Friday, 23 May 2014

Space is the Place

To honour Sun Ra on his 100th birthday. We miss you!
ML - organ/piano
Trevor Lines - bass/composition
Wilfried Chevalier - drums

Saturday, 17 May 2014

La nuit de Satie

This year la nuit des musées coincides with Erik Satie's 148th birthday. As there was no-one in the Musée du Piano when I was passing, I availed myself of the lovely 1921 Steinway grand piano to record this little hommage. Spot the thematic references to Debussy's masterpiece...

Saturday, 18 January 2014

La Paloma

In the polyphonic department of La Fabrique des Arts I have a few adult beginners to teach each week. I usually find that what adults lack in the sponge-like ability to soak up new skills they make up for in sheer determination. I think it takes tremendous courage to take up the piano in your 40s or 50s, and even more to get up on stage and take on the shiny black beast, as they did today for an audition (informal concert for students, theirs families and the professeurs). One of my students played, very beautifully, a piece by Howard Skempton from Spectrum 2, Thalia Myers' anthology of piano miniatures. Marie-Claire chose to play La Paloma.

La Paloma actually isn't a Mexican or Cuban folksong but was written by a Basque, Sebastián Yradier in 1863, and is probably one of most well-known tunes in the world, existing in more than 1000 different versions by various artists, according to Wikipedia. That's even more than "Summertime"! Another famous tune from the pen of Monsieur Yradier is El Arreglito, better known as the habanera or L'amour est un oiseau rebelle, one of the most identifiable bits of Carmen. Bizet thought he was appropriating a folksong, therefore a melody in the public domain, but as he discovered later it was not the case. He did however graciously agree to pay royalties for its use.

A while ago I arranged La Paloma for the Wallie Wolfgruber Dance Company (NYC) for a film they commissioned from Alvin Booth (see very first post in this blog) called A Hands-on Affair, depicting the courtship and eventual happy union of two gold-painted hands...
So here is, possibly for the 1001st, 1002nd and 1003rd times....

Sunday, 5 January 2014

APC v2

The Akai MPC series - Music Production Center - designed by Roger Linn (he who made the very first drum machine in 1979), has nothing to do with the APCv2, custom designed and built by Ezra Lockett in December 2013. The 'Atari Punk Console' a synthesizer which uses two square wave oscillators and a light theremin, built entirely from recycled electronic components from smashed up radios and hi-fi gear from our local dechetterie (dump). Even the dials are hand-made, and the box used to contain something fabriqué en Chine. Perhaps this entry should have pride of place in the post-materialism blog too. Best Christmas present ever!!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Bells and spells for 2014

It was my old professor Wilfrid Mellers at York University who first introduced me to the strange and 'primitive' music of Barcelonian composer Frederico Mompou. A decade later he published a monograph by way of an obituary the year of Mompou's death, 1987, entitled Le Jardin Retrouvé. He describes how Mompou considered himself to be a composer of recommencement: of the Eternal Return by way of childhood, spells, magic and incantation. As distant from Debussy, Satie and other European composers of the time, as he was from folk music, this latter-day shaman sought to access the therapeutic properties of sound and vibration through simple gestures, modes, and collisions of certain tones (and that's an idea he shares with LaMonte Young!). I find Mompou's music as haunting and intriguing as I did back then. These Charmes are to banish suffering, to fathom the soul, to inspire love, to heal the sick, to learn from the past, and to bring forth joy... Happy New Year!

Last improv session of 2013

It's about 10 years since I finally met Stanley Adler, in Quillan of all places. After crossing paths what must have been numerous times, firstly in New York in the 1980s, where we both played in punk/new wave bands and even inhabited the same neighbourhood on Spring St/SoHo, then in London in the 90s playing in many of the same places. We've collaborated on various projects ever since, some purely commercial - weddings, restaurant gigs, etc, some high art - Baroque sonatas, duos by Faure, Delius, Piazzolla, Webern and Feldman, and others for pure pleasure - our own twisted music. As there is nothing like the London Musicians' Collective for wayward improvisers around here, we rehearse once or twice a week on the 'tunes' (some of which are now gathered together in a handsome fake book "Dogs and Blues") or, as here, in a totally off-the-cuff manner.