The Ninth Symphony

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig Van Beethoven

So I know this is kind of a digression from what I normally talk about but it’s definitely not about heavy metal. I love Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and It’s getting to be that season where you start to hear Ode to Joy and thinking about classical standards. It’s not that I start thinking about the Ninth only at Christmas time but it seems like an appropriate time to talk about it. In fact, I think about it all year long.

This is by far my favourite symphony, I even know the baritone solo that starts the choral part. Before I get into the symphony itself I’ll throw down a little bit of background about the piece. This was Beethoven’s final symphony and he was mostly deaf when he composed it. He hadn’t published anything in a long time when the 9th came out and he was beginning to be forgotten. He had made a huge impact in Austria when he wrote the Eroica symphony also known as the third, for Napoleon. However he scratched out his name when Napoleon crowned himself emperor. Beethoven was a big supporter of republicanism. Even though most of his employers were royalty. Gradually Beethoven isolated himself more and more so by the end of his life he was considered past his prime, a recluse and a malcontent. The fact that he probably didn’t hear his last symphony is a testament to how great a composer he actually was.

This symphony was an enormous undertaking, on Beethoven and everyone who performs in it. It has a huge orchestra and chorus with four soloists. It was one of the longest symphonies up until that point in time, and we actually have this symphony to thank for our current CD length. One of the pioneers of compact discs loved this symphony so much that he insisted that the whole composition could fit on one CD. So the CD’s capacity was increased for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes. The symphony takes about 1:15 to 1:20 to play.

There are four movements, but most everyone knows the last one, the choral part. The first movement is a tempestuous one. It does something really odd. It starts off with the orchestra warming up before it launches into the movement. Completely unheard of for its time. Then the key of D minor switches to D major, which was another innovation no one had done before. The second movement has this falling sort of opening theme with an emphasis on the timpanis. If anyone lives in DC and listens to WGMS classical station this theme is used whenever they come back from a commercial break. I won’t go into any more detail on the theory mainly because I know very little theory. The third is a slow movement an adagio but it then builds up to the momentous fourth movement. In the beginning of the fourth movement the “Ode to Joy” theme is first played by the basses alone, the bass at this time was not seen as a standalone instrument and is just one more think about how rare this symphony was. One more interesting thing about the fourth is right before the tenor solo a funeral style dirge starts playing. A funeral dirge in a joyous symphony? It makes for an incredibly interesting symphony. As if Beethoven weren’t interesting enough already.

A Young Beethoven

A Young Beethoven

A few facts about the Ninth Symphony

In the movie Immortal Beloved this piece is what Beethoven’s alleged lover forgives him over because of its amazing beauty.

Beethoven and his Ninth symphony is considered the beginning of the romantic era of music

The poem used in the choral part was written by Friedrich Schiller in 1783

It debuted on May 7th 1824 an was a major success. However a repeat performance on the 23rd was not well attended.

Versions to listen to

Just like covers of songs no two versions of the Ninth are the same

1. Leonard Bernstein- world renowned conductor, and probably the most well known

2. Kurt Masur – This is the version I heard first. Great version, not too fast.

3. Hungarian Philharmonic- I have their set of all of Beethoven’s Symphonies, just wonderful.

4. Karl Bohm – Placido Domingo is one of the soloists.

I don’t suggest trying to find it on Youtube, it’s hard to find the whole symphony done by one orchestra, but it may be the best starting point. I personally would go out and get a copy of it.

Everything Right is Wrong Again

Keepin' it clean TMBG from blogcritic.com

I saw They Might Be Giants last night at the 930 and it was quite an interesting show. They played the album Lincoln almost in its entirety (the show was billed as a special Lincoln show, at first I thought they would all dress up as Abraham Lincoln but that was not the case). A bold move if you ask me. I know when I saw Social Distortion they didn’t play any of their hits, so maybe more of a punk rock move. Lincoln has some good songs like ‘Anna  Ng’, ‘Purple Toupee’ and ‘They’ll Need a Crane’ and a bunch of other weird ones. That totally seems like TMBG, but I guess they are not catering to a mainstream audience. However they still played, ‘Bird house in your Soul’, ‘Can’t Keep Johnny Down’, ‘Cloisonné’,  and ‘Why Does the Sun Really Shine?’. There was a lot of funny banter between the Johns and the Avatars of They. I like audience interaction and maybe that’s why I also love the 930 club so much and jiffy lube live not so much. They set up a camera so they could do the avatar show on stage.

This was my first TMBG show and I enjoyed it. It was just as strange as I expected and Danny Miller was playing some awesome guitars. I especially liked the zoot suit SG that he was playing at various points. Flansburgh was rocking a nice Fender Jaguar and during ‘Why Does the Sun Really Shine?’ he had swagger and croon. Linnell was playing on bass clarinet,  keyboards and accordion, pretty much essential for any modern recording band.

Great Show, also James K. Polk may be one of the best history songs ever written.

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants, Are they really giants? No they aren't

Americana Music Festival

This is America

Although, the Americana Music Festival was over a month ago the concert broadcasted by the Austin City Limits series. What a concert! There were some many guitars and banjos. If you were looking at the guitars like I was you could see almost everyone there had a L style Gibson blues guitar. Emmylou didn’t have a guitar but if she did she would be packing a J-200.

My favourite performances of the night were Justin Townes Earle singing his gospel single ‘Harlem River Blues’ and ‘I’ll Fly Away’ with Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller. I really dig the gospel and soul style in “Harlem River Blues’. The organ makes for a strong, driving melody. ‘I’ll Fly Away’ is another gospel song that has a simple powerful message and the banjo really makes this song. It gives an old time feel that is the embodiment of Americana.

I also liked The Civil Wars performance ‘Barton Hollow’ is a great song and it reminds me of  ‘Copperhead Road’ by Steve Earle. It has that haunting quality to it that really makes a powerful impact. I personally, I would throw a banjo is there but that’s my bias.

Joy Williams and John Paul White of The Civil Wars perform at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville

These were the performers and later on I will probably put some more info about them.

Emmylou Harris

Greg Allman

Buddy Miller

The Civil Wars

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Robert Plant

Justin Townes Earle

Alison Krauss

Amos Lee

Jim Lauderdale

The Avett Brothers

Elizabeth Cook

The Secret Sisters

There are a lot of You Tube clips you can see the individual performances  and below I have a link for the Americana Music Association homepage.

http://americanamusic.org/acl-presents-americana-music-festival-november-19-pbs

Glen Campbell

The Great Glen Campbell from sweetlyrics.com

The Great Glen Campbell from sweetlyrics.com

My girlfriend pointed out to me that I failed to mention anything about Glen Campbell at the CMA award show. So to correct this wrong I am doing a post solely on Glen Campbell as it should be.

Campbell has had an amazing impact on the country music community and the rock community as well. He started out as a session musician in LA, playing guitar for The Champs and The Beach Boys, and probably many other bands. I assume he was a Fender player because of his LA time and this makes me super happy. Campbell then turned to country and cut a few songs but he still had trouble breaking into the mainstream. Finally, He hit it big with ‘Gentle on My Mind’. From there he went into the spotlight and ended up with more than 70 albums and over 45 million albums sold. He even had a variety show called The Glen Campbell Variety Hour.

The song I remember the most is ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, which really spoke to a lot of people because it made it to number one in the pop and country billboard charts. His other top charting singles were ‘By the Time I Get Back to Phoenix’, ‘Wichita Lineman’, ‘Galveston’, and ‘Southern Nights’.

Sadly, Campbell is suffering from Alzheimer’s and is on a farewell tour now. He had a wonderful tribute at the CMA awards by Brad Paisley, Vince Gill and Keith Urban. Campbell won the CMA entertainer of the year and male vocalist in 1968 and he was inducted into the country music hall of fame in 2005. You can look on his site just to see how many people love him.

Finally, earlier this year they released a collection of his songs from The Goodtime Hour, on Aug 30th called ‘Ghosts on the Canvas’.

Glen Campbell at his sexiest

Glen Campbell at his sexiest from lindalife.org

… And now some videos

Glen Campbell Tribute – CMA Awards 2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0UhgYk7xlY

Galveston

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2tgVAML2gE

Rhinestone Cowboy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atHY8rDBhtI&feature=relmfu

Folsom Prison Blues with Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash-Great Duo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upvX4YLgkes&feature=relmfu

Wichita Lineman – The best for last

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HFCuBLAjXo&feature=relmfu

Favourite Glen Campbell Song? Any others I should add?

Glen rockin' a strat from sweetlyrics.com

Glen rockin' a strat from sweetlyrics.com

Some Girls

Some Girls -1978

Some Girls -1978

The reissue of Some Girls came out yesterday and there is a lot of unreleased material on the bonus CD.

Here is the full list.

Side one

No.         Title       Length

1.            “Miss You”          4:48

2.            “When the Whip Comes Down”                4:20

3.            “Imagination” (Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong)             4:38

4.            “Some Girls”      4:36

5.            “Lies”    3:11

Side two

No.         Title       Length

6.            “Far Away Eyes”               4:24

7.            “Respectable”  3:06

8.            “Before They Make Me Run”     3:25

9.            “Beast of Burden”           4:25

10.          “Shattered”        3:48

Reissue Material

No.         Title       Length

1.            “Claudine”          3:42

2.            “So Young”         3:18

3.            “Do You Think I Really Care?”      4:22

4.            “When You’re Gone” (Ronnie Wood)     3:51

5.            “No Spare Parts”              4:30

6.            “Don’t Be a Stranger”     4:06

7.            “We Had It All” (Troy Seals/Donnie Fritts)             2:54

8.            “Tallahassee Lassie” (Bob Crewe/Frank C. Slay/Frederick A. Picariello)    2:37

9.            “I Love You Too Much”                  3:10

10.          “Keep Up Blues”              4:20

11.          “You Win Again” (Hank Williams)               3:00

12.          “Petrol Blues”    1:35

It’s nice to see a little Ronnie Wood in there and it’s always great to see Hank Williams Sr. anywhere.

This album gave us songs like ‘Shattered’, ‘Beast of Burden’ and my favourite from the album ‘Miss You’. I also think ‘When the Whip Comes Down’ is an excellent song. Shattered and When the Whip Comes Down also really foreshadowed the direction that the Stones were about to take musically, especially with start me up. One thing I notice a lot and it started around this time, Charlie Watts’ drumming style. He is tightening up his playing and his toms. It sounds much more commanding, and can really play against those riffs that Keith is laying down.

This is the first album that came out with Ronnie Wood as a full member who with still playing with The Stones today. Here is a little aside about Ronnie. He played in The Byrds, The Jeff Beck Group and Faces before he joined The Rolling Stones. He replaced Mick Taylor who originally was called in to replace Bryan Jones after his unfortunate death. Ronnie also has a signature guitar from ESP that looks exactly like a telecaster with a humbucker at the bridge.

What do you prefer New Stones? Old Stones? Like both?

Martin D -16 and Adirondack vs Sitka

D-16 Adirondack From Martinguitars.com

D-16 Adirondack From Martinguitars.com

So I was looking through one of my many guitar magazines, and I saw a great find, a Martin D-16 for $2000. I don’t think this is a sale price because on the Martin site it is $2700 retail. The features on it are (straight from martin guitar.com)

-14 playable frets

-Solid Adirondack top

-Solid Mahogany or sapele back and sides (basically the same type of tonewood. They use to call sapele

mahogany for a long time just because mahogany was a more prestigious name but now they separate the two)

-Neck is made of select hardwood, probably mahogany again

-25.4” scale length

-Corian nut and 1-3/4”

-Finish on the top and sides is polished gloss, not nitro cellulose probably where they are saving money

-satin neck finish

-Ebony bridge

This is certainly a beautiful guitar but it looks like the kept the rest of the guitar pretty plain to justify the use of Adirondack spruce

Why the big deal?

Guitar tops are usually made out of 3 different types of wood; cedar, spruce and mahogany. If you notice 2 of these are conifers or softwood, cedar and spruce. Then the last is a hard wood or deciduous.

Adirondack (also called red spruce) is usually preferred over Sitka spruce because of the stiffness to weight ratio. You want a lighter weight to higher stiffness. So Adirondack has a higher weight to stiffness ration, or low weight high stiffness. This makes it ideal for guitars where you want to have a lot of vibration but durability. Sitka spruce has a high ratio also although not as high as Adirondack. However there is one problem. Sitka spruce trees are enormous one of the largest conifers in the Americas. Adirondacks are small and hard to get large sheets of wood for guitar tops. This is the same dilemma for Englemann spruce which is similar to Adirondack. This is not to say Sitka is bad (laminate is bad), but Adirondack is better.

So this also mean it is much more expensive. It can be a $1000 upgrade to switch from Sitka to Adirondack. So this should make it clear why the guitar is a good buy.

Sitka Spruce from wikipedia.com

Just look at the size of it , Sitka Spruce from wikipedia.com

Cedar is generally used for classical guitars because that’s just how it is. Apparently, spruce used to be used a lot more for classical guitars but now cedar has become the standard, but high end classical guitars use spruce more. However, cedar is softer and classical guitars have a lot less string tension. I also believe that using cedar put less strain on spruce trees which is good for regrowth.

Mahogany is used as a top to get more of a bass, warm tone. It doesn’t have the clarity of Spruce that many musicians look for. Still a good tone wood and used more on the sides and back.

Sides and back don’t actually add that much to the sound of the guitar. Antonio Torres Jurado actually built a guitar with the sides and back made out of paper mache to prove that the material doesn’t matter. I still like solid back and sides to my guitars but sound wise the top makes more of the difference. So if you can afford it go with the best top you can buy. It should also be noted that personal taste trumps all of this so if you like a laminate guitar’s sound. Go with it.

There is so much to say about tone woods and next will probably be rose wood, but I’ll save those problems for another post.

Any other guitars you think are a great buy? Or maybe ones to stay away from?

CMA Awards 2011

Keith Urban 2011 CMA - Look at that fine Telecaster, just look at it.

Keith Urban 2011 CMA - Look at that fine Telecaster, just look at it.

So based on my recent counts, it looks like heavy metal music is not a good blog topic. That’s fine I got my metal out of the way. Now back to Country. Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood hosted for the 4th year in a row and it was great. Brad and Carrie started off by sing about how Hank Williams Jr. needs to tone down his criticisms of president Obama along with Hank. It started off a little uneasy but quickly turned into a performance based show. This is a much better format of award shows and I think the grammys should take a hint. I don’t know what the Oscars can do but they are also in need of a format change. I want to see who wins but I also don’t want to be bored for 3 hours. Maybe get Ricky Gervaise, who is apparently hosting the Golden Globes again. Also the Mark Twain award for Will Farrell was a well done award show.

I have to say in short, well done country music association.

There are a few things I will take away from the CMA awards.

  1. Reba is always a delight
  2. Taylor Swift from now until 2018 will always win something
  3. Brad Paisley should have won best album
  4. The Band Perry
  5. I don’t like Jason Aldean as much as I thought I did
  6. I like Keith Urban a lot more than I thought I did
  7. That show instrument wise is all teles and acoustics
  8. I like Eric Church

Here is a link to the videos from the show if you need to catch up on it

http://www.cmt.com/cma-awards/videos.jhtml