The Survivors: Part Three

John Cage
Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (John Tilbury)

Late in high school I made a point of getting into the most bizarre shit imaginable. With the aid of the internet, I sought out the strangest music from all of the genres I liked. In retrospect, what I actually found was just the most famously strange music that multiple genres had to offer. Captain Beefheart in the rock section. Ornette Coleman in the jazz section. And John Cage for classical music. These pieces are perhaps his most accessible music. The only thing bizarre about them is that there’s a bunch of bullshit stuck in the piano, which makes the notes sound not just tonally different but sometimes actually a different pitch from the notated one, so Cage’s notated chords are impossible to analyze on the score. Not that you’d know that from listening: when you don’t have the score in front of you it’s just fun, slightly odd-sounding music. John Tilbury’s performance is wonderful in my opinion, and he’s a personality I’d encounter again many years later as the biographer of Cornelius Cardew, a figure I find as compelling as Cage in his way. 
Measure of gratitude: Very large. Thank you. 

John Cale
The Island Years

I never could get into this. It’s a collection of Cale’s first three albums for Island, including the massively beloved Fear, plus Slow Dazzle and Helen of Troy. One of the most substantial writing challenges I’ve ever set for myself was making an episode of my podcast about Fear, an album about which much has been written and about which I have nothing new to say. I have had this for nearly half my life, and it is perhaps the thing in my collection that I’ve had for the longest without ever warming to. Someday. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Camel
A Live Record

Of the B-tier British prog bands, Camel is my least favourite. It’s perfectly pleasant, but I find it pretty simple and unsurprising, especially considering how long some of the tracks wear on. This live album has some stuff on it that I don’t mind, including vocal performances by Richard Sinclair, who’s in a couple other bands I like better (see immediately below) and the material from Rain Dances works especially well. I dunno. It’s fine, I guess. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Caravan
In the Land of Grey and Pink
For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night

Caravan was my entry point into the Canterbury scene and I’m thankful to them for that, even if they’re not my favourite of those bands anymore. In the Land of Grey and Pink is a really fun album that I wish had better solos. Great chords, fun song structures, mediocre soloing. For Girls Who Grow Plump is a little better in that regard. These days I prefer the stranger pastures of the Canterbury scene, particularly Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Steve Hillage and Caravan’s bizarre little brother Hatfield and the North. But these two albums were a fantastic and gentle introduction. 
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you. 

Johnny Cash
American III: Solitary Man
American V: A Hundred Highways

When my workplace was offloading a bunch of CDs, I took a big pile of stuff I’d meant to listen to but hadn’t ever gotten to, including these two random volumes of Johnny Cash’s famous Rick Rubin collaborations. I’ve only listened to each of them once apiece, which is a shame because they’re as good as people say. 
Measure of gratitude: Middling. Thank you. 

The Chemical Brothers
Dig Your Own Hole

A friend made me listen to the Chemical Brothers for a dumb blog from a bygone time and it actually stuck. This isn’t my favourite of theirs. Probably not in my top three. But it does rip ass pretty hard in a few places. 
Measure of gratitude: Substantial. Thank you. 

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass
Live

One of the less regrettable brass porn recordings I bought during music school. The CSO has a famously good (and famously loud) brass section. This is just that section, playing arrangements of music that was originally for all sorts of configurations, from solo violin to full symphony orchestra. I’m not sure all of these arrangements justify their existence, but there are some real highlights here, and bear in mind that I still remember those moments after not listening to this for a decade. The arrangement of the Bach passacaglia is fantastic. And the opening of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet excels the symphonic arrangement because that massive build comes out of instruments that are timbrally similar, allowing each sound to build on the last instead of broadening the palette. Good shit. 
Measure of gratitude: Middling. Thank you. 

Ornette Coleman
The Shape of Jazz to Come

Never really got into this. I like other free jazz records (though I’m not convinced that’s the best label for this). I like Don Cherry’s Complete Communion just fine. Late Coltrane is wonderful. But this strikes me as sort of pointy-headed and not very expressive. Some albums I don’t get and hope to eventually come around to. With this I honestly don’t care. 
Measure of gratitude: Negligible. Thank you. 

Tyler Collins
Fall

A self-released CD by a friend of mine from high school that I used to play in a band with. He’d moved past this by the time we started playing together and I imagine he’d be mortified to even remember its existence. I thought it was alright. Nevertheless, because of the experience of playing in that band: 
Measure of gratitude: Massive. Thank you. 

John Coltrane
Giant Steps
A Love Supreme
Meditations

Every high school jazz nerd must get really into John Coltrane, these are the rules. Frankly, I hope those rules continue to apply forever because Coltrane is the shit. Giant Steps was never really my style, though Coltrane’s playing is incredible. But A Love Supreme and Meditations completely floored me and still do. Meditations is the jazz album that I most wish would become a household name. It has beautiful playing from Coltrane’s classic quartet (especially McCoy Tyner, who gets a magnificent unaccompanied solo that might be his best recorded moment), plus completely unhinged performances by young lions Pharoah Sanders and Rashied Ali. I listened to this obsessively as a kid and I still adore it. 
Measure of gratitude: Enormous. Thank you. 

John Corigliano
Circus Maximus (University of Texas Wind Ensemble, Jerry Junkin)

I performed in the Canadian premiere of this symphony for wind ensemble. It was a great experience in the end, albeit a little stressful during the process because Corigliano was actually there and our Northern Albertan university wind ensemble was about as good as you’d expect. The piece is kind of dumb in retrospect, but ~memories~. 
Measure of gratitude: Middling. Thank you. 

Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet
The Juliet Letters

An uneven recording I liberated from work. I feel like more people should listen to it, if only because “Taking My Life in Your Hands” is maybe the best Elvis Costello song. I could listen to it ten times in a row, and I’m sure I have. The rest I could take or leave. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you.

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