Tag Archives: John Cage

Is Music for the listener or for the composer/performer??

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band and their wild and crazy LP “Trout Mask Replica.”

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It is curious that the general public has an easier time accepting the avant-garde in art and literature before music. It is a part of the history of music in the 20th century that music diverged into a never ending ever expanding delta instead of the river it used to be.  Part of this divergence was directly attributable to the fact that some musicians and composers no longer sought or even cared about public acceptance of their music.  Captain Beefheart was this type of musician.  What you are about to hear is not an accident.  It’s not a result of bad musicianship. And equally true, this is not some kind of joke or farce being perpetrated on you the listener.  This is an attempt to make art for the artist sake whither anyone else enjoys it or not.

This record was made in 1969.  It was produced by Frank Zappa.  Frank actually named Donald Van Vliet “Captain Beefheart”.  Van Vliet once told David Letterman that his named symbolized that he had a “Beef in his Heart against this society.”  This may give insight into the genesis of this record.  This record is highly acclaimed by Rock historians and critics.  It is on The Rolling Stone top 100 LP’s of all time list and top 500 recordings of all time.  It is also included in the book “1,000 recordings to Hear Before You Die”  by Tom Moon.

The album would never have happened without Frank Zappa.  Frank owned two record labels so he offered to put the record out on one of his labels if he could produce the LP and then he gave Captain Beefheart full creative authority to do what ever he wanted…  Let’s just say that Captain Beefheart took full advantage of his creative freedom.

This songs were all meticulously composed by Van Vliet.  The band moved in together and rehearsed the compositions for 8 months in a relentless, physically and emotionally abusive, cult-like atmosphere created and driven by Donald Van Vliet.  At one time or another every member of the band bordered on having a nervous breakdown.  None of them had any money and they subsisted on Welfare and shoplifting for food.

Van Vliet claims that all of these songs were written in one 8 hour session, however; it has been proven that at least 2 of the songs were written in 1968.  What is true is that all of the music tracks were recorded in one 6 hour session.  Vliet spent another 2 or 3 days adding in the horn overdubs and vocals.  I guess rehearsing 14 hours a day for 8 months paid off.  Keep all of this in mind when you hear the songs.  Everything you hear was rehearsed until it was perfect. Hmmm… The band consisted of the follow cast of characters:

Donald Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart):  Vocals, Tenor and Soprano Sax, Bass Clarinet, Musette, Smiran Horn, Hunting Horn, and jingle bells.

Jeff Cotton (Antennae Jimmy Semens):  Slide Guitar and Vocals.

Bill Harkleroad (Zoot Horn Rollo):  Slide Guitar and flute.

Victor Hayden (The Mascara Snake):  Bass Clarinet and Vocals.

Mark Boston:  (Rockette Morton):  Bass Guitar and narration.

John French (Drumbo):  Drums and Percussion.

Without any other comment to influence your opinions and/or insights to this album.  I present to you the complete set of songs from the infamous album “Trout Mask Replica”!

Side 1

Frownland

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The Dust Blows Forward ‘N The Dust Blows Back

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Dachau Blues

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Ella Guru

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Hair Pie: Bake 1

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Moonlight On Vermont

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Side Two


Pachuco Cadaver

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Bills Corpse

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Sweet Sweet Bulbs

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Neon Meate Dream Of A Octafish

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China Pig

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My Human Gets Me Blues

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Dali’s Car

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Side Three

Hair Pie: Bake 2

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Pena

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Well

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When Big Joan Sets Up

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Fallin’ Ditch

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Sugar ‘N Spikes

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Ant Man Bee

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Side Four

Orange Claw Hammer

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Wild Life

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She’s Too Much For My Mirror

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Hobo Chang Ba

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The Blimp

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Steal Softly Thru Snow

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Old Fart At Play

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Veteran’s Day Poppy

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So there you have it.  Trout Mask Replica in all it’s avant-garde, bluesy, free jazz glory!  Did you like it?  I think it gets better and better the more you listen to it.  Most listeners probably won’t be able to do that.  So, is music for the composer or the public?  Here is a great example to debate.  This album influenced people like Tom Waits, P.J. Harvey, The Sex Pistols and punk rock in general, even modern composers like John Cage.  In the end I have to vote in favor of the composer.  If it were not for the bold artist, writers, and composers that didn’t care about popularity, some of the greatest art, music and literature of all time would never have come into being.  That’s what I think.  But I’d love to hear what you think.  In the end  Captain Beefheart summed it up the best with the opening line of the first song…”My smile is stuck, I can’t go back to your Frownland…”

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Posted in Rock Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things Happen For A Reason…

Do you believe in fate or destiny? I do. I met an interesting musician on a plane recently and I have to share this with you.

It was very early in the morning. I get on the plane and take my seat. As is my custom when I travel, I plan to read and listen to music. The passenger in the next seat is a young Hispanic man. He also has a book and an iPod ready to go. He looked tired so I was thinking that he wouldn’t have to read very long before he fell asleep.

I was reading a book called “The Ninth, Beethoven and the World in 1824” by Harvey Sachs. (I plan to blog about this book very soon.) The passenger next to me asked me, “Excuse me, but I see from the title of that book that you are interested in music. Are you by chance a musician? Well, this is a question I love and hate to answer. In my core being I am and always will be a highly trained dedicated musician, but my gig that pays the bills is very different. So I said what I usually say: ” Well, yes and no. My educational background is that of a musician, but I don’t make my living that way.”

My fellow passenger introduced himself as Daniel Ochoa Valez. He said he was traveling from Mexico City to Rochester New York. I asked if he was a musician. He said he was studying composition. He was currently studying in Mexico City but he had also studied in Germany, and The Netherlands. “Why are you traveling to Rochester?” I asked.

“A friend of mine has helped me obtain a commission.” said Daniel. Daniel had traveled on a bus from Mexico City to Laredo, Texas, cleared customs, got on a second bus to San Antonio, got on a train to Dallas and was now sitting in the seat next to me. He was extremely tired. But he was on an important journey that would ultimately result in a new piece of music for the planet.

“Wow!” , I said. ” Tell me more about this.”

Daniel has a friend that is the principle Organist for a Church in Rochester. He got Daniel a commission to write a piece for the Church Organ. The Organ is a replica of a Baroque organ in Europe. In preparation for the process of writing the piece, Daniel was flying to Rochester to see the Organ, learn about it’s capabilities, and discuss the composition with the Organist that would perform the debut. He said his friend had figured out ways for the Organ to play quarter tones. Quarter tones are notes between notes. Our western culture does not traditionally contain quarter tones. Other cultures like China, and India regularly use quarter tones in their music. Charles Ives was one of the first American composers to experiment with quarter tones and many modern day composers may employ them.

I found this very fascinating. I asked Daniel what modern day composers he liked. Daniel listed Olivier Messiaen, John Cage, Ligeti, Berio , and George Crumb. This made him even more interesting to me. I said, “You must like Prepared Piano.” Daniel said that he not only enjoyed it, he had written prepared piano pieces. (Prepared Piano means inserting things into the piano to change it’s sound or playing the piano with foreign objects.” It turns a piano into a virtual synthesiser.)

He told me about his You-Tube site. I told him about my blog. We exchanged contact information and agreed to stay in touch.

Over the weekend I looked at his videos and really enjoyed his music. I e-mailed him and told him I was going to post him on my blog.

I was reading the other day that Thom Yorke (Lead Singer of Radiohead) had a conversation with a recording studio A & R man. The A & R guy asked where all the talented musicians were. Thom  yelled at him that they were everywhere but record companies are too afraid to take chances on new music! I agree with Thom Yorke, there is talent everywhere. Not only are record companies afraid of new music, so are most listeners. This is a real shame since so much great music is being written but not getting heard.

There is this idea of the “Socially Aware Non-Attenders”. People that understand modern Achitecture and Art but disconnect and can’t seem to support the equivalant when it comes to music.

This music will challenge you. You must listen to this music with an open mind and heart. You should listen to each piece a few times. Absorb it. Drink it in.

My favorite is Nebula. This compostion was inspired by a poem by Hermann Hesse the Nobel Prize winning author. The poem is about how we can be so disconnected from the people around us that we wander like trees in a fog bank. We can not see or move toward another tree; and yet, there isn’t any fog in real life. Enjoy the music of Daniel Orhoa Valdez.

Nebula by Daniel Ochoa Valdez

This string quartet is in three movements. Introduction-Intermezzo- and Finale.

Caribous by Danel Ochoa Valdez

An experimental piece for prepared and amplified piano. Premiere at the University of Siegen, Summer Semester 2009’s Arrangement Concert, organized by Prof. Martin Herchenröder. Music composed and performed by Daniel Ochoa. Winner of the Second Prize at the Carl’s Award composition competition at the Ahtelas New Music Festival 2010
Night Sky by Daniel Ochoa Valdez

If you would like to hear more of his work you can serch You-Tube for D8aV and it will connect to his sight. I hope you enjoyed his music as much as I did. I look forward to hearing the composition for organ.

Daniel and I were not like the trees in the poem by Hesse. We took the time to make a connection. I for one, am glad I did not stay in my fog bank. Good luck Daniel and keep exploring new horizons!

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