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Video / Photos: So Percussion – Steve Reich’s Drumming Part 1

So Percussion Perform Steve Reich’s Drumming Part 1 from Polygon Tree Productions on Vimeo.

So we’ve got a show coming up with So Percussion on Oct 28th. Here’s a sneak peek. The So guys were down teaching at Peabody in late September and took some time to shoot a performance of Steve Reich’s Drumming Part 1 in a Percussion studio with us and Polygon Tree, curator behind the web-show An Hour of Kindness.  Enjoy and be amazed.

I also took some photos of the shoot:

_MG_7111 _MG_7121 _MG_7123 _MG_7127 _MG_7130 _MG_7138 _MG_7150 _MG_7161 _MG_7168 _MG_7183 _MG_7190

Live Review: SONAR @ the George Peabody Library (2009.05.20)

sonarBarred from using any concert hall — since Peabody shut up for the summer — a dedicated bunch of students just took over the Library for a night of musical hijinks more enjoyable than they were irreverent.  In case you’ve been missing CAGE (Conservatory Avant-Garde Ensemble), you’ll find your avant-garde fix in SONAR (not to be confused with the B-more venue). Here again, you’ll see the influence of violinist Courtney Orland, who oft turned CAGE into the worthiest offering on Peabody’s calendar. This time, she’s the inspiration, not its star player.

Headed up by artistic director Colin Sorgi (also a violinist), SONAR takes off where CAGE left off without missing a beat. Smart, quirky new music that takes risks and offers rich rewards, with surprisingly little audience effort.

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Live Review: Introducing Hot Young Conductor – Jacomo Rafael Bairos (2009.04.29)


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MP3: Claude Debussy – La Mer, 3. Dialogue du vent et de la mer

Welcome to a special treat courtesy of the graduate department at Peabody Conservatory. In honor of its degree candidates — in everything from instruments, vocals, and conducting — we’ve got an end of season festival of free music from the talented young peeps on the Baltimore Classical scene. I recommend you check out a few in the coming week.

Not every performance is a prize recital, but some of them should be. For what it’s worth, I’d crown debuting conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos with my laurels.

Lucky for us, he assured me that he’s staying on at Peabody to pursue his Doctorate. So we’ll follow him in future posts. This fellow has good friends, and, if his ambition be judged by his repertory choices, he’s ready to tackle big things.

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2008 Wrap-Up (Alex) – Live Performances

Luckily, my editor is on in-between semester break. Otherwise, I’m sure he would be in T.A. mode and grade my late post accordingly…

However, I dragged my feet somewhat deliberately. What’s the point of a 2008 summation if you don’t have at least a little critical distance between current time, and the past year? One doesn’t write a book report until the book is actually finished. A conclusion about a hypothesis can’t be reached until the experiment is actually completed. You don’t say, “Wow, baby…that was some good sex,” until the deal is sealed–unless you’re an ego-tripping moron with a teenager’s maturity level.

January 29, 2008 was my emergence from the world of sub-par print music journalism into the realm of much more serious online music writing. I don’t take credit for the upgrade; that goes solely to Greg Szeto, the music editor at my former publication, and the founder and managing editor of Aural States. I know good coat tails when I seem them, and I was really excited to jump into this venture with Greg. 

The results have been unthinkable, really. Much of the work I’ve felt the best about, and been the most proud of in the past several years has been for Aural States.
For me, 2008 has been a year of amazing music–recorded, live, and starting recently, making it again. To be accurate this journey’s proper beginnings are in the fall of 2007, but isn’t it weird how events usually arise from prior events in sequential order? Event chains, I think they are called.  I have been into music all my life, but 2008 is unique in the fact that I actually, in some small way, took a spot in a broader network of music, and culture-of-music people. I began blogging, and people were actually reading what I wrote.

This status of blogger doesn’t feel quite like it fits yet. Around Baltimore, indie/hipsters types (definitely loaded words, which are commonly mistaken for being synonymous with “music types”) don such close-fitting clothes. Perhaps, feeling as though this is a role I need to grow into is a healthier stance, than having skin-tight clothing restricting, and inhibiting movement (read: critical movement, and development).

Also, clothes being the signifiers that they are designate people into one group. I personally don’t fit into one single group musically, and probably not socially, either. From my understanding (and I think it’s an accurate understanding) the same goes for Aural States. To be clear, this does not mean AS has to be everything musically to fulfill our eclectic mission statement, but we simply need to be who we are, and only who we are.

And who are we? Music geeks: pure, unabashed, genuine music geeks.

My (Highly Subjective) Most Memorable Live Performances of 2008 (in no order, and it’s more than 10)
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Show Review – Peabody’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)… just like an NYC opera

Thanks to our newest contributor, J. Varrone for this review of Peabody’s performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

From March 12 until March 15, 2008, the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University performed Mozart’s The Magic Flute, held at 7:30pm each night in the conservatory’s Friedberg Hall. The entire opera was performed in German and featured students of the graduate and undergraduate level. With a sell-out performance each night I was glad to have purchased my tickets early, especially for Wednesday’s opening performance. Having seen several renditions of The Magic Flute prior to this one, I was eager to see Peabody’s take on Mozart’s renowned opera.
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Dub gets the academic treatment

Dub, born out of Kingston dance halls and soundclashes, will be the topic of an upcoming lecture at Peabody Conservatory. On Wednesday, February 6 Michael Veal, of Yale University, will give the free talk on the bass-heavy, reverbed-out reggae offshoot . And later that night a bunch of Peabody students, otherwise known as Soul Cannon (Baltimore’s live hip hop band) hit the stage of the Talking Head.


UPDATE: I have been obsessed with dub-step master Burial’s 2007 LP Untrue lately. 3 tracks for your listening pleasure…–A.S.

Dub icons Lee “Scratch” Perry and Mad Professor

Soul Cannon


There’s always room for cello…wait…what?

Why would Aural States review a classical recital? Why would we, a brand new blog, even bother with something that won’t earn us indie/hipster/scenester cred?

Because Aural States is by music geeks, for music geeks.

If you’re a dilettante more worried about having the tightest jeans at the show, than about the music, I can recommend other, more cholesterol rich Baltimore music blogs for you to visit that are probably much better at and more focused on getting you your fix. But if you take music seriously, and see it as more than just a signifier of you coolness, then this blog has something to offer you.

Classical music isn’t as stuffy as you might think. An audiophile simply wants to hear good music, regardless of its genre or classification. And when you see a classical performance, you can be certain of one thing…shit will be done right.

We’ve thrown the old Adorno model of high art vs. low art out the window long ago. Pop/rock/electronic musicians have long had classical influences, as well as many contemporary classical musicians and composers looking to the pop world. Philip Glass wrote works based on Bowie’s Heroes. Aphex Twin hangs out with Glass. Leonard Bernstein thought Brian Wilson was a genius. Jonny Greenwood’s recent soundtrack for There Will be Blood bears the mark of Gorecki to be sure, and perhaps other 20th century European composers. Talk to anybody involved in anything experimental about Stockhausen, and they won’t shut up. The point is that people listening to popular music can’t simply dismiss classical music.

With that said, I recently got the chance to see Peabody faculty member Amit Peled perform the complete Beethoven cello sonatas. To me this was very exciting. I began playing cello when I was about seven. I’ve played most of the Beethoven cello sonatas, though my performances were never worth much notice. But going beyond my personal involvement with the instrument, this recital allowed the listener to hear (and see) Beethoven’s progress and development writing for an instrument over the course of nearly 20 years.

All 700 seats of Peabody’s Freidberg Concert Hall were filled, though some of those seats were taken up by conservatory student’s cello cases (and when bows alone can cost well into the tens of thousands of dollars, it’s understandable wanting to keep a close eye on you instrument). People were visibly excited, if not just to see someone complete the marathon performance of going through all the sonatas.

Mr. Peled, accompanied by Alon Goldstein, took the stage. The first two sonatas are not very strong pieces, and there isn’t too much the performer can do about it. When Beethoven wrote the first two sonatas, he had no understanding of how to exploit the cello’s strengths. Beethoven stuck to what he knew, so the focus of the first two remained the piano, with the cello playing little more than a glorified continuo.

During the first sonata, Mr. Peled had an embarrassing, though common, mistake for cellists—his endpin kept slipping. The endpin is the pointed metal rod at the base of the cello, and it supports all of the weight. Mr. Peled couldn’t find a notch in the floor keep to the endpin in place, so he supported the cello instead by holding the body between his knees—like a baroque cello, or a viola da gamba.

Before beginning the second sonata, Mr. Peled found a knick in the floor and readjusted his chair.

“I always tell my students to find the hole before the recital,” he joked.

For my money, sonata No. 3 was the highlight of the whole night. This is when Beethoven finally understood what to do with the cello. The first movement opens with the cello playing alone in the lower register. Sonata No. 3, and the scherzo movement in particular, work to the advantages of the cello. The themes are muscular and resonating. Mr. Peled’s approach was very physical, very forceful. Horsehairs were snapping all over the place.

In the last two sonatas the dynamic between Mr. Peled and Mr. Goldstein became apparent. At this point in Beethoven’s writing the interplay between the cellist and pianist becomes (and this will sound trite and cliché, but it’s true) a dialog.

It can be said that the first two sonatas were piano pieces that just happen to have cello included, the third is definitely a cello piece, but the final two sonatas treat the two instruments as equals, as partners. To have seen two tremendous musicians locked into this conversation was amazing.

Going into the final work, adrenaline was pumping through both musicians, but Mr. Peled paused and began to speak. Before he would get a word out, an amped Mr. Goldstein hammered the opening chord. Realizing what he had done he completed the cadence. Everyone laughed. After three hours of intense concentration, a little humor to break the strain is fine. Mr. Peled dedicated the final sonata to his students. His level of energy, and the audience’s too, were remarkably high.

I thought sitting through the entire performance would be draining, but I left feeling invigorated. This is the effect of great music. –Bez

Jacqueline du Pré playing Scherzo from Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3