Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mahler - Symphony No. 3

The Holy Grail (or the Holy Unicorn in this case). Find more insanely expensive used copies here. This is a Mahler 3 well worth knowing, and take a look at that album cover... it fits the music.

One of my favorite parts of this symphony is the slow finale. Jascha Horenstein brings it across really well, as did Michael Tilson Thomas in a later decade with the same orchestra. This is a hard symphony to take in all at once, but the individual moments add up to something memorable. The choral part in the fifth movement is all Christmas-sounding. The fourth movement is existentially sad, and those middle movements sound like German mountain music. The opening movement is massive and bipolar, but the two sides of it come together in an orgiastic coda. Whatever that means to you, enjoy.

Download here (no password)):

Happy solstice and turning of the year to you!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Voices of the Loon / Celtic Fiddle

You'll find a link to my Tumblr blog in the right column. I have been sharing various finds from Spotify to that site and will be highlighting certain albums here from time to time, not the least of which is William Barklow's Voices of the Loon. This is not music composition but animal communication; Barklow, a professor at Framingham State College in Massachusetts, has been studying the loon for years. This fantastic article from 1985 tells more:

Once you hear the voice of the loon, you can't unhear it - truly among the most fascinating animals of the north.

Voices of the Loon is available on Amazon here.

Rautavaara, Messiaen, Hovhaness, Beethoven, Respighi, Strauss, and so many others have composed music influenced by animal and bird sounds. This is a different experience entirely, an example of "the music of what happens."

If you'd like something else to hold your attention, here are forty fiddle tunes that I arranged in a playlist:

Click here for a web link to the playlist. These are men and women from Ireland, Scotland, England, the United States, and Canada (mainly the Atlantic Provinces, where you'll find plenty of traditional musicians).

I can listen to this for hours!!!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bamboo / Statistics

Here is yet another video featuring some music I put together: this one sounds best on speakers with good bass. I've been working with Mixcraft Pro Studio 6, a good program, though it will take some time to learn all the features.

The Common Rede has 92,144 page views as of now, with viewers from all over the place. Blog readers may sometimes be reticent to leave comments, but Google is not shy about providing facts and figures. Mediafire is good like that too: believe it or not, the Cantigas album alone is near nine hundred downloads, which is a happy thing, as it's not in circulation commercially.

I'll endeavor to keep going even if the wolves begin circling around all the remaining file sharing sites. Hey, if worse comes to worst, I'll share YouTube videos, an occasional Spotify playlist, articles, and whatever random reflections. I tend to focus on music here, but I have been known to think about other things.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cædmon's Hymn / Beowulf

A wonderful arrangement sung in the West Saxon dialect of Old English. See the lyrics here. You might also be interested in this other performance of West Saxon origin, the prologue of Beowulf:

The gentleman reading the epic is, in fact, Angus himself, masquerading in public under some other name :-). Look here for text and translation.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Santa Loves You

Never forget Santa's love :-)
I composed this tune with MuseScore
and edited the video in Movie Maker.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Fair Legislation

I received a takedown notification today, the first since I started the blog in 2008.

Now this may be good news, if the Woody Shaw album in question is soon again available in print or in MP3 format. As of now I still see nothing but expensive used copies. Sadly, Shaw won't be making any more albums; he died in May 1989.

I will say I like the DMCA quite a lot. It is more than fair, and Google has an excellent policy for enforcing it, which allows me to edit my posts to comply with the legislation. That's just what I did.

I am against stronger legislation such as SOPA. As much as I enjoy singing sea shanties, piracy isn't what we're aiming for here. Just making people aware that there is more to music than what you hear on commercial radio is good enough. I'll gladly remove any link that gets between musicians and their livelihood, and replace it with a link to an online merchant.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Clifford Brown

One of my favorite trumpet players is Clifford Brown, who died in a 1956 car accident at the age of 25. Despite his short life he made a legacy. His albums with Max Roach include Clifford Brown & Max Roach, Study in Brown, and Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street - all great.

Brown's style is clean, upbeat, melodic, and inventive in a way that wakes you and gets you dancing. Check out "Daahoud" for example. Brown's first solo begins at 0:37. Also check out this article from the July 1980 edition of Downbeat magazine.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Дмитрий Шостакович - Symphony No. 4

The clapping comrade, happy and joyous as ever :-)

Here is Symphony No. 4 by Dmitri Shostakovich in a 1960-something recording by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Download here (no password):

Excellent version. Classic. If you like the music, though, check out the 2002 recording with Myung-Whun Chung and the same orchestra. The MP3 album is on Amazon - click here. Ormandy gets the silver medal. Chung is a genius. But start with the older recording - it works its magic just fine.

This is raw, exciting stuff - Shostakovich's heavy metal symphony. At first it sounds like it is all over the map, but I always come back to it, trying to understand the structure. It has structure - odd structure. Crazy structure. This is good Halloween music... definitely one of my favs.

Look here for the Wikipedia article, which goes into the logic of the symphony and the story of how it remained hidden for decades before gaining greater audience. 

The ending gives me chills. Spooky.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

June Tabor in 1990

Totally hot! Check out "While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping" around 4:50. Better yet, watch the entire video.


She even dances at the end of the set!

Let me add two more, the first and last songs from her album with Martin Simpson, "A Cut Above":

"Admiral Benbow"


Plenty more on YouTube to sample (including her incredible rendition of "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"); also check out her albums on Amazon.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sibelius: Symphony No. 7 - Mark Elder

Go Hallé Orchestra! John Barbirolli would have been proud of this.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Down The Hatch

I'm still looking for a copy of In Port, which I'm sure is a fine fine album, but meanwhile here is Cyril Tawney singing about drinking in Down The Hatch. Many of these songs regard beer, and when it's not beer, whisky... fine thoughts for the month of October. Have fun!

Download here (no password):


Saturday, September 15, 2012


This is uncommonly excellent, a cover of a portion of "The Gates of Delirium" from the Relayer album. You really really got to listen to this fellow Tim sing, especially if you know a little about Yes.

I strongly recommend the whole Yes song in context, especially if you appreciate intricate progressive rock - listen here and purchase here. The band is solid on this album, with Steve Howe on guitar and Patrick Moraz on keys.

There is a brief moment toward the end of "Soon" that sounds just like a motif from Wagner's Parsifal - a good side note considering my last post.

There are plenty of great videos of Yes doing this song on YouTube as well. The number of likes on those videos is just overwhelming.

Yes - "Soon" Live in 2002 & 1975

Currently you can also find the entire Yessongs video and even Jon Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow, all great stuff (especially watching a young Steve Howe perform "The Clap" on the former video... check it out.)

Olias of Sunhillow 

Next, Patrick Moraz is an absolute genius. Check this out -



Saturday, September 1, 2012

Transformation Music

We will not talk here about Richard Wagner the person, nor will we talk about how awfully obtuse the plot of Parsifal is. Instead, we will focus on the music, first the opening Prelude:

Georg Solti is a magician with this kind of music and many other kinds as well. I'm willing to say if there's one thing to hear by Wagner other than the flying Valkyries, this is it. Anyway, the motifs that surface here pop up thematically to season the rest of this Bühnenweihfestspiel (now is a good time for a beer). Let me leave you with two things; first, the entire libretto translated:

Then, one of the key scenes, "Verwandlungsmusik,"
or Transformation Music...

Download here: which you will hear the motifs from the Prelude as well as an enormous musical surprise unlike anything I've ever heard. It is awe-inspiring, and beautiful. Only a man with an ego the size of Wagner's could have thought it up. This version is performed by James Levine and the New York Met. Levine takes it slow - lets that grandeur sink in deep.

What else do I like by Wagner so far? Well, I think Tristan und Isolde is perfect, both for the music and the plot. The star-crossed lovers in that music drama are red-blooded, spiteful, feisty creatures. It is enjoyable every step of the way. The other is Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, because it is so filled with melody and celebration. I have not heard the Ring cycle in its entirety. Then again, I haven't even turned 40; there's time yet for that.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Nokia Lumia 900

Well, it's time for another commercial break. Windows Phone rocks! Check it out - go to a store and play around with one. I got the Nokia Lumia 900 in black, though the cyan pictured here is cool too. The phone is easy as hell to use, plenty quick, and versatile. I understand Windows 8 is coming soon, but as of now this is hands down the best contract deal for a smartphone on AT&T. Thumbs up! 

You can read my review here.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012


The classic recording of William Walton's Symphony No. 1. The first premiere of the entire work was in 1935; this recording is from 1966. Love the opening. Am addicted to the finale. What's in the middle is just as engaging. This is among the finest bright lights, big city orchestral statements made in the twentieth century. Previn made it happen, the jazz, the anxiety, angst, energy, endurance - whatever words describe the music, it's all right here. I think of this symphony as the Western equivalent of Shostakovich No. 5 in the sense that both symphonies depict struggle, one with totalitarian regime, the other with the individual's place in the hustle of the free world. You may hear something different, which is OK. That's the whole joy of hearing tunes without words.

Download here (no password):

Buy HERE (Collected Works... A+). Also check out Walton's Second and the Viola Concerto HERE. Or Belshazzar's Feast HERE. And a whole bunch of other great stuff HERE.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

What Do You Want?

Sandy Denny with Fairport Convention

Two songs with Sandy Denny here. The first is a version of "Si Tu Dois Partir" with Fairport Convention in which Denny jeers "What do you want?" at the beginning of the track. I don't know why she does that, but it's fun. This is definitely an excellent version of the song - a Dylan cover in French, no less!

"The Lowlands of Holland" is from BBC Sessions 1971-1973. This song highlights how Denny carries a mournful tune a cappella.
The link...

Download here (no password):

YouTube also has many other good tracks, including this one:

Outstanding is a better word. As one commenter put it, "There are very few singers who can sound delicate and emotionally defiant at one and the same time." That fits this performance perfectly.

Denny's albums with Fairport Convention, What We Did On Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief, and the posthumously released Heyday, are all excellent. Another album well worth finding is Sandy Denny & The Strawbs. Beyond that, there are many other good tracks on various albums - Fotheringay, The North Star Grassmen and the Ravens etc. If you're a fan, you'll find them all eventually.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Robert Hunter

Let's take it into June with Robert Hunter. You might have visions of dancing teddy bears in your head - we are talking about the guy who wrote songs for the Grateful Dead. But he is an excellent musician in his own right, and Jack O'Roses is an album to show it, with just the man and his guitar. Here is the song list:

Box of Rain
Reuben and Cerise
Talkin' Money Tree / Friend of the Devil
Delia DeLyon and Stagger Lee
Lady of Carlisle
Book of Daniel
   a. Lady With a Fan
   b. Terrapin Station
   c. Ivory Wheels/Rosewood Track
   d. Jack O'Roses
Prodigal Town

You'll hear interconnected themes in the lyrics of these songs. The stories in them have a mythic feel: they point at events beyond the listener's full comprehension. Somehow this lifts the level of drama to something larger than life happening on the fringes of the great frontier. The album's centerpiece is the Terrapin suite. How Hunter does the whole piece so convincingly with just an acoustic guitar absolutely amazes me. His fingerstyle skills throughout the album amaze me in fact. I like his voice too.

Download here (no password):

Jack O'Roses is available in physical form out there in the wide world, but not in CD format as far as I know. Collector LPs exist I'm sure. For information on Hunter's other albums, including Tales of the Great Rum Runners, see the Amazon page here.

There is more to tell! Hunter is a poet and translator. Here are the author's own web pages with his translations of Rilke and a general index of files he shares with the public:

The Sonnets to Orpheus
The Duino Elegies
General Index 

I am looking through these now myself - plenty of great stuff from an American original.


Monday, May 21, 2012

The Music of Galicia

Cristina Pato

I made this playlist to highlight the strong Celtic influence in the music of Galicia in northwestern Spain:


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Leoš Janáček

If you're wondering what church music written by an atheist sounds like, listen to the Glagolitic Mass. Whatever your take is on spiritual matters, I hope you'll give it a listen. Leoš Janáček made a masterpiece - this ranks high on my Blockbusters of Western Civilization list. The text is in Old Church Slavonic, which you can learn more about here. I included a translation. The orchestration, solo, and choral writing are unique. I can't think of a single thing to compare this to, except the wild organ solo toward the end sounds like like the soundtrack of a vampire movie. The concluding Intrada section is pure adrenaline. Bizarre and absolutely incredible stuff.

Those of you familiar with "Knife Edge" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer will immediately recognize the opening fanfare of Sinfonietta, another awesome piece of music. Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra do an even better job than Simon Rattle on both these works... plenty of energy, fine acoustics. I still want to hear Mackerras.

I forget on which blog I found this, but mediafire is a quick download. And have I mentioned yet? This is currently out of circulation. MP3 versions of the recordings by Rattle and Mackerras you can find on Amazon.

Download here (no password):


Friday, April 20, 2012

Levon Helm (1940-2012)

"...they never should have taken the very best" is right. Thank you for a lifetime of great music, Levon Helm.

Though Levon hailed from Arkansas, the other members of The Band come from Canada, including Robbie Robertson, who wrote this song. Robertson is half Mohawk, half Jewish. He did the writer's job of putting himself in another person's shoes when he created the character Virgil Caine in this song. But Levon brought it to life, especially in this performance from The Last Waltz. If you want to hear more of The Band, definitely definitely get the live album Rock of Ages, recorded December 28-31, 1971 at the Academy of Music in New York City. Love Levon's solo work as well. Too bad I missed The Midnight Ramble up in Woodstock.

In dearest sympathy,

Friday, April 13, 2012

Music by Prokofiev

This is a great photo of Sergei Prokofiev, accompanied here by two recordings not currently in circulation.

The First and Fifth symphonies, as recorded by Previn in this 1986 recording with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, are a gem. The First is called the "Classical" Symphony. If you haven't heard it, give it a listen, and you will understand why. As much as I love all of the Fifth, I am addicted to the last movement. Total insanity!

The Third Piano Concerto, here performed awesomely well by the then-thirteen-year-old pianist Evgeny Kissin and the Moscow Philharmonic, is all in one MP3 file. This whole performance is just as fun to hear as the ending of the Fifth Symphony.

Beyond these performances, I'd also recommend the violin and piano concertos, Peter and the Wolf, the Scythian Suite, the Sixth and Seventh symphonies - and everything else. Prokofiev is one of my favorites.

Download here (no password):


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Beth Orton - She Cries Your Name

This is absolutely smoking hot. I got around to listening to Trailer Park and Central Reservation - both excellent albums.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Woody Shaw - The Moontrane

I looked on Amazon: no MP3 album available for Woody Shaw's 1974 release, The Moontrane. Used copies are being sold for big bucks, but no MP3 yet.

There was a Thursday night radio show in the late 1980s on WBAB called Moontrain Jazz (maybe Moontrane Jazz is more correct, but web references are few), and it always began with the title cut from this album. A rock station got me hooked on jazz - go figure! I wish my memory were better; I'd give the radio guy credit. Some DJs have great taste and enough personality to sway the corporate machine in the right direction. The long-winded genius of Phil Schaap comes to mind.

Speaking of geniuses, Woody Shaw was a musical genius. Certified. Check out his biography here. There are many albums in addition to this one to explore.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Moondog (1916-1999)

Happy spring! I keep saying to myself I'm going to post Moondog, so here he is - an American original with a one-of-a-kind musical story, which you can read here.

I'd say more, but I'll let the music speak for itself. Here is another piece:

Keep searching YouTube. You will find lots. Albums I have that are outstanding include Sax Pax for a Sax, A New Sound of an Old Instrument, and Rare Material - all great stuff. Maybe it's minimalism, but I find it hard to pigeon-hole this guy into a single category. Check out this 1998 interview - excellent read.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Alan Hovhaness

Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) was an American composer born in Massachusetts to an Armenian chemistry professor and a mother of Scottish descent - more here. His ancestry and interest in Asian music give his music plenty of exotic sound.

The album I'm sharing here with David Amos conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra, not currently in circulation, contains an excellent introduction to his work. It features And God Created Great Whales, scored for orchestra and recorded whale song. It is inspiring to hear whales in such a setting, since the language of whales is something we're not privy to. There is a kind of awe that emanates from the music that accentuates the strange sounds.

The other pieces include Concerto No. 8 for Orchestra,  Elibris (Dawn God of Urardu), Alleluia and Fugue, and Anahid - all beautiful stuff. I always feel transported to distant places when I hear these pieces, particularly by the woodwinds. From here, other compositions to explore are the Mt. St. Helens and Mysterious Mountain symphonies, just two among hundreds of his works. Check out Amazon; there are plenty of recordings and reviews to peruse. In the mean time, enjoy.

Download here (no password):


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Link Update

The following posts have been updated with working links:
  1. The Chieftains 5
  2. Clannad - First Album (1973)
  3. Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 - Barry Tuckwell, LSO
  4. Ed Luhrs - Digital Compositions (My Music)
  5. Grieg: Peer Gynt, Piano Concerto
  6. Gustav Holst - The Hymn of Jesus Etc.
  7. Lou Monte: Pepino the Italian Mouse
  8. Mahler: Symphony No. 7 - James Levine
  9. Martinu: Symphonies 3 & 6 - Vaclav Neumann
  10. Phish: Campus Club, Providence RI 3/13/92
Hooray! This should bring us up to date for the most part. If you haven't seen some of these, check them out. The only album I wasn't able to locate is Slatkin's recording of Walton's First, which is OK for now. Maybe I can come up with a suitable replacement in the weeks ahead. I love that symphony.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Einojuhani Rautavaara

Happy Day Before Valentine's Day! What better way to celebrate than to give homage to Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, whose concertos and symphonies are one-of-a-kind. I'm going to focus on the symphonies here, which is no surprise, considering how that's what I usually do. (I'm trying to change my ways, really.) Anyway, I do have a download to offer, though only a meager 160 bps. Nearly all of Rautavaara's works are all available online in MP3 format, and I recommend them highly.

I'm going to focus first on the Fifth Symphony, which is the first work of his to really grab my interest. This is a symphony in one movement. Sibelius wrote his last symphony in one movement. Whereas the Sibelius flows like an organic process, Rautavaara's symphony is like a communication among aliens on an icy planet, at least in the middle. It is not atonal; there is always melody going on, but the statements made are spontaneous and discrete. The opening builds with a series of ominous crescendos, leading into whirring sounds and the characteristic tympani motifs which surface in many of his later works. Should you be curious about where the final passage begins, it is around -4:21. This is one of the most breathtaking conclusions I've ever heard in a symphony.

Download here:

I hope this is a starting point for learning more about Rautavaara. His more recent work sometimes sounds a little similar. There is a nasty Amazon reviewer who points this out in every single one of his reviews, which irritates the daylights out of me. But that particular individual hasn't stopped me from coming back for more. I'm already in too deep.  I'm a big fan.

The First Symphony is good stuff. If Sibelius's First sounds a little like Tchaikovsky, then Rautavaara's First sounds at times like Shostakovich. His faster-paced movements are generally shorter than the slower ones. Just an observation. It applies here in the First. The Third is especially engaging: it has the feel of a Bruckner symphony, but with some unusual serial techniques employed. One of my favorites is the Sixth - Rautavaara uses synthesizer sounds to create strikingly ethereal effects.

Rautavaara's most popular pieces are the Seventh (which won a Grammy) and Cantus Arcticus, which features recorded bird song. He wrote an Eighth Symphony in 1999. Whether the world will see another, we don't know.  I can tell you he is remarkably prolific in all genres, including opera. He wrote a  really nice early piece for string orchestra called The Fiddlers (Pelimannit) in a fairly conventional style. I have heard a number of his concertos, many of which are very enjoyable and have been recorded by Vladimir Ashenazy and Richard Stoltzman, among others. You can find quite a few examples of the composer's work on YouTube, and when you're ready, you can purchase a few of his recordings through Amazon and other online sources. I certainly have.


Friday, February 3, 2012

The Well-Tempered Synthesizer

One of the first pioneers of the Moog synthesizer, Wendy Carlos made a famous 1968 album called Switched on Bach, which won three Grammy awards the following year. This was ground-breaking work, as it was among the first recordings to include classical performance on synthesizer. Part of the success of that album had a lot to do with Carlos's skill as a keyboard player, the other part being the wild array of sounds.

Continuing with this success, she released The Well-Tempered Synthesizer in 1969, which I am featuring here. This album features performances of works by Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Handel, and Bach. There are many moments of greatness here, particularly in the Scarlatti sonatas. Some sounds sparkle better than others, but overall the effect is really excellent.

In her own music, Carlos has a knack for making eerie-sounding stuff, as in her film soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. She recorded an ambient album of her own work in 1972 called Sonic Seasonings, which consists of several long pieces named after the seasons. I really enjoy that album - it has many passages of an otherworldly quality blended in with atmospheric and forest sounds. The Well-Tempered Synthesizer, however, is as good a place as any to start if you'd like to better familiarize yourself with her work. There is quite a lot to enjoy on this album. For more information on Wendy Carlos, see here.

Download here (no password):


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thank You, Muses...

The Nine Muses inspiring Arion, Orpheus and Pythagoras under the auspices of Personified Air, source of all Harmony, 13th century, Public Library Rheims

Now that Megaupload has fallen, some of my older files are gone. Ask me to share them on Mediafire, and I will. I've been using Mediafire for some time and find them reputable. Whether Big Brother feels the same is another story entirely. I do hope Mediafire weathers the current storm.

I think there is great validity in posting music that is out of circulation and without benefit of the Internet very few people would know about otherwise. Take, for example, Eino Tulikari, whose music I posted in March last year. 112 downloads - that means 112 people now know of the existence of a legendary kantele player from Finland. There are countless great examples of music like this that become lost in time.

I want to share my sense of wonder at the creative spirit here. It happens that music is one of the things I've come to enjoy sharing most, even if I'm more a writer than a musician. (I play ukulele... that counts for something! And I've also shared my musical compositions composed on the computer, to be fair to myself.) At any rate, in the weeks ahead, I'll continue to post, whether it's a YouTube video, an album, some words about a particular artist or style of music, or something completely random, which I've been known to do. I have a separate blog that focuses on writing, though I'm still trying to figure out what to do with that.

I like how the ancients thought about music, which is why I've included the art above. The Greeks and Romans inspired the imaginations of many scribes and artists in Middle Ages, who preserved the image of the Muses and the connection of sounds to the celestial sphere. I think in our own way we're continuing this tradition online. All these great blogs about folk, jazz, rock, and orchestral music help us see a broader horizon of who influenced who, where music comes from, where it is going.


Monday, January 9, 2012

A Celebration Indeed!

Nancy Allen - one of New York's own. Great, great selections here. Every moment of this 1990 release is beautifully conceived.

Download here (no password):

Also, I forgot to post Ottorino Respighi on January 6. I call this my birthday song - "La Befana" (The Epiphany), the conclusion of Feste Romane (Roman Festivals).

What an entertaining roller-coaster! Respighi sometimes sounds a little like Strauss. His orchestrations of Renaissance music are beautiful. But here is something altogether different: a full-blooded Italian musical orgy. This Venezuelan orchestra does a great job with this difficult piece:

If you want to check out an A+ studio recording, look here.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Little Sister

Though it's just the beginning of the year, and my birthday no less, I think we need to pause for a commercial break. Surely this is one of finest fast-food commercials ever made, from the McDonald's & You campaign back in the early 1980s. This still gives me the weepies, and I don't even have a sister! Tender, tender thoughts, connecting generations one French fry at a time.