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Songs, Noise, Baroque, and Roll


SHOW OF THE WEEK: John Prine, one of America’s greatest living song makers and delivery persons, gave us one of his enduring, anthemic masterpieces in 1978, with “That’s the Way That the World Goes Round.” The words still ring true today: “one day you’re up, the next you’re down / There’s a half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna’ drown / That’s the way that the world goes ‘round.” Prine—who started his own label, Oh Boy, in 1984, long before it was standard procedure—has dealt with more than a half an inch of water in the past decade, having licked throat cancer diagnosed in 1998.

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He’s made many wondrous albums over the years, up through last year’s glorious, Grammy-nabbing Fair & Square, full of wit, wisdom, and warmth, and a touch of socio-political rage with “Some Humans Ain’t Human” (i.e. Geo. Bush). Needless to say, Prine’s show at the Arlington Theater on Saturday is one of those must-catch events.

LOU BEAT: Is there a more stubbornly uncategorizable rock hero than Lou Reed?

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Reed kicks off a short California tour at Campbell Hall next Wednesday, under the elastic aegis of the title “Songs and Noise.” No doubt he’ll nicely confound us again, as he has been doing since the late ‘60s. Expect songs, yes—maybe even from the songbook that keeps alighting the classic rock radio dial, i.e. “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Sweet Jane.” But be prepared for the avant-garde muse, as well.

Reed’s decidedly experimental sonic passions were revealed on the pioneering 1976 noise classic, Metal Machine Music (a new version of which is forthcoming). Word has it Lou’s deep into experimental mode these days, perhaps partly inspired by his significant other, Laurie Anderson, who has also graced Campbell Hall with her inventive spirit.

BACH BEAT: On a good day, and maybe especially also on a bad one, J.S. Bach’s music can seem to hold the key to the meaning of life, a balm in a world going/gone mad. When played with the right mix of passion and lucidity—a rare situation—his work seems to trump frillier and showier music, to get to levels of human and spiritual understanding untapped by other culture.

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Oddly enough, for all of Bach’s acknowledged supremacy in the known musical world, we don’t hear his music performed very often. That deep level of Bach-ian splendor emerged at the S.B. Museum of Art when guitarist Paul Galbraith played there last week (check out his classic recordings of the Violin Sonatas and Lute Suites).

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This Friday, we get another live close encounter with a Bach masterpiece, the Goldberg Variations, via UCSB faculty member Hee-Kyung Juhn’s recital at Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.

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Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Recordings, at the beginning and end of his career, set a gold standard for an approach to the music both respectful and personalized, and we still hear it regularly on classical radio, home music units, and iPods. But Gould doesn’t own it. Two seasons back, Andras Schiff played his variation on the Variations at the Lobero, imparting on that hall an air-stilling, magical atmosphere.

In other related Bach news, Juhn’s Friday recital also includes the Busoni keyboard adaptation of Bach’s Chaconne in D Minor, which we can also hear in its original violin version as played by the irrepressible Gilles Apap on his latest CD, Music for Solo Violin (Apapaziz).

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The violinist performed the Chaconne in the Lobero Theater years ago, on another memorable evening in that space. Recorded in the former St. Anthony’s Seminary chapel, famously used for many memorable recordings on the locally-based Waterlily Acoustics label, Apap’s latest album showcases his deep, no nonsense way with Bach. Also in the mix are some flashy Eugene Ysaye pieces and a few side trips into Irish and Americana pieces. Such is the wont of this former Santa Barbaran (now in the wilds of Arroyo Grande), eclectic virtuoso, and recent convert to surfing. (got e? fringebeat@aol.com)



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