WL 2018 - 17

Week 17 of 2018… Spring is finally coming around. 

-Eva Quartet 
-Andrew Bird 
-Ted Hearne 
-Kendrick Lamar

Learn about WL Posts: HERE
Next Week WL: HERE

The Eva Quartet - Bulgarian Folklore Gifts (2000) 

I heard this specific track on one of the “New Sounds” streaming shows, from WNYC. A few others I’ve shown have been less than impressed, but I am an absolute FOOL for drone-filled, bright-vowelled, Balkan folk music. 

You have to understand, I really like drones. Ed has frequently had to snap me out of an unintentional harmonization with the air conditioner mid-conversation. The performance instruction on a choral piece I wrote last year was “like a bird singing over the changing gears of a distant lawnmower.” I used to love riding a specific elevator at my old job because it droned SO LOUD, but no one ever used it so I would just ride it and hum perfect fifths until I heard overtones swirl around me. There is an Indian tanpura (drone) literally sitting in my office right now. So… in addition to this being super interesting from an ethnomusicological perspective, it’s just satisfying AF.. 

The Eva Quartet actually still has a MySpace up with some of their music, which just makes me happy. I only listened to the one album I could readily find on YouTube - Bulgarian Folklore Gifts… from just a basic amount of research, I know there is more out there. Also, before you think it’s all just drones, there’s some pretty incredible stuff that I would throw at a competent women’s choir any day. 

Andrew Bird 

Andrew is one of those people who has touched a ton of projects that I’ve seen before, just never stopped to realize it was all the same person. This is another one I first heard on the New Sounds Radio (this time while cooking dinner), and even though there was nothing extraordinary about it, it made me forget all my troubles and start bouncy-dancing like a fool around the kitchen. 

I actually ended up listening through like 12 of his albums (oddly enough, not the one that first track came from… I’ll have to save that for later). I kept thinking to myself - “Man, this is totally someone’s cup of tea.” I don’t know who, or whether or not that includes me yet. His instrumental tracks really appeal to me in a “Let’s get into a ponderous mood for the middle hours of our long road trip” kind of way 

He wrote a lot of cool little transition tracks, especially in his later albums, and they would flow beautifully into the intro of a song he sings on, and I’m like “ya this is great,” and then he sings and I suddenly feel like I’m done… I actually feel bad for saying it, but I just don’t like the guy’s voice. So I mainly stuck to his weird sampled pieces, his transitions, and his soundtracks... 

I absolutely love the concept of Andrew Bird. Singer-songwriter / Composer / Multi-instrumentalist, makes use of cool post-processing, and inserts whistling tastefully!!! But I dunno... like I said, he's absolutely someone's cup of tea, but not much of this will make it through to my playlists, aside from the instrumentals...The occasional sung track was so catchy that I couldn’t help loving it though :) I can't get this one out of my head.

Ted Hearne - Law of Mosaics (2014) 

Had I heard of him? I guess? His name sounded familiar… Turns out he was one of the finalists for the Pulitzer this year (we’ll get into THAT later). In any case, I listened to “Law of Mosaics” so many times I didn’t really have time for much else… including the work that was nominated. Those will have to stay on the list…The first half of the album is actually “The Companion Guide to Rome” by Andrew Norman (another person on my list), but I mostly focused on Hearne’s piece. 

Was this  track my favorite from the album? Hard to say… I’m really obsessed with the whole work. But this track so depicted how my brain feels when driving I-95 and I’m stressed about work, but then excited about a new idea, then yelling at a Pennsylvania driver, then bemoaning my lack of time to start new projects, then suddenly realizing that BACH IS GOD, then being giddy that my odometer is about to be a palindrome… oh wait PALINDROME! WHAT A COINCIDENCE! Here’s one more from the album because it, too, got me dancing. 

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) 

This one wasn’t new to me. I knew it was brilliant the first 3 times I listened to it. 

Everybody on the Facebook group “Pretentious Classical Music Elitists” has been arguing for days about Kendrick Lamar’s recent Pulitzer Prize for his album “Damn.” There have been plenty of articles written and discussion had on this topic, so I’m not going to regurgitate that all here, but suffice it to say I’m glad he won the award for many reasons, not the least of which is that we should be signaling to future musicians that if your art is good, it won’t be considered “low” just because of its genre; that if you have something to say, you won’t be generalized just because you say it in a voice some people don’t know how to appreciate; and frankly so that people stop assuming that just because it’s “classical” (whatever that means anymore) doesn’t make it worthy of pretentiousness. Good art is good art, and he does good art. 

That being said… I still prefer To Pimp a Butterfly… So after listening to Damn., it really just got me excited to go back to that one. 

If you generally don't listen to rap, perhaps this won't change your mind... I don't listen to very much of it myself, but here are a few things you may find useful:

  • It's possible that there is nothing you can directly relate to in this album - for the most part that applies to me as well 
    • That's okay, stop trying to filter it through your own experience, just listen to him communicate
  • It's possible you are put off by the genre, and are thinking "rap is not even real music, it's just a way for people to make money"
    • Stop listening to it as if it's just another album on the pop charts. If you take it seriously, you'll notice why it's so different
    • I can't tell you how many "classical" composers are using many of the same structural elements, to praises of "how innovative!"
  • It's possible you are sensitive to the cursing and sex imagery
    • Unfortunately, this means you are focused on the wrong thing, and really aren't making it past the surface.
    • Get past it... all messages are grounded in one context or another.
  • Perhaps you're wondering why it's so important to give it a chance
    • First of all, perspective. Like any musician seeking to communicate through composition, you learn about what stirs their soul, whether or not that's something that also stirs yours. We could all use a little more of that in the world... Does that apply to every musician / author / artist ever? Ya, basically... but sometimes what they have to say is boring or shallow, or communicated with unrefined tools... I'm not saying there's no such thing as "bad" music, but I AM saying that you can find "good" music in just about every form when stop asserting worthiness onto entire categories.


Listen to these and more with the full playlist of my favorites from these albums (click on the image below to head to YouTube)

Learn about WL Posts: HERE 
Next Week WL: HERE


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