May 042008

I’ll admit it, i’m not much of a secretary. We at the Red Sun Soundroom host what have turned out to be very engaging social events called Listening Salons—gatherings of people ready to share recordings of music and other sounds with their fellow Salon-ers for a true deep listening experience, followed by lively conversation and an overall celebration of the joy of listening.

It’s my job and privilege to post what has been shared at these events right here on this website, both for the Listening Salon attendees and the curious general public. I’m just not very good at getting it all down in writing, checking my spelling and the correct names for things, and offering it up to all you readers in a timely fashion. Better tardy than never, so this post includes not only the recent Listening Salon 007 which took place a few weeks ago, but also Listening Salon 006—from last November!

Listening Salon 006

New attendees included multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and power-house drummer Derek Dobson, whose band Cooper Union is about to release their debut record in the coming months. Also new to the mix was the ever-charming Allissa B., who is not only a budding actress and voice-over talent, but a walking encyclopedia of the entertainment industry. Both made such wonderful contributions to their first Listening Salon, we hope they keep coming.

The feast included gourmet pizzas, mostly topped with black olive pesto, several made by Ms M., and several made by Chef Dave Collins. Astonishingly, there were no leftovers. M.B. made a lovely salad and pleased all with her exquisite taste in wines. Allissa B., much to everyone’s delight, served up homemade cupcakes leaving our taste buds all contented with such delectable sweetness.

M.B. started us off with some of her favorite high-spirited rock’n'roll, mostly from the 1980s.

The Clash — “Pressure Drop”
Ted Hawkins — “Bad Dog”
Nick Lowe — “So It Goes”
The Pogues — “Bottle Of Smoke”
The Pogues — “Fairytale Of New York”

The lights were dimmed for Derek’s set, the three selections of which were offered, respectively, as premiere examples of musical dissonance, harmony, and the co-existence of the two.

King Crimson — “Talking Drum”
Brian Wilson — “Surf’s Up”
The Flaming Lips — “The Gash”

I then played a few pieces of music that featured drums and other percussion in what i feel are ground-breaking ways.

Bill Bruford — “The Drum Also Waltzes” (M. Roach)
Doudou N’Diaye Rose — “Cheikh Anta Diop”
Peter Gabriel — “Come Talk To Me” (feat. Doudou N’Diaye Rose)

Ms M., as always, wowed the room with her selections—this time, an entire set of performances by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott from throughout his long career.

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — “Cuckoo”
Johnny Cash — “Introduction” (spoken)
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — “Muleskinner Blues”
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — “Buskin’” (spoken)
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — “Pastures Of Plenty”
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — “Old Blue”
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — “Call Me A Dog”
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — “Woody’s Last Ride” (spoken)
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott — “Don’t Think Twice” (B. Dylan)

Allissa B. followed that up with a set of old gems that had fellow Salon-ers literally asking for more.

Talking Heads — “Psycho Killer”
Sugar Cubes — “Birthday”
Simon & Garfunkel — “A Most Peculiar Man”
Simon & Garfunkel — “April Come She Will”

We were in the wee hours of the morning before Dave Collins introduced us to four cuts, all from one record called, All For The Peace Bullet by, as Dave put it, “a local band”, Kotik Trance. He later admitted that Kotik Trance is Dave’s own studio project wherein he plays all the instruments and does all the singing, leaving us still with the mystery of how he got that banjo sound. “Local band” notwithstanding, some of these songs were recorded in Boston, others in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Kotik Trance — “Sint Simple Delight”
Kotik Trance — “No B Until Diminished”
Kotik Trance — “Switchblade”
Kotik Trance — “Squid”

Listening Salon 007

‘Twas the ides of March when we gathered for Listening Salon again, this time with two new Salon-ers. Joining in the fun was novelist and Red Sun Soundroom client Tom Schreck, whose second book in the Duffy Dumbrowski mystery series entitled TKO: Round Two was just released.

Also making an appearance with the wind ever at her back was the enigmatic Gail West—mathmetician, socialite, educator, stunt aviation enthusiast, long-distance runner, audiobook executive producer, philanthropist, fashion trend-setter, animal rights theoretician, literary promoter, avant-garde pet trainer, and procurer of the world’s greatest collection of antique thimbles (rumor has it the British Royal Family have her on speed dial). Humility always her first trait, in response to observations she may have over the years shared personal relationships with various veterans of the rock’n'roll pantheon she merely stated, “I’ve been to a few shows.”

We dined on a choice of pasta dishes—pesto, or a primavera with asparagus tips—Mexican lasagna, cayenne roasted almonds, salads, a variety of olives, and homemade chocolate brownies.

Overall this Listening Salon took an interesting turn with attention generally paid more to content than to aesthetics. Dave Collins began with a full and well researched set of controversial tracks surrounding the themes of political satire and abrasive lyrics. Much interesting conversation followed, as i believe the other Salon-ers present were not aware this material existed. Awareness of what others in the world are hearing is not at all inconsistent with what Listening Salons are all about, and for this education i am always thankful. The names of the artists and some of the song titles will be offensive to many readers, as they were to some Salon-ers in the room, as well as to Dave himself, who brought them in the first place. Those with asterisks next to them are graphic enough in nature to warrant abbreviation on this website, but i invite you to research the full names on your own.

A.C.* — “Hitler Was A Sensitive Man”
A.C.* — “I Snuck [...] Into A Sperm Bank” *
A.C.* — “You Play On A Softball Team”
The Call — “The Walls Came Down”
King Diamond — “Detachable Penis”
Anti-Flag — “Gonna Die For Your Government”
Lazyboy — “Underwear Goes Inside The Pants”

Tom Schreck took on a professorial role in his Listening Salon debut appearance, playing three separate interpretations of what are essentially the same two songs. Building on the research of Ugandan scholar Dr Peter Nazareth, professor of literature at the University of Iowa, Tom laid out the theory of “Elvis as trickster”: the icon-to-be taking songs from the American musical mainstream down the dangerous path back to their original and perhaps more risqué roots in the African-American tradition, both lyrically and in feel.

Big Joe Turner — “Shake, Rattle And Roll”
Bill Haley And His Comets — “Shake, Rattle And Roll”
Elvis Presley — “Shake, Rattle And Roll”
Big Joe & The Dynaflows — “One Night Of Sin”
Elvis Presley — “One Night Of Sin” (released posthumously)
Elvis Presley — “One Night”

Ms M. played for us a trademark nonstop set of pieces she feels exemplify the blending of cultural traditions to make new musical styles or forms of musical expression.

Zap Mama — “Brrrlak!”
Paul Simon & Ladysmith Black Mambazo — “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook — “Crest”
Kishore Kumar & Manna Dey — “Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin”
Nouvelle Vague — “Heart Of Glass” (orig. Blondie)

Hoby Ebert went with a birthday theme, 15 March being the birthday of both Sly Stone and The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh.

Sly & The Family Stone — “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
The Grateful Dead — “Box Of Rain”
The Grateful Dead — “Unbroken Chain”
The Grateful Dead — “King Solomon’s Marbles (Stronger Than Dirt / Milkin’ The Turkey)”

Derek Dobson played one track on behalf of Allissa B., who last minute could not attend.

Jack Drag — “Sinner’s Delight”

Derek went on to share a handful of personal favorites, at least a couple of which he noted come from nearly perfect albums—that is, albums where every song is great and, in Dee’s words, there is “absolutely no filler”.

Chuck Prophet — “You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)”
Cake — “Long Line Of Cars”
Dire Straits — “Iron Hand”
Aimee Mann — “Deathly”

I closed out Listening Salon 007 with three recordings in which i felt the composers used very simple colors on the pallet to create exquisite and rather sophisticated listening experiences.

Daniel Lanois — “Luna Samba”
Katie Down — “Stations” (from the dance work, Innocents)
Tom Waits — “What’s He Building In There”

I think 30 selections is probably a record for Listening Salons we’ve hosted so far, and every moment was worth it. Thanks to all who participated, shared their ideas and their laughter and their fine cuisine, and helped to make these the very special evenings they’ve become. Cheers to the ears.

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