Just a quick update. I'm on the fourth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, formally titled A Feast for Crows, but which might well have been called Game of Thrones: Cutting Room Floor. While it's interesting to see Cersei Lannister as a first-time viewpoint character, the book still reads like an assembled collection of extras thrown together after A Storm of Swords went through the red pens.
I'm also currently enjoying Saturday Night Live and American TV, a collection of essays that make up the first published academic study on SNL, and a contrast to the oral history that was the (still highly recommended) Shales/Miller Live From New York. The book I'm really waiting for, though, is You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman, by Mike Thomas, scheduled for September of this year. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite SNL seasons were, I always mention "whenever Phil Hartman was on the show". Hopefully, the authors of Saturday Night Live and American TV get a few words in about my all-time favorite cast member, gone way too soon.
What's everybody reading out there?
So, after my post on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's first season (which I actually hadn't seen before Hulu), the brilliant Brian Krall and I got into a major discussion of what we got out of those early episodes. It was so profound it made me want to do a write-up for each season after I finished them. What affected me most about the series back in the '90s and again now was its willingness to look beyond viewing the Federation (and the concept of utopia in general) as an infallibly correct system. This was done by establishing non-Federation regulars and semi-regulars; whether they were Bajoran (Kira), Cardassian (Garak), Ferengi (Quark), or whatever Odo was (NO SPOILERS HERE, heh heh) The second season continued the forward momentum of the first season finale by establishing the Bajoran government as helpless and open to a coup, propagated by none other than Frank Langella (with Richard "Ben Horne" Beymer as a conflicted hero!) It opened up the show to some much-needed action and serialization (which had been experimented with in the first season and concurrent sixth season of Next Generation). We saw an increased Cardassian presence, due to the Federation's land concessions to them in the Demilitarized Zone, and we saw what sprouted up in opposition to it: The Maquis...more on them later. We also saw our first representatives of Trek's greatest villain...again, we'll see them later. For now, here's the best (and the rest) of Deep Space Nine, Season 2!
BEST EPISODE: "The Maquis"
I told you you'd see more of them later! This is it: the first episode of DS9 I've ever seen, period, and I would've gone with it anyway for that sentimental reason, but even after a second view 19 years later, it's a damn fine 2 hours of Trek. Looking back on my 7-year-old self watching it, I know now that I didn't quite understand the world as it was: I thought the Maquis were legitimately bad people if only because they opposed the Federation, but now I understand what DS9 brought to the table in terms of writing was a shade of gray; the Federation was operating out of a pragmatic desire for peace with the Cardassians and was willing to subvert individual rights to do so. Sure, that description might be a little simplistic, but it certainly made the Maquis sympathetic, if not flat-out correct. This episode also furthered Sisko's characterization as someone who could be as brash as Kirk and as contemplative as Picard, but not be as "Lawful Good" as either one. Just an excellent 2-part episode. Another observation: The Maquis storyline is a great example of both fast-paced storytelling and coordination among writers. The land concession to the Cardassians happened in "Journey's End" on TNG. "The Maquis" happened a week later, concurrent with the "Firstborn" and "Bloodlines" episodes of TNG. Two weeks later, the penultimate episode of TNG, "Preemptive Strike", was also a Maquis story. This was the best early use of serialization in the Trek universe. (Retroactively, Season 1's Best Episode is "Duet".)
HONORABLE MENTIONS: "The Homecoming"/"The Circle"/"The Siege", "Necessary Evil", "Crossover", "The Jem'Hadar"
BEST CHARACTER: Miles O'Brien
I really wanted to pick Dax or Quark, both of whom received increased screen time and development (and would continue even moreso in Season 3), but it has to be O'Brien. Why? O'Brien is you. He's me. He's the relatable everyman of the series. Screenwriting law dictates that there's really two ways to approach the audience surrogate of your ensemble: As a naive newcomer (like Voyager's Harry Kim), or as someone who's been around but only wants to do his job and live a stable life. That's Chief O'Brien. He was a non-commissioned officer and didn't possess any unique science-fiction "abilities" other than his mechanical genius. Even though he might have been familiar due to TNG (where we found out he was on the front lines of the Cardassian War) , this season is where he comes into his own. It was around this time that the writers realized that Colm Meaney's O'Brien carried a lot of pathos as a normal, everyday human being and proceeded to put him through the wringer, knowing that what O'Brien would feel in a certain situation would be what we, the viewers, would feel. He would react to his situations the way we would. And thus, the "Let's Torture O'Brien" episode was born. He's the best character of the season because this particular season had THREE of them: "Armageddon Game", in which he is used as a pawn by two warring races and must depend on Bashir for survival; "Whispers", a Twilight Zone-esque tale that sees him strangely alienated from his family and friends, and "Tribunal", in which we get to see the oft-mentioned Cardassian legal system, and watch the chief struggle to maintain innocence. There were more where that came from, eventually, because the writers knew that O'Brien was our man. (Again, retroactively, Season 1's Best Character was Kira, if only for her role in the last two episodes.)
BEST RECURRING CHARACTER: Garak
Apparently, Garak was only supposed to be a one-off character in Season 1’s “Past Prologue”. I find that hard to believe; I mean, he didn’t do much, and we didn’t learn much about him. He came off as a man of mystery, and the viewers wanted that mystery to be solved. So we saw him again, in the aptly-titled “Cardassians”, in which he helped Bashir uncover data on the Cardassian homeworld in his always-shady way. Garak isn’t like other Cardassians (heh heh!) in that he communicates his ever-present cynicism with a disarming smile and cheerful tone. He adds yet another shade of gray to the show, with his checkered past and opportunistic scheming that causes the rest of the ensemble to watch their backs. This season, Garak got his first showcase episode, “The Wire”, in which his past was finally revealed…or not. (As for Season 1, there weren’t many recurring characters, as many were only making their first appearances and were only involved in one episode with minimal character development…that means you, Dukat and Winn!)
BEST GUEST STAR (NON-RECURRING): Michael Ansara as Kang, William Campbell as Koloth, and John Colicos as Kor
I really wanted to give this to Frank Langella as Minister Jaro, who drove the action of the season-opening three-parter, but this has to go to the three original Klingons. The three played off each other (and Jadzia) so well in the Magnificent Seven-esque “Blood Oath”: Kang, the stoic leader; Koloth, the angry bruiser; Kor, the boisterous drunk; and Jadzia Dax, the tagalong kid. Amazing performances in an all-around fun episode. (Season 1’s Best Guest Star was Harris Yulin as Aamin Marritza, “Duet”.)
WHAT DIDN’T QUITE WORK:
Martus, in what was another attempt to give Quark an archenemy. The episode (“Rivals”) was an inconsequential and not particularly enjoyable hour of DS9 because there weren’t any stakes involved. The basic plot of the episode was “Martus cons people, Martus competes with Quark, Martus loses, Martus gets caught”, and I couldn’t have cared less. The first attempt to give Quark an archenemy was in Season 1’s “The Nagus”, with Grand Nagus Zek’s dimwit son Krax (the Fredo Corleone of the Ferengi), who was never seen again, despite Zek’s continued presence on the show. Martus, interestingly enough was the second El-Aurian we’ve seen on Trek, after Guinan, but even that (as well as Chris Sarandon’s enthusiastic performance) couldn’t make him remotely interesting enough to last beyond a one-gimmick episode. Eventually they’d find a suitable archenemy for Quark…
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…?
Minister Jaro? I suppose he took the fall for the attempted coup, but even Memory Beta (the non-canon Star Trek wiki) doesn’t mention what happened to him afterward. I guess we could’ve seen Frank Langella again if the show didn’t move in a different direction. Also, we never saw Eris again after "The Jem'Hadar"...she turned out to be the first Vorta we'd ever see, and once Jeffrey Combs debuted as Weyoun, I guess the show didn't need any other recurring Vorta.
SEASON 3 COMING SOON!
Response to a Quora query: "What is some good, practical advice for a beginner in music composition?"
"I have very good relative pitch, I can play any melody I hear and am able to improvise all day long.
1. WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. This is the start of the creative process. Don't worry about how you notate your melody...this is the time for actual creativity, before it can be refined. As for a melody sounding overly familiar, don't worry about that yet either! Our brains seem wired to certain combinations of notes; consonances, dissonances, resolutions, etc. In fact, I was once told to develop my themes branching off from whatever I was listening to at the time, if only for inspiration. Keep fragments of whatever you write around; they might be useful someday.
2. WRITE WHAT YOU FEEL. This is what makes your music unique; the way you yourself deal with the emotions behind your music...everyone handles emotional impact in a different way. In every case, the way a composer or songwriter expresses their emotion through their work shows the listener who they are. Speaking of which...
3. FIND SOMEONE TO LISTEN. Anyone. Composers have to find a happy medium between writing purely for themselves and for public consumption. An audience, whether they are friends, family, experts, non-musicians, etc., will easily give you feedback on what they hear. A more diverse audience means more diverse feedback as well!
4. KEEP WRITING! As soon as you have a new idea, repeat these steps! Who knows? You might discover something that fits in your piece or you might decide to write a new one based around that idea! It's all up to you! All of these steps can be accompanied by studies in theory, form, arranging, and orchestration; these tools will help you on your journey to wherever your mind takes you! Have fun!
I've done a lot of reading since I started this blog. Reading voraciously is really nothing new to me; I've been an avid reader all my life, from all the Star Trek and other science fiction books I devoured as a kid, to the studies of music theory, history, and humanities I regularly take in. I figured I'd let everyone know what I've read over the past year, why I read it, and what exactly I got out of it.
The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, by Richard Taruskin (University of California Press, 2008)
Taruskin, the UC Berkeley musicologist who wrote The Oxford History of Western Music, is the most controversial figure in contemporary musicology (with the possible exception of Susan McClary, whom he mentions in numerous essays). These essays, written over the past two decades, deal with such topics as historically authentic performance, moral implications of certain works, and composers who don't attempt to connect with an audience. This last part was really what drove me to my composer's credo: Write what you feel and write what you know. The two aren't mutually exclusive, and while I'll always have Howard Roark's desire to be true to myself, that doesn't come with an impenetrable ivory-tower attitude. Milton Babbitt and Pierre Boulez bear the brunt of Taruskin's criticism (considering Babbitt wrote a treatise entitled "Who Cares If You Listen?", this doesn't surprise me), with the rigid interpreters of "authentic" performance practice also taking quite a few hits (Taruskin performed professionally on viola da gamba with the Aulos Ensemble, among others; he knows that Wagner should not be stripped down, clarified, and "classicized", and he lets us know it). Taruskin often comes across as arrogant and combative, but this is a case of "the jerk has a point"; I'd rather read his thoughts than more regurgitated presentations of what's acknowledged to be fact.
Listen to This, by Alex Ross (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010)
This is a compilation of essays by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker. During my undergrad, I read Ross's twentieth century account, The Rest is Noise, and I felt (and still do) that Ross wrote the seminal account of the century and the men behind the music. This time, he follows such notables as Bjork, Radiohead, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and John Luther Adams, in addition to conducting a contemporary examination on the work of Schubert, Brahms, and Verdi, among others. I can't say enough about Alex Ross; he's accessible to both the professional musicologist and the casual reader, and I couldn't put this book down.
Tim Page on Music: Views and Reviews, by Tim Page (Amadeus Press, 2002)
I first read Tim Page's prose when he was the executive producer of BMG Catalyst, a short-lived record imprint label that dealt with contemporary classical, avant-garde, and eclectic music. I'm pretty sure that my fondness for liner notes came mostly from reading his work. This is a compilation of his essays as seen in the Washington Post (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997) that demonstrate why he's regarded as one of our foremost music critics. Page answers many music listeners' questions when he examines such subjects as Kathleen Battle (HOW did her personality cause her career to fizzle?), Michael Hersch (WHERE did he come from, and WHAT makes his compositions stand out from the crowd?), and David Helfgott (WHY were we disappointed when his public concerts didn't match his personal success story?), as well as addressing the current state of the symphony orchestra and promotion in today's financial climate. Always insightful and controversial (Vladimir Horowitz, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio take some hits here!), I can't recommend Tim Page's book enough!
Miles Davis: Dark Prince and Herbie Hancock: Blue Chip Keyboardist, by Ken Trethewey (Jazz-Fusion Books, 2012)
These didn't work for me, really...it seems like Trethewey is trying hard to provide information and give his opinions at the same time, but when they come together, his opinions seem, well...uninformed; for example, he admits that he's not a fan of free jazz, and consequently writes off all of Herbie's Mwandishi albums with a few cursory sentences. The Hancock book is actually the better of the two, if only for the reason that this is the first major Herbie Hancock biography, and Trethewey is very comprehensive, especially when it comes to his later albums. There is really nothing to recommend about his Miles Davis bio, though: It is filled with inaccuracies (he refers to Cab Calloway as a WHITE man!) and muddled, biased tone. There are plenty of excellent Miles biographies; don't waste your time with this one. Hopefully Ken Trethewey will improve with the rest of the books in his jazz fusion series (he's done John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, and Weather Report so far).
The Blue Moment: Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music, by Richard Williams (W.W. Norton & Company, 2010)
Speaking of excellent Miles biographies, this one isn't about the man himself as much as it is about his modal masterwork, Kind of Blue. The best way to describe the process behind Blue and the further effect it had (and still has) is that it's like a musical version of the show Touch, in which every action has a linked chain of effects. In this case, George Russell's work with modes inspired Miles to record his own modal tunes, Kind of Blue was released, and its influence spread everywhere: Terry Riley, John Cale, Talking Heads, and The Who are only a few of the artists who were touched by Kind of Blue in different ways. I can't describe it any better; this is a must-read for theorists as well as jazz and rock lovers...there will be a lot of listening going on after you read this!
George Russell: The Story of an American Composer, by Duncan Heining (Scarecrow Press, 2009)
The first thing I did after finishing The Blue Moment was to find out as much as possible about George Russell, whose Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization became the dominant field of study in jazz theory. Heining's comprehensive biography is the first major work about Russell and hits every detail of his life and work. This is definitely the most important and necessary musician's biography to come along for years, as George Russell is finally getting the recognition he deserves after his death. The current edition of the Lydian Chromatic Concept is also essential, if a little expensive; it's only available on Russell's publishing website.
Current and Future Reading:
A Geometry of Music: Harmony and Counterpoint in the Extended Common Practice, by Dmitri Tymoczko
How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care), by Ross W. Duffin
Stravinsky's Late Music, by Joseph N. Straus
Modern Music and After, by Paul Griffiths
How Music Works, by David Byrne
Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons, by Igor Stravinsky
Hugo Riemann and the Birth of Modern Musical Thought, by Alexander Rehding
Schenker's Interpretive Practice, by Robert Snarrenberg
Text & Act: Essays on Music and Performance, by Richard Taruskin
On Russian Music, by Richard Taruskin
Tonality and Transformation, by Steven Rings
The Elements of Music: Melody, Rhythm, and Harmony, by Jason Martineau
Harmonograph: A Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music, by Anthony Ashton
No one instrument has experienced more recent growth in its repertoire than the euphonium. Since its use as a solo mid-range voice in the Sousa/Fillmore/King bands, the euph has been recognized for its tone, timbre, and versatility; in the words of a vocal music teacher friend of mine, "The euphonium is like the cello of brass." Outside of the military and British brass bands, however, the euphonium hasn't quite cracked the ceiling set by the orchestras and jazz big bands where, with some exceptions, they generally aren't included. But the euphonium always has new music being written expressly for it.
And, perhaps more importantly, the euphonium also has Steven Mead.
An English euphonium virtuoso, Mead has perhaps done more to advance the instrument than any other musician, through his solo artistry, teaching (he has a studio at the Royal Northern College of Music), and, most importantly, premiering new works for his instrument. Already, he has premiered works by exciting modern composers such as Philip Sparke, Martin Ellerby, and Vladimir Cosma, as well as arrangements of existing orchestral work (my personal favorite being his recording of Friedrich Gulda's Cello Concerto). Numerous works have been written for Mr. Mead, and he is always in great demand as a recording artist and clinician. However, this particular project didn't start with him.
Like the old cliche says, it started with a dream. Mike Waddell's dream, actually. Mike and I were undergrads at IUP together, and he always had the drive for performance. During his time at IUP, he performed in master classes with Oystein Baadsvik, James Jackson, Jim Self, and many others. Mike won both the Johnstown Symphony Young Artist Competition and the IUP Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition, and currently studies with Adam Frey at Georgia State University, but his accomplishments speak for themselves: Where he stands apart from the rest is his inexhaustible desire for new music: During his time at IUP, he commissioned many new works from friends of ours such as Reed Hanna, Derek Cooper, and most prolifically, Anthony O'Toole.
It was for this reason that he founded EuphoniumCommissions.org. Mike envisioned an independent commission website for new euphonium music, seeing as it's a growing field and as fast as the new repertoire is coming, new players are emerging even quicker. Establishing an independent partnership between players and composers is the right way to go, ensuring things are done without any external bureaucracy. Another major step in the right direction was the commissioning of Frank Gulino. Frank is a composer whom I've gotten to know over the past few months since the commission started, and he excels at versatile and lyrical solo work, having written for numerous low brass performers at the Peabody Conservatory, where he received a Bachelor of Music Degree in Bass Trombone Performance. His chamber work, Tornado, for euphonium and brass quintet, was most notably premiered by Steven Mead in 2010. It was only natural that Mr. Mead premiere this milestone work for euphonium, which Frank titled "Infinite Escape." He's joined by Gail Novak on piano, at the University of Arizona's Low Brass Boot Camp 2012.
The piano opens the piece with block chords, evocative of church bells or Russian choir, before establishing a restless rock beat after which the solo enters, playing over a now-cascading piano. From WHAT is he infinitely escaping? Halfway through, a rest is established, in which the soloist celebrates with a cadenza. The piano enters, creating a sense of joyful peace, a sense that the world is open for new possibilities. And that echoes what Frank and Mike have done. I'd like to thank them for establishing an ongoing journey of new music, as well as Mr. Mead, for his lifelong devotion to the instrument and the art.
"Infinite Escape" has been published by Cimarron Music Press (Frank's longtime publisher, and now my new publisher as well).
Hey there, everyone,
I'm gearing up for a move to lovely and scenic Glassboro, New Jersey, but the blog is still open to questions that I'll answer in one longer, upcoming post! Ask, and it shall be answered...
Unless you've been living under a rock, or in a commune, OR under a rock LOCATED in a commune, you've noticed that the American musical genre is back.
All over the place, it's becoming a fiscally and socially relevant form of entertainment again, as popular songwriters like Elton John, Bono, and The Edge are flexing their muscles with written stage musicals and shows like Glee and Smash are bringing you what are essentially hour-long jukebox musicals every week (hell, I'd even bet that Cop Rock could've been a hit this year!). My concern, though, is that there's no inspiration behind any of these musicals; just an excuse to put a recognizable property like Spider-Man or Disney's Newsies onstage. For every quality theatrical product (FINALLY a revival of Merrily We Roll Along!), there's another jukebox musical rehash or movie transferred to the stage...maybe Michael John LaChiusa had a point after all. Musical theatre needs to embrace uniqueness and every piece must have its own voice.
But on May 8th and 9th, at 8 PM in the Waller Hall Studio Theatre, we got it, as two of Indiana's greatest minds transformed an easily-recognizable film property into something of their own...
...Yes, Joe York and Anthony O'Toole got their hands on Die Hard.
You may ask yourself, "Didn't Dundore just say he's not into 'transferring movies and recognizable properties to the stage'? He's a pretentious hypocrite!" To which I'd proceed to make a fist (WITH FISTS!) and floor you with it. Joe York (book and lyrics), who previously brought us the musicals Black Friday and Discovering Eden, was apparently the only person who noticed that Die Hard was screaming out for a musical adaptation, and decided that Anthony O'Toole was the perfect musical collaborator. He couldn't have made a better choice: O'Toole's work is fast and professional, and his tunes are driving and catchy. Most importantly, he speaks Joe's language: As the Glen Kelly to Joe's Mel Brooks, O'Toole takes Joe's chanted lyrics/air guitar solos/whatever else he throws at him and fashions them into a tune...it's an awesomely inspired partnership that come along only once in a while...face it, for every Rodgers and Hammerstein, there are about 10 of the Glory Days guys (which was an interesting flop in and of itself, but that's a story for another day).
The newly minted team of O'Toole and York decided to put on a staged reading of Die Hard, where I and the rest of the audience could see where this differed from most screen-to-stage adaptations. Rather than a transplanted rehash of plot, like the Disney stage adaptations, they took an irreverent tone to the plot, and every member of the cast played the script with tongue firmly in cheek. The spontaneity was such that we expected any random line to lead to a musical number! With the movie's iconic lines, that was what we got, as York employed the catchphrases of John McClane (played by Caleb Feigles, an IUP stage veteran) in loud, boisterous songs.
Not only did the show deconstruct the plot of the movie, but the songs themselves were a near-perfect send-up of current musical tricks (the power ballad, villain song resembling a power ballad, 11-o'clock number ALSO resembling a power ballad...and a rap, courtesy of office pervert Ellis). Joe's goal was to pay his way to NYU's Musical Theatre Workshop, and he's proven that he deserves every cent of it. More importantly, he and O'Toole have proven that there IS legitimately inspired musical theatre out there, no matter what package
My girlfriend is a teacher. Well, more precisely, she wants to be a college choral director.
And she'll do it; just watch. This girl holds freakishly high standards for herself and toward her profession, but most importantly, she feels the call to be an educator; to establish a bond with her students and uphold the glory of choral literature. Choral literature that, in my mind, should still be written. While it's her job to ensure that the classic repertoire is performed for a new generation, it's mine to ensure that there's new work that can stand alongside such works as Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, Beethoven's 9th, and more recently, the works of Tavener, Ticheli, Whitacre, Lauridsen, Part, and Rutter.
The prevailing opinion falls into two subsections of thought: Either NO new good music is being written, or the music written today is GOOD, but too conservative and derivative of past styles to be considered NEW.
This is unbelievable bull.
Let me expand on that: This is unbelievable bull, but way too many of us in our sophisticated musical mindset believe it, especially those of us in the orchestral and choral areas. This threatens our current and potential creators from expanding on tradition or finding their own individual voice. It doesn't help matters when certain published composers settle on writing lesser material and expect to be held in the same respect as the six gentlemen I mentioned above. Granted, some "individual voices" are more appreciated than others, sometimes justifiably so (I personally consider Webern impractical, tearing down the work Berg was doing to make serialism palatable, and burning the path for serialists in his wake, including late-period Stravinsky and George Perle, but I digress...phew! This is a blog, not a thesis...).
The composer's duty is to write: Write what they know, write what they feel, and write in the way they see fit. It could be unique, it could be trendsetting, it could even be trend-FOLLOWING, but it has to be their best; true to themselves and to the spirit of melody, harmony, rhythm, knowledge, and community that is our musical world.
If not, then my girl won't conduct it. ;)
I remember it like it was yesterday...
(How's THAT for a cliched opener?)
It was freshman year, I was on the band bus, and we were on our way to whichever away football game it was that we were playing that Friday. As always, I was sitting next to "Injun" Ted Conley: baritone, partner-in-crime, and eventually my co-section leader. Injun had spent the last bus ride talking up one of his favorite albums, Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick.
That night, I'd finally get to hear it, and my ears were opened. Up until then, I knew what kinds of music I liked (Barenaked Ladies, Elvis Costello, Santana, and Paul Simon took up most of my CD collection, and to some degree still do), but Tull was something different entirely. This was prog-rock with organ instead of synthesizers, folk with flute (and sax, AND trumpet), Renaissance meets rock. I was hooked instantly. Tull's leader, Ian Anderson, was a troubadour for our time, a Minstrel In The Gallery!...
...yes, I had to drop my second-favorite Tull album in there too.
According to Injun, the song was written by Anderson, under the guise of Gerald Bostock, an 8-year-old English schoolboy from St. Cleve (no such place, for those of you keeping score). Gerald wrote the poem for a local poetry contest and won, but was disqualified due to the subversive nature of the poem, according to The St. Cleve Chronicle and Linwell Advertiser--and let me digress at this point--the newspaper is one of the best things about this album. As its cover, it sends up the trivial small-town paper and proves pretty subversive in its own right, but I don't think you should take my word for it: Here it is in its entirety...and yes, I know what Fluffy the Duck was looking at...come on, you guys. The newspaper established a separate universe for the song, grounding it in some inside-joke version of reality.
The album itself was a send-up, satirizing the overblown concept album and its focus on large, "big-picture" concepts, complete with often-obtuse text and virtuosic solos from Martin Barre on lead guitar, John Evan on organ, and Barriemore Barlow on all percussion, not to mention Anderson out front on the flute (and sax, AND trumpet, and you get the picture). Together with Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond on bass, this was the band's lineup for the early-to-mid 70s, often considered their best ever.
TAAB became my favorite album, and I had to keep going from there...thanks, Injun. I purchased the follow-up, A Passion Play, and was again, struck by the cover. Ian and the gang had set this concept album as a play complete with program, apparently set in the same St. Cleve/Linwell area. It occurs to me that this concept behind the two albums would lend itself to a surreal film project along the lines of Across The Universe, but unfortunately, no one has caught on. However, A Passion Play is a story for another day. The first time I heard Thick As A Brick, it was on my cheap Aiwa portable CD player in the fall of 2000, the album was almost 30 years old, and the casual listener might have thought Gerald Bostock was a real person, if they cared.
Today, the album is 40 years old, I listen to it on my Asus laptop, and listeners are asking, "Whatever happened to Gerald Bostock?"
Well, according to Ian Anderson, Gerald Bostock is 50 years old, and his life could have gone five different ways, as shown in Anderson's new album, Thick As A Brick 2. First things first, this is NOT a Jethro Tull album; it was recorded and released as an Anderson solo project, and Martin Barre, the only other member of the band left over from TAAB, is absent, presumably due to work on his own solo projects. Current Tull members David Goodier (bass) and John O'Hara (keyboards) are on the album, which also features drummer Scott Hammond (Doane Perry is Tull's current drummer) and lead guitarist Florian Opahle. Secondly, as I mentioned, the focus is of the poem and on Gerald himself, or rather, five of his possible futures, exploring "what-ifs, maybes, and might-have-beens." Whether he's a decadent banker, a gay homeless guy, a soldier dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a bullying fire-and-brimstone preacher, or just an ordinary shopkeeper, you sense that his life was affected in some way by his poetry, and the new lyrics serve in the same spirit as the original: still a satire, but moving its focus from the life of man to the life of a man.
And while St. Cleve might have discovered new forms of media, the tone remains the same...heh heh...