Joanna Newsom, American singer-songwriter/harpist/pianist really out-does herself on her newly released 3-CD album, Have One On Me. I have fallen in love with Joanna’s music since discovering her debut album Milk-Eyed Mender. This 2-hour journey really allowed me to get lost in her world of epic fairy tales and logic-bending storytelling. There is a slightly different sultry and pure quality to her voice in this album. Though she uses a lot of additional musicians in some of the tracks, some of my most favorite moments are still solo tracks of Joanna singing and playing her harp (such as the song ’81 that tells her story in the Garden of Eden). There is a romantic imagination to her songs that inhabits such a unique world. Really, there are no good words to describe this album… but just listening to the CD at home, I would venture to say that this is one of the most memorable musical moments I’ve had recently.
While being back in Bloomington (IN) to fulfill some of my doctoral obligations, I noticed there are many things about Bloomington that makes this place very live-able, such as the good air quality, organic foods, close hiking trails, good coffee shops and laid back sort of feeling. (It’s a shame that many of these things become harder to appreciate as an anxious graduate student.) However, I would say that one of the best things about Bloomington is the radio stations. I use to be an experimental music DJ for the school radio station WIUX that plays a good bunch of Indie-rock, and there is of course WFMT Classical Radio. Every time I drive into Bloomington the first thing I do is look for WFHB Firehouse. They always have such great programming and I have not found any other radio station that has such a unique,eclectic music mix from a dedicated group of volunteers. While driving around this weekend, I heard such programs like Roots for Breakfast, Native Spirits, Melody Unasked, Youth Radio and Sound Opinions, and many more. It is possible to hear them outside of Bloomington as well so please check out their website!
Since moving to New York, I have been looking for great music venues that have a lot of interesting stuff on a regular basis. Often times, artists that are performing there are publicized and previewed in online magazines but the venues themselves don’t get as much limelight attention. Sometimes I think venues have a hard business supporting artists like myself and keeping themselves afloat. Here are a list of some of my favorite alternative new music venues in the NYC area:
This is just a shortlist, but go check them out!
Last night Rob and I went to see an improvised multimedia show at the Gershwin Hotel. This place is probably my new favorite spot with funky decorations, friendly people, a grand piano,a nice cafe and ‘library’ that reminds me of Soma’s Coffee in Bloomington.
The show had three parts featuring multiphonic soundscapist Ben Miller (guitar and electronics), Greg Reynolds (electronics/harmonium, violin), Orin Buck on video and butoh dancer Mariko Endo . The piece that struck me the most was Ka-Mi, a meditative piece with video, Greg Reynolds on sound and Mariko Endo. The intimate space of the Gershwin Hotel seem to magnify the facial expressions of Mariko. The video was made of folded/fractured colored trasnparencies that the artist was manipulating over the projection light in the back of the room . Every now and then you could hear the crackling of the plastic gels which added a nice “live” element to it. The music, video and dance all worked with elements of restraint and minimalism. But as a whole the work had a great multimedia effect and these limitations really generated a focus to the piece. I will be sure to find these performers again in concert.
Last night I went to see fellow ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) musicians perform the first of a series of concerts called On and Off the Page with the venerable Christian Wolff at Issue Project Room. I am so happy that ICE has launched such a great project along with the many other things ICE does. According to our website, On and Off the Page “is a series illuminating music that breaks down the barriers between written and improvised music.” As a musician that has been improvising and composing more and more, I am excited to see an organized effort to bring attention to this dynamic area of making live performance. What’s odd is that improvisation has been a big part of music-making for centuries but classical music has somehow evolved to be a genre that is extremely focused on “the printed page.” Many of the canonic classical composers (Bach, Mozart) were all improvisers/performers/composers. ..not to mention the invited improvisatory nature of a lot of Renaissance music that existed even before them. Somehow, through the years, we have become so specialized that the idea of branching out to other roles of music-making is new again to our generation. I have high hopes for my ICE buddies on this series! The next concert will be on March 16th at Le Poisson Rouge.