Climbing the Charts: Tania Stavreva

Perhaps my accidental double-purchase helped, but probably not. More about that encounter between an artist and listener in a moment …

A new entry appeared on Billboard magazine’s charts this week: pianist Tania Stavreva’s self-produced, independent, debut CD, Rhythmic Movement, which introduced itself at number 8 two days ago. It remains in the top 25 today.

Among her album’s competitors are new CDs from Andrea Bocelli, Björk, Murray Perahia, Renee Fleming, the Vienna Philharmonic, Elvis Presley (!), and Heart (!). The reviews of Ms. Stavreva’s album are in, they are stellar (and this website has been quoted); the record-buying public has followed, and listeners are discovering an important new talent.
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Tania Stavreva: Rhythm and Movement

The pianist Tania Stavreva’s official debut album, Rhythmic Movement, was released on January 7. If you own a music store, you will enjoy the debate you will have with yourself regarding which section to locate the CD: Classical? Jazz?

The album is available here: $10 for a digital download, $15 for a signed CD.
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In a Christmas Mood …

If you find yourself in London this Christmas Eve—and why would you not be there that night?—you ought to spend the evening in the company of Nick Shankland and Kitty LaRoar in the cabaret at Scarfes Bar (from 8:00 p.m. till midnight). Whoever or whatever the jazz muse is, he/she/it has decided to hang out with these two musicians and their friends the last few years.

And they released a Christmas E.P. this year, Christmas Dream, a collection of holiday standards that they treat like the ideas are new to them and the sentiments freshly felt. They make music that is beautiful, elegant, and always in the mood for love.

I have been a fan of Kitty LaRoar and Nick Shankland’s music for a couple years now, and each recording brings new pleasure with repeated listens. Her voice and his piano accompanied me through this challenging 2016 and helped make it less so. Last year they released an E.P. for Valentine’s Day (titled Valentine’s Eve, with saxophonist Ed Jones) … if they dedicated themselves to recording music about every holiday on Earth, I would be happy to take that global tour with them.
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On His 90th Birthday, Chuck Berry Ends Silence

In 1979, Chuck Berry released Rock It, his only album with Atco Records. Aside from live albums, the occasional compilation, and the soundtrack to the film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rock It has held its position as the last, the most recent, Chuck Berry album ever since.

Until today. Chuck Berry celebrated his 90th birthday today with a surprise announcement: he will release a new album of original songs next year. It is to be titled Chuck.
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‘Space Is the Place’

“Why did you stop playing the sax?” I asked a friend one day. He had been a Bebop player of growing reputation back in the ’50s but ended that career to become a poet.

“It never stopped sounding like a saxophone, no matter what I did,” was his reply. As a writer, he could transform things into words and words into things and essences into essentials, and also none of the above.
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‘Know Me,’ Nomi

Klaus Nomi was born 71 years ago today. A performer whose career may have reached its peak as a back-up singer/dancer/weird presence for one single show behind David Bowie, Nomi managed to stand out in a time and place that made a virtual fetish of uniqueness: New Wave-era New York City.

Many actors and performers attempt to find their voice or vision in a performance that resides in the very process of erasing the self, even the idea of a self. Some comedians who build a stage persona in this territory will even flirt with the idea of not being “in” on their own joke; they have brilliant moments but tend to have brief careers. Singers and pop stars find it easier to latch onto a persona for an album or concert tour or two, then drop that for an entirely new one a few years later.
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Daily Prompt: A 1000-Year Project

Five hundred years from now, Jem Finer’s Longplayer project will have recently passed the half-way point in its 1000-year-long performance.

Longplayer is a musical composition that is calculated to take precisely 1000 years to perform from beginning to end and has been in performance in England continuously since midnight on December 31, 1999. This means it has been going nonstop for 14 years and 246 days as of today, September 3, 2014. You can tune in at any hour and listen. In my limited understanding, the composition is six pieces of music that are interlinked, with each one serving as a trigger to start some of the others at set intervals. They overlap. They trigger each other. The calculation provides that these intervals will allow for the first-ever repetition of music at midnight on December 31, 2999.

If you do listen in live, you will notice that you are not encountering anything like a “tune” or a piece of a song; for reasons that are very understandable, this is slow. This is not hum-able. You may only hear a note or two, made by someone touching a Tibetan “singing bowl”—a very ancient instrument—and then a shift up or down from that note. And then that note drifting into silence. It is a human-made project that is attempting to become environmental and outlast its creator(s).

One of the challenges for any 1000-year-long project is the knowledge that we can not anticipate what technologies will be in use a millennium from now, which languages will be common and how they will develop, or how to make certain that the project will not be forgotten, soon or in 1000 years. Less than 15 years after its launch, I currently own a laptop that does not recognize the Longplayer Live app (get on it, Google Store); thus the anticipation of technology is hugely important and it must be ignored all the same.

The anticipation of social customs, too. Five hundred years ago, the English language was undergoing the “Great Vowel Shift,” which brought the language from the Middle English of Chaucer to the Modern English of Shakespeare and Kim Kardashian. “The vowel in the English word ‘same’ was in Middle English pronounced ‘psalm’; the vowel in ‘feet’ was similar to ‘fate’; the vowel in ‘wipe’ was similar to ‘weep’; the vowel in ‘boot’ was ‘boat’; and the vowel in ‘mouse’ was similar to ‘moose.'” English speakers of the era did not know they were a part of a great change; to this day, we still deal with the Great Vowel Shift in some of English’s odd spelling rules and in the accents and dialects that did not shift, such as in Scotland. Linguists did not identify this change until about (“aboot?”) 100 years ago. Might we right now be in the midst of a similar shift in the language, or at the beginning of one, one that linguists will not be able to identify for centuries? Five hundred years from now, will people understand the instructions for performing Longplayer?

To meet the almost certain changes in language and technology, Longplayer’s creators set out to include all such anticipations from the start; they call it a “social and biological strategy of survival.” Whatever new technology comes into existence, the Longplayer project will be available on it (except a Chromebook, obviously). Whatever social rules or laws people of 1000 years live under, if art is still legal, then …

No matter what, the composition is 1000 years long, by design, so if Longplayer is forgotten and then rediscovered, the discovers can pick up the performance from where it ought to be based on calculations.

So can this song to the future that won’t ever leave the here and now last its 1000 years? This is certainly not knowable, but with the amount of attention and support it has gotten in these 14 years, it seems likely it will play continuously for several more generations. Jem Finer has programmed into it as much adaptability as possible.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 3 asks, “Five-hundred years from now, an archaeologist accidentally stumbles on the ruins of your home, long buried underground. What will she learn about early-21st-century humans by going through (what remains of) your stuff?”

Certain things may last 500, nay 1000, years. My yoking together Shakespeare and Kim Kardashian in a sentence might wind up as one of them.