Archives for category: music
street logging, asbury park, nj

What do you do at the end of an easy monday when there’s no waves to be had?

A beautiful short film, shot and edited by Paul Cali.


 . . . and a performance of Randy Newman’s 1974 classic by Justin Townes Earle. . . 

A mesmerizing performance by guitarist Nels Cline and painter Norton Wisdom, both masters of their medium. Armed with his guitar and effects, Cline creates lush soundscapes brought about by Wisdom’s brush-stroke spontaneity. Wisdom in turn follows Cline’s auditory twists creating and recreating the same canvas.

A Windows Have Eyes/Michael Lucio Sternbach production.

A beautiful piece of psychedelic video art by our friend Puddin Aylward, featuring a score by the Asbury Park-based ensemble American Cloud Songs.
More of Pud’s work can be found on his blog.
And check out American Could Song’s MySpace page.

Andy Friedman’s Double Life: High Brow Cartoonist and Hard-Traveling Troubadour 

A mailroom jockey at The New Yorker turned regular art contributor to its pages, the former performance poet discusses his late-blooming and unexpected transition into a full-time life as an illustrator and singer-songwriter on the road.

Date: Monday, October 3, 2011, at 8pm

Venue: Cafe Volan, 510 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712

Host: Marilyn Laverty, president & founder of Shore Fire Media.

Moderator: Matt Dellinger, journalist who has written for The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New York Times.

Admission: $10  All admissions at the door, cash only. No advance sales or reservations.



His humorous portraits of movie stars, musicians, politicians, and literary figures are seen by millions every week in the pages of many of today’s most popular newspapers and magazines, The New Yorker among them, but the songs written by “hard scrabble singer-songwriter” (Time Out New York) and “erudite redneck” (Boston Globe) Andy Friedman aren’t written for laughs. “Friedman has a mastery of wordy self-loathing that many white dudes with guitars would kill for,” says the Nashville Scene.

Friedman’s reputation as a “dusty, paint-splattered Americana sage” (Rochester News & Democrat) germinated with the release of the album Weary Things (City Salvage Records) in 2009, garnering enthusiastic praise, a performance on NPR’s coveted Mountain Stage, a feature interview on Sirius XM’s Bob Edwards Show, and a growing audience.  The online cultural journal Slant hailed Friedman as “an arrival of one of the genre’s smartest and deepest talents.”  His “hard-tack country originals” were described in The New Yorker as “the mark of a true artist,” while No Depression called his songs “unforgettable.”  Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor proffered its title track as a “certified, genuine American tune,” and Indie-icon Sufjan Stevens proclaimed, “I think the world of Andy Friedman. I’ve always wanted to be Andy Friedman.” Largely overlooked, Weary Things was highlighted by the Associated Press alongside records by Tom Waits and Chuck Prophet among what venerable news organization considered The Best Overlooked Albums of 2009.  “Friedman can write a lyric, and he can deliver it,” declared Stephen Wine. “He is not to be overlooked, that’s for sure.”

Friedman first hit the road as a self-described “Slideshow Poet” in 2002, leaving his day job as an office assistant in the Editorial Department at The New Yorker to accompany projections of his paintings, drawings and Polaroids with readings of his poetry in dive bars and rock clubs around the nation.  The hybrid performance was applauded by journalists as “the coolest show to come around in a long time” (Good Times [Santa Cruz]), and introduced Friedman as “The King of Art Country” (City Pages [Minneapolis]).  The transition from traveling poet to rambling musician occurred when the he picked up the guitar and sang for the first time in his life in 2005, shortly before recording his debut album, Taken Man (City Salvage Records), the title track of which landed at #30 on a New York Post “Best Songs” list that included over 200 hits by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Andrew Bird, Amy Winehouse, and The National.

In the spring of 2011, Friedman released his third studio album, Laserbeams And Dreams (City Salvage Records), which was co-produced by noted guitarist and producer David Goodrich (Chris Smither, Peter Mulvey), rising-star upright bassist and composer Stephan Crump (Grammy®-nominated Vijay Iyer Trio, Jim Campilongo), and Friedman.  The album featured only these three players, was cut in 24 hours with a lone overdub and mixed in the studio.  Complementing Friedman’s “art-damaged, ragged-but-right” (L.A. Weekly) approach to music and Goodrich’s restrained, atmospheric lead guitar and piano is Crump’s “full, appealingly wooden sound,” (The New York Times) the interplay of which calls to mind classic collaborations by Van Morrison with bassist Richard Davis on 1968’s Astral Weeks, or John Hartford and Dave Holland on 1972’s Morning Bugle Call — albums also recorded live in the studio without much pre-conceived musical planning.

Also an internationally renown editorial illustrator, Friedman’s ink portraits of cultural luminaries appear in the pages of most popular periodicals, including
The New Yorker—where he has been a regular contributor for over a decade, and where he has also published over a dozen gag cartoons under the pseudonym “Larry Hat”—New York Times, GQ, Rolling Stone, New York, Esquire, and scores of other newspapers and magazines around the globe.


THE NEW YORKER: “Friedman’s songs draw on the deepest traditions of American music and evoke an affecting sense of loss and longing.”

VILLAGE VOICE: “Here’s what happens to twang when it steeps in Brooklyn gin joints instead of Austin honky-tonks: it becomes a bit darker and more gnarled, and though it likes the sun on its back, it can thrive in the shadows.”

THE BLUEGRASS SPECIAL: “Folk songs for our American age. . .If Andy Friedman keeps making records as compelling as Laserbeams and Dreams, his third, being identified as a New Yorker cartoonist will soon become the last mentioned of his accomplishments.”

LA WEEKLY: “A weird, potent strain of art-damaged, ragged-but-right country pathology.” –

NASHVILLE SCENE: “Andy Friedman has a dark, singular sense of humor it serves him well as a cartoonist for the likes of the New Yorker, and it serves him even better as an acerbic singer-songwriter with a world-weary delivery and a talent for synthesizing heartache.”

SUFJAN STEVENS SAYS: “I think the world of Andy Friedman. I’ve always wanted to be Andy Friedman. I want to paint and draw like Andy Friedman. I want to be edgy, sloppy, casual, and good looking. At home, I dress up like Andy Friedman and pose in front of the mirror. I karaoke Andy Friedman. I wear Andy Friedman hats and glasses. I cuss like Andy Friedman. I wear blue jeans and plaid shirts and walk around like Andy Friedman. All the girls want me but I pretend I have a beautiful wife and two kids, like Andy Friedman. On weekends I make a big breakfast for my Andy Friedman family. We go to the park, fly kites, ride bikes, laugh and yell and scream. My life is a glorious Andy Friedman life. Nothing can touch me. I am unstoppable. My imagination is invisible.”


Some more examples of Andy Friedman’s illustrations. . .


Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine covers featuring Andy Friedman’s illustrations. . .



By Anne Midgette   (published in the Washington Post, 8/19/11)

“I’m writing to ask for advice,” the e-mail began. “I want to know more about contemporary music. Where should I start?”

I get letters like this every few months, and I am often puzzled about how to answer. Gone are the days when there was a fixed canon of “good” composers (or, worse, “approved” ones), and a critic told you what you were supposed to like. Today, musical taste has blown wide open. If you love music, chances are that you like lots of different things: Ornette Coleman and Bruce Springsteen and Dmitri Shostakovich and Sufjan Stevens. If you’re a longtime orchestra subscriber, you may be passionate about Brahms but leery of the unfamiliar names and sounds that occasionally emerge onto concert programs. And chances are, whatever you like, you are equally passionate about what you don’t like — even more passionate, in fact, to judge from some of the rest of my mail.

So here, O fictive reader, are answers to some of the questions that, over the years, I’ve heard you ask. These answers are the equivalent of a one-day tour of a major metropolis, pointing out a few highlights to give you a general sense of the landscape of living composers, hoping that you’ll return to visit, in depth, whatever grabs your interest. This is not a “best of” guide, but rather an aide to orientation: Whatever your individual taste, these are pieces worth exploring.

1.Why should I care about minimalism?

Minimalism is a frustratingly incorrect term for a compositional approach that developed in the second half of the 20th century and that, in hindsight, turns out to be the most important contribution the United States has made to the field of composition.

“Minimalism” is a flawed term because most of the composers associated with it — notably Steve Reich and Philip Glass — reject it. It’s also a term that inspires fear and loathing in the hearts of some listeners who think it describes works that simply do the same thing over and over and over and over again — like passages of Glass’s seminal and divisive 1976 opera “Einstein on the Beach.” “It’s not music,” say detractors.

Ah, but it is. Even the earliest seminal works of so-called minimalism share a lyric freshness. They do indeed take a step away from the conventional narrative of traditional classical music forms. Rather than taking a theme and develop it, they put musical elements together and let them shift into different, ever-changing combinations, like images in a kaleidoscope. The classic example is Terry Riley’s “In C” from 1964, consisting of 53 numbered phrases that are played by any number of musicians, lasting anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours, creating a dreamy, beguiling, mutable colorscape in the process. Equally iconic is Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians,” which references influences all the way back to medieval chant in the way it revolves around the same 11 chords, played at different speeds, within the compass of individual human breaths.

And the real hallmark of so-called minimalist music is not its repetition but this way of approaching musical form. (Anton Bruckner, the 19th-century symphonic composer, has been called a proto-minimalist for the way he juxtaposes great blocks of sound.) As minimalist ideas have evolved, the genre’s sounds have become ever richer. Louis Andriessen, the maverick Dutch composer, has jokingly called himself a “maximalist” (check out his huge, powerful opera-oratorio “De Materie” to hear the way he creates powerful music out of layers of sound). John Adams, who used to be seen as a young minimalist, now writes scores with veritably Wagnerian overtones for full orchestra and/or opera. (My favorite introduction to Adams is “Harmonium,” a big, shining, early piece for chorus and orchestra that radiantly sets texts by John Donne and Emily Dickinson, ending in a whirl of taut, bright sound.)

Bottom line: “Minimalism” isn’t the threat to classical music’s bastion that some people have perceived it to be. Instead, it has provided a new strain of energy and ideas that have helped revivify the field and continues to influence new works, even by composers who aren’t labeled “minimalist” at all.

2. I like traditional orchestral music. Why can’t they just go on writing that?

They can, and they do. The conventional wisdom is that contemporary music in the 20th century was taken over by serialism, a compositional technique that involves creating music according to series of values other than melody and harmony. (The most notorious serialist technique is 12-tone music, which creates a musical phrase by combining all 12 notes of the chromatic scale in a fixed order, and then uses that phrase as the basis of a musical work.) The resulting works are sometimes fascinating, but seem difficult and unappealing to some lay audiences; and (still following the conventional wisdom) a generation of composers shied away from serialist strictures. Minimalism was one reaction; neo-romanticism — a return to the melodic, tonal, timbral values of romantic music — was another. This story is a little too pat — for one thing, neo-romanticism has been a force in American music throughout the 20th century (see Samuel Barber) — but it’s certainly true that David Del Tredici, for one, got a lot of attention back in the 1980s when he turned from serialist orthodoxy and began writing big, lush scores for full orchestra (including “Final Alice”).

Like minimalism, neo-romanticism is a facile and not entirely accurate label. It’s often applied, for instance, to John Corigliano, who writes well for orchestra and with an acute sense of the past — his 1991 opera “The Ghosts of Versailles” is one of the best syntheses of the grand opera tradition and contemporary music that anyone’s managed to come up with — but whose sensibility, sound, and sophistication are firmly rooted in the present. The neo-romantic sensibility, however, is kept most vividly alive in contemporary American opera, which tends to pursue a kind of Broadway-like accessibility in a tonal musical language, from William Bolcom’s “A View from the Bridge” to Jake Heggie’s recent “Moby-Dick.”

But neo-romanticism isn’t the only path composers use to access traditional forms with a fresh eye. Some of today’s most successful orchestral composers are writing symphonies and concertos — like Jennifer Higdon, whose Percussion Concerto won a Grammy in 2010, and whose Violin Concerto was recently recorded to great acclaim by Hilary Hahn (though not everyone shared my affection for her Piano Concerto at its NSO premiere). Higdon writes athletic, energetic music that’s smart and solid and wins over audiences, bright and forward-propelled as a Tour de France rider.

Another acclaimed recent concerto was written by the Finnish composer-conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, best known in this country for the years he spent as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1992-2009). His Piano Concerto sounds as if it had been written to reassure those who were worried that, when he stepped down from the post to devote himself entirely to composing, he was going to float off into the world of the avant-garde. Without losing the quirky touch of his earlier compositions, this concerto is rife with references to its virtuosic predecessors in the canon: You can hear hints of Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Ravel in what amounts to one long finger-busting, hyperactive, crowd-pleasing outburst. When a composer spends years conducting week in and week out, he sure ends up knowing how to write for an orchestra.

3.What about the younger generation? And what is this “alt-classical” stuff you keep praising?

“Younger generations” are notoriously slippery things in this field: Anybody under 50 still counts as “young.” “Young,” indeed, becomes more about an attitude than chronological age: Writing music that incorporates electric guitar and acoustic violin is now a hallmark of the 50-something set, from Steven Mackey, the guitarist turned Princeton teacher, to the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the performing arm of the eponymous composers’ collaborative formed by David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolf. The idea that good music can bring together a range of traditions, from rock to West African drumming to Javanese gamelan, is today a given for most younger composers, and emerges in surprising ways (like Lang’s “Little Match Girl Passion,” a translucent piece for small chorus that won him the Pulitzer Prize).

Another current trend that’s been on the rise over the last five decades is the return to the age of the composer-performer. Those who write music and want it performed go out and play it themselves — like Derek Bermel, a clarinet player whose Clarinet Concerto “Voices” mingles elements of a wide range of musics in ways both thoughtful and fun — or form their own bands, like Missy Mazzoli, whose group Victoire played the Library of Congress earlier this summer with music from their debut album.

“Alt-classical” is a term coined to describe the indie-rock sensibility of a lot of these genre-defying efforts, which are becoming ever more prevalent on every level of the musical establishment. Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took the notable step last year of naming, as co-composers in residence, Mason Bates, who has an active career as a DJ as well as writing works for places like the San Francisco Symphony, and Anna Clyne, another 30-something who incorporates sampling and amplification in her music.

That’s not to say that all young composers are wedded exclusively to rock-inspired sounds: simply that genre boundaries no longer function as limits. Nico Muhly, who turns 30 this summer, is one of the most successful composers around, with two operas opening this calendar year (one, “Two Boys,” will appear at the Metropolitan Opera in 2013-14); a musical omnivore, he is inspired by everything from the English choral tradition to Icelandic pop to Philip Glass. And Jefferson Friedman, who has played with several rock groups, has written some of the best contemporary string quartets I know.

4. Tell me the names of some significant contemporary composers or pieces you think everyone should know.

Here are a few iconic works by a few major living composers whom I haven’t yet mentioned:

George Crumb, “Black Angels,” a searing expressionistic string quartet written during the Vietnam War by a distinctive musical maverick.

Meredith Monk, “Songs of Ascension,” the latest recording by one of our greatest innovators, rich treasure from the seam of expanded vocal techniques and artless sound juxtapositions that she’s been mining tirelessly for decades.

Frederic Rzewski, “The People United Will Never Be Defeated,” an hour-long, impassioned, political, eclectic set of variations (including shouting at the piano) on a Chilean protest song.

Elliott Carter, First String Quartet, a breakout work from 1951 that still sounds as radical and new as it did when it was written, by the grand old man of the 20th-century American establishment, who’s still going strong at 102.

Pierre Boulez, “Pli selon pli,” one of the longest and in many ways most beautiful pieces, a lyrical exegesis on poems by the French symbolist poet Stephane Mallarme in which a high soprano soars over and around the instruments of the orchestra, written by a former lion of European serialism who has mellowed considerably in his later years.


Read more about classical music on Anne Midgette’s blog, The Classical Beat.

A screening of the award-winning documentary Circo, followed by a conversation and Q&A with the film’s director Aaron Schock.

Date: Friday, September 30, 2011, at 8pm
Venue: Cafe Volan, 510 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ 07712
Admission: $10  All admissions at the door, cash only. No advance sales or reservations.


Set within a century-old traveling circus, CIRCO is an intimate portrait of a Mexican family struggling to stay together despite mounting debt, dwindling audiences, and a simmering family conflict that threatens this once-vibrant family tradition. Tino, the ringmaster, is driven by his dream to lead his parents’ circus to success and corrals the energy of his whole family, including his four young children, towards this singular goal. But his wife Ivonne is determined to make a change. Feeling exploited by her in-laws, she longs to return to her kids a childhood lost to laboring in the circus.

Filmed along the backroads of rural Mexico, this cinematic road movie opens the viewer to the luminous world of a traveling circus while examining the universal themes of family bonds, filial responsibility, and the weight of cultural inheritance. Through an intricately woven story of a marriage in trouble and of a century-old family tradition that hangs in the balance, CIRCO asks: To whom and to what should we ultimately owe our allegiances?

ABOUT AARON SCHOCK  (Director / Producer / Cinematographer / Writer) 
Aaron Schock holds a MA in government from Columbia University and worked for several years in non-profit community development in New York City before moving into filmmaking. His first film, Song of Roosevelt Ave. (2005), an award-winning documentary short about undocumented immigrants in Queens, has played in over a dozen film festivals around the world, including Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (Missoula), Artivist (Los Angeles), Urban TV (Madrid), DOCNZ (Auckland and Wellington) and at the Queens Museum of Art (NYC). CIRCO is his first feature.