Volume 2-2012



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THIS WEEK'S RAR TUNES:  Listen by clicking on the links or covers below.

Yours truly is offering up a little Jazz-Pop confection, with all admiration for the ancient Greeks, who knew a thing or two about winging it philosophically. Use this link or click on poor Democritus below to hear "A Simple Explanation".

Oh perversity at the county fair! I'm sure involvement with the Future Farmers of America has ruined more than a few young boys, what with all the glamour and all, and the exposure to breeding stock... Use this link or click on the good people below to hear another in a nauseating string of RAR originals - "(You Do) That Thing That Sets Me Free".

Yours truly has been all about myself of late, which is why I am behind on record reviews and most everything else, but I do have a new batch of recordings, starting with "Betty from Memphis", a tribute to stable types such as my actual Aunt Betty (Olita) in Memphis (not shown here), as well as to all those weary road warriors out there playing the soundtracks to everybody else's movies.

Call it "creative destruction", like Mitt Romney does. "Until Sam Walty's Dead" is a cowboy yarn about a villain - personified by the late and wonderful Warren Oates (below) - who has left an unfortunate legacy for himself (see chorus...). Walty is my metaphor for early 21st Century predatory capitalism, a force that must be dealt with so that honest souls can carry on.

Glory be unto Angie Omaha, whoever she is, pictured below on the cover to my next- generation version of "The Glow of Your Dark Eyes",  introduced several years back as a tune about "the dark side of loving a dark soul". Our girl Angie may not let me exploit her in this way for long, but as long as she does isn't she perfect? I mean, for this song?

"Just Eleven Minutes"  comes from a few years back, and from the same box as "The Glow of Your Dark Eyes", but the versions provided below come much closer to my ambitions for this story of a booze-fueled cuckold speeding toward a crime of passion and revenge. The song is almost entirely played around the single chord of E, with occasional transitions through A-B, for those keeping score. The "psycho" version was the original inspiration, but the Nashville chicken-pickin' version has some nice qualities. Unfortunately it also shows that as a guitar player I am no Randy Barker, though I hope to be when I grow up. (Randy Barker played with Michael Woody and the Too High Band, which in the end gave him way too little exposure, but those who heard him play remember it even 30 years later as something special.)




(Click here)

New Releases on RARadio: "Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; "Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" from Actress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; "Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio; Apteka "Striking Violet"; Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along"; Dana deChaby's progressive rock




"The Musical Meccas of the World"








Original Musical Compositions and Select Covers

Fiction and Non-Fiction

Special Projects










Kaki King

KAKI KING is a guitarist who went through a door several years ago and began experimenting with not only her acoustic-electric guitars, but also pedal and lap steel. She began doing that Stanley Jordan fret tapping thing, essentially turning the fretboard of the guitar into a keyboard. And on her most recent albums, Dreaming of Revenge (2008) and ...Until We Felt Red, Kaki explores her vocal abilities.

Hers is an interesting journey to watch. There is a thing that happens to truly talented musicians: they become bored with the instrument they have mastered, at least within their own definition of what mastery may mean. The vast majority simply stop forward progression as a player. Most just carry the heavy weight of recreating their perfected sound, striving to perform it every more cleanly. Some explore their creative urges laterally through music arrangement and composition.

The Kaki King's of the world, who reach that point and start coloring outside the lines, are few in number. Stanley Jordan, best known for the fret-tapping technique that Kaki sometimes uses, and slide master Sonny Landreth, come to mind.

These three prodigies hit that wall of mastery early in their lives - Kaki King is still in her 20s - and then did the unthinkable: they expanded their instruments. Stanley Jordan and Kaki King attack it as if it is a piano. Sonny Landreth integrates slide and classic chord voicing techniques. All three produce truly special sounds.

Certainly Kaki King's "experimental" sound is not for everyone. Her extraordinarily delicate ambidextrous touch seems mostly to produce beautiful FM Sunday brunch music that works well as soundtrack (August Rush). A Georgia native, now a Brooklyn resident, she has an eccentric quality that brings to mind some of the Appalachian geniuses the world has known, notably Doc Watson. She seems other worldly, a charmed alien living an out of body experience.

As a composer, her ideas are rich and beautifully executed. She is a living tribute to all of the "jazz" guitar greats who have come before, effortlessly employing run and rhythm ideas that are immediately recognizable as classic and yet, done her way, read like expression. This is the thing that sets her apart. She isn't just stringing together licks, but rather painting with a sonic brush that bristles with the long, long plectrum nails of her right hand and the smooth glissando of her left.


Click here to go to Kaki King's MySpace site to hear MP3s.


Click here to go to for Kaki King video.

Francis and the Lights

FRANCIS AND THE LIGHTS are a New York City based band led by frontman Francis Starlite. The band’s sound is propelled by two live drummers playing in conjunction with sequenced percussion, balanced with intertwining guitar and synth parts. The band was formed at Wesleyan University - their first show was a performance of the posthumous Otis Redding record The Immortal Otis Redding in its entirety. After secluding himself in Oakland, CA to write songs, Francis Starlite drove cross-country in a decommissioned postal truck and formed the current incarnation of the band in New York. The rehearsed for a full year before unveiling themselves at a series of invitation-only shows at a white fabric draped warehouse space featuring spring-loaded keyboards, young coconuts and a chandelier that descended onto the dancefloor bearing champagne glasses. They released the Striking EP in late 2007 and are currently recording a follow-up.



Francis and the Lights' "Striking" EP is available for download at

Click here to go to Francis and the Lights' MySpace site to hear MP3s.

Click here to see Francis and the Lights perform at Galapagos on YouTube.



Francis and the Lights

Graduating From Living to Ball Room

New York City, New York - Glam rockers Francis and the Lights played the Bowery Ballroom last week, completing the first phase of a metamorphosis that began a couple years back in the apartment of their flamboyant front man. Their Bowery show celebrated the two LPs that have issued forth from the Francis collective.

Francis and the Lights introduced themselves with a series of invitation-only shows in front man Francis Farewell Starlite's apartment featuring young coconuts and a chandelier that descended from the ceiling bearing champagne glasses. Out of those shows, the band played increasing larger venues in New York, and issued Striking at the end of 2007. In a busy 2008, they recorded and released the follow-up A Modern Promise and filmed a single-take live audio video for "The Top". 

Francis and the Lights is making the following tracks available for download for free.

1. "Striking" (from Striking) -

2. "Night Watchman" (from A Modern Promise) -

3. "On A Train" (from A Modern Promise) -

4. "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (Kanye West cover) -



Rippin' at Bonnaroo

Sharon Jones and the Soul Difference

Brooklyn, New York - Is it just me or has the redefinition of the sub-genres within what we used to call "Rhythm & Blues" been confusing? To find "R&B" as those of us over...oh, 39 have known it, you would need to visit the Urban Adult Contemporary charts, which are currently ruled by the likes of Raheem DaVaughn, Keyshia Cole, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and Alicia Keys. These are musical people who come the closest to continuing the traditions of predecessors like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Marvin Gaye. 

On the other hand, if you listen to youth-oriented stations these days you find another type of music going under the "R&B" banner carried by popsters like Rihanna, Usher, and Chris Brown, and also there you get the crossovers like Kanye West.

Oh Kanye West...

Kanye just brought his elaborate stage show - the one where he interacts with extraterrestrials - to Tennessee's Bonnaroo festival, of all places, where he angered a crowd by going on almost four hours late - significant, when your show is scheduled to begin at 1:30 a.m. (Kanye wanted the late start. It probably seemed like a cool idea to mount that surreal show in the dark.) He was only half-way through his romp when the sun came up to reveal a largely empty "house." Lesson: smoke and mirrors and mud may not work all that well together, which brings us back to the blurred distinctions in today's "race music."

Much of the new confusion stems from the dual definition of "hip-hop," which as a musical style is a 4/4 beat with a feeling that can be demonstrated by clapping once, wiping down your  forearms on the 3 and the 4 beats, and clapping again to restart the cycle with the next measure. Add scratches and samples and you have the foundation for hip-hop poetry. "Hip-hop," however, is also a "life style" and under that umbrella you find "rap," which puts street poetry to soul, metal and rock, and all of the variations of "R&B" and classic soul.

There is, among all of that, precious little left of the type of swampy, juke joint sweat, Bourbon and pot soaked "soul" that used to be the province of now-departed rhythm kings James Brown and Ike Turner. But wait! While the youth culture gorges on Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, there is a hurricane blowing out of Brooklyn in the form of  52-year old Sharon Jones and her band the Dap-Kings. Hers is a show you could mount in minutes on any street corner in any town in the world and no one who stopped to listen would walk away anything other than blown away. Like Kanye West, Sharon just played Bonnaroo too, and no one went away mad.

Sharon Jones is one of those rare transcendent artists who come across as a force of nature as distinct in character as an earthquake is from a wild fire. Listening to her, you realize that she is doing all of the old familiar stuff, but with a voice so pure and original that comparisons do not come to mind. This the pure ore, the crude oil, the real stuff. This is what it sounds like when you hear talent without artifice. Click here to go to Sharon Jones' MySpace and see if I'm not right. - RAR 


The Raveonettes

The Raveonettes are originally a Danish pop duo consisting of Sune Rose Wagner (on guitar, instruments, vocals) and Sharin Foo (on bass and vocals). They now make their homes in New York City and Los Angeles. Their music is characterized by close two-part vocal harmonies inspired by The Everly Brothers[citation needed], coupled with hard-edged electric guitar overlaid with liberal doses of noise. Their songs juxtapose the structural and chordal simplicity of 50s and 60s rock with intense electric instrumentation, driving beats and often dark lyrical content, similar to another of the band's influences, The Velvet Underground. "We are not scared of being blunt about what the references are in our music," said Sharin Foo. "For instance, if you look at our name, The Raveonettes, it's a complete direct reference to The Ronettes and Buddy Holly Rave On. So, in that sense, we're pretty clear about it." - Wikipedia

The Raveonettes playing Beat Day in Copenhagan, 2007


Studio albums:
Whip It On (2002)
Chain Gang of Love (2003)
Pretty in Black (2005)
Lust Lust Lust (2007)

Hit singles:
2002 "Attack of the Ghostriders" #73 UK
2003 "That Great Love Sound" #34 UK
2003 "Heartbreak Stroll" #49 UK
2004 "That Great Love Sound" (Re-issue) #52 UK
2005 "Love in a Trashcan" #26 UK
2007 "Dead Sound" (7" Only)
2008 "You Want The Candy" #15 UK Indie (7" Only)

Click here to go to The Raveonettes MySpace site to hear MP3s.

Click here to see The Raveonettes perform "That Great Love Sound" on YouTube.


The duo met in Copenhagen and, after forming the band, began recording Whip It On at Once Was & Sauna Recording Studio, a former Sony Studios facility. They booked the studio for three weeks during non-session down time late in 2001 and handled all production chores by themselves. Adding guitarist Manoj Ramdas and jazz drummer Jakob Hoyer, the Raveonettes booked one of their first gigs at the SPOT festival in Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark.

Officially the band was discovered by Rolling Stone editor David Fricke at the SPOT festival and his rave review of them immediately resulted in a number of offers from the major labels. Unofficially the band discovered that David Fricke would be present at the SPOT festival, and they rushed a band together and headed for the festival.

Whip It On (in which every song was under three minutes and in the key of B-flat minor) was named "Best Rock Album of the Year" at the Danish Music Awards (Denmark's Grammy equivalent) on March 1, 2003 while the Raveonettes were picked by Rolling Stone and Q Magazine as being among the harbingers of the "Next Wave" of contemporary music.

In 2006 Blender named Sharin Foo one of rock's hottest women, alongside Courtney Love, Joan Jett, and Liz Phair. - Wikipedia


The Panda Band

THE PANDA BAND is a transplant to Brooklyn from Perth, Australia and a tremendous addition to the NYC scene. 

(From their website) - The Panda Band could be best described as art-tech-indie-pop. Art: because of their crafty arrangements – tech: because they play with effects, keys and samples – indie: because by choosing to run their own label, they are in the drivers seat – pop: because they are big on catchy, layered melodies and sing-a-long bits. You could also throw ironic, vaudevillian, intelligent and addictive into the adjective stew, but we wont so pretend that we didn’t write this bit.

As the follow up to their 2005 EP "Sleepy Little Deathtoll Town", The Panda Band independently released their first album This Vital Chapter (we’re almost not even here) in Australia (August 2006) where it has been met with critical acclaim from press such as Rolling Stone, Sydney Morning Herald, The Melbourne Age and various street press. National radio station Triple J selected it as their feature album and presented the August promotional tour, which had sold out shows in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.



Click here to go to The Panda Band's MySpace site to hear MP3s.



The Panda Band's This Vital Chapter has, in the eyes and ears of some music critics, put them in a league with those Canadian darlings Arcade Fire. Click here to read a review of This Vital Chapter.


Langhorne Slim

LANGHORNE SLIM  is a young folk singer, born Sean Scolnick on August 20, 1980, based out of Brooklyn, New York. Originally hailing from Langhorne, Pennsylvania, he graduated from the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, part of the SUNY system.

He began to gain public notice through several years of touring with the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players and an appearance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. His song Electric Love Letter was recently number 5 on the Rolling Stone editor's top ten picks. The song was also in the movie Waitress. He has recently been seen on tours with Cake, The Avett Brothers, Murder By Death, Jeffrey Lewis, The Violent Femmes, Lucero, and Rocky Votolato.

In 2006, Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles signed to V2 Records. For one EP (Engine EP, 2006) and an LP due out in early 2007. However, after V2 folded on the deal regarding the highly anticipated release, the band signed to Kemado Records, and have selected a release date of April 29th, 2008 for the self-titled, full-length LP.

A Langhorne Slim Daytrotter Session was released on October 9, 2006.

Langhorne Slim's band the War Eagles consists of Paul Defiglia on bass and Malachi DeLorenzo on drums. - Wikipedia


Photo: Doug Seymour



Go to the Langhorne Slim MySpace site to hear MP3s.



Art reprinted from The New Yorker 
THE FABULOUS ENTOURAGE at The Annex, New York City, March 21, 2008 at 9:00pm

by Bryan Clark

Dance party band The Fabulous Entourage made their thrilling return from an eight-month hiatus last night at The Annex, playing a slim nine-song set which featured three tunes from their 2006 CD Play Nice Now, two newer songs that can be heard on their website, an unrecorded live favorite, a new arrangement of one member’s solo work, a brand new number, and a cover of a the title song from Cannonball Run II. 

They started on time, they didn’t bitch at the soundman about their monitor mix, and they all but did away with the theatrical costuming of performances past.  (The day-glo tape on the men’s clothing was not in sight, and the girls looked ready for an ordinary night of clubbing with the single exception of Pamela Quinn’s green wig.)  All troubling signs, it seemed.  But unlike the result when KISS took off the makeup and revealed that there was simply nobody home, this streamlined and straightforward Entourage incarnation revealed an always-enthralling band which is debating its own future as it teeters on the outer edge of its prime. 

The standard Entourage opening “Theme Song”, with its refrain of “We’re gonna satisfy,” indeed continues to satisfy, especially when the shrieking crowd noises are for real (as they were last night) and not canned (as they are on the sole unfortunate moment of the album).   The band looked slightly unsure of themselves within seconds of starting to play, and the smirks and giggles that they exchanged throughout the number – and occasionally throughout the show – seemed to veer between the excitement of playing together again and the search for who had just played the wrong chord.

By the end of the opening number, though, they had gained their footing, along with the tremendous approval of the loyal crowd.  And then they pulled out “The Man Who Never Died,” one of the few tunes in their repertoire which cannot be found on CD or mp3, although a brief live clip from a previous show can be located on YouTube.  This number is reminiscent of their obscure EP “I Smell Danger” from their equally obscure early days as a duo with a drum machine and a proclivity for superhero musical fantasy performing in clothing inspired by Madonna via the New York Dolls.  But the epic hero lyric “Gave up trying in the '20s/ Gave up feeling in 1945/ Gave up hoping in the 80s/ When I realized that I never would die” now feels more overtly connected to the contemplation of growing out of their 20’s and contemplating their lives ahead.

Midnight Cowboy” was the usual crowd pleaser, as was the more recent “Out of Beer.”  The latter tune has been through a tough birthing process in the web-released demos, including a misguided version which featured a flute and an equally challenged mix which was overwhelmed by synth pop keyboard stylings.  Fortunately, the song has now found its feet live, with the help of a delightfully rough guitar part by vocalist Libby Winters.

In a typically unsurprising surprise, the Entourage inexplicably covered the main title theme from the movie Cannonball Run II, dedicating it to longtime groupie Gideon Levy.  They were joined on this number, and others, by Jimmy Owens on saxophone.  His overall presence made little sense in the show and generally undercut the power of the core quintet rather than supporting it, but his specific appearance at this point – from the balcony, dressed as Jesus Christ (in celebration of Good Friday) – was welcome, especially as it was a crucial reminder of the spectacular drama and irreverence of the Entourage in their heyday.

“Revolution / Keep on Movin,’” despite the annoying slash in its title, is inarguably their strongest dance floor anthem, and will be the anchoring number of any Album #2 that they might ever decide to record.  It drives hard and happy, even in its arresting  throwaway lyric “Dance tonight for tomorrow we die.”

The set took a brief dip during “Deepest Cut,” not-so-successful reworking of “Don’t Come Crawling” from keyboardist Kyle Jarrow’s rock musical Love Kills, followed by the new number “Don’t Look Back / Forget Her Face.”  Bassist Travis Chamberlain, amusingly outfitted with a pair of Kevin DuBrow prison-stripe pants, noted with a gleeful threat of reunion-as-farewell, “This is the only time you’ll ever hear this song.”  If true, that won’t be the greatest loss to the repertoire, as the lyrics were tired (“I’m not broken” felt like a rehash of the superior song “Save Me,” with its arresting lyric “I am a broken person”) and the tune unmemorable. 

But the gig suddenly roared back up to speed with the Entourage masterpiece “Perry’s Dream,” which provided the only glimpse of drummer Perry Silver on the tiny stage when he rose from the kit to play the familiar sticks-on-the wall section.  The girls’ vocal “Just keep on dreaming that dream/Things are just as bad as they seem” was as goosebump-inducing and Beatlesque as ever, yet Jarrow’s final refrain “Let me sleep forever” was shocking in its reiteration of the looming rumor that the band is calling it quits, especially as it became clear that this would be the final song of the night.

After the show, Jarrow explained that the band members have all gotten more involved in their other pursuits during the “hiatus,” including acting, directing, writing, and – gasp! – other bands.  So now they’re “trying to figure out how to stay together and keep playing now and then, given the changes in everyone’s life.”  It certainly sounds like the Entourage is preparing to pack itself away as a nostalgic recollection of youthful good times.  Its fans were plainly not interested in this plan, chanting “Encore!” even as the band was packing up and the sound guy had already left.  If the Fabulous Entourage really will “keep playing now and then,” I suggest you make your booking for your thirtieth birthday party now.  Or your thirty-fifth.  Forty, anyone?  Yes, guilty as charged. 



Joe Louis Walker - Witness to the Blues

ABOVE: Photographer John Hahn took this shot of Shemekia Copeland and Joe Louis Walker during the recording sessions Walker's Witness to the Blues LP, recently released on Stony Plain Records.


Westchester County, New York - Former San Francisco-based bluesman Joe Louis Walker was just a teenager when he burst upon the scene and set off on a course that would put him in the company of legendary guitarist Mike Bloomfield. And that wasn't all. During his formative years, he shared stages with John Lee Hooker, Thelonius Monk, The Soul Stirrers, Steve Miller and Jimi Hendrix.

Walker's rise to blues prominence came to a self-imposed halt when mentor Bloomfield died at a young age, prompting Walker to change his lifestyle. He dropped out of the music business, enrolled in college, and earned degrees in music and English. His musical performances were still regularl, but with a decidedly different slant, as he worked as part of the Spiritual Corinthians gospel group.

In 1985 he returned to the blues, formed his stellar band The Bosstalkers, and signed to HighTone Records, which released five albums before Walker moved to PolyGram’s Verve/Gitanes label, where he recorded six albums. Witness to the Blues is his debut release on the Stony Plain label.

Produced by fellow Stony Plain artist and award-winner Duke Robillard, Witness to the Blues features a scintillating duet by Walker and Shemekia Copeland in a reprise of the Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson R&B classic, “Lover’s Holiday.” Stony Plain Records is distributed in the U.S. by Koch Entertainment; in Canada by Warner Music; and this CD has been licensed for release in Europe by Dixie Frog.

With the stellar backing of Robillard on guitar, Bruce Katz on keyboards, Jon Ross on bass, Mark Teixeira on drums and a horn section of Doug James on sax and Scott Aruda on trumpet, Joe Louis Walker explores the many colors of the blues palette, including Delta and Chicago styles, Memphis soul, gospel and even rockabilly. More than half of the album’s 11 tracks were written by Walker, and he adds his own distinctive interpretations to several covers, including “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and “Sugar Mama” (which includes special guest Todd Sharpville on guitar).

Joe Louis Walker is a true blues virtuoso whose skills as a singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer have earned him a dedicated legion of fans around the world. He’s recorded with B.B. King, James Cotton, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Steve Cropper, Ike Turner and Branford Marsalis, among many others in a storied career that covers 18 solo albums, two live DVDs and a number of compilations and guest appearances. He’s played on two Grammy Award-winning albums and won three Blues Music Awards (formerly known as W.C. Handy Awards). In addition to his hot-ticket shows in the U.S., Walker has become an international ambassador for the blues overseas, having played at countless festivals throughout Europe, South America, Australia, the Middle East and Asia.

Joe Louis Walker is managed by David L. Jones of Cathouse Music, LLC ( and will tour extensively in both the U.S. and internationally in support of Witness to the Blues.



Brooklyn native KAMA LINDEN is an odd mixture of modern folk, showy exhibitionism and social-political activism. A songwriter since the age of 11, Kama claims Pat Benatar and Patty Smyth as influences, but she is very much her own creation; a hybrid that ping-pongs between confessional acoustic yearnings and rhythmic dance club beats. She scored an Outstanding Solo Artist nomination in the 2006 L.A. Rock City News Awards.

Kama released her LP Uninhibited in 2004, which has continued to perform solidly based on radio play reports. The release is available on I-Tunes and tracks off the CD have been used for television shows and movie soundtracks. “Waiting” was the first single to garner attention, but the second single “Crossed Over” may do even better. It was on the AC/Hot AC Main Chart at #21, just below the Fray’s hit “How to Save A Life.” It has been #15 on the AC/Hot AC Top 30 Indie Chart, just above Aaron Neville, #17 in the AC/Hot AC Top 20 Central U.S. Region Chart, #47 on the Top College Chart, and has also shown up on Hot AC land even Country stations.

She has supported the release with tours in the U.S. and Europe.

Equally impressive to her success with the LP is her ongoing work with a variety of charitable organizations. In the past months she has performed benefits to aid the suffering in Darfur, played an MS Benefit at the Muddy Cup on Staten Island in Honor of Tem Schlief for Life, performed at an AIDS Rock concert, and has performed every year since 2002 for the Blankfest organization, which collects blankets for the homeless.


Kama Linden MP3s can be heard on her MySpace website at






How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

You Might Just Click On

New York City, New York - When steel baron Andrew Carnegie anteed up in 1890 to begin construction on a performance space for the Oratorio Society of New York and the New York Symphony Society, on whose boards he served, he probably knew that he was creating something iconic. Carnegie had, after all, been populating the world with "Carnegie libraries" (the first was in his native Scotland) for the previous decade, and as one of the industrial age's richest men his personal legacy would live on through his endowments of learning and cultural facilities. Carnegie Hall, known as "Music Hall" for its first couple of years before board members encouraged Carnegie to lay more prominent claim, opened in April, 1891, just a year after project launch.*

Carnegie Hall opened officially in May, 1891 with a concert conducted by maestro Walter Damrosch and composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Over the years, new works by Dvořák (“New World” Symphony) and Gershwin (An American in Paris), to name just a couple, have been premiered at Carnegie, but it was not until 1990 that Carnegie actually began to commission works for the hall. Carnegie Hall’s first two commissioned works were Leonard Bernstein’s Opening Prayer, premiered by the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta in December 1986, and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (commissioned jointly by Carnegie Hall, the Detroit Symphony, and the American Symphony Orchestra League) by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, which was premiered at Carnegie Hall in January 1987 (from Wikipedia).

The Carnegie's commissioning program is managed through the Centennial Commissioning Project, which initially consisted of a series of thirteen commemorative commissions honoring the Hall’s landmark hundredth season. Thirteen major composers were matched with great artists to prepare pieces for orchestra, chamber ensemble, and voice. The success of that program has grown into an ongoing commission of works ranging from solo to large orchestral pieces. There have been over 125 jazz band arrangements commissioned since 1992, and composers premiering works have included Elliott Carter, David Del Tredici, Bill Frisell, Osvaldo Golijov, Michael Gordon, Brad Mehldau, Meredith Monk, André Previn, Kaija Saariaho, and Charles Wuorinen, among others.

There is an excellent series of profiles of commission awardees available at the Carnegie Hall Commissions page, which is well worth visiting. You can listen to the works of commissioned composers and read their project notes, many of which are fascinating.


Architectural Expressions of Man's Inefficiency and Dualistic Nature

* RAR NOTE: In putting this piece together, I was taken by a number of things, not the least of which was the extraordinary schedule for the construction of Carnegie Hall, which was built in little more than one year (1890-91).

When one looks at architecture from that period, and considers the rapidity with which these often monumental and ornate structures were built, one wonders why more than a century later it takes sophisticated jurisdictions like San Francisco decades to construct a public works project. (It took 10 years to put in the I-690/Hwy-24 interchange at Walnut Creek, and the eastern span of the Bay Bridge is still under construction 20 years after the Loma Prieta Earthquake that set the project "into motion", so to speak.) Certainly privately-funded projects like Carnegie Hall continue to be developed on a more streamlined schedule, but then compare the drawing of Carnegie Hall (right), with its blend of Baroque, Florentine and Oriental design, with the $11 Billion CityCenter project currently under construction in Las Vegas.

CityCenter is a 76-acre "city within a city" concept that blends high-rise residential with commercial enterprise (urban mixed use). The first phase broke ground in 2006 and, beset by finance and labor issues, it is scheduled to open at the end of this year, December 2009.

CityCenter is going to look like this, seen in the December 2008 photograph at right, at least in part. It has other towers that are equally...well, what would you say? It is certainly Vegas-shiny and modern and its curvy lines give it a sort of movement, which some (me) might find a little queasy making. And isn't it too "thin" to stand? I'm wondering if that isn't why they bent it round like that, to give it some stability. On the other hand, this is Vegas! How long does it have to stand?

Jokes aside, the architectural credits go to Gensler, the executive architect overseeing the project; along with architects of record HKS, Inc. for the Block A CityCenter Casino & Resort and surrounding facilities; Leo A. Daly for the Vdara in Block B; and Adamson Associates for Block C, which includes the Mandarin, Veer, Crystals and Harmon structures.

It is obviously not comparable to the Carnegie Hall project in any way, beyond being privately funded. On the other hand, it is a building project that makes a statement, and it is a statement one might note for its neurotic impulse to scream "see me in all of my excess!"

By contrast, Carnegie put together a "gift" that, while lacking shiny surfaces, stands like a beacon 120 years after its opening, shining a light on some fundamental changes that have taken place over that time in human ethos and aesthetics. Somehow Carnegie's architect, William Burnet Tuthill, managed to marry awesome presence to exquisitely genteel decorative design. The place seduces with masculine power and feminine mystique, begging the viewer's eyes to follow its rich contours and explore its generous recesses. It is one of Carnegie's "peoples' places", born for the purpose of providing for the furtherance of  admirers of culture for generations to come. It has a soul that is old yet vital.

Carnegie Hall was, somewhat ironically, the last all-masonry construction of a major building in New York City. Until an addition years after its opening, there was no Carnegie steel, or steel of any kind, in Carnegie Hall. It stands as a monument to quality, within and without, an outcropping of something innately beautiful within the human spirit, profoundly connected with "naturalness" itself. It honors the expression it was designed to house, humanity in its most refined forms.





©Rick Alan Rice (RAR), March, 2012