In-Flight Listening

by Pat Carrabre    ¦   April 27 2017

I’m just in the process of setting up the blog schedule for the next couple of months (which should produce some excellent listening). But in the process, we seem to have another small hole. So I will jump in again and use this opportunity to follow up on another issue that came out of that conversation I had with Nicole Lizée a month or so back. Nicky will be here in Brandon next week as a juror for the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition. She also wrote the test piece, which I am super excited to hear performed 12 times by six different singers!

Anyway, not only did we discuss visuals-with-music, we also talked about listening to music on airplanes. The In-flight sound experience has always been a problem for me (I am not a good flyer anyway!), since most airlines have a very limited view of what their passengers would like to hear. However, now that we can use our phones or tablets while in the air, it is much easier to bring along sounds that are worth exploring. For about a year now, I have had Nicole’s Bookburners album on my flying playlist, along with some Johann Johannson and The Afiara Quartet’s Spin Cycle.

Skratch Bastid and the Afiara Quartet performing Dinuk Wijeratne’s “Through the Invisible,” from Spin Cycle, live in studio q.

This last week I had to fly to both Ottawa and Calgary and I was able to take advantage of my new listening passion… Spotify. For those of you who have never tried it, Spotify is a subscription streaming service, like Apple Music, that gives you access to an amazing collection of recordings. It also allows you to download music to your device (so you can listen off-line). For these flights, I decided to check out a composer whose work I wasn’t so familiar with – Missy Mazzoli.

Missy Mazzoli’s name had been coming up in various contexts for me over the last year, so I finally searched out some of her recordings and scores. The one that struck me most while in the air was Vespers For A New Dark Age, featuring her chamber-rock quintet Victoire, Glenn Kotche (the drummer for Wilco), producer Lorna Dune and vocalists Mellissa Hughes, Martha Cluver and Virginia Warnken (of Roomful of Teeth).

I really appreciate her approach to melodic construction and harmonic progression, which features a lot of Neo-Riemannian-type mediant (third) progressions.

I wasn’t surprised to see that Mazzoli and Victoire had performed at the”Meredith Monk and Friends concert at Carnegie Hall in 2015. Her music is the perfect evolution from that older generation of New York-based minimalist composers, most of whom also had their own performing ensembles. (I was very fortunate to have heard Meredith Monk and her group at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival in January.)

Mazzoli’s Vespers worked perfectly for my in-flight listening experience and I’m looking forward to immersing myself even further into her work over the next weeks and months.

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