Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Short Ride in a Fast Machine

Back in the days of my intense interest in drum corps (early nineties), I heard for the first time a piece of music performed by the Cadets of Bergen County. It was a fast-paced composition, driven by a steadily pulsating metronome-like function of the woodblock. Encircling the pentrating sound of wood, the various brass instruments (there are no woodwinds or strings in drum corps) seemed to flow in and out of each other with great rhythmic tension, even percussive in their own right.

Flash forward seventeen years. These days, I've been much impressed with the musical compositions of John Adams.

Not that his works are anything really new. But we all have those periods in our lives where we like to try something for the first time. For me, I typically prefer to try something for the first time after it's been around for a while. I've noticed that tendency in myself. Well, as it turns out my "first time" for listening to John Adams is actually my second. After becoming somewhat enamored by his Violin Concerto (1993), I decided to investigate other works by the composer. One those pieces is his hugely popular A Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Popular to all modern music fans except for me, apparently. Before actually stumbling across it on YouTube, I had no idea that this was the same piece I had heard the Cadets perform on the field in 1991.

I'm very much interested in promoting not only my favorite musicians in the popular genres, but more especially the various works of American classical composers. Some I like more than others, but all of the major ones seem to play an important role in the reflection and development of our Western and New World traditions. To this end, I will try to intersperse some video or audio segments among my other blog entries in order to introduce my readers to some significant American works in the classical music world. Let's start with John Adams' A Short Ride in a Fast Machine (original form for orchestra, which I prefer). Apparently, it was composed to reflect our modern driving experience. Enjoy the video, too!

Pretty cool music, huh?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Vienna in Austin

We just returned from a short but refreshing trip to Austin with our friends. In addition to enjoying some wonderful conversations, we were able to attend a very memorable concert performance by singer-songwriter Vienna Teng. She had actually played in Houston on Wednesday evening, but the Friday show seemed to be a better choice for several reasons, not the least of which being the addition of her co-producer and bandmate Alex Wong. Together, they gave the audience more than their money's worth. The two were so in tune with each other in dynamics and precision that it was hard to believe that there weren't some other musicians behind the curtains adding to the magic.

Vienna's newest release Inland Territory will be available on April 7th of this year. I have a feeling that it will top her first three albums, and that's saying a lot since she has created superb musical and lyrical treasures in those previous efforts.

You can get a preview of some of the upcoming music and all the work that has gone into its production by watching the following two EPKs (electronic press kits) for the new album. She gives everything she has in recording and stage performances, and this is just one of the things that make her talent shine forth so brightly. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tai Chi 42 Forms

I've been practicing Tai Chi in a local Kung fu training center for a few months. Progress has been slow but consistent. The chi feels quite strong in my hands, but the goal is to maximize its circulation throughout my entire upper torso as I go through the 42 forms. Here's an excellent video showing the routine from beginning to end.

It makes me relaxed just watching it. She flows like water.

The human body and mind will reap great benefits from this exercise. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So How Was The Zoo?

It was pretty much like it is everyday. Oh, you know. The caged residents gave us their usual display of half-baked affection. You have to catch them early, at least ten minutes before lunch. Once they're fed, they don't care much to do anything but loaf around, well out of sight from human spectators.

I must admit, however, that it was a splendidly comfortable day for walking about. Lots of folks taking in the consistent breeze and clear skies. We managed to make nearly five hours of the trip. When it was time to go, one of our boys insisted on going to the souvenir shop. Somebody please explain to me why stuffed animals are so much more appealing than the real thing!

While we were enjoying the zoo, someone was kind enough to leave a little tract on our car windshield. It was from Chick Publications, which specializes in producing Christian material in cartoon form for evangelizing purposes. This particular booklet had a picture of a gorilla on front and was meant to provoke thought about, or should I say "against", the theory of evolution. I wonder if these secret "tract leavers" ever enter real discussion with people. The world may never know.

Have "U" ever come across one of these displays of "affection" on your vehicle window?

I have to say, though, this Mandrill didn't remind me of any humans I'd seen in recent years. Maybe Jay Leno a little bit around the lower regions of the face. Just kidding! Sort of...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From Roger Scruton

"Faced with the ruin of folkways, traditions, conventions, customs and dogmas, we can only feel a helpless tenderness for these things which have proved, like everything human, so much easier to destroy than to create."

-taken from Roger Scruton's The Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy