Home / General / Music Notes

Music Notes


John Zorn writes in the Times on the late, great Ennio Morricone, arguing that he was one of the greatest composers of all-time, period. You don’t have to convince me.

Ennio Morricone was more than one of the world’s great soundtrack composers — he was one of the world’s great composers, period. For me, his work stands with Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Ellington and Stravinsky in achieving that rare fusion of heart and mind. Dare we compare the five notes of his famous “coyote call” in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” with the four opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony? Morricone’s music is just as timeless.

Morricone, who died on Monday at 91, has been an influence and an inspiration since I first encountered his work as a teenager in 1967. “The Ecstasy of Gold”from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”hit me with the same power as modernist masterpieces like “The Rite of Spring,” Ives’s Fourth Symphony and Varèse’s “Arcana”; itshares their complex rhythmic invention, unique sound world and lush romantic sweep.

Embracing the soaring lyricism of his Italian heritage, Morricone’s gift for song was extraordinary. He was one of those musicians who could make an unforgettable melody with just a small fistful of notes. His meticulous craftsmanship and ear for orchestration, harmony, melody and rhythm resulted in music that was perfectly balanced; as with all master composers, every note was there for a reason. Change one note, one rhythm, one rest, and there is diminishment.

Charlie Daniels died. Great musician, OK songwriter, terrible person. Here’s a good discussion of the man, though it doesn’t really take his terrible politics up to the present.

Lady Antebellum was always a terrible band with a terrible name. Pretending to care about Black lives, it decided that maybe some could find the name offensive. Probably it was the same Nashville executive behind them making such bland, awful music designed for country music radio. Anyway, they decided to change the name to Lady A. OK. Except that a Seattle artist already had that name. And she is a Black woman. So what does Lady Antebellum do? Sue her! Lady A wanted $10 million to give up her stage name. And that’s her right. Like many white people, that band may give up the facade of a racist name but they sure ain’t giving up that racist spirit.


The Station Fire is like the most important event in Rhode Island this century. So maybe, just maybe these guys would think a bit here. But then did Great White ever really seem like the thinking type of guys? I will say this–if I had to see Great White, I’d want to contract a pandemic disease too.

That David Byrne would be difficult to work with….does not surprise me. But this Chris Frantz interview really brought that home. And for someone who is so dedicated to moving his art forward, Byrne has been something of a hypocrite in refusing to get Talking Heads back together while still performing their songs in the Broadway show that he wouldn’t have at all if it wasn’t for the collective that was TH.

I’m not sure we necessarily need a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” done in medieval musical styles, but we have one.

Being queer in country music.

When Tracy Chapman was big, I wasn’t in the place where I could really hear music like that. I’ve never revisited her work, but maybe I should. “Fast Car” has had a huge revival of late.

I’ve always thought of the Drive-By Truckers as a stupid band name, but not really an offensive one. Patterson Hood wonders if it is offensive given our current times.

New Monk concert album on the way!

It’s thirty years since Uncle Tupelo released No Depression. Here’s a bunch of interviews with musicians about its influence upon them. I can’t say I am much of a fun of Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, or Wilco, so I’m kind of whatever about it all. On the other hand, by all accounts Jeff Tweedy’s politics are genuine and he is active in promoting them. Calling for reparations in a music industry that has stolen from Black artists forever is a good stance. Maybe Lady Antebellum should give him a call, learn a thing or two.

Album Reviews:

Run the Jewels, RTJ4

Hoo boy this one is a ride. Great, great album. In an era where hip-hop groups aren’t nearly as normal as they were in the 80s and 90s, this feels like the greatest actual group to emerge in many years. Each album is more intense and political than the last. Christgau gave it his extremely rare A+ grade. Almost tempted myself. Whether this or the Fiona Apple is the best album of 2020 is up for debate, but there have now been two truly great albums in this year, both of which address the terribleness of our times.


Loreena McKennitt, Lost Souls

McKennitt is a talented enough musician with a very good voice. But this 2018 album is pretty boring. I am not intrinsically inclined to the whole Celtic thing. This music can be good, but usually feels like it exists as background music for people who like fairy themes or are into ye olde blarney. I can’t really say that this changes my opinion. There are some Middle Eastern touches here too which does change it up a bit but this still left me pretty cold.


Datura4, West Coast Highway Cosmic

A lot of people like this Australian blues-rock band. It’s fine, decent garage music with a hippie vibe. I can’t say I found anything that inspirational or exciting here. The reviews of this have been good, so maybe it’s me. If someone had this on in the car, I’d be completely fine listening to it again. But I can’t see why I would choose to do so.


Nick Cave, Skeleton Tree

This 2016 release was a mourning album for Cave, as he was in the middle of recording it when his teenage son died after falling off a cliff. He rewrote a bunch of the songs to express his mood. That kind of mourning doesn’t per se make good art–Eric Clapton mawkish “Tears in Heaven” which covered that he was an awful father is a good example of bad art being produced by genuine grief–but the potential is always there, especially when you are dealing with a titanic talent like Cave. And this album does have a different feel–less narrative, a bit more avant-garde and electronic. The sparse style and sad but also dreamy lyrics work well here. Very solid release.


Solange, A Seat at the Table

Finally went back and heard this highly acclaimed 2016 album by Beyonce’s now only slightly lesser known sister. As everyone else said, it is pretty great. It is such a profound political album about Blackness while using cutting edge ideas in soul and R&B music. Songs like “Don’t Touch My Hair” are a window into the daily prejudice felt by Black people (and one I have seen with comments from white audiences at shows feature Black artists with significant hair such as Valerie June). A real success, as many of you already know.


Alice Coltrane, World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane.

Alice Coltrane’s legacy may not be equal to that of her husband, but she was a remarkable musician in her own right with a pretty amazing catalog. She also became a yogi at a ashram in California. Much of her music is somewhat influenced by this, but none more than this somewhat strange collection of music deeply inspired by her religion. It works OK, but is somewhat more difficult than her free jazz, which is saying something.


Paramore, After Laughter

Now that Hayley Williams has released a highly successful solo album, I thought I’d go back and check out her earlier band. This 2017 release is a good but not great album. Borrowing heavily from 80s synth-pop, which I confess is not my favorite music in history, but it’s fairly fun to listen to while at the same time rolling out some pretty heavy lyrics about depression and anxiety.


Miranda Lambert, Wildcard

The women of mainstream country music are just so much smarter and inventive than the men. Sure this has the highly polished sound of Nashville, but that can work with sharp lyrics and Lambert consistently provides some of the best in the industry, both in her solo work and with Pistol Annies.


As always, this is an open thread for all things music and other forms of art and none things politics or disease. Unless it is paintings of cholera victims or something.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
It is main inner container footer text