Le Sacre du Printemps – Igor Stravinsky
It took me 22 years of life to discover this piece, and it will take me all the rest to digest it fully. According to one music historian, Le Sacre‘s 1913 premiere might be considered “the most important single moment in the history of 20th century music,” and its repercussions continue to reverberate in the 21st century.
Challenging music like this demands a lot of focus and attention from the culture that receives it, and those of us who wish to carry on a legacy of artistic rebellion and innovation that our musical ancestors would be proud of also need to demand that much of ourselves.
So here’s to The Rite, which turned 101 this year, and has only gained potency with age!!
Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes – Thom Yorke
There are a lot of people that I look up to and respect for their skill, creativity, and command of both, but there are only a handful of living artists towards whom I feel nothing but gratitude for the fact that they are 1) living, and 2) still making extensive contributions to the culture we’re all a part of.
Thom Yorke is one of those people.
One of the kind that have already proven their genius, exemplified their work ethic, demonstrated the care they take in readying the objects of their design for public consumption, and shown the depth of their commitment to the process and to the not-yet-discovered. Everything they make is a gift, and TMB was no exception.
It toys with form like silly putty, pulling and stretching in every direction, with some of Yorke’s finest melodic work burrowed into vast, expansive sonic galaxies. It’s big, and looming; it has its own stratosphere.
The most exciting and direct new music of 2014.
Heigh Ho – Blake Mills
If you get into one new artist this year, let it be Blake Mills. You may have already heard him play, as he is a prolific, active session guitarist and producer. He is always in high demand, valued for his virtuosity, his seemingly limitless versatility, and the “Midas touch” he brings to everything he plays on.
This year he released Heigh Ho, only his second solo record to date (the first, Break Mirrors (2010), I also highly recommend). The songwriting, arrangements, and production are all of a new kind spun from old thread.
Mills’ palette is one that includes all the colors that the past century of American music has so graciously left us with (plus a few new ones). But the brilliance of this record is in its illustrations.
We are cozy within its sonic walls while challenged with new meanings for colors we’re already familiar with. And that adds imperceivable depth to the songwriting, those implications between the visible lines.
I don’t need to list the things this man has accomplished. A lifetime of INCONCEIVABLE success, a name that is synonymous with the most perfect marriages of music and film.
An undeniable, unquestionable, CAREER in music, in the truest sense of the word. He’s 82 and still composing at the topmost level in his field.
This year I began to truly understand the power of what he’s done with his time as a musician on this earth, and the inspiration I’ve garnered through studying his music and his approach to the craft has been endless and ongoing.
The greatest artists are those that break into the public consciousness through force, the power of their art refusing to be taken lightly.
Leonard Bernstein’s Norton Lectures: “The Unanswered Question”
He is arguably one of the greatest musicians in American history. In 1973 he gave a series of six lectures at Harvard, his alma mater, discussing at length the past, present, and future of music, through the contexts of linguistics, poetry, and even physics.
In his own words, “the best way to ‘know’ a thing is in the context of another discipline.” He tries to answer, or unearth more evidence to consider, such big questions as Why, Whence, What, Whose, and Whither music?
All 6 lectures are on YouTube, and I have had to watch, re-watch, and re-re-watch each installment to make some kind of grasp on the big picture, but even if some of the content eludes you, Bernstein was a skilled speaker, with a smooth, commanding, articulate American voice.
His passion is infectious, and the lectures are a joy to immerse yourself in.