Monthly Archives: April 2013

Our Modern Blues

If you haven’t heard of Blakroc you’ve probably atleast heard of The Black Keys. We’ve seen rock bands attempt to meld their sound with hip hop in the past: Anthrax and Public Enemy, Linkin Park and Jay z, Limp Bizkit, etc. On the whole, the “rap-metal” genre sounded contrived and created an unattractive aesthetic with these two very divergent forms of aggressive expression simply not mixing well. In fact, I’d argue that the only band to ever succeed at this fusion was Rage Against the Machine; their sound was so unique and well synthesized that it would be unfair to label them under a genre with such a stigma as “rap-metal.” Since Rage, there hasn’t been many attempts to combine hip hop with rock and thankfully so. However, if there were going to be some guys to do it, it would be the Black Keys, given their hard blues grooves and “low down” aesthetic; and that’s what they did. Being the only other band, in my opinion, to successfully combine hard rock with hip hop may be one of the reasons why guitarist, Dan Auerbach, won the grammy for best producer. The end result is a product that doesn’t even sound like a synthesis but rather the way hip hop is supposed to sound. It’s said that hip hop was born from the attitude and flavor of jazz and Blues, and with this album, they’re bringing it back home.

 

The Lions of Neo-Latin Jazz

When Latin jazz first burst onto the American music scene from Cuba and Brazil in the 1940’s and 50’s it gave life to a popular culture that had started fading away from the complicated virtuosic leaps of the bebop movement. While Dizzy Gillespie attempted to show his audiences how danceable bebop was, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Chano Pozo, Mongo Santamaria and others in the Latin invasion blended the smooth lines and rich harmonies of American Jazz with the complicated yet danceable rhythms of Cuban and Brazilian music. With such a foundation, the advanced musical ambitions that were being chased by bebop-ers were now available in a popular context. Polyrhythms, polymeter, extreme dynamics, open harmonic stylings for more free improvisation, and an aggressive fast paced aesthetic could all be pursued while the underlying pulse of the clave rhythm kept the audiences moving. Moreover, the soft ballads sung by Luis Bonfa and caressed by the remarkably soft wave of Stan Getz’s lines laid down the new bar for what romantic truly meant.

In the modern context the Latin sound still provides a refreshing departure from the hurried, anxious and competitive NYC onslaught. It has however taken on its own sort of aggression and “difficult-ness” as the rhythms become more complex and the melody parts become more disjunct, a stark contrast to Getz’s warm legato.

 

David Sanchez knows how to play a ballad but some of his most exciting work comes in the form of tunes like Ay bendito which embraces a very modern sound incorporating odd meters interspersed in more common meters, phrasing with changing syncopated accents, dense harmonic structures, and an ambiguous straight eighths feel.

 

In this video, Edmar Castaneda (internationally renowned jazz harpist) and Miguel Zenon (Professor at New England Conservatory) perform “La Tierra” a lively and emotional piece which demonstrates the contemporary stylings now present in Latin melody and rhythm, all without the use of a single percussion instrument. They also discuss their thoughts on American culture and their experiences coming to the US.

Our Motivation

A question must be asked: What is the motivation that gives form to true art. Is it tragedy, happiness, intellectualism, competition, love? It is our path to overcome the alienation that so often bitters our taste and lengthens the night. It is the abstract emotion that can not be spoken lest it be completely devalued, so fragile that even thought can destroy it but what holds such a bed of inspiration as to stem from an infinite source. Knowledge/preparation/practice are only the first step while the true moment of “necessity” (Wagner) comes through patience as if we were displaying our worthiness to a conscious wellspring. In the fading away of our isolation, tragedy, alienation, violence, jealousy become minuscule while the gap between every person is recognized as erroneous; love is understood. The passing “hello” to every person in the day becomes more meaningful while the true relationships are recognized as sublime miracles of a chaos, an ever blooming singularity.

Slowly becoming aware of the world’s crises has made me appreciate this idea.

 

 

A Master’s Thoughts

Often, there arises an illusory dichotomy when looking at the fine arts versus technology of the modern day. The aesthetics of electronic dance music and the total control or seeming perfection that the recording studio offers to pop music is seen as a paradigm which is wholly separate from the great Romantic composers or the flowing lines of Charlie Parker’s bebop. Digital sampling and processors such as autotune has made the legitimacy of every pop vocal suspect. However, there are those who understand the use of technology in its most utilitarian form. Their perspective places thought and philosophy as the underlying inspiration for their work while they pursue advanced skills in both the technological arena and the tangible creations that only their hands can mould. Peter Neubacker, the creator of the popular pitch/time/amplitude editing software Melodyne, is a uniquely skilled individual who not only commands a mastery of computer coding but speaks eloquently about the over arching and spiritual ideologies that inspire his work. His multidisciplinary lifestyle includes the study of music, mathematics, coding, and instrument construction in the classic renaissance-man fashion. For Neubacker, his laptop fits right in among the many classic writings on musical ratios and the inherent spiritual nature of art. His personality is reminiscent of a monk and his home gives the impression of a being a synthesis of studio, workshop, and monastery. In this video Neubacker logicizes the notion that music results from the relationship between nothingness and infinity after explaining the ancient concept that music is also something which exists regardless of sound. Such musings are a refreshing perspective in an industry which focuses almost exclusively on material image and an ambitious ladder climbing industry.

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