Saturday, June 19, 2010

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic

I figured I should post some mention of this great band on the blog, since I recently brought them up in a musical discussion. One of my favorite bands, but unfortunately the only videos I could find did not feature one of their members, woodwind player Ken Fields. Their official site isn't working at the moment, hopefully it will be back. In the meantime you can learn about them and hear their music in these places:

myspace (has some songs you can listen to)
The Classical Connection:
Episode 6: Chamber Prog

Episode 13: Birdsongs of the Mesozoic (hour-long episode featuring, in addition to music by the band, compositions and performances by it's members and music by Schnitke, Piazzolla, Debussy, and John Adams! Go listen to it!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Just a quick post to mention that I fixed the embedded audio players on the Classical Connection website. I had originally used a google MP3 player, but it inexplicably stopped working. I have switched to Quicktime. You may need to install Quicktime on your computer in order to listen.

Episodes 1-26 are now, once again, available for listening! That's over 26 hours of great music!

I still need to recompile episodes 27-33, save them as single MP3 files, and upload them.

As for new episodes, I have about 10 in the works in various stages of completion, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Snow Goose

I was listening to music on shuffle today, and Camel's classic "Music Inspired by the Snow Goose" album came up. I realized that I have yet to feature this on my show or blog. It's mellow instrumental progressive rock featuring some beautiful electric guitar and some sections composed for traditional instruments.

This video features a live performance of 3 portions of the album. The middle section, beginning at 3:00 into the video, is a nice woodwind quartet with some help from the keyboards.

I'm working on collecting some more music inspired by The Snow Goose, a short book by Paul Gallico. Hopefully I'll have enough to do an hour-long show on the theme.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I'm Seeing Magenta and hearing Wondrous Stories

Since I posted yesterday about Karnataka, I thought I'd post about another band featuring a female vocalist, the Welsh band Magenta. I have corresponded with keyboardist/composer Rob Reed via e-mail in the past, and they were the first new prog band featured on my show (episode 4). I actually got to see them perform and met them at NEARfest a few years ago - amazing concert, and great people. Christina even gave me a hug!

They're still one of my favorite bands, even though I disagreed with the subject matter and artwork on their most recent album and as a result don't listen to it much. I'm hoping their next one will be more palatable for me. I do really like their previous albums.

Here is the video for a beautiful recording of the Yes song "Wondrous Stories" that they released earlier this year.

And a live performance from a concert DVD that i own:

Friday, June 11, 2010

You Could Sing for Karnataka!

The excellent British band Karnataka features female vocals and a melodic, peaceful sound. They released their first album in 1998 and released two others before disbanding in 2004. The band then reformed but went through a dizzying maze of line-up changes. They released a great new album in February of 2010 entitled "The Gathering Light," that seems to me to be more musically adventerous than their previous (and still excellent) albums, but I miss the heavenly vocals of Rachel (Jones) Cohen, who had been replaced by Lisa Fury who does a fine job -- but now they are now once again without a singer (as made painfully clear on their homepage, which currently is mostly taken up by a large ad regarding this).

Below is a live performance of "Time Stands Still" (and no, that's not Rachel singing; there are other videos on youtube that have her, but I really like this song).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Beatles on a Stick! (Greg Howard Video)

If you've never heard of the Chapman Stick or seen it played you're in for a real treat. Greg Howard is well regarded as one of its most proficient players, and is one of my favorites. I was very happy to discover this new, very clear video taken from a performance in 2009.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bassist Michael Manring

I had heard his name, but it wasn't until a friend of mine sent me a link to one of Michael Manring's YouTube videos that I truly understood his mastery of the instrument. Manring plays a custom built "Zon Hyperbass" that allows him to easily retune the instrument mid-performance through the use of various levers and a special bridge. Special instrument aside, Manring is simply amazing to watch and listen to. He has recorded with a huge list of musicians, performing music ranging from jazz-rock fusion to new age.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Soon... (for Memorial Day)

OK, well, I missed it by a couple days -- I was thinking of Memorial Day and what it means... then I thought of this song. Yes' Gates of Delirium is a 20+ minute epic about war: the music begins with tensions building, then erupts into a frenzied battle, then concludes with this hauntingly beautiful portion, Soon... looking forward to the end of all wars. This video is taken from the wonderful Symphonic Yes DVD.

p.s. for anyone unfamiliar with Yes and guitarist Steve Howe, that's a pedal steel that he's playing. It's usually used in country music. Steve plays a wide range of electric and acoustic guitars during a typical concert; the pedal steel is used sparingly, only appearing on a small portion of songs.

Sonic Circuits Festival in DC

I just got this e-mail from Cuneiform Records concerning the relatively new, annual Sonic Circuits Festival in Washington DC. An impressive list of musicians will be performing there later this year, including my favorites Magma and Univers Zero! Makes me wish we could go visit DC this year!


 TO FEATURE FIRST WASHINGTON, DC APPEARANCES OF MAGMA (FRANCE),UNIVERS ZERO (BELGIUM), FENNESZ (AUSTRIA) and a rare DC performance by MERZBOW (JAPAN), as well as more than 25 other cutting-edge artists from around the world.
Sonic Circuits Festival
September 18-25, 2010 / Washington DC
Washington DC's premiere music festival returns for another exhilarating blast of avant music to challenge, provoke, inspire and delight DC area audiences. The tenth edition of Sonic Circuits will offer up the best in improv, avant rock, electronica, noise, and contemporary composition from around the globe. Our 10th anniversary deserves special celebration, and thus this year Sonic Circuits will shine a spotlight on the Francophone world to reveal some of the most creative and innovative contributions in contemporary music (including music genres that erase the classical/popular divide) and to present an astonishing number of avant-garde music’s most legendary artists to Washington DC audiences for the very first time. 2010 will also see the third installment of the popular District of Noise CD compilations featuring music by DC area experimental artists with a bonus LP of 100 lock grooves. We hope you'll join us for what will be an amazing week of musical discovery!
Magma (France)Led by composer/drummer Christian Vander, the French band Magma is one of the world’s greatest avant rock bands, its music as unique and as significant as such American groups as Captain Beefheart Magic Band or the Sun Ra Arkhestra. Active for over 4 decades, it has released many works widely considered to be among the chief works avant-garde rock. Beginning in the late 1960s/early 70s, Magma combined rock music with opera/classical music, jazz, and elements of trance, Ju Ju and Soul, to create a new, strikingly original musical genre called "Zeuhl". Under the leadership of visionary Vander, Magma operated in a univers of its own making. The band sang vocals in its own, made-up language, called Kobaian, which was simultaneously incomprehensible and universally accessible. Dark, forbidding, powerful, Magma’s music is intense, with wave upon wave of carefully built tension and release. It is also timeless, universal, and globally influential. Other Francophone bands followed Magma’s lead in distilling musical genres in the’70s, to create the new genre Chamber Rock. In the 1990s, the Japanese band Ruins popularized Zeuhl among a new generation, invigorating it with a punk edge and kicking off a massive world-wide revival. Much of today’s cutting-edge rock music is indebted to the French group and its zeuhl. But while other groups today may resemble Magma, Magma does not resemble any other group. Its live performances are legendary; Magma's first-ever Washington DC appearance is a show not to be missed. - Washington premiere!

Magma will be performing at 
La Maison Fran├žaise, Embassy of France on September 18, 2010
Visit Magma online:

Univers Zero (Belgium)
The francophone Belgian band Univers Zero is legendary for their uncompromising musical vision –  a sound and stance Keyboard described as "Chamber music for the Apocalypse". Simultaneously medieval & modern, its distinctive, dark and elegantly beautiful music has set the standard for "chamber rock", a New Music hybrid of Francophone origin and worldwide appeal that UZ pioneered. UZ’s singular sound derives from its unique instrumentation (piano and keyboards, violin, clarinets saxophone, oboe, bassoon, English horn, electric bass, drums) combined with brooding gothic imagery, elements of European folk and other world musics, the iconoclasm and intensity of rock, the relentless sonic experimentation of the avant garde, and leader and composer Daniel Denis’ classically-inspired writing style, influenced by early 20th Century avant garde classical composers. In the hands of some of the best musicians in Europe, these factors result in a group on the cutting edge of
creating a new, vital, and unique fusion of classical and rock music. The band has remained on the cutting edge of New Music throughout the course of a career that began in the '70s and continues today,  stretching and disintegrating the boundaries of classical and rock music alike to create a new, vital, and unique fusion. Today, several decades after Univers Zero first forged its unique sound, critics cite its oeuvre as the precursor to the best avant-garde rock and classical music of the present day, from post-rock, associated with Godspeed You! Black Emperor,
Secret Chiefs 3, Kayo Dot, Tortoise and other instrumentally-based rock bands – to the numerous late 20th/early 21st century classical chamber ensembles integrating rock into their repertoire, such as Bang on a Can, Kronos Quartet and others. When Cuneiform recently released a remastered reissue of the band’s self-titled debut album, critics who heard the band's music for the first time called it a "revelation", "..the
hidden source for every one of today’s avant-garde rock bands"[Organ]. 
Second ever show in the USA & Washington premiere! Univer Zero will be performing at La Maison Fran├žaise, Embassy of France on September 25, 2010Visit Univer Zero online:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


One of my favorite modern prog bands -- if you haven't heard them you simply must.