Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So much music....

I despair of hearing, yet alone absorbing, all the great music mankind has produced. I guess that's a good thing - after being on the planet for almost 50 years, I am still discovering great new music. Anyway, if I die tomorrow, I've made a pretty good dent.

These thoughts were triggered by a couple of things. I've been listening to a lot of classical music lately, and a couple of days ago I stopped at one of my regular used record stores and went through the classical bin. I walked out with some great stuff, including a mid-60s LP featuring Antal Dorati conducting Messiaen, Boulez, and Charles Koechlin. The Koechlin piece, Les Bandar-Log, was the biggest surprise. I knew of Koechlin as a theorist (he wrote books on harmony and orchestration), and I knew one piece of his: a lightweight but very nice "Ephitaphe de Jean Harlow" written for flute, saxophone and piano. Les Bandar-Log is a striking piece of music, somewhat similar to Messiaen's language at its most advanced. It's a piece of program (or descriptive) music - according to Koechlin's notes, the music describes a group of monkeys who consider themselves geniuses, but in reality are "the most insignificant of creatures." This seems incredibly silly until you realize that the piece was written in 1939, and Koechlin's "monkeys" were probably wearing uniforms with swastikas on the sleeves. Anyway, this piece was quite a discovery.

And just to show that I'm not a snob, I have been quite taken with a rock band lately. I had been vaguely aware of the New Orleans band the Radiators (the band that "has forgotten more songs than most bands ever know") for about 20 years, but took a little more notice when I picked up The Law of the Fish for almost nothing in a used CD bin. Except for their crawfish/fellatio anthem "Suck the Head (Squeeze the Tip)," it didn't make much of an impression for awhile. At some point recently, though, I started to notice some intriguing details - interesting lyrics, clever arranging touches, subtle New Orleanisms. I wanted to hear more, so I just got their new double CD, Wild and Free, featuring 30 years (!) of unreleased and rare tracks. It's great stuff. Stylistically, the band sits equidistant between The Allman Brothers, The Meters, The Eagles, and The Grateful Dead, if that makes any sense. They're a lot of fun, and I hope to hear them on my next trip to the Crescent City.

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