#Writing #MusicMonday: AlphA, Research of Life by G.R.O.K.

alpha-coverThis album was intended for 1 August 2016.

Perhaps it is a sign of how I’ve been feeling over the months I didn’t actually post anything that the albums I selected during that time are, for the most part, in genres I go to for audio comfort food. My only real mandates for Writing Music Mondays are that the music be licensed for free download, preferably in the Creative Commons, and even more preferably under a Free Culture license, and also that the music strikes me as good, even if it’s not particularly up my alley.

Yet here we are, again, with ’80s-style new wave synth, an album blatantly intending to be space music in a retro mode. I can’t help it, I just love this stuff.

This is the first album by G.R.O.K. that I’ve given much time to listening to (I have at least two others downloaded), but I love it. It blends NASA recordings and original voice work into the background of the synth music, and builds a story of mankind exploring space and reaching out a friendly hand to any and all intelligent life that may be out there.

Yes, there’s a fair bit of talking, and even some very synthed singing on one track. Even so, I count it as essentially an instrumental piece, where the vocals are there to add feeling to the music, not intended to be the primary focus of listening.

The focus of the listening are the synth melodies, and they’re just about perfect. In the same way that the Turbo Kid soundtrack was a perfect distillation of mid-’80s film synth music, so does this hit that sweet spot, nostalgic yet fresh, with virtually no cheese factor larded on top.

I love it.

Download Alpha, Research of Life by G.R.O.K. free from the Internet Archive.


Creative Commons License
AlphA, Research of Life by G.R.O.K. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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#Writing #MusicMonday: Ak-47 Big Band

ca483_02_frontThis album was to have been posted on 25 July 2016.

This album is, potentially, a borderline case. It is released under the tightest Creative Commons license there is, granting you the right only to listen and share. Which is a good thing, because most (perhaps all) of the tracks are covers of well-known jazz and jazz-era songs. Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” is here. “As Time Goes By” is here, but in an arrangement so original you might have to listen to it a few times to tease out the melody you’re sure you know.

I have no way to check, so I simply assume that the band paid the (minor) fee required to record covers of copyrighted songs. The fact that the license is restricted to “listen and share” tends to support that view.

But even if they haven’t, jazz history is rife with examples of musicians and composers taking earlier works and creating something wholly new out of them. In a sense, jazz is remixing. And given that all the original songs that I know here are so old that the composers are long in the grave, it’s hard to argue that doing original cover versions in any way hurts the creators, in any event.

That concern out of the way, what we have here is a real, genuine, modern big band sound. Ak-47 Big Band is not as tight, nor as bombastic as U.S. Army Blues, from a few albums ago, but they’re real and they’ve got chops.

This eponymous album is, thus far, the only one the band has put out. And, indeed, it is not even a real album, as bandleader Santiago Kurchan writes:

This is not exactly a record. It’s just a sample of the work we’ve been doing, w[h]ich we are proud of and want to show. It’s not a record because the group formed just a few months ago and a pro[j]ect this big has its own time to develop and to generate a continuity and flow in the music and in the people.

Alas, like many Creative Commons jazz outfits, this appears to be a one-and-done affair. This album was released in 2011, and I find nothing new from them at any of the band’s or the bandleader’s sites or social media profiles.

Perhaps it’s simple economics, that maintaining a regular big band is impossible in today’s long tail economy, especially in the CC portion of it. Perhaps it’s just that nobody has found the right formula to make such a thing economically feasible.

Download Ak-47 Big Band by Ak-47 Big Band free from the Internet Archive.


Creative Commons License
Ak-47 Big Band by Ak-47 Big Band is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Celestia by Jaime Heras

celestiaThis album should have been posted on 18 July 2016.

“Music for watching the skies” the download page says, and if you’re of my generation, at least, that is correct. Celestia by Jaime Heras is more Vangelis-inspired, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos-type music, and very well done, as is all of Heras’s work.

The sense of wonder and discovery is palpable, and the album makes a wonderful companion for the earlier one I shared, Siderea.

Download Celestia by Jaime Heras free from the Internet Archive.


Creative Commons License
Celestia/span> by Jaime Heras is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: selling your friend (for cash) by subatomicglue

subatomicglue-selling-cdThis album ought to have been posted on 11 July 2016.

I’ve shared one album by subatomicglue before, globalenemy, and I still love it.

selling your friend (for cash) was a few albums and years later, and while it is a very different album (not telling a horror movie story, for example), it is definitely a work by the same composer.

It is driving synth work, most of it danceable and thus, probably, qualifies as techno, but good even so.

The composer himself says:

an ecclectic mix of hard aggressive action and musicbox charm. in an age of instant satisfaction and consumer whoring, it is all too possible to forget or even discard that which is important.

Download selling your friend (for cash) by subatomicglue from the Internet Archive or get it directly from the artist’s own website.


Creative Commons License
selling your friend (for cash) by subatomicglue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Unported License.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Live at Blues Alley by U.S. Army Blues

coverOK, before we get to the album, a few things.

Yes, I am aware that I’m weeks behind on my Writing Music Monday posts. Seventeen weeks, to be precise.

The weird thing is, I’ve had albums selected for the entire time, with fifteen permanently recorded on my WMM 2016 playlist, and several more lined up but not transferred over to it yet.

I don’t know exactly what the problem has been. Partly, it is depression, which saps the motivation to transition from having made a decision to actually completing a post. But it feels like there was some kind of a mental clog adding to that lack of motivation. Whatever it is, I’m finally pushing through it. I hope.

So, for the next almost-three-weeks, there will be daily (or mostly-daily) music posts, to catch back up to where I am supposed to be as quickly as possible.

This album should have been posted on 4 July 2016.

Meet U.S. Army Blues, a part of the U.S. Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”). This live performance recording is all I currently know about them, but it’s more than enough — these cats swing! They even have a certain amount of the requisite cheese and too-polished sound of the swing bands that survived the forties, such as Ellington’s and Calloway’s. Not too much, but enough to know that it’s there by intent.

The performance is noted as a particular tribute to Duke Ellington, and most of the original compositions absolutely put me in mind of Ellington recordings from the mid to late 1950s. Loud, brassy, exuberant, and sophisticated.

In fact, my only real complaint about the whole performance is that I, strangely, have just never cared for Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”. That puts me in a minority of one, perhaps, but there it is. The band’s orchestration of “Stardust” is very good, but even so, I tend to skip that track when listening.

Apart from that, it is excellent, and mostly original, big band swing. Of which there is vanishingly little in the Creative Commons, so it’s nice that this one, at the least, is so very good.

Download Live at Blues Alley free from the Free Music Archive, or get just the public domain tracks from the U.S. Army Blues site itself.

You can also find pictures taken at the event on the US Army Band’s Flickr account.


CC0

To the extent possible under law, U.S. Army Blues has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Live at Blues Alley.

The tracks that are not public domain are “Main Stem”, composed by Duke Ellington, “Stardust”, composed by Hoagy Carmichael, and “Barbra”, composed by Horace Silver. Those tracks are probably best treated as if they were CC BY-NC-ND licensed.

#Writing #MusicMonday: the little prince – a ballet in two acts by The Cartesian Reunion Memorial Orchestra, composed by Lloyd Rodgers

Cover - the little princeLast week I said that Philip Glass would come up again, and as a positive point of comparison. Well, here we are.

I know almost nothing about Lloyd Rodgers, apart from that portion of his music with which I have had time to acquaint myself.

Well, that and the fact that all of his work, compositions and recordings, are explicitly dedicated to the public domain, no rights reserved(!).

I know what you’re thinking: “Okay, he’s a rank amateur, fiddling around with a part-time hobby, his stuff sucks, so he just puts it out for free because nobody’s going to pay him for it.” Or something along those lines.

And you’d be wrong on every particular. Rodgers has been composing, performing, and recording since at least 1975. His compositions, while modern (and thus avant garde to one extent or another) are clearly the work of a mind in comfortable command of music, and knowing what it wants to do with it. And it is of a caliber that I am sure he could sell it to that segment of the market that made possible the careers of Glass and John Cage.

It is solid, professional and, to my ear, very, very good.

Today’s work, the little prince, is the most classical-sounding piece of Rodgers’s that I’ve listened too, heavy on strings, though with a vibraphone bringing in a more modern feel than “classical” or the presence of a harpsichord might otherwise indicate. And given my fairly limited experience with contemporary composers, the only real point of comparison I can make as for sound and mood is an odd one: it reminds me, in feel, of Philip Glass’s more recent score for Universal’s original Dracula film (the one with Bela Lugosi).

I’m not even sure that’s a fair comparison. For starters, I like this album very much, but my one experience with Glass’s Dracula score led me to dislike it — although that was probably mostly because it was badly mixed on the DVD I was watching, frequently overriding the dialogue and ambient sounds in the film. Music wise, however, the two feel related to me.

Another thing that might be keeping me from full appreciation of the little prince is that I have zero familiarity with the children’s book that inspired it.

Nevertheless, this is nearly an hour of truly excellent modern classical music, and it is entirely in the public domain thanks to the composer.

(I’ll note that I’m the one who explicitly put the CC0 license on it, but as Rodgers’s site puts everything into the public domain, I’m only doing it for clarity.)

Download the little prince — a ballet in two acts by the Cartesian Reunion Memorial Orchestra free from the Internet Archive, or get it directly from Lloyd Rodgers’s own website in either WAV or MP3 form.


CC0

To the extent possible under law, Lloyd Rodgers has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to the little prince – a ballet in two acts.

#Writing #MusicMonday: Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie

coverThis both is and is not the first work by Chris Zabriskie I have shared with you for Writing Music Monday.

Zabriskie was one half of lo-fi is sci-fi, whose first album (of demos) I shared for Lyrical April. But this is his first solo work I’ve gotten to, despite all his work being Attribution-only.

Among the less obnoxious post-modernist literary types — you know, the ones who actually have something to say, rather than just posturing and expecting everybody to praise their superiority merely because they know how to sneer at everything — there is the idea that a novel, especially if it is experimental in any way, must teach you how to read it (or how to interpret it) in its opening pages.

So, for example, Catch-22 has, in its first few chapters, the story of The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice, which very neatly encapsulates the madness of war, its effect on the minds of warriors, the utterly insane and useless ways authorities respond to those effects, and how soldiers not in authority must go along with the insanity in order to get anything at all, but not so much that they lose their own minds in the process. The one chapter is almost a blueprint of the entire novel, and prepares the reader for the madness that lies ahead.

This idea can certainly be carried over to film, where it is considered good screenwriting to have the first ten pages (and thus, first ten minutes) of the script be a sort of a primer for the audience for the rest of the film. The diner conversation in Reservoir Dogs is, metaphorically, an introduction to who each of the characters actually is, even though at least one isn’t revealed till the climax in fact. The opening of The Shawshank Redemption puts you in the position of every character in the movie except for Andy Dufresne, not knowing whether he’s cold-blooded or merely aloof, so that once you learn that he’s actually the most honest man in the story, you also have the heartbreak of realizing that by the time you learn it for certain, you realize he’s been corrupted (to an extent) as well.

This notion of a work of art teaching you how to appreciate it, within itself, very definitely applies to Zabriskie’s Cylinders. The first track is light, and almost sounds like someone just noodling around on the piano. And yet, every track that follows builds upon it, building up and out, priming and preparing the listener for what is to come, to the point that when “Cylinder Six” plays, it’s a viscerally thrilling experience, even though considered on its own, it’s hardly a romantic sweep, nor a crescendo of any kind. But taken in context of the rest of the album, it has the goose-bump feel of sudden revelation and release. And each track that follows just keeps building further.

The Free Music Archive page compares this album to Philip Glass and John Cage. I don’t care for the Cage comparison, but the Glass one is apt (and I’ll be using Glass as a reference point again next week). I don’t personally care for Glass’s work, or the part of it that I know, but the influence is definitely there, and what Zabriskie does with it is very much, very much to my liking. It takes some listening and getting used to, if you don’t go on sonic explorations very much. But the result is well worth the time you invest in listening.

Download Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie free from the Free Music Archive, or get it for one dollar (or as much more as you care to pay) from BandCamp.



Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under an Attribution License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://chriszabriskie.com/licensing.