Monday, January 20, 2014

Show for Jan 19, 2014. Multi-instrumentalist and composer Rick Walker.

Indomitable musical explorer Rick Walker pauses for a moment to retrace some of the ground he’s traversed in the last 35 years, from his early days as a punk/ska/new wave drummer to a serious student of world percussion traditions to electronica and looping to jazz. We surveyed his career while listening to a lot of musical examples and chatting about such things as:

  • His early involvement in the “world music” movement of the ’80s
  • Playing with the late guitarist Bob Brozman
  • A paternal blessing from Babatunde Olatunji
  • Falling in love with looping 
  • Rhythm, repetition and trance  
  • Singing and other really scary things

Rick and many of his musical collaborators past and present will be celebrating his work in a special concert Jan 23. More deets here.

Click the Listen arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Show for Dec 29, 2013. Award-Winning Musical Comedy Writers Do “Lunch”

A musical gets a second life as Cabrillo Stage rolls out a new version of Lunch: A Modern Musical Myth this week. I spoke to two members of the Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Golden Globe-nominated creative team: composer Steve Dorff and book writer Rick Hawkins. They told me why they felt the story of 11th-hour redemption was ripe for revival, and how they updated both script and songs. We also listened to some of the original music, recorded in 1994 with an all-star studio cast including Carol Burnett, Michael Rupert, Laurie Beechman and Davis Gaines. Lunch Reimagined premieres Jan 3 at Cabrillo Stage. More info here.

Click the Listen arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Gypsy Voices": Donald Cohen on Romani Music

I’ve featured Don Cohen on the show previously, discussing two of his favorite musical genres: Portuguese Fado and Argentine Tango. He joins me again with his latest book, Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul, which collects Roma songs from the Balkans, Romania, Hungary and other parts of eastern/central Europe. We talked Roma history and music while playing tracks (some classics, some lesser-known tunes) from the book’s companion CD and doing our best not to overuse the term “Gypsy.”

Click the Play arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Show for July 28, 2013. Composers Kevin Puts and Derek Bermel.

Composer Kevin Puts returns to this year’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music with his new Flute Concerto and a Pulitzer Prize to his credit. Kevin and I talked about the new work and its charming backstory; about his love of heartfelt music, whatever proponents of modernist abstraction may say; and about his choice of a contemplative composing career over the athletic rigors of concert piano.

In the second part of the show, globe-trotting composer/clarinetist Derek Bermel describes Dust Dances, an orchestral piece based on his studies of the West African xylophone known as the gyil. Both Dust Dances and the Flute Concerto will be performed on opening night of the Cabrillo Festival, August 2.


 
 
Kevin Puts and Derek Bermel.

 

Want to build a gyil? Don’t forget the spiderwebs.

Click the Play arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Show for June 23, 2013. Soul Man Pt II: The Return of Jazz Singer-Songwriter Gregory Porter.

Gregory Porter says his goal is to make art that’s not forced or contrived, that flows like water from who he is and how he’s lived. This conversation makes it plain just how entwined the singer and his songs are. Our previous interview with Gregory was surely one of our best shows of 2012, and this second one picks up where the first left off. We talked about his precocious taste for jazz, performing gospel in church, the influence of his minister mother and her message of love even in the face of hate, and his seemingly meteoric – but actually long-in-the-making – rise on the jazz scene.  We listened to some of Gregory’s recorded music and some that hasn’t been recorded (at least not until now), including his first original song, composed at the age of six.

Click the Play arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Show for June 16, 2013. Stooges Party: The Stooges Music Group.

New Orleans brass band music is alive and thriving, thanks to a procession of younger musicians who’ve kept things fresh while staying true to the roots and tradition. Following in the path of groups like the Dirty Dozen and the Rebirth Brass Band, the Stooges have put their own stamp on the music with a sound that ladles generous helpings of hip-hop, funk, modern jazz and pop over a body-shaking beat and a propulsive intensity stoked by countless hours of second-lining on the Nola streets. After seeing them perform, I got founder and trombonist Walter Ramsay, saxman Virgil Tiller and drummer/trombonist Garfield Bogan into the studio for some talk and tunes, including a sneak peek at their forthcoming EP, their first CD since 2003’s It’s About Time.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Show for May 19, 2013. Songcatcher Ian Bell.

When not laboring at his his day job or raising a family – and sometimes even when so engaged – Ian Bell is likely to be bodying forth a new song or three. “When ideas come, they come,” he says, “and you don’t question how or why, you just scramble to get it down on something quick.” He may not question how or why, but I did. Joining Ian in his studio for conversation and music, I asked about his passion for rendering real-life stories in song and about his own story: growing up on the working-class fringes of London dreaming of America, then chasing his own version of the American dream in California.


You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Show for May 12, 2013. The Real Vocal String Quartet (Rebroadcast).

From 2011, our interview/house-concert with the women of the Real Vocal String Quartet. More info here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Show for Feb 17, 2013. Hear, Hear: Auditory Neuroscientist and Sound Savant Seth Horowitz.

Sound as vibration, sound as sensation, sound as means of manipulation. Sound as a state of mind and as a weapon. Seth Horowitz considers sonic phenomena from these and other angles in his new book The Universal Sense. And he’s a good one to do it: as a neuroscientist specializing in auditory phenomena, sound recordist, musician and aural explorer, not to mention the guy who proved that tadpoles can hear, Seth is a well-travelled guide to the sonic world. He and I listened to a sampling of audio curiosities while contemplating questions such as:

  • What’s faster, our ears or our eyes?
  • What’s it like to be a bat?
  • What’s it like to be Evelyn Glennie?
  • How do we build a picture of the world from auditory clues?
  • Why are low sounds ominous?
  • Can sounds kill?

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Show for Jan 6, 2013. Filmmaker Ben Harbert on Louisiana prison music.

In 1933, folklorists John and Alan Lomax went inside Louisiana’s Angola prison and made a series of celebrated recordings and musical discoveries. Eighty years later, filmmaker and musicologist Ben Harbert followed in the Lomax’s footsteps, visiting Angola and other Louisiana penitentiaries to document the state of prison music today. Ben and I discussed his new film Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians, which screens in Santa Cruz this week (more details here). As we listened to performances from the film, Ben talked about the place of music in inmates’ lives and the ethics and challenges of shooting a doc in the joint. Also featured: Tony Seeger, musicologist (and nephew of Pete, Mike and Peggy Seeger), who advised Ben on the film.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012: The Home Stretch

Though it sometimes pains me to repeat material, I’ve been preoccupied with work and other non-radio commitments, so I’ve had to raid the archives in the final weeks of aught-twelve. Rest assured, I’m filling the hopper with new material for ‘13. Here’s what we’ve heard in the last couple of shows:

Dec 30, 2012: Getting seriously soulful with singer Gregory Porter 

Dec 23, 2012: Mapping the brain with neuroscientist Sebastian Seung

Dec 16, 2012: Bringing music to life (and vice-versa) with composer Elena Kats-Chernin

Dec 9, 2012:   Searching for happiness with filmmaker Roko Belic

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Show for Nov 25, 2012. Your Brain on Music (Rerun).

An old fave makes its return: our 2007 jam with music producer/neuroscientist Dan Levitin.

image

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Show for Oct 21, 2012. Ukulele Hero, Mariachi Magic.

Two new movies pay tribute to musical instruments and/or traditions that haven’t always gotten their due in mainstream USA. In part one, Tad Nakamura, director of Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings. It’s a moving portrait of the musician who’s taken the ukulele—sometimes wrongly dissed as a novelty instrument—to virtuosic heights. In part two, Tom Gustafson, director of Mariachi Gringo, the tale of a young man from the midwest who falls in love with Mexico and devotes himself to mariachi music. Lead actor Shawn Ashmore devoted himself to the music too, going to school on vihuela.

 
(L) Jake Shimabukuro and Tad Nakamura, director of Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings;
(R) Mexican diva Lila Downs and Shawn Ashmore (with vihuela) in Mariachi Gringo. Both movies are part of the Pacific Rim Film Festival.

You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Show for Aug 5, 2012: Filmmaker Eva Soltes on Lou Harrison’s Musical World.

An hour-long interview wasn’t enough to cover but a fraction of Lou Harrison’s many accomplishments, but Eva Soltes and I did our best to hit some of the high points. Her new documentary, Lou Harrison: A World of Music, uses footage she shot during her decades-long friendship with the eminent American composer, musical innovator and political activist, who died in 1982. The film was recently screened as part of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, which Harrison helped found and which is honoring him this year with a performance of his Third Symphony. Details on the concert here. More information on Eva Soltes and Lou Harrison: A World of Music here.


Lou Harrison and life partner Bill Colvig, with one of their original instruments.

Click the Play arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Show for July 29, 2012. Composer and Musician John Wineglass.

As an Emmy-winning soundtrack composer for TV and film and as a session/backing musician (piano, violin, viola), John Wineglass can write or play just about anything. Gospel, classical, R&B, country, folk, Latin – he can swing it. But it’s his serious concert works he’s most proud of, like his new orchestral piece Someone Else’s Child, premiering at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music on August 4. We discussed the new composition, John’s dual-track musical education – playing classical in a well-known youth orchestra and gospel in church – and his jack-of-all-genres commercial work.

Someone Else’s Child was inspired by the poems of kids in juvenile hall, published in the Beat Within magazine, which presents writing and artwork by incarcerated youths. Check out this 7th Ave Project from 2010 on the Beat Within writing program, including interviews with kids in the hall and instructors Jill Wolfson and Dennis Morton.

Click the Play arrow at the top of this post to listen to the show, or you can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)