Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Edgard Varèse: Complete Chronological Collection

Edgard Varèse (1883 - 1965) was a French composer, often credited as the "Father of Electronic Music", while Henry Miller described him as "The stratospheric Colossus of Sound". He was Zappa's main musical influence and the artist who inspired him to become a composer.

Works in this playlist:
  • Un grand sommeil noir, song to a text by Paul Verlaine for voice and piano (1906)
  • Amériques for large orchestra (1918–1921; revised 1927) 
  • Offrandes for soprano and chamber orchestra (poems by Vicente Huidobro and José Juan Tablada)(1921) 
  • Hyperprism for wind and percussion (1922–1923) 
  • Octandre for seven wind instruments and double bass (1923) 
  • Intégrales for wind and percussion (1924–1925) Arcana for large orchestra (1925–1927) 
  • Ionisation for 13 percussion players (1929–1931) 
  • Ecuatorial for bass voice (or unison male chorus), brass, organ, percussion and theremins (revised for ondes-martenots in 1961) (text by Francisco Ximénez) (1932–1934) 
  • Density 21.5 for solo flute (1936) 
  • Tuning Up for orchestra (sketched 1946; completed by Chou Wen-chung, 1998) 
  • Dance for Burgess for chamber ensemble (1949) Déserts for wind, percussion and electronic tape (1950–1954)
  • Déserts for wind, percussion and electronic tape (1950–1954)
  • Poème électronique for electronic tape (1957–1958) 
  • Nocturnal for soprano, male chorus and orchestra, text adapted from The House of Incest by Anaïs Nin (1961), revised and completed posthumously by Chou Wen-chung (1968)
Because Varèse only completed slightly more than a dozen compositions, I included all available recordings in this playlist.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Edgard Varèse: Complete Chronological Collection (141 tracks, total time: 18 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Recommended reading: Zappa's article Edgard Varèse: The Idol of My Youth and Zappa on Varèse.

According to Gail Zappa, FZ's final project, Varèse: The Rage And The Fury, might be released "at the end of the Mayan Calendar". Looks like we can finally hear it in a few months...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Frank Zappa: Chronological Discography (available soon on Spotify)

Zappa's catalog has been added to Spotify recently, though most albums are currently unstreamable (Waka/Jawaka is available on Spotify UK), various sources (including Digital Music News) suggest that a change is indeed gonna come. Personally I think it will be the greatest addition to the streaming catalog in a long time. For other missing links like Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Metallica, their music is familiar to grillions, and their influence is all over the place. But to average music fans, Zappa's catalog is still largely unknown or misunderstood, and the path he paved is not for anyone to follow. In fact, he went to so many places in the music map as if only to prove that "The Road Is Blocked". His output is so vast and kaleidoscopic that it's almost impossible for even a curious fan to explore, without the help of a subscription service (the man himself proposed this idea in 1983). That's why I am so excited about this news and want to share with you immediately.

I put all Zappa albums into one playlist, sorted by release date. From Freak Out!, debut of the Mothers of Invention, to the posthumous release Mystery Disc. You can subscribe to it now and (hopefully) the tracks will be available as soon as the last license issues are sorted out. If you are a premium user, you can set the playlist, or some tracks, as available offline, so you will know when the playlist/tracks become available (to download) without checking everyday.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Frank Zappa: Chronological Discography (available soon) (917 tracks, 56 albums). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. To see the full list you need to uncheck "Hide unplayable tracks" in Spotify preferences first.

I discovered Zappa through Wong Kar-wai's 1997 film Happy Together (the scene accompanied by Chunga's Revenge is one of the highlights), and adored the few albums I bought afterwards. Thanks to the Zappa Family Trust, and content team at Spotify, now I look forward to discover more from this monumental catalog on the best streaming service in the world.

P.S. For interpretations of Zappa's works by modern ensembles and orchestras, check out my previous playlist: Zappa as Composer. For 18th century Italian composer Francesco Zappa (apparently not related to Frank, though the latter claimed so), here's a new release of his six symphonies.

Update: All albums are now available on Spotify UK and some other European countries.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

John Luther Adams: Complete Recordings on Spotify

"Called 'one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century' (Alex Ross, The New Yorker), John Luther Adams is a composer whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world.

Adams composes for orchestra, chamber ensembles, percussion and electronic media, and his music is recorded on Cold Blue, New World, Mode, Cantaloupe, and New Albion.

A recipient of the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness, Adams has also been honored with the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University 'for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries.'" - Official site

Get all available recordings of this composer in one Spotify playlist: John Luther Adams: Complete Recordings (104 tracks from 14 albums, total time: 12 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Also check out the composer's site for his writings, including the fascinating In Search of An Ecology of Music.

Further listening:  Adams began his studies of music as a member of a rock band, and his admiration for the music of Frank Zappa led him to explore the works of Edgard Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, John Cage, and Morton Feldman. Check out these links for playlists.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Guest Post: EMI & Virgin Classics Germany

The staff at EMI & Virgin Classics Germany compiled a Spotify playlist that features highlights from their recent releases, music for special occasions, and seasonal choices. The current version include Four Last Songs and some Best of Massenet, for the recent anniversaries of Hermann Hesse and Massenet. Subscribe and get the latest updates from the home of Maria Callas, Philippe Jaroussky and Sir Simon Rattle. Here's a note from the label.

Spotify has become more and more important recently. It is great for fans of any kind of music to be able to listen to full tracks of any artist of your choice this easily, but one of the most interesting things about Spotify might be the playlists. They are a great way to discover music, to learn about releases you wouldn't have noticed if they weren't featured on a playlist.. or to simply enjoy music without having to chose the tracks yourself.

We decided to create a playlist that gets updated frequently - we want our subscribers to become experts of classical music without much effort. Brand new albums by the EMI & Virgin Classics artists will be on our playlist as well as matching music to important anniversaries and events. To keep the updates coming even when there are no special events, we will also have seasonal changes - from classical music for your summer holiday to tracks that are best on cold winter nights.

Here's the Spotify playlist: EMI & Virgin Classics Germany (27 tracks, total time: 2 hours) Also check out my previous EMI/Virgin playlists, including the Greatest Recordings/Artists of the 20th Century, Icon, British/American Composer series and more.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Iannis Xenakis: Reverse Chronological Catalogue

"Iannis Xenakis (1922 –2001) was a Greek composer, music theorist, and architect-engineer. After 1947, he fled Greece, becoming a naturalized citizen of France. He is commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers. Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models in music such as applications of set theory, stochastic processes and game theory and was also an important influence on the development of electronic music. He integrated music with architecture, designing music for pre-existing spaces, and designing spaces to be integrated with specific music compositions and performances." - Wikipedia

This reverse chronological playlist was compiled after the catalog on the composer's official site; from O-Mega (1997) to Six Chansons (1951).

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Iannis Xenakis: Reverse Chronological Catalogue (130 tracks, total time: 21 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. If you are not familiar with this composer, try Psappha, Persephassa and Tetras first.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bohuslav Martinů: Complete Chronological Catalogue on Spotify

"The artist is always searching for the meaning of life, his own and that of mankind, searching for truth. A system of uncertainty has entered our daily life. The pressures of mechanisation and uniformity to which it is subject call for protest and the artist has only one means of expressing this, by music." - Bohuslav Martinu

"Along with Leoš Janáček, Bohuslav Martinu was one of the twin giants of Czech music in the twentieth century, a composer with a distinctly individual voice and a versatility that led him to excel in every medium from stage works to symphonies to string quartets."  - AllMusic

This playlist is compiled after the comprehensive catalog of Martinů's works prepared by the Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich. Martinů wrote a bewilderingly large amount of music in various forms; in chamber music alone there's duos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, septets, octets and nonets, in all kinds of instrument combinations - like the Fantasia for theremin, oboe, string quartet and piano. You can use various keywords like "piano" or "concerto" to filter the playlist and create different radio channels.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Bohuslav Martinů: Complete Chronological Catalogue (944 tracks, total time: 68 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Notes to the compositions can be found on this catalog page.