The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day has always seemed strange. Life slows down, people skip work, school is out of session; it’s almost if the days don’t really exist, and the only reason we keep track of the days is so we know when to return to our daily routines. I remember hearing once that the ancient Sumerians celebrated the new year for several days, and that these days were considered neither part of the old year ending or the new year beginning. (Alas, I could find no evidence to support that claim, but I like the way it sounds.) In honor of this time I composed Null Week, a short work in just intonation for sampled electric piano. Null Week is in two-parts and was inspired by Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes.
Tonight, in London, the Hilliard Ensemble will give their final scheduled performance before they retire. Since their founding in the 1970s, the Hilliard Ensemble have been vanguards of the early music movement and remained a powerful force throughout their 40-year history. At the end of October, the Hilliard Ensemble released their final album, Transeamus. The album (which was recorded in 2012) is a collection of English carols and motets from the 15th century and a stunningly appropriate cap to an amazing set of recordings. David James, countertenor of the group, summed up the essence of this recording’s context within the Hilliard Ensemble’s catalog:
The Hilliard Ensemble’s first ever recording contained music from the court of King Henry VIII and so it seemed appropriate for our final recording to return to our roots…
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Michael Keaton, is a surreal tale of a washed-up Hollywood action star who tries his hand at serious theater acting in New York City. The movie opened in mid-November and has been well received. I knew about the movie for a while but it wasn’t until I read Stephin Merritt’s review of the score that I was compelled to go see the movie—mostly to experience its soundtrack.
Birdman‘s soundtrack consists mostly of drum kit music composed by jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez, along with some “additional music” composed by both Joan Valent and Victor Hernandez Stumpfhauser, and some cuts of music by Mahler, Ravel, John Adams, and a couple other classical composers. This score of primarily drum kit work is a fascinating experiment because the music requires the film much more than the film requires the music. Additionally the work of multiple composers along with selections by a music supervisor are an interesting departure from what is the traditional model of film scoring. Continue reading
Last night Oxygen network’s reality series Fix My Choir featured the Sweet Adelines International chorus Sirens of Gotham on the episode, “A Choir with Two Heads.” Fix My Choir‘s premise is Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, and gospel musician Deitrick Haddon meeting with choirs across the country to help solve administrative and musical problems each group may have—basically making each choir more meaningful and enjoyable for its members. The episode featuring the Sirens of Gotham is perhaps the most public, non-comedic exposure for barbershop music in recent memory, and as someone who was peripherally involved in the creation of the show, it was also an interesting lesson in reality television.