CatSynth Video: Enter The Dragon theme cover by KATOD – live on C64 :)

Szarik that cat returns in this video featuring a variety of synths and vintage 1980s computers. By KATOD_music on YouTube. Submitted by KATOD via our Facebook page.

In the memory of Bruce Lee… greatest dragon!
My version on amazing “Enter The Dragon” theme music by Lalo Schifrin.
Lead and solo parts live played on Commodore 64. The rest of tracks sequentially recorded.
instruments:
– modified C64 + Mssiah cartridge synth software
– bass guitar
– Waldorf Blofeld synthesizer module
– Korg R3 synthesizer
– Dreamblaster tiny module (drums)
– Atari 1040 STE (MIDI sequencer)
Arranged, recorded, mixed and mastered by KATOD
Video-clip recorded and assembled by Katod.
Track: Enter The Dragon theme cover
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Igor Stravinsky, Esa Pekka-Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra of London

On October 8 at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley California, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London performed a program dedicated entirely to the work of Igor Stravinsky. We at CatSynth were in attendance at this event.

Philharmonia Orchestra 6 March 2013 Esa-Pekka Salonen  Lutosławski rehearsal; RFH  commissioned by Alice Walton
[Photo by Benjamin Ealovega. Courtesy of Cal Performances.]

The second half of the program featured one of his most famous works, The Rite of Spring. But it was the first half that was the most interesting and inspiring, as it featured some of later and infrequently performed works, culminating in the masterpiece Agon. In fact, the concert opened with Fanfare for Three Trumpets, which was originally intended as an opening for the piece that became Agon. The fanfare puts many of the elements that characterized Stravinsky’s later music in a compact form, including more atonal and serial elements, and some of the sparse sounds and character from pre-Rennaisance European music.

The Fanfare was followed by Symphonies of Wind Instruments. I definitely enjoyed this focus on wind instruments, as it is more in my background than the strings that dominate orchestral music. But the piece also shows the combination and contrasts of musical style and discipline that cross both his middle and late periods. It has some of the elements that one might call “neo-classical”, and has a very systematic structure. It does pay homage to Claude Debussy, whom Stravinsky had known and admired when the two were together in Paris. But it also includes elements attributed to his Russian heritage (in particular, liturgical elements from the Orthodox church) and complex mixing of meters and tempi. The orchestration for wind instruments gives the overall piece a more austere quality.

The increased abstraction in Stravinsky’s later work in the U.S. after World War II in many ways culminates with Agon. The piece borrows elements from the serialism of both the Second Viennese School as later composers like Stockhausen and Messiaen, but especially combination of pitch and orchestration found in the work of Anton Webern. Indeed, characteristics Webern can be heard throughout the piece, including the use of mandolin in the orchestra. It was originally a dance piece, but an abstract “dance about dance”, and it worked even in a purely concert setting. It features strong rhythms and texture that pair with dance, but it mixes in complex counter-melodies in meters such as 5/16 or 7/16. The use of twelve-tone series is not orthodox, and mixed with folk and even jazzy elements. We can hear some of the ritual qualities that characterized Symphonies as well. It is indeed a very complex piece, but also a playful one and one that was great to hear performed live. It is unfortunately not performed that often.

By contrast, the Rite of Spring, which followed in the second half of the concert, seemed quite tame and familiar. In addition to being one of Stravinsky’s most recognized works, it also has an overall sound that influenced (directly or indirectly) orchestral film scores in the coming decades. As such it has a comfortable quality even while being forceful and intense. It has hard in 2016 to imagine what about this piece would cause concert-goers to riot in 1913.

Conductor Esa Pekka-Salonen has been quite the noted interpreter of Stravinsky’s music, conducting many of his pieces with the Philharmonia Orchestra (and the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra before that) and presenting a year-long Stravinsky series. It is great to hear these interpretations, especially of the later and less-known American period. Hopefully some in attendance at Zellerbach Hall that night left with more curiosity about these works.

An update on Luna.

Luna on the beanbag chair

It’s a sad tale of two cats these days. Luna continues to herself, beautiful, elegant and enjoying the small sites and pleasures in the world, as in this photo taken Saturday of her sitting on her beanbag chair in the studio. Something out the window caught her attention.

At other times, however, it is impossible not to see her continuing decline. This was especially the case yesterday. She was tired, with very little energy, and getting a bit frightened and skittish – I can’t begin to imagine how frightening and disconcerting this experience is for her. But she still continues to enjoy a few of her low-energy favorite things, like sitting on her throne and getting pets and scritches.

Luna with throne and scritches.

We have moved the “throne” pillow to the floor as she prefers not to jump anymore. I have also spent more time sitting with her on the floor, even spending a portion of some nights sleeping not he floor with her. We are getting towards the end, painful as it is to admit it. But she is still holding onto life and our connection, and I want to make her remaining time as comfortable as possible. I love her very much, and want her to know that she is still loved.

It’s been difficult emotionally to deal with her illness and decline. I see the cat that I’ve known for years, and think of all the memories, and that it will come to an end in the near future. And that each meal, each small activity, takes on an added gravity. There is also a lot of anger. Some at myself for not noticing this early enough to head it off, probably in late 2014 or early 2015. Some of the anger is at the world, where horrible people are thriving while the sweetest creature I have ever known is facing an early and difficult death. It’s taking its toll. I will be pulling back a bit from live shows – and I will continue to work through the backlog of reviews and reports, so it will seem like I’m as busy as ever. But much of the time will in fact be with Luna over the coming weeks.

Thank you for your continued purrs, thoughts, and vibes. 💕

SF Symphony Celebrates the Music of Steve Reich

This past September, the San Francisco Symphony celebrated the 80th birthday of composer Steve Reich with a week of performances, culminating in an all-Reich program on Sunday, September 11.

Steve Reich
[Steve Reich. Photo by Jeffrey Herman. Courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony.]

The diverse program features a variety of works from his oeuvre. It began with Six Marimbas, a piece originally scored and titled in 1973 Six Pianos. It has the classic Reich sound of repeated but slowly evolving patterns that form a continuously moving harmony throughout the piece. I thought it was particularly well suited to the marimbas, which provide a percussive texture for the lines and a lightness for the harmony. I have not heard the original for pianos, but I can imagine it was a bit heavier.

Six Marimbas was followed by Electronic Counterpoint, featuring Derek Johnson on guitar. In addition to Johnson’s live performance, the piece includes multiple pre-recorded lines to form the counterpoint texture. It is also broken up into movements and involves the development of melodic and harmonic themes that give it a more traditional quality despite the unusual orchestration.

After the intermission, Steve Reich joined Michael Tilson Thomas (aka “MTT”) for an impromptu performance of Clapping Music. This is a fun piece, and it was great to see him perform it. In some ways, this piece formed the center of the “celebration” aspect of the concert, with a long ovation following the performance.

The formal program resumed with Different Trains, performed by the Kronos Quartet with pre-recorded voices. This is a much heavier piece. It combines the sounds of trains with the live quartet and vocal recordings. It starts somewhat nostalgic with reminiscing of train trips across the United States, including New York and Los Angeles, but takes a darker turn as the voices and sounds turn to memories of the trains carrying Jews to the concentration camps during the Holocaust. It then returns to the U.S. in the final movement but with the awareness that the memories of train rides have starkly different meanings depending on time and place.

Interestingly, the original program featured WTC 9/11, a powerful piece that would have had additional resonance and symbolism coming on the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It was replaced by Different Trains – both pieces were originally written for and performed by the Kronos Quartet. There wasn’t any official mention of why the switch occurred. WTC 9/11 is a dark and difficult piece, even more so than Different Trains, and perhaps it was felt the anniversary was a distraction from the celebration of Reich’s full life and work.

The final piece of the evening was Reich’s Double Sextet, a piece that features two identical sextets – flute, clarinet, violin, piano, vibraphone, and cello. For this entirely live version, members of the SF Symphony were joined by Eighth Blackbird. The two groups formed the dueling sextets that played similar but different parts that proceeded a variety of interlocking rhythms and harmonies. The mixed instrumentation also gave it a more complex timbre than Six Marimbas (which sounded like a single instrument). It was also a more recent piece, composed in 2008, using the contrapuntal techniques he had developed in the earlier works.

I am glad that we were able to attend and be part of this event. I had studied Steve Reich as a composer and music student, and heard some of these pieces before, but not in a single unified symphonic setting. It was a fitting tribute.