The Life of Isaac Albéniz

Isaac Albéniz often referred to as one of the most famous composers to hail from Spain. Isaac was born in 1860 in Camprodon, a town apart of Girona. Only living a short life, Albéniz lived to the age of 49 and died in 1909. He is best known for his piano works that are based on folk music idioms. Many of his pieces are notable for the classical guitar transcriptions that were later made.

A child prodigy, Albéniz first learned to play the piano at the age of one by his sister. By the age of four he performed for the first time. A couple of years later at age seven, he passed the entrance examination for piano at the Conservatoire de Paris, but unfortunately he was refused admission for being too young.

A popular myth describes his childhood as a bit of an exaggeration. It is said that at the age of twelve, Albéniz ran away from home and stowed away in a ship headed towards Buenos Aires. Continuing his nomadic lifestyle he found himself in Cuba, and then to the United States performing in New York and San Francisco, eventually returning back to Europe to give performances in Liverpool, London, and in Germany.

While not an accurate account of what actually happened, historians have determined that the story is partly true. He did in fact give concert performances in these places at that age, but he was more likely accompanied  by his father who was a customs official who traveled a lot for business. Historians discovered this by comparing Isaac’s concert dates and his father’s travel itinerary.

Throughout the rest of his career he studied under many composers, Guillermo Morphy, Franz Liszt, and Felip Pedrell to name a few. Touring all throughout Europe, Isaac lived in London and Paris for an amount of time. During this time while he was not performing at concerts, he wrote and composed musical comedies.

In 1900, Isaac was diagnosed with Bright’s disease a classification of kidney disease that ultimately cause his death in 1909. For his work within Paris and his impact within the classical music industry, the French government awarded him its highest honor, the Grand-Croix de la Légion d’honneur a few weeks before his death.

His most notable pieces include: Asturias (Leyenda), Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz, Cordoba, Cataluna, and the Tango in D. All of his personal papers are preserved among many institutions.

Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon At BAM

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Kim Gordon is a dynamo. A visual artist, a guitarist, a bassist and lead singer that brought her unique style to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in February. She is a founding member of the trail-blazing Sonic Youth. Her most recent artistic foray was into writing. Her memoir, Girl In A Band, was well-received by critics and even better received by the audience at BAM.

Her current book tour is like a rock and roll Q and A with snippets of rock documentary videos and interesting tidbits about rock and roll in the 80’s and 90’s throughout.

Gordon went on to talk about her book and the unique challenge of doing something so “conventional” after such an unconventional rise to fame. This played well with the Brooklyn crowd.

Gordon definitely has a lot of interesting things to share from the interesting perspective of a female rocker in what many see as the last great generation of musicians.

On a tour with Neil Young, Gordon found that hippy Neil Young fans weren’t the friendly, accepting people she thought they were. In fact, audiences were regularly hostile to her and Sonic Youth’s unique brand of music, booing throughout their set. Oh, and Neil Young was a big fan of strippers.

Gordon has also worked with Iggy Pop, whom she idolizes as a rocker. But singing his songs alongside the man himself was nerve-racking.

A sort of rock superfan herself, Gordon spoke highly of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. She was impressed with Cobain’s ability to make each show unique and full of different moods. She also has a deep respect for what she sees as the punk rockers that came before her. Jeff Beck’s guitar smashing performance for The Yardbirds in the 60’s was particularly inspirational and poignant for her.

Gordon no longer enjoys touring but will continue to make music, perform and work on her visual art.

 

A Conversation With Matt Groening and Lynda Barry

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One can always count on The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to bring some of the most unique content to the stage. Last week we had the opportunity to see Matt Groening and Lynda Barry converse about their lives and rivalry.

Matt Groening is best known for creating The Simpsons which started in the 80’s on The Tracy Ullman Show making it the longest running cartoon in history. He also wrote a comic, Life In Hell, for 35 years that just ended its run in 2012. During that period he has maintained a friendly rivalry with fellow comic writer, Lynda Barry. Barry is best known for Ernie Peek’s Comeek, a weekly comic-strip.

And it seems that their friendly rivalry has pushed both to become great comic writers.

The aptly named, “Love, Hate & Comics—The Friendship That Would Not Die,” was a crowd pleaser at BAM. The two have known each other for over 30 years. They met at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and you can tell by the way they interact that they have kept in touch.

The night was largely a discussion of creativity, a subject Barry has researched for much of her life. Both being creatives, they spoke a lot about their inspirations and life stories that have led them to this point. And it seems as though they might not have made it to this point without the other.

An interesting story that certainly stood out from the evening was Barry’s marriage proposal to Catch-22 author, Joseph Heller by way of mail. Groening was the editor of the Cooper Point Journal, their school’s newspaper at the time and offered Barry the opportunity to write comics for the paper.

Though they have obviously remained friends their also exists a tension usually reserved for on-screen romantic will-they-or-won’t-they relationships but nothing ever happened.

The Iceman Cometh at Brooklyn Academy of Music

Eugen O'Neill historical plaque at 1500 Broadway (Times Square), New York City.

Eugene O’neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” is a New York classic set in a Greenwich Village saloon where a group of bar regulars are gathered together. They are all traditional bar regular archetypes – alcoholics with a love/hate relationship with the bartenders and each other. They go about their days in the bar using alcohol to drown out their sorrows, waiting for visits from salesman “Hickey”, or Theodore Hickman, that come just twice a year.

The show is mostly about the story of the positives and negatives of alcohol, as the audience finds out when Hickey finally shows up as a preachy sober man but still the enthusiastic and affable the salesman they remember. Only now Hickey is selling each member of this downtrodden tribe a different bill of goods.

Hickey is played by Nathan Lane, a Broadway and Hollywood regular. He does not let down in this rendition at The Brooklyn Academy of Music. Brian Dennehy plays Larry Slade, a once idealistic man turned cynic who sits off to the side. As Hickey works his way through each of the people at the bar he questions their pipe dreams one by one in an attempt to liberate them from living the rest of their lives as losers.

Hickey is a complicated role to play because he must first be liked and trusted by the audience and everyone else in the bar before preaching to them. Lane captures this nuance as O’neill meant it when he wrote the play 70 years ago. He spreads laughter and cheer to each and every person in that bar.

Harry Hope, played by Stephen Ouimette,  is the owner of the bar where the play takes place. We see him as another sorry fellow in the bar until Hickey reaches him and gets him to admit the real reason he hasn’t left the bar for 20 years.