Arvo-Part-har-laga-musikken-brukt-i-Edda
“As the highlight of the 800th anniversary celebrations of the University of Salamanca, the oldest university in Spain, an extraordinary concert will be performed on 18 February 2018, with the world premiere of Arvo Pärt’s new a cappella composition, And I heard a voice… / Ja ma kuulsin hääle… as part of the programme.” Arvo Pärt Centre

david-byrne
David Byrne

American Utopia comes as part of Byrne’s ongoing ‘Reasons to Be Cheerful’ series in which he curates hopeful writings, photos, music, and lectures. ‘These songs don’t describe an imaginary or possibly impossible place but rather attempt to depict the world we live in now,’ he said in a statement. ‘Many of us, I suspect, are not satisfied with that world—the world we have made for ourselves. We look around and we ask ourselves—well, does it have to be like this? Is there another way? These songs are about that looking and that asking.'”

Pitchfork
See also: The Quietus.

The American jazz musician and composer talks to David Marchese at Vulture
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins

What sorts of feelings did putting your archives in order stir up? That material is the stuff of your life, and now you’re giving it away.
I could say it put me in a reflective mood, but most of the archiving itself was done by someone else, and the truth is that my life has been in a reflective mode for some years now. Maybe my whole life has been in that mode. It’s gotten more that way since I became unable to blow by horn. That was hard. I’ve thought a lot about what I’ve done musically, what I could’ve done, what I might’ve done.

What’s the nature of those thoughts?
What’s the meaning of life? Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing?

Have you come up with any answers?
You know, I listen to the radio a lot and there’s a guy that comes on and says, “Have a good day today and enjoy.” I hate the word “enjoy.” Because to me life is not about enjoyment or, in other words, getting for yourself. That’s not why we’re here. The reason of life, to me, is all about giving. Giving is what gives me happiness. Making somebody else happy is the greatest thing you can do. (more…)

patti-smithOpen Culture has shared a list of American writer, musician, and photographer Patti Smith‘s favourite books. Included among the 2008 list are titles by Mikhail BulgakovHermann HesseJoseph ConradCharlotte Brontë, Nikolai Gogol, André Breton, Albert Camus and Virginia Woolf. Smith also lists a number of titles associated with the Beat Generation and other post-war American literature, including Allen Ginsberg, Jack KerouacWilliam S. Burroughs, and J. D. Salinger. Mike Springer reproduces the complete list, with brief commentary, over at the Open Culture website.

Buster Keaton on the set of Samuel Beckett's Film
Buster Keaton on the set of Samuel Beckett’s Film

Editors Paul Stewart and David Pattie are seeking contributions to Pop Beckett, a new collection of essays to be published by Ibidem Press:

“The subsequent presence of Beckett in popular culture – both the works and the figure of the man himself – covers a wide array of fields that, as Emilie Morin has suggested, might lead us to re-think Beckett’s continuing position in neoliberal capitalism. Moreover, the boundaries of popular and ‘high’ culture are open to contestation.”

— Source: The Samuel Beckett Society
Abstracts for possible submissions are requested by 20 December 2017, and, upon acceptance, the deadline for full-length essays is set at 30 May 2018. For more information about the projected book, visit the announcement on the Samuel Beckett Society website.

Hannah Fitzpatrick and Anindya Raychaudhuri discuss a topical podcast that covers politics, power, and pop culture

What is the State of the Theory podcast?

Hannah Fitzpatrick: Like most podcasts, State of the Theory is a manifestation of our narcissism. It began as an optimistic hope (albeit with few expectations) that our casual conversations might be of interest to, and spark debate among, our friends and colleagues. We used to commute together a few times a week, and the car became a sort of impromptu seminar venue, but without the audience. After the last research auditing exercise undertaken by the UK government in 2014, Impact and Public Engagement became quantifiable entities that might be used for or against us later in our careers, so the podcast is a sort of compromise, a way for us to demonstrate that our thoughts have value beyond the walls of the Vauxhall Astra, while still doing it on our own terms. A way of selling out without entirely selling out, if you will. Also, we missed the long drive, where all we could do was chat, and we could have these long, multi-stage conversations over the course of a week or two, so the podcast was a way for us to recreate that time. (more…)

Sonny Rollins during the recording of A Night at the Village Vanguard. Francis Wolff:Blue Note Records

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of Sonny Rollins‘s legendary recording,
A Night at the Village Vanguard. Writing for NPR, Nate Chinen reached out to several experts and practitioners to discuss the album’s ongoing influence:

Jon Irabagon, who calls A Night at the Village Vanguard ‘a formative album for me,’ gave it a fresh listen this week, and was struck again by its genius. ‘Rollins had one foot completely in the tradition, he was mining these standards, and he was also part of the aliveness — the surging life-quality — of jazz,’ he said. ‘Then it’s the harmonic freedom, the melodic integrity and just the playfulness that he had. It’s not beholden to some kind of codified language. There are so many surprises and twists and turns. You can hear the entire history of jazz on that record, up to that point.’

It would be misleading to imply that Rollins’ heroic performance on A Night at the Village Vanguard is primarily of interest to other saxophonists. ‘It’s a textbook example of what modern jazz improvisation should be,’ the pianist Fred Hersch pronounced in an email. ‘Sonny plays with intelligence, warmth, humor and an expressive technique that seems to know no bounds.’ Hersch, who literally wore out his first copy of the album, advises all his piano students to study it closely, ‘as a means to understanding the subtlety of phrasing and deep connection to rhythm that Sonny, Wilbur [Ware] and Elvin [Jones] display.'”

— Nate Chinen, NPR

“Throughout his career as musician, producer and collaborative lightning rod, John Zorn has never forgotten the importance of putting pen to paper. This all-chamber program of pieces spanning 2012-2016 speaks deeply to his indefatigable spirit and the obvious care with which he chooses his musicians. […] There is so much philosophy packed into this album, it feels like a living (auto)biography of which we are given a tantalizing synopsis.”

The New York City Jazz Record, via ECM Records and Beyond

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Moanin' (Blue Note, 1958)
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Moanin’ (Blue Note, 1958). Photograph by Francis Wolff, sleeve artwork by Reid Miles.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers recorded Moanin’ for Blue Note Records on October 30, 1958, fifty-nine years ago today. The bandleader, depicted on the record’s front sleeve, was born in Pittsburgh in October 1919; Blakey left school early to work in a coal mine, and then a steel mill, before putting together his first band. In interviews he described himself as an orphan who taught himself everything he needed to know, from how to play piano (without reading music) to the drums.

In 1943, Blakey made his way to New York where he found a place as a drummer with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, and made his debut recording with Billy Eckstine‘s band. After establishing a career throughout the 1940s and ’50s as an accomplished player, including dates with Miles DavisThelonious Monk, and Coleman Hawkins, Blakey joined Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers. (more…)

On words, music, and expression

“Most of my early music was non-vocal. In fact, I only started writing intensively for choirs after I met the Hilliards. Hearing them for the first time changed my life totally. The tears fell over my face and I was not able to say where I was – in heaven or here on Earth. It was a shock.”

— Arvo Pärt, The Telegraph (more…)

Influential jazz pianist Thelonious Monk was born one hundred years ago today, on 10 October 1917. His angular melodies and signature percussive style were an important contribution to the development of bebop in the post-war era. Popular titles such as ‘Round Midnight’, ‘Blue Monk’, and ‘Straight, No Chaser’ are considered standards in the jazz canon.

In a recent interview for Keyboard, popular jazz writer Ashley Kahn (Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis MasterpieceA Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album) discusses the legacy of Monk’s life and compositions on the development of modern music:

“What happened from the late ‘30s into the early ‘40s at the hands of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, etc., is that someone had to be there to kind of codify it. Someone had to be there to give it a sense of it being a system that could be learned and appropriated and shared and passed on. And the best person for all of this was someone, obviously, who was going to be sitting at a keyboard, because a chordal instrument is obviously going to be better than trying to do this on a melody instrument. And Thelonious Monk was that person.”

— Ashley Kahn, Keyboard
For newcomers to Thelonious Monk, there’s the question of where to begin. If you’re interested in the composer’s complex life, Robin D. G. Kelley‘s Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original is an excellent place to start. Listeners are typically recommended volumes one and two of Monk’s Blue Note sessions, which span 1947 to 1952, and there’s little doubt that they offer the definitive introduction to his exuberant and idiosyncratic style. My first Monk record was his later solo album, Thelonious Alone in San Francisco (Riverside, 1959); while it might not be characteristic of his bustling, energetic group work, the album’s reflective mood still resonates with me all these years later.

“She has said that she learned to write during the years she spent at home raising her children, working at it every day and publishing nothing. That long apprenticeship has paid off; M Train is certainly literature rather than a celebrity memoir. There is no conventional storyline, but the narrative is subtly controlled and compelling. Motifs bubble up – the detective shows, objects getting lost, dreams, a black coat – then disappear and resurface, to mesmerising effect.”

— Alice O’Keeffe, The Guardian

I see that Sony Classical has released an impressive new box set of Glenn Gould‘s unreleased 1955 renditions of Bach‘s Goldberg Variations. Andrew Clements weighs in on the exhaustive 8-disc collection:

“It constitutes detailed documentation of Gould’s quest for his ideal Bach performance – his obsession with every detail, his insistence on getting the articulation of every semiquaver in every bar exactly as he imagined it, sometimes to the audible exasperation of the producer, Howard Scott. There are multiple takes of every variation, each subtly distinct in tempo and nuance, from which the definitive performance as it eventually appeared on LP was later spliced together. Taken together they also demonstrate the unwavering virtuosity of Gould’s playing, and the startling clarity he seemed effortlessly able to bring to the densest contrapuntal textures.”

— Andrew Clements, The Guardian

On pursuing a vocation in art, writing, and simple living

The reasons for my decision

Back in June, I attended a cardiology appointment that had a profound impact on me. My meeting with the cardiologist was routine and I did not receive any alarming news, but I became aware of the fragility of my own body in a new way. As an infant I was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, and my life had been saved by the UK’s National Health Service and the surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. I have always felt grateful for the life-saving help that I received, and could talk superficially about my condition with friends and loved ones, but now I see that I was also prone to a form of denial. Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood I placed my heart condition to one side as I tried to establish an identity for myself. My routine appointments continued from year to year, but in my conscious mind and my behaviour I aimed to suppress what they represented with denial and distraction. This year marks the first time that I am fully and consciously aware that I have a congenital heart condition. And while there is no reason why I cannot live a full and happy life, I am now awake to the fact that I nearly didn’t survive infancy.

(more…)

Catching up on my reading. What follows are a few of the articles and interviews that have caught my eye over the last few weeks – and some that I have been inspired to revisit.

Joseph Conrad on Henry James and what makes a great writerMarilynne Robinson on William Faulkner and what literature owes to the Bible • Sonny Rollins on how fifty years of practicing yoga made him a better musician • Alex Ross on the consolations of Arvo Pärt‘s music • Peter Bouteneff in conversation about Arvo Pärt • On the lasting emotional impact of Louis Kahn‘s architecture