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June 24, 2017

Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise More on Satie’s Le Fils des Étoiles

In my piece on Joséphin Péladan and the Salons de la Rose + Croix, I devote some space to Erik Satie’s astonishing score for Péladan’s mystical drama Le Fils des Étoiles, which was produced in conjunction with the first Salon in 1892. I first discovered the work as a teen-ager; I had bought a copy of the Dover compendium of Satie piano music, and became inordinately fascinated with what was described inscrutably as a “Wagnérie Kaldéenne de Sâr Péladan.” I used to play the opening six-note chords at ear-splitting volume, somewhat in defiance of the instruction “En blanc et immobile.” Not until I commenced work on my long-gestating book Wagnerism did I attempt to come to terms with Péladan’s writing. Needless to say, there will be a sizable section on Péladan in the fourth chapter of the book, titled “Grail Temple: Mystic, Decadent, and Satanic Wagner.”
What many people don’t realize about Le Fils des Étoiles — to the extent they realize anything about this still obscure score — is that the three Preludes printed in standard Satie editions are only a portion of the music that Satie wrote for the play. There is actually about an hour of music extant: one can see the complete work in a fine Bärenreiter Urtext edition of Le Fils des Étoiles. The pianist Steffen Schleiermacher prepared the text and supplied performing notes; he has also made a recording, for the MD+G label. It is not clear how Satie’s music was configured with the play; perhaps it was played in the background during the three acts, which are titled “The Vocation,” “The Initiation,” and “The Incantation.” Péladan made a further mysterious comment to the effect that the music was played by harp and flute — an impossibility given the chromatic nature of Satie’s writing. There are significant differences between Satie’s original manuscript and the published version, which appeared in 1896: 1) the piece was described as a Pastorale Kaldéenne, not a Wagnérie; 2) the original has bar lines and time signatures, while the later edition has none; and 3) the original lacks such markings as “En blanc et immobile” and “Pale et hiératique.”
Few people took notice of Les Fils des Étoiles upon its first appearance, and what comments there were tended to be negative. The critic and novelist Henry Gauthier-Villars, Colette’s husband, called it “faucet salesman’s music,” triggering a long, absurd feud with Satie that culminated in threats of a duel. Ravel was said to have made an orchestration of the three Preludes, or at least was working on one; alas, this version subsequently disappeared, if it was ever completed. It must have made a gorgeous din. An orchestration by Alexis Roland-Manuel serves as a decent substitute.

from Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Take a look at what’s in Classical at mandersmedia on Discogs

World Service Music Documentaries Sweet Mother

Prince Nico Mbarga and Rocafil Jazz’s 1976 recording Sweet Mother is estimated to have sold 13 million copies in markets and record shops across Africa – that is more than The Beatles’ biggest-selling single I Want To Hold Your Hand. Yet outside the continent, it is barely recognised. On the 20th anniversary of Prince Nico’s early death in 1997, DJ Edu tells the incredible story of this one-hit wonder.

from World Service Music Documentaries
Take a look at what’s in Folk, World & Country at mandersmedia on Discogs

JazzWax Kirk, Lily and Frank


This week in The Wall Street Journal’s
Mansion section, I interviewed Kirk Douglas, who is 100 years old (go here). The actor, who first appeared in the movies in 1946, overcame poverty in Amsterdam, N.Y., and made it to Hollywood, thanks to talent and the generosity of a young actress and friend named Lauren Bacall. Kirk has a new book out—Kirk and Anne. Though he suffered a stroke in 1996 that slurred his speech, it was still a thrill to hear Kirk get on the phone and say, “Hello, Marc. What can I do for you?” Hey, it’s the little things in life. You’ll love his answer when I asked him the secret to reaching 100. Here’s one of my favorite little-known Kirk Douglas films, Champion (1949)…


Also in the WSJ,
my “Anatomy of a Song” column for the Arts & Life section focused on the Spinners’ I’ll Be Around (go here). I interviewed the song’s co-writer and producer Thom Bell, the lyricist Phil Hurrt and drummer Earl Young. What you have in this song is the start of the Philadelphia dance sound. Thom’s vision, Phil’s words and Earl’s beat would be the basis for Blue Magic, MFSB, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and The Trammps, a group founded by Earl. The Spinners gave me such joy in my teens. It was a joy to celebrate Thom, Phil and Earl in return. Here’s the Spinners’ I’ll Be Around. Listen to drummer Earl Young, who creates what would become the basis for Philly’s hustle beat…


And finally, for the WSJ,
I interviewed bestselling novelist Anne Hillerman for the Review section (go here). She talked about when she first heard the Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Runnin’ and how it helped her sort out a personal matter while driving to and from her parents’ house in Arizona on Thanksgiving in 1973. Her latest book is Song of the Lion. Here are the Doobie Brothers…


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Free subscription to JazzWax?
Yep. Just go to the right-hand column, scroll down to “Subscribe Free,” click the button and type in your email. That’s it. Then JazzWax will arrive in your in-box each day.

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Bill FitzGibbons, whom I interviewed several years ago for my “House Call” column in the WSJ (go here), is a light sculptor. What exactly does that mean? See the image above. We’re talking huge works in San Antonio, Texas, and other locations. If you dig it, the public artwork is called “Centro Chroma Tower.” Well, Bill’s work above has been chosen as one of CODAawards top 100 public art projects worldwide. You can vote for his work by going here.

Dave Pell Tribute

Dave Pell, the late tenor saxophonist and West Coast octet-leader who died on May 7, is being celebrated on Saturday, June 24. If you’re in Los Angeles, rush over to the tribute at the Musician’s Union Local 47 at 817 Vine Street in Hollywood. You’ll get to hear Dave’s octet arrangements played in all their glory. Here’s my post on Dave and my interview with him following his passing in May.


Herman and Lily.
Searching YouTube the other day looking for newly posted music videos (see what I do for you in my spare moments?), I stumbled upon a shockingly superb documentary on The Munsters, the crypto-scary TV sitcom that aired from 1964 to 1966 and transformed horror-movie monster characters into cheery but odd neighbors. Here it is…


Watch nuts.
Count me among them. I love cars, too, but you can’t wear a Porsche 911 Turbo on your wrist. If you love watches, too, then you know that the Paul Newman Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is among the most prized (and expensive) sport models. Dig this fabulous article by Michael Clerizo in the WSJ Sunday magazine a couple of weeks ago. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Go here.


What the heck.
Here’s Frank Sinatra in 1966 appearing on the TV special A Man and His Music Part II. He’s singing The Most Beautiful Girl in the World from his album Strangers in the Night. It’s one of the fastest-tempo Sinatra songs that featured some of Hollywood’s finest studio musicians. Dig the trumpets and trombones turn those music pages…

Oddball album cover of the week.

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How about me what? Dennis Lotis according to Wiki, “is a South African-born British singer, actor and entertainer whose popularity was greatest in the 1950s. He was described as having ‘a sophisticated style that was particularly attractive to the young female population.’ ” It’s easy to see why. Clearly, it’s the two-toned business-class airplane seats converted into a living-room sofa.


from JazzWax
Take a look at what’s in Jazz at mandersmedia on Discogs

This day in music On this Day June 24, 2016

A US jury concluded that Led Zeppelin did not copy the opening chords of
‘Stairway To Heaven’ from the US band Spirit, saying the riff Led Zeppelin was accused of taking from Spirit’s 1967 song ‘Taurus’ “was not intrinsically similar” to Stairway’s opening. During the trial, defence lawyers argued the chord progression in question was very common and had been in use for more than 300 years.

from This day in music
Take a look at what’s for sale at mandersmedia on Discogs

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