Friday, November 14, 2014

Learnin' -- and lovin' -- the Copland-Stepp connection

Where was I...
Ah, yes...
I've begun reading SEAN WILENTZ'S study of BOB DYLAN, "BOB DYLAN IN AMERICA."
In it, the Princeton historian explores (among other themes) Dylan's talent (genius) for recombining various strands of American musical DNA, and creating new, lasting compositions in the process.
Wilentz begins the book with an overview of the classical composer AARON COPLAND, who provided a template of sorts for Dylan to follow by adapting folk music into such compositions as "Billy the Kid" and "Rodeo."
Our own ANNIKA has been playing violin for seven years in school, which has provided me with about seven years' worth of hearing the celebrated "Hoe-Down" section from Copland's "Rodeo."
Today, thanks to a reference in Wilentz's book, I heard the melodic basis Copland used to help form "Hoe-Down" -- the 1937 recording of "Bonaparte's Retreat" by the Kentucky fiddler WILLIAM HAMILTON STEPP (pictured).
My boundless curiosity thrives when I can discover connections between forms I had never before realized, so imagine my delight when Wilentz helped me hear how Copland adapted Stepp's tune.
I was startled to hear something so familiar to me in a fresh, earlier form.
I think I'm going to learn a lot from "Bob Dylan in America," and I'm looking forward to the surprises awaiting me as I turn each page.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Route 1: Not dead yet...

Friday, March 14, 2014

More proof that the music industry is killing itself

Two years ago, I used ITUNES to help create a playlist of singles by THE KINKS.
I plucked tunes such as "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman," "Destroyer" and "Low Budget" from the band's 1970s albums on ARISTA RECORDS, so that I could combine this American hit singles with the classic BRITISH INVASION-era songs from the 1960s.
I couldn't replicate that procedure today, because inexplicably those Arista albums are absent from the iTunes U.S. store in 2014.
This absence makes no sense from the customer's perspective, and instead offers more proof that streaming (legal or otherwise) isn't killing the MUSIC INDUSTRY.
Instead, the industry is killing itself thanks to an outdated and illogical business model.
To put this into perspective, the absence of the Kinks' 1970s material would be akin to a popular author's books suddenly disappearing from a book store.
I can understand that complicated licensing agreements probably resulted in the removal of the Kinks' material, and that I will have to look elsewhere for Arista-era songs in the future.
Meanwhile, I wonder if the music industry will realize what it is doing to itself: Driving customers from its doors, just when it needs them to enter and make purchases.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring is coming -- and we need it

It's already warmer than it was yesterday -- and it's only 6 a.m.
That's a sure sign SPRING is on the way, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we're all ready for the WINTER to end.
While we dealt with near-record amounts of snow and cold days, we never experienced the brief thaws that can make winter more palatable. Since Dec. 1, the temperature in DUBUQUE has reached 40 degrees or higher only six times -- and three of those were during the first four days of December.
Instead, we suffered from day after day of below-zero temperatures that froze pipes, broke water mains and generally made life miserable.
I think we're all ready for spring.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Plenty of 'what ifs' in the history of The Kinks

I just began reading "THE KINKS: ALL DAY AND ALL OF THE NIGHT," a 352-page, day-by-day history of the British band by DOUG HINMAN.
It's full of interesting facts about the group that produced "You Really Got Me," "Waterloo Sunset," "Lola" and other musical gems.
I learned that ROD STEWART, a classmate of RAY AND DAVE DAVIES, sang in one gig by the school rock band that would become The Kinks and that Kink-to-be MICK AVORY played drums in rehearsals with an early version of THE ROLLING STONES.
There are plenty of "what ifs" in rock history, and the history of The Kinks in particular.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Resnais mastered the New Wave art of film reinvention

The French NOUVELLE VAGUE director ALAIN RESNAIS has died age 91.
We have his 1959 drama "HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR" on DVD, and I turn to it when I want to experience an exquisite kind of sadness.
The plot is simply a series of conversations between a French actress and her Japanese architect lover about the past, memory, forgetfulness and regret.
Resnais raises the film to high art through his use of flashbacks, imaginative point-of-view shots and a nonlinear storyline.
One of the hallmarks of France's new wave of cinema was the ability to shed unnecessary film "rules" to create a fresh approach to storytelling.
Resnais was a master of this ability.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

1968 was a great year for The Kinks -- even if nobody knew it at the time

THE KINKS are my favorite "British Invasion" band, but my favorite era was the late-60s edition, when the public began to ignore the band just as RAY DAVIES was producing his most enduring music.
I love the irony, but abhor the unfairness of the contemporary indifference to such brilliant music.
Davies was busy creating the music that would become "THE KINKS ARE THE VILLAGE PRESERVATION SOCIETY" album in the summer of 1968 when the band's American label Reprise demanded a new album for stateside.
As ANDY MILLER describes the period in his book-length examination of "The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society," Davies acquiesced and sent the Americans 15 tracks for an album tentatively titled "FOUR MORE RESPECTED GENTLEMEN."
Reprise never released the album, and the tracks either appeared on "The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society," "The Great Lost Kinks Album" compilation or "The Kinks Kronikles" compilation.
In the CD era, the songs have appeared as bonus tracks on expanded editions of the officially released albums of the period.
I made a playlist based on the original tracklisting of "Four More Respected Gentlemen," as chronicled in Miller's book.
The songs offer a fascinating glimpse at the music emerging from Davies during the creative blossoming that would eventually produce "The Kinks Are the Village Preservation Society."
The tracks include "She's Got Everything," "Monica," Mr. Songbird," "Johnny Thunder," "Polly," "Days," "Animal Farm," "Berkeley Mews," "Picture Book," "Phenomenal Cat," "Misty Water," "Did You See His Name," "Autumn Almanac" and a pair of DAVE DAVIES tracks, "Susannah's Still Alive" and "There is No Life Without Love."
Listening, I can imagine a parallel universe where "Four More Respected Gentlemen" enjoyed a wide release and Ray Davies didn't have to wait 30 years to be proclaimed a pop genius.
The music is that good, you see.