March 3, 2015 |
Any artistic cutting edge can come with the sensation of falling off a cliff. The listener is bewildered for a bit, until someone (often the composer) shows how the most forbidding concoctions have precedents in the past. Rarely, though, has the road map to such precedents been established with the concrete as it was in a talk before Bhob Rainey's Axon Ladder Friday at Vox Populi. Was this an advanced calculus class? At the same time such well-known composers as Stephen Hartke and Louis Karchin unveiled their response to the visual stimuli at the Barnes Foundation in a Network for New Music concert, Rainey was at the gallery wrestling with music based on mathematical abstractions of squid neurons so big they were studied in the pre-high-tech era. Some skepticism is warranted - attention-grabbing concepts don't necessarily unleash worthy music.
February 27, 2015 |
Four contemporary classical composers walk into an art museum. No punch line. But after walking in, this quartet of composers eventually walked away having penned four new compositions, which Network for New Music will premiere Friday at the Barnes Foundation - amid the art and spaces that inspired them. The obvious historical precedent is Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition , a vivid series of musical evocations connected by a recurring promenade. Each of Network's new pieces assumes a different form, chamber-music instrumentation, and philosophy about using the eye to tease out a translation for the ear. "Music is the most incorporeal art, and, while we all accept that it is very much like a language, it is a non-representational one," said Stephen Hartke, who produced The Blue Studio , inspired by the cobalt walls in Matisse's Studio with Goldfish , which are the same shade as his own workroom in Los Angeles.
February 27, 2015
IT HAS BEEN said that there are no such things as problems, only opportunities. Well, here's an opportunity for Philadelphia to make lemonade out of a Broadway lemon. "Rocky," the musical based on the iconic 1976 rags-to-riches film about a ham-and-egg boxer from Kensington, closed its Broadway run last August, a mere five months after its much-hyped debut. But just because New York wasn't a hospitable host doesn't mean that Rocky Balboa's hometown couldn't be. From this vantage point, bringing the musical to Philly as a permanent attraction is a no-brainer.
February 25, 2015 |
A leadership and administrative change in the School District of Philadelphia's venerable All City Music Festival could signal the start of the program's restoration. Project 440, the education group founded in 2006 by Philadelphia Orchestra assistant double bassist Joseph Conyers, is taking over management of the All City program from the School District. The legal aspects of the transfer may take months to complete, but a ceremonial handshake sealing the deal is planned on stage at this year's All City concert on Monday.
February 24, 2015 |
The songs that flügelhornist Hugh Masekela and singer-guitarist Vusi Mahlasela performed at the Annenberg Center on Saturday night were the sound track to the apartheid era, and thus dealt with grim themes: racial segregation, violence, imprisonment, and struggle. But the mood these two South African icons conjured was buoyant and celebratory, a vivid illustration of the role music played in lifting the spirits of South Africans during decades of oppression. The lighthearted mood could be summed up in Mahlasela's gallows humor, as he introduced a "very short song" called "Jailbreak," written by a friend during his prison term - then proceeded to scrape the strings of his guitar to simulate a sawing sound.
February 20, 2015 |
It wasn't Charlie Gracie's idea that he write his life story. The South Philadelphia native was one of the first stars of rock and roll, one who inspired numerous future superstars. But his life has contained not even a hint of the scandal and salaciousness that usually draw publishers to rock memoirs. "Why would you want to write about me?" the still-vibrant 78-year-old singer and guitarist says at the home in Drexel Hill he shares with his wife of 57 years, Joan. "I don't have anything spectacular outside of my music.
February 20, 2015 |
TIMED to Black History Month, the Smithsonian Channel's new documentary "Legend of Lead Belly" (8 p.m. Monday) sheds lots of light on one of the least-known yet most colorful and influential musicians of the 20th century, an artist "who didn't limit himself to any genre," according to disciple Van Morrison in the show. "House of the Rising Sun" may have been popularized by the Animals, but Huddie Ledbetter (a/k/a Lead Belly) lived it as the "house" musician at a Shreveport, La., bordello.
February 13, 2015 |
NOTHING BUMS out soul singer extraordinaire Sharon Jones. Not walking away from the Grammys without her due. Or watching coattail riders soar higher then she has. Heavens alive, Jones even makes light of her recurring bouts with cancer, readily bringing up the topic in interviews and working the theme into her stage show as a flag waver for resilience and trust in a master plan. "With all I've been through, I feel good, glad to still be here, glad to be working and having fun, glad to be getting recognition after all these years," Jones shared in a recent chat prompted by her concert tonight (um, Friday the 13th)
February 13, 2015
AMONG THOSE who took in the touring production of "Motown The Musical" when it played the Academy of Music last month was Kenny Gamble , who, along with Leon Huff and Thom Bell , made the Philadelphia International Records label a music powerhouse in the 1970s. So, it was pretty much a no-brainer to ask Gamble about a "Motown"-style musical based on PIR's prodigious catalog of soul and R&B hits, universally tagged "The Sound of Philadelphia. " We are happy to report that Gamble answered in the affirmative.
February 11, 2015 |
David E. Field was a chemical engineer and design manager, but those were not his first loves. "He always had a shop in the basement" where he made dulcimers, daughter Caroline Dillon said. "And he would come home and after work go down and work in the shop. " Mr. Field produced and sold more than 400 dulcimers, Dillon said, playing some of them with groups in South Jersey and Pennsylvania. "He made dulcimers for Judy Collins, Doc Watson," and others, some of whom "would come and play music at our home in Pitman" in the 1960s.