Aug 012007

We added a scientist and a chef to the list of guests attending the most recent installment of evenings comprised of feasting, friends, and phenomenal sounds we call Listening Salon. As there is perhaps an element of music in the empirical method as well as in the culinary arts, we believe here at the Red Sun Soundroom that music-making requires a good amount of both scientist and chef in one’s attitude and approach:

The quality is in the ingredients and how they respond to each other.

We dined on Chef Dave’s pasta-less vegetarian lasagna—the man is a magician, and all were dazzled as we feasted on his latest miracle dish. Ms M. provided an exquisite green bruschetta with almond topping, and Hoby introduced us to the delights of the Italian cheese Panarello drizzled with honey. An assortment of other nibblies were enjoyed throughout the evening and into the morning, as were several cocktails and astonishingly good wines provided by the guests.

This was Listening Salon in true celebratory form!

We gathered round the hi-fi and Ms M. started off the proceedings with a congratulatory nod to Pseudophone (the collaborative work of yours truly and fellow Salon-er Hoby Ebert), applauding the recent release of Reach, our debut EP made available to the world by the netlabel Negative Sound Institute. In doing so Ms M. began her set with the opening track.

Pseudophone — “Walkabout”

She followed that with four consecutive songs off the latest Rufus Wainwright record, Release The Stars:

Rufus Wainwright — “Not Ready To Love”
Rufus Wainwright — “Slideshow”
Rufus Wainwright — “Tulsa”
Rufus Wainwright — “Leaving For Paris (No. 2)”

Ms M.’s offerings set the stage for an evening of livelier discussion than even she predicted.

I grabbed hold the baton and played the following three recordings:

Zap Pow — “This Is Reggae Music”
Inédit field recording of church
leaders singing ancient Ethiopian
Christian Orthodox Liturgical Chants —
“Qum Zem?”
Egigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw — “Gela” (feat. Aiyb Dyeng & Karsh Kale on percussion)

Dave Collins—great musician as well as cook—brought us back to North America (though he included a generous pinch of English spice) with a stimulating selection of recordings, unforgettably stamped by his Moses-like exclamations: “Power to the sisters!”—and, later, “Stoner Rock. I love to say ‘Stoner Rock’!”

Bong Water — “Folk Song”
Masters of Reality — “Deep In The Hole”
Joan Armatrading — “Call Me Names”
Mike Watt (of Minutemen fame) — “Big Train”

New York composer Denise Anderson (whom, after her recent success at NYU, we are now justified in calling “Third Degree Denise”) played three recordings for us, demonstrating yet again her uncompromising fervor for music comprised of both high emotion and accomplished technique.

Claude Debussy — “Calmes Dans Le Demi-Jour” (feat. Dawn Upshaw & James Levine)
Soul Coughing — “Bus To Beelzebub”
Denise Anderson — “Double Exposure” (feat. Dr. Matt Sullivan & Martha Lockhardt)

We were all knocked out with Denise’s original work, and she informed us this piece has become the third movement in her recent oboe concerto. Much applause, indeed! (I’d love to post it here, but Boosey & Hawkes would one day have me tethered.)

For a first-time Salon-er, M.B. picked up on the spirit of the event immediately. The recording that came next in the evening was, for me, a real high point in the history of Listening Salon.

Field recording by M.B. — “Elvis and the Sisters”

It’s two weeks after M.B.’s father died in 1983. Still home with family before returning to school in Chicago, she borrows a cassette deck from her brother. She wants to record an Elvis Costello concert live off the radio. At the time of the broadcast, however, there are no RCA cables to be found. She can’t make the connections.

So she places her walkman with built-in microphone in front of the radio’s speaker and hits record. Her sisters are playing backgammon in the same room. “Shhh,” she warns them. The little red light is on.

Time passes, the cassette wheels still turning. M.B. leaves the room and ventures downstairs, leaving her walkman to capture the rest of the show.

But after she leaves, the radio station’s broadcast fails. What follows is difficult to describe. We hear the sounds of her sisters, giggling, trying to rectify the situation, shifting through the radio frequencies. They can’t get Elvis back. And so they leave a miniature document on that tape, a message, a mysterious moment of family intimacy. This other-worldly recording is so evocative it has become M.B’s personal treasure. Somehow in her early youth she knew to keep it, she knew it was special, and she’s archived it for well over twenty years.

M.B. shared this personal treasure with us impromptu at Listening Salon in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Many thanks again to all who joined in on this lovely ride. We’re checking the Red Sun Soundroom calendar for opportunities to host another, hopefully in October!

One reminder to all Salon attendees: See The Notorious Betty Page !

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Niskayuna, NY
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