Dan Lopata

Live, Love, Listen

Archive for the category “Music”

One way of breaking into the scene : Jam sessions:

It’s the 3rd Thursday of the month and I’m eating a late dinner between sets. And, although I’m in the house band, I get a little extra time to eat as another band has come to cut up a bit. It’s Meg Williams, who now resides in Nashville, with Danny Zeimann on Bass – Monster Jazz player working the international circuit but bass-ed (see what I did there?) in Rochester. Chris Vandenbos is also up there shredding even though he wasn’t officially part of their band, but he signed up to play so there he is knocking it down in style.

They are smoking hot! Danny’s playing makes me self-conscious about my own but I remember what I learned at a jam years ago at Smokin’ Joe’s on Lyell Ave :

The house band had just taken a break after playing ‘Aint No Sunshine’ in a reggae style that featured the late Ralph Ortiz shredding an insane bass solo as he always did. He sat down at the bar next to me and said, “So you’re opening the second set.”

My reply was, “I can’t follow that!”

He turned to me and said, “Dude, you’re a great player. You are not me, but you do what you do and you do it right. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, just go up and play what makes sense with the tune in the way that YOU do it.”

I opened the second set with Standing on Shaky Ground which always featured Dave Barnes on a drum solo while the bassist just lays down a funky groove. It was all good!

Even though I still compare myself to others, that short conversation sticks with me, and sometimes I even get to deliver it to others now.

Back to dinner, I’m hanging with Steve West, Genesee Johnny, Gordon Munding, and a few other great finger-style / slide bluesmen just chatting about who’s playing where and exchanging info for subbing if someone needs a substitute bass player. Everything is chill.

jam session

Jamming at The Landing with Jimmy Gondoli, Ken Kahler, and the Legend Donny Mancuso
Photo Credit : Aaron Winters

Jam sessions are a great way to break in, to get to know cats, to develop your skill as a player with others (everything is different when you play with other people instead of just playing along with the record… er digital file… yeah I showed my age). They can serve as a free music lesson, especially when the house band is led by a consummate musician like Danny Schmidt (From the Shadows and from Gap Mangione’s Little Big Band) who can read a musician like a book in the first turn around and take where they’re at, and without saying a word, push them musically to the next level. They can also serve as what the stride pianist’s in the 1920’s and bluesmen on the street corners in Memphis called ‘Cutting Contests’.

Ken Kahler and I would show up Monday nights to the Clarissa Room open jam and hang at the bar with our Cokes and Ginger Ales until we got called up to play. We’d throw each other a look and say, “Throw Down!” We had been playing in power/rock blues trio for a decade and basically could read each other’s minds, so at a jam, where we had 2 or 3 tunes to work with and didn’t have to play to the conventions of a typically show, we took the opportunity to open up… HARD! Periodically we’d get the feedback that we were ‘too busy’ but there was no other rhythm section in town that could touch what we were doing. As a result of these jams, we got recommended by, I think it was John Tucker, to Chris Beard, and we spent a bit of time on the road with him (Ken much more time than me).

Now this may all seem like you need to be professional just to sit in at one of these. That is patently untrue. People of all skill levels show up at these. At the best jams, I won’t say that the house band plays to the level of the guest because sometimes that would destroy the music, but the house band plays in a way that complements the level of the guest and makes them sound good to great. These jams are typically hosted by cats that have been on the scene for a long time, and in the style of an Art Blakey, or Miles Davis, or any of the old jazz and blues greats, use the opportunity as a lesson to the players that show up.

Furthermore, these jams are not just limited to blues and jazz, although blues jams are a decent starting point because of standard chord progressions. You can find folk, rock, soul, blues, jazz jams all over the place.

Here are a few that I particularly enjoy:

Jazz:

Monday nights at the Pythod with the Tony Hiler Trio. This is a serious jam with serious cats that know their jazz book and have chops. I can hang but I’m certainly not a cat that will find himself in Tony’s House band. Bring your real book as those cats have already memorized theirs.

Rock / Blues:

There’s two I highly recommend –

Wednesday at Murph’s in Irondequoit with Nate Coffey – Nate plays everything and sings, he comes from a musical family with his father being a cornerstone of Rock/Blues in Rochester for decades and Nate carrying on the tradition. You will find cats that have played the big time in Manhattan (Eric Katerle as an example) to local talent that will blow your mind. If you show up with a tune in mind, chances are 99.9% that Nate and the band knows it and are ready to throw down with you and take you for a ride.

Nate Coffey

Throwing Down with Nate at The Landing
Photo Credit : Aaron Winters

Tuesdays at The Landing in Fairport similarly has a rocking vibe. I will credit this primarily to my friend and long-time rhythm-section partner in crime Ken Kahler on the drums. Make sure when your there to order a burger and then demand that the cook/owner Jimmy Gondoli comes out and jams too, as he is a monster guitarist.

Blues/Blues:

Tuesdays at PI’s on the West Side of town, Billy B. a mainstay artist in Rochester and Buffalo hosts this jam. His band rotates personnel but always includes some of the longest tenured musicians in the area including Dave Riccione, Danny Schmidt, Aleks Disjlenkovich, Wayne Naylor, Big Mike, Jason Smay, and McKinley James. This is a fun time to spectate as well as play at as the swing dancers love to come out and show off their moves

The Third Thursday of every month, Sticky Lips in Henrietta hosts Son House Night. You host Genesee Johnny, along with myself and Tim Brinduse open the first set, then Johnny usually brings in a featured act, and then finally opens it up for jamming. As the name suggests, this jam is focused on old style blues playing, we get lots of bottle-neck slide and finger-style players, and even regular mini-set from a solo artists on his double-neck cigar box guitar.

Rhythm and Blues / Soul:

Super Sunday Soul Jam:

This jam bounces from place to place, not even sure it’s still happening, but when it is Mitty Moore (The Dukes, Mitty and the Followers) hosts this amazing jam. John Dretto, the amazing 16 yr-old phenom fusion/blues guitarist makes a habit of showing here along with the famous Buzzo. The house band is amazing and the guests that show up will take you from funkytown to church in the matter of a few tunes.

 

There are other jams around town, check them out. This list represents the one’s I’m most likely to be found at because of the ‘hang’, the musicianship, and the food!

Happy Jamming!

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The Year in Review Part II (Music)

2015 started the year off pretty great, working with Orange Sky, The Fools, and Genesee Johnny. I thought the mix was perfect, good people, good music, good times.

I fooled myself.

Orange Sky and I had a falling out and separated in quite an ungraceful way. Much had to do with my approach and attitude, but the whole process has left a deep wound and hurt from a place that is supposed to be “healing.” I have serious reservations about the larger organization, First Unitarian Church of Rochester, as a result of this divorce. 

I have edited the above, as my earlier words were still fueled by the anger and resentment that remain from this process. But more on Spiritual Matters in a later blog.

Fools

The Fools have been a blast. Mary Ellen Hayden’s voice is a force of nature, Mickey’s guitar is mindblowing, Ken’s rhythmic stylings are second to none, and Jack’s ears on the soundboard are impeccable. These guys are the real deal in classic rock, and it has been a privilege to share the stage with them. Not only that, but as people, they are sincere, honest, caring, fun, humorous, loving, sensible, etc. they are great people and great musicians, which is the magic formula I’ve been looking for in a band. Unfortunately, my playing has been adequate at best. The loud playing in small rooms through the years have taken a toll on my ears. I recently had them checked and as far as low frequencies are concerned I have suffered some hearing loss. With loud low frequencies bouncing around in tight spaces I have been losing pitch recognition in these scenarios and have found to my dismay that I would be playing a half-step off for periods of time without even recognizing it. This not only embarrasses me, but brings the entire band down. I am investing in custom earplugs to help remedy this situation and prevent further hearing loss, but am not as optimistic as I might have been when I was younger. We will see what happens next. Regardless, The Fools are setting up another incredible run next year so check them out whether or not I am playing with them.

The Genesee Johnny Trio is tremendous with Jenna (Jenna and the Hops) stepping back for a while, Aleks and I needed to shore up our Pultneyville Grill residency, so we employed Johnny. Playing string bass between these two guitar geniuses in a laid back low volume setting is magic. Just like The Fools, these guys are great people as well as great musicians. Aleks is the best, tastiest blues player in the northeast and Johnny’s slide technique and vocals harken to an era long past. The Pultneyville Grill will be reopening in March and you can find us there again, we would also like to play other rooms and settings so please talk us up to your favorite establishment.

hanna

Also on the trio front, Aleks and I also approached Hanna Klau, an amazing pianist and vocalist from Korea who does standards, blues, and original material, and we have been playing around town as well. (We will be playing Sticky Lips Henrietta from 7:30 – 10:00 New Year’s Eve). Look for Hanna to be releasing a CD soon. This trio combined with the Genesee Johnny trio plus Tim Brindouse on Harmonica and Tony Hiler on drums will make up a new band that rocks and swings the area. We already have a big date in July in Geneseo. Stay tuned.

Crab

Finally, other than one offs with bands like The Flexitarians, and subbing, I was invited to play bass in a pop trio called Crabapples. This is fronted by Jon Gary who is a bass player I have followed for years in a band called Woody Dodge, but he plays guitar and sings in this band. Also Brooks Langkans on drums and vocals is a child of the eighties who shares my pop-sensibilities and taste. Most of the songs we play are originals, and I would say they have a brit-pop feel, (think XTC, The Jam, Split Endz etc.). It’s really fun to play this music, although it is a departure from the blues, jazz and rock for me. It is teaching me (and I’m applying it to other bands) how to play much more within the tune. I tend to be a really busy player, thinking that adding more is adding more to the song… but really, adding less adds more in many, many cases. Love these guys, love this band, they even let me sing a Ramones tune live for a benefit concert. Keep your eyes open for this band as we start a new year of composing and recording.

2015 was year of learning, 2016 is shaping up to be another great year. I think I’m finally in that place where I’m playing the music I want to be playing with the people I want to be playing it with. It is no longer a job, it is a joy.

Looks like I will still be reviewing the year after the new year rolls in. But hey… whatever, you don’t have to read t if you don’t want to 🙂

Next up Part III

Family

I built that????

I Built That????

Hops waters3

Photo: Sam Waters

Jenna and the Hops played their premiere Club gig last night at Sticky Lips Barbeque and Juke Joint  . We rehearsed the night before to get our arrangements together, but maybe we shouldn’t have as they all went right out the window.

Friends came out, friends from many different circles of life, and that always makes me nervous because I don’t what judgment is going to be passed – you are judged by the company you keep you know.

Jenna is a major proponent of Body Love, and she is quite large in stature – note that she also became a certified yoga teacher last month.  Many of my trail running friends came out and they are waifs. This, I thought might be interesting because I don’t necessarily know everybody well beyond running with them or their propensities and prejudices and I was concerned that there may be some judgment thrown about.

I also, wasn’t sure if these trail runners were going to enjoy the style of music we were playing, we don’t throw down “modern music” or rock, we sit in a swing groove most of the time bordering on Rock-a-Billy and Vintage R&B and even some Country; not stuff you’re going to hear on commercial radio. Add to this musicians I respect immensely in the Rochester area came out including members of InnerloopThe White Hots, Woody Dodge, etc. It’s always nerve-wracking when you put yourself out there in front of musical peers you respect.

Hops waters1

Photo: Sam Waters

So here it is, my worlds collide, nothing happens to plan, and I just let it happen. MAGIC ENSUED! The swing dancers found spots (Note to Sticky Lips BBQ & Juke Joint, it’s a great venue, but you will get repeat business from these dancers if you can provide a place in front for them to dance. They add to the ambience and actually bring more people in who like to watch them as well as the band. It will help your bottom line, even if they aren’t purchasing many drinks; they bring and keep others there who will spend money on food and drink. That’s a pretty good return on investment considering you don’t have to pay them). The runners had a great table to eat and drink and recover from their trail run earlier in the evening, and then they started dancing. The musicians from other bands found their corners of the room where they could listen unimpeded. There were other groups of people present that mixed and mingled that I found heartening, from young rockers to middle aged jazz heads, from CIS-gender folks to straight laced conservatives. This renewed my faith in society, and reminded me that music really is the great uniter.

Plato1

The earliest philosophers understood these powers of music even though they argued the validity of high art versus the mundane. To that end, the band was hot, and even though we screwed up arrangements, we all listened to each other, laughed, shrugged, and forged ahead making the mundane into high art in its improvisatory aesthetic.

HopsLivermore1

Photo: Cara Livermore

Front and center of this was Jenna and her pipes. She absolutely slayed. Playing with Justin is such a pleasure, laying it down in a way that I never had to worry about losing time when I decided to go off the charts. Aleks, one of the greatest, most under-rated guitarists in the Northeast USA (although every musician in this town knows what a treasure he is) has been a partner in crime with me and music for some time now, and because we have been doing this so long we were able to keep it together with a simple glance, shrug, and smile when entrances where miffed and arrangements thrown out (evidently no one read my notes). His guitar playing was absolutely extraordinary. But the greatest musical joy of the evening was working with reed specialist Matthew Seiber-Ford who was OFF THE HOOK. Being our second gig together (which is always very different than rehearsal) I’m still feeling out our musical dialogue. By the end of the night, there was that innate interplay that usually develops over months and years of working together.

HopsLivermore2

Photo: Cara Livermore

I have mentioned the audience already, in one of my comments on facebook this morning I was given props by one of the trail runners there. He mentioned how great our “vibe” was. It is important to recognize (and I told him this) that the “vibe” is the audience. Musicians are not paid to play at an audience, we are to play FOR an audience. This requires two-way communication. The crowd informs us as to what to do, we morph each other. The band can move people in different directions, moods, and affects, but the crowd also has the same power over the band. As I continue to explore the interconnectedness of everything, it is simple to see this in a star-stuff/molecular/atomic way, but live music allows us all to experience it in a way that is more “spiritual” in nature.

Hops waters2

Photo: Sam Waters

Of course I use quotes because I don’t believe in a great intelligence or a god, so I don’t want this term to be misconstrued. That said, the idea of affects, overtones, Pythagorean philosophy, etc. captures my interest as I see it in action. I saw this last night. I saw simple sound waves combine and collaborate with physical motions, emotional moods, and intellectual analysis. When put in those terms it seems like a complicated equation, but rather it brings us all into a much simpler place. A place of shared experience, which ironically is experienced differently by each individual. Yet it connects us all in one place of commonality that allows us to share a room with all of our differences and join in the most non-partisan community available.

This is the feeling, the vocation, the “calling” that I think is for me. It is hard work, personalities in bands can be difficult, even under the best circumstances with people we genuinely like, respect, and adore. But the troubles and work are worth it when you get to experience/create what happened last night.

I want to say, “I built that,” and while I have been a large part of it I didn’t build it. I got some people in a room after Jenna asked me to. It didn’t work right at the start, so I got a phone call from Aleks which prompted getting different people in a room and it started to come together. The Rochester Swing Dance Network  had a jam that allowed Jenna and I to play a couple of songs, and they booked us. Tom and Sherry at The Pultneyville Grill talked to me about booking a trio after Aleks had me sub for The White Hots. Frank Deblase  and Deb Jones were instrumental in booking the band at Sticky Lips and publicity. There are so many others, but it’s absolutely not built without an audience. So it is a lie to say, “I built that” because WE BUILT THAT.

Every show you come to, every band you comment on, every time you engage with live music, you join the building of that enterprise. You built that – collectively.

Do you want to continue building us? Talk us up, tell your friends, talk to bartenders, managers, venue owners of places you frequent, tell us what you dig, come out and dance, hoot, holler, eat, drink, socialize. Love what we do and let us love what you do. In a world where so much is out there to tear us apart from one another, don’t you want a respite, a place to enjoy the idea of being connected in a very magical way? Join us. There is nothing better than being able to say, “That? Yeah, I built that….” because you did.

Connect with us here

Music This Week – 1/18

Sorry I missed last week, probably because I just couldn’t bring myself to post the fact that I played a Carrie Underwood tune. But anyhow, Music this Saturday at First Unitarian continues with the theme of “Character”:

I have to admit that Sara is quite a guilty pleasure. I love her voice and whomever handles her arrangements is a friggin’ Hook Master:


…and another female lead I can listen to all day, Poe:



Stephen Stills’ genius was on display with Buffalo Springfield. I would also strongly suggest people check out his work with Manassas.

Now I’m a huge fan of Brian Setzer so I will place this next tune here with his arrangement, but I also feel it’s necessary to follow it up with Santo & Johnny who originally wrote it:

Oh Edie:

Let’s close out with some Killers:

Again, you can see me perform  these tunes live at the Saturday 4:30 Service at First Unitarian Church of Rochester.

Bonus Material:

If you have read this far, and you’ve been following along, you know I’m working on another project. Let me tickle you with some ideas floating around for this one:

Let’s mess with The Kinks:

And my favorite from the Aristocats:

Let’s not forget some older favorites:

So All’y’Alls better get those dance shoes ready!

I need to research my Greek mythology, as Achilles seems to have my number

14 through Mendon Ponds 14.08 mi 02:11 09:17 pace

So, I’ve just about had it with my Achilles Tendon. It is tight and inflamed this morning and has me quite concerned. I’m taking tomorrow and Monday off to apply RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and will try again on Tuesday. I already took last Thursday off and hoped, because it was a step back week, that it would self-correct from lower mileage and rest. On the plus side I got a fairly comfortable 14 in today! Therefore my long runs are consistently on-schedule and that is the most important bit of my training.

Started off at 6:00 AM 47 degrees F. Shorts, SmartWool socks, Columbia Masterfly shoes (I wonder if this isn’t part of the problem), TNF tech-t, Nike long sleeve tech, Reebok thin shell, gloves, buff, Ultimate Direction hydration/fuel vest, and a new PrincetonTech Remix Headlamp (YES! highly recommend this up to 125 lumen lamp with 4 settings and no bounce).

The first mile included slick ice path, but managed to find crunchy snow cover in most spots to maintain traction. the second mile included Ward Hill, which is nasty little speed bump that I can’t seem to push through easily. I’m #3 on the Strava leaderboard, but only 4 people run this particular hill on Strava. At the top I was already over heated and so I lost the gloves and the shell. If you don’t have an Ultimate Directions Hydration/Fuel vest, I highly recommend it. I have the Anton Kupricka signature model which in the course of one minute was off my back and then my shell and gloves went in the storage in back and the vest slipped right back on. No bounce, weight distributed perfectly, It’s like it isn’t there.

The rest of the run was uneventful, save for the only car I came across in Mendon Ponds park that decided they needed to hug to white line, thus forcing me off the road, even though there was no one else in the park… I can’t wait to get back on the trails because there are no idiot drivers on the trails. Other than that, it’s always cool to run in the dark through Mendon with a headlamp on, glowing eyes peek out from every direction. It’s surreal, like a Scooby Doo episode. What’s cool is that there is no real fear, these eyes are primarily deer, and the deer are plentiful because by in large there are no predators in Mendon Ponds, including no human hunters which the deer are keenly aware of which allows them to be approached without skittishness. Periodically one will run across a fox, like I did this morning, the grace and speed with which they can move is astonishing.

All and all it was a nice run, particularly because Axis Bold as Love was my earworm this morning.

I’m not down

I’m hurting. I’m in debt, my kids unknowingly conspire against me because of expectations set up by my ex, I’m doing work (and it’s completely transactional relationship built) and I’m paying to do it, It’s hard to see the good right now… but I’ll try (disclaimer: I feel like a used car salesman selling myself a lemon when I do these):

  • I am running – niggle in the ankle aside I’m running okay and believe I will be in prime shape for June
  • I’m engaged in meaningful spiritual stuff – I’ve been selected to be part of the lay ministry at First U and for leadership development (even though I’m an atheist) . I meet with my sponsor for alcoholism recovery weekly and almost weekly I’m working with another recovering drunk (who is not an atheist, AT ALL)
  • I am playing music –maybe not what I want all the time, but I am playing and sharing that gift with others
  • My wife is friggin’ awesome
  • I was able to contribute $5 for a present (entry into Cayuga Trails 50) for a local runner who just lost his job, and recently got engaged – the trailrunning/ultra community in Rochester is just awesome
  • I’m writing right now
  • My Buddhist Book Club meets tomorrow – Happiness by Mathieu Ricard
  • Last night, when my anger toward my ex was compounded, and I was seething, I was able to go downstairs and just sit for about 15 minutes – unfortunately one of the cats then thought she should scream at me for the entire 15 minutes.

The title of the Blog is Live, Love, Listen

Living does not mean it’s going to be easy or always pleasant, it sometimes means fulfilling obligations when they need to be met.

Loving right now means picking myself up and remaining in community with my wife, kids, and assorted communities.

Listening, well 15 minutes last night listening to the cat scream was actually better than 15 minutes listening to my thoughts run.

Parallels and Paradoxes (review)

Parallels and Paradoxes

(a review)

 Every society has conflicts in it between justice and injustice, ignorance and knowledge, freedom and oppression. The point is not simply to belong to one side or the other because one is told to, but to choose carefully and to make judgments that render what is just and due to every aspect of the situation. The purpose of education is not to accumulate facts or memorize the “correct” answer, but rather to learn how to think critically for oneself

-Edward W. Said from the article Barenboim and the Wagner Taboo reprinted in Parallels and Paradoxes p. 182

Patriotism can flourish only where racism and nationalism are given no quarter. We should never mistake patriotism for nationalism. A patriot is one who loves his homeland. A nationalist is one who scorns the homelands of others.

-Daniel Barenboim from the article Germans, Jews, and Music reprinted in Parallels and Paradoxes p.172

ParallelsParadoxes

Parallels and Paradoxes is a book that was on a reading list for a class I never got to take while in Graduate School at SUNY UB. I finally got back to read it and was blown away. Expecting the book to be purely about music and the discourses and polemic between great German composers of the past I was surprised and happy to discover a polemic between two contemporaries regarding the great composers. A particular focus was Beethoven and Wagner, and they used this discussion as a springboard for more contemporary issues including those dealing with complexities in Palestinian, Israeli, and Germanic thought and then expanding this toward a discourse on more global issues. I say contemporary, but in hindsight, I realize that the contemporary is rooted in history, a point not lost on these two gentleman.

The book, with the exception of two essays at the end, is a transcription of dialogues between the noted conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and intellectual/author Edward W. Said.

Barenboim is Russian Jew born in Argentina, immigrated to Israel in 1947 has lived in London, Paris, Jerusalem, Chicago and currently in Berlin residing as conductor of the Staatskapelle Orchestra. He was the first conductor to break the unwritten ban on performing Wagner in Israel and did it while touring with the Staatskapelle. He has conducted the entire Wagner Ring Cycle in Bayreuth where Wagner’s grandson still controls the music festival.

Said was born into a  Palestinian in Jerusalem, and raised in Cairo when he was removed from his birthplace. He was a Christian Arab, and because of being a Christian in a predominantly Muslim community he became displaced again to become a U.S. citizen. He was an intellectual and great commentator on culture’s relationship to society. He pioneered the field of study examining questions of Orientalism, which is frequently reflected as “other” and “taboo” in music, the opera Lakme is fine example of this. He was one of the leading commentators of the complex conflicts in the Middle East. He was also a musicologist, writing many essays and accomplished pianist, but in neither realm was he a professional musician nor musicologist.

The discussions are dynamic starting from the time these men put together an Israeli/Palestinian children’s orchestra, where kids from each background started out by being amazed that others had “classical” musical knowledge, to kids refusing to be stand partners, and eventually creating an orchestra where background, culture and tradition took “second fiddle” to working together to make music. Barenboim and Said then discuss the nature of music and sound creation, the idea that the score is not a piece of music, that that is only realized by the actual performance. They discuss the ownership of music, does it belong to the composer after the final pen stroke or does it then belong to world when it is heard. Furthermore what happens when the performance is over and the sound disappears?

They get into issues of nationality, i.e. the German Sound, and how it is German, yet it is universal. I may not know how to speak German, but as a musician, I can play German music, as well as Italian, French, English, etc etc. So there may be a German music, a German tradition that speaks through Bach to Beethoven to Wagner to Schoenberg, but it is accessible universally. Anyone can hear it.

They get into authenticity, the conservative notion of playing period instruments and how that can be disingenuous because the music itself is fluid, transcending time and able to be played according the reception’s ears and knowledge of today.

All of these things are then expanded into ideas of society, addressing patriotism vs nationalism, history as it relates to fundamental harmony both vertically and horizontally, immigration, taboos, reclamation of sound, prejudice, otherness, enlightenment, mysticism, etc. I have never seen so much intellectual, deep, musical and philosophical ground covered in 186 pages.

This is a book, that while short, takes a long time to read because every word is gold, and the ideas are dense and require unpacking. Although it is presented in musical terms and therefore can be rather inaccessible to those without formal musical training (which they also address as a major concern in this book)  I think it worthwhile for non-musicians to read to begin/continue the critical awareness of the great issues challenging our world.

The following are selected quotes (some with my annotations):

Because the score is not the truth. The score is not the piece. The piece is when you actually bring it into sound.
Barenboim (DB) p. 33

At the beginning tremolo of the Bruckner Fourth or Seventh Symphony, you create the illusion that it starts out of nowhere and that sound creeps out of silence, like some beast coming out of the sea and making itself felt before it is seen. This may sound very poetic and metaphysical, but it is a defiance. In order to defy physical law, you have to understand that physical law and to understand how it is that things sound a certain way and why
DB p. 35

This is an important idea both in music and life. You need the understanding in order to create and/or perceive. You must know how it works if you are to know how you fit.

I don’t think that we have any right to have a sort of generalized criticism, if not hatred, of the people who hated us, because then we descend to the level of those people who persecuted us for so many years.
DB pp. 109-110

Whether it’s Jews hating Germans, Palestinians hating Israelis, United States hating Muslims. The minute we hate others for hating us, we descend to the thought and actions of what we hate, we in essence become what we hate. I said something similar about people celbrating the death of Osama bin Laden. I didn’t celebrate, because I celebrate someone’s life, and his life was not worth celebrating. If I were to celebrate death, I would be no better than what I despise.

The moment a composer like Beethoven has actually finished writing a piece, that piece becomes independent of him. It becomes part of the world. The qualities that he has put in don’t necessarily stay there. So, they can be interpreted or misinterpreted, used or abused, as we have seen in the different political trends too.
DB p. 143

I love this. Music is innocent, composer’s intentions are damned. Example, Reagan using a New York, Gay, socialist Jew’s composition for his “Morning in America” commercials. Reagan stood against almost every ideal Aaron Copland stood for. But Copland’s music became independent of Copland the second he finished composing it. Another example is Kubrick’s use of Ode to Joy in a Clockwork Orange, it no longer is a rapturous piece once you’ve sen the movie. Therefore, the music does not necessarily reflect nor represent his ideas. The Same could be said of Wagner, whose ideas were reprehensible, but does that make his music reprehensible?

That was really hard for me to watch and upload.

THIS one is long but important:

DB: The combination of these two factors – the attitude to the profession beyond the professional and the fact that they have such a thorough musical education – makes each one of them play from the score and not from their part. By this I mean that wherever they play, they are perfectly and consciously aware of what this note that they are playing at that moment actually means in the context. In other words, what is the place of that note: what is the place of that note in the chord; and what is it both vertically and horizontally. And this is a very important factor in music-making, what one would call the vertical pressure of the horizontal discourse. This means the melodic line and rhythm go in a horizontal direction, but there is always a vertical pressure of the chording, of the harmonies, that is constantly there. In this respect, music is exactly like history, which has to be lived both simultaneously and subsequently.

EWS: … this structural wholeness, as you described it, the education of musicians and the way they play in the case of the Staatskapelle, and particularly in Beethoven, is disappearing throughout our society. If you think of the major pressures, intellectual and social, that exist, they are toward greater pragmatism – in other words, specialization of knowledge, so that only fellow experts can understand each other. The moment you step out of a particular field, you can no longer communicate with anyone else… The idea of a common discourse doesn’t exist anymore because, first of all, our training is extremely specialized, and then, the whole funding apparatus is geared toward the fragmentation of knowledge, so that people do more and more about less and less. … there is a certain kind of ideological indoctrination that more or less says, “Well it’s not your problem; someone else will solve it for you; you are no longer responsible for that.” There is a sense, particularly in the United States, that we don’t need to know about the rest of the world. The awareness of the overall society and the destiny of where we are going, whether it concerns the environment, the arts, or history is diminished. For example, in America, history is considered to be what is forgotten, When you say to someone “you’re history,” it doesn’t mean that you’re a part of it; it means that you’re obliterated. That’s what history means. …People are no longer educated that way in music, and certainly not in literature. I know because I’ve been teaching for forty years, and I realize now that young students know less and less. You could take for granted, when I began, that students had been educated… As a teacher, you could assume that they knew there was a body of literature… which began in such and such a way that included great figures like Milton and Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Yeats, and so on. You can’t assume that anymore. There’s a kind of a pursuit of the narrow, the particular, and the specialized. And the result is that there’s a kind of overall battle where it’s very difficult, in discourse or in intellectual exchange, to have …illuminating and liberating moments.
pp. 148-150

I truncated this a bit for brevity, but what Barenboim is getting at is the value of the note and how it fits. The note does not exist in a vacuum, it is necessary for the vertical pressure or harmony, it is there because of what came before and it informs what comes next. I can replace the ‘note’ with the ‘individual’ in relation to that individual’s culture, history, context. We do not exist in a vacuum and we only become useful when we understand how we fit, right now, in context with what came before and what is to come. I’ve actually heard this as the true definition of humility.

Said takes this concept and adds to it a concept that was given a name I heard in a lecture last night. This concept is Moral Malpractice. This idea that once we specialize in something, and we don’t follow up, don’t change if we see our specialized actions not being effective in context, that we unaware of context or rely on someone else to take care of, this is moral malpractice. Said goes on to state that if we continue to live this way, in narrow intellectual bubbles, we end up having no meaningful discourse, and our world becomes more and more fragmented. He, like I, sees that things like common core curriculum and standardized tests are actually not the goal of education, it is teaching people critical thought for themselves that is important, and we can really only get this through the humanities/music.

Either everything is absorbed into this one kind of monochromatic, homogeneous, mindless whole or there’s an active sense of the classic civilization threatened by new forces, the response to which is often, “We have to be careful about the other; the other is dangerous.” And I think that the real problem today is that there’s no mediation between these two extremes. Either there’s homogenization or there is xenophobia, but not the sense of exchange. It’s taking place in many parts of the world. Hence the need to return to origins: you know, people who say, “Let us go back to roots”; the need to find a German past, the Jewish past, the Arab past, the American past. There is a need to find a past that is uncontaminated by anything, even though it’s completely unhistorical, because the past is very much like the present.
EWS pp. 152-153

Yup, fear, the other, the “good old days” myth, fear…. Did I say fear. Xenophobia or assimilate to the Borg.

I believe that when all things are right on the stage – when the playing, the expression, everything becomes permanently, constantly interdependent – it becomes indivisible. And this is the mystical, because this is the same idea of religion, of God: that there’s suddenly something that you cannot divide anymore. The experience of music-making is that, in a way. It’s not religious in the sense that one prays to it, but it’s comparable to religion in the sense that it cannot be divided. And when that actually happens, I believe that the active listener, who is sensitive, can communicate with that. This is what I mean by the mystical.
DB p. 156

Just Beautifully Stated. As close to believing or understanding God as I will ever get.

The attitudes of many Germans who are hostile to foreigners seem to me to derive from the fact that the last two or three generations of Germans have not adequately learned what immigration means. They fail to understand that it is possible to have more than one identity at the same time and to accept that people of foreign origin, with foreign customs and a foreign culture, can become part of one’s own land without their threatening one’s identity as German.
DB p. 172

I challenge anyone to replace the word German with American and deny that it is the truth about Americans who are hostile to immigrants as well.

This was hard to watch too.

If you wish to learn how to live in a democratic society, then you would do well to play in an orchestra. For when you do so, you know when to lead and when to follow. You leave space for others and at the same time you have no inhibitions about claiming a space for yourself. And despite this, or maybe precisely because of it, music is the best means of escape from the problems of human existence.
DB p. 173

Music for the most part is transnational; it goes beyond the boundaries of a nation or a nationality and language. You don’t have to know German to appreciate Mozart, and you don’t have to be French to read a score by Berlioz. You have to know music, which is a very specialized technique acquired with painstaking care quite apart from subjects like history or literature, although I would argue that the context and traditions of individual works of music have to be understood for purposes of true comprehension and interpretation.
EWS pp. 179-180

Politicians can talk their usual nonsense and do what they want, and so can professional demagogues. But for intellectuals, artists and free citizens, there must always be room for dissent, for alternative views, for ways and possibilities to challenge the tyranny of the majority and, at the same time and most importantly, to advance human enlightenment and liberty.
EWS p. 181

Was it dissent?

In the Israeli case about anger and Barenboim, how many writers, musicians, poets, painters would remain before the public if their art was judged by their moral behavior? And who is to decide what level of ugliness and turpitude can be tolerated in the artistic production of any given artist? For a mature mind it should be possible to hold together in one’s mind two contradictory facts: that Wagner was a great artist, and second, that Wagner was a disgusting human being. Unfortunately one cannot have one fact without the other. This is not to say that artists shouldn’t be morally judged for their immorality or evil practices; it is to say that an artit’s work cannot be judged solely on those grounds and banned accordingly.
EWS p. 182

I have, probably insensitively, on many occasions, compared the Wagner conundrum to Michael Jackson, and Phil Spector. Both despicable human beings whom without popular music would not be what it is.

But what about the children?

Yup, direct from a murderer

If you watch nothing else, watch these Israelis and Palestinians play the music of one of the most notorious anti-semites the world has known.

…but the main point has to be that real life cannot be ruled by taboos and prohibitions against critical understanding and emancipatory experience. Those must always be given the highest priority. Ignorance and avoidance cannot be adequate guides for the present.
EWS p. 184

If you have made it this far, you will see why I’m so astounded with this book. It can be found on Amazon or possibly in a library near you. I suggest that you go look it up in WorldCat under the ISBN number of 978-1-4000-7515-7. Worldcat will then direct you to the closest library that has it, or maybe you can access it through your own local library through their inter library loan program (ILL).

Happy Reading

Happy Thinking

Happy Listening

Music For This Saturday!

LISTEN!

Most every week I play the 4:30 service at First Unitarian Church of Rochester NY with a band named Orange Sky. Every month there is a one word theme the month is focused on. This month is Character, and we try to focus the tunes we play around this theme. WARNING, not all of the music is the kind of stuff I would typically pull up on my playlists, but much of it is. We can play anything from Allison Krauss to Frank Zappa.

That said, I will present some of the tunes we play each week here for your enjoyment. If you like it, maybe you want to hear it live, come out and see us:

Hrm. Don’t those opening chords sound suspicously like “Sweet Jane”?

Tom Morello is one of my “go to” activist inspirations and his work with RAGE is possibly the most influential guitar work through the 90s, and Chris Cornell’s work up to this point in his musical career was just short of musical genius…(what happened Chris?)

The Fab Four… enough said!

Pretty much anyone who has graced the Austin City Limits stage (County & Blues Carnegie Hall) is good enough for me. Check out this tribute to Dr. King!

I have a thing about 1977, Lindsey Buckingham and Christie McVeigh.

ooooooo weeeeee what’s up with that?

Speaking of Fleetwood Mac, here’s Peter Green with John Mayall’s Blues Breakers playing Freddie King’s “The Stumble”. John Mayall, who still tours is the greatest band leader you may have never heard of he discovered Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie of Fleetwood Mac; Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce of Cream; Harvey Mandell, Walter Trout, and Larry Taylor of Canned Heat. SICK!

Come LISTEN to us LIVE and LOVING it!

Live, Love, Listen

Live More, Love More, Listen More

I make no promises about keeping up the blog, it’s nice to have the receptacle but, as you can see, last year I went like gang-busters writing about running, until I stopped. I would blame it on the stress-fracture, but the writing stopped before that happened so I can only blame it on me. This year I hope to write more, and I hope what I write is of interest to people. I will do my best to tag things and categorize things correctly so people won’t get stuck weeding through Ultramarathon training logs if what they are interested in is musings on music, nor do I want people who are interested in my politicoreligiophilosophizing to get bogged down in the Ramones (although this will be harder as when I write about the Ramones it tends to relate to politicoreligiophilosophizing.)

So here it is in a nutshell. 2014:

Live More:Image

Running Plans last year were cut short when I came up injured following (or probably prior to) the BPAC 6 hour run on asphalt. Lessons learned, I’ve cut way back on my schedule and am currently only entered in two races/events: June –  Cayuga Trails 50 which is the USATF 50 mile National Trail Championship; and August: 0 SPF ½ Trail Marathon which is the USATF Niagara Trail Championship. Thinking about some Autumn Possibilities, but leaving those plans until I accomplish at least the first goal. I will widget my workout stuff through this blog.

In addition to my regular Saturday gig with Orange Sky at First Unitarian of Rochester, I am working on a band idea with an old friend/excellent vocalist. This project is in the vein of 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s blues/swing/jazz/rockabilly music. Currently it is a hodgepodge of great musicians getting together and feeling each other out, but I envision a band with moveable parts to accompany the vocal styling of aforementioned friend. I’m not naming names as of yet because I want it solid enough to gig before letting go of that information. I will however drop hints as I have a sax player affiliated with Rochester’s best “worldbeat” group, a guitarist who basically built the 90’s post-post-punk scene in Rochester, and a vocalist who plays saw and banjo and who has performed blues, rock-a-billy, and americana. Hold on to you hats, this is one dynamite group in the works.

Love More:

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2013 was a year of fighting – fighting before I even entered the ring. I approached everyone and everything as a conflict and approached life in metaphorical plate mail. While I was protected from “harm” there was no room for any good to come in, nor room for any good to go out. This year the journey began back in September when I reconnected with the organization largely responsible for my ability to be chemical free for 22 years now; I was also invited to play with Orange Sky, the house band for Saturday Evening services at first Unitarian Church of Rochester. This particular institution, First U,  allows me to remain the skeptic/atheist/humanist that I am but also provides a community to interact with. In this blog specifics will remain vague as the groups I’m involved with require trust, so the insights presented will be only those things that apply to me and names will be omitted or changed to protect the innocent J. How does this fall into “Love More”? My belief in a power greater than myself is that everything is interconnected; I am part of a power greater than myself and that power is part of me as well. The way I garner a relationship with it is through relationships with other people. I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the more I am in communion with that whole the more I have to offer, and the more comes back. So these relationships are built on me being open, vulnerable, connecting at points of commonality, giving the benefit of the doubt, and understanding that I will get hurt but that’s better than living in isolated fear. I believe these things can be done while holding onto principals that are dear to me, and knowing that when I fight on divisive principals that I am less likely to change others’ hearts and perspective (or my own for that matter) than if I meet others at a place of commonality. This is partly what I mean by “Love More”. It has to do with relationships.

Note: I love running, and I love music, so these things will be included as well.

Listen More:

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Being an ensemble musician, listening is the most important thing I can do. I need to know where I fit; I need to understand the style, the mechanics, the pocket, the groove, the aesthetic, the interpretation etc. in order for me to be most effective for the benefit of the whole.

“Listen More” extends beyond music, it is understanding what I’m reading when I’m reading; it is listening to the aches and pains of my body and acting appropriately; it is watching my son have trouble getting up in the morning and determining what it is he’s really saying; it is hearing the needs, anxieties, joys, triumphs, and failures of my wife and understanding when I only need to listen or when I can offer assistance; it is carving out time to listen to a whole Opera or Symphony, not just the greatest hits (Actually thinking about sitting down with Wagner’s Ring Cycle this year).

“Listen More” requires being PRESENT. It is mindfulness; it is sitting – here – now.

So there it is – no real specific resolutions. No weight loss target; no goal time for races/events; no going to get a specific job (although I am still working on my business, and looking for work); no quitting coffee or going vegetarian… If those things occur, they will merely be fringe benefits of living, loving, and listening more this year.

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