Listening Salon

Mar 252010

In the first hours of Spring, Listening Salon 010 opened with its established prandial preliminaries.  Simple and delicious home cooking proved the best approach for this first Listening Salon in a year, especially with 1/3 of guests traveling hundreds of miles for the event.  Come on in, dinner’s in the oven.  Delicious mac and cheese accompanied by a simple tossed salad dressed with M.B.’s secret homemade garlic and lemon vinaigrette, which she whipped up on the spot.  We had wines from all over the world and, later on, Dee’s brownies hit the spot (and vanished without a crumb remaining!) complemented by single-origin Colombian coffee from Peet’s, piping hot out of the French press.

The weather was a perfect Vernal Equinox, and we sat outside enjoying each other’s company and laughter, stories from the past year, and the air around us that smelled of Spring.

Back inside—after a mesmerizing group discussion about monogrammed adult-sized onesie pyjamas and super-hero underwear—Ms M. honored the significance of the changing seasons with her collection of recordings.  Each had a connection in her mind with Spring.  Recountings of out-of-body experiences and discussions around emerging theories in molecular biology and genetics are not unheard of during Listening Salons.

Jane Siberry — “Begat Begat”
Chanticleer — “in time of” (music, Steven Sametz; words, e.e. cummings)
Ghazal — “Pari Mahal”

M.B.  offered three recordings that, to me, all seemed to have to do with being in the magic of a given moment.  It began with a simple piece played in honor of a new and dear friend, continued with a spoken word track inspired by an earlier impromptu reading of a haiku by Basho, and rounded out with a chance selection by hitting shuffle on her portable juke box.

Dixie Chicks — “Lullaby”
Van Morrison — “Coney Island”
Antônio Carlos Jobim — “Favela”

Allissa B. told us about a Sunday morning ritual from childhood: her parents would always listen to records at that time of the week, and the recordings she heard then continue to mean something special to her.  This led to her first selection, while her second selection was completely spontaneous and dedicated to Mr Dobson, a.k.a. “that man sitting right over there”.

The Guess Who — “Runnin’ Down The Street”
Wilco — “I’m Always In Love”

Denise Anderson began by sharing two John Cage pieces.  In her words, “[Cage] talked about removing the ego from the whole artistic process,” and Ms Anderson observed that this approach was something from which many contemporary composers could learn.  I was astonished not only by how accessible these pieces were, but also by how arresting i found them.  We talked after listening about how Cage is appreciated more for his ideas than the aesthetic results of his theories put into practice by himself.  (By others it’s often a different matter.)  “Dance” is an early work and the crackly sound of the old recording itself was part of what made it so beautiful.  The Adams piece brought a wonderful energy into the room, and there was unanimous appreciation of and affection for the Stereolab track, which simultaneously delivered fun and a tone of melancholy.

John Cage — “Dance”
John Cage — “Aquila Imperiale” (feat. Sylvano Bussotti)
John Adams — “Short Ride In A Fast Machine” (perf. City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle)
Stereolab — “Slow Fast Hazel”

A demonstration of found sound was how i began my group of recordings—not a sound that was found and then recorded, but rather a sound that was recorded and then found.  “This Book Was Written” is the lone audio note left for me to discover when i purchased a used (“almost new”) digital dictaphone, an aural peek into a moment in a stranger’s life.

Kemp Harris’s song “Ruthie’s” followed—my favorite version of this Harris original, off his recent (and superb) album Edenton.  Yma Sumac was celebrating her 50th birthday the day i was born, and i feel there is a connection between us left to discover.  I played the only recording of her that i own, from the Hal Willner collection of Disney covers.  She died in late 2008.  The final track was offered in memory of Kate McGarrigle, who died in early 2010.  It was the first recording of the McGarrigle sisters i can remember hearing.  I still can’t believe she’s gone.

Anonymous poet — “This Book Was Written”
Kemp Harris — “Ruthie’s” (Edenton version)
Yma Sumac — “I Wonder”
Kate & Anna McGarrigle w/ the Chieftains — “Il Est Né / Ca Berger”

Derek Dobson abandoned his original idea of what he was going to play and gave us six tracks of unique beauty, all of which are in heavy rotation on his portable juke box these days.  Most of this set represented music fairly new to Dee, but a highlight was when Dee played a scratch recording of himself improvising with a borrowed electric guitar rig.  As a drummer, he uses rhythm and echo in this “workout” to explore harmonic relationships on an instrument that isn’t his first.  Listening Salon 010 became the first time anyone else has heard it.

Sigur Rós — “Untitled 3” (from ( ))
Derek Dobson — “Dee’s Digital Delay Workout, December 2004” (excerpt)
Peter Gabriel — Of These, Hope
Peter Gabriel — Lazarus Raised
Peter Gabriel — Of These, Hope (Reprise)

The final three tracks come from Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ.

Thanks to all my fellow listeners for yet another enriching evening together.  The sounds were all engaging.  It was a beautiful night that dipped into the morning, and the craic was very good indeed.

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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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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Nov 202005

I’ve been remiss.

Not one, not two, but three Listening Salons have occurred in recent months without receipt of due reporting. I shall post the playlists of each separately, beginning here with Salon 002, which was held in Brunswick on the evening of Saturday, 23 July.

As always, if you have questions about the specifics of any of these pieces (record label, date, performers), by all means give a jingle and we’ll get back to you.

I began this Salon with a few pieces demonstrating the extreme use of acoustic space in music and music recording:

Pauline Oliveros / The Deep Listening Band — “Balloon Payment”
Pauline Oliveros / The Deep Listening Band — “Seven-Up”
Pseudophone —
Dennis Leas —
“I Am Smoking In A Room”

New York composer and filmmaker Denise Anderson continued with the following lovely pieces:

Erik Satie — “Les filles des étoiles” (transcribed for flute and harp by Toru Takemitsu)
Yuki Kajiura — “Canta er me”
Yuki Kajiura — “Salva nos”
Tan Dun — “IV. Allegro Vivace” (from “Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa”)

MoonDogEast’s Hoby Ebert delivered an extended, uninterrupted set guided by a theme he titled, “Aviary”. This collection, flowing effortlessly from one piece to another, became a sonic narrative unto itself:

Peter Gabriel — “Quiet and Alone” (from the film Birdy)
Pied Butcherbird — “Dawn Solo” (rec. by David Lumsdaine)
Airto Moreira — “When Angels Cry” (feat. Flora Purim, voice)
Songbirds By The Steam — “Rose-breasted Grosbeak” (rec. by Dan Gibson)
David Rothenberg — “White Crested Laughter”
Laurie Anderson — “Excellent Birds” (with Peter Gabriel)
Mickey Hart — “Cougar Run” (feat. Babatunde Olatunji, bells)
Laurie Anderson — “Kokoku”
Witchcraft — “We Rest” (from the compilation, Slumberland)
Peter Gabriel — “”Birdy’s Flight” (from the film Birdy)
Songbirds By The Steam — “Wood Thrush” (rec. by Dan Gibson)
Chris Hughes — “”Slow Motion Blackbird” (from the music of Steve Reich)

Ms M. concluded the evening with four tracks exemplifying the musical elements of drone, rhythm, melody, and harmony, and how the simplest pop tune can bring them together to create something wholly satisfying:

Sheila Chandra — “ABoneCroneDrone 4″
Chemirani — “Qalam Kar”
Hildegard von Bingen — “O Rubor Sanguinis” (perf. by Sequentia)
Bee Gees — “Alone”

The wine was good, the food a delight, and the company altogether warm and healing—especially following a challenging afternoon during which my car went over a cliff. Thanks for the deep listening everyone.

Be in touch.

Jun 162005

It was over Sudanese-made hummus, falafels, and our own dry vodka martinis that the Soundroom hosted its debut Listening Salon on a blistering hot June evening this past weekend.

Muscling right out of the gate was audio engineer, musician, and proprietor of the Soundroom’s sister studio MoonDogEast, Hoby Ebert. With a nod to the then-pending U.S. release of Brian Eno’s Another Day On Earth, Hoby guided our ears through a unique set of Eno-related recordings, prompting with his selections a room of applause.

D’CuCKOO — “No One Receiving”
Eno, Moebius, Rodelius — “Tzima N’Arki”
Robert Wyatt — “Heaps Of Sheeps, Shleep”
David Byrne — “Red House”

New York composer and filmmaker Denise Anderson followed with two challenging recordings that made eyes and ears in the room open wide. Her choices resulted in much discussion—thoughtful, but not lacking emotional and even physical response. (Not to mention the mercantile reaction, such as, “Where do we get more??”—especially in respect to the Portugese composer she featured first.)

Luís Tinoco — “Invention On Landscape” (not commercially available)
Iannis Xenakis — “Hibiki-Hana-Ma”

Writer, visual artist, Red Sun Soundroom regular and near-official opinion-for-hire Kim Mitchell delivered a moving feature set. Collected and sequenced to portray a mood she described simply as “the melancholy of Summer”, Kim’s set invited us aboard a magic vessel visiting Ethiopian nightclubs, the hard American South of the 1960s, whispering landscapes of pop remembrance and “silent music”.

Federico Mompou — “Música Callada: Book 1 – I. Angelico” (perf. Herbert Henck)
Mazzy Star — “Disappear”
U2 — “Love Comes Tumbling”
Jocelyn Pook — “Red Song”
Heather Duby — “Falter”
Lhasa — “La Frontera”
Daniel Lanois — “Shine”
Wallias Band — “Muziqawi Silt”
Fanaye Tesfaye — “Tchèwata”
R.L. Burnside — “Goin’ Down South”
Nina Simone — “Black Is The Color”
U2 — “Promenade”
Ekova — “Idem Soite Done”
Keren Ann — “Not Going Anywhere”

Evening became morning before i reached into my music sack. I had three things i was hoping to play, but shortened that list to two, especially in the wake of the curatorial genius Ms Mitchell had just demonstrated. Our cups were full; one cannot fill a full cup. But i dared to let things spill a little and offered what i consider a prolegomena to North Indian classical music, followed by a new recording of an Arabic pop star covering a tune by the Clash, and featuring Brian Eno on synthesizer, to bring the evening full circle.

Zakir Hussain — “Tabla Demonstration”
Rachid Taha — “Rock El Casbah”

If you’d like more information about any of these recordings (date, label, release info, personnel, etc.), please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll get back to you with details.

Many thanks to our new friends Seif and Ayoub for cooking up such an outstanding feast. And a feast is what the whole evening was, a feast of ideas and new sounds, of laughter and awe, of emphatic gestures, then a kind of stillness to which only deep listening brings us.

Be in touch.

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