Saturday, October 12, 2013

PREPARING FOR THE NEW WAVE OF CLASSICS AT MILLER SYMPHONY HALL - The 2012-2013 Season and Memories of a Friend

Saturday, October 12th (a.k.a. "Tonight"!  Just like Tim Skold says), marks the beginning of the Classics season at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  I thought we should recapitulate the amplitude of last season to get ourselves salivating for this weekend's concert.  This was the first time that I was able to attend the entire "assorted collection" of concerts and it was surely the sweetest perfection.  Honestly, some great rewards came out of the supernovastic baton of Diane Wittry.  I am also grateful that she did not pull a John Cage and try to make us sit and enjoy the silence.  Ready for more Depeche Mode jokes?  Wait, you didn't notice?  Start Catching Up (81-85)!  [Is he really going to keep talking like that for this whole blog post?  Truthfully, I haven't decided.]  

I've been looking so long at these pictures of Conrad Tao that I almost believe that they're life like.  In fact, I start to wonder if the pictures are all that I can perceive through sensation.  When Tao opened the past season with Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3, his energy was "bigger, brighter, and whiter than snow."  The audience was literally grateful to him.  It was as if he Cured all of their ailments in life.  They gave more sincere applause than I have ever seen at the hall, and then he slipped away (quietly).  I opened my eyes, and I didn't see anything but my picture of Tao.

Sometimes I wonder if every day is halloween because I meet miraculous individuals that seem completely unreal such as Ji Won Song.  She had won the 2012 Schadt String Competition and was granted the opportunity to play Tchaikovsky with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.  Song was extremely young and spoke with a marvelous optimism towards music and life.   I wanted to tell her what good things I saw in her future, but she made me laugh so much that I forgot what I was saying.  But whatever, it's over the shoulder.  

Moving on to the upcoming event, I was thinking that maybe just once I'll get to hear Awadagin Pratt play piano.  Luckily, "I will get what's coming to me."  I guess I just don't understand about the complexities in his mind and thought that I could figure a bit out through his musicianship.  Check out his resume.  It's so vast that it "points the finger at my insecurities."  + He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!  We are indigenous to the same native habitat!  Ya know, at the beginning of this paragraph I was jokingly claiming to have been longing to see him, but now I really am quite excited to hear him play.  Sometimes I just "say those thousand things I think I have to say."

Are Friends Electric?  I've been wondering for 34 (errr… 25) years.  I wanted to touch on something that shook my gentility (and I'm sure it was the same for everyone in the local arts community).  A few months ago, we lost our dear friend, Maureen Joly, who was an employee at the hall for many years.  I say with complete sincerity that Maureen was one of my favorite people I've met in my 25 terrestrial years.  She is most relevant to me as the person who initiated my involvement with the Allentown Symphony Association and thus significantly impacted my life.  I walked into the hall about three years ago, headed to the office, and wandered around until I found someone.  Maureen was working away.  I was scruffy, had 2.5 feet of long hair, and was heavily dressed for my winter walks.  People often looked at me rather strangely when I had my eccentric rocker image (especially outside of cities).  Maureen never looked at people weird or judged them harshly though.  To her, I was just another individual that was interested in the arts, and she gave me her full attention.  A few days later I received a call from the executive director, Sheila Evans, so I was completely sure that Maureen did not turn around and say "Some crazy caveman came into the office"!  I miss her dearly, and I have not fully figured out how to cope with her disappearance.  The point of this is - I don't write all these articles about the classics out of boredom.  I write them because I sincerely believe that people's lives will be better if they spend time at Miller Symphony Hall.  Obviously I listen to New Wave at home much more than I listen to Classical music.  I come for the caliber of artists, staff, and patrons that I can build relationships with to the point that I hurt inside if anything happens to one of them.  You might be surprised what kind of personalities are hanging around - like Dan, one of the creators of Ace Kilroy, who works in the box office or sound guy Kevin who can pretty much make anyone laugh at will.   Come out tonight or tomorrow afternoon and say hello.

Oh and also - I decided to dedicate my upcoming single, Living Art, to the memory of Maureen Joly. It's a sort of feminist/equality anthem and Maureen was one hell of a strong woman, so I thought it appropriate.  

"There's a knock on the door and just for a second I thought I remembered you."
"I stop when I stare too much, afraid that I care too much."
   

Thursday, February 21, 2013

COUNTDOWN OF 10 MASTERPIECE ALBUMS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED - #9 A Poke in the Eye... With a Sharp Stick by PIG


A POKE IN THE EYE... WITH A SHARP STICK (1988)
In between 87's Music for the Masses and the Pretty Hate Machine of 1989, the planet experienced a vital year for music development with the birth of PIG.  25 years ago Raymond Watts released a landmark underground album entitled A Poke in the Eye... with a Sharp Stick.  Well-cultured electronic music fans saw a glimpse into the intellect of the most important individual in music history since John Cage himself.  Raymond, I salute you and thank you for branding my birth year. 

Personal friends have heard me talk uncontrollably about Watts for years, but what makes him so special?  My first thought is that words cannot describe him, and why would I waste time writing a review?  That's a bloody cop-out!  His entire discography reflects almost every element that I have found myself desiring from a musical experience.  He is the only artist that has accomplished this in his career but for now, I'll talk about the significance of A Poke in the Eye.  Side note - I once was literally poked in the eye with a sharp stick when I was 17.  They should have put me on the magazine at that time.  Yes, this adds to my connexion to Watts.   

I've often referred to Sharp Stick as "The Real Pretty Hate Machine."  The brilliant arrangements represent Watts as the true "Golden Child" of industrial music. His musical portraits range from filthy dirt to amorous lambency and utilize strong melody without breaking sincerity or ingenuity.  Throughout his career, Watts does not solely write industrial-oriented music.  His albums always venture into different territory and oft within the industrial pieces themselves.  I find these moments to be the best insight into Raymond's true genius. 

Never for Fun 
Never for Fun is the first single released prior to Sharp Stick.  What a track!  A true gem in my library!  The percussion and synth bass interact in a manner that I've never heard before.  You cannot turn away.  Actually you can, but you will still hear it.  This falls under the rare "Shake the Disease" category of songs.  It's a piece where I'm not in love with the chorus, but every other part of the song is so fragging brilliant that it still somehow makes it into my top 10 favorite songs ever written.

Other top tracks from the album include One for the Neck, Shit for Brains (a track that helped glue me to Watts!), and My Favourite Car.  A stand-out moment is Raymond's version of Hildelinde.  This song does not fit the mood of the rest of the album in any obvious way.  For this reason, Hildelinde is the most important statement on the album.  It is a definitive expression of how Watts was never interested in being what typical audiences want.

Japan release
I once wrote a college essay that suggested one of the main reasons I dislike american culture was because Raymond Watts is not very famous.  I then proceeded to quote him in every other essay as if he were a household name.  "Oh I disagree with Christopher Hitchens because Watts once stated…" or from the mouth of Raymond Watts [Virginia Woolf,] "Don't trespass on my patience, baby."  I often listen to Pig albums in my room and start bursting with passion to write new music.  Simultaneously, I burn with rage at how a man could have worked so hard for 20 years and received such little response outside of Japan.  Don't worry, Raymond.  Respect is still coming your way:


1 - I have decided to write a book on the musical context of Raymond Watts (and also biographical information if he will humor me some interviews).
2 - 2013 marks the 25th anniversary of both PIG and Sachem Orenda.  Crossover?  Hint - stay tuned! 

-Sachem Orenda   

Watts receives honorable mention in Electronic Coffee III, a piece by Sachem Orenda - Listen here:





Monday, February 11, 2013

ROMANTICISM AND THE ALLENTOWN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA - "When words fail to describe, music takes over."


I think I should change the name of this blog to "Allentown Symphony Orchestra, Electric Type, and other deep thoughts without Jack Handey."  Readers would probably have a hard time remembering the full title, but accuracy must prevail!  The tagline would be:  "Do you like symphony orchestras?  Do you like techno cosmic adventurers?  How about references to 90's Saturday Night Live skits?  If you said yes to none of these, please don't keep reading, because you might know where I live."    On Saturday, I attended Miller Symphony Hall's Modern Romance concert.  Do not confuse modern romance with new romanticism.  This was not orchestral Depeche Mode.  Note to self - start arranging Depeche Mode pieces for orchestra.  

Stars of this concert - Robert Aldridge, Diane Wittry, David Singer, and Maurice Ravel.  Also not a sentence.  Let's start with Diane Wittry.  Before I forget, today's philosophical area is to extract on music's representation of love.  The first piece was by Alberto Ginastera, and Diane conducted the undead nightlights out of it.  Hmmmm, that joke doesn't really work.  Diane looked serene and almost predetermined in movement.  I believe she cultivates her chi from her love of these compositions.  I never saw Diane work like this.  After the performance I asked her what had changed in her life, because she was clearly still developing as a person and artist.  She had no concrete answer for me, but she did say that she felt moods will always make an enormous difference in every action/performance.  I swear that this mood was amorous.

Robert Aldridge wrote a clarinet concerto for his beloved fans and groupies.  He said a few words about the piece and mentioned that he intended to blend classical, jazz, and klezmer music.  The beginning melodies were kind of like "whoa, what does this mean?"  It started to come together in a cohesive manner.  This was much to the credit of David Singer, the soloist, and his romantic bond with his instrument.  The 3 genres hit you from different angles and often sounded simultaneously, but there was one moment where it became heavy klezmer (like indigenous heavy metal of Eastern Europe) out of nowhere.  Perhaps the transition was in the rests of certain instruments.  

I asked Aldridge about the heavy klezmer moment, and he said that he intended to make it shine in precisely the manner mentioned above.  There is nothing that I like to honor more than a composer accurately fulfilling his intentions.  I mentioned "groupies" earlier because Aldridge told me that the reason he became a composer/musician was "to get girls."  We laughed for a minute, and then I asked what the real reason was.  "To get girls was definitely part of it."  I told him to be careful on his quotes, but he reiterated at the end of our conversation that I should include the statement.  This may still apply to our theme - be it romance, love, or lust.  Lastly, Robert said something fascinating to me.  "When words fail to describe, music takes over."  He quickly grabbed our idea of modern romance for the night and shattered it into an individual atom.  I was impressed.

Maurice Ravel was the headliner.  I will not say much of this piece, because this is your mouth-watering cue to visit Miller Symphony Hall and hear these masterpieces for yourself.  I would like to mention that I almost fell out of my seat at one exact Ravellian moment.  There was a specific chord that felt like it was increasing the gravitational attraction (Orenda? - native tongue) between my body and the orchestra (as if it could be any stronger!).  It was pretty much the best 2-3 seconds of my life.  Well this was a success!  The audience won't be forgetting these musical exclamations in the name of love.  Adios.  Wait!  I almost forgot a 90's SNL reference.  How's this:  "What is Love?  Baby don't hurt me.  Don't hurt me no more."  Just insert mental images of shifty necks.