Month: April 2017

An Instrumental Band Who Loves to Share Their Stage

I’m a huge fan of instrumental music. A nice solid rhythm plus melodies and motifs that weave in and out of one another is paradise to me. That is why I chose to review BadBadNotGood’s IV, which released in 2016. An album that brings together hip-hop, jazz, electronic, indie and many other elements into a conveniently (sometimes lounge-y) original package. They’re a four piece band (Matthew A. Tavares, Chester Hansen, Alexander Sowinski and Leland Whitty) from Toronto, Canada where they started out experimenting with jazz fusion and interpretations of hip-hop tracks. They have also worked with many hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown and Ghostface Killah. How did these four white guys pull this all together and make these connections? It’s actually due to Tyler the Creator, who helped their YouTube channel go viral. Tyler, being a hip-hop artist who himself became viral because of his presence on Tumblr, was able to elevate BadBadNotGood’s status in the hip-hop world.

The collaborations on BadBadNotGood’s IV give the album a unique advantage. There are five features on this eleven track album, and each one brings a new flavor to the mix. The features in the order they appear on the album are Samuel T. Herring, Colin Stetson, Kaytranada, Mick Jenkins and Charlotte Day Wilson. “Time Moves Slowly” is the first collaboration featuring Samuel T. Herring. This track begins with a simple beat with light anticipations and accents on the snare drum; it gives the song a bit more motion. The general feel is kind of slow in tempo and muffled in timbre – typically called a slow jam. Aside from vocals, the drums tend to be a bit more prominent compared to the other instruments. The hypnotizing synth organ accompanies vocals lightly as it seems to emphasize the tensions building with Samuel’s lyrical content. He sings in a mellow and subdued tone. This is not a cheery song; the lyrics clearly point out that time can painfully drag on when alone. Samuel’s tone of voice has a slightly raspy and cracking quality to it, which evokes the pain and stress one deals with when falling in and out of love with someone who doesn’t share the same feelings.

Each feature on IV brings a different vibe. “Confessions Pt. II”, for instance, with jazz saxophonist – Colin Stetson – is a full on instrumental with plenty of sax. The repetitive bass line, played on sax, reinforces the entire track. Stetson goes wild over this instrumental, along with the band’s saxophonist Leland Whitty. The next collaboration with Haitian-Canadian musician Kaytranada, titled “Lavender”, is a spacey, synth heavy, hip-hop instrumental. There is another version of this song with Snoop Dogg rapping over it that bears recognition though it wasn’t technically on the album. The video for this track stirred up controversy due to the mock assassination of “Ronald Klump.” There is a rapper featured on this album though: Mick Jenkins (American hip-hop artist), who raps over an R&B and hip-hop groove on “Hyssop of Love”. He’s got a steady and somewhat quick flow. There are also political references expertly laid out. The intro bars set that up immediately: “Wolves in disguise / How you supposed to see ’em with the wool in your eyes? / Sheep to the radio, we fooled and surprised.” He’s saying we’ve grown too accustomed to being blinded, that we don’t even notice what’s going on. It’s interesting to hear where genres like jazz and hip-hop intersect in this medley since both come from communities of color, African-American traditions and histories of oppression in America.

These vocal appearances on IV complement both the artists featured and the band’s instrumental talents. They seemed to have found a common ground where there’s enough excitement instrumentally but there’s also space for vocal accompaniments. The last feature, titled “In Your Eyes”, has a classic R&B feel to it. It’s a smooth groove with a catchy melody. Charlotte Day Wilson sings on this beautiful instrumental, laying a very silky performance. There is an accompanying string arrangement along with vocal harmonies.

BadBadNotGood has established quite a nice nook in the instrumental music world. Although they have both singing and rapping on a few tracks, their solo instrumental tracks are some of my favorites. “Speaking Gently” is one favorite that comes to mind. It’s got a dense hip-hop vibe but really opens up in the chorus with beautiful celestial synth sounds. Their versatility is what helps them explore elements of jazz and hip-hop in a nuanced way. It can be hard to pinpoint what they are and where they’re at, but I think that’s the fun part of their music.

The Dream House: unlike anything you’ve ever or will ever experience

Photo Courtesy


The Dream House is such an individual experience that describing it in words may not do it justice. But, I will try.

The Dream House is a room with four speakers that plays sounds at different frequencies and was made in the 1993 by La Monte Young and his wife, Marian Zazeela as a culmination of years of work. A list of Young’s works can be seen here. The House itself is intriguing at first sight: a carpeted purple-magenta room, not very big in size, with incense that fills the room. The purple filters on the windows make it impossible to tell how much time has passed, and what felt like 10 minutes in the room actually ended up being an hour and 20 minutes. Though the room is small in size, its range of sound is huge. Literally every area of the room had a different sound. Walking in, turning my head, sitting up, and lying down all sounded differently.

The feelings of each pitch ranged from soft on the ear to buzzing to slightly thumping on it like a hammer. The pitch of each sound did not change, but each sound itself was different. The dynamics of the sounds ranged from whisper-soft microphone-screeching feedback, to low ‘wah-wah’ sounds, to the hum of a running AC. The range of sound was so vast that I am almost certain there were sounds being played that my human ear could not pick up.

The speeds of some sounds stayed constant, and the speeds of others moved as my head moved. I did a mini-experiment: I attempted to follow three waves of sound as I turned my head. Looking straight forward, sound A was a low oscillating sound, sound B was a mike-feedback, and sound C was a high tone. I turned my head slowly to the left, and turning left: sound A stayed, and sound B intensified like a person who slowly turns a flashlight towards you until the light beam hits you straight on. Sound C sped up like the sound of a bomb about to detonate until — the sound completely disappeared.

A picture of the wave spectrum in my head had appeared, and then I thought: what would the room look like if all of the vibrations in the room were able to be seen visually? In my head,  I expected the high pitches to not be heard lower to the ground. To test that theory, I lay down. My theory was proven wrong as the same high pitch from before remained, and a new drone-sound previously unheard appeared.

Then I sat up again and looked around at about 17 other people in the room. At that moment I had a crazy realization. At a typical concert or music performance, people usually listen to an artist and heat the same thing. But in the Dream House, although we were all in the same room, with the same four speakers, none of us were hearing the same thing. The Dream House was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It was weird, and it was beautiful.


Planning for the Class Concert May 10

We had a great preview of the performance groups today and I wanted to summarize what we talked about in a post so that you have a record and can jump in with comments and updates.

Wednesday May 10 concert @ 12:30 with a Tech run-through at 9:30

Monday May 8: Dress Rehearsal during class time.  I’ll see if I can book the Recital Hall for this.


Finalized list of stage “needs” due next week, May 1. This should include all microphones, cables, music stands, chairs, piano or anything you intend to use for your performance.

Groups that didn’t get to play their piece in class today will get their chance on Monday.  We can also perform something together as a whole class.  Let’s start Monday’s class with the Tuning Meditation and see where it takes it us, now that our ears are so much bigger!

Here’s the program so far (not in any particular order):

Spiegel im spiegel, by Arvo Pärt performed by Jose Lopez and Amber Milan

Pitch City, by William Duckworth performed by Jose Lopez, Juan Baez, Olivia Cipriano, Alejandro Marrero

LOL conceived and performed by Gregory Morelo, Michael Stephens, Dasom Park, Bladimir Taveras, Alejandro Marrero, Gustavo Nuñez

Snowforms by R. Murray Schafer performed by Shayna Cody, Suheiry Rivera, Devin Negroni, Rose Kaufman

David and Abigail by Anthony Puentes performed by Akeem Edwards, James Nitis, Tuan Ngo, Anthony Puentes

TBA: Daniel Silva, David Rivera, Jesus Morel

TBA: Emil Garcia, Clapping Music???

What else did you have in mind? Let me know about additions to the program. Images and other projections are welcome.

During this semester, I have had the privilege to learn and play with many different musicians here at Lehman College, including Mr. Allan Molnar and his Jazz Ensemble. He welcomed me as an unofficial member and this past month I have watched them rehearse to perform an instrumental jazz composition called Blue Bossa by Kenny Dorham. The style or genre of this song is called Bossa Nova which is a mix of Samba and Hard Bop Jazz. Blue Bossa is a jazz standard comprised mainly of II, V, I progressions and is played in either a minor or a major key. In this piece, the two keys are not relative major or minor keys. The form might be described as ABCB since the second four measures and the fourth four measures are identical. The 3rd four measures could be called the bridge since it is played in a different key. Blue Bossa was played in C minor. The piece starts of with  the bass guitar and the drums. The bass line is playing around the II, V, and, I chord. The drums are playing the bossa nova which is a style of drumming typically used in the Jazz with a Latin influence. I often use this style of drumming myself in the Latin Jazz ensemble. It isn’t played as aggressively as other drum patterns would be.  The rim click simulates the click of a clave. The hi-hat simulates the shaker. 8th notes can also be played with a brush instead of a drum stick to further simulate a shaker. The piano follows to decorate the rhythm with minor chords and its arpeggios to break it down. The trumpet comes in next with the main melody or theme of the song. The first time around it gives more of a staccato sound, but then when it repeats, the trumpet stretches out the notes more the second time to more of a legato sound with some fills for the remaining count in the measure. The trumpet continues to improvise during the solo with different variations of the main theme. A low saxophone comes in after and eventually picks up the pace with a quick solo playing in what sounds like 32nd notes with ties. The piano solo comes in after which is my favorite solo of the piece. I feel like it decorated the tune and fit extremely with all the chord progressions. Lastly, the bass solo follows and all other instruments except percussion stop playing. The drums keep the rhythm while the piano throws in some high pitch chords to decorate the bass solo. The main trumpet theme played with trumpet returns closing out the piece. I enjoyed watching this performance and personally enjoy listening to Blue Bossa as well as playing along to it. It is a jazz standard and is a good song to play along with because it is played at a moderate tempo and is good for beginners and musicians who want to practice this style of music. It is a good song for beginners to practice with improvisation over chord changes because it’s slow and has an easy to follow harmony.

Competition for Student Artists at CUNY

Are you preparing an original composition for our class concert? Does it engage ideas of diversity? If so, consider entering it in the first ever competition for students: Strength In Us.

The richness of the City University of New York (CUNY) is defined by who we are: the most diverse University system in the nation. CUNY’s history and our future is built around opening doors of higher education to all students from across the globe who strive to learn, study, and share knowledge.

Strength in Us is a CUNY-wide student challenge with the goal to encourage students to submit creative work that depicts:

  • the importance of a more just, diverse and inclusive campus climate;
  • what an idealized future would be like if CUNY became the global leader in furthering active and respectful inquiry; or
  • ways students might spearhead efforts to advance educational opportunity at CUNY for students from around the world

4 Prizes to be Awarded:

Grand Prize: $1500
First Honorable Mention: $1000
Second Honorable Mention: $750
Third Honorable Mention: $250
The winners of Strength in Us will be decided via crowdsourcing by YOU!

Strength in Us Page 2

Strength In Us

Rehearsal Time: Thursday April 20

As I mentioned in class today, I have to go out of town tomorrow, April 20. Please use the class hour to rehearse with your group for the Class Concert, which is planned for Wednesday, May 10.

You should all be in an ensemble by now. If not, be sure to get in touch with your colleagues.  Please write in the Comment Section below, the members of your group and what piece or pieces you have planned.  If you’re not in a group, but are seeking one, write in the Comment Section!

You are welcome to invite others from the college to participate with you! (I’m thinking of the group looking to perform Snowforms: if you have colleagues who sing, why not invite them to participate?)

What shall we all perform together as a group piece? We have performed Tuning MeditationIn CThe Great Learning, a variety of rhythm games from Stridulations for the Good Luck Feast. There are other graphic scores we could interpret together as a class. Let me know what you’re interested in trying as a large group. We’ll discuss the votes on Monday!


Drone Mass

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson performed his Drone Mass with ACME, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Theatre of Voices. This performance was held at Duke University and was conducted by Donato Cabrera. Drone Mass is a contemporary oratorio with eight movements sung by a vocal ensemble (TOV) accompanied by a string quartet (ACME). The string quartet had one cellist, two violinists, and one violist. The vocal ensemble had two sopranos, one mezzo, one alto, two tenors, and two bass. The movements included a drone produced either by Jóhannsson’s modular synthesizer or by voices and instruments that would mimic the sound of a drone. Jóhannsson’s drone would often produce a deep, rumbling effect. Most, if not all, of the movements were in a natural minor key or mode. The vocalists used limited vibrato and would often continue without rest, producing a haunting or hypnotic effect. The hymn they sang was a series of vowels inspired by Gnostic texts from the Nag Hammadi Library.

In the first movement, voices alternated the theme in F# natural minor. Strings accompanied with a rhythmic bass and then strings played the theme with the voices, and then returned to rhythmic bass, all ending on I7.

The second movements showcased the importance all of voices and instruments. The voices sang vowels on the beat. As the strings and voices alternated in similar repeated themes, never resting together, so it began to sound like a fugue.

The third movement had the first appearance of the drone. A low drone tone on E faded in. Bass sang alongside the drone, then the tenors. Strings slurred in an upward motion producing a very sharp sound like faint squeaking in the background. Then the strings repeated an E natural minor arpeggio as the altos alternated tones of E minors with different vowels. The tenors and bass repeated a syncopated bass rhythm as the drone faded out.

In the fourth movement the bass sang alone, slurring tones in a downward motion and would rest. The cellist slurred tones up and down, pushing hard on the bow, creating a tense, unpleasant sound. The other strings joined in doing the same creating dissonant tones. The bass, tenors, and alto repeated this slurring theme with “Ahs.” The voices then called out and answered with the theme several times, in a crescendo.

The fifth movement was in B minor. One violin repeated a simple 4-note motif and then the cello joined for harmony. The second violin played the theme in sync with the first violin. The violins would gradually go in and out of sync while the cello played its own theme. The voices sang vowels on the tones of B minor.

The sixth movement was more about the dynamics. Voices sing vowels in F major as strings sustain tones for the bass. The violins repeated a melancholy theme in F major. All crescendo then one by one the voices and instruments very gradually decrescendo.

In the seventh movement, the drone fades in on D. Individual voices would take turns connecting one interval to create the melody. The deep, rumbling drone bent in and out of D, becoming more rough and thick before it faded out.

The final movement was in E minor. The voices sounded together in an improvisational way in which no rhythm could be heard. The voices alternated sustained tones from the key of E minor. One voice singing a high A# created an unexpected texture. The cello created a drone effect but would slur in a downward motion from B, scaling down a major third, and then a perfect fifth. Voices in tutti repeated this slur, creating more tension, and suddenly ended on the lone cello on G, slurring down to E, to B, then down to E. This would repeat as violins created an unpleasant high pitch sound. The strings alternated in downward slurring. Voices layered on more texture and dissonance by alternated the same slurring motion but beginning on different tones. One by one the voices would call out different tones of the chromatic scale. The voices fade out and the piece ended as the high pitch strings faded out.

Jóhannsson’s Drone Mass was moving with a sense of stillness and mystery. The vocalists were very good but not as virtuosic as I would expect in a work so vocally focused. This work catered to my love of vocal music from the Baroque era. The drone added foundation and an ancient sound to an otherwise modern work. Jóhannsson is better recognized for his original scores for the films, The Theory of Everything (2014) and Arrival (2016).


Original Funky Town from the 1980’s



It was a Friday night heading downtown as I was transferring to a different train. I overheard a live music performance. I follow the sound and found the live performance group. The group was performing on the upper level of the 34th Street–Herald Square. Infuse with the crowded and train noises the group perform a higher pitch. The logic allows the instrument pierce through the ambient sounds. Their name is Lucky Chops and they are a brass instruments group. Chops consist of tuba, trombone, trumpet, tenor saxophones, baritone saxophones, and drummer. The group was performing a cover of Funkytown by Lipps Inc compose in the 1980s. The original song instrument was hi-hat cymbal, electronic guitar and majorities were digital interface sounds. The transition from original instrument to brass group and 1 drummer was astounding. The group did not use distinctive instruments from the original track. However, was able to still perform distinctively to the original. The baritone saxophones player started out solo with repeated melodies. Soon after it was joined by the other. The drummer serves as a drone melody. While the trumpet has the most distinctive sound because it has a higher pitch. The tuba, trombone, tenor saxophones, and baritone saxophones synchronize with each other as they play repeated melodies. Proceeded by distinctive high pitch sound of the trumpet. The baritone saxophones player went back to a quick solo which provided a bass sound. As he played he is dancing to each of the notes. Doctor B from my chorus class inform me that performer from vocalist to wind-related instrument utilize several of body movement to produce more sound rather than just standing still. The baritone saxophones not only entertain the audiences with his in sync dancing. He was able to produce more wind force from his lungs. At 1:10 Tenor saxophones player call out “Here we go, 1,2,3” which signal the group to fuege the chorus. Tenor saxophones is very distinctive during chorus because of assorts of melodies. The melodies range from low to high pitch notes. The notes seem to transition from sixteen notes to whole notes. The music transitional at the 2:00 time mark. It forefront the tenor saxophones and baritone saxophones playing a 3 noted repeated melodies. While the drummer played hi-hat along with each notes of the saxophones. At the 2:16 mark the band played a called and responds styles. The trumpet would play alternating melody at a high pitch. While on the second beat the saxophones would ostinato. I would consider this piece to be ternary form because I hear 3 distinctive talea. Not only has the performance sounded live because it was played in front of me but the location of the station provided reverb. The reverb allows notes to be more sustaining and constant. In the video, it shows the band transition into another piece. However, during my event the group stops after Funky Town. Overall, it was a great learning experience. I was able to hear a brass band converting a non-piece into brass band format. The group was able to utilize the original motif and replicate it with brass instruments that are recognizable to the audience. Hearing music is one thing but seeing a live performance is another thing. I was able to see the performance in synch with the music. They were moving their feet and body to each down or up beats. Theatrically people that often vibe with their piece are comfortable with it or practice extensively. Each performance was not stiff and express body language as they played. They were not triggered or distracted by the audience noise and train noise. Lucky Chops are a fine definition of “live performance” because their performance extends beyond notes that could be read on staff paper. I recommend people check out their website for their next appearance. The group sometimes pops up in New York City. However, at the moment they are touring different part of the world.


Official Website:

Lucky Chops Fuky Town Cover

Distance Future ; Minimalism at its finest

For March, I decided to do a recording review for the album Distance Future, sung and written by French musicians Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper. This album is the perfect blend of mystery and relaxation in the most strangest way. If i close my eyes and listen i just can not tell if i should be scared or calm. These two musicians edited together some highlights of a visit to Todmorden Unitarian Church in England. A review i read on this album from Pitchfork was that it sounds like “wordless hymns sung by ghosts” and that is probably the best words to describe this album. The voices as they sing through the church echo around sounding like ghosts echoing though halls.

This album is considered “Experimental” because the two musicians were improvising in this church and found a sound that is unlike their own from their own previous albums. The album was voted #19 for 2015’s Best Experimental Album and i can see why. It is unlike anything i have ever heard before and it brings minimalism to another level for me, i mean how much simpler can it get, walking into a church and singing through to create hauntingly beautiful echos.

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper are extremely underrated. It is almost impossible to find information on them online and its sad because they have a lot of talent and deserve to be in the spotlight a bit more. I think this album helped that a bit but definitely not enough and i hope i can help just a little by bringing these women into peoples attention.

The video below is one song off off of Delphine Dora and Sophie Coopers album Distance Future.It is not the best recording of this but if interested in hearing more please visit Delphine Doras bandcamp website and listen to the whole album to get a real sense of what these women can do.

Chick Corea – Three Quartets Band – Michael Brecker, Eddie Gomez, Steve Gadd

Chick Corea is known as one of the greatest pianist and composer that jazz has to offer. Chick is known for his famous jazz compositions such as “Got a match?” , “Spain”, and etc. He performed a concert on April 22, 2003 at the Blue Note Club in New York City. In this performance, Chick has three great musicians right beside him which did an outstanding job. Michael Brecker – saxophone, Steve Gadd – drums and Eddie Gomez – upright bass (also a bass player I admire). Before starting the first piece, chick speaks to the audience and explains how his music career was divided between Classical music and Jazz. As a jazz performer, he also incorporates many techniques from the classical era into jazz to give it more organizations and his pieces are going to be presented as Qua

rtet No. 1, Quartet No. 2, etc just like classical music.

Quartet No.1 starts off with a piano introduction which the upright bass responds to. Chick’s piano playing brings energy to the musicians as if he were playing percussive rhythm melodies. I’ve noticed his playing pushes the musicians to respond faster and come up with creative improvised solos. The first solo is started by Michael Brecker on saxophone. Brecker begins his solo playing long notes looking for an open spot to enter his solos. If any one could notice on his solo, he stopped and smiled which can be a way to express or communicate with the musicians or the crowd in Jazz. He also hits high notes which has a similar timbre to the trumpet. Brecker begins to switch over to chromatic scales and his tone starts to turn distorted. By watching Brecker, I compare him to Charlie Parker with his fast fingering. (If any one can compare to another sax player please do so)

As the saxophone softly finishes off his solo, Chick continues off and closes the solo with some melodic lines on the piano which are jazz melodic ideas but with the techniques of Baroque music. After his melodic line, piano and bass perform a Tutti together and introduce Eddie Gomez on upright bass. Gomez starts his playing high notes on the upright like as if he’s telling the crowd “it’s my turn to solo”. The upright bass is one of the instruments that is really difficult to play fast scales and to add on, there are no frets on the upright. The way Gomez solos on the upright, reminds me of Charles Mingus. Mingus played a lot of fast scales which Gomez might of inherit and played on this performance. As anyone could notice, Gomez sings what he plays on his solo. The bass and drums have a unique relationship when it comes to walking. It also sounds as if Gomez inherits a lot of Ray Brown’s walking techniques. In this performance Chick Corea gets together a quartet of creative musicians. aside from their great harmonic features, these musicians bring together chemistry that makes it seem as if they were playing together for many years or in other words, they work as a team which is really important in a ensemble.