Originally published 10/27/ 2009
The death of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1750 was a solemn occasion indeed. It would have to have been–it’s hard to imagine anything more solemn than a German funeral. Germany, and certainly all of Europe, mourned the passing of one of the greatest paragons of artistic achievement they–and, assuredly, the world–had ever known. Bach’s entire enormous family was there, including his wife Anna Magdalena and their twenty children, most of whom were probably half-occupied composing trio sonatas in their heads, hoping to remember all the counterpoint by the time they got home to write it down. His eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach stood off to the side, sneaking snootfuls of whiskey from a hidden flask, musing to himself that he was REALLY going to have a hard time living up to his father’s reputation now that the old man was dead. The pallbearers lowered the casket with unparalleled Teutonic solemnity into the grave.
And then, as they threw the first shovelful of dirt on top of the casket, the sky lit with fireworks! A trumpet fanfare sounded! Banners dropped from the eaves of every building in town, bearing in gaudy colors the message “Welcome to the Classical Era!”
Well, no. That’s probably not how it went at all. This idea of imposing labels onto artistic epochs is something that doesn’t happen until long after the epochs have passed, but this contrived practice is one that’s always fascinated me. Why do we have such a huge desire to categorize things? And who makes up the names? And why has this process spiraled out of all control since the 20th century?
It’s fitting, I think, that historians should mark the year of Bach’s death as the end of the Baroque era. He was probably the most important creative figure working in that period–and I feel pretty safe in asserting that, since I think he was probably just about the most important creative figure working in ANY period. (more…)
Every night of the week you can find a million things to do, even on a weeknight…especially on a weeknight. Tonight is no different. Out of those millions of things to go to here’s where you might catch us tonight:
Hotel Cafe for Vermont based, singer-songwriter Kris Gruen (cover $8)
Gruen’s new album, “Part Of It All,” is set for release in the next month via Mother’s West. This record was produced by Charles Newman, who recently co-produced the new Magnetic Fields album, “Realism”, as well as our friend AM’s “Future Sons and Daughters.” While recording in both New York City and Los Angeles Gruen was able to collaborate and record with some great musicians and friends, including drummer Butch Norton (The Eels, Lucinda Williams, Rufus Wainright), bassist Sebastian Steinberg (Soul Coughing, Dixie Chicks), Nashville’s Jason Goforth on lapsteel, and drummer Nick Brown from New York City’s The Dig.
Tonight he shares the stage with Nina Storey.
Old Towne Pub for Mike TV’s Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Cover $3)
A weekly event happening every Thursday at the Old Towne Pub (66 North Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103). Tonight the ever elusive Wormstew (whom you may recall Eric Summer spotlighted a few months ago) will be performing along with The Power Cords, Underwater City People, Get Set Go (speaking of Eric Summer you can catch him on Viola with Get Set Go), as well as an end of night All Band Jam (where else can you catch Indie Rockers/Power-Poppers/Mod Revivalists embarking on impromptu covers of 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny?“)
The following were some of my favorite posts (in reality all of our contributors pieces are my favorites) from some of the regular contributors on this site in the past year, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did:
(Not in any particular order, click on links to read the full column entry)
Contributor: Amanda Jones
Column: Young and Reckless: Stories From a Girl With No Hesitation, As Eyes See It: Tales From the City, Make a List Baby!
Hunter was what I refer to as the last of the great dinosaurs that roamed the earth. Beautiful and frightening. A ferocious beast, in the best way possible. He lived a life that couldn’t be replicated if you tried. That’s a good thing, could you imagine the United States chock full of little HS Thompson’s? It would be mayhem and chaos in the streets. I might enjoy it myself but I think the average everyday citizen would be a little frightened, locked tight behind their blockaded front doors.
So much of what is currently going on in the world mystifies me, we live in a nation of post 9/11 fear . It’s just the way it is, as times and politics change. Unless you choose to say, “Fuck the rules, fuck the status quo – I’ll make my own rules ” and Mr Thompson did indeed do that.
by Eric Summer
When I left you, my loyal threes of readers, hanging two weeks ago, I was rambling on about potential career paths for music school graduates and how I’d arrived at the conclusion that I didn’t want to do any of them. If you remember, there was a fascinating tutorial about symphony playing, chamber music, weddings, and studio playing. If you don’t remember the “fascinating” aspect, then you’re just not remembering it right. I’m pretty sure I put “fascinating” in there somewhere. It’s OK if you don’t remember; memory can be a funny thing. I won’t fault you for it.
Anyway, I’d neglected at that point to mention one interesting offshoot of studio playing, which is called “sidelining.” That’s when some movie or TV show or commercial needs an orchestra on-screen, and the music has already been recorded. It’s basically just musical pantomime. You just fake playing along to the recorded track. I did a few of those–a few music videos and a car commercial or two, I think. The best money I ever made was on a sidelining gig. On the flipside, a different sidelining gig was pretty much the penultimate straw for me as a professional musician. Let me describe it for you: it was a music video for a John Legend song, directed by the acclaimed director Kanye West, so there was already a talent-vacuum in the room that could have snuffed out the creative fire of Beethoven, John Lennon, and Stephen Spielberg combined. But that wasn’t really what set me off, nor was the grand-canyon-sized disparity between the amount of money the sideliners were paid and the middle-finger-shaped pile of gold the Kanye-Legend juggernaut no doubt made on the deal. It was just one guy who did it, but he was a guy I was familiar with in many forms over the course of hundreds of gigs. It was Professor Cranio-rectum (real name unknown). This was a guy who didn’t know what he was talking about, but wanted everybody on the gig to know he really had something to show us rookies. So he advanced the notion that since we were playing pop music, we shouldn’t use vibrato. There was no vibrato in pop music, according to the Professor. (more…)
So, what does one do when one’s just finished a degree or two in music? It may come as a surprise, but the combination of writing sort-of-amusing internet columns, doing a sort-of-amusing internet radio show, and crowbarring an instrument usually exclusive to classical music into an indie-rock context, all largely pro bono, are not among the standard career paths for music school graduates. Can’t imagine why, really, but “Musical Polemics 401,” “Handjob Jokes: A Musicological Primer,” and “Smoke Your Way to a Radio Voice” are not on the curricula of most accredited music schools. But with music schools churning out eager graduates at the rate of hapless thousands each year, all of whom are forced to compete with previous years’ hapless thousands for about four jobs nationwide, one has to get a bit creative if one doesn’t want to end up blowing that treasure trove of musical information out the back of one’s head and all over that nice clean diploma. See, music schools exist for those one or two people in every class who are freakish prodigies, or attractive and marketable (by classical-musician standards, at least)(the really lucky ones are both), but one or two people’s tuition money just ain’t enough to keep any kind of school running–even at USC prices. So they have to sell the hopeful, starry-eyed rank-and-file on the idea that they too can make a career out of something only a lucky few people can make a career of. At least until the checks clear, and then they’re on their own. So, as one of the rankest and filiest, before I settled on my chosen field of Doing Musical Stuff For Free (But Also With Complete Autonomy), I tried just about every standard path to post-music-school glory. Following is a list of them, and the reasons they eventually made me want to vomit. (more…)
A Heartwarming Autobiographical Confessional Story of Personal Growth and the Overcoming of Fierce Obstacles and Adversity against Overwhelming Odds on the Path to Artistic Glory and Fame beyond Imagining
The effective confessional autobiography is something few people can pull off convincingly. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk–do jokes diminish it? Does a tone of humility make it sound false? Is there too much self-importance in it to be effective? But whatever the consequence, which may involve people typing “fail” onto a computer somewhere, I think I’m gonna have to attempt a little bit of it. Because in a few days (at least a week ago, by the time this sees the light of computer screens across the internet), my first viola teacher will be 100 years old, and the reaching of an age one can, without grammar-fascist reprisal, type in numeral form (instead of spelling it out in words) is a pretty significant event.
The natural impulse in describing one’s childhood, I think, is probably to begin with a description of the hometown. But I’m discarding that straight away as being too Garrison Keillory. Suffice to say that I now live in Los Angeles, in an apartment with an infant shrieking from the next apartment over, and I used to live in Montana, where most of the shrieking was coming out of my chosen instrument. When I was ten years old, I was lucky enough to live in a place where the school system had a decent orchestra program. My ten-year-old brain immediately sensed that orchestral musicianship was the most obvious route to worldwide fame and riches beyond imagining, free cocktails at exclusive parties thrown by the cultural elite, and food that didn’t come from a microwave oven, so naturally I signed up. I had to choose an instrument, and after hearing Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, I decided to choose the ginger stepchild of the orchestra–the one that even the bassists and tuba players had jokes about. It wasn’t just that I was uncool enough to be in the orchestra; I picked arguably the uncoolest of all the instruments in it. Not even uncool enough to be cool: the viola sprints through uncool, races past cool, and arrives solidly back at uncool again.
But whatever! At ten, my thumb-thick tortoiseshell glasses and favorite pink polo shirt were more than enough to ensure my place in the Pantheon of Uncool. No point in worrying about the subtle gradations. We’re talking about ART here, not reality-show stardom. So with my status affirmed as a social and musical pariah, I needed a teacher. (more…)