A Flute for All Seasons

Classical music has a long history of instrument-swapping. Lute tunes transcribed for guitar. Harpsichord pieces performed on piano. Since guitars and pianos are easier to come by these days than lutes or harpsichords, this is a good thing for modern performers.

Sometimes it’s clear the transcription is simply to allow a performer to indulge in a work written for an instrument other than the one the play. Wynton Marsalis playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” on trumpet comes to mind.

One of the first compact discs I bought when they became commonly available was Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” which had long been a favorite of mine. Rather than the traditional violin, this was arranged for flute and performed by James Galway.

It’s a very different sound, of course, and Galway makes it work. The flute isn’t quite as delicate as a violin can be, but a skilled flutist can make us forget that during the peaceful movements. When winter arrives, though, it seems to have been written for the instrument. The biting winds of winter are colder in a flute than a violin.

I no longer own that copy. These days, my favorite recording of the Seasons is Lorin Maazel’s arrangement and performance on the traditional instrument.

But when winter comes, I always miss the flute.

Mario Takes a Walk

my kids introduced me to a whole string of video games about a guy named Mario, but I don’t think that’s who Jesse Cook is talking about. Somehow, Mario Takes a Walk completely possesses me every time I hear it; it’s one of those rare songs where both the live and studio versions I’ve heard punch me right in the solar plexus.

Thumping danceable drums annoy me. Except sometimes. Adding a ‘thump thump thump’ to most music turns me off completely, so I have no explanation for why Cook’s music, which is nearly always flamenco guitar and thump, grabs me like it does.

Every time I hear Mario (or Matisse the Cat, or many others) I want to do a Titanic on the bow of a sailing ship and laugh out loud while I’m dancing. Sure, it’s impossible, but that’s what music is for, to free us for the impossible.

Jesse has a new album, The Rumba Foundation which you can listen to at his website. Like I am right now.

Four Seasons

One of the first pieces of classical music I was exposed to was Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. We didn’t have a lot of classical music at home when I was a child, so my exposure started later than, say, Irish folk music or Roger Miller.

There are eleventy-leven versions of Vivaldi’s most famous work, but the one that works for me is led by the insuperable Lorin Maazel. After experiencing this rendition, any other seems slightly mistimed; rushed, dragging, improperly syncopated, cadenzas which are frantic rather than energetic.

Maazel’s conducting envelopes each movement in the appropriate season’s textures, sensations, aromas, and sounds. I hear bugs flitting past during ‘Summer'; the flutter of leaves in ‘Autumn'; the rush of the wind in ‘Winter’, and the trickle of a nearby stream in ‘Spring.’

Vivaldi’s work, and especially this piece, and more especially this recording of it, invariably reduces my stress levels and reminds me that some things, unlike stress, are timeless.

The Grassies

Northern California now has a music award.

The Grassies are the Northern California Artistic Achievement Award. Named in part for The GrassiesGrass Valley, where the first awards will be presented, and in part for the grassroots artists they honor, The Grassies are an idea long overdue. Originally intended to be a purely musical award, we The Grassie(Co-Founder and Primary Evangelist Andy Gonzales and Know Your Music writer, Grassies Co-Founder and Anamchara Eolais Joel D ‘spinhead’ Canfield) realized it needed to encompass the arts in general to match our vision.

The First Annual Grassies will be the highlight of the Nevada County Music Expo on April 28th, 2007; all the pertinent info is at The Grassies website. While most of the awards are given to artists and others in music-related fields who are still on the rise, the Masters and Mentors Award is a special award for a grassroots artist who has, in some sense, made it. This year’s recipient is The King of Surf Guitar, Mr. Dick Dale.

The Expo will include workshops, live performances, vendor booths of all kinds from local bands, stores, and other artists, food, and more. Admission is free.

Clouds Over Mojave

Somehow I’ve missed this: for some time, I’ve been working on a site called ‘Clouds Over Mojave’ dedicated to the amazing synchronicity between Jim Earp‘s music and my life. The name comes from one of my favorites of Jim’s tunes.

You’ll find clips of all Jim’s music, links to buy some of the albums, composer’s notes unavailable anywhere else, and my own ramblings related to his music. Give it a look and tell me what you think.

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? (4)

Finally catching up on recent searches. In descending order (I’m a database guy; I do things this way):

  • “walking in memphis”—Ah, Marc Cohn‘s voice and piano . . .
  • “what s it s like to be the bad one” and “to be the bad one”—Actually, it’s “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man; to be the sad man behind blue eyes . . . ” Often touted as the best rock album of all time (it’s at least in the top 10) “Who's NextWho’s Next” needs more time than I have at the moment. Half beautiful ballad, half angry snarling, “Behind Blue Eyes” is often overshadowed by its position on the album, which places it just before one of the all-time-great crankers, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” We’ll come back to it; honest.
  • “gypsy jazz”—Django, or Robin Nolan?
  • “beethoven”—mentioned in Boating with a Finn and Renaissance Woman’s Journey Within
  • “jude cole”—”A View from Third Street
  • “tank”—Jumping Japanese Jazz!
  • “boyz 2 man”—nope
  • “circle of two”—Though I’ve never heard Steve and Annie Chapman, you’ll find all you need to know at their website, including links to buy their music.

Link Death

Link rot is a web phenomenon whereby links from one site to others begin to fail over time due to changes in the target sites.

I’m about to introduce link assassination. Since I have to remove all my CDNow links, but haven’t had time to get all the Amazon.com links, I’m going to just kill them until I have the time.

So, if you read back through older articles (anything prior to the first of December) the links are about to unceremoniously cease to function. I’ll do what I can to get them replaced quickly. In the meantime, you can find everything you need at Amazon.com, which is where we’ll be buying our music from now on, right?