Kronos Quartet and Bryce Dessner, Classical Music

Meet the Kronos Quartet, started in 1973 by David Harrington (not to be confused with DARKSIDE’s Dave Harrington). The Kronos Quartet are a four-piece string ensemble that has enjoyed extensive fame over the last forty years, which I believe is due to their ability to stay current. In 2003, thirty years into their outfit, they decided to take on a project they titled Under 30, where they took on the work of composers under the age of thirty.

Now, why I stumbled upon these guys is because of the work of a fellow aged thirty-seven and a member of the very successful band, the National. Meet Bryce Dessner, a rock musician with a surprisingly high level of education in his instrument, the guitar. Dessner earned a Masters of Music from Yale University, which is the very same program my good friend Alan attended. Alan told me, knowing my scary adoration for the National, that Bryce guest spoke to his class… My heart melted. Dessner is currently a composer-in-residence at an institution in the Netherlands called Muziekgebouw Eindhoven. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more, I do not speak or read Dutch!

Thanks (again) to NPR, you can stream Bryce’s composition performed by the Kronos Quartet titled Aheym. It made my head spin a little listening to it, but I really enjoyed it. The piece is being played by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony on November 9 in Toronto through the Royal Conservatory of Music at Kroener Hall. It should be a great gig with pieces by Nicole LizĂ©e and Dan Deacon. Indie meets classical!

I also loved the film A Late Quartet. The group that performed the music throughout the film is called the Brentano String Quartet, who got their starts at Princeton University in New Jersey. They just did a gig at my alma mater the University of Toronto!!! I missed it! Got the light review from my roommates!

Ukulele, Ryan Gosling

I just bought a ukulele… I can’t tell if I like the silly instrument or not…

Here’s a sweet clip from the film Blue Valentine, just in case you, too, have been questioning your love for the ukulele or how lovely Ryan Gosling is:

Just for your extended enjoyment, the tune “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” was popularized by the Mills Brothers in 1944.

It was parodied by Spike Jones, but probably not the Spike Jones you’re thinking of:

Neutral Uke Hotel are a group from Detroit, Michigan who dedicate themselves to covering Neutral Milk Hotel songs from the album In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea. They played Toronto’s NXNE festival in 2010 just before Mangum and co. pulled it together with a string of gigs that would lead a full-band reunion in the years to come.

Similarly, Brand New has made nods to the brilliance that is In the Aeroplane, Over the Sea by covering a number of Neutral Milk Hotel tunes in their live show. Lacey stated in the past that he’ll keep covering them until they play together again, perhaps that’s laid his covers to rest, I cannot say!

Here are a few gems:

Elliott Smith top ten lists

I wonder why writers and journalists are so compelled to write top ten lists to remember Elliott Smith. Perhaps it’s because he wasn’t as big as he could’ve been, or perhaps we wonder what he’d be putting out today in his mid-forties. Instead we have an extensive collection of old tunes, which ain’t so bad…

Here’s a list compiled by a dear friend.

Here’s Consequence of Sounds’ list.

Elliott Smith

I always get super excited to meet someone that’s seen Elliott Smith live, as I was only fifteen when Elliott died on this very day in 2003. It’s been ten years! I’ve had the pleasure of venturing out to the Elliott Smith Figure 8 wall three times now. It’s not the same, but it feels pretty awesome to visit that spot.

Here a few snaps from my most recent visit in April:

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Found this brilliant gem this evening. It’s a solo show played months before his death: