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Archive for August, 2013

My Conversation with Terry Bozzio (part 2)

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As promised, here is part 2 of the conversation with Terry. Once again, click the link, then another link to access the audio.

-Derek

 

http://wp.me/a2vxuv-m4

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My Conversation with Terry Bozzio (part 1)

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Hey guys, so as promised here is my conversation (in two parts, first one here, the next one in a new post directly following this one) with Terry Bozzio. I really did not know what to expect going into this interview, as I only knew Terry by his music, not on a personal level. The conversation, however, revealed him to be an intuitive and kind man, with great interest in who I was even though the conversation was really about him. As it was a Skype/mobile phone discussion that was live, the call has static in one portion (but Terry says interesting stuff in this part so I didn’t delete it). We talked about anything you can imagine involving music, and what makes the talk so special is Terry’s wealth of life experience which he shares in story form. He is a fascinating person to listen to, and I am humbled to say I know him. Terry, I look forward to many discussions in the future.

-Derek

(click the link below, then another link…WP is weird…to access the interview)

http://wp.me/a2vxuv-m3


Interview With Musician and Songwriter Steve Rich

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So I promised an interview with Steve Rich, here it is. He is an honest storyteller, a Brit with Bob Dylan’s musical sensibility, but above all else a pretty chill dude. I enjoy his answers, and I hope you do as well.-Derek

Derek Kortepeter: Hey Steve, it’s real awesome of you to take the time to do this. So first off, tell me what drew you to music?

 

Steve Rich: When I was 17 or 18 everybody I knew was either into English house music or American rap. I wasn’t really into that stuff. Me and my brother used to put on our dad’s old vinyl records at home. Beach Boys, Beatles, Stones, Animals….one time I happened on his 1965 copy of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’….the sound hit me like nothing I can describe. That started me on this journey.

DK: The hybrid of blues, folk, and alternative sounds is a pretty interesting choice. Why did you decide to play music with these genres? Were there certain albums or songs that drew you in?

 

SR: Absolutely. Blues and folk music is so pure, so honest. I started to play it because it was a form of music that I felt I understood. I was never musical as a kid. I borrowed a guitar when I was 18 and I learnt how to play Bob Dylan songs. It was like opening a new world. ‘Blood on the Tracks’ is the greatest album of all time for me.

DK: Folk musicians are first and foremost storytellers, and from what I have been told and listened to, relationships and substance abuse are strong themes for your story. How do you break down your life experiences and pack them into your songs?

 

SR: I don’t do it consciously, not at the start anyway. I don’t sit down and think I’m going to write a song about alcoholism or a broken love affair. I tend to catch a mood and I’ll come up with a line and build around it until it starts to make some kind of sense.

DK: There seems to be a trend of folk influence coming back onto the mainstream airwaves (especially here in the States), what separates you from these artists?

 

SR: I don’t think folk music will ever go away. I don’t know if I’m different to anybody else….I wish life was more simple. I wish I didn’t walk into an advertisement as soon as I step out of the house.

DK: In the Facebook description for your music page it mentions Jack Kerouac. He happens to be one of my all-time favorite authors, do his books like “On the Road” and the “Dharma Bums” or others have an influence on your lyric writing?

 

SR: My mum is a great reader, when I was 18 she put ‘On the Road’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’ in my hands and just said “read these”. I really connected with those characters. We had Shakespeare at school you see…..Kerouac and JD Salinger made much more sense to me! I wanted to be able to talk like they did, like kids want to talk like rappers. I’m English and from the suburbs though so I can’t talk like a Beat poet any more than I can talk like a rapper. But maybe I can use a bit of that language in my writing.

DK: The debut album “Rolling Thunder” will come out this fall. What was the process of creating the album like?

 

SR: When I was writing the songs I was always thinking of the bigger picture, the album. And the album being like a book where all the songs are connected to each other. Writing an album to me is like writing a novel. Each song is a different chapter and the order of the songs is very important. I kept coming up with lines in my sleep and getting out of bed at 4am to get them down on paper. I couldn’t really think about anything else the whole time I was writing this album. It consumed me. It was a relief when it was finished.

DK: Tell me about your band “The Hills”?

 

SR: The Hills are named after Hillary who sings with me. Everybody calls her Hills. I put the band together to go out and do shows and play these songs in this style. All the guys are into American Country and Blues. We all love Steve Earle, he’s a common thread. The guys in the band aren’t young kids who just want to play as loud and as fast as they can. These guys play with a ‘feel’ that is just great.

DK: What do you want your audience to take away from your work?

 

SR: I want them to really listen, I hope that some people can really connect with the songs. I’d rather there be a hundred people who love this record than a million who think it’s just ‘ok’.

DK: Are there a lot of musicians performing this type of music in London right now? What’s the current music scene like to play in?

 

SR: No. Most of the bands in London are young indie bands or really heavy rock bands. It’s difficult for us at the moment as we’re pretty different from most of the bands gigging in London. There is a small Americana scene in England though. We should probably move to the U.S.

DK: I always like to ask musicians a variation of this question. What is your honest opinion about the state of music right now? What does it do right and what does it do wrong in your view?

 

SR: It’s tough for musicians to make a living. My problem with the X Factor and all the talent shows is that there is absolutely zero creativity or originality in any of them. The record companies will always go with a tried and tested formula and turn them into One Direction. I understand why because people love One Direction. They have a zillion fans. I just wish I could turn on the TV and see a bit more originality and creativity. If it gets harder and harder for original musicians and bands to make any money then you’ll stop seeing original musicians and bands.

DK: Anything else you want to say to the readers before we close?

 

SR: Thank you for taking an interest in this music. It’s real. Keep supporting real original music. Extraordinary beauty will always come out of it.

Steve Rich can be found at http://www.facebook.com/steverichandthehills

 


Interview with musician Simon Kent

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Hey everyone. Remember that awesome track “Where I Stand” that was posted here a couple days ago? Now I present to you an interview with the man who created it. He is truly a stand-up guy, and a wonderful talent. I know that he is going far in this industry.-Derek

Derek Kortepeter: First of all, I want to thank you for being awesome and doing this interview. So I listened to the tracks that you have made available to the public so far, and I notice a hybrid of sounds (electronic, acoustic, new romanticism, classical, rock), can you tell me about your influences for your sound?

Simon Kent: Hi Derek and thank you. It’s true that there are a lot of diverse influences that feed into the music. I made a conscious decision to embrace a wide range of musical possibilities, while at the same time trying to find a sound of my own. I do listen to a lot of musical genres, encompassing everything you have mentioned. The musicians who have worked on the songs also come from diverse backgrounds and have very different influences, although I always look for some common ground, even with people who are working almost as session musicians on tracks. For example, Giorgio Li Calzi is a jazz trumpeter who lives in Italy and works in a very different musical world from me – but we both love Miles Davis, Kenny Wheeler and Jon Hassell – so Giorgio would instinctively know what was needed on a track without us even meeting up.

 

The tracks that are available online are also a combination of the songs from my first album, “Pillo”, and tracks from the forthcoming second album, “In Another Life” – that will probably be released early next year. I would say that “Pillo” is more of an organic, acoustic rock album, whereas the new album will be much more electronic, with more of a pure pop sound.

 

Over the last year or so I have put together an amazing permanent band to work with – truly lovely people and very talented musicians (Paul Farrow – guitar, Owen Blades – bass, James Walker – drums). That in itself has been an inspiration and I have absolutely fallen in love again with music. So, I guess to answer your question in terms of the new songs, the goal is to create great pop songs. The music I have been losing myself in lately includes Empire Of The Sun, Friendly Fires, MGMT, Simple Minds, Adele, Sigur Ros…

DK: What made you decide to pursue music, was there an “aha!” moment or was this always the trajectory your life was going?

SK: It is the direction I have needed to pursue for as long as I can remember. I am naturally extremely shy, and music been my way of connecting with the world from an early age. I clearly remember spending the vast majority of my school days daydreaming and lost in music, I couldn’t focus on the regimented subject matter that often meant nothing to me…the exception was probably English and history lessons.

It just feels like everything has come together in a really positive way right now – the right songs, the right people, everyone behind the project.

DK: What would you say is thematic content of your music, what are you attempting to convey or analyze?

SK: I write about events and emotions from my life, hopefully in such a way that the listener can relate to the content and derive some meaningful interaction with the songs. The lyrical content is always based on my reality, and therefore essentially authentic, honest and real.

DK: You got to have your music played on BBC Radio which is frickin’ awesome. How did that come about?

SK: I think some of the live shows earlier this year helped. We played at The Dublin Castle and Water Rats in London, followed by a showcase at BBC for Radio 2, and a lot of producers and music industry turned up for those shows. We also have a great promotions team behind us now.

DK: You are signed to Universal Records, one of the biggest labels out there. So many artists are looking for that elusive record contract; do you have any advice for them?

SK: I actually have my own record label, which is released through Universal. I like it that way. That has allowed my manager and myself to put together a talented team of people we trust, who genuinely love the music and want to see the project become a success. It also means that Simon Kent is the one and only priority of the label, my creative goals are not compromised. My personal opinion is that ‘looking for that elusive record contract’ should be one of the last considerations for an artist these days. Focus on writing great music, get the right musicians around you, try to forge your own identity, put yourself in front of the public only when you are ready, and most importantly never ever let go of your dream. You get one life so make sure you use it.

DK: What is your process of writing music?

SK: It is often a frustrating process! My experience is that the more music I write, the harsher becomes my inner critic, and so fewer new songs tend to flow through into production. I sometimes go for a period of months without writing a note, either through other life events being in the way, or because nothing meaningful is resonating with me at a given time. I tend to leap on inspiration when it arrives. Usually I find a musical or lyrical seed and develop the idea into a demo of sorts, and over a period of time, including many revisits, a song develops.

DK: Every performer connects differently with their audience, could you describe the experience you have at your shows when it comes to performer/crowd relationship?

SK:I find live shows a rewarding experience, and I hope the audience does too. I see it as an opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level, to create a moment when we can all leave the world outside and focus on something immediate and emotionally tangible. I get lost in being a part of a great band as well, I’m often lost in the performances of the guys I’m playing with in this band.

DK:I look at the future music has via the present art in existence, and in so many areas creativity is flourishing. If I am honest though, I feel that mainstream music is largely stagnant, with people being more about the money than the music. This often gets me thinking about the future of music, so this lead me to ask you, an artist, where you think music is heading?

SK:I don’t know the answer to where music in general is heading, I’m not sure anyone does. I agree with your analysis of music v money to a large extent. I feel that recently we have seen way too much emphasis in the media on ‘fame’ and ‘stardom’, on people being manufactured by so called experts towards a goal which has little or nothing to do with music. I have no time for any of that.

There is a lot of great new music about, but it is very hard to get noticed. Music in general is competing for attention with so many other immediate distractions – the proliferation of mobile technology, gaming, social networking etc. On top of that, I think the accessibility of so much ‘free’ music can make it appear almost ‘too disposable’, to have too little artistic value.

DK: Often times music is a result of our environment, either consciously or subconsciously. I believe where people grow up and live becomes inextricably linked to their art. This leads me to ask, does being English give you a unique perspective musically that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

SK: Undoubtedly, everything we see, feel, hear and experience feeds into the art. I think I have been fortunate to have grown up in a country which has historically prized the cultural contribution of pop music. I think the UK has gave birth to many social subcultures which are inextricably linked to pop music, and the echoes of that history still resonate with me.

DK:If you could sum up your music in sort of a Twitter length for the new listener, what would you say?

SK:emotional, atmospheric, melodic

DK:Before we close this interview, is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?

 SK:A big thank you for your time, I hope you enjoy the music.

Simon can be found at https://www.facebook.com/SimonKentMusicUK and http://simonkent.net


¡Guitarra!: A Musical Journey Through Spain (you can call this a review or whatever you think it is)

The beauty of music is that the story of its inception is as intriguing as the final, aural product. This idea is one that permeates the thoughts of those studying Ethnomusicology, and in the case of the film I selected to review, always remained in my mind while exploring the rich history of the guitar in Spain. ¡Guitarra!: A Musical Journey Through Spain chronicles the evolution of guitar music in Spain, as told through the eyes of English Classical guitar virtuoso Julian Bream. Lasting three hours and twenty-five minutes, ¡Guitarra!: A Musical Journey Through Spain is the most thorough account of Spanish music ,and the overall influence that Spaniards have had on the music of the guitar , that I have ever encountered.

The film is divided into eight parts, beginning with “Part 1: Golden Century.” This section chronicles the music of the guitar and its relative the vihuela, popular in the 15th and 16th Centuries in Spain and played by peasants and princes alike (¡Guitarra!), opening first with a piece played by Bream titled Fantasia #14. Bream feels it is necessary to discuss this piece, written by Alonso Mundarra, since it is the first guitar piece ever published (¡Guitarra!). This sets the stage for the entire film, as Bream will continue to make the argument throughout that Spain is the country guitarists have to thank for the music they enjoy today (¡Guitarra!). This is something that intrigued me as my main instrument is the guitar, and any further understanding I can be given about my instrument I take great delight in. Bream continues this segment with more examples from composers of the 16th century such as Luis Milán while simultaneously giving historical context to the pieces being played. During this time, Charles the Fifth ruled Spain, and under his rule foreign artists and musicians, especially from his home of Flanders, were integrated into Spain, thus creating a syncretism in the Spanish music of this time (Trend 141). This section hinges on the idea that music always has a past, and in studying that past, the music enjoyed today can be better understood. One criticism I have, however, of this section is that it does not discuss the Moorish influence in Spain, specifically how the ‘ud (lute that the guitar is based on) was brought to Spain by Moors occupying the nation at one point (Coelho 160). Overall, though, I feel that Bream successfully delivered this idea through careful placement of historical context, as well as musical structure created by the vihuela and guitar.

“Part 2: The Baroque Guitar” continues chronologically into 17th Century Spain, a time where there was both a great affluence in the country, as well a significant pressure militaristically due to Spain’s extension of church and state globally through conquest (¡Guitarra!). The music of this time in Spain resembled more of what the rest of Europe was playing stylistically, heavily based in Counterpoint and following the style of the various Renaissance composers such as Palestrina and Baroque composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach (¡Guitarra!). It is in this section that the reason for the guitars’ popularity is hypothesized about. Julian Bream makes the argument that military usage of the instrument for leisure caused the popularity of the instrument to spread, for Spain was in control of various nations at this point, thus spreading the usage of the instrument (albeit a slightly different instrument than what modern guitarists such as myself use today) (¡Guitarra!). The argument Bream presents is logical in my eyes, for influence of music, as well as religion or other customs, can be attributed in certain instances to military action with the aim of conquest. This section continues the idea that was first stated implicitly in section 1, that the past truly influences the present when referencing music, especially in context of Spain. The starkest example given here is a quote from the film which states, “the guitar is used by the French and Italians….but the Spanish play it more madly than any other nation (¡Guitarra!).”

Further developing on the ancient past of Spanish guitar music is “Part 3: Classical Period Guitar.” Here the film continues into a period that was very trying for Spain, as the end of the 18th Century was a period of great civil strife as well as governmental ineptitude (¡Guitarra!). The central government of Spain was weak at this time; as a result, the invasion of Napoleon’s army could only be fended off by civilian effort that eventually resulted in a bloody civil war (¡Guitarra!). One would expect such catastrophic events would influence the music at this time; however it was quite the opposite. The film states that the music of this period remained within the Classical style, acting almost obliviously to the dire political situation of the day (¡Guitarra!). Further continuing with the Classical era and its influence on the evolution of Spanish guitar music, Bream speaks about two of the most important figures in guitar music of this time, Dionisio Aguado and Fernando Sor. Friends and rivals simultaneously, Aguado and Sor significantly contributed to the world of guitar. The film highlights in Aguado his composing and ingenuity with guitar technology, creating such inventions as the tri-podium which Classical guitarists would be lost without, as it allows the foot to rest in a way that is advantageous to the player (¡Guitarra!). With Sor, Bream feels it is necessary to highlight the idea that he can be regarded as a “most distinguished” guitar composer, with the pinnacle of his career being the staple of Classical guitarists; Introductions and Variations on a Theme of Mozart (¡Guitarra!). Overall, I feel that this section more than adequately informed the viewer of the progression that guitar music in Spain during the Classical era.

“Part 4: Flamenco and the Romantic Guitar” is what I believe to be the most important section of this film, as it highlights what I believe to be the most distinctly “Spanish” music that Spain has. At this point in the film, Bream gives certain historical context (19th Century to be exact) (¡Guitarra!), but then breaks with the traditional lecture/musical demonstration he gives and surrenders control to Paco Peña, a famous Flamenco guitarist from Córdoba, to demonstrate what Flamenco music is. Peña describes Flamenco as “rougher” and “more passionate” in order to distinguish it from the Classical and Baroque music previously displayed, then continues to describe the Roma history that Flamenco has (¡Guitarra!), as well as the theoretical basis modally and rhythmically that Flamenco music has (¡Guitarra!). The aspect of this section I believe that made it the most important was that it highlighted through footage the community aspect that binds Spaniards with Flamenco. The declaration during “Part 4” that “Flamenco is a cry, not a story” is illustrated through the various open air festivals and small community gatherings shown, as through this footage, the heart of the people of Spain is shown (¡Guitarra!).

“Part 5: Rhapsody, Crenados and Nationalism” returns to Julian Bream’s narration and virtuosic guitar demonstration of the period pieces discussed, opening with the historical context of 19th Century Spain. By this point, the Spanish empire was self-destructing, thus requiring Spain to re-evaluate its priorities politically, as well as culturally and artistically (Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs). At this time, as Bream states, guitar music was becoming less and less popular due to the desire of composers needing louder instruments to be the vehicle for their artistic endeavors (¡Guitarra!). Despite this, music was about to experience a reawakening, as a true Nationalistic identity was being established throughout Spain (¡Guitarra!). This would in turn unite the nation, something that would create music that truly re-invigorated the passion that Spaniards once had for their country (¡Guitarra!). This section was important to include in the film, for it is my feeling that it is important to show the music that existed post Spanish colonialism that was not necessarily Flamenco. My reason for believing this is that, to the viewer with pre-conceived notions of what Spanish music may be, it may be an enlightening experience to see what music exists outside of the typical conceptions one may have.

The most personal of all the segments is “Part 6: Evocation, Albanith,” for it is here that Julian Bream truly opens his innermost feelings to the viewer regarding one specific composer. Pizac Albanith, a French musician and composer, is believed by Bream to be a tremendously important composer for Spanish music, thanks greatly to the fact that “his heart was in Andalucía (¡Guitarra!).” Albanith’s career spanned great lengths musically, from studying composition alongside art music genius Franz Liszt, to writing tone poems about Southern Spain which Bream considers to be his best compositions (¡Guitarra!). The most intriguing component to this segment was the fact that, despite this film being about guitar music, Albanith was in fact a composer for the piano (hence why he studied with Liszt) (¡Guitarra!). The guitar component comes in with re-orchestration, which according to Bream, is possible with “modern techniques (¡Guitarra!).” What I truly appreciated not as a student of music, but rather a lover of music, was how Bream truly drew an emotional connection to Albanith’s music. Music is intended to serve many functions, but in my subjective opinion as a student of music and participant in music, the greatest function music serves is as a transmitter of human emotion.

Moving closer to the end of the film is “Part 7: Homage, Guitar in the 20th Century.” According to the film, by this point in history, guitar music in Spain had reached a nearly full stop; this was until Torroba’s Sonatina came into existence (¡Guitarra!). Written for guitar virtuoso Andrés Segovía, Sonatina was the “first extended length piece for guitar written in over 100 years (¡Guitarra!).” With this renewed national passion in the instrument, music for the guitar began to flourish again in Spain, catching the attention of numerous composers (¡Guitarra!). Bream continues with his analysis of 20th Century music in Spain with the discussion of what he regards to be the greatest Spanish composer, Manuel de Falla. Manuel de Falla , according to Bream, was greatest because he “was the most authentic composer” due to the fact that he “grew up in Andalucía” and could use “folklore authentically (¡Guitarra!).” The context of de Falla and guitar music is an interesting one, however, as Bream states that de Falla truly wrote only one guitar piece, an elegy for the passing of Impressionist composition genius Claude Debussy (¡Guitarra!). My feeling is that de Falla’s mention by Bream was a necessary one, for although de Falla only wrote one piece for guitar, the understanding of Spanish music in a holistic manner is just as important as understanding the evolution of the guitar in Spain (the topic of the film).

The film ends with “Part 8: Concert,” which as the title suggests, is a concert by the virtuoso guitarist and narrator of the film Julian Bream, who is accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. This section is truly a culmination of every topic covered within this film, as Bream and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe display in this concert the beauty, depth, and wonder of the music that Spain has contributed the world of guitar. As an individual who views music in a holistic manner, the juxtaposition of Spanish melodies on the guitar with traditional European Western Classical instruments is a true display of how music transcends boundaries (¡Guitarra!). This is one of the best sections of the film in my opinion, as it took the scholastic knowledge about Spanish guitar music and created the most tangible application for the viewer.

The guitar is truly a mysterious instrument. Its appeal is universal, and its applications are as broad as can be imagined by the human mind. I truly believe that ¡Guitarra!: A Musical Journey Through Spain is the most informative, thorough film I have ever viewed on the evolution of guitar music in Spain, and how such music influenced composers for the guitar globally. Its scholastic appeal is great, with extensive historical, musically analytical, and cultural facts to base the subjects discussed on, as well as aesthetically pleasing cinematography and extensive musical examples played by one of the greatest Classical guitarists of the 20th Century . The film is an important one, for as a student of Ethnomusicology, I firmly believe in communicating information on world music in a comprehendible way to the masses. Music is the greatest connecting line that humanity has to one another; truly, it is all we have to see a greater understanding of ourselves and how we place into this world. The guitar music of Spain is no exception.

Works Cited

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Background Note: Spain. U.S. Department of State, 3 May 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011.

Coelho, Victor Anand. Performance on Lute, Guitar, and Vihuela. Cambridge: 1997, Cambridge University Press. Print.

¡Guitarra!: A Musical Journey Through Spain. Dir. Barrie Gavin. Perf. Julian Bream, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Sir Charles Grove, Paco Peña. Kultur, 1986. DVD.

Trend, John Brande. The Music of Spanish History to 1600. New York: 1965, Kraus Reprint Corporation. Print.