Happy 1390!

Yes, it’s Nowrūz–the Persian New Year.  Last year I had the pleasure of playing a Nowrūz party for a Bahá’í congregation.  The best part of that–other than getting to eat traditional Persian food and desserts (yum)–was getting to hear two fabulous Persian Classical musicians.  In MUNCIE, Indiana of all places!  Here’s a short video I took of Ehsan and Behrouz Kousari (Santour and Zarb, respectively):

il Troubadore ended the celebration, but I could have just listened to the Kousari brothers forever!  It turns out that Ehsan Kousari is also a Santour builder–there’s a short documentary of him at the EVIA (Ethnographic Video for Instruction & Analysis) Digital Archive in a collection titled “Indiana Musical Instrument Makers and their Craft: Field Interviews and Demonstrations (2005).”

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Another quick bite

me with Kermes after our show at Cafe D'jango 18 March 2011

Just winding down a bit after last night’s gig with my Balkan band, Kermes and still thinking about binaries and the ridiculousness of dichotomizing Classical Music and Pop Music–or should I say dichotomizing Western Classical Music and Western Pop Music since practically every culture has it’s art musics and popular musics.

Rather than belaboring a point I was making in this response to Greg Sandow’s blog post here,  I present to you folks a performance I did as Noiseman433 some years ago in St. Louis (25 January 2003).  This is probably one of my favorite performances and it lasted just a few seconds longer than the youtube clip below–and my hands were bloodied and swollen afterwards though the adrenaline high kept me from noticing it until nearly half an hour after the performance.  Needless to say, I wasn’t actively playing cello during this period of time!

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Performance: Greek Islands Hafla

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Greek Islands Restaurant in Indianapolis when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with is one I co-founded with vocalist and mandolinist, Robert Bruce Scott, in May of 2004, il Troubadore.  Rather than give you my bad prose description of us or repost our bio from the website url I just linked, the image below, from the Indianapolis Star written by David Lindquist could just as easily condense what we’re about.

il Troubadore in the Indianapolis Star

We will be hosting our monthly World Music and Dance night at the Greek Islands Restaurant in Indianapolis, a business run by the Stergiopoulos family since 1987.  We call the monthly event the Greek Islands Hafla.  The Arabic word, hafla, means “party” but in connection with bellydance communities it has taken on a life of its own.  This is a description from Shira.net website:

Hafla. (Pronounced “HAHF lah”.) This basically refers to a party. A private hafla thrown by a belly dancer usually involves Middle Eastern music (sometimes live musicians jamming, sometimes just taped music), dancers taking turns performing for each other, and some open-floor dancing for everyone to get up and enjoy the music. A more public hafla may be effectively a full belly dance festival, with vendors selling their wares and a more formalized stage show.

The local bellydancers in the Central Indiana area know the Greek Islands Hafla as a bellydance night though we do occasionally have some folk dancers that pop in from time to time.

I’ll probably be there until about midnight or so so won’t get a chance to post today hence the autopost.  And for you perusal, here’s a video of us performing at Kira’s Oasis in the Dayton, Ohio area (11 September 2009) for a fabulous dancer, Sherena, who used to be a member of the internationally touring Bellydance Superstars.  The tune is a Greek Laika by Manos Hadjidakis called Milise Mou (“Talk to Me”) and a favorite of our bellydancers.

Alternative Strings and the New Golden Age of String Playing

Alternative Strings
Alternative Strings

Julie Lyonn Lieberman’s Alternative Strings by Amadeus Press (2004)

For some time ASTA (American String Teacher’s Association) has been focusing on training string music teachers to develop Alternative String programs.  Last year I had decided that I need to formally join the organization (which I haven’t done yet but still intend on doing) so that I can be better informed about the programs, literature and techniques being created by those involved in the organization.

ASTA apparently has an “Alternative Styles Award competition” which I learned about after reading Rory Williams “Report from an ASTA Roundtable: ASTA roundtable finds alternative-styles education moving a step ahead—slowly” in the Strings magazine from the conference in Georgia in 2009.  Here’s what sparked my interest in the organization:

Vighnesh Viswanathan, 14, milled about the exhibit hall with his father and sister at the 2009 American String Teachers Association National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. What set him apart from the several hundred teachers, dealers, and performers that visited that day in mid-March was not just his age, but his name badge, which proudly proclaimed “winner.”

“It’s for the Alternative Styles Awards competition,” he said, smiling from ear to ear.

One of 12 string players chosen out of 35 applicants, Viswanathan, of Westford, Massachusetts, won the Junior Division of the “Recognition of Established Traditions” category. His specialty: Carnatic (Indian) violin.

“He studies classical music, too,” his father says.

Viswanathan is part of a growing number of bilingual string players—those who can play both classical and alternative styles—who are seeking a well-rounded education. But nearly a decade after ASTA first embraced alternative styles as a viable pedagogy, the question remains whether teachers and institutions—from the elementary to the graduate level—can accommodate these students.

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Experimental Cellos and Cellists

Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello

Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello

Some time ago I had started a community on livejournal (back in January of 2003) called “Avantcello.”  It was a space for folks interested in non-standard cello practice to post their interest or work.  I had given a number talks on Experimental cellos and cellists over the years up till that point and wanted to have some place to connect with folks who were interested since I wasn’t really finding any sort of community at the Internet Cello Society forums interested in this kind of thing.

Back in the mid to late 90s I was really experimenting a lot with cello.  I was heavily into improvisation and started performing my own house concert series doing works by some of the “Academic Avant-Garde” composers and Fluxus artists as well as getting into electronics and amplification.  I pretty much quit playing [the cello] by 1997 and got involved with the non-academic Experimental and Noise Music scene.

I toured around a bit and did a number of Performance Art shows (another interest I had at the time) as well as multi-media performances involving Experimental video that I was starting to do. In the end, some of that was becoming unsatisfying as well though I enjoyed the journey.  The cello was starting to call me back. Continue reading