Engulfed by classic film

May 15, 2008

The other night I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite movies, American Graffiti, in theaters. (For a brief description see the earlier post ‘See These Movies.’)  It was amazing!  Most of my favorite movies are older movies and many of them I regret not having the opportunity to experience them in theaters when they first came out.  Thanks to the American Film Institute I was able to remedy that for one of the films on my small list of films I most wished to see in theater.

            American Graffiti had been on that list because of the completeness of the nostalgic atmosphere created by the film.  It is easy to become lost in the era when watching the movie, and I always felt it would be even more complete if seen in a dark theater with a large screen and engulfing sound where everything and the only thing you experience for those two hours is that film.

            I was right!  Those familiar with the movie know the impact and greatness of the almost none stop soundtrack.  Also, the sounds of all the cars were amazing and exciting.  One of my favorite elements of the film is filming of the street and cruising at night (the movie take place almost entirely at night).  The shining cars, street lights, neon lights, headlights and reflections all clash and blend beautifully in the dark of night when the streets were most full of life.  And all this is even more beautiful and spectacular on the big screen, in the dark room.

            Something I was curious about before seeing the movie that night was how being so familiar with the film would affect the experience of seeing it in a theater.  Fortunately, knowing the lines before they were spoken only added to the anticipation, excitement and enjoyment of the film.  It was also great to see the film with the crowd that showed up.  They were all movie fans and particularly of American Graffiti.  American Graffiti is the kind of movie that gets better the more you see it and it was clear most of the audience was well acquainted with it and were enjoying it deeply. 

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Dylan’s Recognition just beginning to reach his influence: Dylan wins Pulitzer

April 15, 2008

Monday April 7 Bob Dylan once again made history and proved the vastness of his influence on the current culture when he became the first rock star to win a Pulitzer Prize, one the highest honors of written art.  He won the prize for his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

            This recognition of Dylan’s seemingly endless and consistent impact on American since the early ‘60s can only hint at his total and true impact.  As reported in a NewYork Times article “Pete Townshend once said of trying to assess it, ‘That’s like asking how I was influenced by being born.’”

            It has also been long argued that Dylan’s mid-‘60s trilogy consisting of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde could be the greatest American cultural achievement of recent generations.  They are not without valid points.  With Bringing It All Back Home Dylan helped create the folk/rock genre and the ‘60s sound that would forever change rock.  In Bringing It All Back Home Dylan also made the first music videowith ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues.’  With Highway 61 he broke free from the two-and-a-half minute love song, opening with the epic six minute, antagonizing  ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ declared by Rolling Stone Magazinethe greatest rock song of all time. 

            With his songs and poetry Dylan has touched the hearts, beliefs and emotions of several generations of people and when you affect the people you affect the human culture reaching far beyond the realm of music.

            I feel that what makes Dylan so great besides the beauty and imagery of his poetry is the real emotion he instills into his songs.  He explores every human emotion writing them into the songs then using his voice to sing them onto the records. His singing voice is always emotion filled.  Listening to ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ it is hard to resist shouting out “How does it feel!!!” yourself.  Also, what I like about Dylan is the variety of emotions in his songs.  Anyone can shout anger or voice distress but Dylan voices desire, lust, regret, shame, joviality and many more just listen to Blonde on Blonde.

            And he continues to expand his influence touring worldwide and releasing new records exploring the many forms of American music.  Read my earlier post “Dylan: Far from Retired.”  He has always created and explored refusing to fall into a rut staying in one place too long.  His 40+ records include very successful ventures into folk, rock, the gypsy sound of Desire, blues, jazz, country, gospel and countless melding of them all.  His greatest achievements are just beginning to surface.

           


Thoughts on Music

April 12, 2008

As I delve throughout the different genres of music, like most people I run across things that I like and things that I don’t like.  Country music for example, makes me groan and frustrates me that anyone can listen to that and enjoy it.  I guess that’s just not my personal taste.

I have long been a fan of the modern 4 piece rock band.  Drums, Bass, two guitars and lead vocals.  This seems to be what the majority of people in the US enjoy.  At least people my age.  There are many different variations to this ensemble, and many different styles that are included within it.  This has been my primary source of music for most of my life.  And it is wonderful.  I love it.  I really do.  While there is a lot of it out there that is pure rubbish, there are plenty of fantastic pop/rock bands that stand out amongst the rest.  Very musical bands that make music for the sake of music, not caring what other people think.

I do not wish to say anything negative about any pop/rock/4 piece group at all, however, as of late I find myself primarily drawn to everything else but this.  I’m a little burnt out if you will.    In the sea of musical monotony, several styles stand out, and each has their specific reasoning.  Here are the 3 types of music that I just can’t enough of lately.

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The Jazz Effect

February 29, 2008

It is a strange phenomenon. This semester I typically run very long days. Classes begin around 9:30, and 3 days out of the week end around 9:30 or 10. I very frequently find myself exhausted at the end of the day, and understandably so. However, I absolutely love it.

I am in school studying music. I love music. I LOVE music. I enjoy all of my music classes, and even my 1 academic class. I particularly enjoy the performing groups I am in. Some more than others. I am in a jazz combo that meets once a week from 8pm until 10. Immediately preceding that, I have symphony orchestra rehearsal from 4:45 to 7:45. Earlier in the day I have a jazz band rehearsal from 1-2:30. I also have 2 other classes that day. Bottom line is, it’s a long day. But it seems no matter how long or rough of a day I have had, I thoroughly enjoy jazz combo. I have energy all of a sudden and the 2 hours seems like nothing at all.

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Variety Shows of Early Television

February 25, 2008

Originally posted at http://nostalgicbmy.blogspot.com

Something that I regret I could not witness was the popularity and prevalence of variety shows in early television. I like whole style of the of the variety show; bringing masses of celebrities and talents to the shows and the living rooms or the viewers. Even though they were celebrities when on the variety shows they became like everyone else. They performed but it was often much more lighthearted. They had fun and enjoyed working on these shows. They would gather in sets made up like living rooms often having several of the top talents coming together for an hour of fun and entertainment.

I also like how there was indeed variety in these shows. On the shows comedians, actors and musical performers were blended making an experience unique for that episode. There were so many of these shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Danny Thomas and many more. Dean Martin may have been the king of these with the Martin and Lewis Comedy Hour, the Dean Martin Variety shoe and his celebrity roasts. Another important element of variety television was the introduction to new and arriving talent (especially in the case of the Ed Sullivan Show).

Looking at today’s television we really have nothing equal to it. The closest would be the late night shows and sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live.

Have a look and see what I mean:

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show

Phil Harris on the Dean Martin Variety Show (you might recognize him as the voice of Baloo on The Jungle Book)

Bob Dylan on the Johnny Cash Show

Louis Armstrong on the Dean Martin Variety Show

Johnathan Winters on the Dean Martin Variety Show


Sniffles and Hiccups

February 10, 2008

Last Wednesday, my string quartet had the opportunity at APU to play for the a group visiting the states. The Christian University of Thailand arrived with its president and around 50 masters and doctorate students from abroad to visit our campus. In their arrival, we performed for them the whole of Dvorak’s F major quartet, aptly named “The American“.

At the end of our performance, a standing ovation turned remarkably humbling from what their representative graciously told us (even after their gifts to each of us; very cool shirts).

A young woman stood up and thanked us for the performance, then said for just about all of them, it was their first time hearing a live performance. Why, I couldn’t even imagine! I had to think to myself, ‘I’m sure they have local folk music and what-not’, so perhaps this implied more of their first time with a formal performance, classical strings in particular; the latter they did mention specifically.

Do you remember the first time going to a concert performance? (You may answer). Not necessarily classical, but somehow this caliber and style of music lends itself to, what is my first impression: a high-art and top notch force of music. Maybe it was the first time you heard the colossal sounds of a live orchestra? Saw the coordination of a band of musicians so in tune (no puns, really) and synchronized, or so into each other, that it made you excited for them?

What a privilege that we can have nothing to do on a Friday or Saturday afternoon and by 4 p.m., decide to check out Eschenbach conduct Mahler’s 6th downtown for no more than the coffee some might spend throughout the day. (NOT a knock on coffee)

The LA Phil gave a stunning performance. Having gone to the first and second of three performances this weekend, I had two very different listening experiences. Behind the orchestra, you get the front view of an ecstatic conductor, much learning was had as a music student. Last night however, we got the ‘normal’ view. Sure it sounded great, but…

Do you know how painful it is to suppress a sneeze-inducing itchy nose and a five-hour ‘yet-to-be-done’ hiccup during the Andante movement of a symphony?! Ask me for strategies.


Classical Music in the Community

February 6, 2008

Just a few posts ago, we were discussing classical music and the difficulties it faces. One such hurdle was the fact that great orchestras, such as the LA Phil are very expensive to attend. Well after tonight, I am incredibly encouraged.Tonight, I attended a concert given by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It took place at Pomona First Baptist. The cost? A mere $5. This incredible event was the 9th annual LA Phil in Pomona Concert, put on by the city of Pomona. Due to the incredibly low price, and the location, many people were able to attend. People from all walks of life, ages, genders, and races packed the large sanctuary. It was incredibly encouraging to see young kids, the elderly, and people my age all attending the same concert. This was an incredible opportunity, bringing fantastic classical music out to the people.I soon had to realize that this concert was very different than any other classical concert I would attend. The acoustics of the sanctuary were a bit odd. The strings could be heard quite well. The winds and brass, though positioned highest on the stage, never seemed to quite reach their full potential. Frequent coughs, the cry of a baby, and poor applause timing plagued the evening. This irritated me at first until I realized that this is exactly what I wanted. All of that comes with the territory. Of course they are going to begin applauding when there is a short rest. Of course there are going to be babies crying. But the people are there nonetheless, eager to hear the beautiful music made by this professional group. I promptly removed my elitist music snob cap and enjoyed the rest of the concert. It was so great to see all these different types of people enjoying classical music together.Though it was a very different experience from an LA Phil concert at Disney Hall, it holds equal value in my mind. They have brought incredible music to the community. In the age of video games and disappearing music programs, the LA Phil has struck back to provide easily accessible great music to the people.