Joni Mitchell Sings “Both Sides Now” at the Newport Folk Festival: Watch Clips from Her First Full Concert Since 2002

This weekend, the Newport Folk Festival made headlines when it brought out of retirement two music legends. Paul Simon returned to the stage and performed “Graceland,” “The Boxer” and “other classics.” But Joni Mitchell stole the show when she performed (with a little help from Brandi Carlile) “Both Sides Now,” “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Just Like This Train” and 10 other songs. Mitchell suffered a brain aneurysm in 2015, and hadn’t performed a full concert since 2002. Hence why the show was a big deal.

Get the full backstory on the Newport performance over at NPR.

Just Like This Train

Summertime

Circle Game

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When Erik Satie Took a Picture of Debussy & Stravinsky (June 1910)

Erik Satie knew his way around not just the piano but the camera as well. This is evidenced by the image above, a 1911 portrait of Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky. Described by Christie’s as “an outstanding photograph of the two composers in the library at Debussy’s home,” it was taken by Satie at the time when Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes were performing Debussy’s Jeux and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. In the background appears what looks like Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, a work of art “used by Debussy on the front cover of the first edition of his symphonic sketches La mer.”

Just above appears another picture captured in Debussy’s home, this one of Debussy and Satie. “The photo was taken by Stravinsky, if my memory didn’t go wrong,” says one commenter on the r/classicalmusic subreddit. Another expresses confusion about the subjects themselves: “I thought they didn’t like each other?”


One responder explains that “they were friends at first, for quite some time, but later their relationship got worse.” Debussy’s orchestration of Satie’s Gymnopedies brought those pieces to prominence, but, Satie ultimately came to feel that Debussy had been stingy with the fruits of his great success.

Or so, at any rate, goes one interpretation of the dissolution of Debussy and Satie’s friendship. Different Redditors contribute different details: one that “every time they met, Satie would praise Ravel’s music to annoy Debussy,” another that “Debussy kept a bottle of the cheapest table wine for Satie for when he came over.” It can hardly have been easy, even in the best of times, for two of the strongest innovators in early-twentieth-century music to occupy the same social space for long stretches of time, let alone in company that included the likes of Ravel and Stravinsky. More than a century later, their artistic legacies could hardly be more assured — as, one faintly senses when looking at these photos, they knew would be the case.

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The Night When Charlie Parker Played for Igor Stravinsky (1951)

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai: An Introduction to the Iconic Japanese Woodblock Print in 17 Minutes

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Watch Restored Video of the Smashing Pumpkins’ First Televised Performance (1988)

For Gen X’ers who spent their twenties scouting the cities young people go to retire, and Millennials who spent their youth dancing to N’Sync, TLC, and the Spice Girls, nostalgia for simpler times just makes psychological sense. The 1990s was the last decade in which we had a shared set of references, “before the internet splintered mass culture,” Sadie Dingfelder writes at The Washington Post. “In the 90s, everyone listened to the same one or two radio stations in their city that played all the Top 40 hits, spanning all kinds of genres,” says DJ Matt Bailer.

This means that everyone who heard “No Scrubs” enough times to sing each note also heard the Smashing Pumpkins’ biggest hits, and learned to love them equally. It means that we could love the music of Billy Corgan without being subjected to the terrible opinions of Billy Corgan. As the baby-faced singer/songwriter aged, he has become, in his own words, a “bitter contrarian,” “carnival barker,” and “class-A heel,” he says, referencing his later career in professional wrestling.


The assessment may seem mild considering Corgan’s appearances on Alex Jones’ Infowars and his embrace of conspiracy theories. Behavior he calls schtick has actual consequences in the world. Has it hurt his career? “If I kept my mouth shut,” he admits in discussing the band’s 2018 reunion, “we’d be playing a lot bigger venues and we would be a lot more successful, and we’d be in somebody’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” Love or hate Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins as a unit earned their place in rock and roll history.

The Pumpkins exuded mystery from the start, with their sublime, fuzzed-out psychedelic melodies and huge, distorted choruses. Later came the dreamlike videos and opaque, impassive rock star egos. They didn’t just make it big in the 90s, they were essential to its sound, one they invented even before the decade dawned. See a young, cherubic Corgan and band debut above on The Pulse, a Chicago public access music show, in 1988, in a video and audio upscaling and remaster.

It was their first televised appearance, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain had just joined, and they were booked for a segment for local bands called “The Basement Jam” after sending in their demo tape. The show’s producer Lou Hinkhouse introduces the TV gig, summing up his feelings at that time: “None of us that day really knew for sure, but we knew they were on to something…. they’re about to define a new sound for a new generation.” How right he was. See the tracklist for the mostly-unfamiliar songs in the set just below.

1. There lt Goes 1:54 2. She-7:37 3. Under Your Spell –11:47 4. My Eternity –17:06 5. Bleed 26:44 6. Nothing And Everything – 32:10 7. Jennifer Ever 42:14 8. Death Of A Mind (Sun) – 49:03 9. Spiteface – 55:44

via Boing Boing

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Give Duke Ellington the Pulitzer Prize He Was Denied in 1965

Image by Louis Panassié, via Wikimedia Commons

Duke Ellington has been commemorated in a variety of forms: statues, murals, schools, and even United States commemorative stamps and coins. In his lifetime he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Légion d’honneur. His posthumous honors even include a Special Pulitzer Prize awarded in 1999, the centennial year of his birth. 34 years earlier, in 1965, he’d been named for–but ultimately denied–a regular Pulitzer Prize for Music, a decision his appreciators are now trying to reverse.

“The jury that judged the entrants that year decided to do something different,” writes jazz critic Ted Gioia. “They recommended giving the honor to Duke Ellington for the ‘vitality and originality of his total productivity’ over the course of more than forty years.” This broke from tradition in that the Pulitzer Prize for Music usually honors a single work: in 1945 it went to Aaron Copland for his ballet Appalachian Spring; in 1958 it went to Samuel Barber for his opera Vanessa; in 1960 it went to Elliott Carter for his Second String Quartet.


Alas, “the Pulitzer Board refused to accept the decision of the jury, and decided it would be better to give out no award, rather than honor Duke Ellington. Two members of the three-person judging panel, Winthrop Sargeant and Robert Eyer, resigned in the aftermath.” Ellington, for his part, reacted to this unfortunate development with characteristic equanimity: “Fate is being kind to me,” he told the press. “Fate doesn’t want me to be famous too young” — to which Gioia adds that “he was 66 years old at the time, and in the final decade of his life.”

In an effort to retroactively award Ellington his Pulitzer Prize for Music, Gioia has has launched an online petition. If you sign it, you’ll join the likes of John Adams, Michael Dirda, Steve Reich, and Gene Weingarten, all Pulitzer winners themselves, as well as other luminaries and enthusiasts who’ve voiced their support — nearly 9,000 of them as of this writing. “We assume that Pulitzers are awarded to work that qualifies as for the ages, that pushes the envelope, that suggests not just cleverness but genius,” writes the New York Times‘ John McWhorter. “There can be no doubt that Ellington’s corpus fits that definition.”

Reversing the committee decision of 1965, Gioia writes, would enhance “the prestige and legitimacy of the Pulitzer — and every award needs that nowadays, when many have grown skeptical about our leading prizes.” What’s more, “it’s the proper thing for the music — because every time genuine artistry is recognized it sets an example for the present generation, and lays a foundation for the future.” In recent decades, the aesthetic range of Pulitzer-honored music has widened considerably: McWhorter points as an example to 2018’s winner, Kendrick Lamar’s album Damn. It could be that, as far as Ellington is concerned, it’s taken the rest of us 57 years to catch up with him. Sign the petition here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Birdsong Project Features 220 Musicians, Actors, Artists & Writers Paying Tribute to Birds: Watch Performances by Yo-Yo Ma, Elvis Costello and Beck

Birds are the original musicians. This, at least, is a premise of the Audubon Society’s Birdsong Project, “a movement inspiring bird conservation through art.” There could thus be no more natural art form in which to celebrate our fine feathered (and in many cases, now endangered) friends than music, which the Birdsong Project has commissioned for its first release, and in no small quantity. They’ve so far put out the first two volumes of For the Birds, which in its totality will involve “more than 220 music artists, actors, literary figures, and visual artists, all coming together to celebrate the joy birds bring to our lives” — and remind us of “the environmental threats we all face.”

Those contributors include Yo-Yo Ma, Elvis Costello, and Beck, whose work on For the Birds you can hear in the videos in this post. And in the case of Yo-Yo Ma, who performs a piece called “In the Gale” (by composer Anna Clyne), you can see him play not in a concert hall but out in the midst of genuine nature.


This underscores what’s heard brightly and clearly on the recording: that Ma and Clyne were just two of many collaborators on the track, the others being what sound like a forest full of birds. Other artists take different approaches: Beck’s “Archangel” is a lush studio soundscape, and Costello combines his own “The Birds Will Still Be Singing” with “And Your Bird Can Sing,” the most appropriate Beatles cover imaginable (apart from “Blackbird,” at least).

Organized by Randall Poster, by day a music supervisor for filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese, For the Birds also features music from, Jarvis Cocker, The Flaming Lips, Kaoru Watanabe, Stephin Merritt, and Seu Jorge. And those are just the contributors known primarily for their music: others involved in the project include Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton, and Jonathan Franzen. You can now stream the first two volumes on most major services, and pre-order the full 20-LP box set that will contain the material musical and literary from all five volumes, the last of which is scheduled to come out this September. Give it a listen, and afterward you’ll perhaps find yourself that much more able to appreciate the avian symphony conducted all around us.

via Aeon

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Hear a 19-Year-Old Prince Crushing It on Every Instrument in an Early Jam Session (1977)

It’s nearly impossible to communicate musicianship in words, though there are rare, successful literary attempts by greats like James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, and jazz critic Ira Gitler, whose phrase “sheets of sound” so well captured the experience of Coltrane’s improvisational style in the late 50s. Maybe the free movements of jazz are easier to write about than other forms….

When it comes to recently departed funk/pop/rock/R&B great Prince, it feels like there’s enough written about his prodigious talent that it begins to sound like overpraise. The most interesting tributes come from fellow musicians. Yet even their comments seem exaggerated.


Prince “played everything,” said Stevie Wonder soon after the Purple One’s sudden death – every style, every instrument – which seems like an impossible feat until you read the notes for his debut album and realize that, yes, he did play everything, before he hit 20… and listen to the full range of his output to see that, yes, he “could play classical music if he wanted to,” as Wonder said. “He could play jazz if he wanted to….”

Prince’s drummer Hannah Welton, who joined him in 2012, had similarly overblow-sounding praise, saying in a recent drum instruction video, “I don’t know that I ever heard an off note.” Everyone has an off day sometime, right? Too little sleep, a head cold, too much to drink… or whatever…. No musician could always be a hundred percent on, could they?

Listening to the funk/jazz jam sessions above recorded in 1977, when Prince was only 19 and on the threshold of releasing his first studio album, I’m inclined to cast off any remaining doubt that he was as untouchably disciplined and talented a musician as they say all of the time, even in behind-the-scenes rehearsals and jam sessions when, as Welton jokes, he seemed more interested in playing ping pong. If anyone embodied genius…

But there is a problem with that word (a word legendary music teacher Nadia Boulanger and onetime Quincy Jones mentor disliked). Prince might agree. Musical greats come out of great musical communities. Prince may have been the most proficient multi-instrumentalist of his time, but he consistently played with those who had no trouble keeping up with him, including early bass player André Cymone and longtime Revolution drummer Bobby Z.

Cymone and Z joined Prince in the Loring Park rehearsal room of Owen Husney, Prince’s first manager, to record these impromptu sessions. They are indeed “a must-listen for any fan!,” as Live for Live Music writes, and anyone else. “These eight instrumental tracks sound more like well-crafted compositions rather than the improvised jams that they are.” Prince, of course, switches up instruments, playing keys, guitar and bass and drums at times.

That it’s hard to tell when he’s playing what speaks not only to his own prowess but to that of his fellow musicians. As Bobby Z says in an interview for the Grammys, the biggest misunderstanding about Prince is “that he wasn’t human. That he was this mythical, immortal character. In the early days, he was a band member. He was the leader, of course, but he had to be in a band.” He was vocal in interviews about how playing with the hottest musicians in Minneapolis as a teenager gave him his early training.

Prince learned as much from others as they learned from him, says Z, soaking up everything he heard. “He was a fan. He loved being impressed by songs. He loved music. He loved other people’s talent.” But at the same time, he was still Prince, a rare talent without real equal. The Loring Park sessions may feature “instrumentals only,” notes Okayplayer, glancing at Prince’s compositional brilliance and showing off none of his vocal chops. Nonetheless, “it’s an intimate and terribly funky lens into P’s proficiency on damn-near every instrument,” before he’d even begun “his path to bonafide stardom.”

via Live for Live Music

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Brian Eno’s Ambient Album Music for Airports Performed by Musicians in an Airport

Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.

In the original liner notes to Brian Eno’s founding document of Ambient music — 1978’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports — the artist explains that he named his genre after “an atmosphere, or a surrounding influence: a tint. My intention is to produce original pieces ostensibly (but not exclusively) for particular times and situations with a view to building up a small but versatile catalogue of environmental music suited to a wide variety of moods and atmospheres.”

In defining “environmental music,” Eno takes great pains to distinguish his new work from the makers of Muzak. Rather than recreating the familiar with instrumental schmaltz, and “stripping away all sense of doubt and uncertainty,” Ambient should stimulate listeners’ minds without disturbing or distracting them, inducing “calm and a space to think.” Rolling Stone at the time coined the derisive, but not wholly inaccurate, phrase “aesthetic white noise.”


Reverb Machine painstakingly shows in a deconstruction how Eno himself introduced as much uncertainty into the compositional process as possible. Music for Airports is not, that is to say, a composition, but layers of tape loops with snippets of recorded music. These loops he set running and “let them configure in whichever way they wanted to.” Acting as initial selector of sounds and engineer, Eno’s role as composer and player of the piece involved “hardly interfering at all,” he’s said.

How could such a composition translate to a traditional performance setting, in which musicians, elevated on a stage, play instruments for audience members who face them, listening intently? The situation seems antithetical to Eno’s design. And yet, somehow, the musicians who make up the Bang on a Can All Stars ensemble have made it work beautifully, performing Music for Airports‘s first track, the nondescriptly named “1/1,” in an arrangement by the group’s Michael Gordon, above, for an appreciative audience at the San Diego Airport Terminal.

Bang on a Can is a group committed, like Eno, to “making music new.” Since 1987, they have (unlike Eno) done so in a live performance-based way, holding 12-hour marathon concerts, for example. These performances have included their rendition of Music for Airports in full. The Village Voice described a 2007 performance in New York City for hundreds of attentive fans as “beautiful,” a word that often gets applied to Eno’s masterwork of randomness. Eno himself described the results as “very, very nice,” and he’s maybe the last person to be surprised that a live performance of the first so-called Ambient record works so well.

“The interesting thing is that it doesn’t sound at all mechanical as you would imagine,” he wrote of these early tape loop experiments. “It sounds like some guy is sitting there playing the piano with quite intense feeling. The spacing and dynamics of ‘his’ playing sound very well organized.” See a quintet of “guys” just above — on cello, bass, keyboard, percussion, and guitar — recreate the mildly disjointed mood of standing around in the liminal space of an airport, for a crowd of people who, presumably, came there for the express purpose of hearing background music.

via Metafilter

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

The German Cast of Hamilton Sings the Title Track, “Alexander Hamilton” in German

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is coming to Hamburg in October 2022. And this video gives audiences a taste of what awaits them: The title track “Alexander Hamilton” sung in German. Enjoy…

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via Metafilter

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