5 Incredible Online Music Resources to Explore

1. The Groundbreaking Educational Apps of Amphio (formerly called Touchpress)

The renowned team responsible for some of the most innovative educational apps such as “The Elements” (2010), “Barefoot World Atlas” (2012), and “Disney Animated” (2013) have created a collection of classical music apps that are interactive and beautifully designed, and full of unique features and expert commentary. I just downloaded “The Orchestra” which features Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting excerpts from 8 pieces covering the entire span of Western concert music, “Beethoven’s 9th Symphony”, which dives deep into the composer’s symphonic masterwork, and “Juilliard String Quartet”, which illuminates the interplay between the instruments in a legendary chamber work by Schubert. I’m extremely excited to dive into each app and experience some of my favorite classical pieces in a new way!

2. Explore the Score

I was lucky to find this hidden gem when looking for information about Musica Ricercata, an intriguing series of short piano pieces by the great 20th century composer György Ligeti. Turns out it that it was way more than I bargained for – a FREE interactive online resource on a set of modern works by Ligeti, Pierre Boulez, and Stravinsky. The site doesn’t have the best or sleekest design, but it more than makes up for it in content. You can follow along with scores, listen to commentary by A-list classical performers and read historical notes to put the compositions in context.

3. Syntorial

I’m really looking forward to demoing this acclaimed synthesizer-teaching software by Audible Genius. Through interactive lessons, videos, and quizzes, Syntorial aims to help composers and sound designers understand synthesis on a musical, practical level. It’s this fact that attracted me to the software – I really like that it emphasizes pragmatic skills and ear-training rather than focusing solely on theoretical knowledge.

4. Association for Cultural Equity Online Archive

Folklorist Alan Lomax’s massive collection of field recordings, folk songs, and interviews was digitized and archived online several years ago, and incredibly it is completely free. According to an NPR report, this was all part of Lomax’s plan even before the internet was invented. “Lomax recorded a staggering amount of folk music. He worked from the 1930s to the ’90s, and traveled from the Deep South to the mountains of West Virginia, all the way to Europe, the Caribbean and Asia” Lomax founded the nonprofit organization Association for Cultural Equity (ACE) in the ’80s, and since then “[executive director Don] Fleming and a small staff made up mostly of volunteers have digitized and posted some 17,000 sound recordings. ‘For the first time, everything that we’ve digitized of Alan’s field recording trips are online, on our website,” says Fleming. “It’s every take, all the way through. False takes, interviews, music.'”

5. The Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Program

As we lose more and more of great Jazz masters of the 20th century – Paul Bley, Toots Thielemans, Bobby Hutcherson, and Clark Terry in the last couple years alone – this sizable archive of Jazz oral histories becomes increasingly precious each year. Containing complete transcripts of interviews up to 6 hours long, and hundreds of mp3 audio clips as well, the Smithsonian archive captures priceless anecdotes and stories from Jazz legends like Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Shirley Horn, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins and many more. It’s a veritable treasure to any Jazz musician or enthusiast, as well as a fascinating historical look at 20th century America through the point of view of some of its most original and innovative artists.

 

March ’17 Mix

 

  1. Blues March / Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
  2. Na Baixa do Sapateiro / Banda Black Rio
  3. I Feel For You / Prince
  4. Don’t Touch My Hair / Solange, Sampha
  5. Rob Roy / Bill Frisell
  6. A Woman (Una Mujer) / João Gilberto
  7. Home Is Where The Hatred Is / Gil Scott-Heron
  8. American Tune / Paul Simon
  9. Suite de Danzas Criollas, Op. 15: Allegretto Cantabile / Alberto Ginastera, Barbara Nissman
  10. Les Fleurs / Minnie Riperton

February ’17 Mix

  1. Jazz Suite No. 1: 1. Waltz / Dmitri Shostakovich
  2. I Wonder U / Prince
  3. Chunari Chunari / Abhijeet and Anuradha Shriram
  4. But Not For Me / Ahmad Jamal
  5. Can’t She Tell – feat. Sly Stone / Billy Preston
  6. Armellodie / Chilly Gonzales
  7. Please Don’t Go / Stevie Wonder
  8. Running Away / Friendly Fires
  9. What’s New / Helen Merrill, Clifford Brown
  10. Expresso 2222 / Gilberto Gil

January ’17 Mix

  1. Hard Times / John Legend, The Roots
  2. BTSTU / Jai Paul
  3. Love Has Come Around / Donald Byrd
  4. Only Memories Remain / My Morning Jacket
  5. Cooking Up Something Good / Mac Demarco
  6. This Must Be The Place / Talking Heads
  7. Realize / Benny Sings
  8. FDT / YG, Nipsey Hussle
  9. Mexican Chef / Xenia Rubinos
  10. Original Faubus Fables / Charles Mingus

Indian-American Jazz Musicians Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa on Identity, Community, and Belonging

I’ve been following the careers of Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa for a while. What inspires me about them, even more than their music, is their continuing determination to place their art within a larger context, to relate it to current events and pressing questions, and to use their success to shine light on vital issues. Iyer, in collaboration with poet and hip-hop artist Mike Ladd, has created large-scale works investigating fear and surveillance in airports post-9/11, critiquing and satirizing the 24-hour mainstream news cycle, and expressing the dreams of young veterans of color. Mahanthappa has released albums addressing stereotypes of Indians, exploring the ways that modern technology affects communication, and relating the history of Britain’s “South Asian Middle Passage” that enslaved South Asians for labor in the plantation economies of the Caribbean.

What also strikes me about Iyer and Mahanthappa is their commitment to grappling with their unusual and complicated place within jazz’s racial landscape: from encountering racism from critics, to confronting their own privilege as non-Black artists within a Black medium, to navigating the pitfalls of self-exoticization and inauthenticity. The road they continue to travel on is difficult and requires a lot of reflection and often humility. It’s actually a good microcosm of the situation that we as Indian Americans find ourselves in today, in a country where, as Vijay Iyer puts it, “to succeed in America is, somehow, to be complicit with the idea of America—which means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past.”

Here are a couple articles where Iyer and Mahanthappa discuss these issues at length, and talk about their friendship and their seamless chemistry as musical collaborators:
1) Dual Identities: A Conversation with Jazz Soulmates Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa (Pitchfork)
2) Sangha: Collaborative Improvisations on Community (Critical Improv)

Some excerpts: Continue reading

December ’16 Mix

  1. Someday at Christmas / Stevie Wonder
  2. Frosti / Bjork
  3. Aurora / Bjork
  4. Urge for Going / Joni Mitchell
  5. White Winter Hymnal / Fleet Foxes
  6. Christmas in L.A. / Vulfpeck
  7. Greensleeves / John Coltrane
  8. Sugar Rum Cherry / Duke Ellington
  9. Come Ye Disconsolate / Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway
  10. A Hazy Shade of Winter / Simon & Garfunkel
  11. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening / Susan Graham, Ned Rorem

5 Classic Jazz Songs of Protest and Resistance

It has been a troubling and depressing week for many of us in the US as we reckon with the results of last Tuesday’s election. It’s made it hard for me to focus on music. And when I do think about music, I find myself taking a step back and contemplating: what exactly is music for? What does it mean to people who are engaged in a struggle simply for existence, dignity, material comfort and self-determination? I think one of the reasons jazz is so powerful because it is an art form that is by definition an act of resistance. It was created by largely self-taught descendants of enslaved Africans on Western instruments (that originated in European classical and marching band ensembles), and these people poured into their foreign tools their entire souls and intellects, often at great personal risk. They forged a unique aesthetic that was at once fiercely modern and virtuosic and thus demanded respect, but also often witty, tragic, sophomoric, romantic, angry, sensual, and vulnerable – in other words fully human. In a society that constantly denies one’s humanity, that in itself is a miraculous and heroic act of anti-colonial liberation through sound. And I think one of the reasons that we as Americans of all races treasure jazz so much is because that the music, at its core, is really a vital source of healing for an embattled and oppressed community. It’s deeply spiritual kind of medicine, created by and for one group of people (with lots of crucial contributions by people of other races) – but its healing spirit is accessible for everyone.

As Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) said, “Negro music is essentially the expression of an attitude, or a collection of attitudes, about the world, and only secondarily an attitude about the way music is made…This music cannot be completely understood (in critical terms) without some attention to the attitudes that produced it.” In that spirit, and given that the attitudes that produced jazz are more relevant than ever right now, I have compiled 5 classic jazz songs of protest and resistance, and a list of many more below that for further listening (though the list is by no means comprehensive.)

Continue reading

October ’16 Mix

  1. Electric Counterpoint – Fast (movement 3) / Steve Reich, Pat Metheny
  2. Bolivia / Jorge Drexler
  3. Pipornithology, Pt. II / Chassol
  4. I Thought It Was You / Herbie Hancock
  5. Backlash Blues / Nina Simone
  6. Sonho Meu / Maria Bethânia & Gal Costa
  7. Something About Us / Daft Punk
  8. In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country / Boards of Canada
  9. Partita for 8 Singers: No. 2. Sarabande / Caroline Shaw, Roomful of Teeth
  10. I Should Care / Thelonious Monk