Sometimes a song gets tangled in with life, and the threads twist together for a while. That happened to me a few months ago during a trip to Indonesia. As I walked around Jakarta and Surabaya, Robert Wyatt’s song “Catholic Architecture” (from his 1991 album Dondestan) kept nibbling at the edges of my mind, tugging my perceptions. It goes like this:
On August 11, 1973, a young man going by DJ Kool Herc hosted a “Back to School Jam” in the rec room of the above building in the Bronx. That party is now recognized as the birth of hip hop. That’s right, hip hop is 40.
First layer: Blood and hate and keening grief. In the mid-17th century the Duke of Savoy pursues a brutal campaign to suppress communities of Waldensians living in the mountains of Piedmont. The Waldensians are followers of Peter Waldo, a Bible-oriented group excommunicated in 1215 because of their departure from various Catholic teachings. Despite repeated persecution, they have been able to establish small mountain communities. In 1655 an attempt at forced conversion meets with rejection, and is followed by an orgy of rape, torture, and murder that shocks Europe. 1700 men, women, and children are burned alive, dismembered, variously and gruesomely massacred.
In a music scene as crowded as the Twin Cities’, it can be difficult to stand out. This can be particularly the case when you are a gimmick free, rock trio playing loud, fuzzed out rock that would have fit in perfectly in late ’80s to early ’90s Massachusetts. Nonetheless, Fury Things is quickly finding their way to the top of the local heap and setting their sights beyond the Land of 10,000 Lakes. I recently chatted with the band about honest music, the Twin Cities music scene, and the future for Fury Things. After checking out the interview, make sure to head over to Bandcamp and pick up their 2 EPs for the price you want to pay.
Every year the Twin Cities benefits from Pitchfork Music Festival being in Chicago when several of the bands add a stop on their way to or from Chicago. This year that meant the first local date for the ferocious post punk buzz band of the moment Savages.
The show was at the 400 person capacity Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis, and sold out so quickly (despite shows at the Triple Rock selling out rarely enough that a sign on the door announced “Tonight’s show is completely sold out. Seriously.”) that a return date has already been added at the 1,500 capacity First Avenue Mainroom in September. If you read nothing else of this review, read this: See them now before the rooms get even bigger.
Boogie Down Productions – “9mm Goes Bang” (March 3, 1987): B-Boy Records
Formed in the Bronx (the ‘Boogie Down’) in the mid 1980s, BDP was made up initially of MC KRS-One (the name was his graffiti tag) and DJ Scott La Rock. La Rock was working as a social worker at the Franklin Avenue Men’s Shelter in the Bronx when he met shelter resident KRS-One. KRS-One initially dismissed La Rock as just another social worker, but the two struck up a bond when KRS-One arrived at a party to find his social worker behind the DJ equipment, and the duo soon began working together.
I admit it. I have a little Clark W. Griswold in me. So when the family was taking a trip down Interstate 35 to Omaha, NE for a wedding, I informed my wife and toddler that we would be making a stop in Clear Lake, Iowa for a little Americana road side experience. This particular road side experience, however, is a little macabre as well as a two parter: 1) The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson, a/k/a The Big Bopper, played there final show; and 2) the cornfield just north of town where their plane went down killing each of them as well as the pilot Roger Peterson. That’s right, we were exploring “The Day the Music Died”.
Memorial Day weekend in the Twin Cities brings independent hip hop label Rhymesayers Entertainment’sSoundset festival to Canterbury Park in Shakopee. This year’s festival promised to be the largest yet with headlining act Snoop Dogg supported by Rhymesayers’ artists Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Aesop Rock, and P.O.S, plus national acts Mac Miller, Tech N9ne, Juicy J, and Schoolboy Q among others. Also on the bill was the great Busta Rhymes, but for reasons as yet unexplained, Busta did not show for the festival. Neither that disappointment nor the unseasonably cool weather and strong winds, though, failed to dampen the spirits of the 28,000+ hip hop fans who turned out for the show.
A History of Classical Music through Recordings: Part 9
“Joye: Les plaintes de Gilles de Bins dit Binchois”. Graindelavoix/Björn Schmelzer. Glossa (link)
Although the dukes of Burgundy were nominally vassals of the French king, in the late 14th and 15th centuries they grew in power thanks to useful marriages and land acquisitions, taking advantage also of France’s difficulties during the Hundred Years War. When Philip the Good became duke in 1419 he inherited not just part of northeastern France but also Flanders and its important commercial centers; over the course of his reign, he added much of the rest of the Low Countries and brought Burgundy to the height of its power. Philip was a great patron of the arts: he appointed the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck to his court, and his chapel of musicians was among the finest in Europe. Because Philip lived mostly in his northern possessions rather than in Dijon, most of his musicians came from Flanders and the Low Countries. One such musician was Gilles de Bins, known as Gilles Binchois, born probably in Mons around 1400, who joined Philip’s chapel in the 1420s, remaining there until 1453 (he died in 1460). He’s best known today for his secular French chansons; the dukes of Burgundy were carrying on the medieval courtly tradition, and Binchois’s chansons are on the continuum stretching back through Machaut to the trouvères. Binchois seems to have been particularly keen on composing by conventional rules: most of his chansons are in rondeau form, with four- or five-line stanzas and two-line refrains, most have lines of eight syllables, and almost all are in triple metre. What made Binchois stand out among his contemporaries were his graceful melodies, combined with a lack of rhythmic complexity. This simple and elegant music seems to lend itself to melancholic expression, as exemplified by Graindelavoix’s collection of plaintes, or laments. It seems odd to title such an album “Joye”—which comes from Johannes Ockeghem’s description of Binchois as “the father of joy” in his lament on the death of Binchois, included on the disc—but Björn Schmelzer explains that the “joy” in question is a more profound emotion that relates to “singing out one’s sadness”: a 15th-century form of the blues, if you like.
It might shock you to learn that the authors at Music is Good love music and listen to a lot of it, and we’re guessing you do too. One of the great things about music, are those occasions when we are struck by a particular song that resonates with us in a special way. Maybe a catchy beat simply caught our ear. Maybe it’s a particularly beautiful voice. Maybe it was a particular way the lyrics blended with the melody and the musical accompaniment, or perhaps the lyrics were especially apropos to a current experience or feeling we had at the time. Whatever the reason, that particular song had us hitting the ‘replay’ button over and over. This series spotlights some of the songs that did it for us. They will vary in genre but all will have one thing in common – that special ‘something.’
My Song of the Week is “Psalm of Life”. It is on the album Gift, the first collaborative recording by the mother-and-daughter team, Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson, who make up part of British folk’s great dynasty.