Modern Classical and Afro-Dominican

Lately my listening has been divided between several curiosities, modern classical music and Afro-Caribbean  music. Sometimes these make for weird listening combinations, but that’s just where my head is at this moment. Along with those interests, I often take time to look into my origins as a son of Dominican parents and explore a bit more of my history. When I take this time to expand my understanding of the Dominican Republic, I tend to keep a running interest in the music that happens to be on my mind. Often these two things run parallel to one another and are compartmentalized, so each has it’s special place and feeling in me.

However, sometimes these ideas run into each other, that’s when I start to ask the “what if” questions. What if this composer wrote a piece for that ensemble? What kind of project would those artist create? Could these groups work together? What would that sound be? Right now I have these two sounds in my ear. I love them both and want to hear them work together. The vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, and a band from Santo Domingo called SonAbril. Crazy, Right!?

Imagine if Roomful of Teeth arranged a piece by SonAbril? Perhaps William Brittelle could be commissioned to write a piece for SonAbril. These are just thoughts, but it might be a wild set of collaborations. Check out these two tunes, and wonder for yourself.

Movies and Articles

My viewing habits on streaming sites like Netflix have been varied the past few months, but after reading a NY Times article, I realize that I binge watch more than just sci-fi movies and shows. I get caught up into music documentaries and watch three or four in a sitting. The latest have been a series of blues and hip-hop  documentary.

I’ve managed to used some of these movies as part of my classes as well. My students seem to like them and they are a good jumping off point as points of conversations. Here is the latest one to capture my attention.

However if you are into reading about some of the other great music documentaries, the ones listed in this NY Times article is a good place to start.

The Algorithms Got Me

Sometimes I think I’m messing with the algorithms of my media consumption when I research things for classes I teach. Recently I’ve been working with a class exploring the Blues. I know…it’s a big genre and there’s lots to cover, but like most of my classes, we find a path and we follow it and make stops along the way. Curious how music finds you where you’re at and not where you think you’re going.

As we explore the blues and the importance of it throughout the 20th and now the 21st century of music, I started noticing more and more articles about Ahmaud Arbery. The reporting of anyone’s death by the hands of another is tragic, however this one stopped me in my tracks. Although there is much to discuss about race and how people of color are seen in the United States, I’m going take a moment and tell you what my algorithm did to me.

As I am reading another NY Times article about the Arbery case with my morning coffee, I had my music media player playing from the list of music recommend to me. I often do something like this before I start teaching. Eventually my teaching of the blues and this particular shooting in Georgia came crashing together when my computer played Strange Fruit performed by Billie Holiday followed by When Will I Get To Be Called A Man performed by Big Billy Broonzy.

Why these two songs, and in that order?

I turned the music down, took a moment to collect myself, then I got ready for class.

Sometime I think my algorithm is reading my mind.

More Album Covers

I didn’t feel the need to keep a day by day accounting of the album covers I chose like in the previous post, however, I think I will mention the combination of day 2 and day 3, and why they struck me as significant. Significant in part because they were both introductions to several aspects of music for me. Coincidentally both of these albums found their way to me around the same time.

In the case of the Low End Theory; yes it was a big deal for me culturally because I was a teenager growing up in NYC, and I was starting to form my own opinions about Hip-hop. From my teenage point of view, I started down an explorations of sounds from this album which enviably led to a greater appreciation of jazz. Which is not difficult to hear in tracks like “We Got The Jazz”. I didn’t see it then, but the intersectionality of both of these forms of music is why I still listen to both genres today.

The other album covers is about the first brass quintet in saw live. The American Brass Quintet often performed recitals around NYC. My trumpet teacher at the time insisted her studio go to Lincoln Center to listen, learn, and enjoy. I remember hearing Ewald, an arrangement of Elizabethan music, Eric Ewazen, and perhaps some Gunther Schuller.
In any case, I became an instant fan of the group and soon after saving up some cash to buy their album. I can point to that concert as the inception of my love for brass chamber music, and my obsession with brass quintet literature.

Facebook Challenges

We’ve all seen social media challenges. The idea is to record yourself doing something which will draw attention somehow. I first one of these I can remember is the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS and the Movember for prostate cancer. Some of these challenges are for good causes. I was recently nominated to participate in the 10 day challenge on Facebook.

The idea is to show one album cover a day for ten days that influenced me. This may raise awareness of an artist or just remind us to appreciate the music that helped shape us into the people or artists we are today.

As part of my first day in this challenge, I showed the cover to “Chuck Mangione Concert Land of Make Believe“. I remember picking up this album on CD sometime in 1990. Land of Make Believe was a tune my junior high school marching band played and I was still fond of the song at that time. A simple bassline and a singable melody, which would immediately turn into an earworm.

I remember not wanting anyone to know I listened to this album. I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. Perhaps I’ll listen to it tonight.