Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The 7th Set of Bach Cantatas on Spotify

A new one voice per part (OVPP) series of Bach cantata recordings by La Petite Bande and conductor Sigiswald Kuijken is underway on Accent Records. The series will comprise 17 (some say 20) hybrid SACDs; not a complete set, but enough for a complete liturgical year. Classic FM comments: "The surround-sound experience, in which all voices register clearly within the setting of a large, reverberant space, aids contemplation of words and music. Then there is the sheer quality of Las Petite Bande's musicmaking, which blends impeccable period style with genuine substance of expression."

Get Kuijken's Bach cantatas set in one Spotify playlist: Bach Cantatas - Kuijken (310 tracks, total time: 15 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. An earlier Kuijken/LPB/Accent recording of Bach's cantatas for solo voices is not part of the series, but I included it at the end of the playlist. More links: discussions on this set at Bach Cantatas; a video of La Petite Bande Live at Ambronay 2009.

I made playlists for the other six complete sets of Bach cantatas in 2010: Rilling, Suzuki, Gardiner and Harnoncourt & Leonhardt, Leusink, Koopman (check out those posts for useful links). At that time many recordings were missing on Spotify; now every released recording from those sets are available, and the playlists were updated (if you already subscribed to them, they will update automatically in your place).

Playlists for the other six sets:

Bach Cantatas - Gardiner (1119 tracks)
Bach Cantatas - Harnoncourt & Leonhardt (1239 tracks)
Bach Cantatas - Koopman (1518 tracks)
Bach Cantatas - Leusink (1219 tracks)
Bach Cantatas - Rilling (1143 tracks)
Bach Cantatas - Suzuki (1213 tracks) 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Esa-Pekka Salonen as Composer: Complete Recordings on Spotify

"Musical expression is bodily expression, there is no abstract cerebral expression in my opinion. It all comes out of the body."

"There's a trend in our culture to be constantly up to date because we're connected through the internet, and an art form that would be entirely backward-looking and museum-like would make no sense. People are interested in what's happening right now." - Esa-Pekka Salonen

"Esa-Pekka Salonen has progressed through a number of stylistic phases during his career as a composer. In the late 1970s when he was studying with Rautavaara at the Sibelius Academy, he wrote in a lyrical, neo-Romantic style; a few years later, after studying in Italy with Donatoni and Castiglioni, he adopted strict serial principles, notably in his Yta series of solo pieces. For a number of years after his conducting career took off in 1983, he had little time for composition, but began to write once again in the mid-1990s, mostly in larger forms, with a new sense of energy, joie de vivre and orchestral brilliance." (Full bio here).

This playlist was made after I heard the new recording of Salonen's Grawemeyer winning Violin Concerto. The irresistible rhythmic energy and spastic melodies make his music highly accessible and intriguing, and reminds me of Stravinsky. As a successful conductor, Salonen surely has a broad palette of orchestral colors, but there's hardly any moment in his music that is avant-garde for avant-garde's sake. I highly recommend the Violin Concerto, Foreign Bodies, Helix, and Gambit to any music fan.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Esa-pekka Salonen as Composer (61 tracks from 24 albums, total time: 7 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. More links: composition list with composer's notes; interviews with Alex Ross and David Patrick Stearns.

P.S. The Violin Concerto is available on Spotify UK but won't be available in the US till October 16th (unless it appears earlier than the CD release). I have no idea why major classical labels still use different release dates for digital releases in different regions.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Naxos: British Light Music Series on Spotify

"Famous for its harmonically unchallenging, smooth and entertaining melodic lines, British Light Music grew from the indulgent and sentimental music of the 19th Century, from composers such as Arthur Sullivan, to become one of the most popular classical musical styles in Britain during the first half of the 20th Century. British Light Music is often referred to as easy listening and usually instantly recognisable. Whilst the genre may not advocate ground breaking compositional techniques, it is not always limited to its convivial facade, sometimes parodying more serious classical music through citation of theme and motif.

British Light Music is, for the most part, a form of programme music, with each piece designed to represent a mood, object, place or event. It was this quality, which made it ideal for broadcast throughout the heyday of radio, leading to the introduction of The BBC Light Programme in 1945, and during the advent of television, where British Light Music featured as the introduction to many early programmes. It was, in fact, these two mediums, which facilitated its success.

The genre's popularity was complemented by its use in film; notably, and amongst many others, in the 1939 version of Goodbye Mr Chips with the soundtrack by Richard Addinsell, and the 1955 World War II classic The Dam Busters, which featured the famous 'Dam Busters's March' by Eric Coates. Although the style has declined since the early 1960s, its use in film has contributed greatly to its longevity.

Famous British Light Music composers include Ernest Tomlinson, Edward German, Haydn Wood, Richard Addinsell and Eric Coates, the last of whom is described as the 'father' or 'king' of British Light Music." - (where you can find liner notes for each album in the series)

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Naxos - British Light Music (539 tracks, 31 albums, total time: 35 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. It includes some Naxos British light music compilations, and Vintage TV & Radio Classics (including Fritz Spiegl's wake-up music for BBC Radio 4, which was dropped in 2006 after 30 years despite a nationwide campaign to save it), though they are not listed in the series on the Naxos site.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Everyday & Every Single Night: 101 Songs featuring Celesta

If you don't know what celesta is, try playing Buddy Holly's Everyday or Velvet Underground's Sunday Morning in your head. Yes it is chimes played by a keyboard, and that floating, shimmering sound is produced by felt hammers striking metal bars. In a Baroque pop setting it brings a playful, dreamy flavor to the music (Nick Drake's Northern Sky), and when played on top of jarring guitars it often sounds eerie and uncharacteristically powerful (Stooges' Penetration). Björk uses celesta a lot, and lent it to Sigur Rós for the Takk... sessions. Indie rockers, from Eels to Death Cab For Cutie, experiment with the instrument; it can also be heard on Adele and Amy Winehouse's blockbusters.

Celesta played by Vi Petty on Buddy Holly's "Everyday", May 1957.
This playlist is a collection of songs that features celesta. Other than pop/rock, I also included a few jazz recordings (Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner) and movie soundtracks (John Williams's Hedwig's Theme for Harry Potter). Some albums feature this instrument on many tracks, but I only selected one track per album.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Celesta (Celeste) in Pop, Jazz & Soundtracks (101 tracks from 101 albums, total time: 6 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. I started this playlist just because I discovered the excellent Buddy Holly box-set Not Fade Away: The Complete Studio Recordings And More on Spotify, and wanted to build something around it. The end result is much more fun than I expected. I look forward to make more playlists for uncommon instruments when I can find the time.

For celesta used in classical music, check out this NPR post.

For those who want the tracklist in text:
  • Buddy Holly – Everyday
  • Fiona Apple – Every Single Night
  • Danger Mouse – The Rose With The Broken Neck - feat. Jack White
  • Eels – Flyswatter
  • Cass McCombs – The Lonely Doll
  • Death Cab for Cutie – Title and Registration
  • Nick Drake – Northern Sky
  • Sigur Ros – Sé Lest
  • Louis Armstrong – Someday You'll Be Sorry
  • Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five – Basin Street Blues
  • Sufjan Stevens – Sister Winter
  • The Beach Boys – Girl Don't Tell Me
  • Daniel Johnston – Syrup Of Tears
  • Ben Harper – When She Believes
  • Iggy & The Stooges – Penetration
  • Deerhoof – The Tears and Music of Love
  • Beck – Strange Invitation
  • Amy Winehouse – Tears Dry On Their Own
  • Adele – First Love (album)
  • The National – Conversation 16
  • The Bees – The Start
  • James Brown – America Is My Home
  • Bruce Springsteen – American Land
  • The Waterboys – Trumpets
  • Richard Hawley – For Your Lover Give Some Time
  • Björk – Mother Heroic
  • Björk – The Comet Song 
  • Frank Sinatra – I'll Never Smile Again
  • Frank Sinatra – Pennies From Heaven
  • Yeasayer – Damaged Goods
  • The Decemberists – O New England
  • Judy Collins – Houses
  • Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights
  • Keith Richards – Hate It When You Leave
  • Tracey Thorn – By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept
  • Gene Wilder – Pure Imagination
  • Tracey Thorn – Come On Home To Me
  • Stevie Wonder – As If You Read My Mind
  • Mink DeVille – Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl
  • Tom Waits – Ice Cream Man
  • The Moody Blues – Emily's Song
  • Harry Potter Soundtrack – Hedwig's Theme
  • Heidi Berry – One-String Violin
  • Björk – The Boho Dance
  • Björk – Sun In My Mouth
  • Robert Forster – Demon Days
  • Dido – Look No Further
  • Elvis Costello And The Attractions – All This Useless Beauty
  • Paul Simon – Hurricane Eye
  • Doveman – Hurricane
  • Paul Simon – Questions for the Angels
  • Rufus Wainwright – Beauty Mark
  • Whitney Houston – I Was Made To Love Him
  • Eric Burdon & the Animals – White Houses
  • Jarvis Cocker – Big Julie
  • Richard Hawley – I'm Looking For Someone To Find Me
  • Fiona Apple – Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)
  • Passion Pit – Where We Belong
  • Alanis Morissette – Tapes
  • Jason Mraz – Who Needs Shelter
  • Beirut – Forks And Knives (La Fête)
  • John Mayer – Who Says
  • Pearls Before Swine – Man In The Tree
  • The Association – Cherish
  • Thelonious Monk – Pannonica (Incomplete)
  • The Polyphonic Spree – Lithium
  • Frank Zappa – Absolutely Free
  • U2 – Bad
  • McCoy Tyner – Once I Loved (O Amor Em Paz)
  • Carole King – Growing Away From Me
  • John Denver – Aspenglow
  • Stereolab – Vonal Declosion
  • Tim Buckley – Song Of The Magician
  • My Brightest Diamond – Something of an End
  • Ryan Adams – Wild Flowers
  • Giovanca – On My Way
  • Eurythmics – Adrian
  • Badly Drawn Boy – Stockport
  • Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone
  • Fad Gadget – Collapsing New People
  • Jamie Lidell – Compass
  • The Monkees – It's Nice To Be With You
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg – In The End
  • Cat Stevens – (Remember The Days Of The) Old Schoolyard
  • Carly Simon – Fairweather Father
  • Christina Aguilera – All I Need
  • Lionel Richie – You Mean More To Me
  • Jamie Cullum – Mixtape
  • Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
  • Perry Keyes – Poor Boy
  • Chet Baker – My Ideal
  • Madeleine Peyroux – Blue Alert
  • Clare & The Reasons – Nothing/Nowhere
  • Divine Fits – Flaggin A Ride
  • Bic Runga – Music And Light
  • Amanda Palmer – What's The Use Of Wondrin
  • Roberta Flack – Won't You Be My Neighbor?
  • Add N To x – The Regent Is Dead
  • Aluminium – Forever For Her (Four Tet Remix)
  • Paul Weller – Night Lights
  • The Velvet Underground – Sunday Morning

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jonathan Harvey: Reverse Chronological Collection

"Jonathan Harvey can be thought of as an English Stockhausen: he is perhaps best known for integrating electronically generated sound with live music in the service of a mystical outlook with many (especially non-Western) philosophical influences. However, Harvey's large output also contains many accessible choral pieces and acoustic avant-garde works for orchestra or chamber ensemble." - AllMusic

This playlist is compiled after the list of works on the composer's site, and sorted in reverse chronological order; from Speakings (2008) to Dialogue (1965). Two undated works (The Tree & Ah! Sun-Flower) are included at the end. For newcomers, I recommend to start with the String Quartets, Bird Concerto With Pianosong and White as Jasmine.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Jonathan Harvey - Reverse Chronological Collection (91 tracks, total time: 11 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.  Also check out A Guide to Jonathan Harvey's Music on Guardian (and an interesting comment on contemporary music and Buddhism).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Surprised by Beauty: Complete William Duckworth Recordings on Spotify

I woke up this morning to the sad news that William Duckworth, my favorite composer discovered on Spotify, has passed away. Read Kyle Gann's obituary Strange Times here.

I made a Duckworth playlist one year ago, but kept it unpublished, as most of the composer's works are recorded by Lovely Music, which is not on Spotify. I even wrote to the label, and Mr. Duckworth to ask if they could make the music available. Unfortunately I didn't know about his heath condition at that time, otherwise I would write more about how his music opened my ears to a whole new genre. I also noticed a Coldplay song sounded suspiciously similar to one of the Time Curve Preludes, and Mr. Duckworth kindly retweeted it last August. It would be a great pleasure if my little discovery brought a smile to his face.

Hear his music in this Spotify playlist: William Duckworth - Complete Recordings on Spotify (54 tracks, total time: 3 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. For postminimalism, see my previous playlist.

Rest in peace.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Clara Schumann: Complete Works on Spotify

"Clara Wieck Schumann has often been misleadingly referred to as the wife of composer Robert Schumann, and as one of the leading pianists of her day, rather than as a composer in her own right. Beginning in the last quarter of the twentieth century however, her stature as a composer finally became recognized. Still, she cannot by any reasonable measure be ranked as a major composer, owing in great part to her relatively small output. She nonetheless wrote significant compositions in both the keyboard and vocal realms. Had she been able to devote more time to composition -- she was occupied by maternal matters much of the time, having given birth to eight children -- she might well have risen to the artistic heights of her husband. Some of her later works -- the Six Lieder, Op. 23, for instance -- demonstrate considerable subtlety and depth." - AllMusic

Google Doodle for Clara Schumann's 193rd birthday today
"Concert pianist, composer, mother, wife, German patriot. Saving western civilisation from complete demoralisation one tweet at a time." Her Twitter bio

This playlist includes Clara Schumann's works with opus number, as well as some notable unnumbered works, including a Piano Sonata in g minor, and a Concerto Movement for piano and orchestra. All works are sorted in chronological order. I used several recordings that feature the Schumann couple's works in one disk, and for the Piano Trio, I used the excellent recording from Boulanger Trio.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Clara Schumann - Complete Chronological Catalogue (100 tracks, total time: 5 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Decca: The World of Classical Music Series

"The World of..." series from Decca Classics offers one-disk "greatest hits" compilations for composers (The World of Bach), star performers (The World of King's Singers), instruments (The World of French Horn) as well as music styles (The World of Minimalism).

"The Decca Record Company stretches back to the late 1920's, and built a reputation at the forefront of audio reproduction. Today, Decca is a label of great diversity, home to many of the world's most distinguished artists, and with appeal to both specialist and mainstream audiences." - Presto Classical

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Decca - The World of Classical Music (783 tracks, 50 albums, total time: 60 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bob Dylan: Tempest Pre-mix on Spotify

Tempest, Bob Dylan's 35 studio album, is his first album of original material since I got into Spotify (shortly after Together Through Life). I listened to the free streaming on iTunes a few times last week and I've already like it better than Modern Times, which is also one of my top 10 Dylan albums. Scarlet Town sounds like the destination he set out for in Ain't Talking, and Pay In Blood, the biggest surprise in the album ("No one has ever articulated furious contempt more vividly than Dylan at his peak, an emotion that's been noticeably lacking from his recent albums" - Guardian review), is one of the darkest songs I've heard.

I compiled a playlist after this thread on Expectation Rain, the biggest online Dylan community. According to the OP it's a "pre-mix of songs that Dylan new record echoes, quotes from, or just kind of remind me & others of in a strange way right now". It's a great mix of early blues, bluegrass and folk songs (Memphis Jug Band, Big Joe Turner, Uncle Dave Macon, Bill Monroe, Louis Jordan, Mississippi Sheiks, Bobby Fuller Four and more) that Dylan drew inspiration from; some have been played on his Theme Time Radio Hour.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Bob Dylan – Tempest Pre-mix (42 tracks, total time: 2 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. More suggestions are much welcome.

P.S. Tempest is already available on Spotify EU, and should be available on Spotify US tomorrow.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spotify Playlist Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's Something Borrowed

We sat in his living room on the Upper East Side, facing each other in easy chairs, as he worked his way through a mountain of CDs. He played “Angel,” by the reggae singer Shaggy, and then “The Joker,” by the Steve Miller Band, and told me to listen very carefully to the similarity in bass lines. He played Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and then Muddy Waters's “You Need Love,” to show the extent to which Led Zeppelin had mined the blues for inspiration. He played “Twice My Age,” by Shabba Ranks and Krystal, and then the saccharine seventies pop standard “Seasons in the Sun,” until I could hear the echoes of the second song in the first. He played “Last Christmas,” by Wham!, followed by Barry Manilow's “Can't Smile Without You” to explain why Manilow might have been startled when he first heard that song, and then “Joanna,” by Kool and the Gang, because, in a different way, “Last Christmas” was an homage to Kool and the Gang as well. “That sound you hear in Nirvana,” my friend said at one point, “that soft and then loud, kind of exploding thing, a lot of that was inspired by the Pixies. Yet Kurt Cobain”—Nirvana’s lead singer and songwriter—“was such a genius that he managed to make it his own. And ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’?”—here he was referring to perhaps the best-known Nirvana song. “That's Boston's ‘More Than a Feeling.’ ” He began to hum the riff of the Boston hit, and said, “The first time I heard ‘Teen Spirit,’ I said, ‘That guitar lick is from “More Than a Feeling.” ’ But it was different—it was urgent and brilliant and new."
 - From Malcolm Gladwell's Something Borrowed, originally a New Yorker article, also can be found in his book What the Dog Saw.

Thanks to Spotify, you don't have to wade through a mountain of plastics to hear all the songs. Jimmy Page doesn't get streaming yet, and I put in Beth Hart's furious live performance for "Whole Lotta Love". I also included some other songs that borrowed from other songs: Billy Bragg's "A New England" took the first two lines from Paul Simon's "Leaves That Are Green"; PJ Harvey's "The Words That Maketh Murder" lifted the refrain "What if I take my problem to the United Nation?" from Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues"; Neil Young's "Borrowed Tune" and the original Stones classic "Lady Jane". The most notorious case might be Coldplay's "Viva la Vida", which stole the soaring melody from Joe Satriani's tune "If I Could Fly". The influence of Hendrix's "1983...(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)" on Radiohead's "Lucky" is so obvious that I'm surprised that it's not mentioned very often.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Inspried by Malcolm Gladwell - Something Borrowed (36 tracks, total time: 2 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Every original track is placed right after the newer song that borrowed from it. Suggestions are much welcome; you may leave a comment or send to my Spotify Inbox. For Pop Songs based on classical works, see my previous playlist (one of my personal favorites).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

John Cage Centennial: Spotify Playlist Updated

For John Cage's 100th birthday, I updated this playlist from last year.

Photo from The Rest Is Noise

Get the "complete" chronological Cage catalogue in one Spotify playlist: John Cage - A Chronological Collection (544 tracks, total time: 69 hours). Ctrl (CMD)+G to browse in album view.

More Cage links: For John Cage by Radio Rambler; Searching For Silence, and The John Cage Century by Alex Ross; Silence And Sound: Five Ways Of Understanding John Cage on NPR Music; Quiet Riot, Seth Colter Walls's review of the latest Cage biography, plus his "20-track Spotify playlist of John Cage's beauty + noise".

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Clint Eastwood's Musical Works on Spotify

"'Mystic River' was a difficult one, because I couldn't find a theme to that, so I finally looked at - I started thinking about the three main actors - the three boys, played by Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and Kevin Bacon. They all formed this triangle, so I started writing a triad, playing with that on a piano. And all of a sudden I developed this theme based on this triad, which is nothing terribly complicated, but to me—in a movie, the music shouldn't be terribly complicated. It should be supporting, not overriding." - Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite directors and actors; his sentimental, sparse and atmospheric music convincingly sets the mood for many of his films, which achieved profundity in such efficient, earnest and restraint manner. This playlist is a reverse collection of Eastwood's musical works: films he scored, songs he co-wrote, musicals that he took part in, and a country album he recorded in 1959 (Cowboy Favorites). I selected one track from each album; at the end of the playlist I included an interview, in which Eastwood talks about his score for Flags of Our Fathers, and two non-original tracks from the music-related films he directed: Bird and Piano Blues.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Clint Eastwood's Musical Works: Reverse Chronological Collection (20 tracks from 20 albums). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. For more info see the music section of Eastwood's Wikipedia page.

Oh by the way Eastwood contributed voice and whistle in the first track Eastwood, taken from Brad Paisley's 2011 album This Is Country Music.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Luciano Berio: Complete Chronological Catalogue

"Luciano Berio was regarded by many connoisseurs of contemporary music as the most naturally musical and least doctrinaire of the post-1945 avant-garde composers.

For all that he was a pioneer in the development of electronic music and of new methods of combining speech with music, he belonged spiritually to the mainstream of Italian music in his relish of sensuousness and lyricism." - The Telegraph

This playlist is compiled after the list of compositions on Wikipedia, from 4 Popular Songs (1946) to the "posthumous" Sequenza XIVb, arranged for double bass (2004). Unlisted transcriptions and arrangements (Brahms, Falla, Mahler, Weill) are attached at the end, including a completion to Puccini's Turandot. The fourteen Sequenzas are taken from over a dozen different recordings.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Luciano Berio - Complete Chronological Catalogue (194 tracks, total time: 17 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.