Friday, October 24, 2008

CMJ Festival: Swedes invade the LES

Tobias Froberg and Teresa Anderson Live @ The Living Room, October 22nd, 2008

What a night for the Swedes! I must start this post by briefly venting about the CMJ Festival. Usually this time of year I am so overwhelmed by the volume of musicians playing the stages of the CMJ fest that I end up not seeing any. CMJ is by far New York's largest music festival each year; commadeering virtually every square foot of stage in Manhattan. This year the band count amounted to about 1,100 different acts. There are Official CMJ shows, unofficial CMJ shows, secret CMJ shows, official CMJ after-parties, and shows that are so indie they're not official or unofficial CMJ shows, they're just plain concerts.

Typically there are so many freakin concerts that it's daunting just choosing a place to go. Luckily for me, I had guidance to make this important decision. My girlfriend works for a PR company called Girlie Action, which represents a Swede by the name of Teresa Anderson. She brings to mind hints of Kaki King, Joni Mitchell, and Keller Williams. She has a pedal board that puts The Edge's rig to shame, and a suitcase full of instruments like drums, guitars, a dobro, and a turntable.

Anderson begins each song by building a bed of musical and rythmic loops which she brings in and out under her powerful, soulful voice. She then proceeds to stack layers of vocal harmonies that she controls with various foot pedals layed out in front of her. To get an idea of what i'm talking about, check out the video below of Teresa in her Kitchen. Teresa's performance was, in-all, a very insipring 50 minutes. The highlight was the last song, an a capella version of CSNY's "Find the Cost of Freedom" in which she layered about 4 or 5 counterpuntal vocal harmonies over each other. As I looked around at the audience after she ended, many were in tears. No joke.

Teresa's opener was someone new to me, a guy by the name of Tobias Froberg. I arrived at the Living Room about half way though Tobias's set, and was pleasantly suprised by his music. Honestly, it's not often that you stumble upon someone amazing in New York. That may be hard to believe to outsiders. Think of it like living in a sea full of every kind of fish, and you only want sashimi grade. More often that not you're gunna get the guppies. But, every once in a while, you find that toro tuna and it tastes so good.

Tobias was my tuna that evening. He went back and forth between guitar and piano throughout the set, although he seemed most comfortable with the ole gitbox. He mostly finger-picked, which gave a transient bed for his warm comforting voice to soar above. I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Kings of Convenience, being that both acts are Scandinavian and both draw on 60's folk for their harmonic inspiration.

Between songs Tobias engaged the audience with some frightfully witty banter. Although some jokes were directed at the large number of Swedes in the audience, most proved to make the performance a very intimate and inviting one indeed. The highlights of his set were the last two songs, during which of few of his female collaborators (Teresa included) sang backing harmonies. Those songs sounded much like the music of Simon and Garfunkel, but with more relevant lyrics and a "hipster" sensibility.

I highly recommend checking out each of their records. Here is a path to lead you to them:

click here for Teresa Anderson
click here Tobias Froberg

Here is Theresa in her Kitchen jamming out

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bob Dylan and George Harrison: If Not For You

honestly, i've never been the biggest dylan fan, but this video is simply awesome.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stockhausen on Sound

To put that last post about Stockhausen in perspective, here is an excerpt from Karlheinz Stockausen's May 1972 lecture to the Oxford Union on 'Four Criteria of Electronic Music'. It proved to be astonshingly priescent. If you like this, get the whole lecture from Stockhausen-Verlang.

Thanks to youtuber "golfthewlis" for posting.

Stockhausen on Aphex Twin and Vice Versa

I came across this interview on the interweb and thought i'd share it with you all.

I've always wondered if electronic composers like Stockhausen and Babbitt are hip to guys like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, the juggernauts of modern electronic music. I find so many similarites between the two movements. I think it's obvious that today's artists are influenced by Stockhausen and his contemporaries. The question is, does the influence go both ways. From the tone of his words, it doesn't sound like Stockhausen was very familiar with Aphex's work, and actually comes off as pretty out of touch with the electronic music of today.

The Interview is from a November '95 edition of the magazine "The Wire". You can read the whole thing here, or just look below for the details about Stockhausen and Aphex Twin. I've also included some examples of both artists music below the interview if you are not familiar with them.

"Can we talk about the music we sent you? It was very good of you to listen to it. I wonder if you could give some advice to these musicians.

I wish those musicians would not allow themselves any repetitions, and would go faster in developing their ideas or their findings, because I don't appreciate at all this permanent repetitive language. It is like someone who is stuttering all the time, and can't get words out of his mouth. I think musicians should have very concise figures and not rely on this fashionable psychology. I don't like psychology whatsoever: using music like a drug is stupid. One shouldn't do that : music is the product of the highest human intelligence, and of the best senses, the listening senses and of imagination and intuition. And as soon as it becomes just a means for ambiance, as we say, environment, or for being used for certain purposes, then music becomes a whore, and one should not allow that really; one should not serve any existing demands or in particular not commercial values. That would be terrible: that is selling out the music. I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work Song Of The Youth, which is electronic music, and a young boy's voice singing with himself. Because he would then immediately stop with all these post-African repetitions, and he would look for changing tempi and changing rhythms, and he would not allow to repeat any rhythm if it were varied to some extent and if it did not have a direction in its sequence of variations. And the other composer - musician, I don't know if they call themselves composers...

They're sometimes called 'sound artists'...

No, 'Technocrats', you called them. He's called Plasticman, and in public, Richie Hawtin. It starts with 30 or 40 - I don't know, I haven't counted them - fifths in parallel, always the same perfect fifths, you see, changing from one to the next, and then comes in hundreds of repetitions of one small section of an African rhythm: duh-duh-dum, etc, and I think it would be helpful if he listened to Cycle for percussion, which is only a 15 minute long piece of mine for a percussionist, but there he will have a hell to understand the rhythms, and I think he will get a taste for very interesting non-metric and non-periodic rhythms. I know that he wants to have a special effect in dancing bars, or wherever it is, on the public who like to dream away with such repetitions, but he should be very careful, because the public will sell him out immediately for something else, if a new kind of musical drug is on the market. So he should be very careful and separate as soon as possible from the belief in this kind of public.

Aphex's Response:

Mental! I've heard that song before; I like it. I didn't agree with him. I thought he should listen to a couple of tracks of mine: "Didgeridoo", then he'd stop making abstract, random patterns you can't dance to. Do you reckon he can dance? You could dance to Song of the Youth, but it hasn't got a groove in it, there's no bassline. I know it was probably made in the 50s, but I've got plenty of wicked percussion records made in the 50s that are awesome to dance to. And they've got basslines. I could remix it: I don't know about making it better; I wouldn't want to make it into a dance version, but I could probably make it a bit more anally technical. But I'm sure he could these days, because tape is really slow. I used to do things like that with tape, but it does take forever, and I'd never do anything like that again with tape. Once you've got your computer sorted out, it pisses all over stuff like that, you can do stuff so fast. It has a different sound, but a bit more anal.

I haven't heard anything new by him; the last thing was a vocal record, Stimmung, and I didn't really like that. Would I take his comments to heart? The ideal thing would be to meet him in a room and have a wicked discussion. For all I know, he could be taking the piss. It's a bit hard to have a discussion with someone via other people. I don't think I care about what he thinks. It is interesting, but it's disappointing, because you'd imagine he'd say that anyway. It wasn't anything surprising. I don't know anything about the guy, but I expected him to have that sort of attitude. Loops are good to dance to... He should hang out with me and my mates: that would be a laugh. I'd be quite into having him around."

"Kontakte" by Stockhausen with a video by youtuber "Archosvalens"

"Vordhosbn" by Aphex Twin from the album Drukqz. Video by youtuber "chabusse"