Daily Archives: August 9, 2009

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?

More than a few people have wondered where the name of this blog comes from.

Am I depressed, or just dark?

None of the above. I just love music.

If you’ve read the About page, you already know that the name of this blog is lifted directly from a Carter Family song.

Because Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? is getting a lot of hits because of my coverage of Asphalt Orchestra and Lincoln Center Out of Doors, I figured now was a good time to give you a taste of the timeless tune. So much of American popular music stems from the Carter Family that it seemed appropriate to use one of their songs as a sort of theme for this blog about music, theater, art — all forms of the arts — and life in general.

So here’s an Emmylou Harris version of the Carter Family classic. Enjoy:

Liquid Liquid makes time melt away

liquid 1

Liquid Liquid drummer Scott Hartley and vocalist Salvatore Principato have energy to spare at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. (Photos copyright 2009, Christine Maurus)

If you think you don’t know the band Liquid Liquid, you’re probably wrong. If you know Grandmaster Melle Mel‘s White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It), you know Liquid Liquid. The hip-hop track’s bass line was lifted straight out of the track Cavern, by the Eighties NYC-based post-punk band.

Liquid Liquid lasted bare three years — from 1980 to 1983 — but the band’s high energy and rat-a-tat percussion sound made a lasting impression on music lovers and the music. The quartet — drummer Scott Hartley, bassist Richard McGuire, vocalist Salvatore Principato and percussionist/marimba player Dennis Young — made a triumphant return to New York City last night at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, taking the stage after the conclusion of Rhys Chatham‘s A Crimson Grail for 200 Electric Guitars (Outdoor Version).

Scott and Salvatore.

Scott and Salvatore.

The membes of Liquid Liquid haven’t been playing together regularly for more than 25 years. They reunited at NYC’s Knitting Factory in 2003 and got together again last October at the Barbican Centre in London. But they sounded amazingly tight and the crowd responded enthusiastically. ‘

All four band members seemed energized and totally engaged — thrilled to be performing before an appreciative hometown crowd. The sound was crisp and the beats were just as hypnotic as the day they were created. People in the audience who saw Liquid Liquid in the Eighties were amazed that the players had barely aged and hadn’t lost a bit of their drive.

Click through for more fantastic photos! Continue reading

Aural bliss = 200 electric guitars, 16 electric basses and one hi-hat

Rhys Chatham, with Hi-Hat player Ryan Sawyer at his side, conducting A Crimson Grail in Damrosch Park. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Rhys Chatham, with Hi-Hat player Ryan Sawyer at his side, conducting "A Crimson Grail" in Damrosch Park. (All photos copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh, except where noted otherwise.)

It started as a low rumble and over the course of about an hour got increasingly loud. It  was the sound of 200 electric guitars, 16 electric basses and one hi-hat cymbal playing the world premiere of Rhys Chatham‘s  A Crimson Grail for 200 Electric Guitars (Outdoor Version). (No, I wasn’t metering it, but one of the guitarists reported it reached 116 dB’s during rehearsals at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Great Hall. It was probably a bit quieter in performance.)

Section leader Seth Olinsky, guitarist in the indie rock band Akron/Family.

Section leader Seth Olinsky, guitarist in the indie rock band Akron/Family.

The project was 18 months in the making. It was supposed to happen last August at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, but a downpour that passed before the performance could start left pooled water on the ground at Damrosch Park, making it way too dangerous to proceed, given all the electricity involved. Last night, the volunteer players — about two-thirds of whom returned from last year — were protected from any threat of rain by canopies. But Mother Nature was kind, gracing showtime with cool temperatures and clear skies, followed by a bit of rain well after the performance ended.

Chatham used a playful asterisk to mark certain changes in the piece for the players.

Chatham used a playful asterisk to mark certain changes in the piece for the players.

Last night’s premiere was a reworking of the original A Crimson Grail, which was written for 400 guitars and performed indoors in Paris’ landmark Sacré-Coeur Basilica in 2005,  before an audience of 10,000 — while some 100,000 more watched on national TV.

The three-part work created a wall of sound with guitar tremolos, laced with distinct melodies that floated over and wove into the drone. Chatham conducted from a podium raised above the front row of players, assisted by four section leaders — David Daniell (improvisational guitarist and composer), John King (guitarist and composer who’s worked with Kronos Quartet and the Bang on a Can All-Stars, among others), Seth Olinsky (Akron/Family) and Ned Sublette (The Ned Sublette Band) — who passed on his instructions to the players and kept them together. (Among the players was a neighbor of mine, digital artisan Richard Lainhart, playing a white Steinberger guitar.)

The sound mix was handled beautifully, balancing the nearly ear-splitting drone sections well with the melodic lines. Some people in the crowd put fingers in their ears or inserted ear plugs during the performance. Sure, it was LOUD, but the sound was manageable and arced from soft to loud and back again smoothly.

The changing textures of the piece, coupled with the onset of nightfall created a magical effect that kept the majority of the audience deeply engaged with the piece. The overall effect was blissful, hypnotic and spiritual.

The park was absolutely packed with curious listeners. It was the first show in this still-young Out of Doors season where I’ve seen long lines of people waiting to get in an hour before the show started. Many people were turned away from the seating area and had to listen from South Plaza or from the street.

Asphalt Orchestra marched to the front of Damrosch Park last night to entertain the crowd assembled for Rhys Chatham's "A Crimson Veil." (Copyright 2009, Christine Maurus)

Asphalt Orchestra marched to the front of Damrosch Park last night to entertain the crowd assembled for Rhys Chatham's "A Crimson Veil." (Copyright 2009, Christine Maurus)

The lucky people who got in early and got seats were doubly lucky because they also got a taste of Bang on a Can‘s Asphalt Orchestra, the avant-garde marching band that made its debut on Wednesday. Asphalt, which has been, well, marching around Lincoln Center campus for a half hour before each night’s mainstage show, last night took its show right into Damrosh Park, give the captive audience a taste of its energetic sound. (Your last chance to see Asphalt Orchestra, for now at least, is at 7 tonight, starting at Broadway Plaza in front of Alice Tully Hall at Broadway and West 65th Street.)

Crimson lineup

The guitarists were lined up two deep under canopies in front of the stage and the north and south sides of Damrosch Park.