Syracuse Symphony April 4: London Program including The Planets by Holst

Libby takes care of her neighbors' cats sometimes.

Which is great, because one of those neighbors is Ryan Barwise, a trumpeter with the Syracuse Symphony, who came up with some tickets to last night's concert, which featured Edward Elgar, Gordon Jacob and Gustav Holst.

All three men were Londoners, and were contemporaries for a while.

The night started for us at The Mission for dinner. As we waited for a table, we met Lou Lemos, director of the women's choir that performs from backstage during the Neptune movement of Holst's The Planets.

Lou explained to us the timing of that direction. The conductor is leading the symphony, which is a fraction of a second behind the conductor, because you have to react to what you're seeing. Lou is backstage with a monitor, watching the conductor on a delay that's a fraction of a second behind the symphony.

And since he knows the choir will be a fraction of a second behind him, he has to direct a fraction of a second ahead of what he's watching on the monitor.

Elgar's Cockaigne opened the night. It's a bit of a ride, but if you tried to pronounce it, you might have realized it comes out sounding like "cocaine," which is apparently how they were spelling it before Daniel Webster's work made it back across the pond. This explains the ride.

Something I learned from the program: cockney sounds suspiciously close to cockaigne. As in, those dumb lower class schmucks are high all the time.

Guest conductor Peter Bay, who directs the Austin Symphony, showed more movement in front of that piece than you typically see on any four treadmills.

There was then a lot of shuffling around, and when the dust cleared, we were left with strings and flute soloist Deborah Coble for Jacob's Concerto for Flute and Strings.

I thought it was fun. Libby, not being a fan of the flute – and being a fan of percussion, which was conspicuously absent – appeared pretty closed to violence. (Not really. But she wasn't happy with it.)

During intermission, a screen came down to prepare for some NASA visuals to accompany Holst's The Planets (here's Jupiter, which can be rather regal).

I'm a fan of the piece, which apparently Holst figured would never be performed, so he wrote it for an "impossibly large" orchestra. Then he got all sorts of famous and miserable. The one thing I'm not crazy about is that the Neptune movement, which ends the piece, is like walking into the middle of a Phish concert after walking out of the Rolling Stones – the music's lovely, but it's been straight ahead rock and ballads all night, and all of a sudden you're in the middle of a sea of constantly modulating experimentation.

OK, that was overkill, but pretty artful for a Sunday morning, no?

I'm split between Mars and Jupiter as my favorite planets. I love a dark, evil overture (Mars was John Williams' inspiration for the Imperial theme from Star Wars), but I also love a majestic piece that doesn't wreak of Hail-to-the-Chief-like pomp.

This multimedia performance has been done a lot across the country, and while I like the idea, well, as someone who does some imagery and knows what's possible, I wasn't a big fan of the rear-projection visuals.

An animation flying out from earth to each of the planets at the start of each movement was pretty cool. But from there, it went downhill. A close-up of the planet being performed rotated in the background (except Saturn and Neptune, which were still images), while various photos and illustrations of the planet, or a Mars rover, or stars or the Milky Way, or whatever, were laid over the backgrounds, with no manipulation done.

Envision, if you will, having an 8x10 photo on the floor, and then laying a 4x6 on top of it.

The music was amazing, but honestly, for a nearly 2.5-hour program, I would have preferred a 7:00 start time to an 8:00 start time. In all, I'll give the evening an 8, although I have to say bonus points were included for the company.

OK, so who’s that new musical addiction?

So in that post yesterday, I alluded to a new musical addiction. Andrea was waiting for me to mention them, and she's been patient, but I don't how long that'll last since I don't actually know her, and I feel like making anyone wait more than four days is particularly cruel anyway.

And yes, I am for hire if anyone out there needs a run-on sentence or two for a blog post or news story.

I want you to meet The Real Tuesday Weld, whose Web site is so fancy it took me a while to figure out how to use it.

OK, so you may have already been on the TRTW bandwagon, if not from their songs' regular appearances in "The Gilmore Girls," then certainly from "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist."

Neither of which I was previously familiar, despite my being a virtual Six Degrees fanatic.

I picked up a copy of "Live at The End of the World," which is a live show at a club called The End of the World, as opposed to some mystical fantasy title.

But TRTW, along with performer The Clerkenwell Kid, got me interested in that theatrical way that the Asylum Street Spankers, Genesis P-Orridge and Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams got me interested.

Like the Spankers, TRTW features a large lineup, which accounts for its ambient sound and immense creativity.

If you read yesterday's post, you know I went into Soundgarden looking to judge some albums by their covers, and, while I was mildly worried that this could be another Berklee cookie cutter band based on the dark brick-and-wood-grain cover, the only disappointing thing about the disc is that it's short – like under a half hour short.

But The Real Tuesday Weld and I are going to have nights together, I'm sure.

Music-ed. Plus: what’s the new musical addiction?

My re-entry into music as a passion hit a new level in mid-February as the piano that had been tantalizingly out of my grasp for five-plus years finally reached me and got tuned. I've played either it or one of the guitars almost every day since, and I'm listening to so much more music than I have since leaving Massachusetts in August of 2003.

And now, new music. Or new to me, anyway. Phish's reunion shows at the Ball earlier this month are available free from LivePhish.com, and so I downloaded them and have steadily been making my way through them.

Then, Seth came through town.

And then on Sunday, I wandered into Soundgarden with some rules for myself.

I would pick out four CDs from the used bins at 2/$10. They would come in cardboard cases. I would never have heard of the bands. I would judge them solely by their covers.

On further inspection, I really should have heard of some of these artists. Two of them are on major labels. A third is on what you might call a major minor label. The fourth is on a smaller label that I am very familiar with and that has given me much music that I love.

I managed to grab four winners, with one disc that will go into heavy rotation, and I'll probably get more. Here's a look at the four:

Hem, rabbit songs One of the first voices I ever fell head over heals in love with was that of Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies – who, by the way, have brought some guests back to Trinity to re-record the songs from The Trinity Sessions. Sigh. Hem frontwoman Sally Ellyson has that same rich, get-lost-in-it-for-days voice.

This was going to be the tossup for me, as the cover is fairly non-descript, the songs have titles like "sailor" and "waltz" and "betting on trains" and others that don't really speak to any genre in particular.

But it's plain old gorgeous. It recalls not only the Junkies but some old local (to Western Mass.) rising stars who fizzled out – the Scud Mountain Boys.

AbsentStar, (sea trials) Far from amazing but still a good, solid pop record, AbsentStar's 2008 offering won't necessarily remind you of anybody, but it will definitely provide a good backdrop to assembling that bookshelf or whatever you've got going on that you need a little drive for.

The Wildbirds, Golden Daze First off, I'm not linking to a Web site here, because the only operable site I could find is on MyS***e. Also, I find it very amusing just how worried Universal Records was about piracy of this disc – even in 2007, when pirates were gonna do whatever they were gonna do. The FBI no-duplication warning on the back of the package is as large as the song titles, and in a clearer, bolder font face. It's also the most obvious text on the disc itself.

This disc has pop elements for everyone. The ballads are like some of the old Rolling Stones ballads (like "Wild Horses"-type stuff), and the more driven songs are reminiscent of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the "American Girl" days. Frontman Nicholas Stuart sounds a lot like E from Eels, and they use his voice the same way.

I almost want to upload a song or two, just for ha-has, but I'd highly recommend this one.

The new musical addiction Ha ha, fooled you. You're going to have to wait until tomorrow to find out what I was talking about when I said on Sunday:

my head's spinning a bit over a new-to-me band i found today.

Catching up with the bassist

Seth Horan and I go back to our early-to-mid-20s, when Seth was trying to break the strings that held him tied down in Buffalo. He had long, curly hair and was peddling CD-Rs with two-piece ink-jet-printed inserts that never fit quite right if you were trying to get them back in the case.

The short version of the intervening nine to 10 years is that Seth moved to Los Angeles, then went on the road for over three years, paying rent nowhere. First, he booked without a map, then, tiring of 12-hour drives between gigs, started booking with a map. Then he got married and moved to Reno, and I haven't seen him since he and Gina came east to do their re-wedding for those of us who couldn't go to Lake Tahoe for the original nuptials.

And there I was, Thursday night, sitting at Woody's during the first of SIX FREAKIN' OVERTIMES, when I got a message from Seth, "hey, coming through Syracuse tomorrow."

Which, of course, I knew, because he was playing a gig at Keuka College Thursday afternoon and then one in Utica Friday evening. I had already taken Friday off and made plans to go to Utica.

So, we met at Freedom of Espresso, where Seth had plopped down to do some work, and then we had lunch at the Blue Tusk and caught up a bit, and then I left Seth to finish catching up on his personal stuff; we would catch up at the Tramontane later.

Here's where we backtrack.

Seth and I met at a little cafe in Northampton, Mass., that's no longer there. We're both singer-songwriters, but at that point, I was more of a music reporter and occasional concert booker/promoter. He was working his way up and out of Western New York.

The other difference is that I was just like everyone else in town, lugging around an acoustic guitar or two, while Seth was lugging around an electric bass. As in /base/, not a fish.

Not too many people doing the solo bassist singer-songwriter thing then. There still aren't.

Seth had just split from Vertical Horizon, who had signed a record deal, and wound up with a hit and a half before sliding into a we'll build a real Web site someday obscurity.

Seth, meanwhile, has had some ups and downs, signing briefly with an independent record label, then quitting the touring thing for a while in favor of showcasing for Warwick basses.

The split, by the way, was due to the fact that Seth and the band were in disagreement over some of the writing politics, and he wasn't willing to be stuck in a contract with them (those who know me will understand why we became friends over the years).

But now he's back to touring (albeit not 320 days a year with his stuff in storage and his muffler duct-taped onto the bottom of a van that barely had four doors), playing this weirdo five-stringer with glowing blue fret markers (I took some film, with no flash – we'll see if that shows up).

Some of the older songs have aged nicely. I really like where "Anonymity" is right now, and some of the rough, punky edges are off "Tarot" and "Something Pretty" – and those high notes are no longer a strain.

And there's some exciting news. Seth is heading into the studio toward the end of this week, in a church-turned-studio just south of Syracuse. I'm hoping to get in there and shoot some photos of the session. He and engineer David Peters work wonders together, and I have no doubt there are great things in store.

Human nature, the Internet and the Rihanna photo

Inasmuch as it's possible these days, I live under a rock when it comes to pop culture. I don't own a TV, I have two radios, each set to a different NPR station, and if I'm listening to music, it's probably on my laptop when it's not connected to the Internet. I make it to the movies about twice a year.

But even I had heard the singer Rihanna was allegedly beaten by fellow-performer boyfriend Chris Brown, accounting for the pair's sudden and unannounced absence at a Grammy Awards pre-party (and the awards show itself).

To say the least (and perhaps the obvious), this is awful. And while the domestic violence itself is certainly the worst part of it, there's more going on here.

Police departments generally have a firm policy on not releasing the names of alleged domestic violence victims. News outlets generally have a loose policy on not disclosing the names of alleged domestic violence victims when they find out.

So why did the entire world know who both the accused and the alleged victim were? Well, arrest records are public information. But Rihanna's name? That should have been kept under wraps.

And tight ones.

The fact that she's a celebrity does not make her public property. Some things the public simply does not need to know.

But wait, there's more.

In these days of information, information, information, everybody just had to know, right?

So sometime Thursday, a well-known celebrity Web site (which I will neither name nor link to here) published a photo of a bruised and bloody Rihanna that the Los Angeles Police Department says appears to be a leaked evidence photo.

Of course, other sites just had to hop on it as well, re-posting it.

I haven't seen it, I'm not interested. And I'm not going to link to the other sites I've learned second-hand have re-posted it, either.

It's disgusting, really, and goes to the basest part of human nature. It's the part of us that (a) hands over the fork and says, "try this, it's awful" along with the part that (b) thinks we own people who have become famous.

And it's getting worse. We can surely blame the Internet as a disseminating technology – which isn't to condemn the medium, just those who use it for ill. But more than that, we need to smarten up about what we're willing to see, what we're willing to distribute, and what level of respect we expect of ourselves.

It's positively awful that someone at the LAPD sent this photo out. It's even worse that some Web sites had the bad taste to post it.

Some quick reactions from my favorite feminist bloggers:

» Tracy Clark-Fleury at Broadsheet:

I suppose there's a hint of silver lining: It's possible that the photo will spark a national conversation about domestic violence. But shouldn't Rihanna get to decide whether she becomes the literal poster child for the cause?

» Jessica Valenti: A 12-second rant.

» Cara at Feministe: Not fucking cool.

The day the music died

I know a poet named Rob. He's likely in his 40s, wears Chuck Taylors, baggie pants and a wallet chain. He reads from tiny composition notebooks full of tiny print, cover to cover, about drugs, prostitutes and homelessness.

I don't know if he's as tall as his words. It doesn't matter to me.

One night he read about accidentally – and drunkenly – urinating on the man next to him in the men's room of a tavern. When he looked up, he discovered the man was Don McLean.

Don McLean, you may know, if you've spent more than 10 minutes in your life with someone who owns an acoustic guitar, has written two songs in his life: "American Pie" and the other 20-odd albums full of music he's penned.

"American Pie" is a mourning of the plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959, that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. There was so much young musical talent that ceased to be that day, it's been called The Day The Music Died.

You'll have the opportunity to read dozens, if not hundreds of tributes today. I won't bore you with a retrospective, since I wasn't there for the plane crash, the '60s, or the appearance of "American Pie," which I remember hearing on vinyl for the first time (in fact, it was a 45-rpm, and the song was split onto both sides). Instead, here's Mr. Mclean:

I officially feel old, at least in new media terms

Remember Napster? It was a music sharing service that was hugely popular among college students, unemployed hackers and other people who thought disposable income and music were mutually exclusive.

The site was started by a college drop-out named Shawn Fanning, who got sued about 30 million times (OK, slight exaggeration) for letting people trade copyrighted music for free, and who is probably now quietly making some giant income because he's a genius who figured out how to leverage the Internet really well.

Just saying.

After the original Napster was shut down, it disappeared for a few years and then someone bought the name and logo (we call that a brand in marketing terms, kids), and turned it into a boring international conglomerate with Los Angeles headquarters and offices in New York, Tokyo, Luxembourg and Frankfurt.

They also have a "free" service that swallows your IP address and lets you listen to a song without paying three times before you then have to buy it.

Yawn.

Best Buy – you know Best Buy, don't you? They have those 50-foot yellow-and-blue tags glowing from the sides of box stores and malls everywhere – decided Friday it would buy Napster in an effort to (snicker) take on iTunes.

iTunes has 70 percent of the (legal) music download market. Best Buy wants to double its sales in the next five years.

Somehow this just feels like the cool kid turning square, then becoming a lifelong mid-level corporate tax attorney for the rest of his life.

So long, Napster. It was good watching you wither away to a soulless paper-pusher.

Where the songs collide

Ceili Rain

Music has always been part of my life. I come from a musical family, and those who aren't musicians, are fans of music.

There have always been pockets of music genres I don't particularly care for. Country music has been one, and much to Jonathan's chagrin, so is Irish music.

Lately, though, my ears and tastes seem to be evolving. I'm hearing where different forms of music that I previously didn't enjoy fit in with the kinds of music I do enjoy – even with those that I enjoy most.

Leonard Bernstein, the great classical conductor and composer, famously pushed music critics to understand that pop music was worth reviewing because it was also about form. He reportedly was a fan of Janis Ian.

I'm starting to hear a blurring of lines between styles, and am recognizing instead that form travels independently of instrumentation.

Or maybe I'm just getting older.

“New” apartment, courtesy of music

I am in active disbelief that I had never heard of Kimya Dawson until I saw Juno.

Between her solo work, her work with The Moldy Peaches and with the children's ensemble Antsy Pants (auto audio warning), Dawson appears on about half the soundtrack.

For those of you who didn't know me in my former life, I used to (a) review a lot of acoustic singer songwriters, (b) book acoustic singer songwriters, (c) play with acoustic singer songwriters, and (d) be an acoustic singer songwriter [OK, so I"m still a little (d)].

And Dawson was starting to get her first round of small-club-touring fame right about then; the fact that I could be interviewing and booking people like Pamela Means, hanging out at shows with folks like Ember Swift and Lyndell Montgomery, and playing with women who had me covering Ani Difranco (auto audio) and others and not know about Dawson's existence is just, well, appalling to me.

Dawson's solo stuff is very simple shy-woman-with-guitar stuff, and the recordings I've heard so far appear to be done on simple recording equipment (like, say, four-track cassette recorders). I spent some of this morning looking over her LiveJournal.

She had me wanting to play again, and not just the little bit I have been. So I've spent much of the past week re-doing my apartment.

I've cordoned off the bedroom, so it's no longer a walk-through (it's where the dining room was, if you've been there recently). I got rid of the dining room, moving the table and chairs into the kitchen, which is plenty big enough.

My office is now the carpeted room that was the bedroom, and what was my office now has two guitars, two microphones, one chair and the portable PA system and four-track I dug out of the closet. It's empty and sounds brilliant, and hopefully will serve me well musically and creatively.