Had a good power test today. I raised my FTP (Functional Threshold Power: the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour) by 15 watts since the last test. Big gain. Woof.
Sounds Like NowA blog by saxophonist Brian Sacawa
Archive for November, 2008
In celebration of the 100th year of Olivier Messiaen’s birth, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has seen fit to pre-load a virtual sampler with snippets of the composer’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps along with improvised Carnatic drum patterns and field recordings of birdsong, allowing you to make your own Messiaenic composition. Release your inner Madlib.
Soundtrack: Ensemble Project Ars Nova, Ars Magis Subtiliter
If you asked any new music player to describe the music of composer Jason Eckardt, chances are you’d get a simple one-word answer: hard. There aren’t too many other composers who’d elicit that same answer—Iannis Xenakis, Milton Babbitt, and Brian Ferneyhough come to mind instantly—which makes composers of the musical hard stuff into kind of an exclusive little club. Now clearly these composers have their reasons for doing what they do, reasons probably as diverse as the sound of their music. In a recent Counterstream Radio Spotlight Session, Jay spoke about why he writes such complex music:
I thought I’d write a little bit about Jay since I’ll be performing his new solo baritone saxophone piece, Still on the next Mobtown Modern show called Hard As F#@!. We also thought that it might be good to give some explanation as to why the music on Hard As F#@! is considered “hard” since a good portion of our audience is made up of non-musicians, who might just equate hard with fast. And while fast usually = hard, there are lots of other things that can make musicians strap on the seat belt, which is definitely the case with Still.
Compared to Jay’s other scores, Still looks positively barren—long held, slowly changing sustained events interrupted and punctuated with short punchy attacks of various sorts. Certainly not the 16-in-the-space-of-7-within-a-dotted-eighth-note we’ve come to expect. So what makes Still so hard despite it’s lack of nested tuplets, 17 notes crammed into the space of one quarter note, and no other players to contribute to the (written out) chaos? Well, here’s a list:
1. Multiphonics. By themselves as isolated occurrences within a work, I wouldn’t generally consider multiphonics to be an element that makes a piece difficult (that is, unless you’re Ken Ueno and like to interject them within long streams of ridiculous 16th-note runs jumping around every which register, illustrated below by yours truly performing Ken’s whatWALL?):
But the multiphonics in Still—even though they’re of the long, held variety—are one of the reasons I’d call the piece difficult; and for a couple of reasons. First, most of them occur at a very soft dynamic, which makes it difficult to balance the “chord,” especially when you’re contorting your oral cavity to produce the voicing that will sound the right notes. Along those same lines, each multiphonic is separated by vast expanses of silence and since it’s possible to sound several variations of the chord with the same fingering, it requires you not only to have to aurally anticipate the correct chord, but also the correct oral cavity configuration.
2. Phrasing. Okay, in addition to being a musician, I’m also an endurance athlete, so I’ve got a pretty well-developed set of lungs on me. But when you’re blowing through what is essentially a very large tube, even the best of us feel the need to tank up 75% of the way through a phrase sometimes. I hear what you’re saying, “Just circular breathe, you pansy!” Well, I would, except it’s simply not possible to do so while playing soft low A’s and Bb’s, multiphonics, and extreme altissimo notes (see below). So not much to be done here other than regulating better.
3. Extreme Register. Again, like multiphonics, altissimo is generally not an occasion to get all hot and bothered, but there are some really high notes in Still, like Xenakis high. In fact, I think this is the only other piece I’ve ever seen double altissimo A’s, A#’s and B’s besides XAS. Even though the Still altissimo notes are not careening by at breakneck 32nd-note speed, like they do in the Xenakis, they become difficult for a lot of the same reasons as the multiphonics in the piece (see above). They’re soft. And the expansive silence preceding each altissimo entrance becomes for the performer not the sustained stasis that you’re hoping to project to the audience, but rather a prolonged period of prayer during which you plead for proper partial to sound.
The racing season doesn’t start until March, but we’re (my coach and I) already adding some intensity into the training, looking towards a late-December/early-January first peak. Four months of endurance and threshold riding is starting to give way to some shorter VO2 Max efforts. I actually didn’t have much trouble with these efforts today. When we were doing VO2 Max last year, I remember wheezing at the end of each 3-minute effort. But today, even pushing it up to the top of my zone in the last interval, I was breathing a little heavy, but nothing close to what I was doing last year. Scheduled for a power test this weekend so I’ll likely have some adjusted numbers that will help to induce wheezing in future workouts.
“So, upon that Night, did I pass abruptly from Soldier to Sailor, in less than the swallowing of a cheaply opiated Pint, and found, but for the inconvenience of it, a Dream come true,— there being Soldiers’ sorts of Lasses, I mean, and Sailors’ sorts, and a quiet Brotherhood who appreciate the Sailors’ Lasses who be left, for all the reasons we know, unattended. And now tell me, for I’ll ne’er tell you, of the short and devious Fifer out trolling for trouble, creeping ’round, sniggering, peeping up Skirts,— yet ah, my Lads, most times all it took was to bring out the Fife, and finger upon it some brief Air,— eight bars of any little Quantz Etude, and usually she was mine.”
—Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon
Though it’s certainly been sad to see
a lot less hardly any classical music coverage in the new (and definitely not improved) streamlined Sun, one of the consequences has been that their music critic, Tim Smith, now has his very own space in the blogosphere. While we sometimes miss the feel of our fair city’s paper in our hands while absorbing a review of last night’s concert, Tim’s writing on Clef Notes (I’ll wager the name wasn’t his choice) more than makes up for that. As a Baltimore resident for nearly six years, I’ve come to know Tim’s work and—now, I’m being ultra-presumptive here—based on his blogging style, which is packed with personality, feel like he was maybe edited to death by the Sun. Translation: I like his writing on the blog. Though Tim’s already had his coming out in the blogosphere (geez, 140 comments!?), SLN thought it was time to send out some full-blown blog love. We hope to see Clef Notes gracing many more blogrolls in the future.
It was a sad day when I learned that Erik Spangler, my great friend and co-conspirator with Hybrid Groove Project and Mobtown Modern had decided to put his DJ name, DJ Dubble8, to sleep. While in Iceland of all places, I saw an investigative television program that described hardcore neo-nazis in America. One of the things that caught my attention was their use of the number 88 (a.k.a. Dubble8) as one of their maxims. Surprised, I told Erik when we got back, but he thought that it was such an obscure reference that he still felt comfortable with it. Fast forward a few months to the middle of the Presidential election. The neo-nazi connotations of 88 came to the forefront of the American MSM as Erik reported on his site:
A news story about a couple of snotnose skinheads planning to assassinate Barack Obama among 88 other black people has focused on a ridiculous neo-nazi meaning attached to the number 88. While it is true that the 8th letter of the alphabet, H, repeated twice can abbreviate a couple of unfortunate German words, it can also stand for Hip Hop. It is also an extremely lucky number in Chinese culture. I chose my alias of DJ Dubble8 because of my birthdate, August 8th (8/8). The day before the “skinhead-88″ story broke, it also occurred to me that as of this year in 2008 I have lived in 8 states (Virginia, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Massachussetts, New York, Florida, Maryland). 8/8 is the time signature of Baltimore Club, the dance music of my city . . . I’m putting the alias to rest, with sadness, as of today.
So from now on, Erik’s just going to be Erik Spangler on all his projects. That’s cool, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a name like Erik Spangler, but I think he needs a new DJ name. That’s why I’ve decided to issue an official call for submissions to the Rename DJ Dubble8 Foundation. If you’ve got a name you’d like considered, send me an email or add a comment with your suggestion. When I’ve collected a handful of names, we’ll take a poll to see which one wins. I thought DJ ESP was cool, though it’s already taken.