Friday, November 28, 2014


For quite some time I've experienced what I've felt as a divide between reading about music and listening to it.  This past year a handful of essays and responses regarding music reviewing/criticism caught my attention and reading them, I was left with this feeling that, while illuminating and valid, there was a much larger point being missed by supporters and critics alike.  Something I could feel but not put my finger on.  Repeat mention of "association" lead me to take a closer look at my own connections with music.  What their nature was.  Something at the base, the origin, seemed inflamed and felt to me like the core of this system and the source of this problematic divide. 

What could lie at the origin of musical experience?  What is its gateway?  LISTENING.

As a writer of reviews you are a listener.  We are to suppose a good one.  No musical language is required to do this.  However, this is a skill like any other whose performance can run the gamut of quality.  It's very easy to be a bad listener, yet a great writer and deliver something that reads beautifully but has been crucially under-listened.  An intimacy with the material secondary only to its creator(s) is paramount to the formal assessment of review even if and especially when carrying the intention to institute change.  Otherwise the result is merely casual commentary. 

Presumably, as a writer your relationship with writing undergoes infinite adjustment, consideration, and ever-changing attention to nuance.  So should your listening.  A focus on increasing the depth of listening works to strengthen all connections with a record.  So much is there to be missed even a proper sit down for one week is not enough to fully receive what is available from a record.  (The amount of listening required to merely learn the lyrics of an entire album should be a reference.)  Years later I, time and time again, find plenty to glean from my most cherished and most listened albums.  My point is that there is a direct correlation between quality listening and time.  There is no simplification of time and what is put in will be directly reflected in what comes out no matter how beautifully written.  The most linguistically florid review can still reek of cursory listening and, though it may not qualify as "bad writing," it most certainly qualifies as bad listening; something that can simply be felt in the aural imagination as a gaping lack of fulfillment. 

My preference in reading a review is that it set alight my sensory as close to the point of entry as possible.  LISTENING.  While carefully chosen words trigger uniquely sculpted visions I may not have originally intuited my aural imagination lies in neglect.  The gateway to my system is lying open for use and atrophying for the sake of only a portion of the whole.  My expectation of the music writer is that they BEGIN an expert listener in order to effectively serve music's holistic totality and from this platform, make the best use of their gift for language.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

DEREK REINHARDT: Rare gems of solo guitar LIVE in NYC Upcoming

Two years ago NEW FIRMAMENT had the absolute fortune of releasing what is hands down one of my favorite recordings by a solo artist in the past decade: Derek Reinhardt's "Filthy Flamingo."  Some back story.  Derek and I grew up in the same rural Maryland town and, for about 15 years, arbitrarily crossed paths via a handful of mutual acquaintances.  I didn't know much about him and we seemed to be pretty well anchored in our existence at the periphery of one another's lives.  At some point this path-crossing became a more regular occurrence and I discovered one of the most truly open listeners I've ever encountered.  Not operating merely in breadth of catalog (vast as it may be) I remain absolutely stunned by his ability to listen so thoroughly and remain seemingly free and untainted by the imposition of social politics.  It's an easy task to speak about this sort of listening and infinitely more difficult to place into practice.  This effortless fluidity is something that I truly admire.   At some point living back in rural Maryland for a period, we started running into each other more frequently.  It came up that Derek was a musician also (something I sort of knew but in hindsight clearly had NO clue the magnitude of) and had been playing with some people on and off trying to find others who were the right fit for some songs he had written.  He explained he had some demos on an 8 track but it was complicated to get them bounced off the thing but that he'd play them for me some time.  There's such a calm humility in his delivery that I smile, agree and don't think much more of it.  These demos come up occasionally in conversation but that's all it seems to amount to.  About two years later the night before I leave town for a month-long trip Derek and I hang out at this bar in town.  As I'm leaving he tells me he has something for me and explains that he finally got the demos off of the 8 track.  He runs to his car, comes back  and hands me a disk labeled "FUCKIN DUMB BUZZIN SHIT."  Thanks Derek.  It takes me about four days before I think to put the CD in.  Immediately floored and feeling strongly connected to my favorite elements of Captain Beefheart's guitar instrumentals, Bill Orcutt, Sun City Girls, Polvo, etc. the disc remains in my cd player and is listened to at least once daily for about six months.  After returning from the trip I ask Derek if NEW FIRMAMENT can release them as a cassette of solo guitar music and, with that same almost reluctant humility, he agrees.  After about 3 years Derek Reinhardt's "Filthy Flamingo" is released in December of 2012.  Since it's release I have had the fortune of having seen Derek play live solo exactly three times.  Put simply I am ecstatic and grateful to be a part of a these upcoming live performances in celebration of this stellar human's incredible music past, present, and future. 

New Firmament Presents:

*duo improv set w/ Andrew Smiley (Little Women)
also:  Mick Barr/Brandon Seabrook/Chris Pitsiokos (Trio) and Nick Podgurski (solo drums)

11/21 @ TITLE:POINT STUDIOS part of SalON!: Aggressive Mimicry (inside Silent Barn)

w/ Couch Slut (album release), Ora Iso, and 1mitator