The Shostakovich Chamber Symphony op. 110a: the greatest cover song ever (even including the Clapton Unplugged “Layla!”)

I had the great pleasure of conducting the Shostakovich Chamber Symphony on my Master’s Conducting Recital (followed by Plink, Plank, Plunk by Leroy Anderson, just to give you an indication of my inability to take anything seriously). I knew enough about the whole DSCH motive and his relationship with Stalin and the Volkov-ish idea that the string quartets said everything that the symphonies couldn’t and all that shit, but I never really appreciated just how God damn cool a piece it is. Continue reading

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Something to listen to: Shostakovich in the dark

Turn the lights off and close your eyes. You don’t need acid, just a decent set of headphones or speakers. This music is beauty and terror, searing intensity and looming stillness. It’s worth the 23 minutes. I’ll report back tomorrow y’all.

10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 5

Dmitri1

Symphony no. 11 ‘The Year 1905’, mvt. 4 by Dmitri Shostakovich

This selection is as likely as any to generate Biblical wailing and gnashing of teeth. Shostakovich has so much brilliant music to choose from for a countdown like this, and you could even try and argue that this isn’t even the finest movement of the symphony it’s actually in. I’m not entirely convinced myself, especially if I were to put the opening movement on right at this moment. And above Brahms? My God, have I lost my mind?

And yet, I don’t know if there is a single more evocative 15 minutes or so in all of music history. THAT’S why it’s here.

Continue reading

Something to listen to: Good God it’s cold as hell outside

Today’s forecast in Kansas City calls for Siege of Leningrad temperatures with wind chills below zero, so what better way to spend one’s time than by reliving one of the most horrific events in human history through the sounds of Dmitri Shostakovich? Valery Gergiev and the Marinsky Theater Orchestra provide the performance. Crank that volume up.

Shostakovich 9, The Black Keys, and musical versatility

El Camino
Not actually an El Camino

I’ve recently finished getting acquainted with the Black Keys new album El Camino, their seventh studio album. My initial impressions are all pretty favorable, and I’m still humming whatever Track 9 is called. I know a couple Black Keys fans who do not like the direction taken by the band after Attack and Release, their fifth album which was slated to be a collaboration with Ike Turner before he went up to the great Buick Cutlass in the sky; Danger Mouse produced that album, and he produced El Camino, too. In between, the Keys explored their dark side, and by dark I mean black, with a rap album featuring the likes of Ludacris and Jim Jones and their sixth album Brothers, a shout out to 70’s soul as only two white guys from Akron can do it. Continue reading

Something cool you might have missed: The Bell!

Aram Khachaturian

The truth is that you should never trust anybody who wears a bow tie. A cravat is supposed to point down to accentuate the genitals. Why would wanna trust somebody whose tie points out to accentuate his ears?

Aram Khachaturian has achieved a pretty widespread popularity in the last 50 years. The suites from his two most famous ballets are performed pretty regularly, and a movement from each of them often end up as encores or showpieces. His Violin Concerto is probably in the third tier of solo works for the instrument, alongside other regularly programmed solos like Elgar, Prokofiev, and Dvorak. His concerti for the cello and the piano pop up from time to time. He wrote the coolest waltz of all-time (ignore the first 35 seconds of this link, but enjoy the great Kiril Kondrashin rocking the shit). Continue reading

Are you alive? Take this easy 3-minute test to find out!

1) Turn your speakers up loud enough to compromise the structural integrity of your home or apartment.

2) Play this:

3) Ask yourself if you would drop everything you’re doing to go punch a Fascist in the throat.

If you are standing in the remains of what once was your living quarters screaming “смерть Гитлера,” you are very much alive.