Music Reviews

Mozart turns two hundred and fifty

Part 4: Mozart in Vienna

By Laura Villon, 8 May 2006

The following is the fourth of a five-part series of articles. (See Parts 1, 2, 3) It contains references to numerous works of music by Mozart. We encourage readers to listen to these pieces, long samples of which are available free of charge on www.classical.com.

Mozart turns two hundred and fifty

Part 3: The Italian and German classical styles

By Laura Villon, 6 May 2006

The following is the third of a five-part series of articles. (See Parts 1, 2) It contains references to numerous works of music by Mozart. We encourage readers to listen to these pieces, long samples of which are available free of charge on www.classical.com.

Mozart turns two hundred and fifty

Part 2: Paris and London

By Laura Villon, 5 May 2006

The following is the second of a five-part series of articles. (See Part 1) It contains references to numerous works of music by Mozart. We encourage readers to listen to these pieces, long samples of which are available free of charge on www.classical.com.

Mozart turns two hundred and fifty

Part 1: The German Enlightenment and Amadeus

By Laura Villon, 4 May 2006

The following is the first of a five-part series of articles. It contains references to numerous works of music by Mozart. We encourage readers to listen to these pieces, long samples of which are available free of charge on www.classical.com.

A comment on the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

Part Two

By Barbara Slaughter, 23 March 2006

This is the conclusion of a two-part article. Thefirst part was posted March 22.

A comment on the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

Part One

By Barbara Slaughter, 22 March 2006

Pierre Boulez was once asked about the problems of presenting contemporary music to the public. He said that people have to be educated to understand new music and that it was necessary for musicians to go out and build an audience.

Rapper Kanye West on the cover of Time: Will rap music shed its “gangster” disguise?

By Kevin Kearney, 30 September 2005

The image of Kanye West crouching down with one hand on his head—clad in designer clothes and sneakers—and the contrived facial expression of one who wishes to be considered a deep thinker adorns the cover of the August 29 issue of Time magazine. The headline of the article reads: “More GQ than gangsta, Kanye West is challenging the way rap thinks about race and class—and striking a chord with fans of all stripes.”

“The Massacre” by 50 Cent sells 4 million copies: Why does social backwardness achieve such success?

By Kevin Kearney, 9 September 2005

This is the second article in a two-part series, the first part was published on 8 September 2005.

“The Massacre” by 50 Cent sells 4 million copies: Why does social backwardness achieve such success? Part 1

By Kevin Kearney, 8 September 2005

This is the first article in a two-part series

Eminem’s new release, Encore: delusions, megalomania and social confusion

By Marc Wells, 21 April 2005

Multiple Grammy Award winner Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known as Eminem (from his initials M&M), is currently one of the top-selling music artists in the world. The rapper’s lyrics have been the subject of much controversy and criticism, from right-wing Christian fundamentalist groups as well as the liberal media, and as such they deserve closer attention.

Fredric Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated

At Venice’s Teatro Fondamenta Nuove

By David Adelaide, 19 January 2005

At Venice’s Teatro Fondamenta Nuove on January 13, composer and pianist Fredric Rzewski gave a remarkable performance of his composition, The People United Will Never Be Defeated. Rzewski’s work is a set of 36 variations, spanning 50 minutes, on Chilean composer Sergio Ortega’s El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido—the song most closely associated with the resistance of the Chilean working class to the 1973 coup that installed the 17-year military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.

Outkast: a case study in social misleading

By Marc Wells, 1 July 2004

The phenomenon of hip-hop and its musical incarnation in rap have had considerable success and reached wide audiences across the world. This has come principally on the basis of a combination of sophisticated rhythm arrangements and the use of words spoken by young and often talented artists generally, but not solely, influenced by a musical tradition that includes funk, rhythm & blues, soul music, jazz, reggae and—often—rock & roll.

The rediscovered music of Erwin Schulhoff

By Fred Mazelis, 11 May 2004

On a recent weekend in New York, three concerts were devoted solely to the music of one little-known twentieth-century composer, Erwin Schulhoff. Schulhoff, a German-speaking Czech Jew, was born in Prague in 1894 and died of tuberculosis in a Nazi concentration camp in 1942.

Britain: Bob Copper, foremost traditional singer dies

By Paul Bond, 24 April 2004

Bob Copper, who has died at age 89, was the most important English traditional folksinger of the twentieth century. He was a hugely accomplished musical performer of the songs that had been passed down through his family. Just as importantly, his love and enthusiasm for these songs (at a time when the environment in which they had been sung was changing rapidly) became a key factor in their transmission to subsequent generations of singers.

An appreciation of Warren Zevon

Grammys give belated recognition to an enigmatic pop musician

By K. Reed, 7 February 2004

The 46th Annual Grammy Awards will take place Sunday, February 8, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The event—like the Academy Awards for motion pictures—is a ceremony of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in which artists and technicians are recognized by their peers for their work over the previous year. This year’s ceremony will present Grammys in 105 categories and be broadcast by CBS to a potential television audience of 650 million people.

British poet rejects Order of the British Empire award

By Paul Bond, 5 December 2003

When the British state offers a citizen an honour, the acceptance or rejection of that honour is intended to be a private matter between the state and the individual. This prevents any embarrassment to the state if the intended recipient turns it down.

A reply to “Sylvia Plath is hardly present: a review of Sylvia, directed by Christine Jeffs”

4 December 2003

To the editor:

A human sound of the world

The Hour of Two Lights, an album by Terry Hall and Mushtaq

By Paul Bond, 2 September 2003

The Hour of Two Lights, an album by Terry Hall and Mushtaq (Honest Jons Records)

A review of music from the motion picture The Pianist

By Dorian Griscom, 1 August 2003

The Warsaw Philharmonic National Orchestra of Poland; Hanna Wolczedska, clarinet; Janusz Olejniczak, piano; Wladyslaw Szpilman, piano; Tadeusz Strugala, conductor.

The work of British composer Mark Anthony Turnage

By Barbara Slaughter, 15 July 2003

Every year BBC Radio 3 presents a weekend of performances by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Barbican Centre in London to celebrate the work of a particular composer. In recent years, Kurt Weill (1990-1950) and John Adams (1947-) have been featured. This year the BBC’s choice was the British composer, Mark Anthony Turnage. Seventeen of his works were performed, included choral and orchestral music, chamber works, two operas and a song cycle, as well as four film scores.

Thirty years down the road

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Manchester, England

By Robert Stevens, 18 June 2003

US singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are currently on the European leg of their world tour following the release of their latest album, The Rising. The album and the tour mark a “return to form” and importantly mark the reuniting of Springsteen and the E Street Band following an 18-year hiatus.

Beyond the roots of American popular music

Examining the legacy of Alan Lomax

By James Brewer, 13 June 2003

At its 45th annual award ceremony earlier this year, the Recording Academy’s National Trustees, the body behind the Grammy Awards, posthumously bestowed a “Trustees Award” on Alan Lomax, America’s most widely renowned folklorist and ethnomusicologist, who died last July at the age of 87. His daughter, Anna Lomax Chairetakis, received the award on his behalf. Her acceptance speech eloquently distilled her father’s life: “Alan wore many hats—musical anthropologist, writer, preservationist, recording engineer, artist manager/publisher, musical arranger, radio producer, advocate, promoter, innovative thinker—and he wore them all in one cause. Essentially, he believed that the main sources of music, dance, poetry and fantasy spring from the people who confront life’s joys and cruelties first hand, in the raw, with little padding and few defenses. He found out that the beautiful in music is honed over long eras, and is nurtured by the local and the particular; that it swims in the many big cultural streams of earth, and thrives within their multitudinous, juicy variants and amalgamations.”

Impassive resistance: Protest songs for today

By Mike McHone, 23 April 2003

“I cannot be a vegetarian just between meals”—Nanci Griffith, folk artist

Tilt by Scott Walker: A remarkable album by a serious musician

By Tony Cornwell, 4 June 2002

Corporate mergers in television, radio and record industries have resulted in the coordination of “play lists” around demographics. “Pop” or “Popular” music therefore has become overwhelmingly self-referential, genre specific and backwards looking.

Charlie Musselwhite—Music true to real life

A review of bluesman's new CD: "One Night In America"

By James Brewer, 7 March 2002

One can be forgiven for being a bit suspicious nowadays when the word “America” appears in the title of any musical piece or recording. The American population is being barraged with mind-numbing patriotic drivel which represents nothing, artistically speaking, of value.

"Strange Fruit": the story of a song

By Peter Daniels, 8 February 2002

Southern trees bear a strange fruit, Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, Black body swinging in the Southern breeze, Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

One critic’s picks for best jazz and blues recordings of 2001

By Michael G. Nastos, 28 December 2001

The following list of jazz and blues recordings for 2001 has been submitted to the WSWS by Michael G. Nastos, who hosts “Evening Jazz & Blues” weeknights on WEMU-FM, 89.1, in Ypsilanti, Michigan as he has for 23 of his more than 30 years in radio. Nastos has written for the Alchemist, the All Music Guide, the Ann Arbor News, Arts Midwest, the Blues Review, Cadence, Coda, Detroit Jazz, Downbeat, Jazz Journal International, Jazz Times, the Metro Times and Swing Journal magazines and the SEMJA (Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association) Update. He is past Jazz Chair of the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs, and edited author Robert Sweet’s Music Universe, Music Mind: A History Of The Creative Music Studio.

Joe Henderson: Another jazz great dies

By Philip Sprake, 9 August 2001

Jazz saxophonist Joe Henderson, who died on June 30 after a long battle with emphysema, has been described by one music writer as the “supreme melodist”. A fellow musician referred to him as a “musical astronaut” following the 25-year-old’s impromptu performance in 1962 at New York’s Birdland—a concert which also left a deep impression on bebop veteran Dexter Gordon. Notwithstanding these accolades Henderson was an unassuming man, a quiet achiever, who in an era dominated by giants of the saxophone, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, worked hard to become one of the great tenor saxophone improvisers of the modern jazz era.

The passing of a blues legend: John Lee Hooker

By Philip Sprake, 29 June 2001

John Lee Hooker, the gifted, charismatic blues guitar player and singer, died in his sleep at his home in Los Altos, California, aged 80, on June 21.

Jazz drummer Billy Higgins dies

By John Andrews, 5 May 2001

The ebullient Billy Higgins, the most recorded jazz drummer of the last 50 years, died Thursday in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood after a protracted battle with liver disease. He was 64.

In praise of classical guitarists Alexandre Lagoya and Ida Presti

By Tony Cornwell, 17 February 2001

Alexandre Lagoya (1929-1999) and Ida Presti (1924-1967) formed the greatest classical guitar duet in the world to date. This was not simply due to their technical excellence, but their subtlety and force in emotional expression. They also transcribed music for the instrument from many sources, most notably the harpsichord, violin and piano.

Kirsty MacColl: a life in song

By Liz Smith, 11 January 2001

British singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl was tragically killed by a speedboat on December 18, 2000, while on holiday in Mexico with her two sons. She leaves a musical legacy stretching over 23 years. Many will remember her for the Christmas duet Fairytale of New York she sang with Shane McGowan of the Pogues in 1987. To the tens of thousands of fans she built up around the world, she will be best remembered for her acerbic wit and treatment of everyday occurrences and feelings in a brutally honest but sensitive way.

One critic's picks for top jazz and blues albums of 2000

By Michael G. Nastos, 29 December 2000

Michael G. Nastos hosts “Evening Jazz & Blues” weeknights on WEMU-FM, 89.1, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, as he has for 22 of his 30 years in radio. He has written for the Alchemist , the All Music Guide , the Ann Arbor News , Arts Midwest , the Blues Review , Cadence , Coda , Detroit Jazz , Downbeat , Jazz Journal International , Jazz Times , the Metro Times , and Swing Journal magazines and the SEMJA (Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association) Update . He is past Jazz Chair of the Michigan Council of Arts & Cultural Affairs, and edited Robert Sweet's Music Universe—Music Mind: A History of the Creative Music Studio .

Music review

McCoy Tyner with Stanley Clarke and Al Foster —piano trio in the spirit of Coltrane

By Philip Sprake, 1 November 2000

John Coltrane, the masterful jazz saxophonist, gathered around him some wonderfully talented musicians between 1960 and 1965, his most creative period. Elvin Jones on drums, Jimmy Garrison on bass and pianist McCoy Tyner made up what was arguably his greatest quartet, producing such classic albums as Impressions, Crescent and A Love Supreme.

Listening to Brian Wilson

By David Walsh, 1 September 2000

Brian Wilson, once the leading figure of the Beach Boys, the American popular music group, is on tour this summer in the US. The center-piece of each concert is a performance by Wilson, his ten-piece band and a full-scale symphony orchestra of the music from the 1966 album, Pet Sounds.

Australian poet Judith Wright (1915-2000): an appreciation

By Tony Cornwell, 31 August 2000

Judith Wright, a respected Australian poet and writer on poetry and latterly better known as a conservationist and campaigner for aboriginal rights, died in hospital in Canberra on June 26 at the age of 85. Her achievement in translating the Australian experience into poetry led in her best work to a rich inheritance of lyricism and directness.

Extraordinary solo cello performance of Bach's Suites in Australia

By Adrian Falk, 22 June 2000

Pieter Wispelwey, the 37-year-old Dutch cellist, performed all six Suites for solo cello by J.S. Bach at the new City Recital Hall in Sydney on June 10. While the Bach Suites are not technically difficult by modern standards of cello playing, the performance of all six in one concert constitutes a major undertaking, not only of stamina, but deeply informed musical intelligence.

Tito Puente dead at 77

The soul of Latin music dies

By Helen Halyard, 10 June 2000

Tito Puente, best known for popularizing Latin dance music and jazz in the United States for the past half-century, passed away on May 30 in New York City. He was 77 years old and died following heart surgery to correct a faulty valve.

Ian Dury (1942-2000): a poet of the spoken word

By Chris Marsden, 11 April 2000

Last week, family and friends said farewell to singer-songwriter Ian Dury during a humanist service held at Golders Green in North London. Dury died from colon cancer on March 27 at his home in Hampstead. Annette Furley, who led the service, said of Ian, “He was one of the few original personalities in the music business. He used to write music that made you want to dance and also made you laugh.”

Music Review: The Melody At Night, With You by Keith Jarrett (ECM 1675)

Piano variations from the American songbook

By Philip Sprake, 30 March 2000

In contemporary jazz it is sometimes difficult, at least for novices, to recognise the difference between a technically proficient musician and a truly great one. The Melody At Night, With You, a collection of rich piano solos released on CD late last year by jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, is an unambiguous demonstration of great jazz musicianship and further proof that he is one of the more significant jazz pianists to emerge since the 1960s.

Curtis Mayfield dies:

A modest man of great musical talent and sensitivity

By Richard Phillips, 24 January 2000

The death of 57-year-old Curtis Mayfield last December 26, after several years of failing health, marks the passing of one of the most talented gospel-influenced rhythm and blues singer/songwriters and producers to emerge in the early 1960s. A devoted family man, Curtis Mayfield is survived by Altheida, his second wife, two sons, eight daughters and seven grandchildren.

Country music singer Hank Snow dead at 85

By Ian Bruce, 31 December 1999

The death of country singer Hank Snow marks the passing of a major figure in the history of popular music. Snow, who died December 20 in Nashville at age 85, played a key role in helping transform country music from a localized, largely rural musical style to an internationally popular form. In a 45-year recording career, he sold an estimated 70 million records and influenced performers from Elvis Presley to Bob Dylan.

"The heart and soul of country music is the experiences of ordinary people"

An interview with Dale Watson

By Richard Phillips, 16 December 1999

One of the more interesting music documentaries screened on Australian television this year was Naked Nashville, a Channel Four production about American country music. While the program did not provide a definitive history of country music, a rich genre with varied traditions and numerous musical sub-groups, the four-part series did expose the crass commercialism dominating the Nashville music industry today and interviewed a number of musicians and critics who voiced their concerns about the artistic decline of their craft.

Book Review:

Auden's poetry and his last years

Later Auden by Edward Mendelson Farrer, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 1999

By Margaret Rees, 20 November 1999

The publication last April of Later Auden, Edward Mendelson's detailed biography of Wystan Hugh (W.H.) Auden, has again focused attention on this key figure of 20th century English poetry. Mendelson, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University in New York City, wrote Early Auden, the first volume of his Auden biography, in 1981.

Why we need Byron

By David Walsh, 1 September 1999

Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame, by Benita Eisler, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1999, 837 pages.

The atmospheric music of Underground Lovers

By Jason Nichols, 25 August 1999

One of the more thoughtful contemporary music bands to emerge in Australia in the last decade is Underground Lovers. Cold Feeling, the group's latest CD, combines guitar rhythms and taped music sequences with introspective lyrics to produce unusual songs and atmospheric dance music.

A letter on the music of Joaquin Rodrigo

10 August 1999

The WSWS received the following letter in response to our July 13 obituary of the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo.

Book Review

A humane life

Jackson's Track Memoir of a Dreamtime Placeby Daryl Tonkin & Carolyn Landon, Viking Books ISBN 0-670-88332-8

By Stephen Griffith, 31 July 1999

Jackson's Track is a remarkable story of ordinary Australian people—Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal—living together under difficult circumstances. It is a story of rural life that is rarely told. It is narrated through the eyes of a man whose account testifies to his personal humanity, and sensitivity to those whose lives he touched.

Obituary:

Joaquin Rodrigo, famed Spanish composer dies

By John Martinez, 13 July 1999

Joaquin Rodrigo, acclaimed Spanish composer and the man most responsible for popularising the guitar as a classical concert instrument, died on July 6 in Madrid at the age of 97.

Mel Torme, an appreciation

By John Andrews, 10 June 1999

The last few years have not been good ones for the giants of American song. First we lost the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, then Frank Sinatra and Joe Williams. Now Mel Torme, who died Saturday from the lingering effects of the debilitating stroke which abruptly ended his 65-year singing career in August 1996.

Tracks, a Sony Music 4-CD boxed set by Bruce Springsteen

Anthology charts Springsteen's musical journey

By Peter Stavropoulos, 4 May 1999

The latest release from American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen is a collection of 66 tracks spanning a musical career that has endured for nearly three decades. The four-hour anthology, which includes 56 previously unreleased songs, is an important historical record of the artistic development of Springsteen and his E Street Band.

A reader asks about the poetry of Wilfred Owen

8 April 1999

To: Harvey Thompson

World Poetry and the English language

19 March 1999

Dear Editor,

A remarkable anthology of world poetry

12 March 1999

Dear editor,

Iris DeMent song provokes intense debate

By Richard Phillips, 12 March 1999

The folk/traditional American music scene has produced powerful social commentators from Woody Guthrie and others in the 1930s and 40s, through to the numerous folk singers who spoke out in the 1960s against racism, the war in Vietnam and other political and social issues.

Iris DeMent song provokes intense debate

By Richard Phillips, 11 March 1999

The folk/traditional American music scene has produced powerful social commentators from Woody Guthrie and others in the 1930s and 40s, through to the numerous folk singers who spoke out in the 1960s against racism, the war in Vietnam and other political and social issues.

The singer and the song explored

The Voice of the People: A 20 CD collection of folk song by Topic Records

By Paul Bond, 5 March 1999

The recent release of Topic Records' 20 CD collection The Voice of the People makes available many long-deleted recordings of traditional folk-singers and musicians from the British Isles. Compiled by Dr Reg Hall, himself a fine musician, the collection draws primarily on Topic's own output of some 120 albums, but also on previously unreleased private recordings and other long-unavailable commercial recordings. Coinciding with last year's centenary of the English Folk Dance & Song Society (EFDSS), it marks a highpoint of what is being described as a revival of folk-song in Britain.

Struttin' with Some Barbecue: Louis Armstrong and the growth of jazz

The music of everyday events

Review of Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life by Laurence Bergreen

By Ian Bruce, 25 February 1999

Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life by Laurence Bergreen. Broadway paperback edition, 1998, 564 pages, $16.00

Betrayed

I Married a Communist, by Philip Roth, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1998, 323 pp., $26.00

By David Walsh, 13 January 1999

"At any rate, all I can do with my story is tell it. And tell it. And tell it."-- My Life as a Man

Experiencing Porgy and Bess

By Barry Grey, 11 June 1998

The opening night performance of Porgy and Bess by the Michigan Opera Theater in Detroit was a deeply emotional, even overwhelming experience.

Arnold Schoenberg on Gershwin

11 June 1998

Arnold Schoenberg wrote this remarkable appreciation in 1938, the year after Gershwin’s death.

A conversation with Dave Van Ronk

By David Walsh, 7 May 1998

The name of Dave Van Ronk is inextricably linked, first and foremost, to the folk music scene in New York City's Greenwich Village in the 1960s. He played with and knew virtually everyone of musical significance in that decade.

Music should not be a selfish thing

An interview with Sleepy LaBeef

By David Walsh, 16 December 1996

Sleepy LaBeef is as gracious in an interview as he is generous in performance. After the show I asked him:

The country boogie-woogie of Sleepy LaBeef

By David Walsh, 16 December 1996

The recent appearance by Sleepy LaBeef at the Magic Bag in Ferndale, Michigan, confirms his status as one of the greatest living performers of American popular music. It is hard to imagine anyone surpassing LaBeef in honesty, enthusiasm and intensity. All this accomplished at the age of 61, after 40 years as a professional musician.