enjoyable and funny in the same manner that my mother's pain was not.

Just who were these Primitive Primate Prometheans?  Well, no one really knows the truth (bunch of nihilists in the audience that night).  I will explain my apparent experience.  The jazzy-comedic-strange-pop quartet consisted of violin, cello, sax/harmonica, guitar, and vocals.  Percussion ran away.  They was aight with that.

The frontman of the band was quite an amusing mammal.  T. Roth told some hilarious jokes in between songs and also mixed in his humor into the pieces themselves.  The audience loved him in his minor details.  I Feel Good was spoken with little to no emotion.  His humor was dry and alternative.  We likes, we does like that.        

An accurate measurement of place-rightness for an individual at any specific moment would have to be whether or not My Sharona is playing.  This was the opening tune of the concert at Allentown Symphony Hall's Jazz Upstairs series (an amazing gem in the culture of the valley!!).  I rated my life at 627 Orendas out of 642 Orendas.  Score.  Is you imagining that?

I spoke with Mike Krisukas, Zen's guitarist, after the show.  He explained that he was the primary songwriter, and he was a big fan of Frank Zappa.  Double points!  So I's mentioning to him that from the talk of the town, I was anticipating a more avant-garde performance.  Mike says to me:  "I expected this project to go into that direction eventually, but it just never ended up that way."  A strange feeling permeates within my flesh and tells me that this is directly correlated with the large popularity of Zen for Primates.  Care to join me at the next ZfP concert?

-Sachem Orenda  

Concerts at Allentown Symphony Hall:  www.allentownsymphony.org
Comedian Dan Mintz:  www.danmintz.com and www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUNJeffmLZE

iObject, the new single from Sachem Orenda's Apology,
is now available for free download: