Monday, December 5, 2011

New Renaissance Live DVD released

The band Renaissance, led by founding members guitarist Michael Dunford and vocalist Annie Haslam, have released a DVD/2CD package from their 2011 tour of the eastern US. The recording features the classic albums "Turn of the Cards" and "Scheherezade and Other Stories" in their entirety, with over 2 hours of music. It also features an interview with Dunford and Haslam.

In the 70s, the band recorded and performed with full orchestra (arranged/orchestrated by Dunford), but their performances were never captured professionally on film. This performance features a 6-pience band, but thanks to modern electronic keyboards they're able to recreate many of the lush orchestrations of the original works.

Official video trailer:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Echolyn Recording Sessions Continue: Bringing In the Strings!

Echolyn continues work on their new studio album. They recently posted short video clips featuring Chris Buzby leading a string quartet through a recording session (Chris is the keyboardist; he is also a career music teacher and does many of the arrangements for the band). This is a good sign, as usually recording the session musicians is done toward the final stages of the recording process! I'm looking forward to hearing this album.

For many years Echolyn has been one of my favorite new progressive rock bands. They mix jazz, rock, and classical composition techniques in a perfect blend for my ears. I most highly recommend these three albums [links go to band's album pages where you can hear full songs! (except Mei)]:

As the World: In 1995 Echolyn actually got signed by Sony music and recorded this album while under contract. The deal went sour, as Sony decided they didn't know what to do with the band. Incredibly complex, jazzy, polyharmonic and polyrhythmic, with occasional string and woodwind sections. A perfect introduction, and a musical highlight. In 2005 the band was finally able to reissue the album themselves.

Cowboy Poems Free (2000): After the debacle with Sony, the band managed to continue with this self-released title. A stripped-down sound (although reasonably complex in a mature way) with a unique concept. This album is a genre unto itself: Americana Prog, offering historic vignettes interspersed with musical "poems." The album has recently been remastered and reissued with a marvelous new album cover.

Mei (2002): their next album featured a single 50-minute track scored for band plus string quartet and woodwinds. A bit heavier and darker than earlier albums, it depicts a drive through the country side...or it depicts passing through the trials of life...or a trial of faith. You decide.

Their most recent album, The End is Beautiful (2005), was unfortunately too dark and discouraging for me to be able to appreciate fully. Please note that my sensitivity meter is quite mild; this isn't death metal! Or even close to it. Musically it is excelent as always, hard hitting, jazzy, with a horn section added to several tracks. But I am easily affected by the music I listen to, and I get depressed if I listen to moody music, so there are many very talented bands (or specific albums by certain bands) that I don't listen to very often because of their subject matter.

I'm sure a lot has changed in the 6 years that have passed since the release of their last album. I had the privilege of meeting several of the band members at NEARfest several years ago (although they were not performing that year). They explained that the album had been an important step for them as a group in moving through life, and that writing and recording it had been cathartic. So I'm hoping that Echolyn has moved on from that stage of their development and that their newest album will not be quite as dark, thematically, as its immediate predecessor.

And to not end this post on a down note, I'll post a video from Echolyn's early years that I just found this week. It's a rough live recording of my favorite early Echolyn track: The Meaning and the Moment. Feel free to skip through the first 2 minutes of onstage banter and detuned noodling; the proper song begins right at 2:07.

See my previous post about Echolyn with additional video footage.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Classical Guitarist Peter Fletcher—Coming Soon to a Library Near You!

I just returned home from a wonderful free concert at my local public library, of all places, offered by classical guitarist Peter Fletcher. I first learned of the concert a month ago when I saw a sign posted in the library foyer and decided I definitely wanted to go, but I also looked him up on the Internet. I was surprised that he was not a local musician, as I had first supposed. From his website:

PETER FLETCHER began guitar study at the age of seven under classical guitar instructor, John Sutherland. In 1980 classical guitarist Jose Tomas, Andres Segovia's teaching assistant in Spain, held a week long master class in Atlanta, GA. Peter Fletcher was the youngest student to perform in the class, playing music by Bach and Carcassi.

In December, 1983, he made his formal debut at the age of fifteen under the auspices of The Brasstown Concert Association in North Carolina. Wrote the critic of The Cherokee Scout, “He has technical facility but what one remembers about his playing is the nuances, the poetical phrasing, dynamic and tonal changes, his harmonics, his cadences.”

Fletcher furthered his studies in Master Classes with David Leisner, David Russell, Oscar Ghiglia and Pepe Romero. As a performer in the Christopher Parkening Master Class he was chosen to play in the student recital two consecutive years and, in 1988, the class was broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR). In 1990, the Music Teacher’s National Association (MTNA) awarded Fletcher a prize at its National Level Competition, performing Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco’s Concerto in D. In 1995, he received the Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music under Nicholas Goluses, and was twice the recipient of an Eastman Graduate Award.

In demand as a performer in cultural venues throughout the country, Mr. Fletcher has been invited to give recitals at...[impressively long list of well known venues including Carnegie Hall].

Peter Fletcher believes in carrying on the Segovia tradition of expanding the comparatively small classical guitar repertoire. He plans to do this by transcribing from other instruments (mainly the piano) and also by commissioning new music.

Interests outside of music include reading and cross-country running. He lives in New York City.

I was amazed. Here was a world class musician coming to play a free concert in our local library. It didn't add up. I did a search for his name on the Internet and found something impressive: Peter Fletcher performs similar library concerts all around the country. What a nice thing to do. He certainly doesn't have to do this. Perhaps it's a unique way to see the country, or perhaps it helps him stay in shape in between his bigger concerts. Sure, he sells a few CDs at each gig, but that probably barely covers his travel and hotel expenses. I do certainly appreciate his generosity. Of course now I wanted to attend the concert even more.

As for the concert itself, it was wonderful. My favorite parts were an arrangement of the "Solveig's Song" from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, as well as Fletcher's own arrangements of two movements of another Grieg work (I remembered which right up until I sat down to write this), and two pieces from Ravel's Mother Goose Suite ("Pavane of Sleeping Beauty" and "Empress of the Pagodas"). Unfortunately he hasn't yet recorded any of these favorites of mine, although the Grieg will be on his upcoming recording and I found a video of the Ravel "Pavane." He claims the other Ravel piece is too difficult to record, but it sure sounded great tonight! It certainly did seem technically challenging and unique, with a pentatonic sound to it and some unique guitar techniques employed to evoke oriental tones. I would love to hear it again.

After the show I went up with my parents (who attended the concert with me, along with one of my daughters) to buy some CDs, and he graciously thanked us for attending his concert. Imagine, him thanking US for attending.

I was surprised at the modest turnout. Perhaps people don't look at signs like I do; perhaps people don't take the time to look up visiting musicians on the Internet like I do. We showed up an hour early, because we were worried that the library isn't very big and here was a world-class musician coming to town for a free concert! But there was plenty of seating right up until 5 minutes before showtime, and there were only about 50 seats.

So look up his website, and check out your local library listings. He might be coming to a library near you! And you'll get a chance to hear a great guitarist in a comfortable, intimate setting for free. If not, you can at least watch some of his videos here, and more on his website, and even try out his CDs.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cello Party! de Falla & Villa Lobos arr. for Lots of Cellos

I was looking at a a friend's facebook page and watching some of the YouTube videos he'd posted when a recommendation popped up for a wonderful arrangement of de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance performed by a group of about a dozen cellists with one soloist, Luca Sulic. I then found a very nice performance of a Villa Lobos piece from the same performance, but this time with no soloist.

The recordings were filmed in a beautiful, small hall at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival in 2005. You can hear enough of the reverb in the recording to know that it must have been incredible to witness those 12 cellos in that room. The building is just singing with the overtones of those cellos! While it might sound a bit muddy when recorded, it must have been amazing in person.

So here is a playlist with both pieces. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve & John Hackett

Genesis fans will of course be familiar with guitarist Steve Hackett, but some of you may not be aware that his younger brother is also a talented musician. John Hackett's primary instrument is the flute; John recounts on his website that Peter Gabriel would sometimes ask to borrow his flute after wielding his own flute on stage as a sword, with rather disastrous consequences. On such occasions John would fear for the safety of his own treasured instrument!

In recent years John has begun playing a custom-made, vertically-held flute. Although I was unable to find a published explanation for this, I would expect it is for medical or comfort reasons.

Here are three videos of some very nice performances featuring John and Steve together, joined by different keyboardists, from recent performances:

Steve and John have both released numerous classically oriented recordings in recent years, both together and separately. Rather than attempting a complete list, I highly recommend the following:
Portions of all three of these albums can be heard in two different episodes of the Classical Connection radio show: Episode #3: Classical Genesis, and Episode #12, a special featuring Steve Hackett. I had the opportunity to interview Steve via email for the episode concerning his favorite classical music, his new album at the time, Wild Orchids, which features mostly orchestral tracks mixed with rock instrumentation, and other related topics. Both hour-long episodes are available for listening at the show's website.

And I'm looking forward to John's new  album, to be released on October 24th: Moonspinner, featuring music for classical guitar and flute. Watch his promotional video below:

Monday, September 26, 2011

John Lord's Durham Concerto

As it's been quite a few years since I recorded the original Classical Connection episodes, I periodically follow up on the musicians I featured to see what they've been up to. In episode 28 I featured John Lord's Suite for Band and Orchestra, recorded back in the early years of Deep Purple. Since I recorded that episode John has composed a number or orchestral works; I've been very happy to find and listen to the gorgeous Durham Concerto from 2007.

And that's not all! In 2008 John released his "Boom of the Tinglings Strings" piano concerto, and in 2010  the album "To Notice Such Things." That's three great CDs of symphonic music released in the last few years, all composed by John Lord. Not bad for the keyboardist formerly of Deep Purple. Looks like I have a lot of listening to do.

His website states that his current projects have been delayed due to his struggle with cancer. Best wishes, John! Hope to hear more soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Symphonic Theater of Dreams

UPDATE 11/8/11—in response to Mike Mierzejewski's comment, I'm posting a link to the Symphonic Theater of Dreams Facebook page! Thanks Mike for the comment. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you and the rest of the musicians involved with SToD.

As Dream Theater releases their new album, I'm happy to learn of another new release, as well as a musical project that I was previously unaware of: the Symphonic Theater of Dreams. It is an orchestral project put together by some classically trained Polish prog rock fans. They released a 9/11 tribute of their arrangement of the Dream Theater song "Sacrificed Sons." It's an exciting 9-minute arrangement that seems very nicely done! I'm looking forward to hearing more from this relatively new project.

The arranger is Michael Mierzejewski. Here is a video of one of his original compositions for String Orchestra. Titled "Schizophrenia," it aptly juxtaposes a fast rhythmic theme with a quiet melody in a rather disjointed way—perfectly suiting the title.

And of course you can learn more about the new Dream Theater album at the official DT site.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Yes Fly From Here Review: It Soars!

I've had my CD for a week now and after listening to it many times (and having a spare moment in my work schedule) I'm prepared to write a review. It's good! I've enjoyed listening to the entire album clear through many times in the past week, which is more than can be said for Magnification (always wanted to skip one song), The Ladder (always wanted to skip a couple songs), or Open Your Eyes (always wanted to skip more than half of the songs!) So compared with the rest of the band's relatively recent catalog, it fares quite well.

It's got some very poppy moments, which we've come to expect from Yes in recent years. Fortunately they're mixed in with some quite interesting proggy bits and some nice dense instrumentation.

This album and recent events in the band's history have a lot of fans stirred up, but really—it's nothing we haven't seen before. After all, this is Yes! Line-up changes and behind-the-scenes drama are what it's all about. I became a fan of Yes at the time of Union (I was 18 at the time) so I got my fill of the whole YesWest/AWBH mess. I finally decided that I didn't care who played on what; I just liked music that didn't bore me by being overly repetitive or predictable. I'm happy to say that there is at least one song on EVERY Yes album that I really like.

So Jon got sick and the band found someone else to sing. Trevor Horn came along with some 30-year-old post-Drama and Buggles material that he wanted to get recorded and brought Geoff Downes along with him. Deal with it. Musically, it's a good album.

Face it, these guys are OLD. This could be one of our last chances to hear some of our favorite musicians in the studio. Rather than moaning and groaning about "what should have been" (according to our own warped perceptions) we should be celebrating how wonderful it is that we've got an exceptional talent like Trevor Horn producing some incredibly talented Yesmen once again to create some beautiful music. And don't forget the marvelous artwork by Roger Dean.

Yes have posted a film-style video for one of the more pop-oriented moments from their new CD on Youtube. It's interesting to watch. To my knowledge, producer and ex-Yes man Trevor Horn is the only person associated with the band to make an appearance in the video; he's the guy with the cigar. The band does not appear; the music is used as the soundtrack for this mini-film.

Here's the video!

In other news, Rick Wakeman, Trevor Rabin, and Jon Anderson are reportedly working together on a new project. There was even a rumor that Bill Bruford had been invited to join.  This will be interesting, I wonder what they'll call themselves; ABW...R? I am excited to hear what they come up with.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

National Anthem by Enchant's Ted Leonard

Happy Independence Day in the USA! Ted Leonard of the band Enchant performed a wonderful, straight-forward rendition of our national anthem at a ball game a few years ago. One of the better performances of the song that I've heard. Have a listen and enjoy your 4th.

And so you can see him in his band context, here is an Enchant live performance video.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Aaron Meyer: Portland-area rock violinist

Here in Tualatin, Oregon we've got a nice summer "Concerts in the Commons" series of free outdoor concerts with a wide variety of music. As I reviewed this year's schedule I was pleasantly surprised to see a "Rock Violinist" listed! Intrigued, I checked out the artist's website.

Aaron Meyer is a talented musician with great stage presence, and he's put together a great band. His website has several videos, and YouTube has quite a few more. I'm really looking forward to the concert this summer!

First video I'll share is a promo clip from a video CD he released recently that features the band playing along with their studio recording--so you can hear some overdubbed parts that aren't actually being played, and there is no audience, but the camera work is really good:

Then a couple clips from an older live concert, where the sound and camera isn't as clean but it's a genuine live performance with audience:

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Yes Album: Fly From Here

New Yes album will be released in less than a month. It's available for pre-order now, with official release date of July 12. The band has released some clips, and some of them sound quite promising! This is the second album in the band's history to not feature Jon Anderson as the lead singer. Benoit David has a great voice in comparable range and in some parts sounds quite a bit like Jon. The music reminds me a lot of the Drama album, which I guess is no accident seeing as Trevor Horn is at the helm again in the producer's seat. Fellow ex-Buggle/YesMan Jeff Downes joined the line-up in time for this summer's tour, but to my knowledge he doesn't appear on the album; in the studio keys were handled by Oliver Wakeman (yes, Rick's son).

And they've released the first single! Yes, an actual single relased by the band. Imagine that. Pretty cool. Here's an exclusive stream from Rolling Stone:

Here are some other nice clips from the album:

Life On A Film Set by yestheband

Fly From Here part 3 - Madman at the Screens (Preview Snippet) by yestheband

Fly From Here part 5 - We Can Fly (Reprise) by yestheband

***UPDATE: I just found the track listing and credits for the new album on wikipedia, and it looks like Trevor Horn and Jeff Downes in fact did participate quite a bit on this album, with writing credits for a good portion of the music. Sounds like Drama, indeed!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Barock Project: Rock in Theater COMPLETE! (almost) 1.5 hour playlist of Live Concert

OK, I know i just wrote a post about these guys a few days ago, but they've uploaded more videos! This time it's footage from their yet-to-be released Live DVD featuring a string quartet! I first heard "Un Altro Mundo" from this concert a couple years ago and it became an immediate favorite. Unfortunately the band has still not released this amazing concert DVD.

However, they now have most of the music from that performance on YouTube! It features many of their own compositions as well as music by ELP, Bartok(arr.ELP), Corelli(arr. New Trolls) and Aires Tango. I couldn't find a playlist for the concert, so I've arranged the videos into an order that made sense to me. Here is the entire concert, 14 videos, about an hour and a half of great music.

And yes, I loved watching and listening to it so much that I really did stay up to 1:20AM. I think everybody should get a chance to watch this amazing concert! And now's your chance:

See my other posts concerning Barock Project

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Singring and the Glass Guitar! Pure Utopia

I absolutely love this piece by Todd Rundgren's Utopia. A cheesy story. Goofy 70s costumes. What's not to love? Oh, and did I mention amazing musicianship?

The story is about Singring, the spirit of peace and happiness, being trapped in a glass guitar and locked way, with 4 keys scattered to the ends of the earth, with 4 heroes (the 4 band members) sent out to find them and bring happiness back to the land. The best thing about this piece is each of the band members gets their own section to sing lead (how many bands could do that?) and then play an extended solo portraying their quest to retrieve their key. Then they finally return with their keys, unlock the chest, and smash the glass guitar (apparently in many of their concerts they had a guitar made out of ice that they would literally smash) and free Singring.

So here it is, an old video from 1977, complete with less than ideal sound quality, synch problems, and video glitches: Singring and the Glass Guitar, spread over 3 YouTube video clips. Sit back and watch the adventure unfold!

And if that wasn't enough, here is a live recording of my favorite Utopia track. Just listen to those harmonies--and they're playing pretty complex parts at the same time. Pretty amazing. Not the best sound or video quality, so check out the studio recording if you want to hear it a lot cleaner.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Barock Project: 3 Songs from Rebus on Youtube!

If you're following the blog you might start to notice that one of my favorite new bands is the Italian band Barock Project. They just posted 3 new videos on YouTube! They're video montages using 3 different songs from their Rebus album as the soundtracks. While some of the video footage might be a bit distracting from the music, it's still a great chance to hear some more of the album if you don't yet own it. Chances are you'll want to get it once you've heard enough of them!

See my other post concerning Barock Project

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ethan Winer: A Cello Rondo, Tele Vision -- AMAZING

Time for an old favorite. I originally discovered Ethan Winer a year a go when I was considering doing more episodes for my show. I keep telling myself maybe someday, but it's very time consuming... so for now, on with the blog entries.

Ethan is a genius. He's a sound engineer by profession. You can see quite a few videos on his YouTube channel where he describes the acoustic properties of rooms and various audio absorbers, diffusers, etc. But then he's also an amazing musician! And he's just and all around nice guy. I had the opportunity to correspond with him via e-mail about show posibilities, and enjoyed it. He also has a fun sense of humor.

So, put that technical knowledge together with musical talent and a bit of cheesy humor and what do you get?

A Cello Rondo!

Ethan composed the music, Played and filmed all 27 cello parts himself, and did all the video compositing. Wow.

And if that isn't enough, check this one out:

A light-hearted 12-minute instrumental ecclectic prog rock epic. It's got multiple electric guitar, steel and nylon acoustic guitar, country style playing, bass, a classical string ensemble, piano and electric keyboard, men's do-whop choir, harmonica, banjo, and even slide whistles -- ALL PLAYED BY ETHAN. The only thing Ethan doesn't play is the drum kit and a couple of the guitar parts. he says on his site it took him over a year to make it. He goes all out for this one, wearing fun costumes for the various roles. he even has a bit of morse code in there...spelling "Jeff Beck" (no, I didn't figure that out for myself-it's in the youtube comments).

Pure genius, in a down-to-earth, entertaining way.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Favorites 1/3: Circus Maximus

I'm not a huge fan of metal, so I'm always excited when a new prog metal band comes along that I really like! And Circus Maximus has done more than just impress me; they've made my #1 spot of new favorite bands. Every track on their two albums is delicious. They're working on their third now. But rather than going on and on about them, I'll let their music speak for them.

And I just found some great live videos! I've looked before but not found these until today, so I'm very happy to share them with you. First, one of my favorite tracks, "The Prophesy," with extended solos from each band member worked in to the end of it.

And then two more:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Favorites 2/3: Kaipa

Ok, well, they're not exactly new. Kaipa is where the Flower Kings' Roine Stolt got his start way back in the 70s. However, the band has been reborn with its keyboardist being the only original player, so I'm comfortable listing them in my "New" favorites. Their 2010 Album In the Wake of Evolution completely astounded me. It's surprisingly joyful music! A real must-have album. Here is the 11-minute opening track.

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Favorites 3/3: Presto Ballet

I've decided to write posts about three of my favorite new bands, as sort of a countdown. In the number 3 slot is Presto Ballet. They've released 3 great albums in the last 6 years. Founded by guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof in order to explore his progressive leanings, he remains the only constant throughout the band's career to date. Recordings use all vintage analog gear, for a warm "old fashioned" sound. I'm hoping for a lot more from Presto Ballet!

Since I've not been able to find any good live videos, here are some album tracks instead:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Some Music by Paul Erdman

I enjoy writing and arranging music. My approach is different from many musicians in that I prefer to work in notation software; this is probably mostly due to the fact that I'm not terribly proficient at any musical instruments! I also enjoy music theory, and so it's important to me to be able to see the notes and make sure all my harmonies and melodic lines work well together.

I recently took some time to create video slideshows for three of my pieces and upload them to YouTube. The recordings are all of MIDI playback from Finale notation software through a Roland Sound Canvas—so it sounds halfway decent. Maybe someday I'll have live recordings of them, but for now, use your imagination!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dream Theater's New Drummer

Dream Theater has found a new drummer. They also found an entertaining way to tell the world and play the suspense for all it was worth, and I have to admit I enjoyed it. They held auditions for 7 of the worlds greatest rock drummers, and they videotaped it. Then by way of announcement they released the video in 3 installment throughout the past week. I've been watching each video as it comes out, but decided to wait until the final installment and official announcement before posting this.

Unfortunately embedding has been disabled for two of the 3 videos, but I made a playlist of them which you can watch via this link:

After watching the videos, it was clear to me that DT made the best choice for them. Technical abilities aside (as all the drummers were pretty amazing) it was clear that Mike Mangini definitely gelled with the band. Looking forward to what they come up with together! As I watched Mangini play the DT audition I was reminded of Christian Vander of Magma--which of course is a big compliment. Mike has played in Extreme, Steve Vai, and on several of James Labrie's solo albums. He is a friend of Mike Portnoy's. He also teaches at the Berkeley School of Music, where Dream Theater had its beginnings over 25 years ago. What a perfect fit for the band.

I just found a really fun video of Mike playing on Discovery Channel's "Time Warp" program. It features some interview, some great solos, and some entertaining slow-motion footage. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MusicRacer: Another Unique way to Experience Music

I've recently spent some time looking for music visualizers; this is my second post on the topic, and I've found another software project that holds real promise.

Music Racer is a FREE simple shooter game with a musical twist, in which you move a spaceship back and forth on a track to pick up bonus points and avoid negative points. What makes it fascinating is that the placement of the point items and even the design of the track on which you race is based on music of your choice. You select any song on your computer (supports MP3, OGG, FLAC, WAV; AAC and WMA not supported due to DRM issues) using the built in media browser, and the program analyzes the audio data and generates a track. I contacted the developers on their Facebook page for more detail on how the track is created, and here is their response:
The track generation is deterministic. Curves are generated from the stereo offset, slope from the average number of beats. So the track and beats will always be the same for a particular song.
The game offers 3 play modes that effect the placement of bonus point items. "Catch All" offers only positive point markers and you try to catch them all. "Points" has positive markers that you collect and negative red markers that you avoid. My favorite is "Hold Speed" mode, which offers only positive point markers, but if you miss several in a row the whole track, including the music, slows down! You'll hear your favorite music go more and more flat and slow as you miss markers, if you're not careful--but all is not lost, as picking up markers raises the speed and pitch back up to regular levels.

The bonus point items that you collect coincide with beats in the song--or for music without much of a beat, with the peaks in the audio signal. The color of the bonus items is determined as follows (again from the developers):
That's a combination of beat intensity and angle of the curve. It isn't very obvious, but we didn't want to use any random numbers so the track will always be the same. 
Other options include mouse sensitivity, separate music and sound effect controls, difficulty control, and display settings. Some of these settings are only accessible during gameplay by pressing the ESC key.

It's a fun concept, and as it's a free game it's well worth your time to check it out. You've never PLAYED (literally) your music like this before!

Available for both Mac & Windows.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Polynomial: Space of the Music

It's an awesome 3D-fractal-generated-music-visualizer-space-shooter-game! I love music visualizers. I find watching attractive color displays animating in synch with my music to be very enjoyable. I also love fractal artwork; the beauty of complex math is amazing to witness. Put these things together with a bit of 3D space shoot-em-up and you have The Polynomial.

The actual gameplay is optional; I often prefer to turn off the black packman bad guys and just fly around the beautiful scenery. It's also a fractal editor; you can tweak parameters and generate and save your own unique 3D ITS fractal plots -- and fly through them as they animate to your music.

The free demo is fully functional with no nags, but only has a few predesigned arenas and it doesn't support MP3. You can still generate your own fractals, but you can't save them.

For only $8 you can have it animate fractal visuals with tunes of your choice, and it comes with some very nice saved fractals, or arenas, to play in.

You can buy it through the third party deployment platform "Steam," but I prefer to go directly to the developer's website:

Available for Mac, Windows, and various other OS.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Luca Zabbini - "Spring Comes Early" - Composition for piano

Barock Project's Luca Zabbini has recently posted a recording of a new composition on Youtube. It's audio only, but is quite beautiful. The recording features Zabbini on piano accompanied by a synth orchestra.

If you enjoy it, see my other video posts about the Barock Project:
Barock Project
Barock Project Revisited

Khachaturian's Toccata

I've loved this piece ever since I first heard my sister play it years ago when we were at college together. She recently discovered this beautiful performance and recording of the piece and shared the link with me. Well worth watching.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Revisiting an old favorite: Yes "Gates"

Every once in a while I listen to the band Yes again to remind me of why they're my favorite band. I've listened to them so much in the past that I don't listen to them as much any more--but so far I've always had no trouble remembering! Still my favorite.

Today I listened to the Relayer album--twice--as I drove to Dallas Oregon and back for a consulting appointment. I've never heard any other band take melodic themes and weave them together in such a way; usually we only find this sort of thematic development in classical music. The album contains three pieces of music: The 20 minute epic "The Gates of Delirium" which deals with the pointlessness of war, as well and the two 10 minute pieces "Sound Chaser" and "To Be Over." What incredible music!

A few years ago Yes released a wonderful DVD entitled "Yes Symphonic Live." It features most of the classic line-up, with the exception of the keyboardist slot, which is more than adequately covered by a young keyboardist by the name of Tom Brislin. As the title indicates, the band is backed up for the entire concert by a symphony orchestra. It's one of my favorite music DVDs.

So here is "The Gates of Delirium" taken from the DVD. It's 24 minutes, split across 3 youtube videos, presented here in a playlist. As you listen to it, imagine two groups of people, tensions rising, then breaking out into a battle, the battle reaching its climax, and then the quiet aftermath in which we reflect on what just transpired and think, "Soon, oh soon the light..." Just amazing.

If you enjoy it, please get the DVD, it's truly wonderful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's PDQ Bach Day

What better to share on April 1st than some PDQ Bach? Along with Itzhak Perlman, John Williams and the Boston Pops.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jad&Den Jazz Quintet perform ELP, Yes, Queen

I made the most interesting musical discovery today, thanks to YouTube. The Jad&Den Quintet is a French jazz ensemble that appears to have a penchant for progressive rock music—they have a full concert posted on YouTube, and among the tracks performed are Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Trilogy," Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart," and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Their arrangements are imaginative, their performace exciting, and the cinematography artistic. The overall effect is quite astonishing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Barock Project Revisited

When I first started this blog I wrote a post about one of my favorite new discoveries: the Italian band Barock Project. They have released two studio albums and will (hopefully) soon be releasing a DVD of a live performance featuring the band plus a string quartet (the video I posted previously is taken from this DVD). Their website also states that they are working on a new album.

The Barock Project is led by Luca Zabbini, who is also pianist and composer in residence at the "O.Vecchi" musical institute in Modena. I recently found this rough video of a rehearsal of Zabbini's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. It's not a very good recording, but you can still get a nice sample of Zabbini's playing and composition skills.

One of Zabbini's major influences is Keith Emerson. Here is a clip from a live performance of Emerson's Piano Concerto, rearranged for band and string quartet.

And I'll wrap it up with a video the band just posted a month ago.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dredging the Dregs...

Every once in a while I make a musical rediscovery. I'll re-listen to something that I've heard before, but I'll really LISTEN, and it makes an impression. Well, that happened to me yesterday. I've had the music of the Dixie Dregs in my iTunes for years, and I've known they were a great band ... but I didn't really discover them until yesterday, when I listened to their album "What If" over 5 times in a row.

The Dixie Dregs are an instrumental band that got their start at the University of Miami in the '70s. Don't let let their appearance fool you; they might look rather like your average rock band in their manner of dress and long hair, but these are highly trained and respected musicians, several of them with college music degrees.

I went on YouTube and was happy to find some great videos displaying their ecclectic range of music:

CLASSICAL: (well, loosely classical) a beautiful duet for violin and acoustic guitar called "Little Kids" (audio only).

A nice duet with Steve Morse and Dave LaRue playing a piece entitled "Point Counterpoint."

PROGRESSIVE ROCK: "Odyssey" -- there's a LOT going on in this piece. I love how all the different themes fit together.

JAZZ FUSION: Leprecaun Promenade

COUNTRY: Wrap it all up with a great country-style shred fest.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Marco Minnemann and DT rumors

Several months ago Mike Portnoy announced he needed a break from the band he co-founded. The rest of Dream Theater felt they had momentum and did not want to stop, so they are moving on without him. I would be surprised if Mike stayed out more than several years, but in the interim DT will be recruiting a new drummer; but how do you go about replacing one of the most respected drummers in music today?

Well, rumors are flying, and nothing official has been announced. One of the rumors I've heard is that the new DT drummer may be Marco Minnemann. This was a surprise to me, as I hadn't heard of him -- and now after watching, listening, and reading about some of his music I'm almost embarrassed to say I hadn't heard of him until now. He's played with many prog musicians, like Mike Keneally, Trey Gunn, Eddie Jobson, and Tony Levin. He's also toured with drummers Terry Bozzio and Chad Wackerman. He's written several educational books and videos.

There are quite a few videos of him playing out there, but this is one of my favorites. Be sure to watch it the whole way through -- it gets more and more amazing the longer you watch.

Regardless of whether or not he joins DT, I'm very happy to have discovered him and look forward to hearing more of his music.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Shostakovich String Qtet No. 3, 3rd movement; Emerson String Quartet

The amazing (and very famous) Emerson Quartet performing exciting music written by the genius Dmitri Shostakovich. Full of fire and power, no electric amps or special effects needed here! Anyone who says they don't listen to classical music because it puts them to sleep obviously needs to hear this!

Sibelius Symphony #1, Leonard Bernstein conducting

A beautiful recording of one of my favorite symphonies, conducted by one of the great modern musical masters. The concert was recorded in 1990 -- Bernstein died later that year, so this is one of the final video recordings made of him.

I've embedded the entire symphony playlist -- fans of progressive rock will find the Third Movement immediately appealing for it's aggressive power and brevity, but it's certainly worth taking the time to enjoy the entire symphony. However, if you want to skip directly to the third movement it begins in video clip 3/5 at 5:50.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bartok and Resolving the Classical Disconnect

I've been doing this blog now for quite a while, and as I review my posts I see a problem -- a glaring lack of classical music. Since this is all about the connections between the two genres, I've decided that I'll start posting some of my favorite classical music that is sure to appeal to prog fans.

And I'm going to start it off with one of my favorites pieces for small ensembles: the final movement of Bartok's 4th String Quartet. I found several videos of it on Youtube, and while this version by the Carducci String Quartet was not the best video quality I enjoyed watching and listening to the performers the best -- they really get into the spirit of the piece. Especially that cellist -- she's attacking her instrument with a vengeance! This has got to be one of the hardest rocking pieces of classical music ever written...but stay tuned for more.

You can learn more about the Carducci String Quartet and their recordings at their website: