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jazz

This tag is associated with 22 posts

You’ll need extra jazz if the winter is long


“How does he make an embouchure? He’s a chicken!”

“The usual way. Cookbooks.”

Concert Roundup As Scored By Charlie Chaplin

  • Hey, remember that time I was all surprised that Charlie Chaplin was a composer? Well, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is educating us again with another one of the film star’s scores. This time they’re going with his 1936 movie Modern Times, playing the score in accompaniment to the visuals. The description makes it sound kinda like Metropolis, so that should be interesting. May 10 & 12 at the Meyerhoff; May 11 at Strathmore. [ See it! ]
  • The National Symphony Orchestra isn’t competing with that. No concert this week as far as I can tell.
  • This week at Strathmore: Gypsy jazz violinist Daisy Castro; Bela Fleck tries his hand at jazz with the help of The Marcus Roberts Trio. I feel like I said all this last week; was I running ahead? Oh well. Nothing like a good musical reminder! [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Concert Roundup for Three

  • This week at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, awesome violin-violin-bass trio Time for Three swoops in to perform the piece Jennifer Higdon wrote for them, Concerto Four-Three; I caught the premiere of that and it was pretty fantastic if I do say so myself! Notes of bluegrass in classical, plus they always bust out a killer encore. Add John Adams and Prokofiev and how can you go wrong? May 2 at Strathmore; May 4 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • Meanwhile, the National Symphony Orchestra brings in cellist Alisa Weilerstein for an Elgar piano concerto (are we in heaven?) followed by Shostakovich‘s fifth symphony. May 2 – 4. [ See it! ]
  • Or if you prefer to take your Shostakovich without the side of Elgar, the NSO graciously offers the same symphony with the alternative sides of Shchedrin and a viola concerto by Schnittke. Ha, viola concerto. May 3. [ See it! ]
  • This week at Strathmore: Gypsy jazz; classical guitar; jazz with the great Bela Fleck with The Marcus Roberts Trio. [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

“Jazz was the maggot-infested flesh of a dead body”

I read an article the other day on Cracked.com called “The 6 Most Baffling Science Experiments Ever Funded,” and, naturally, #6 on the list was entitled “Coked-Up Rats and Jazz.” Apparently some scientists decided to try playing silence, jazz, and Beethoven to rats to see what they liked best. Destroying all the faith you ever had in the humble rat’s taste in music, they liked silence the most, but if it’s any consolation, of the remaining choices they much preferred the Beethoven. (Maybe it was smooth jazz?)

Then comes the bit where it gets baffling: the scientists took another stab at it, literally, by repeating the experiment after first injecting the rats with cocaine. And then the rats loooooooooved jazz.

You can draw your own conclusions on that particular experiment, but if you’d like to poll other rodents before making any pronouncements, here’s David Sedaris enlightening us on what squirrels and chipmunks think of jazz, respectively.

Concert Roundup Has Beef Jerky

I know this is a lot to get through. If you get hungry later, I have beef jerky.*

  • Oh! Oh oh oh! Yes! Good! The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is performing Saint-Saens‘ organ symphony this week! I love that piece, especially the bit where it’s in Epcot! Plus an organ concerto by Poulenc and the famous Dukas Sorcerer’s Apprentice. March 14 & 17 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • Or! If you’d rather just the Saint-Saens‘ organ symphony, the BSO presents another one of their Off the Cuff concerts, wherein conductor Marin Alsop and the organist, Felix Hall, go in depth on the history and musicality of this super-amazing piece. March 15 at Strathmore; March 16 at the Meyerhoff. [ See it! ]
  • If you’re in the market for something lighter and more holiday-themed, the National Symphony Orchestra busts out the NSO Pops this week for a concert with The Chieftains, who I am assured are Irish so it all fits thematically for the weekend. “The Wearing O’ the Green” is part of the program so I believe it. March 14 – 16. [ See it! ]
  • This week at StrathmoreJazz singer Integriti Reeves; Bach Choir of Bethlehem performing Mendelssohn‘s Elijah, cutting-edge classical ensemble NOW Ensemble; choral music by the Eric Whitacre Singers. [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

* This is an inside joke with my IRL friends and you can feel free to ignore it. And/or wish you knew me IRL so that you, too, could enjoy off-handed comments about dried beef.

Concert Roundup (Snow)flakes Out

Hey, you know how it was supposed to snow today? Well, it IS! Right now! As I type! You could knock me over with one of those long tickly things that birds use for insulation and flight. Nevertheless, music marches on undaunted! At least so far. Check individual symphony websites for inclement weather schedule changes and what have you. Okay, onward!

  • The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra knows how to get on my good side; they’re playing the best. Symphony. Of all time. OF ALL TIME! Yes, it’s Beethoven‘s Seventh, with a side of Debussy‘s Petite Suite and the Strauss (Reek-ard) oboe concerto. But mostly Beethoven. Always mostly Beethoven. March 7 & 8 at the Meyerhoff; March 9 at Strathmore. [ See it! ]
  • The National Symphony Orchestra isn’t going to give this week to the BSO without a fight, though. They promise Mahler (ooh!), Schubert (OOOOH!!!!!!!), and … Mozart (oh). But it’s Mozart’s Requiem, so it’s actually kind of awesome, and among the Schubert lieder they’re busting out? “ERLKONIG!” I LOVE “Erlkonig”! Good times. March 7 – 9. [ See it! ]
  • This week at StrathmoreChinese acrobats, a piano/sax jazz combo, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Concert Roundup Cool

  • Hey, remember that bit in Amadeus where Salieri pretends to be Mozart’s dead father and Wolfie freaks the hell out and composes a requiem and then dies? The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra does! So they’re playing Mozart‘s Requiem, which even I, an inveterate Mozart skeptic, admit is pretty darn good. The Baltimore Choral Arts Society helps out with the singing; Part‘s Tabula Rasa rounds out the program. February 28 at Strathmore; March 2 & 3 at the Meyerhoff. It looks like they might also be doing some version of it at the Weinberg  Center in Frederick on March 1. [ See it! ] [ See it in Frederick! ]
  • Or! If you tend to feel jazzy in the morning, the BSO is offering a matinee performance on March 2 centered around the African American influence on music. Specifically mentioned: Duke Ellington, Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue, and a tap master. [ See it! ]
  • This week the National Symphony Orchestra gets glacial, chills out, cools it, and other puns about cold with an all-Nordic program, featuring SibeliusLindberg, and Saariaho. Even the solo violinist is Nordic – the awesomely named Pekka Kuusisto. February 28 – March 2. [ See it! ]
  • This week at StrathmoreViolinist Jennifer Koh explores the farther reaches of Bach, Parisian jazz, a snazzy marching band. [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Saxophomeo and Violiniet

Two households, both alike in dignity. Sort of.

Interview with the Composer: “It allowed the emotional states of the characters to come through on a non-verbal level”

A few weeks ago, composer Matt Siffert made the grave tactical error of emailing me and offering me a streaming link to his album, Cold Songs. Naturally I took his email hostage and refused to return it until he granted me an interview. Read on to learn more about inspiration, orchestration, and the emotional impact of the creative process. Oh, and to hear a little of the album yourself. Allons-y!

TheSiff

Jenn German: The first question is VERY IMPORTANT, so I want you to consider it carefully. The fate of this entire interview and all the people on it rests in your hands. Beethoven or Mozart?

Matt Siffert: Beethoven, no question.

JG: Correct!

MS: Hah!

JG: We shall do well here.

MS: Whew… that was a close one…

JG: Okay, Matt Siffert’s Musical Pedigree. What’s your background? Go!

MS: I went to college at Carnegie Mellon, where I studied music and psychology. The music portion of my studies were mostly jazz, with a bit of classical theory/performance practice.

I also did a fair share of music history. I studied abroad in Havana, Cuba, which was where I developed an interest in songwriting. Upon returning to CMU in my senior year, I recorded an album of songs I wrote and arranged for a singer and jazz musicians.

JG: Nice! I took an Latin American ethnomusicology course in undergrad, but we didn’t spend a ton of time on Cuban music. Highly influential?

MS: Yeah, Havana was very, very influential. They had a perfect balance of melodically-driven songs with sensitive musicianship accompaniment.

So it was there that I realized I can put the worlds of songwriting and sophisticated musical technique together. As I got more interested in arranging, I became drawn to the sound of classical instruments. And that’s when I started studying composition; first on my own, then in the evening division at Julliard, which is where I’ve been for the last two years.

JG: Would you say you’re working on a sort of Cuban fusion music, or are you more influenced by the idea of melody and sensitivity as opposed to literal Cuban rhythms and motifs?

MS: Definitely the latter. I’m not as interested in the actual Cuban rhythmic sensibilities as I am the idea of melody paired with musical sensitivity.

JG: How would you describe your niche?

MS: I strive to combine folk-influenced songwriting with musical sensibilities from the jazz and classical worlds.

JG: What instruments do you play?

MS: My primary instrument is bass, but I play a bit of guitar and piano. And I sing.

JG: Do you compose around these instruments?

MS: Yeah. Usually the seed of a song comes when I’m in random places, like the train, shower, or in bed, but when I build them out and really sculpt them I usually work on guitar or piano.

JG: Do you later re-orchestrate them, or stick to the original arrangement?

MS: Yeah, I then re-orchestrate them. Sometimes I write the whole song and then orchestrate; sometimes I want the orchestration to be more integrated into the lyric and form, and will start orchestrating while I develop the song itself. It just depends on what that initial seed calls for.

On [my album] Cold Songs, for example, I wrote every song except “Show-Off” first. With that one, I really wanted it to be about combining the virtuosity of the quartet with the melodic line I wrote. So there was more of a back and forth when I composed that one.

JG: What’s your concept behind Cold Songs?

MS: I started writing songs for the project right after a convergence of three crummy events; health problems, job problems, and relationship problems. But funnily enough I was still working through those problems in my head, and wasn’t ready to write songs about them. So I took themes that I have previously written about – new-found love, nature, ego, growing up – and fed them through this dark wavelength I was living on.

After writing the songs on guitar, I felt like the accompaniment wasn’t bringing the stories and characters to life in the way I wanted. I had been listening to lots of string quartet music, as well as pop music that utilized strings, and thought that this austere sound world was a perfect match for my songs. So I devoured the music of Ligeti, Schoenberg, Britten, Dvorak, and others, and arranged the songs for a string quartet.

JG: How did you find the chamber orchestration transformed the work?

MS: It allowed the emotional states of the characters to come through on a non-verbal level. On songs where the narrator is angry, the strings get gritty and brutal. In songs where the narrator is flashy, the strings are virtuosic, etc., etc. These musical backdrops support the narrator in a way that adds depth and life that you just can’t get with a voice and guitar.

JG: It seems like the music on this album came from an emotionally dark place, but as in so many cases it brought about some catharsis. Would you say the listener should find it ultimately uplifting, or is it a soundtrack to help through rough times?

MS: Great question, and funny, I was just talking about this with a friend last night…

I don’t really feel like this should be either uplifting or depressing. I felt my work as almost journalistic, in some respects. I more just want people to see this darker world and feel okay living in it for a little while. People tend to smell sadness and run away from it, often at great expense. They often ignore the confrontation of problems stuff away their problems, which always come back at some point. So my hope was that I invite the listener into this dark world and show them the insides of it; that it’s really not a horrible place. You just need adjust to it, work your way through it, and move on.

JG: As the original thinker of dark thoughts and writer of dark notes, how you feel when you hear your work?

Matt: Another great question… When I listen back to Cold Songs, I am drawn mostly to the steps I made in terms of songwriting and compositional craft. With these songs I really started to find my own voice as a lyricist, and made genuine strides in pairing my songs with the appropriate musical accompaniment.

JG: Now that you’ve found your voice, where do you expect to take it next?

MS: I’m actually about halfway through my next project, which is a group of songs I’m writing for myself (voice) and harp! I’m continuing the idea of pushing myself as a songwriter, and striving for the most appropriate musical accompaniment for the songs I’m writing.

JG: Any performances coming up? I assume you continue to post your appearances on your website, which you sent me. Would you by chance want to offer a streaming track?

MS: I do indeed post the appearances. And sure! I’d be happy to offer a streaming track!

JG: Beautiful. And the full album can be purchased on your website? iTunes?

MS: Yeah, it’s up on iTunes here.

JG: Sounds good. Anything you wanted to add?

MS: I think that’s it! Thank you so much for doing this, it was a blast!

JG: Pleasure’s all mine!

Thank you, Matt! Be sure to check out his website, mattsiffert.com.