New Listen: Mette Henriette


Artist: Mette Henriette
Album: Mette Henriette (2015, ECM Records)

ECM has done it again: introduced me to a new artist and new sounds. Saxophonist and composer Mette Henriette Martedatter Rølvåg’s double-album ECM debut Mette Henriette is a triumph, presenting a fresh sound from an original voice. I’ve been listening to this album for several weeks now, and one thing remains constant: this is a soundworld in which I want to inhabit and further explore. It’s enchanting.

Mette Henriette includes 35 pieces that flow seamlessly over 100+ minutes. The two discs, while complementary, each showcase a different ensemble: a trio on the first and a 13-piece “sinfonietta” on the second. Although Mette is the leader, she doesn’t often place the saxophone front and center, opting instead to blend into the overall texture. Similarly, while Mette subtly demonstrates that she’s a virtuoso tenor saxophonist, she doesn’t make her technique an end itself — it’s always a tasteful means and used appropriately. The album is billed as jazz, but that’s selling it a little short. It’s as much chamber music as it is jazz. The Nordic- and free-jazz elements may serve as a foundation, but this album transcends many singular stylistic labels. In fact, the first time I listened to it — straight through and without regard for track names and numbers — it wasn’t until about an hour in when I thought that it sounded like a “jazz record” (“wildheart,” specifically). Also, the quantity of tracks can be some misleading, as I find it best to just listen to the album straight through — either a disc at a time or all together. It flows nicely, and the only real noticeable change is the transition from the trio to the larger ensemble, which itself is gradual.

The first disc features the trio of Mette, pianist Johan Lindvall (who composed three of the pieces: “.oOo.,” “3 – 4 – 5,” and “O”), and cellist Katrine Schiøtt. The three perform a quiet, intimate series of 15 pieces that together sonically paint a stark landscape upon which they wander. While the album isn’t explicitly constructed as a suite or other similar large work, there are motifs that recur throughout in different permutations, be they short melodic phrases or textures (e.g., the low piano ostinato in “all ears” and “beneath you”). A number of the pieces are melancholic and mournful though not without hope. In fact, light breaks through towards the end with “I Do” and “O.”

This trio of tenor sax, cello, and piano is wonderfully flexible, showcasing an uncanny knack for orchestration. The tasteful use of extended techniques — such as the sax and cello’s parallel lines both in standard ranges and in altissimo/harmonics in “the taboo” — help to break up the texture, and you rarely get the aural impression that it’s a static ensemble. Also, regarding the aforementioned stylistic transcendence, it’s rarely clear if the music is composed or improvised. I know that both are occurring, but I don’t always hear the delineation, which is a compliment to the composer and the performers. In fact, the first time one hears a semblance of a “jazz lick” is in the first disc’s penultimate track, “I do,” and even then it’s fleeting.

The second disc features a large ensemble of the aforementioned trio plus trombonist Henrik Nørstebø, trumpeter Eivind Lønnig, violinists Sara Övinge, Karin Hellqvist, and Odd Hannisdal violist Bendik Bjørnstad Foss, cellist Ingvild Nesdal Sandnes, bandoneonist Andreas Rokseth, bassist Per Zanussi, and drummer Per Oddvar Johansen (also on saw). It’s not an abrupt change of ensemble, however, and rarely does the full group play in concert. The immediate use of bandoneon on “passé” is of course obvious, but much of the ensemble gradually enters over the next several tracks (including the strings-only “pearl rafter” and winds-only “unfold”), culminating in “wildheart,” the whole album’s first raucous romp and the first time in which Mette’s free jazz roots enter the spotlight, with her guttural cries on tenor rising from the band’s primordial bed. Given that, the second disc isn’t as uniformly quiet as the first. While the more cacophonous moments can break up the pieces more than on the first disc, everything is still rather seamless.

As evidenced by “wildheart,” the second disc, though often complementary to the first (e.g., “behold” sounds like something originally for the initial trio but re-orchestrated for a different instrumentation), explores different sonic terrain. Another example is “late à la carte,” which drunkenly plods along like some Lynchian (and Badalamentian) burlesque. Several pieces later, “I” begs the question of what is improvised and what’s composed, only in a far more aggressive context. There appear to be motifs and structure, yet it also sounds rather free. Perhaps it’s both? I can’t know without the score, and that’s an asset. The music simply flows — composed and improvised, quiet and loud, dissonant and consonant, free jazz and chamber music, trio and sinfonietta.

I know it’s a word thrown around too often, but Mette Henriette is a unique album, particularly as an ECM debut. The only other ECM albums I sort of immediately liken it to are the Evan Parker and Roscoe Mitchell pairing of Boustrophedon and Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2, & 3, but only really because of the structure — a large mixed ensemble of classical and jazz musicians performing notated and improvised music. As for sound, though, Mette is an original voice, and one I’m anxious to hear a lot more from going forward.

Mette Henriette is available in the US this Friday, November 20.

Pre-order via:

‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ at 20


The Smashing Pumpkins dropped a bomb on this date twenty years ago with the release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a wide-ranging double album that stormed the mainstream with a parade of infectious singles and music videos, sweeping up ubiquitous airplay, accolades, and trophies in its wake. (Of the six singles, four became legitimate pop hits.) It also gave us a Billy’s shaved head and the iconic Zero logo. The epic double album covers the rock gamut, and it spawned the equally eclectic box set of b-sides The Aeroplane Flies High a couple years later. Two decades later, it’s still a force to be reckoned with. That’s the historic overview. For me, it’s a desert island twofer, something to which I still listen regularly, and a real touchstone as far as my own musical, artistic, and personal development is concerned.

I’ve debated and hesitated for months over whether to write anything for this occasion, but I can’t not acknowledge the date. Also, I think that SP’s influence has been rather downplayed or neglected, particularly this last decade, and that the band is often seen as a 90s holdout or nostalgia act than a continuing band. (Having seen the band on their most recent tour a couple months ago, I can report that Smashing Pumpkins is alive and well, sounding great live, and still releasing damn good songs.) I doubt Billy Corgan’s temper has helped the band’s legacy, but their significance and influence can’t be denied.

I’ll keep this relatively brief, partially due to time, but mostly for a few other reasons:
1. I can run my mouth and fingers about this album and band all day, and I don’t want to risk losing the forest for the trees.
2. It’s a mammoth work with a great deal of mythology around it. There’s not much I can add in an objective sense that hasn’t been already written. (Pitchfork and Stereogum articles put it more in an historical context.) If I were to really get wordy about it, I’d want to write about each piece. But there are 28 tracks altogether, and I wouldn’t really be breaking new ground.
3. I hold it on such a high pedestal that I don’t think I’d be able to fully do it justice anyway.

Another reason I’d like to opt out of the novel is that this is actually related to another looming topic that I’d like to hopefully touch on in a series of posts over the next year: 1996. In short, my reverence for that year is akin to the baby boomer fixation on the sixties and seventies. For an adolescent me, many formative albums were released during “the long 1996” (late ’95 to early ’97), which arguably begins, for me, with MCIS. (In fact, three of my Top Five — those still alive at the time — dropped seminal albums then.) More on that later.

I touched upon Mellon Collie some here and a little more here. It’s arguably distasteful, but I’ll go ahead and quote myself from that 2011 post as a starting point: “[At that time], SP was music. The incredibly variety on [MCIS] showed me that a rock band could be multi-dimensional, and that the musical possibilities could be endless.” To put it in context, I was twelve when the album came out and purchased it months later, a bit before my thirteenth birthday. If I’m not mistaken, I got it once “Tonight, Tonight” put the Top 40 — as well as MTV with its landmark music video — in a choke hold. Until that point, I had really liked various albums or compilations, but I dare say that MCIS was the first album that really led me down a rabbit hole and left a permanent mark (i.e., that I remain fascinated by today). I spent countless hours listening on headphones and reading the lyrics and looking at the artwork in the liner notes, lost in the myriad textures and styles. From there I quickly worked backward through the catalogue and “caught up” with the band’s history and output, but MCIS was my patient zero.

The diversity of style is part of what captured my attention. In a rock context, it really does have everything: anthemic hits (“Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “Tonight, Tonight”), acoustic folk-laden ballads (“To Forgive,” “Stumbleine,” “Thirty-Three”), quirky alternative novelties (“Lily (My One And Only)”), the grunge-inspired (“Where Boys Fear To Tread”), dreamy psychedelia (“By Starlight”), nostalgic pop (“1979”), hard-driving rock and metal (“XYU” and “Tales of a Scorched Earth,” respectively), the sweeping rock epics (“Porcelina of the Vast Oceans,” “Thru the Eyes of Ruby”), and more. So much more. (For example, where else would a song like the lovely “Cupid de Locke” comfortably fit?) Disc 1 kicks off with the title track, a contemplative instrumental featuring piano, strings, and synths, giving way to “Tonight, Tonight,” a song that somehow manages to be anthemic and incorporate sweeping symphonic passages (performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to be exact) without being a ballad. It could be argued that the actual rock album begins with the third track “Jellybelly,” with the rest being a prelude — and what a prelude it is! Finally, regarding style, you can hear both where the band has been (e.g., Siamese Dream- and Gish-esque “Here Is No Why”) and things to come (e.g., “To Forgive” sounds like an Adore outtake). And the fact that all four band members sing at some point on the album is worth mentioning. The lullaby on which they all sing — “Farewell and Goodnight” — closes the album, ending with a solo piano passage which complements the album’s piano introduction. Just hit “repeat all” and you’re good to go.

Of course, as I mentioned here, ambient sounds abound, consonant and dissonant alike.

Most of the albums I’d heard until that point were, in a vacuum, rather homologous. Granted, the albums I had were diverse, but each one was rather consistent. Mellon Collie, on the other hand, was an entire sonic universe, and I found each system and planet appealing in a different way. Because of my age, and the fact that many of my friends are a few years older than I, I’m a bit out of step in my Pumpkins fandom, as they hold Siamese Dream on the pedestal. A great album, no doubt. I’ve worn out my copy of that also. However, I was at an age or stage when Mellon Collie was released that they likely were around the time of Siamese Dream or its predecessor Gish. Perhaps it’s because it was my first deep SP dive. However, twenty years later — writing that is a rare instance in which I feel old — I listen to MCIS more often than Siamese Dream. (I also listen to 1998’s Adore much more than a bulk of the catalogue. Expect a piece on that forgotten gem in a few years if not before…)

There’s no grand point to this post other than to mark the occasion and to publicly thank Billy, Jimmy, James, and D’Arcy for it. Here’s to another twenty.

And with that, KA-BOOM…




Dave Liebman’s Expansions at Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown Concert House


Dave Liebman descended upon Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown Concert House Tuesday evening with his new group Expansions, officially kicking off the band’s fall tour in support of 2015’s The Puzzle. The ~85-minute set was a shock-and-awe campaign of sound that covered a wide stylistic range.

This was my first time seeing Expansions in the flesh, and I’ll go out on a limb and say that it was my favorite time seeing the maestro live. Expansions features Lieb (soprano saxophone, wooden flute), Matt Vashlishan (alto saxophone, flute, clarinet), Bobby Avey (piano, electric keyboard), Tony Marino (acoustic and electric basses), and Alex Ritz (drums, frame drum). Save Marino, who’s played with Liebman for the last couple decades in DLG and other ensembles, the rest of the members are of a younger generation. And even though this band is only in its third year, the communication and empathy are top shelf.

With Lieb’s mammoth discography and resume that covers just about every style, configuration, and name, he has maintained a series of primary groups over the years. I mention this because throughout Tuesday’s performance I kept thinking that, at least as a starting point, Expansions is in some ways the eventual synthesis of three of those staple bands: Lookout Farm, Quest, and Dave Liebman Group. There was the electric & fusion explorations of Lookout Farm; the tasteful incorporation of the advanced harmonic — almost classical — vocabulary of Quest; and the eclecticism, adventurism, and telepathy of DLG. But of course Expansions is much more than a synthesis of old projects. The addition of a second horn — sax or otherwise — has been part of some of his other projects (e.g., his work with Ellery Eskelin, Terumasa Hino, Steve Grossman, and of course Miles), but Vashlishan’s deft multi-instrumental aptitude helps to greatly expand the ensemble’s sound and palette. This is nicely complemented by the inclusion, at times, of electric keys and electric bass. The flexible orchestration gives this quintet an expansive sound. (No pun intended.) Finally, the more youthful lineup naturally brings with it a new range of musical perspectives, interests, and influences into the fold.

The fiery set featured six pieces, all but the final two of which were recorded for The Puzzle. Getting right to it, the band started with “Off And Off,” in which the quintet gradually entering in canon via a 12-tone row and eventually uniting at the head’s end and catapulting into stratospheric solos. This nicely set the tone for the rest of the evening: Liebman’s slithering, forceful statements juxtaposed with Vashlishan’s more angular declamations; Avey’s equal parts nimble and dense accompaniment and lead playing; Ritz’s command of both rhythm and melody on percussion; all atop Marino’s foreboding foundation. Unlike other times I’ve seen Liebman, there was only one very fast burnin’ section and it was reserved for the set’s end. Instead this group lumbered mightily along, leaving nothing in its wake except for jaws on the floor. “Off And Off” was followed by “The Puzzle,” allowing the ensemble – collectively and individually – to branch further out, with the listener on edge throughout as to what would happen next. Somewhat of an inverse of “Off And Off,” the full band started the tune, eventually thinning out to solo piano in the middle of the improvisations, and building back towards the end.

For “Sailing,” Vashlishan (the tune’s composer) moved to flute and Avey to electric keys, giving the group a Lookout Farm-esque veneer. The soothing flute and soprano lines coupled with the dreamy harmonies offered a quick respite between more intense explorations. With Marino then switching to electric bass and Vashlishan hopping to clarinet, the band performed an inventive arrangement of “Danse De La Fureur” from Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time). Ritz nearly stole the show with his impressively melodic drum solo introduction. Had Liebman not even announced the piece’s name, I would’ve recognized it by Ritz’s drumming and interpolations alone. It was both that spot on and creative. This gave way to a cacophonous electric romp that continued to anxiously build through the final statement. A furious dance indeed.

Sticking with the electric vibe, Avey’s “Liberian Hummingbird” (from 2014’s Samsara) did what seemed impossible at this point in the program: kicked the band into overdrive. The funk-laden, odd-metered vortex of a vamp swirled with dark intensity throughout, and compounded by both the return to a two-sax frontline and Avey’s use of both acoustic piano and electric keys it provided the set’s densest texture. It was simply enveloping.

Returning to an acoustic instrumentation, whatever stops remained were pulled out and disposed of with a heavy rendition of Coltrane’s “India.” Ritz began with a frame drum solo, eventually giving way to the primal cries of Liebman on wooden flute and Vashlishan on straw. This arrangement featured a slightly off-kilter take on Trane’s famous melody over a plodding wall of sound. After Vashlishan’s final solo and Avey’s largely a capella, almost impressionist solo, Lieb and Ritz poured gas on the fire and offered up a barn-burning sax & drum duet, eventually leading to the group’s final statements to close the show.

I’ve done my fair share of gushing about Dave Liebman on this site, including album reviews, live reviews, and more, and I suppose this entry is no different. However, it’s certainly justified. And, as Tuesday’s performance demonstrated, Lieb of course shares the spotlight with his four collaborators. Yes, collaborators — not just band members. Expansions is clearly a group effort, with the whole being greater than the sum of its considerable parts. I look forward to seeing the group again sometime.

Expansions is currently on a Midwest tour, so I strongly encourage you to catch them if they’re in your area. I’d catch another performance if I could. To paraphrase Nathan Hale, I regret that I have but one night this week to give to Expansions…

New Listen: Manu Katché’s ‘Touchstone for Manu’

[NOTE: I also talk a bit about this album and review on today’s episode of Matt Borghi’s The Sound Traveler Podcast, which you can find here. Also, as expected, I gush over Tore Brunborg‘s playing.]


Artist: Manu Katché
Album: Touchstone for Manu (2015, US; 2014, EU)

This is a bit of a different review, as it’s technically not a new listen for me, though it is a new release. Touchstone for Manu is part of ECM’s retrospective series the label has initiated for its more notable, frequent, and/or core artists. The retrospectives have included various forms: the :rarum series (Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek), box sets (e.g., Jack DeJohnette, Eberhard Weber), or non-:rarum compilations (e.g., Manu Katché, Anouar Brahem). Katché’s addition — along with Brahem’s — to that lineup helps to usher in a younger generation.

It shouldn’t surprise longtime readers of this blog that I’m a fan of Manu Katché. 2010’s Third Round not only led to my writing this site’s first album review, but it also quickly led me into the Katché catalogue. It was also through Third Round that I came to know the playing and library of Tore Brunborg, who I now consider one of my favorite living saxophonists.

Touchstone for Manu draws pretty equally from Katché’s four albums as a leader on ECM: 2005’s Neighbourhood, 2007’s Playground, 2010’s Third Round, and 2012’s Manu Katché. (1992’s It’s About Time [on BMG] and 2014’s Live in Concert [on ACT] aren’t included.) Chronologically, these albums go from an acoustic aesthetic rooted in more straight-ahead jazz to involving some electric and electronic elements as well as more pop grooves and/or devices. You can certainly hear this in the compilation’s selections. And this should be no surprise, as Katché has one foot each firmly planted in jazz and pop. Aside from the aforementioned Jan Garbarek, he’s also extensively played behind the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Joni Mitchell. His upcoming studio debut on ACT looks to get funky with a full horn section, which I can’t wait to hear.

As a composer, one thing I appreciate most about Katché work is the way he structures a piece. It’s a constant throughout his oeuvre. Instead of heavily relying on the typical head-solo-head[-outro] format that permeates so many jazz albums, Katché often includes segues, countermelodies, and other devices to maintain interest. (Of course, he’ll sometimes use the head-solo-head format as well, but it’s great that it’s not a crutch for him.) Sometimes it’s not clear if the lead line is improvising or playing a defined part — if it’s the melody or a solo.

Briefly, the lineup for each album (as represented on Touchstone, as some personnel don’t make it) is:
Neighbourhood includes the rhythm section of Katché (drums, percussion), Marcin Wasilewski (piano), and Sławomir Kurkiewicz (double bass) with the frontline of elder heavies Jan Garbarek (sax) and Tomasz Stańko (trumpet).
Playground keeps the same rhythm section but features a younger frontline of Mathias Eick (trumpet) and Trygve Seim (sax). Another acoustic quintet.
Third Round has the rhythm section of Katché, Pino Palladino (electric bass), Jason Rebello (piano), and Jacob Young (guitar), with Tore Brunborg (sax) as the solo horn.
Manu Katché is a pared-down quartet of Katché, Jim Watson (piano, Hammond B-3), Brunborg (sax), and Nils Petter Molvær (trumpet & effects).

Touchstone includes some nice variety. The first half features the acoustic bands with the electric ones in the latter half, allowing the listener to hear the stylistic evolution over his first decade as a leader on ECM. Another thing worth noting is that, for a drummer to be leading an instrumental band, it’s remarkable how restrained Katché’s playing is in the studio. While there are some active and/or funky tunes (e.g., “So Groovy,” “Keep on Tripping,” “Running After Years”), the drums never really let loose. Katché’s happy to lay down a groove and to let the band play with and off each other as opposed to bathe in the spotlight. Over the course of the album’s eleven tracks, you hear Katché’s sound (through his band and compositions) really come into its own. From the straight-ahead numbers (“Take Offs and Land,” “Song For Her”) to the more pop-oriented (“Swing Piece”) and a synthesis of both (“Running After Years,” “Slowing the Tides”).

Touchstone for Manu is a great place to start for the uninitiated. With an even mix of albums and styles, it’s a nice primer and reference point for his output as a leader on ECM. Highly recommended.

ECM link here
Amazon link here
iTunes link here

[If you’d like to see a more fiery performance, I can’t recommend this video enough. The lineup is largely a transition band between Playground and Third Round, featuring some personnel from both albums. Similar gusto is also present on Live in Concert.]


[Disclaimer: Meandering abounds below…]

Many of my posts here are relatively evergreen — just because I write or post about something doesn’t mean that the topic is date-specific. For example, my “New Listen” reviews are, for the most part, only new to me (and sometimes I’ll sneak in an older one) and not new releases, and other topics are often recurring thoughts or experiences of mine that are finally hitting the digital paper. Of course, there are the more time-stamped entries, such as concert reviews (e.g., Liebman, Gustavsen, EOTB, Wagner), those meant to coincide with certain dates, be it birthdays (e.g., Wagner, Carlin, Sax, Verdi), concerts (e.g., Mitchell, James, my own), album releases (e.g., Mitchell & Harris), and more.

This evergreen approach wasn’t necessarily intentional at the start of this blog six years ago, but I eventually became mindful of it. The hope is that the majority of the 200+ posts here could be browsed and still be relevant in some fashion today and in the future.

There are other times, though, in which I feel like many of these paths at least overlap if not converge and compound, at least more than usual. Now – including the last several months’ goings-on and much of the last year’s posts – is one of those times. Some themes are related; others just occur near simultaneously. I’ll try to address many of them, though not in too specific an order.

1. 2015 has thus far been a wild ride. Admittedly, part of the reason it seems as if some of these topics have converged is because many of the last several months have blurred together. I regularly catch myself in conversation referencing “the other day” only to realize it was actually several months ago. Obviously, the biggest change this year has been becoming a parent. As I wrote in that post, H’s arrival not only logistically changed things – e.g., scheduling – but caused a complete realignment of priorities — in a good way, if you ask me. (I’ll stick to just his first initial. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to start his public digital trail elsewhere later. Besides, “H.” is also one of my favorite TOOL songs.)

I intentionally kept my schedule pretty clear the first half+ of this year in anticipation of his arrival. Consequently, 2015 has in many ways been my musically “lightest” year in quite some time. I’ve performed much less, recorded very little, and turned down requests and offers for various gigs. (Oddly enough, the blog has maintained some and even occasionally surged, but it helps that I can do that while at home in the middle of the night.) That said, 2015 also included one of my favorite performances ever: Borghi | Teager at Muskegon’s The Block. And other noteworthy gigs have occurred and will occur this year. So while the quantity is down the quality is up. But regarding my diminished frequency of gigs, there’s only so much time in a day. Between family and work and devoting what little time is left over to my own primary projects, time is at a premium, and leaving the house with my horns requires both a temporal opening and a monetary price. Hence the first big intersection: fatherhood, work, and competing “interests.”

2. As I wrote here, I work. (Gasp!) And given my overall flexible schedule, I watch our son during the day and work in the evening after my wife gets home from working. And while I’m not teaching adjunct this semester – the first in a long while; the measly pay wasn’t worth all that time – I’m just replacing one secondary job with another. It’s cliché, but I can confidently say that parenting is the most difficult “job” I’ve ever undertaken — most everything else is a cakewalk in comparison. Of course, I still have these weird conversations with people, often other arts-related folk, who assume that I’m “just a stay-at-home dad” (i.e., unemployed save for gigs), changing diapers, practicing, and just enjoying a leisurely life with reckless abandon. Having a taste of it, I can confidently say that stay-at-home parenting is as demanding as any taxable full-time employment. Second, I still do the latter.

With not teaching abroad this past summer nor teaching adjunct this semester, I’m somewhat off the academic grid. (Teaching private lessons is a separate matter.) It’s probably part of why I’m so temporally fuzzy, rarely immediately aware of what month it is. Along with that, the weird and often condescending exchanges regarding my “selling out” (“losing out”?) and being somewhat outside of the academy continue, despite my working towards next year’s study abroad already. Inevitably the conversation turns into something like the following:
Them: “Are you teaching this semester (with the baby)? Is your son in daycare?”
Me: “I’m not teaching this semester. I watch H during the day and work in the evening and at night for my FT job.”
Them: “Oh, that’s too bad. [Enter bizarre or pitying comment here.]”
And variations on some of those bracketed statements include:
• “That’s great. You can just hang out with your son all day.”
• “You poor dear. Don’t you miss teaching?” [If I reply that it’s not worth the time/money, they sometimes ask what I’ll do for work, willfully ignoring the fact that I already said I’m working.]
• “That’s great that your wife has a ‘real job.’ When do you practice?” [Though nauseating — and surprisingly not embarrassing for the questioner — this is often the type of response from another musician/artist. The “real job” remark is code for You shouldn’t be worried about a salary as an artist, but marry someone who does and isn’t.]

3. With fatherhood taking a top priority, I can safely say that I’ve felt it placed in the cold crossfire of competitive self-interest. Who knew that phenomenon would start to take non-musical pursuits into account? Although, I guess a zero-sum mentality doesn’t care what “the other” is so long as it exists. So if I am less available or have a conflict with one project because of a child instead of another musical project, it’s a nuisance or obstacle just the same. To be fair, I thankfully have not experienced this across the board, but it’s definitely reared its ugly head. (Though, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. I heard tale of a shedding of friends and acquaintances once you have a kid. And while I eschew personal non-musical details on this blog, I can anecdotally attest to that being true.) Granted, I admittedly don’t have the time I once had, but this is noticeably beyond that alone.

4. The more time passes, the more I’m convinced that “community” is little more than a buzzword. It sounds good, but I rarely see it in practice. This goes beyond the (SCENE) debacle, though that proved to be an illuminating real-world case study of balkanized local “scenes” and interests. However, I will say that I attended a wonderful potentially community-building event (and eventual series) a couple months ago: the Contemporary Music Potluck. I have no doubt that that particular series will do wonderful things.

5. On a related note, one’s “community” or scene certainly affects and is affected by money. Just recently we had a highly contentious Arts Commission meeting in which we discussed, debated, and ultimately distributed the City of East Lansing’s annual cultural grants. I was part of that discussion, so I can’t sit here and write only as an analyst. I won’t get into the so-called vexatious minutiae here (thank you, Dr. Campbell, for coining that phrase in my counterpoint classes), but suffice it to say that one of the larger fault lines fell between those who wanted to weight more funding towards newer and/or smaller events and organizations and those who wanted to give a large bulk of the money to the bigger long-running mainstays that continually receive financing. Or, if you’d rather, populist funding vs. establishment funding. Mathematically, the smaller organizations would’ve received a smaller portion of the grant funds than the larger applicants no matter what. The disagreement were about the degree to which these would be funded. As is typically the case, money begets money. So if you’re a startup and don’t have a long track record of raking in the dough or plans to take over the world, why come to the table hat in hand?

6. Another very timely topic is Apple Music. The free trial period ended last Wednesday for those like me who signed up at its launch. Well, Monday morning I logged into my account and set my subscription to not renew, lapsing just a couple days later. Speaking for myself, what a dud that turned out to be. I know I’m not the only one to think so. Just ask Bob Lefsetz. (Or don’t — he might start SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS.)

I suppose that’s as good as place as any to wrap this up. Whew, meandering indeed. While not completely pointless, this post was far from cohesive, which was expected. And, while not particularly evergreen overall, this post demonstrates that many of these topics are ongoing and, as a result, converge.