where it ends and where it begins

by pieces of moments

I’m not quite ready for the end of summer this year. But I did have a flash of excitement rumble through me when I was reading about the music line-ups and fall festivals to come. For example, Mouse on Mars pairing up with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Sónar (music festival in Barcelona) having a kind of satellite festival here in September are definite day planner worthy events. I’m particularly excited about the visit from Sónar in all its electronica/avant garde glory. Let me put it this way: if you’re in Chicago and you have a soul, you’re gonna want to come to this. If you don’t have a soul that means you’re a vampire and you should be cashing in on all the vampire madness in the entertainment world right now. If you’re a vampire and you don’t have a movie, book, or tv contract, you need a new agent.

Don’t say I never gave you good advice.

I know I already mentioned this the other day, but seriously, how brilliant are these “classical” record reviews? The review for Mozart/Academy St. Martin in the Fields is astoundingly sharp (edited by me a tiny bit…):

Sometimes you have to decide that you just don’t give a f*** what anyone else thinks. I figured that s*** out when I was four. Mozart figured it out when he was two. This collection of concertos were all written for flute, an instrument Mozart thought was a pile of s***. And guess what? Each piece is a brutal Salzburg curb-stomp. That’s what a badass he was. Concerto No. 2 in D Major was originally oboe-bound, but after Mozart kicked the living s**** out of local amateur musician Ferdinand de Jean, he thought he’d further humiliate the fat bastard by making him do one of his pieces on the flute. The only instrument he hated more than flute was harp. So guess what pops up in Concerto No. 3? Harp! F***ing Mozart. Man, I’d love to fight that guy.

!!! < <  LOVE > > !!!

Speaking of Mozart…

If you are a regular reader of this little online memo board of mine, you know that I’m really not a big fan of Mozart – never have been. I can remember being like, 9 years old and learning a Mozart piano sonata. Every time I turned the page I clearly remember thinking, “when is this thing OVER???” I guess part of what annoys me is how everyone trips over themselves trying to uncover the newest piece of the Mozart mystery (Why did he really die!? Are there other Mozart pieces out there lurking in corners of libraries in dust laden boxes that we need to exhume!? Aghghghgh!!!!). W.A. Mozart is Marsha Brady to me.

Marsha Marsha Marsha = Mozart Mozart Mozart

You know what? I don’t care. I don’t care why or how he died. I don’t care if there are any other pieces out there we don’t know about (the Köchel-Verzeichnis appendix is big enough, kids). I’m sick and tired of putting all these things on a massive pedestal when back in the day the majority of his compositions were written for the court, for kicks. Phew. Feels good to get that off my chest (again).

Having said all that – check this out: I’ve been continuously listening to more Mozart, lately. Motive unclear. I think I’m just discovering the pastel colored, frothy delight of his lesser known works – the pieces people don’t fall all over and play until they are scratched, beaten, and bruised. Through some of these other works I’ve also been re-acquainted with Mozart’s zany side and his sense of humour. We don’t let our dead composers be humorous or sarcastic enough in the “classical” world. I remember hearing pianist Martha Argerich speak about being introduced to the idea of humour in “classical” music. It changes the whole game, kids. It’s part of why I listen to a lot of jazz/indie rock/world (basically anything other than “classical”). I’m metabolizing  those performance practices so they become the nutrition off which my “classical” repertoire survives and grows. It might be Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms coming out of my fingers, but it’s infused with all that other music I have stored in my head. Anyway, that’s a long way around of saying I’m enjoying more Mozart. Go figure.

So, I owe you a few things from the summer, don’t I? I owe you a view of the Christian Marclay: Festival at the Whitney as well as more on Lollapalooza. Let’s work our way backwards.

Lollapalooza was awesome. It gets über tiresome dealing with the popular opinion that “classical” musicians are the nerdy, totally un-stylish, older siblings of insert-whatever-current-music-trend-here. There certainly are many, many, many, “classical” musicians working that do NOT fit into that stereotype…but still…we contend with that baggage. So it was a total treat as a “classical” musician to be invited to one of the stages there and show that (in this case, young)  “classical” musicians are just musicians who know a broader spectrum of music. Well, that and they are more clean. Rock ‘n’ roll is an awesomely dirty, sweaty, business kids…at least outside in the summertime (which, really, is half the fun). I think I mentioned why I was there before, but to recap: a group of young musicians with which I work part-time was invited to perform as string back-up to Dan Zanes on the Kidzapalooza stage at Lolla (fun fact: the same organization was invited to have students perform string  back-up to My Morning Jacket at Lolla in 2007). Learn more about Dan by watching this great interview that The FADER conducted with him in the park.

I’m gonna be blunt with you: being an artist at Lollaplooza is hella fun. The artist wrist band is a magical strip of plastic-coated paper that makes all the security guards quietly nod in approval as you pass through heavily gated areas. Oh, and the artist lounges are amazing. Everything inside is free. Oh, and there’s a golf cart “Fest Express” travel system that you can hop on and off taking you between various stages. I snapped some photos to illustrate the awesomeness.

A student and I show our bands (and blue nails)…

Thomas Mars of Phoenix has his on, too (lost track of where I got this photo…but I didn’t take it…fyi)

Wardrobed with said artist band, I was able to do stuff like meet Win and Tim of Arcade Fire (super nice guys, btw…and Win is really tall, as you see) backstage before their show…

…be backstage at the Erykah Badu show with Richard Reed Parry (also of Arcade Fire) and our own collaborator, Dan Zanes.

More photos…

Phoenix and Grizzly Bear members hanging out and chatting backstage at the Spoon show

Watching the Spoon show from an on-stage platform hidden behind stage right

Nearly run over by Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors) when they came off stage briefly before going back for the encore

So fun. I got to catch most of the shows I wanted to see, with a couple of exceptions (logistics – just couldn’t make it to some of them). The Phoenix show was the most insane. We were quite literally standing shoulder to shoulder creating a human sauna in the middle of Grant Park. I think the only other time I have been drenched in so much sweat is whilst doing Ashtanga yoga for two hours.

I had originally tried to get up into the same above stage right area that I was hanging out in for the Spoon show (which you can see in the photo below), but Phoenix had it set aside only for invited guests. Undeterred, I went to talk to one of their managers – a really nice British guy dressed in what appears to be the official Phoenix uniform (skinny jeans+button down/possible t-shirt layer underneath). He was kind enough to tell me that if they had room he would escort me up to the guest area personally, but they didn’t have room after all. It was okay anyway because it really was a lot of fun to be down mixing it up with the sweaty crowds.

That show also provided one of the two most magical moments of the festival.

#1 At the end of their show, Phoenix blared the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K 466 (speaking of devil…). I wish I could do justice with words to the emotion of the moment when I realized what I heard floating through the air. I captured the scene on video, but it’s just not like being there after the crowd began to disperse and the cool night air finally was able to cut through and meet our skin with Mozart descending from the speakers. Of course, the name of their newest album being Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Clever.

#2 was at the very end of the festival after the outstanding Arcade Fire show. My guest and I were walking down the street when suddenly echoing under the L tracks we heard a refrain from Wake Up. I love those spontaneous moments.

One more video for you. This one I edited together, but the footage was shot by one of our students giving the student perspective. I gave him one of our Flip cameras for all three days of the festival and said, “go.” This is what he came up with.

Now you’re all caught up on Lolla. Next up, the Whitney Museum.