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Topanga Symphony: Charnofsky Destined To Be Among California’s Classic Guitar Icons


Special To Topanga Journal

The Topanga Symphony had a guest classical guitarist for their summer performance at the Topanga Community Center. Jordan Charnofsky, principal guitar for the LA Opera Orchestra, played a beautiful composition from 1939.

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

Here in the Canyon Charnofsky performed Guitar Concerto #1 in D major, Op. 99 written by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895 – 1968) on the eve of World War II. This composer was Jewish and from Italy. He became known during the 1920’s. His works were soon banished from the Italian airwaves, even though he was a well-known and revered in Italian music. His musical performances were canceled. Hatred of Jews stoked by Mussilini was the impetus for Castelnuovo-Tedesco to emigrate from Italy to the United States, specifically to Hollywood. There he scored over 200 films including: The Loves Of Carmen, And Then There Were None, Time Out Of Mind, Superman (1948) and The Prince Of Thieves.

“There has long been since the symphony’s original performance the idea in critics circles that this symphony possibly had an unfinished feeling, or was much like a tone poem. A tone poem is descriptive or rhapsodic and often describing certain elements in nature, like The Pines Of Rome.”

While still in Italy in 1932, Castelnuovo-Tedesco met Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia. They were at the Venice International Society of Contemporary Music where this meeting inspired Castelnuovo-Tedesco to write Guitar Concerto #1 in D.

 

Charnofsky played with such depth of feeling. He is surely destined to be among California’s long remembered classical guitar icons. He has accompanied the Opera greats like Luciano Pavarotti, Juan Diego Flores and Bryn Terfel. When he finished his breathtaking performance, he was greeted by a standing ovation.

 

The Topanga Symphony also broke down into a brass quintet performing a composition by Jerome Kessler himself. He is the Topanga Symphony’s conductor and Music Director. He has written numerous compositions for orchestra, voice, cello and ensembles. He’s also the director of the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra and a cellist. This particular piece was Andante and Scherzo for Brass Quintet and was the work’s world premiere. This was a beautiful melody for Brass. The Scherzo in particular was well executed by the quintet.

 

During rehearsal prior to the performance, Kessler had worked out certain bars with different sections of the orchestra: first violins, brass and the bird like flutes in Dvorak’s Symphony #8 in G, Op. 88. He was mostly conveying ideas like pianissimo, telling the instrumentalists they couldn’t possibly be soft enough in certain sections. This group readily took to his instructions. By performance time, Dvorak’s symphony was vibrant and alive when necessary, pianissimo. The original intent of the symphony was clear. There has long been since the symphony’s original performance the idea in critics circles that this symphony possibly had an unfinished feeling, or was much like a tone poem. A tone poem is descriptive or rhapsodic and often describing certain elements in nature, like The Pines Of Rome.

 

Originally the idea this symphony was a tone poem was meant as a slam against Dvorak. The early critics of his day said it was too strongly grounded in loose intervention. He was writing music that was going against the current strain of his time. Music of his day was not happy or vibrant. It was darker, moody and tragic. But there is also something deeper, possibly more hidden in why the composition sounds the way it does. Dvorak was invited to Russia by Tchaikovsky prior to composing the work. In deciding which symphony might be performed for a subsequent visit to Moscow, Dvorak decided a new composition he was working on would be the one, this was Symphony #8 in G. He was also considering ideas of life during the time he was composing this work. He was considering appreciation of nature and beauty, and the joys of life. It also calls up pastoral images. Plus it is very lyrical. These are all elements of a tone poem. The influence of his Czech and Slavonic music roots are also evident in this work. Also Beethoven and Brahms were the precursors to this work. And as they were precursors for Dvorak, he too was the catalyst for late 19th Century music.

 

The Topanga Symphony is made up of both professionals and amateurs. Topanga is one of the few towns where a person can go to a professional theater performance in the afternoon and a professional level symphony performance that night just a few steps away. We’re a town of just over 8,200 people, according to the latest census. It is a Bohemian place with a lot of talent nestled inside this Canyon. What a treat to get to have the sun set behind the Canyon mountains outside the window while we listen to the sounds of Dvorak, Kessler’s own compositions and Charnofksy’s classical guitar.

 

The Topanga Symphony will return November 11 for their fall performance.

 

ON THE WEB:

http://www.topangasymphony.com


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Goh Kurosawa: Hitori

Goh Kurosawa Hitori

Flamenco, Classical, Jazz, Brazilian, Tango, North Indian, Free Improvisation, Rock, Balkan and Afro-Beat music – it all adds up to Global Fusion and a deep interest and talent for both acoustic and electric guitar. A finger-style guitar player, Goh Kurosawa’s wood and strings becomes an entire set of instruments, much like the cross-sections of the places he has performed: the United States, France, South Korea, Canada, Mexico and Japan. The common thread between it all is the Orient.

Kurosawa’s homeland is Japan. From ages three to six, Kurosawa lived in the United States. He came back in 1996 to study at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and at the California Institute of the Arts. Kurosawa blends a cultural mix of world music into each stroke and hand tapping. He lets the guitar tell an intimate story of foreign lands in a familial tie to American Jazz. He finger picks his way across florals brought to life by musical notes.

It might be better said Hitori is an experiment on Global Infusion.

MAJ: What does Hitori mean?

GOH: Hitori simply means “Alone” in Japanese. I composed this solo work right before I went to a week long festival in Mexico back in 2005. The festival presenters were initially interested in having me come down with my brother (Kai Kurosawa – featured member of Sharp Three) to perform duets, however at the end they decided to book me as a soloist. Rather than feeling bad or sad about this decision they made, I took this experience as a chance to make a piece that stood strong on its own alone. Hence the title Hitori came to mind. There are two major sections: the first is a slow and free intro; the second is a powerful funk-like groove which makes your body move. A friend of mine suggested that I divide the composition into two tracks for the CD to make things radio friendly. It was a good idea, since these days DJs seem to prefer shorter songs to be played on air whether if listeners prefer that or not. This song without words has been serving me as an opener at concerts and events for many occasions, and is one of my most well known solo tunes today.

MAJ: Why did you choose to come to the States to study music when your native Japan is so rich with music and culture?

GOH: First of all, thank you for mentioning that Japan is rich with music and culture. This is so true, however I think lots of Japanese, especially the younger generation today, do not realize this fact. Honestly speaking I was once blind myself, but living far away from home has been helping me awaken to the unique and beautiful things only Japan has to offer. My initial visit to the States occurred when I was just three years old, and I stayed until I was six. I came back to go to school at Washington University in St. Louis in 1996, moved to Los Angeles in 2001, and have been living here ever since. When people ask if I am bilingual, I answer by saying that I am bicultural. Although I was not completely certain what I would be pursuing at that time, my decision to come study here was a natural move. I simply like the States, and as a result, the time I have been living here could be evenly divided, making myself natives of both Japan and the States.

MAJ: Why have the Balkans had such an impact on your music?

GOH: I relocated to California for one reason, and that was to study with Miroslav Tadic who is a well-respected musician and guitar monster. He could play anything, and I mean anything, and is also a pretty good chef who likes to cook Thai food, don’t ask why, for his friends and neighbors from time to time. Miro-slav is the one who introduced me to Balkan music, and what fascinated me the most were the rhythms of this culture. More than 90 percent of the songs played on American radio stations are constructed in the meter of either 4/4 or 3/4. Some of the meters in Balkan folk songs happen to be 5/8, 7/8 and 11/8, for example. These are roughly categorized as odd time signatures in musical terms. This could seem confusing to any American or Japanese who has never thought outside the box before. However, the ip side of the coin, stunning. As a composer and improviser, I have realized the possibilities to mix and twist these Balkan grooves with Japanese and American musical elements. Track number six on my recordings, Matter We Tend To Forget About, is an original composition written in the meter of 7/8 with reflective sounds of Japan, jazz and rock chords.

MAJ: Why did you choose to cover Like The First Day We Met, the theme song from the Korean TV series All In?

GOH: As indicated at the beginning of my liner notes in the CD, this is not my original composition. However, what I have recorded on my album is my original instrumental – yes, the original has Korean lyrics – arrangement for solo guitar in altered tuning. I was visiting Japan a little before I was getting ready to record my solo CD, and I got a bit hooked with watching All In, which was being broadcast on Japanese TV. My mother told me later on that Korean soap operas started becoming quite popular in Japan several years back. Regardless of popularity, however perhaps because I was hooked, I started arranging the song by ear on my steel-string guitar. At the end it seemed quite appropriate for me to include my version of the theme on the CD that also includes my original arrangement of You don’t Know What Love Is, an American jazz ballad, making the album a salute to both sides of the globe. Interestingly, my take on “Like e First Day” has been another work to get attention here in the States, as well as one of the audience’s favorites in concerts in Japan.

MAJ: Where does the cross-cultural, Global Fusion influence come from in your works?

GOH: songs recorded on the CD are my original compositions with much input from the band. I spent the majority of my youth listening to Western classical music recordings and concerts due to the interest of my parents. However, I’ve always been a big fan of rock music – who isn’t? During high school in Japan, I conducted and directed the school’s guitar and mandolin orchestra. Moving along, I started expressing interest in the art and music of flamenco shortly after my studies began at Washington University, later where I also started studying Jazz and performing in Jazz combos. This was also where I had a traditional four-year education in classical guitar. As I mentioned earlier, relocating to California brought Balkan music into my life. My objective is not to be a mere walking dictionary of various musical cultures but to reach out to new boundaries while maintaining respect for each of the traditions I have encountered and learned. What I have brought out here is only the tip of the iceberg, of course. In fact, both my band members, Kai and Nick Terry, are also musical travelers in their own shoes with different valuable experiences to share. Thus needless to say, the music we create together is very organic and naturally has become cross-cultural in a global sense.

MAJ: How did you come to include in your group such a unique set of instruments?

GOH: On one hand, when it comes to the number of strings on a wooden box and deep low notes, Kai is the extreme. He is a self-taught multi-string player wizard who gets the message across no matter the number of strings. His main axe BMB, Big Mama Bear, a 24-string giant, was designed by himself and put together in 2007 by a builder living in Europe. Most frequently with our group, he has been performing on BMB, 6-string electric and acoustic bass guitars, and the Warr guitar. Kai’s connection with radical string instruments seems to be within his nature, and he is considering another original to be built in the near future. On the other hand, when it comes to things you could hit on, Nick is the man. is guy is one of those crazies who practically know how to get a beat from anything he touches, and without force. Nick continues expanding his arsenal of percussive weapons. In a way, Sharp Three is an orchestra because we have many colors available on our pallet, but do not necessarily use them all at once. As for the CD, I wanted to create an album that showcased the various instrumentation and possibilities of Sharp Three as a trio performing in real time, nothing was overdubbed except two. Therefore as a composer and arranger, having the two in the band gave incredible flexibility and creativity to the music. Long story short, Kai and Nick have a genuine interest in musical toys. Me? I just play guitar. Six strings is enough for me.

MAJ: What is next for Sharp Three? Tours? More CD’s?

GOH: We’ve been working on putting a tour of Japan together, and it’ll be happening next year along with our other performances. Kai and I however, will be going to Japan and Asia for concerts and events during this fall for four to five weeks. We have about twenty shows booked so far. As far as new recordings, we do have enough material. Kai is also composing for the band now for a new CD, or perhaps two. But more immediately and more importantly, our focus is on making an educational book/DVD on odd time signatures and rhythms. And as for my solo career, although I already have plenty of new songs I could record, I’d rather give enough time for myself to grow into a new level of a musician before I put it out into the world as a album. It may not be much longer, but no reason to make haste. In the mean time, please support by coming out to shows and clinics.

For more info go to http:// www.happysad.org/goh, or, http:// www.sharpthree.com, or enjoy my CDs.

Goh Kurosawa Sharp Three Global Soundscapes

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Hellyeah: Metal For The Future

Hellyeah at the Whisky-A-Go-Go | Photo by Kriss Perras

The band Hellyeah has a strong following in real life and on the charts. Crowds show up and fill the house to hear them perform at iconic venues here in the Los Angeles area and across the States. They’re a metal and hard rock band. Their sound is unique in part due to the lead singer, Chad Gray’s, voice. They also have a drummer that is very popular, Vinnie Paul, and guitarists that rock.

Hellyeah’s 2014 metal album Blood For Blood debuted number one on the Billboard Hard Rock album chart. The main band members are lead singer Gray, guitarist Tom Maxwell, drummer Paul, guitarist Christian Brady and Kyle Sanders on bass.

Their recent album Unden!able is a strong set of songs woven together to create a tapestry of metal for the future. Their track Human on this album just plain rocks. The lyrics are poetic and for the average person. “I defy your defiance/It’s all lies and alliance/I’ve been damaged left in ruin/cause I’m broken flawed and human.” The song is about a broken relationship and the wrath the poet feels afterward. “You drove the stake in my worst mistake/Now I’m the one left alone.”

This theme of love lost is present throughout Unden!able. Another track on this album is Love Falls. The poet in this track asks the listener, “Have you ever wished for death?/Prayed all night for your last breath?/Have you ever wanted to forget/the failure of your dreams?” The lover is battling depression after love has left him. The woman in the associated music video is clothed in a white flowing robe with a hood, the very image of a ghost wandering the earth aimlessly, someone who has already past this life into the next. We see her as though she has decided to take her life and is in the glowing afterlife.

At the end of the music video the band states it is part of the You Rock Foundation effort. On this site you’ll find artists sharing their stories to help spread awareness and help battle stigmas. The group and band seek to help battle mental illnesses such as depression. Hellyeah states they remind listeners that “you matter, you’re needed, and you rock.” This is just one example of how this band is metal for the future. Instead of just conjuring up wrath, anger and that whole violent eruption of emotion after love ends in their lyrics and music, Hellyeah seeks to help heal.

This was apparent in a recent performance here in Los Angeles. Chad Gray shouted out to the enthusiastic crowd, “be the flame not the moth!”

The album Unden!able has a decent cover of the Phil Collins classic I Don’t Care Anymore. Gray’s metal gruff vocals ignite a wrath in the song that was already there with the Collins version. The cover is dark, full of guitar riffs that speak to the band’s true metal history and fills the breadth of the band’s grasp on the extreme of the metal genre. It’s a well done cover.

The music video for this cover, I Don’t Care Anymore, is dark and emotional. It’s downright gothic. It’s truly in the vein of the original song, but Hellyeah adds their blend of metal and sound and imagery.

The track ! the band says is “The upside down ‘i’ in the title is an exclamation point, a subtle indicator of how metal fans live their lives against the grain for their entire daily existence.”

“It doesn’t matter how old you are. You are always a metal kid,” Gray declares, referencing himself and fans as one.

The ! track is a true metal fan’s dream. It is purely metal. So is the track Startariot.

The band states, “the artwork was inspired by Gray and designed by William ‘Wombat’ Felch, who the band discovered through his artistic interpretations of Hellyeah songs on YouTube, and who Paul labeled ‘like a new member of the band.’”

The cover art is of a bloody eye looking out at the viewer.

“The eyes are the portal to the soul,” said Gray. “There is more extremity, so I wanted it to represent looking into the eye of someone who is a member of the metal community being cast out. You always feel like a fighter. So we created this eye, and the exclamation point [in the title] as the stamp on this madness. You are looking into the soul of a metalhead.”

The album is furious yet directing that anger to a point.

“One reason it’s so belligerent and brutal? The time crunch that came along with crafting the album. The band spent 18 glorious but grueling months on the road in support of Blood for Blood and was given exactly two weeks off before it had to start working on Unden!able The pressure and lack of recess awakened a sleeping giant within Maxwell. There was literally no time to waste, and he marshalled his emotions for inspiration.”

The band’s 2007 self-titled debut broke through the ceiling, announcing the band to the world. Although it was comprised of familiar faces who played in influential bands with signature sounds, it had its own sound. 2010’s release of Stampede showed off a different side of Hellyeah. Their hometown roots are present in the titles and underpinnings of the music. 2012’s Band of Brothers really hit home with a mix of hard rock and metal. Blood for Blood showed the world what this band was made of when they topped Billboard’s Hard Rock Album chart.

Now Hellyeah is at a new climax with Unden!able.

This album speaks to the true metalhead and the emotions that person feels. It’s unusual in that it doesn’t inspire hate but seeks to draw out pain and resolve it. The imagery in the associate music videos are powerful and lasting.

Hellyeah’s Undeni!able can be purchased on iTunes, through your Android device or on the Web:
http://hellyeahband.com/music/undeniable/

You Rock Foundation:
http://yourockfoundation.org/

 

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Tom Petty Runnin’ Down A Dream 1950 -2017

October 20, 2017 Malibu Arts Journal, Tom Petty Issue

His lyrics spoke to the average person. I Won’t Back Down. How many times has a person felt that in their life? You Don’t Know How It Feels. How many a youth, or adult, has had that feeling? How many women have been on the receiving end of the man’s decisions in Free Fallin’? Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, his collaboration with Stevie Nicks, now everyone has felt that at least once in their lives. How many people are currently Runnin’ Down A Dream? Tom Petty entered our psyche at the deepest level with his honest lyrics and earthy voice. That voice will live on in iTunes, your CD, on vinyl or cassette. That’s how long Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers have been hanging around in our ears…(read more on Magzter or iTunes)

This is premium content. You can purchase the October 20, 2017 digital issue of Malibu Arts Journal on Magzter for $4.99 here: https://www.magzter.com/US/Malibu-Arts-Journal/Malibu-Arts-Journal/Lifestyle/248193 

Tom Petty’s Music Sales Increase 6781% Posthumously

October 20, 2017 Malibu Arts Journal, Tom Petty Issue

Tom Petty’s music sales have hit the roof since his death October 2, 2017. He has spiked on the iTunes and Amazon charts and sales have risen 6,781 percent, Nielsen Music reports. Seriously, 6,781 percent. From the day he died to the following day, Petty’s work with The Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch and the the Traveling Wilburys sold 218,000 combined albums and downloaded songs…(Read More in the October 20, 2017 issue on Magzter or iTunes)

This is premium content. You can purchase the October 20, 2017 digital issue of Malibu Arts Journal on Magzter  for $4.99 here: https://www.magzter.com/US/Malibu-Arts-Journal/Malibu-Arts-Journal/Lifestyle/248193

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