Sadhanipa, from Passages

There are several really cool things about this recording. Firstly, it is from an album that was a collaboration between Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass, two absolute revolutionaries in the world of music. Secondly, it was our second movement and drum break in Esperanza’s 2006 show, Chakra. Thirdly, the tabla player is none other than Abhiman Kaushal, my teacher for past year at UCLA. I have only recently just put all three of these things together, and it’s given me an even greater appreciation for the entire album. Definitely listen to it, if you get a chance!

This song was one of the very first to go on my iPod when I went on tour in ’06. I listened to it constantly and it’s amazing to me that now, approximately four years later, I am taking lessons from Abhiman Kaushal and Shujaat Khan, have seen Ravi Shankar in concert, and spend virtually every day playing sitar and tabla. My 17-year-old self would be floored!

cool instruments, pt. 1

So I TOTALLY did not catch this at the concert, but there is a theremin solo two minutes into “The Boxer”!! How did that get there? “Hey Artie, you know what would sound great in this instrumental break…?” Haha, I love how S&G always add subtle (and apparently not-so-subtle) changes when they play live:

The theremin is fascinating to me. We talked about it a lot in film class, because it’s always associated with the strange or mentally unstable (Spellbound, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)…even though its most famous player Clara Rockmore hated that connotation and used it solely for classical pieces. By the way, if you’ve never seen a theremin being played before, definitely watch the Clara Rockmore video, it’s insane. The player never touches the instrument, but instead moves his or her hands in relation to two antennae which generate pitch and volume. It’s wicked cool.

awesome combination

These guys (Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Zakir Hussain) are playing at Royce Hall tomorrow, but unfortunately tickets sold out before we could get them. Also this weekend is the AMNA (Africa Meets North America) Symposium and Festival at UCLA, which I’ll be attending both for class and because it looks cool. Next week is a concert and Q&A with Alicia Keys (random, right?)…There are so many great concerts at this school!

oldest recordings and wolfie!

Au Clair de la Lune
^ We listened to this in class yesterday. The first part is the world’s oldest recording, a 15-year-old girl singing “Au Clair de la Lune” from 1860. Soooo crazy. Some of the comments on the video likened it to the voice of a ghost, because it’s so scratchy. It is pretty eerie when you think about it. Apparently it wasn’t meant to be played back, just to record the pattern that sound waves made. So it’s amazing that we actually CAN play it back, and you can in fact distinguish the words (though in French), and that the melody is clearly there. An Edison recording of the same song is played at :45 (how far we’ve come…and even now the Edison recording is considered “primitive”). I’m writing my final paper on the history and development of recorded sound, so this stuff is fascinating to me.

OH and I nearly forgot (but didn’t, thanks to the equally nerdy people in my music theory class) that it’s Mozart’s birthday! Thus, another video from Amadeus is in order (still can’t top the Sexyback vid, but almost as awesome!)

Let me die in my footsteps

It may seem a bit contradictory, but from studying ethnomusicology I am learning how much I love American music. Not because I don’t like other music (I love it, and I love learning about it), but I’ve just realized that most of my favorite types of music are what you would call “American” genres: rock and roll, blues, motown, country, bluegrass, ragtime. But the interesting thing is, all of these genres have their origins in other countries or cultures, in some way. I guess that goes for America in general. We are just one big melting pot, which is part of the beauty of it all.

I starting thinking about this a few weeks ago when we had a guest lecturer in music class, Mark O’Connor. He’s a pretty big name when it comes to violinists and classical contemporary composers. He demonstrated the versatility of the violin by playing all sorts of stuff, Irish jigs, folk tunes, blues, classical…it was really cool.
But what really interested me was his explanation of his latest work, Americana Symphony. He talked about the influence of landscape and travel on American music: the “great wide open,” the constant migration West, the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims, Indians, and African American slaves. There is a common spirit in all of these people that really seems to manifest itself in early American music, well, even current American music, which he proved with his symphony.

It’s true, when I hear certain music, I can envision the Great Plains, the Rockies, the West…prairies, desert, farmland. I think imagery has a lot to do with music, it’s part of why I love it so much. You can hear horses, trains, and steamboats imitated in the rhythmic strumming of a guitar, the whistling of a flute, or the pounding of a drum. And because I’ve grown up listening to these things, it feels so familiar and comforting to me. I’m really thankful to have learned to appreciate music at such an early age, and also incredibly lucky that I got to see a great part of the West and Midwest through countless road trips with my parents (and the rest of the country from touring with drum corps the past three years).
I love traveling…I love music…and I love writing about it. That’s why I’m studying ethnomusicology (the next person to ask me what I’m going to do with my degree can suck it). I’m studying it because I like it…if I don’t get a job that pays lots of money, oh well. As long as I can have my music room and a nice backyard, I’ll live out in the middle of nowhere and be happy.

Let me drink from the waters where the mountain streams flood
Let the smell of wildflowers flow free through my blood
Let me sleep in your meadows with the green grassy leaves
Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace.
Let me die in my footsteps
Before I go down under the ground.

Go out in your country where the land meets the sun
See the craters and the canyons where the waterfalls run
Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho
Let every state in this union seep deep down in your soul.
And you’ll die in your footsteps
Before you go down under the ground.

– Bob Dylan

A sad two days in music.

Miriam Makeba passed away on Monday. She was one of the greatest singers to come out of South Africa, and also one of the strongest voices against apartheid. She had a heart attack as she was leaving the stage after a performance Monday night.
If you are not familiar with South African music, I’d suggest checking it out. I love how rich and soulful the music is, and it was Miriam Makeba and Ladysmith Black Mambazo (both of whom worked with Paul Simon) who gave me my first taste of it. This video is of Miriam at the Graceland concert:

Today Mitch Mitchell, drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, passed away at 61. He was the last surviving member of the band, and he wasn’t even that old. At least now the Experience is reunited. R.I.P. Mitch.