My collaboration with cellist, Matt Haimovitz, in the double-album CD set, Shuffle.Play.Listen and its eponymous and ongoing concert tour was a natural meeting of two musical paths. Matt’s been known to take classical works, like Bach’s “Cello Suites”, to unlikely venues such as the old CBGB’s and other non-classical venues, juxtaposed with my introducing classical concert halls with my own takes on Radiohead, Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Nirvana, et al. In exploring our mutual musical loves, the first name to spontaneously spring up was John McLaughlin. Matt actually was joined by John on his cello-ensemble, Grammy-nominated Meeting of the Spirits. So, for our first concert, I meticulously transcribed John McLaughlin’s hyper-virtuosic guitar solo from his Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Dance of Maya” from The Inner Mounting Flame and our very first concert together, a year ago in Billings, MT, featured it as the show-closer to an intrepid and enthusiastic crowd there at the Alberta Bair Theater.
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Radiohead have, especially in the more Thom Yorke-primary pieces, shown a proclivity for deconstruction. “Like Spinning Plates” is, on record, an amalgam of reversed vocal recording spliced in with recordings of Yorke’s singing backwards, in live performance, an ingenious piano/vocal piece (for which I get credit for unwarranted originality only by being super-fan familiar with the released live version on the EP, I Might Be Wrong).
More recently, one got a bigger dose of this live/studio disconnect when Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser was released. To my ears, the album sounded like someone too enamoured of his laptop, while the live versions of the Eraser songs sounded like a songwriter at his creative peak.
Matt’s peripatetically touring in all sorts of genres and combinations, centered by his position on the cello faculty at Montreal’s McGill University. We were privileged to record our double-album CD set, Shuffle.Play.Listen at McGill’s wonderful studio/experimental sound laboratory, the MMR Studio for five days last June. In light of Montreal being the home as well for the band, Arcade Fire, it was a natural choice to include, as we did, two tracks by the band on the non-classical of the two CDs. There were two mini-HD cameras archiving most of the five days’ sessions, so we ended up with a lot of footage for live performance video (good evidence of there being no overdubbing, as one might suspect, given the complexity and sheer speed of this arrangement). Matt actually took on even more virtuosic responsibility, as he became envious of my constant 16th notes. It’s justifiably one of the more popular tracks on a recording of which I’m most proud.
Sometimes, lo-fi is the way to go. This concert video was shot from the balcony at Weber State University in Ogden, UT, with only the camera mic officiating. The room itself was unwieldy, bright and blowsy on the main floor, with less-than-optimum help in the PA department. But with all that, the edgyness was mollified by the distance, and this worthwhile view of this climactic love scene from Vertigo was the result. The same concert video recording captured a likewise attractive-sounding performance of my arrangement for cello and piano of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song”.
Kris Saknussemm’s new novel of the road and redemption, Reverend America, is centered on the travels and travails of a retired child evangelist albino orphan named Casper (known in his healing days as Reverend America) and his wanderings as guardian angel and inadvertent and occasional avenger. I’d become aware of Kris’ work via his first novel, Zanesville, his subsequent bizarre-noir novel Private Midnight, and his exuberant alt-historical Enigmatic Pilot. We’d become Facebook friends where I found him to be equally knowledgeable and perhaps even more impassioned about things musical more than literary. So when he asked if I would contribute some original work to fill out a CD to accompany the release of Reverend America (I’d not written anything original since high school, being presently and for decades consumed either by interpretations classical or reimaginings on the non-classical side), and with his own keen idea of how music might intersect his prose, I told him I’d have to be an idiot to NOT know how to write something for him.
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