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February 20, 2011

Pan Gu and Nü Wa

Pan Gu and Nü Wa

Long, long ago, when heaven and earth were still one, the entire universe was contained in an egg-shaped cloud. All the matter of the universe swirled chaotically in that egg. Deep within the swirling matter was Pan Gu, a huge giant who grew in the chaos. For 18,000 years he developed and slept in the egg. Finally one day he awoke and stretched, and the egg broke to release the matter of the universe. The lighter purer elements drifted upwards to make the sky and heavens, and the heavier impure elements settled downwards to make the earth.

In the midst of this new world, Pan Gu worried that heaven and earth might mix again; so he resolved to hold them apart, with the heavens on his head and the earth under his feet. As the two continued to separate, Pan Gu grew to hold them apart. For 18,000 years he continued to grow, until the heavens were 30,000 miles above the earth. For much longer he continued to hold the two apart, fearing the retun of the chaos of his youth. Finally he realized they were stable, and soon after that he died.

With the immense giant's death, the earth took on new character. His arms and legs became the four directions and the moutains. His blood became the rivers, and his sweat became the rain and dew. His voice became the thunder, and his breath became the winds. His hair became the grass, and his veins became the roads and paths. His teeth and bones became the minerals and rocks, and his flesh became the soil of the fields. Up above, his left eye became the sun, and his right eye became the moon. Thus in death, as in life, Pan Gu made the world as it is today.

Many centuries later, there was a goddess named Nü Wa who roamed this wild world that Pan Gu had left behind, and she became lonely in her solitude. Stopping by a pond to rest, she saw her reflection and realized that there was nothing like herself in the world. She resolved to make something like herself for company.

From the edge of the pond she took some mud and shaped it in the form of a human being. At first her creation was lifeless, and she set it down. It took life as soon as it touched the soil, however, and soon the human was dancing and celebrating its new life. Pleased with her creation, Nü Wa made more of them, and soon her loneliness disappeared in the crowd of little humans around her. For two days she made them, and still she wanted to make more. Finaly she pulled down a long vine and dragged it through the mud, and then she swung the vine through the air. Droplets of mud flew everywhere and, when they fell, they became more humans that were nearly as perfect as the ones she had made by hand. Soon she had spread humans over the whole world. The ones she made by hand became the aristocrats, and the ones she made with the vine became the poor common people.

Even then, Nü Wa realized that her work was incomplete, because as her creations died she would have to make more. She solved this problem by dividing the humans into male and female, so that they could reproduce and save her from having to make new humans to break her solitude.

Many years later, Pan Gu's greatest fear came true. The heavens collapsed so that there were holes in the sky, and the earth cracked, letting water rush from below to flood the earth. At other places, fire sprang forth from the earth, and everywhere wild beasts emerged from the forests to prey on the people. Nü Wa drove the beasts back and healed the earth. To fix the sky, she took stones of many colors from the river and built a fire in which she melted them. She used the molten rock to patch the holes in the sky, and she used the four legs of a giant turtle to support the sky again. Exhausted by her labors, she soon lay down to die and, like Pan Gu, from her body came many more features to adorn the world that she had restored.

Chinese Instrumental Ensemble - Masterpieces Of Chinese Traditional Music

And while we're deep in the orient, here's a great instrumental album from China. While previously I've posted some solo records, here is a full-on ensemble piece that swells and booms and crashes and caresses like a chorus of waves. The music is a journey of splendor, repose, and yearning.

Though holding strong to the Chinese tradition, it draws upon a few western elements (like the Cello), and should prove much more accessible to western ears than, say, Chinese opera. The ehr-hu player, Jie-Bing Chen, released an album with Béla Fleck and V.M. Bhatt a few years back, called 'Tabula Rasa', which is fantastic. She's top class, and the rest of the musicians are too. Give it a try? 


Chinese Instrumental Ensemble - Masterpieces Of Chinese Traditional Music

Year: 1994
Label: Wind

There are not enough words to describe the exquisite joy in the heartbreakingly beautiful music on Masterpieces of Chinese Traditional Music. Loving care was put into the recording and performances on every track. The blending of traditional Chinese instruments such as the erzu and the guzheng will transport you to a lush moss garden, even if you're stuck in a traffic jam. This is healing music, plain and simple. ~ Tim Sheridan

engineered by Kavichandran Alexander using the warm tones of vacuum tube and analog equipment and the unique acoustics of an old church in Santa Barabara, CA to preserve the richness of this ancient music 

Recording information: Christ the King Chapel, St. Anthony Seminary, Santa Bar.

Arrangers: Guo-Hui Ye; Xiao-Gu Zhu.

Personnel: Min Xiao-Fen (pipa); Jie-Bing Chen (erhu); Bei Chen (cello); Yang-Qin Zhao (yang-chin).

1. Dancing Song of the Yao Tribe - Traditional - 8:16
2. The Moon Over Wall Gate in Frontier - Traditional - 6:31
3. The Moon Is High in the Heavens - Traditional - 12:17
4. Parting at Yang Guan - Traditional - 5:28
5. Spring Rivers and Flowers Under the Moonlight - Traditional - 9:53
6. Melodies From the Night Fishermen - Traditional - 7:54
7. A Legendary Couple: Scholar Liang and Lady Chou - Traditional - 13:56

the moon is full, resting on your keyboard. or alternate link
mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ cover

February 19, 2011

Vietnam - Instrumental Textures

Hm. How can I describe this music? It sounds so unlike anything ever conceived by western ears. And yet there are so many parallels in the realm of feeling and pure sound. The Đàn tranh (long zither) sounds like a slide guitar played by aliens. And the music is pentatonic, melancholy, and wistful like the blues. But it is also striding, triumphant, and exuberant like ragtime. It paints pictures and builds to climaxes like western classical music (both romantic and impressionistic), and bouncing like the best of folk music. 

But really, descriptions do nothing if they cannot bring you to a place of open-mindedness, to hear this music freshly, with innocent ears. Please, listen to these sublime sounds and allow yourself to be transported to another realm.  


Vietnam - Instrumental Textures

Year: 1996
Label: JVC

01 doc tau dan tranh “Tu Dai Oan”solo:17 string zither “Four Generations” 

02 doc tau dan bau “Ru Con”(dan ca Nam Bo)solo: monochord “Lullaby of the South” 

03 doc tau dan nhi “Se Chi Luon Kim”(dan ca quan ho Bac Ninh)solo:2 string fiddle“Love Song”(folksong from Bac Ninh Province) 

04 song tau dan tranh va dan bau “Doan Khue Lam Giang va Vong Co” duo: 17 string zither & monochord“River Lam and Reminiscence” 

05 doc tau dan nhi voi hoa tau “Phien Cho Mua Xuan” solo:2 string fiddle with ensemble“The Market in Spring” 

06 doc tau sao truc voi hoa tau “Le Hoi Non Song” solo:bamboo flute with ensemble 

07 hoa tau nhac thinh phong mien Trung “Luu Thuy,Kim Tien,Xuan Phong, Long Ho” ensemble in a Central Vietnamese style “Flowing Water, Golden Sapeke, Spring Wind, Dragon & Tiger” 

08 doc tau dan t'rung voi hoa tau“Mua Hai Qua”solo:vertical bamboo xylophone with ensemble“Season for Picking Fruit” 

09 song tau sao va dan t'rung “Buoi Sang Tien Nuong” duo:bamboo flute and xylophone “Morning on the Terraced Fields” 

10 hoa tau“Ly Ngua O” ensemble“Song of the Black-haired Horse” 

11 doc tau dan tranh “Sakura”(dan ca Nhat) solo:22 string zither “Sakura”(variations on a song from Japan)

aliensong or alternate link.
mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ cover

* out-of-print


February 15, 2011

Rene Heredia - Alborada Flamenca

Scalding flamenco from one of Sabicas' students.

“The guitar playing of René Heredia is in the finest tradition of flamenco, creating a flaming intensity that cannot fail to arouse.”  —Denver Post

“If any musician on the local Denver scene deserves the moniker of legend, it would have to be René Heredia. Simply put, the man is a living history of the art of Gypsy flamenco guitar. He is both a link to its glorious past through his early association with legendary greats such as Carlos Montoya and Sabicas, and a bridge to its future through his love of teaching and performance…. René Heredia is an artist who is as passionate about the music as the music is itself…. René is a local artist of international stature … without a doubt, one of the greatest proponents of flamenco guitar music alive today….” —Classically Speaking, Music for All

“René Heredia is the most sensational young flamenco guitarist in the United States.” —Sabicas

“The audience wouldn’t let him quit.” —Los Angeles Times

“René Heredia is a brilliant guitarist.” —Walter Terry, New York Saturday Review

René with Sabicas
René and his Flamenco guitar have been together for so many years of his lifetime that there seems to be no separation of the two.  He formed a bond with the guitar as a child.  His life, his character, his loves and aspirations have all developed through the instrument.

He began his training with his father, a Gitano Puro (pure Gypsy).  As a boy, René was taught the rudiments of Flamenco Guitar and Spanish Gypsy Dance.  He brings a unique view of both sides of the art form to his audience. 

As a little boy, René remembers always having the house full of flamencos such as Carlos Montoya, Vicente Escudero, Mario Escudero, José Greco’s dance Company, Carmen Amaya, Sabicas, La Chunga and her Company.  They were\all close friends of José Heredia and his family.  Sabicas would help and teach René the secrets of Flamenco at his mother’s kitchen table.

At thirteen, he was performing with his sisters, Fátima, Sarita, Zoraida, Carmen, and brother Enrique.  “Los Heredia” were doing concerts, television shows and supper club performances.  His international recognition came when he was seventeen and the incomparable Flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya (Spain’s greatest dancer of this century) heard him play.  She immediately took him to be her lead guitarist.  He toured many years doing concerts in the major capitals of Europe and the United States with the famous Amaya Ballet.  While he was in Spain, René was invited to perform with the singing and motion picture star Antoñita Moreno, in “Los Reinos de España”.  He was then invited to perform in the Festival de Cante Grande with Fosforito, Jarrito, Juanito Varea, Chocolate, and Gordito de Triana; some of Spain’s most outstanding singers.  As his reputation grew, the famous Spanish dancer José Greco invited him to be his lead guitarist for several seasons.  René has played for such outstanding dancers as El Güito, Mario Maya, Los Pelaos, Manuela Vargas, Luisita Triana, María Rosa, Ciros, Rosa Montoya, Lutys de Luz, María Benitez, Los Heredia, and many more.

While living in Paris, René’s distinguished L.P. album, Alborada Flamenca, was awarded the Gran Prix de Disque of France.  In the United States, René was invited to perform the world premiere of his symphony composition and Flamenco suite for Guitar and Orchestra “Alborada Gitana”(a Farruca), which he performed with the Denver Symphony and Denver Chamber Orchestra at Red Rocks Amphitheater.

René has performed live concerts and T.V. shows with his Flamenco Fusion Group and his Flamenco Fantasy Dance Theatre.  He performed solo concerts at such prestigious venues as New York’s Carnegie Recital Hall four years in a row, where he received standing ovations; the Champs Elysee Theatre in Paris; Westminster Theatre in London; Teatro Barcelona; Teatro La Zarzuela and Teatro Maravilla in Madrid, Spain; and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

René has performed concerts with his Flamenco Fantasy Dance Theatre in Kansas City, where he was awarded the “Keys to the City”  (sister city of Seville, Spain).  He was recognized as one of Colorado’s best-known composers in a special tribute to Colorado artists at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

René was awarded the prestigious Governor’s Award of Colorado for excellence in performance and education, as well as the Mayor’s Award of Denver for excellence in the arts.  He has done command performances for such dignitaries as Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Armand Hammer, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, Queen Noor of Jordan, and Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

René was invited to be the lead guitarist and guest artist with Stewart Copeland, founder of “The Police” in his national tour of the U.S.A. in “The Rhythmatists”.  René was invited by Colorado Performing Arts Center to be the musical director for the play “Romeo and Juliet” (set to early colonial California).

René has appeared on numerous national radio and television shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show with Duke Ellington, The Steve Allen Show with Sabicas, and The Art Linkletter Show with Donald O’Connor and Abbie Laine, The George Goble and Eddie Fisher Show with Carmen Amaya, and The Ann Southern Show with César Romero.  René appeared in the Spanish Movie “Balcón de Luna” with Paquita Rico, Carmen Sevilla, and Lola Flores.  His N.E.T. concert specials and opening acts for such outstanding artists as Bill Cosby, Hal Linden, and Peter Nero have put René in the forefront as one of the leading Flamenco Guitarists in the United States today.   


Rene Heredia - Alborada Flamenca
Label: Gypsy Productions, Inc.

Tracks: see below

mp3 >256vbr | w/ scans | 76mb

*out-of-print & impossible to find


February 14, 2011

Pete Sutherland - Poor Man's Dream

Not much to say about this one, it's just a fine bit o' music. Flying Fish had a way of recording these albums that make you feel like you're sitting on a back porch with friends, even when the music is coming from all over the world. Sweet fiddle music and good times...

Raised on a diet of Broadway show tunes,operatic arias and British invasion melodies, Pete Sutherland discovered both traditional music and songwriting in college and like Huck Finn "lit out for the territories". A warm-voiced singer and multi-instrumentalist known equally for his potent originals and intense recreations and ago old ballads and fiddle tunes, his performances "cover the map" and "…shine with a pure spirit, which infuses every bit of his music and cannot fail to move all who hear him". The American Festival of Fiddle Tunes

The old timey dance music of the American southern mountains, New England and the Celtic isles are resurrected through the playing of multi-instrumentalist Pete Sutherland. A former member, along with hammer dulcimer player Malcolm Dalglish and guitarist Grey Larsen, of mid-1980s folk trio, Metamora, Sutherland has continued to expand string band traditions as a member of The Clayfoot Strutters and Mac Benford's Woodshed All Stars. Sutherland has also recorded as a soloist and with his wife, Karen. 

Sutherland's earliest musical memories reflect the opera and musical theater albums favored by his parents. Although he played with several teenage rock bands, he most enduring musical outlet has come through traditional folk music. Inspired by Vermont-based fiddler Louie Beaudoin and Appalachian fiddlers Tommy Jarrell and Ed Haley, Sutherland began performing with the Arm & Hammer String Band in 1973. Moving to Burlington, Indiana in the early-1980s, he helped to form Metamora. Together with the band, Sutherland recorded six albums including the score of the Disney film, "Tuck Everlasting." 

"Poor Man's Dream," Sutherland's debut solo album, was released in 1984 and combined traditional fiddle tunes with original material. Shortly after the disbanding of Metamora, in 1989, Sutherland returned to his home state where he currently lives. Craig Harris, Rovi

Pete Sutherland - Poor Man's Dream

Year: 1984
Label: Flying Fish

Originally issued as an LP on the long-gone Flying Fish label, this 1984 recording of original and traditional songs and tunes produced by Metamora bandmate Grey Larsen has been repeatedly called a "folk classic" - featuring "Aunt Sue" and "Shacks and Chalets".

01 Coal Black Morning
02 The Apple Picker's Waltz - The Beautiful Lights of Burlington
03 Leather Britches
04 Coleman's March - Shacks and Chalets
05 Inch Along
06 Aunt Sue - Motleigh - Stone's Throw
07 You Were the One Who Loved Me
08 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
09 Mad River - Poor Man' Dream

dream on. or alternate link. or other alternate link.
vinyl, cleaned | mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ scans

February 13, 2011

Oscar Shumsky - Eugène Ysaÿe: 6 Sonatas for Solo Violin

Another solo violin masterpiece! Just as good as Andrew Manze playing Tartini, but in a totally different way. It gets back into a corner and stares you in the eye like it will kill you, and then it takes off on unexpectedly gracious flights of fancy through the starbound firmament, only to return, perching on your rooftop, peering back at you expectantly. This music is ruthless in its beauty. It takes no prisoners, and will settle for nothing less than its ultimate prize: structured emptiness. Because that is what you are left with after listening to the 6 sonatas here - you are left with a very neat and tidy chest of lost memories and hungry ghosts. And with the sense that the violin is a white monster on the prowl, keeping just outside the confines of your ears' horizon.

Eugène Ysaÿe - Biography
by Edward Moore
Eugène Ysaÿe was one of the greatest violinists who ever lived. He coupled beauty of tone and remarkable technical ability with a depth of musical expression that few violinists before or since can be said to have equalled, or even approached. Ysaÿe succeeded in breathing new life into an art that had become polarized by two divergent styles and personalities: the austere temperament of Joseph Joachim (1831-1907), and the flashy virtuosity of Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908). Ysaÿe achieved a grand synthesis of these two approaches by imbuing the "serious" music of Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven, so dear to Joachim, with the flashy yet never superficial brilliance that Sarasate had been wont to apply to "lesser" works in the repertoire. Ysaÿe became the leading violinist of his time, spawning many illustrious pupils and proteges, among them Josef Gingold and Fritz Kreisler. Ysaÿe was also an accomplished composer, whose Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Opus 27 (1924) are recognized masterpieces of the genre.

Eugène Ysaÿe was born on July 16, 1858 in Liege, Belgium. He received his first violin lessons from his father when he was five years old. After this he studied with Rodolphe Massart, making his first public appearance at age seven. Ysaÿe was not, however, a prodigy; he was later kicked out of the Liege Conservatory due to poor performance! But he persisted, and went on to study with the famous violinist and composer Henryk Wieniawski (1835-80) with whom he made considerable progress; he was soon accepted as a student by the legendary Belgian violinist-composer Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-81).

In 1879, Ysaÿe made the acquaintance of Joseph Joachim, and performed with Clara Schumann. He soon began touring, visiting Norway in 1881, and playing at the Paris Conservatory in 1883. In Paris, he befriended the composer Cesar Franck, who wrote his beautiful Sonata for Piano and Violin in A Major (1886) as a wedding present for Ysaÿe. This work soon became a signature piece for the violinist, who stamped it with his own inimitable style.

During this period, Ysaÿe founded the Concerts in Brussels that bore his name, as well as his own string quartet, which included his pupil Mathieu Crickboom, to whom Ysaÿe later dedicated the fifth of his Six Sonatas for Solo Violin. This ensemble premiered Claude Debussy's String Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Opus 10 in 1893. A year later Ysaÿe made his first appearance in America, where he met with tremendous sucess, finally returning in 1918 to take over the post of conductor for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra which he held until 1922.

After his retirement from conducting, Ysaÿe devoted himself fully to composing, and the teaching of a select group of pupils, including Josef Gingold, who later went on to achieve international fame. By this time, Ysaÿe's performance technique had declined, due to a rapid deterioration of his right-arm stability -- a condition known to violinists as "bow tremor." This was probably the result of diabetes, with which he had been struggling for some time. Despite the fact that his performance career lasted for only 25 years, Ysaÿe exercised a tremendous influence on violinsts -- an influence still being felt today. His personal aura and grand musical sensibility were only two aspects of a complex personality that not only "played" but also lived the music he held dear. He was an authentic performer, an artist of immense stature and unmatched musical ability. Eugène Ysaÿe died on May 12, 1931, at the age of 72.

6 Sonatas for Solo Violin: Compostition Description
by Joseph Stevenson
Despite the fact that Ysaÿe had no formal training as a composer, his works are not only masterfully crafted, demonstrating various dimensions of violinistic expressiveness and sonority, but also provide the listener with a remarkable aesthetic experience. As a peerless virtuoso, Ysaÿe writes with a profound understanding of the violin's soul; as a performer deeply immersed in the music of his time, he evinces a familiarity with many styles; yet Ysaÿe's music, despite many recognizable echoes of other composers, clearly exhibits an unmistakable artistic individuality.

Inspired by a Bach recital by Joseph Szigeti, Ysaÿe's outlined these six sonatas in a day. The six works are dedicated to, respectively, Szigeti, Jacques Thibaud, George Enescu, Fritz Kreisler, Mathieu Crickboom (a member of the Ysaÿe Quartet), and Manuel Quiroga. Because each sonata is dedicated to a violinist, or, in some cases, a violinist-composer, every work has a distinct individuality. For example, Sonata No. 6 has a subtle, but unmistakable, Iberian flavor. Predictably, the sonata dedicated to George Enescu conjures up a truly Central European atmosphere. Like Fritz Kreisler, Ysaÿe in Sonata No. 4 re-creates the Baroque style with remarkable charm; this is a Baroque, or quasi-Baroque, sound which seduces the listener by its unpretentious spontaneity and freshness. Significantly, while exploring a variety of musical styles, Ysaÿe never lapses into sterile eclecticism; after all, these works are marked by his powerful individuality. Underlying his tasteful stylistic explorations is Ysaÿe's boundless interest in, and fascination by, his instrument. Containing an array of extreme, even breathtaking, technical challenges, these sonatas also explore the rich sonorities of the violin, with particular emphasis on original, and perhaps surprising, harmonic effects.

Oscar Shumsky - Biography
by Blair Johnston
There must have been something special in American water during the 1910s, something that allowed an unusual number of the children born during the decade to develop into violin prodigies of extraordinary gifts: Yehudi Menuhin and Ruggiero Ricci come straight to mind, and of course Isaac Stern (who was not really a prodigy as such, but why quibble?), and then, a minute later, the lesser-known but equally-brilliant Oscar Shumsky, born in 1917 and active as a performer all the way up into the 1990s. With this group of young American violinists, the North America made its first true bid for musical equality with the First World. When Shumsky passed on in July 2000, one of the last remaining links (they are growing ever more precious) to a beautiful bygone era was lost -- but not, thanks to modern recording technology and a class of distinguished pupils, forgotten.

Shumsky was born in Philadelphia, PA, to a Russian immigrant family on March 23, 1917. Early lessons on the violin were fully absorbed, and, at Leopold Stokowski's invitation, Shumsky appeared as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Josef Suk's Fantasy for violin and orchestra (or, according to alternate accounts, in Mozart's Violin Concerto No.5!) at the tender age of 8. During the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, Shumsky studied with a pair of the finest teachers in the world: Leopold Auer (teacher of, among other distinguished pupils, the great Jascha Heifetz) and Efrem Zimbalist (a great violinist, who is nevertheless better known today as the father of the Hollywood personage by the same name). Shumsky joined Toscanini's NBC Orchestra just before the outbreak of World War II and stayed with it for about three years, all the while working to build a solo career and also playing with the Primrose String Quartet. He taught at one time or another at many schools, including the Peabody Conservatory, the Juilliard School, and the Curtis Institute. In the 1950s he began adding appearances as a conductor to his résumé. His solo career was not a particularly steady one -- he all but ceased giving concerts in the 1950s and only took up an active schedule again when he was in his sixties!

Shumsky's playing was distinguished by a velvety sonority (partly the product of the fine 1715 Stradivarius violin, the "ex-Rode," that he usually played) that nevertheless was wholly capable of steel-rimmed force when need be, and also by a refinement of manner that, while doing little to make his name one widely known to the general public, endeared him to serious music lovers around the world. Of his many recordings, the complete set of Mozart violin sonatas that he made with Artur Balsam is of special value.


Oscar Shumsky - Eugène Ysaÿe: 6 Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27

Year: 1992
Label: Nimbus

Oscar Schumsky was a master of this legendary instrument. The musical world was well aware his virtues as interpreter and pedagogue. But for better or worst, just a few soloists have kept into account the transcendental importance of these sonatas into the literature for violin solo. As far I remember, Ruggiero Ricci was captured and seduced by these pages (as matter of fact the CD has not been released yet, uniquely available on LP format on the label Candide). 

But when Schumsky decided to be part of this excel minority of notable violinists, probably he was not aware he was writing with golden letters, a glorious incursion to the immortality with these magisterial performances. 

Until this date no other soloist has been able to approach respect this sublime performance. 

A desert island issue, inch by inch.

1. Sonata for violin solo No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27/1: Grave
2. Sonata for violin solo No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27/1: Fugato
3. Sonata for violin solo No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27/1: Allegretto poco scherzoso
4. Sonata for violin solo No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27/1: Finale con brio
5. Sonata for violin solo No. 2 in A minor ('Obsession'), Op. 27/2: Obesession: Prelude
6. Sonata for violin solo No. 2 in A minor ('Obsession'), Op. 27/2: Malinconia
7. Sonata for violin solo No. 2 in A minor ('Obsession'), Op. 27/2: Danse des Ombres: Sarabande
8. Sonata for violin solo No. 2 in A minor ('Obsession'), Op. 27/2: Les Furies
9. Sonata for violin solo No. 3 in D minor ('Ballade'), Op. 27/3
10. Sonata for solo violin No. 4 in E minor (dedicated to F. Kreisler), Op. 27/4: Allemanda
11. Sonata for solo violin No. 4 in E minor (dedicated to F. Kreisler), Op. 27/4: Sarabanda
12. Sonata for solo violin No. 4 in E minor (dedicated to F. Kreisler), Op. 27/4: Finale
13. Sonata for violin solo No. 5 in G major ('Pastorale'), Op. 27/5: L'Aurore
14. Sonata for violin solo No. 5 in G major ('Pastorale'), Op. 27/5: Danse Rustique
15. Sonata for violin solo No. 6, Op. 27/6

all alone. or alternate link
mr | mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ scans

Blind Willie McTell - Atlanta 12-String

Some people call him the greatest bluesman of all time. I don't think that's true, at least not so long as Son House and Skip James are still riding the great greyhound bus in the sky. But coming in closely behind them, Blind Willie McTell holds his own with the best of the rest of 'em. Though it is thought that he took the name 'Blind Willie' to piggyback on the popularity of Blind Willie Johnson (to be fair, his name was actually William and he was actually blind, unlike "Sonny Boy Williamson II"), his style owes little to the earlier revenant. Actually, McTell's resonant 12-string and plaintif tenor voice align him more closely with the heavenly stylings of Washington Phillips, who in turn influenced Blind Willie Johnson.

It is not known whether Blind Willie McTell ever heard Washington Phillips.

What is known is that Bob Dylan (who actually did steal his name from someone else), knew about Mr. McTell, and revered him so much that Bob wrote a song about him. And while it's one of Dylan's better songs of his post 1975 period, it doesn't even stand up to the worst of Willie's. Perhaps it's the pauper's diction, nasal voice, or predictable chord accents. Really, the only connection I can see between the two is the 12-string guitar.

You can leave Bobby Zimmerman to the dogs. This here's music for god's jukebox.


Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, "This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To Jerusalem."
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, I heard the hoot owl singing
As they were taking down the tents
The stars above the barren trees
Were his only audience
Them charcoal gypsy maidens
Can strut their feathers well
But nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

See them big plantations burning
Hear the cracking of the whips
Smell that sweet magnolia blooming
(And) see the ghosts of slavery ships
I can hear them tribes a-moaning
(I can) hear the undertaker's bell
(Yeah), nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

There's a woman by the river
With some fine young handsome man
He's dressed up like a squire
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand
There's a chain gang on the highway
I can hear them rebels yell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, God is in heaven
And we all want what's his
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I'm gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

- Bob Dylan

by Bruce Eder
Willie Samuel McTell was one of the blues' greatest guitarists, and also one of the finest singers ever to work in blues. A major figure with a local following in Atlanta from the 1920s onward, he recorded dozens of sides throughout the '30s under a multitude of names -- all the better to juggle "exclusive" relationships with many different record labels at once -- including Blind Willie, Blind Sammie, Hot Shot Willie, and Georgia Bill, as a backup musician to Ruth Mary Willis. And those may not have been all of his pseudonyms -- we don't even know what he chose to call himself, although "Blind Willie" was his preferred choice among friends. Much of what we do know about him was learned only years after his death, from family members and acquaintances. His family name was, so far as we know, McTier or McTear, and the origins of the "McTell" name are unclear. What is clear is that he was born into a family filled with musicians -- his mother and his father both played guitar, as did one of his uncles, and he was also related to Georgia Tom Dorsey, who later became the Rev. Thomas Dorsey. 

McTell was born in Thomson, GA, near Augusta, and raised near Statesboro. McTell was probably born blind, although early in his life he could perceive light in one eye. His blindness never became a major impediment, however, and it was said that his sense of hearing and touch were extraordinary. His first instruments were the harmonica and the accordion, but as soon as he was big enough he took up the guitar and showed immediate aptitude on the new instrument. He played a standard six-string acoustic until the mid-'20s, and never entirely abandoned the instrument, but from the beginning of his recording career, he used a 12-string acoustic in the studio almost exclusively. McTell's technique on the 12-string instrument was unique. Unlike virtually every other bluesman who used one, he relied not on its resonances as a rhythm instrument, but, instead, displayed a nimble, elegant slide and finger-picking style that made it sound like more than one guitar at any given moment. He studied at a number of schools for the blind, in Georgia, New York, and Michigan, during the early '20s, and probably picked up some formal musical knowledge. He worked medicine shows, carnivals, and other outdoor venues, and was a popular attraction, owing to his sheer dexterity and a nasal singing voice that could sound either pleasant or mournful, and incorporated some of the characteristics normally associated with White hillbilly singers. 

McTell's recording career began in late 1927 with two sessions for Victor records, eight sides including "Statesboro Blues." McTell's earliest sides were superb examples of storytelling in music, coupled with dazzling guitar work. All of McTell's music showed extraordinary power, some of it delightfully raucous ragtime, other examples evoking darker, lonelier sides of the blues, all of it displaying astonishingly rich guitar work. 

McTell worked under a variety of names, and with a multitude of partners, including his one-time wife Ruthy Kate Williams (who recorded with him under the name Ruby Glaze), and also Buddy Moss and Curley Weaver. McTell cut some of his best songs more than once in his career. Like many bluesmen, he recorded under different names simultaneously, and was even signed to Columbia and Okeh Records, two companies that ended up merged at the end of the '30s, at the same time, under two names. His recording career never gave McTell quite as much success as he had hoped, partly due to the fact that some of his best work appeared during the depths of the Depression. He was uniquely popular in Atlanta, where he continued to live and work throughout most of his career, and, in fact, was the only blues guitarist of any note from the city to remain active in the city until well after World War II. 

McTell was well-known enough that Library of Congress archivist John Lomax felt compelled to record him in 1940, although during the war, like many other acoustic country bluesmen, his recording career came to a halt. Luckily for McTell and generations of listeners after him, however, there was a brief revival of interest in acoustic country-blues after World War II that brought him back into the studio. Amazingly enough, the newly founded Atlantic Records -- which was more noted for its recordings of jazz and R&B -- took an interest in McTell and cut 15 songs with him in Atlanta during 1949. The one single released from these sessions, however, didn't sell, and most of those recordings remained unheard for more than 20 years after they were made. A year later, however, he was back in the studio, this time with his longtime partner Curley Weaver, cutting songs for the Regal label. None of these records sold especially well, however, and while McTell kept playing for anyone who would listen, the bitter realities of life had finally overtaken him, and he began drinking on a regular basis. He was rediscovered in 1956, just in time to get one more historic session down on tape. He left music soon after, to become a pastor of a local church, and he died of a brain hemorrhage in 1959, his passing so unnoticed at the time that certain reissues in the '70s referred to McTell as still being alive in the '60s. 

Blind Willie McTell was one of the giants of the blues, as a guitarist and as a singer and recording artist. Hardly any of his work as passed down to us on record is less than first-rate, and this makes most any collection of his music worthwhile. A studious and highly skilled musician whose skills transcended the blues, he was equally adept at ragtime, spirituals, story-songs, hillbilly numbers, and popular tunes, excelling in all of these genres. He could read and write music in braille, which gave him an edge on many of his sighted contemporaries, and was also a brilliant improvisor on the guitar, as is evident from his records. McTell always gave an excellent account of himself, even in his final years of performing and recording.

Blind Willie McTell - Atlanta 12-String

Year: 1975
Label: Atlantic

by Bruce Eder
In 1949, a brief flurry of interest in old-timey country blues resulted in this 15-song session by Blind Willie McTell for the newly formed Atlantic Records. Only two songs, "Kill It Kid" and "Broke Down Engine Blues," were ever issued on a failed single, and the session was forgotten until almost 20 years later. McTell is mostly solo here, vividly captured on acoustic 12-string (his sometime partner Curley Weaver may have been present on some tracks), and in excellent form. The playing and the repertory are representative of McTell as he was at this point in his career, a blues veteran rolling through his paces without skipping a beat and quietly electrifying the listener. Songs include "Dying Crapshooter's Blues," "The Razor Ball," and "Ain't I Grand to Live a Christian."

1. Kill It Kid - McTell - 2:33
2. The Razor Ball - McTell - 2:53
3. Little Delia - McTell - 3:02
4. Broke Down Engine - McTell - 2:46
5. Dying Crapshooter's Blues - McTell - 3:06
6. Pinetop's Boogie Woogie - Gimbel, Smith - 2:49
7. Blues Around Midnight - McTell - 2:46
8. Last Dime Blues - McTell - 2:49
9. On the Cooling Board - McTell - 3:08
10. Motherless Children Have a Hard Time - McTell - 2:56
11. I Got to Cross the River Jordan - McTell - 4:00
12. You Got to Die - McTell - 3:12
13. Ain't It Grand to Live a Christian - McTell - 2:38
14. Pearly Gates - McTell - 3:22
15. Soon This Morning - McTell - 2:40

don't you never dog your woman.
mp3 >256kbps vbr | w/ cover

or now in FLAC

February 12, 2011

Louisiana Cajun French Music

Well it's about time this blog had some cajun music. It was sorely missing from my gumbo of old american roots and fruits. Now remedied!

Zydeco and Cajun are the premier cultural expressions of the spirited and hardy people of southwest Louisiana. While the two styles have some similarities, they are also quite different. Cajun music as we know it today can be traced back to early Acadian, French, Creole, and Anglo-Saxon folk songs. These early ballads and lullabies -- typically concerned with troubles and hard times -- were often sung a cappella. For the most part, they were performed at home and passed down orally from generation to generation; however, the singers of these traditional songs were eventually accompanied by simple instrumentation. Cajun music is, of course, meant for dancing -- one-step, two-step, and waltzes. Traditionally, the Cajun dance ("Fais-do-do" in Cajun) was the major social function in Cajun society. The principal instrument in Cajun music is the diatonic accordion, preferably in the key of C. Although it is a German instrument, the Cajun people adopted it in the 1870s. To a lesser degree, the fiddle is also a favorite instrument in Cajun music. Early Cajun bands featured both of these instruments, as well as a triangle to keep the rhythm. Acoustic guitars were added to the lineup by 1920, then, three decades later, steel, electric guitars, and sometimes drums. Although Cajun music has changed somewhat over the years and has been influenced by other styles of music -- notably country and blues -- it has remained a distinctive style. The first Cajun record was Joe Falcon's "Allons ý Lafayette" from 1928. Although the style was recorded only sporadically for several decades, Iry LeJeune, Harry Choates, Nathan Abshire, Lawrence Walker, Leo Soileau, and Vin Bruce had become influential Cajun artists by the middle of the 20th century. While the music's popularity continued to grow within Louisiana, it didn't enter the spotlight nationally until the mid-'80s, riding on the coattails of the Cajun food explosion. Today several traditional and contemporary Cajun artists -- including Dewey Balfa, Zachary Richard, and Beausoleil -- tour nationally and internationally. Compared to Cajun music, zydeco music has a much shorter history. Like Cajun music, the dominant instrument is the accordion, but unlike Cajun music, zydeco adds electric bass, horns, and sometimes keyboards. In a nutshell, zydeco is Creole (Black) dance music of southwest Louisiana blending Cajun music with rhythm & blues and soul. The word "zydeco" is actually a bastardization of an early zydeco song, "L'Haricots Sont Pas Salls" (The Snap Beans Aren't Salted). The first Black-French recordings were made in 1928 by Amad‚ Ardoin, an accordion player who played in the Cajun style. However, the music we know as zydeco today didn't begin to evolve -- at least on record -- until the mid-'50s, when Clifton Chenier and Boozoo Chavis made their initial recordings. Like Cajun music, zydeco didn't achieve national popularity until the 1980s, buoyed somewhat by Rockin' Sidney's surprise hit "My Toot Toot." By the '90s, several zydeco artists were signed to major labels, including Terrance Simien, Boozoo Chavis, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Rockin' Dopsie. ~ Jeff Hannusch


Louisiana Cajun French Music, Vol. 1: Southwest Prairies, 1964-1967

Year: 1989/1994
Label: Rounder

Review by Ron Wynn

This first of two 1989 Rounder anthologies spotlighting traditional Cajun music from the mid-'60s began with a great group, The Balfa Freres. This was among the finest and most intense of the founding Cajun bands, characterized by wonderful harmonizing, intense leads and great fiddle backing. Others on this anthology were Austin Pitre & The Evangeline Playboys, a hard-driving, upbeat unit, and the venerable Edius Nacquin, in his 70s when he cut the anthology's final four tracks and still an energetic, distinctive singer. The selections were recorded as part of several field sessions initiated by the Newport Folk Foundation from 1964 through 1967.

1 Danse de Mardi Gras - Balfa Brothers - 2:51
2 Lacassine Special - Balfa Freres - 3:11
3 La Valse du Bambocheur - Balfa Brothers - 5:37
4 Hackberry Hop - Balfa Freres - 3:02
5 Valse des Platains - Balfa Freres - 3:47
6 Lake Arthur Stomp - Balfa Freres - 2:16
7 Parlez-Nous Á Boire - Balfa Brothers - 3:42
8 La Valse des Bombaches - Pitre, Austin & The Evangeline... - 3:46
9 Les Flammes d'Enfer - Pitre, Austin & The Evangeline... - 3:38
10 J'Ai Fini Mes Miseres - Pitre, Austin & The Evangeline... - 1:44
11 Hack a 'Tit Moreau - Edius Nacquin - 1:44
12 Si J'Aurais des Ailes - Edius Nacquin - 1:38
13 La Ville de Monteau - Edius Nacquin - 2:43
14 Ou T'Etais Mercredi Passe - Edius Nacquin - 1:54

the flames of hell.
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover


Louisiana Cajun French Music, Vol. 2: Southwest Prairies, 1964-1967

Year: 1989/1994
Label: Rounder

Review by Eugene Chadbourne

Beyond a doubt one of the best issues in this label's catalog, this dandy album provides the listener with the variety that can be found in a compilation, but also satisfies the taste for each artist by doling out generous portions of their music. As for the performers who are featured, all they need is a little room to show their stuff and all credit for the album's grand success is theirs. These are the grand old men of Cajun, the names that come up time and time again in interviews with stars of the genre. Like many originally folk forms of music, the appeal of this music style eventually led it to be played by full, almost pop-sounding ensembles by the '90s. Cajun had already influenced the sound of country and rock music in previous decades to the point where there are probably plenty of listeners whose idea of Cajun music might not encompass the wild and raw performances on this compilation. The instrumental combinations are deliciously sparse, removing the entire elephantine nature of drum set and electric amplification. A stomping foot is what listeners have instead of electric bass on the duos by "Bois Sec" Ardoin and Canray Fontenot. The latter man's fiddle is a hearty thing; the vocals by these guys make Tony Joe White sound like a prepubescent choir boy. The sensitivity and split tones in their singing bring to mind the recordings of Native American medicine men. Guitarist Preston Manuel, another important figure in this genre, performs "La Bataille dans le Petit Abre" in a trio with Isom Fontenot on harmonica and Aubrey DeVille on fiddle; the piece is gorgeous, pretty as any ever recorded and certainly a high point in tracks featuring harmonica. Producer and editor Ralph Rinzler gets credit for the fadeout, for which he should be punished by a forced bath in a stinky bayou. DeVille and Manuel get together for a duet which is charming, the accompaniment dropping so far back in volume behind the hilariously over-recorded vocal that it starts to feel like a tickle. The second side is devoted to tracks by the duo of Adam and Cyprien Landreneau, both singing and wailing on violin and accordion, respectively. The group is rounded out by Dewey Balfa, whose presence on triangle fills out an important part of the rhythmic component in a symbolic way, the younger man's presence respectively acknowledging the way this music has been passed on from generation to generation. This side is a romper-stomper, the amusing interludes of studio chatter almost a relief from the musical intensity. Landreneau the fiddler has a tone so sharp that it would send avant-garde jazz violinists such as Billy Bang or Leroy Jenkins running for cover. The way he plays the melody on "La Prairie Ronde" is astounding. On "Les Pinieres" he almost sounds like an alien life form, and that's not the first time an outsider has felt this way about things Cajun. It must be admitted certain listeners may express displeasure at the sound of the vocals on these tracks, even after seeing pictures of what these guys look like (they are a couple of old men and they sing like a couple of old men). Voices crack, yet carefully timed hoots seem to be pitched in a sophisticated relation to the fiddle and accordion harmony. Cajun fans looking for a collection of pieces from some of the music's founding fathers can't do better than this. The label left consumers in a state of insecurity about how much printed material would be provided about the music, however. At one point pressings came with a tiny inserted card indicating that a booklet for the project was still unfinished and purchasers could send in for a copy when it was ready. "Au plu tard," as the Cajuns would say.

1 Hack a 'Tit Moreau - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - 3:41
2 Untitled Dance Tune - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - :58
3 Eunice Two Step - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - 2:20
4 Quo Fa're "Bois Sec" - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - 2:21
5 Jug au Plombeau - Ardoin, Alphonse "Bois Sec", Canray Fontenot - 2:31
6 La Bataille Dans le Petit Arbre - Isom Fontenot, Aubrey Deville, Preston Manuel - 2:42
7 Le Vieux Boeuf et le Vieux Charriot - Isom Fontenot, Aubrey Deville, Preston Manuel - 2:50
8 La Robe de Rosalie - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 3:12
9 La Prairie Ronde - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 3:01
10 La Talle des Ronces - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 1:48
11 Les Pinieres - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 3:02
12 Treville N'Est Pas Pecheur - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 1:43
13 Danse de Limonade - Adam Landreneau, Cyprien Landreneau - 2:01

danse le Two Step! & track 10
mp3 >192kbps vbr | w/ cover