Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Song (Sort Of)

Hey folks. I recently performed in a concert to benefit the Utah chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis society and I just happened to have my recorder handy at the show. For your listening pleasure (or mild confusion, utter disgust, etc.) I've uploaded one of the songs I played. I wrote this one a few years back, but it's still one of my favorites to perform. It's called "Tell Me."

On an unrelated note, I took an Italian class which reminded me of the movie "Life Is Beautiful." For those of you who missed it a few years back, it's about an Italian Jew named Guido during WWII who, after being consigned to a concentration camp with his family, invents a game to protect his son Giosué's innocence. I watched it for the class and was really impressed by the soundtrack. The movie is touching, of course, but I liked the way that Nicola Piovani's beautiful score supported the overall message of the film: that despite seemingly impossible odds and being confronted with unthinkable brutality, the human spirit and positive thinking can still make life a beautiful thing. If you haven't heard the soundtrack, check it out. I've included the track "Buon Giorno Principessa," which contains the theme that Piovani repeats throughout the score. Until next time!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Playing For Change

Hello again. I'm just checking in to share a little love I found the other day. It's a video documenting a musical project called "Playing For Change." The story is that the folks behind this project are trying to help under-developed countries build music schools. Part of what they do involves linking up musicians from different countries and then having them participate in common projects. It's better just to watch the video, since the amazing results speak for themselves:

This is undeniably cool.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thank You

Just a quick note. The other day, The Sonic Landscape reached 1000 hits. As a special thanks to you faithful readers, I scoured the internet until I found a picture that graphically represented how I feel inside. Enjoy:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Taylor Swift Meets Coldplay

Hey, folks. I've been really pleased with your comments on my most recent post. Keep them coming! I've tried to check into each of the songs you've mentioned and I was blown away by one in particular; it's local pianist Jon Schmidt's arrangement of 'Love Song' by Taylor Swift meets 'Viva La Vida' by Coldplay. Now, I'm typically wary of this kind of thing because it can be a pretty easy thing to take a track by someone else, make a few changes, and cash your paycheck. But in some cases, an artist's cover version can add new life to a song in a way that perhaps even the original author hadn't anticipated. Such is the case with Jon Schmidt's mashup.

That's saying something, especially because of the fact that I don't like much country music (Taylor Swift) and I've heard a few too many renditions of 'Waterfall' (Jon Schmidt) from players who consider it the apex of contemporary LDS piano music. In other words, I was skeptical. But, as I often am, I was wrong and what I discovered instead was something that I'd now like to share. I love to hear from everyone, so as I said before keep the comments and suggestions coming. Thanks to Megan for this one, and enjoy the video!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What do you think, folks?

For today's post, I'm trying something new that will hopefully generate a bit of dialogue among you readers. If you're anything like me, you probably have a hard time narrowing down your music to a single favorite artist, or, harder still, a single favorite song. So this week, I'd like people to comment on which artist or song they are really digging right now and then maybe write a sentence or two about why the music is affecting them the way it is. I'd like to see what happens.

Let me be first... I'm currently listening to a lot of a guy some of you may know. His name is Ray LaMontagne and I first came across one of his songs on The Last Kiss soundtrack. I immediately thought his raspy, breathy vocals were super-expressive. I also liked his simple arrangements. Anyway, I now have two of his three albums and I think he's great. He can take an ordinary vocal line and inject it full of emotion in a way that leads you to feel that there's a big backstory to the song. I've included his song "Gone Away From Me" on my playlist for your listening pleasure. It's just one example of why I think Ray LaMontagne's stuff is so cool.

Well, that's it for now, and don't forget to let us all know what you're listening to these days. Take care.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Song Of The (Time Period To-Be-Determined): Please Read The Letter

Let's just pretend that I've been faithfully posting regularly for the last few weeks, shall we? Good.

I discovered something pretty cool in my local library a while ago. They have a section with fully check-outable, truly listenable, splendiferous music! This gives people like me an opportunity to sample music we may not otherwise have access to. As I riffled through examples of jazz, classical, rock, and folk, I saw an album entitled Raising Sand that immediately caught my attention due to the name Robert Plant. For those who have ever gotten the Led out, you'll know that Plant was Led Zeppelin's bare-chested, golden-maned lead vocalist. Plant is the guy you hear singing on such tracks as 'Immigrant Song,' 'Black Dog,' and of course, 'Stairway To Heaven.' Plant and his fellows put out some of the most rhythmically-driven rock music I've ever heard.

It will come as no surprise, then, that what really caught my attention when I spied that random album in the library was the name that accompanied Plant's: Allison Krauss. This is a name which I assume more people will recognize (maybe her 20-ish Grammy awards have something to do with it?). Her work falls more in the realm of bluegrass and country. She's a gifted fiddle player and her voice is sweet, high, and pure.

Putting Krauss in the studio with Plant is not musically logical, but it's one of the rare 'what if' pairings that actually comes to fruition. And believe me--the album Raising Sand is no experiment gone awry. The musical chemist got this mixture just right. The voices of Plant and Krauss blend in a satisfying way that I never would have predicted. Though Krauss is clearly comfortable in the country-infused atmosphere of the album, Plant is by no means uncomfortable. He sings with great control and delicacy, offering Led Zeppelin fans a new shade of Plant vocals to enjoy. And Krauss is flawless, of course.

Among the notable tracks are 'Killing The Blues,' 'Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On),' and 'Please Read The Letter.' I've included the latter for your consideration in this post, and it's a pretty sweet tune. As you listen to the song, try to remember that Plant is 60 years old. Not bad for an old dude, eh?

I really like this album because it is equally complimentary to both artists. Krauss and Plant each have standout moments, but hearing their voices combine is the real fun in Raising Sand. I hope you enjoy 'Please Read The Letter' and feel free to let everyone know what you think.

Also, I just wanted to thank everyone that checks back on The Sonic Landscape from time to time. I see the counter at the bottom of the page gradually increase and I don't know who is following, but thank you. If you have any suggestions on how to improve the blog (other than posting more frequently; I'm working on that one), then please let me know and I'll do my best to incorporate your suggestions. So until next time, take care and thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Song Of The Week Dec 15 - Dec 21: Song For A Winter's Night

Again, dear reader, my apologies. I took a mini-sabbatical from The Sonic Landscape at the end of November, and when you take a break from something that isn't required for the sustenance of your family, it's sometimes hard to jump back into it. I am, however, pretty excited about this SOTW; it's part one of a two-week Christmas series that my wife encouraged me to write. I've noticed that things generally go better when I follow her advice.

I guess this is also a shout-out to my peeps in Canada, y'all (wait...maybe I'm not racially qualified to use that language...), since the artists involved hail from Ontario and Nova Scotia. "Song For A Winter's Night" is the name our featured track, and it was written by one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Gordon Lightfoot. Unfortunately, you probably know him because of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," but don't be afraid. He has so much more to offer. He originally recorded "Song For A Winter's Night" in 1967 as part of his LP The Way I Feel. We won't focus on that recording, but we will examine Sarah McLachlan's cover of the song from her 2006 release Wintersong.

My first exposure to McLachlan's music was when I was in junior high. My older sister got into McLachlan's fourth album Surfacing, and at the time, I didn't pay much attention. It wasn't until a few months ago that I came across the album again and realized just how good it was. It has some of the most beautifully arranged tracks I've heard, and Sarah McLachlan's voice is one of the loveliest in contemporary music. Anyway, rediscovering Surfacing was like the experience of learning a new word and then immediately noticing how often people use it; I started becoming much more conscious of McLachlan's work, and that's why I noticed her 2006 release Wintersong. Holiday albums give artists an open-ended opportunity to brand themselves as either cheesy or classy, and McLachlan definitively chose the latter path with Wintersong.

McLachlan employs her richly expressive vocals to re-tell Lightfoot's account of wintry-love-gone-abroad. When I listen to the song, I picture a mountain cabin that's been flanked by snowdrifts. Inside, we find a sparsely furnished room with a single table and chair. I also picture a dusty kerosene lamp on the table. For me, the most compelling part of the song is the fact that the lonesome narrator stays up all night as she reads the love letter she's received. McLachlan really envisioned herself in this role, and the proof is in the pudding: if you weren't familiar with Lightfoot's original, you'd think that McLachlan had written the track from personal experience. Yet another example of great musical artistry... she took an old song and made it new again, but in an authentic way. So until next week, enjoy this great version of "Song For A Winter's Night," and here's hoping that you all have someone to snuggle up to. It's cold outside.