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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Analysis of Riversongs: An American Folk Journey

Phase 1 - Macro


American Riversongs, A Folksong Setting for Band, steps back in time to explore a historical era when rivers were the primary source of transit and trade.  Written in 1988, this piece includes themes from four folk songs from this era.
The first featured is "Down The River", a song about traveling on the Ohio River.  The second, Shenandoah, includes a free and flowing melody. La Plante's setting is very close to the original, which holds sweet and mysterious characteristics.  The third incorporated piece is The Glendy Burk, originally written in the mid-1800s, is introduced here in the piccolo, flute and tambourine parts. La Plante, sets the final theme, a Creole bamboula folk tune with origins in the early 1800s Louisiana Delta region, to a dance beat in three.
Having retired after 30 years as band and choir director for public schools in the Pecatonica school region in Wisconsin, La Plante has composed over a dozen pieces for concert band and two pieces for string orchestra. Originally from Milwaukee, La Plante earned his Bachelor of Music and Master's of Music degrees from The University of Wisconsin. He, along with his wife and daughters, still reside in the school district in which he taught.


Phase 2 - Micro


Intro mm. 1-11


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
An anacrusis on the V chord starts the piece in Bb major. Almost all of the ensemble resolves on the first beat to the tonic chord where the picc, flute, clarinets and first trumpet start the melody. This melody starts on a high D and then falls to an F. It then goes back up to a high D at mm. 7 before cadencing on the tonic chord at mm. 10.


Rhythmic Content -
The piece starts in a 6/8 meter with quarter note to eighth note to three eight groupings.


Considerations -
The adjectives Bright and Spirited are printed clearly at the start. Dynamic markings are written for a reason. Marcattos should be emphasized to give the intro a bounce and a light feeling.


The "Down the River" A Section


First subsection mm.12-20


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
The melody starts again on a high D on a major I chord (Bb). The melody drops in thirds on each beat before the phrase ends on a F as the 5th of the tonic chord. The melodic phrase is repeated again and then we hit a repeat sign.


Rhythmic Content - In the melodic line we have another quarter note to eighth note, quarter note to eighth note, then triple eighth to quarter to eighth note phrasing. The cadence occurs on a dotted quarter tied to a quarter. The supporting bass lines are staccato quarter notes on the downbeat.


Considerations -
The staccato downbeats in the bass need to bounce. Also mind the dynamic marking as they relate to the number of repeats. Lastly, the pick-up notes should flow into the downbeat at the beginning of the phrases.


Second subsection mm. 21 to 36


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
The melody stays in the picc, flute and clarinet, with chordal harmonization in the cornets. The melody flows upward, following the scale, each measure, starting on a high F. The soft beat triple eighth note of each measure jumps a third, dip as scale degree and returns. Once the melody reaches a high D, it repeats starting on the F again.  There is a slight cadence on the tonic chord at mm. 28, before the phrase is repeated. During the next phrase the bass line switches from marcatto marked slurred Fs to eighth note, eighth rest, eighth note beats with staccato markings.


Rhythmic Content -
The same rhythmic theme is used, however each quarter to eighth note beat is followed by three eighth notes.(The tubas remain playing staccato quarter notes on the beat throughout the section)


Considerations -
The repeated dynamic changes like the one around mm. 29 (Cadence on a forte, brought down to a mezzopiano)


Transition mm. 36-46


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
Here we transition out of the first theme using a two part round. The melody comes in on a unison high Bb emphasizing the I chord. In the second measure of the phrase we have an accidental of a Ab, harmonizing a minor v chord, before returning to the I chord. The alto sax and french horns exit the round first at mm. 40, the picc, flute and clarinets exit the round at mm. 42, leaving the trumpets, trombones and tenor saxophone to finish the found at mm.46.


Rhythmic Content - Again we have quarter note to eighth note groupings followed by three eighth notes.


Considerations - Marcatto accents should dictate articulation while students should pay attention to balance


The "Down By The River" B Section


First Subsection mm. 47-55


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
The eighth note run as a pick-up into the phrase leads us to a triple F in the picc and flute (quickly coming down the octave to the double F) while the clarinet and alto sax provide the harmonic support. Again, we have upward motion following the scale pattern on the first beat of each measure, a twice repeated 'mini-phrase' inside of the eight bar phrase that cadences on the I chord.


Rhythmic Content -
Again, we have quarter to eighth to triple eighth note figures, cadencing on a dotted half note.


Considerations - The dynamic contrast between the anacrusis and the melody line.


Second Subsection mm.56-71


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
We have a new melody here starting on the tonic and dropping to the 4th degree via scale-ular motion over 2 measures, ending on IV chord. Then we start on the 2nd scale degree and drop to the 5th via scale-ular motion. The first 'mini-phrase' is then restated (again headed to the 4th scale degree) before ending by rising from 5th scale degree back to the tonic in scale motion. We end the completed phrase having tonicized the I chord.


Rhythmic Content -
Still in a 6/8 meter, using quarter to eighth note beats with triple eighth note groupings.


Considerations -
Two crescendos starting at mp and growing to forte define each phrase. The tuba needs to stay 'bouncy' with staccato quarter notes on the beat.


Transition Between Themes mm. 72 -75


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
The flute, oboe and 1st clarinet take the melody here, with the oboe taking a solo starting on the new tonic of Eb. In the second measure the flutes start on the 4th scale degree and fall to the tonic in a single measure before rising back to the 2nd scale degree, harmonized by the minor ii chord leading to the 3rd scale degree, harmonized by the minor iii chord. A single alto sax and a single horn play a brief soli part into the next section. There is no countermelody or baseline during this transition.


Rhythmic Content -
We have slowed to Molto moderato and switched to a 3/4 time signature. The solo in the oboe and the soli sections for the alto sax and french horns should be played with confidence.


The 'Shenandoah' A Section


The First Subsection mm. 76-88


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
Now in Eb, the trumpet now has a solo melody with support from flutes, clarinets, french horns, tenor and bari sax and the tuba, all playing 2 beat block chords slurred together. Harmonically, the block chords flow from the I to the IV to the V and back to the I, while the flute line moves downward and the clarinets move in neighbor motion. The trumpet introduces the melody with a pick up on the 5th scale degree giving gravity and leading to the tonic. From here the solo arpeggiates the I chord by playing the tonic, 3rd and 5th scale degrees at the start of each measure (with a brief return to the 3/4 meter in-between). The horns play a counter melody with the tenor sax.
In mm. 85 to mm. 88 the flutes and alto saxes repeat the trumpet melody.


Rhythmic Content -
We are now in a 4/4 meter. The harmonic support plays 2 note block chords for two measures before we return to a single 3/4 meter with quarter note block chords. Then we return and remain in 4/4. We have reduced tempo to Moderato.


Considerations -
This section should be played in a different style, focusing less on the 'bouncy' feel and transitioning into a more legato style. Solos should be played expressively, crescendoing to the end of the phrase to give the melody motion.


The Second Subsection mm. 89- 107


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
Here the bass takes plays the same melody from the previous section while the 'treble' instruments give the supporting harmonization. Another 'echoey' two part round (just like Section 1's melody had an echo) allows the flutes, clarinets, and trumpets to take the melody being echoed by the trombones, tenor sax.  At measure 95 a transition is played, harmonized by the I chord leading to the V and then back to the I. The 4 bar phrase (including the echoed melody) is again repeated until a brief transitional phrase starting at measure 103. In this transition the first trumpet and flute move on the beat in upward scale-ular motion, echoed by the trombones. We cadence on the tonic before the next section.


Rhythmic Content -
The melody figure is a pickup quarter note into a dotted eighth note to sixteenth followed by quarter note followed by an eighth note run leading to a half note.
The meter changes to 4/4, with a brief measure of 3/4 at mm. 91.
Upon exiting the section we have a brief transition that includes a brief 2/4 measure.


Consideration -
The 'echo' of the melody should be faintly heard and played in style. Students should get used to the meter changes, and the chordal balance should sound cohesive.


The Glendy Burk Section


The First Subsection - The Introduction - mm. 106-119


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
We have now shifted to F Major. The entire ensemble prolongs the vii chord except the trumpets who tonicaize the F Maj. with jubilant, accented, muted and separated eighth notes. At mm. 115 the band plays a small portion of the melody to come, foreshadowing the next section. We cadence on the new tonic chord at mm. 118.


Rhythmic Content -
We start the new section in 2/4 at a quick and jumpy tempo. The prolonged vii chord is sustained while the trumpets start a pointed eighth to sixteenth rest to sixteenth to eighth to eighth tied to a half note. The separate between these notes is stressed, as it give the melody a fanfare feeling.  At mm. 115 the flutes, clarinets and alto sax take over the melody and the same rhythmic idea is used.


Consideration -
The trumpets should separate each note and clearly articulate the phrase. Breathing may be an issue for sustained notes, so assigning students when to trade off breathes might be appropriate.


The Second Subsection - "Brass Band" - mm. 120-128


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
The picc and trumpet have the melody here, while the horns and trombones define the harmonic structure in the upbeats. The melody starts with an anacrusis leading to the tonic. The melody moves upward by eighth note for 4 measures. The first phrase cadences on the V while the second cadences on the I chord. These phrases are repeated. The second trumpet plays a countermelody with similar rhythms but contrary motion.


Rhythmic Content -
Still in 2/4, the horns and trombones keep the upbeat (lightly) while the tuba and baritone define the downbeats.


Consideration -
Students should take note that during the second repeat the dynamic changes from piano to forte. Also, separation between notes is still crucial at this point.


The Third Section - mm.129-137


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
Here we have a brief and thunderous transition between the exchange a melodic voices. The melody, given to the flutes, oboes, clarinets, alto saxes and first trumpet and trombones, is similar to the previous phrase, however slightly different. We are tonicizing F maj, starting on the 5th scale degree and ending on the third scale degree. There is still a quick, light feel to line.
The harmonic lines are in the saxophones and trombones. At the end of the phrase we cadence on a I chord.


Rhythmic Content -
We are still in 2/4.  The melody line is slightly different from before. We have two dotted eighth to sixteenth note groupings followed by an eighth, a quarter on the upbeat, and another eighth. Again we have a dotted eighth to sixteenth grouping followed by two eighth notes leading to the dotted half to finish the phrase.
The next phrase in the section is extremely similar to the melodic phrase in the trumpets from the last section.


Consideration -
This should be played loudly and with authority. The entire ensemble is playing together here, so unison playing, separation of notes, articulation and rhythmic precision need to be stressed.


The Fourth Section - mm.138-153


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
This section is a repetition of the second section's melodic line, with some alterations. Instead of the trumpets, La Plante uses the clarinet and flute, giving the countermelody to the tenor sax while the tuba bounces back and forth between the tonic and the 5th scale degree beneath it. During the second repetition of the melody in this section, we do not do as we did in the previous section and repeat it verbatim, but instead climb from the tonic up to the octave tonic, again coming to the V chord in mm. 149, before repeating the same melodic content and cadencing on the I chord in mm. 153. The trumpets now join (at mm. 149) to play the countermelody.


Rhythmic Content -
Exactly the same as section two, except now we have a tambourine highlighting the upbeat.


Consideration - Trumpets may need a reminder to have their straight mutes ready. This section should be light and breezy. Somewhat soft.


The Fifth Section - mm.154-164


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
We start mm. 154 one the I chord (still in F Maj) with the melody in the flutes and the clarinets. Instead of an echo, we now have a call and response type action between the flutes/ clarinets and the trumpets. We have an accidental of a sharp second scale degree acting as a leading neighbor tone to the tonic.  At mm. 157 the melody dips in a downward motion to F maj chord, while the trombones rise to meet the new transitional material.  The second beat of mm. 162 holds a V7 chord that resolves to the I chord at a cadence.


Rhythmic Content -
Our new grouping are similar in style, yet slightly different than the previous rhythms. A dotted eighth followed by a sixteenth followed by two eighth notes leading to a quarter note. During the second phrase we have marcatto markings above a sixteenth to eighth note to sixteenth note to double eighth note groupings.


Considerations -
Again, dynamic contrast plays a large part here, as well as marcatto articulation. Trumpets should ensure they have a straight mute, while saxes and horns should pay attention to the sfp dynamic markings.


The Sixth Section - mm. 165-180


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
Here the piccolo has the solo melody. Softly, the melody starts on the fifth scale degree and drops to the 3rd scale degree, then first, then the sixth then back to the fifth, 3rd, tonic, continues dropping to the 5th until we resolve back to the I chord at mm. 172. At mm. 173 the tuba joins with the counter melody while the horns prolong the 5th scale degree. The previous picc material is repeated and we cadence on the I chord just as the tuba reverts back to the bouncing quarter notes of the tonic and fifth scale degree under it. The tubas continue in this fashion at mm. 181, while the trumpets join in with the countermelody and flutes, picc and clarinet take the same melodic line as before, moving to the V chord and then back to the I. We have a weak cadence on the F maj in mm. 188 and a weak cadence at mm. 196, again on the tonic.


Rhythmic Content -
Our rhythmic groupings in the melody are the same here as they were in the previous section.  The horns hold for several beats while the tubas play short eighth notes.


Considerations -
The picc is completely naked here, which requires a strong and confident approach. It may be easy at this point to let the tempo die slightly, however it needs that bounciness to keep its momentum.


The Seventh Section - mm. 196-214


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
The entire ensemble is called to play at mm. 196, where the melody is still in the flutes, clarinets and oboes. Now we have the alto and tenor sax, as well as the trombones, baritone and tuba playing the countermelody while the trumpets keep the upbeat. 196 starts off on high D, the third of the IV chord, then briefly (as a passing chord) touches the V/IV and then briefly to the IV then to the V chord before repeating the phrase.
In mm. 205 there is a weak cadence on the ii chord (G minor). We have another brief phrase that moves from the I chord (with melody in the flutes, clarinets, and first trumpet and counter melody in the tenor sax and 3rd trumpet with supporting structure from the trombones, 2nd trumpet, tuba and alto sax) to a cadence on V.


Rhythmic Content -
While the alto sax, tenor sax, trombones and tuba play accented eighth notes, it is important to notate that the tambourine has joined the melody line to play the 'sixteenth to eighth to sixteenth to eighth to eighth' grouping. This is the same grouping we saw in the last sectionThis is repeated until mm. 204, when we revert back to the 'dotted eighth to sixteenth to eighth to eighth to eighth to quarter to eighth and repeat' grouping. This is the same grouping we saw in the fifth section.


Considerations -
This is the second time we have seen a double forte marking, so make it matter! There is a poco ritard in mm. 208. The accent marks change from marcatto to a pizacatto marking.


The Eighth Section - mm. 215-235


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
The melody in the piccolo matches the previous melodies in rhythm and range. At mm. 215 only the clarinets, tenor sax, and bassoon are supporting the melody. This support comes in the form of a I chord, neighboring or passing motion to the V chord.  After further prolongation of the I chord the melody moves to the alto saxes in mm 219. At mm. 224 we find a pick-up to the melody from the second section in the piccolo with an echo in the clarinets and bassoons.


Rhythmic Content -
We see the same figures in the melody and now we see it in the timpani.  Meanwhile the tuba, horns, and clarinets hold long continuous notes.


Consideration -
It is important to note the softness of the prolonged continuousos (marked at pp). Several neighbor tones are also outside of the key, so accidentals should be taken into account.


The Coda - mm. 236-249


Melodic and Harmonic Content -
We will finish the piece still in F Major. During this finale we start with the original theme from section two in a similar round structure. We start the round with the piccolos, flutes, oboes and clarinets, and then are joined by the trumpets, then by the saxophones and the horns, and finally by the trombones, bassoons, bari sax and tubas. The melody climbs to a high F and darts back and forth from the 5th scale degree to the high tonic. At mm. 245 we have a cadence on the I chord that is prolonged via the V and then back to the I.


Rhythmic Content-
We see here the same structure as we saw in the second section, the sixteenth eighth sixteenth eighth eighth groupings. This time, the rhythm is put off by staggered eighth notes before we return to the main theme rhythm.


Considerations-
The cymbal solo at the end needs to be loud and confident, while the rest of the ensemble needs to build to a resounding and final double fortissimo.

Other pieces for the Program


Three Songs of Colonial America - Leroy Jackson


This piece would help create the cohesive theme for the performance evening. A step back into American history through band music might create a general sense of understanding for the listener and even the performer.
The piece is from the late 30s and shows a different era in American history. It is of similar difficulty to American Riversongs, yet focuses on different aspects of musicianship.


Air for Band - Frank Erickson


This piece contrasts American Riversong, as it is much slower and require a more elegant touch. Composed by Frank Erickson in 1966, this piece was designed for younger students to expand their repertoire. Erickson was both a teacher and worked at a publisher, eventually starting his own publication company.  The piece also contrasts American Riversongs as it is mostly in the minor. They are similar in the sense that they have the same instrumentation and are about the same difficulty.


American Folk Rhapsody No.1 - Clare Grundman


Keeping in line with historical American band pieces, this composition covers the era of the 1940s and has several popular themes that some students may not be aware they have heard before.  Clare was born and raised outside of Cleveland, Ohio.  He graduated from Ohio State with a degree in music education and later his MA.  He then moved to New York to work alongside Paul Hindemith (best known for the Hindemith Sonata).
The piece itself is comprised of My LIttle Mohee (more commonly referred to as On Top Of Old Smokey), Shantyman's Life, Sourwood Mountain and Sweet Betsy from Pike. Although many arraignments call for strings, I would use just the concert band score, as to stick with the same instrumentation.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Erstes Quartet: Mozart's K80 String Quartet

Mozart's First String Quartet



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Ever heard of him?  That classical composer?  He's been a household name for centuries, often referred to as a prodigy or mastermind. Even sometimes called the founder of the (ill-name) classical era.
But why? Why is his music, almost 3 centuries later, still held as a pinnacle for genius?  Why does history remember his name?  It is apparent in his first string quartet, written at the young age of only 14.....and if that's not impressive enough....written in a single day. His first string quartet! At the age of 14! In a single day! I could barely write a full sentence at 14, forget about composing music.  Imagine the potential! Even before puberty this young man was creating beauty in a way that had never been heard before!

The year is 1770.  Bach has been dead for only 20 years. Having traveled the rough roads of Europe, young Mozart and his father find themselves in the busy city of Lodi in northern Italy, known for its beautiful churches and baroque architecture.  Wolfgang arrived with wide-eyes, eager to explore the city.  As a talented youth, Wolfgang's father Leopold Mozart pushed his child to unlock his potential, much like that of Michael Jackson.  "You're not going outside til you finish your homework..."  So Wolfgang wrote a staple of string history.

Let's delve into the notes.

The piece consists of four parts: Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola and Cello.  Mozart places us in G Major, using a pulsing bass and viola part to prolong the tonality while the 1st Violin begins with a sweet melody, while the second violin stays silent. From Bach's point of view, this is unusual. You've got four instruments! You're paying them all! Why isn't the 2nd violin playing anything?!
In the third measure, as the first phrase ends in the 1st Violin, the 2nd Violin joins in with a soft high D(m. 3-4). Again, Bach is rolling in his grave! How can the 2nd Violin part be higher than the 1st!? What is going on here?!

Let me explain: when we play a triad on a piano, some extra strings also ring, even though they have not been struck by the hammers of the piano. These overlying harmonies (think harmonics) are called 'sympathetic resonance'. Like a true friend, they cry out softly when they hear their kindred spirits hammered. Mozart is using this idea outside the piano, having the 2nd Violin ring a sweet sympathetic harmony above the 1st Violin. What an inspired concept! Taking natural sounds and applying them in a new setting! We have our first evidence of genius thus far!

As we continue, we cadence with a suspension to the V or D major chord. (sigh) ahhhh. Finally, something Bach would be comfortable with. Mozart however, doesn't give Bach much satisfaction. Instead of returning to the tonic of G Major, Mozart continues to prolong the V chord, using linear motion in the bass and viola parts.  Again, we hear a sympathetic high D in the 2nd violin (m.11-12).  This time, however, we hear the soft D above the V chord, giving us a totally different taste than the previous sympathetic high D above the tonic or G Major chord.
In measure 13, we hear a sixteenth run and allow the 2nd Violin to show off, much like a side-note, until we land on the V chord.

What a badass!

If Ye Love Me - Thomas Tallis

Score Study Project

Keelan Freitag





Background:

Thomas Tallis was a 16th century English Renaissance composer under King Edward the Sixth, who controlled his harmonic choices very carefully.  Despite this Tallis became cherished composer by creating simplistic and harmonically safe choral motets. Tallis adhered to the Kings rules, however leaned more toward a Catholic belief system. He worked in Dover Priory in England as an organist and composer for most of his life and died in 1585 at the age of 80 years old.  Fun fact: his family name 'Tallis' is derived from the French word for thicket and  Thomas spelled it differently than it is remembered: 'Tallys'.



This hymn style motet, If Ye Love Me, is among his most famous.  Tallis composed this piece in for four voices: two countertenors, a tenor and bass. He set the text from the biblical verse John 14:15-17. It should be noted that he sets the text in English, rather than Latin, at was King Edwards insistence.The piece is syllabic and uses strophic form.  Each voice stays within a single octave and at no point the voices cross. The piece emits a relaxing and calm nature, making the listener comfortable while preaching the love and truth of God. 
Fun fact, this piece is also often recorded on classical guitar.


Score Analysis







Macro:

Meter: 4/4 cut time

Tempo: slow andante; about 75 bpm

Key: C maj.

Harmony: 4-part male chorus
Lyrics : If ye love me, 
keep my commandments, 
and I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter, 
that he may bide with you for ever, 
ev’n the spirit of truth,
ev’n the spirit of truth.

(John 14: 15-17)

Micro

mm. 1-4 All four voices begin with a C maj chord establishing the tonic
First phrase begins
Pass through vi to get to V - I in mm. 2 with two half notes
Then a quarter note sequence in mm. 3 landing on a IV - I in mm. 4
mm. 5-8 Round begins on second beat of mm. 5 in the sopranos
Main motif starts on E; jumps a minor third before using passing motion back down over 3 measures
Response by Tenors 2 beats later
Tenors response also begins on an E but jumps a fourth before returning down
Altos sing motif in mm. 7
Basses sing response on beat 2 of mm. 7

mm. 9-13 Second part of round
Soprano and Alto begin on beat two of mm. 9 with quarter notes moving 
into a IV and then jumping a fifth
I chord at mm. 11
mm. 12 beat 2 we hear a V chord before a weak cadence on I in mm. 13

mm. 14-19 Start B section
Also in round
Tenors start with pickup on sol to do before falling along the scale in quarter notes
Other voices have similar rhythmic idea but start on do, jump a fourth and then fall in quarter notes
Half cadence on V7 at mm. 18

mm. 19-23 Second line of the round, begins in alto
Dropping a fifth then back, outlining the V chord, alto tenor and bass begin one beat apart
Passing to I chord at mm. 21 where the soprano joins in
Also outline I chord by jumping down a 5th then back, creating gravity
Quarter note passing motion in sopranos to IV chord at the end of mm. 23

mm. 24-26 Final motif
Similar to mm. 19-23 harmonically, however we start on a I chord
Prolong the I chord to mm. 26
Repeat markings back to mm. 14

Final mm. Second ending
Cadence on I chord held with fermata



Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gramatik - Live in Times Square




The magic of Times Square at night.
The millions of lights.
The tourists with wide eyes.
The yellow cabs flying past.
This was the atmosphere waiting in line at the Best Buy Theater to see Gramatik, the best producer to come out of Slovenia since....well....ever.

After filling my lungs with city air, an exxxtra long escalator took me deep below the cityscape into the blue-lit depths of the Best Buy Theater.  After waiting in the coat check line for half a millennia (FIX THIS BEST BUY!), I finally made my way into the theater. Ornate glass chandeliers hung from the dark, open ceiling.  A general admission/standing area stretched 50 yards out from the stage, while the back end of the venue had movie theater style seating.

But you don't care about that.  You came here to read about the music. You wanna know about Gramatik.  How'd he do? How was the set?
Don't worry baby birdie. Daddy's gonna feed you... Imma feed ya some FUNK.





Opening artist Goldfish set the precedent.  The electronic duo hailing from South Africa took the electronic scene in a whole new direction, tossing in elements of jazz, funk, that 'big-band-swing' sound and even rock.  Dominic Peters set up his samples and looped them, only to come to the front of the stage and blare funky melodys on a baby alto sax.  Synth player David Poole added to the samples with jazzy solos and blues chords.  At the end of the set, Poole danced alongside an upright double bass and made the crowd scream as he played the bass line from "Play that Funky Music" by Wild Cherry and then "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes.

This left the crowd reeling in anticipation. Gramatik is up next....Finally! Gramatik is up next!

And then the moment came.

Accompanied by synth/ trumpet player Russ Liquid and "imaginary friend" Slow Magic, Gramatik laid down a dubstep-heavy set, somewhat to the disappointment of longtime fans hoping to hear funk and blues.  For those longtimers, Gramatik had something special lined up: a 20 minute rendition of Stevie Wonder's Superstition.  With Russ blaring Stevie's famous horn-line (with ease, might I add) Gramatik and Slow Magic turned the song from funk to a dance, then to a chill downtempo and then right back into a climactic funk feel.


This, however, was not the highlight of the show.  Gramatik introduced Mr.Tibble to the crowd, a thin man in a black vest and red button down, crowned with a black bowler hat. With no idea who this vocalist was, I stopped for a second of cynical judgment. But even my impossible standards were blown away.  Using a vocoder, Mr. Tibble 'auto-tuned' his voice to the solo he played on small synth, much like a voice-box for a guitar (popularized by back in the day by Peter Frampton).  His bluesy, electronic robot voice added a killer melody over the top of the lowtemp beats and jazzy chord changes.  Towards the end of the show, Mr. Tibble came back onstage to move his body in a way that made Chris Brown look amatuer.  Not only could this guy sing, not only could he bang out a bluesy solo, but damnnnn could he dance. Think Michael Jackson moonwalking into a hip-hop/ street performer/ b-boy danceoff.

Oh! And of course: Gramatik's rendition of Stairway to Heaven by Zeppelin was KILLER!



All in all a great set, although a little grimey and dubsteppy at points.  Check out the videos and thanks for reading.  See you at the next show!



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Vaski Live At Toads 06/28/2014





On Friday, June 28th, Toads Place of New Haven CT opened its doors to a small, young audience.  Most standing in the crowd with me were not old enough to wear the house wristbands used to buy beers, and several even seemed young enough to have their parents waiting outside in the car.  Those of us who were old enough to know what an N64 is seemed to have never heard EDM music before. I found myself dancing alone and wondering if the admission price of $30 was worth it.




Vaski, an EDM DJ from Minnesota, played an eclectic mix of genres in a poor attempt to find the audiences' funny bone and shatter it.  He played songs as grimey and intense as Roll Da Beats by Rusko, followed by upbeat, pop-esque songs like IDGAFS by Dillion Francis.  It seemed that Vaski was unable to judge his audience, instead giving up and putting on his personal pandora account.  The 'covers' he 'performed' were even uncut, without the slightest 'Vaski styling'.  Anyone can make a playlist....anyone can press play on iTunes.  Where is the Vaski I saw last year that opened for Excision at the Oakdale? Where is the Vaski that melted my face with his progressive, grimy dubstep? Where is the artist that I became quickly obsessed with?  I guess I may have backed the wrong horse here. Or does the future hold more for this artist?  Time will tell.



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Excision - Live At The Oakdale

        They told me to prepare for battle.  They told me to prepare for war.  But they underestimated Excision's Execution Tour.  We all did.

        Twenty-one hundred hours. March 13th, 2013.  We stood silently in our trenches in the dark venue, awaiting for the enemy to arrive.  We had been told at boot camp we were prepared; we had trained for this.  But no amount of training could have prepared us for the onslaught we were about to witness.
        I heard the first explosion about ten feet in front of me.  My rib cage shook.  Some of my men wanted to retreat.  There was a moment of shell-shock.  My ears defended and my vision blurred.  And this was just the first wave...just the opening act.  He called himself Vaski and his tracks blew me away.  His dubstep mixes combined grimy bass, the best of electronic dance and slight influences of prog rock. I managed to film a little of the assault.  The cacophony literally blew the microphone on my camera.



        As Vaski left the stage, he thanked us for being decent victims.  One last blast from the subwoofers and his blitz had ended.  There we were, back in our silent trenches.  Now our eyes had widened.  "I can handle another round," I thought to myself, stupidly.  Little did I know, Excision brought his secret weapon.
        As the house lights rose, a large white sheet dropped from the backdrop of the stage, revealing a massive tank covered in projector screens.  Two massive towers of subwoofers stood on either side, his main weapon for the impending death march.  I found myself covering a young girls ears and grimacing as the first drop shook my bones.  Now we were at war.  Now the beat had consumed us... and there was nothing else to do but join the slaughter.


     An unnamed soldier next to me actually dropped to the floor during a remix of Two Chainz 'I'm Different', only to have his body thrown above the crowd and passed around like a holy rag doll.  Another soldier cleared a small circle in the crowd during the slow build in the track 'Execute'.  Once the drop hit, he flipped his body into the air, completing a perfect backflip, landing squarely on his feet.  Immediately his body slammed against the beat while his fellow soldiers rushed in.  The open circle caved in and a light moshpit briefly formed.
     As the night ended it was evident that I was officially deaf.  My comrades seemed exhausted as they trudged back to the evacuation point.  "Best show I've seen at the Oakdale," I thought to myself, before laying down in the back seat of our transport, waiting to return to home base.  "Maybe even the best dubstep show I've seen in Connecticut."