Review :: USO & the Rite of Spring

On Thursday the 28th, after a strenuous two weeks of rehearsals, the big list of hard-hitting repertoire was ready for show and the University Symphony Orchestra had an exciting concert in front of them.

The usual time. 8pm.

Beethoven’s Overture to the Consecration of the House, op.124, opened. A warming work until the conductor, Kenneth Kiesler became so entrenched in emotion that he knocked over the stand and off the music of the concertmasters! The second of the two first violinists, in shock, managed to catch the stand before it hit the ground yet the music drifted to the floor. Pause. What a moment of historically hierarchical tension: who would pick up the music sprawled across the stage floor? The concertmaster and elected leader of the Orchestra, the second concertmaster and leader of the second portion of the show, or the artistic head-honcho and man on the podium, the conductor who committed the act? With the gasp of tension evaporated, the conductor bent while trying to maintain the beat for the Orchestra and the second of the concertmasters bent to grab a sheet. The concertmaster played through the fiasco from memory, charging and digging in more, assuming full responsibility for the group. In a moment of blind luck, the two managed to pick up just the right sheets and the students were able to finish out the piece with the ink in front of them.

Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A Minor, op.129 was played magnificently by Nathaniel Pierce, the 2013 concerto competition winner and a graduating senior at the SMTD. Through the technical virtuosity required, he still managed to brandish his bow above his head like a sword upon the battlefield. In moments of rest, he’d lean down with his elbow on his knee, ducking his head – out of breath from the pace and the vigor of playing all from memory with ease. Resident cellists of the seats around me were in shock, holding their breath through muffled chuckles of delight.

Now, I hate to be the sour critic, but during the first movement of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring aka Le Sacre du Printemps, and at many moments of climax, things simply weren’t feral or intense enough. It needed a higher decibel count. The id and rabid primal nature of Stravinsky’s writing seemed like it had been stuffed into foam, muffled from the audience. It never reached fever pitch. Anything short, in my book, is interpretively offensive. Never should a work of this stature be played like an audition excerpt. The piece asks the orchestra to channel an irreverence, a heathen-istic, and sacrificial ferocity similar to the naive audacity of the Sex Pistols.

It just felt too “inside”. By that I mean both not-outside as in the wild of nature, but also the metaphoric inside, the institution walls as opposed to the real world. The first movement was just over-thought, meta-cognitive, and drilled to a point of boredom. Just play the music, never mind the mistakes and let go, be free from performance anxiety and be open to wild abandon. Now, it is possible that I’m too much on the inside and that my ears have been temporarily deafened as well. But for a group this excellent in both accuracy and flare, they sure held back.

I give such harsh criticism because it was truly so close. The second movement – all its sections of quiet, or intentionally subdued intensity were spot on. To my ear, most were stylistically perfect. The solos were wonderfully thought out and executed. Fever pitch hit, and there were punches thrown leaving blood on the floor.

It’s odd but regardless of my qualms, my heart throbbed throughout. It’s a feeling I only get around the pieces for which I play music. I found myself foaming at the mouth not for the conductor, the soloists, or the interpretation, but for the ink, all on its own. And ya, that’s a not a common thing for me. I like to think and have often found myself asking if string players really feel this way for the ink of Mozart, Brahms, Haydn, and so on.

Thanks for the read.

Review :: UM Symphony Band under the 100th year Banner

First. Symphony Band, Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band, University Philharmonic shows are 100% juice, 100% FREE @ Hill Auditorium.
Second. UMS and Music School event calendar here

Now, I truly do not mean to toot my own horn but I thought it may be neat to review the show as a member of the group. A kind of artistic mole, or “a reporter on the performance side of the curtain.” This is also the first time in that I’ve publicly reviewed a show I’ve been a part #livingadangerouslygeekylife. Here it goes.

Call was 7:30. The Band of some 70+ members arrived all suited up. The traditional black bow-tie and tuxedo. Stop. Hammer time. 1-second on tuxes. I think the tuxedo is out-dated for what we do. Sometimes I feel like I’m putting on my grandma’s moth balls and there’s hair in there and holy ja-hoopin-nanny how long has this smelled like mildew?? Sure, it’s the “highest” formality in terms of western attire but white under black on black on black is just done! We could afford to be much more sleek and modern and sexy. Like black on black on black on black – classic. Secretly, putting on a tux does make me feel like a million bucks and I love that but high school homecoming was much too long ago. Damn, just hit up GQ. Back to it..

Our musical squad walked on stage minutes before showtime for a last second warm up. As a percussionist, I was having a momentary FrEaKout, and frantically made sure my instruments and sticks we set, my music in place and my mind focused. I made sure that my set-up for the Chamber’s (of 2 congas, a djembe, 2 pirate ship bells, china cymbal, hi-hat, chimes, and LARGE tam-tam a.k.a Gong) was good to go just before the lights went up. All the members of the band stopped doodling and sat with a keen attentiveness. Michael Haithcock, our conductor, walked on stage, bowed to the applauding audience, swiveled round on his left heel in pin-dropping silence, raised the stick and off to the races we went.

El Salón México began the set. Behind the xylophone and temple blocks (hallow blocks of wood) from which I sparsely played, I had a clear vantage point to the rest of the percussionists and the brass. The Kettle Drums sang various solos and accents after rhythmic conversations with the snare drum, cymbal, bass drum, and the brass section. The crazy time signatures flew blew in exquisite feel and pacing. Next, Outcry and Turning. It’s a piece written about the morning anger in the aftermath of 911. Evan Chambers is a composer on faculty here and his shrieking of the horns and the woodwinds were backed by an arsenal of drums and gongs. The piece drove with a sporadic and shrill introduction. Unfortunately during the bongo ostinato, the group tempo quivered in parts it never had before and teetered on the edge of falling apart yet found balance. This show was only preparation for the recording session of the work the following night (6 hours in hill, cinnamon roll saved the night, whew!) The Bates was meant to represent “the phenomenon of dead animals decaying and drifting downward through the water” and the audience loved it…so they ate it up? Umm Yuck? However, the effects: knocks on top of the piano and a rhythmic typewriter played by the lovely Christina, made the work well worth it. The Band sounded tip-top together and played sparkly during the first movement, and dark during the second and third. I sat behind the timpani, and left with a sour taste in my mouth – not my personal best, could have played much better.

After the Bates, we have 15 minutes to transition between set-ups for the second half. This amounted to a militaristic drill, planned acutely before hand. “can I take this?”, “we don’t use those!”, “go, go, go!” Once the dust settled, myself, along with four of the six other percussionists remained back stage while Paul played solo on Ladder to the Moon – also written by a UM composer on faculty. The Granthum, through all it’s quirky dissonances and white-jazzy-swing sections, tagged the end of the show with a kick in the ass. Playing xylo, maracas, and spoons (hold two spoons by the ends so that the backs of the eating discs face each other, clap them together against your leg and bam, qualified musician. 10 points for execution) went as well as I could have hoped though it racked the ol nerves going inkto it. The Xylophone duet and feature locked and had flow – the bull’s eye we were aiming for. The spoon section, endearing and cheerful – all 6 of us clacking them together as we rose our spoons high and mighty to the air. The Band really came together. All around sound – superb.

The show ended, we were given a standing ovation, and off the stage. We un-dressed as the lights came down and as the rest of the symphony band left for home, the percussionists got as busy as the squirrels collecting fat for the winter – packing up all the gear needed for the show. “The Pack” went well, everything set in it’s right place in preparation for the following Halloween concerts and recording sessions early this week. A job well done. All walked home, tuxes and bowties in tow.

See more here.

Shameless Plug >>> BAND-O-RAMA THIS WEEKEND. Saturday night @ Hill Auditorium.

Wishing for SNOW SNOW SNOW. And Sandy, who invited you? Git out our subways and our beaches and boardwalks and such . Hunter Chee

Aaron Copland – El Salón México
Evan Chambers – Outcry and Turning
Mason Bates, Sea-Blue Circuitry, Patricia Cornett, graduate conductor
Michael Daugherty – Ladder to the Moon, Yehonatan Berick, violin
Donald Grantham – J’ai été au bal (“I went to the ball”)

Updated . Nov 2.12 9:35am

Review :: New Music and the UM rendition

University of Michigan’s own Contemporary Directions Ensemble, otherwise known as CDE, is a group dedicated to playing contemporary music. What the hell is that? Steve Reich, a highly-praised, NYC based composer said, “…the essential difference between ‘classical music’ and ‘popular music.’ And that essential difference is: one is notated, and the other is not notated.”

Contemporary music a.k.a “New music” is a genre of notated music that appeals to a modern aesthetic. Similar to the way in which Beethoven was a revolutionary of his time, composers alive today like Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Cage, Iannis Xenkis, David Lang, John Luther Adams, and a cast of others, are revolutionizing our ears and our minds. New concepts and definitions of sound and music are being realized almost daily. These composers have been classical trained but have moved so far past the archaic term, “classical” which no longer comes close to describing what they do.

Modern art – music meant for the art galleries and the coffee shops, the intimate venues and the outdoors, the art goers of today and the musicians of tomorrow. This is 21 century shit.


Conducted by Christopher James Lees, and made up of graduate students, CDE is a small group – about 20 large. This past Thursday night, their show entitled Fathers and Sons let them all rip it. They played driving music like the Son of Chambers Symphony, paired with the sound explorations of John Cage, paired with the 20 minute long bassoon solo, paired with the in-house piece by Kuster, dedicated to her father now past. Incredible textures, wild combinations, and innovative sounds. A buffet for the ears

The gorgeous program ~

Here, Leaving by Kristin Kuster, premier by U-M composition faculty member

How we got here (4th edition) by Luciano Berio, bassoon solo complete with circular breathing

But what about the noise of crumpling
paper which he used to do in order to
paint the series of “Papiers froisses” or
tearing up paper to make “Papiers
dechires?” Arp was stimulated by water
(sea, lake, and flowing waters like rivers

by John Cage. Yes, all one piece. Simply Beautiful

Son of Chambers Symphony by David T. Little

I would describe everything in detail but as a friend told me once, “it’s like when someone tells you a joke is funny before you hear it decide for yourself.” In light of that, I would love to hear your thoughts. Listen to a couple of these, Catch a John Cage concert it’s his 100 birthday this year (if he was still alive) and I’m nutty about it. If you don’t hear of any, just get in touch.

Hunter Chee

Review . Flying Lotus flying high

Flylo with the jams, in the Majestic Theater of Detroit, on 10.15.12
Hands down off the chain…Nah nah, he broke the chain.

Jeremiah Jae kicked off with some of his own stuff, a pinch of rap, and a quick hit of J’Dilla. Decent but it seemed like it just went on and on with long transitions between songs and a subdued pace. I was jonesing for the funk nasty.

Teebs opened next in a big way. He launched into a super ethereal and white-blue sounding set that flowed in and out of itself like snow fall. A continues stream of beats with seamless transitions.. He’d check in with us every once in a while, otherwise it was a ton of tunes – Blessed assurance, and personal winter to name a few. All around, ill set. If you fancy Flylo, definitely check-out Teebs.

The Main Man: Flying Lotus aka. Steven Ellison. It was a smaller and chiller crowd leading up, but the minute the 29 year old, L.A. born producer and electronic wizard stepped into the lime light the crowd lost their damn minds. People did not stop dancing till the very last. There were two 30×30 foot silk screens hanging from the ceiling to the floor, one behind Flylo’s table of equipment, and one in front that formed a giant visualizer. The two sheets gave depth to the graphics of geometric shapes and half the time it felt like an i-max screen. Since this genre of electronic music doesn’t lend itself to live performance, the visualizer helped amp the crowd and added flavor and zest. A couple of my buddies thought that seeing the performer, who is this case was just somebody turning nobs and dinking with their laptop, was more important that a fancy light show. I whole-hearted disagree. I loved the mix medium, and I thought it made helped him make his music better, make it visual, and complete the night’s vibe.

In terms of musical background, Flylo is the great-nephew of Alice Coltrane, the cousin of Ravi Coltrane, and therefore incredibly close to the influence of John Coltrane. He also is known as lover of the work of J’Dilla, a legend in the beat making world. Alternatively, he chose some fantastic quotes for the night including an in-your-face Intergalactic by The Beastie Boys, a more subtle Kfir by Camille, and a faint hint of Grizzly Bear.

Flylo really starting picking up in 2006 with his first EP release, Pink Sun under Plug Research. Now with 7 EP’s and 4 full albums under his belt with a variety of labels, Flylo is remains signed with Warp, Brainfeeder, and Plug Research. His current tour is featuring his new album Until the Quiet Comes.

HunTer Chee

Check check it out.
The Art of Cosmogramma

Reviewing film :: Samara and the Affairs of 42

Saturday night. Half way to the theater, bucket started pissing and thunder cracking – soggy ass sweater. Got into theater drenched and dripping, shook my hair out, and trotted down the isle to sit with 20 other people.

The film happened. Beauty and stark reality tag-teamed in and out of it for the full 90 something minutes.

After the film ended, we all clapped, and then it felt like everyone let out a breath in unison. Nobody moved. People finally stated mozying to the doors, speechless after the credits finished and silence settled.

: :: : :: : :: : :: : :: : :: : :: : ::

In a way, I have little to talk about. I can describe the particulars of the film or analyze it or tell you my opinion; sure, I’ll do a bit. Yet it was one of those experiences that is so personal and renders words useless. All in all, I think the directors achieved exactly what they wanted to – I’d love to hear what you think about it!!

That being said, for me, this was a monumental work and a MUST experience film. All around amazing, beautiful, and fresh, I’d definitely go see it again.

The film had many scenes of nature, different cultures, and individual lives – all soo very great. The time-lapse of deserts or sunrise or moonrise were like nothing I’d ever seen. Jaw on the ground, drool splashing, incredible. As it went on, it became clear that you couldn’t possibly know which of the 25 countries the film was from.

I’m all about experiencing the new in a ever-curious and productively naïve way – Samsara, was brewed with this in mind for sure. There were so many things I had never seen or heard of and I kept asking myself, “The hell is this? What does this mean? My god, what is that?” so much that I eventually forgot the questions and just began accepting what I was being given. A very meditative state. That seems like it would push the general and modern attention span – maybe why there were only like 20 people there, sooo ya, I geeked out real hard the whole time.

On another Note…

Samsara had Thich Nhat Hanh’s inter-be and inter-are not to mention an overall emphasis on impermanence, the cycle of life and death, all over it like poppy seeds on a goddamn buttered bagel. For every experience I have, there seem to be parallel experiences in opposition. I don’t have trash in open pits around my house because somebody else does. So, in the world, my comfort is at the same time, discomfort and vice versa; paradoxical experience and reality known so well by Confucism, Daoism, and Zen practice. This can be a depressing understanding about the nature of humans but I got the feeling that the film’s intention as a piece of art was less to make you feel like a shitty nihilist, and more to inspire consciousness and awareness of human nature and our world’s state.

Enough somber and serious gabbing.
Lighter stuff to come.
Down right sweet and healthy film.

FlyLo tonight. HELL YES>

Danks . Hunter Chee

Ps. 70mm. Sure, cooL, great. But DAYUM!! When you see that shit during the introduction and the beginning it feels obscenely surreal. Reminded me of Avatar. No way in hell did it feel like I was looking at shots of real environments or happenings on our planet. WacKo cooL.

Pre-viewing Film :: Samsara

In short, this film collected footage from 25 countries over 5 years and is the latest in a line of nonverbal films – Chronos and Baraka. The nontraditional documentary is meant to be “…showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet”

Mark Magidson, the producer of the film, says that Samara is much more modern in comparison with its predecessor Baraka. “touches on a lot of elements of human experience, conflict, war, birth, death, sexuality…the film is, hopefully, an attempt to let you feel like you’re part of the phenomenon of being alive at this moment”

The Director, Ron Fricke said, “…[Samsara] was conceived as a nonverbal guided meditation on the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Really sculpted, really produced by the power of [guided] flow” (Samsara itself is a word derived from Sanskrit and has different meanings to different eastern religions. In Buddhism, it means suffering, in others, flow)

Baraka hit me real hard. Just like straight jumping into glacial runoff, the same kind of shockingly refreshing feeling. The scenery shot, in combination with the music, had a chance to speak for itself – beauty for beauty’s sake, free from assumption or assertion or distortion. It was an open style in which you connect your own meaning and be as amazed and curious about what you were watching without being told about it, lots like a mental ‘choose your own adventure’ book. While at the same time providing eye candy in bulk to convey something words cannot. Going bonkers for this, cannot wait!!

The Michigan Theater FREEEEE with an arts passport
Sat 10.13 4:45, 7:00, 9:30
Sun 10.14 4:45, 7:00, 9:30
Mon 10.15 4:30, 9:30
Tue 10.16 4:15, 6:45, 9:00
Wed 10.17 9:45
Thur 10.19 7:15, 9:45

Mabe sees you there, review to cooome . Hunter Chee

The Trailer
The Film Webpage
Feisty ass mother f*ing squirrel