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February 18, 1970 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-02-18

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Wednesday, February 18, 1970



Music forum: A reconciliation

Miles Davis is hard, easy, sub-
tle, explosive, intellectual, down-
to-earth . . . basically complex.
As the cliche goes, Miles Da-
vis plays Miles Davis m u s i c.
There's no better way to put it.
Of course there is an abundance
of musical jargon available that
captures some aspects of Miles'
music - modal technique, po-
lytonality, etc. B u t that will
never do.
There's also the ethereal ap-
proach. Like wow, Miles is
groovy, I don't know why, man,
I just dig him. Definitely legiti-
mate, but it will never do eith-
er. It neglects Miles' intellectu-
ality, his ability to synthesize
the elusive, cerebral gut hybrid.
Enough explaining. Listen to,
Miles' records, particularly his
newer ones, read the insightful
interview in Rolling Stone, and
go see him.
But don't get angry at me if
you go and don't like him. You-
'ye got only yourself to blame,
you didn't study up enough on
I once made that mistake -
of not preparing for Miles. Last
summer, a U-M friend and I
went to the Davis Quintet con-
cert in Central Park. ;
I don't know exactly what I
expected; but it was something
along the lines of his old "Kind
of Blue" material. You know,
something with a good beat I
could dance to.
Things started out fine, the
emcee- introduced Miles as the
"Prince of the Dark," and sure
as shootin' there was Mr. Stud
Himself, shades on, ruffled
shirt, tight bell-bottoms w i t h
silver dollar inlays down t h e
sides, and. silver trumpet.
The music wasn't quite as ob-
vious however. T h e tipoff to
Miles' new direction was the in-
troduction ..of his band. Only
Wayne Shorter, the tenor sax-
ophonist, was a carry over from
the good old days of the early
sixties. On drums was Jack De-
Johnette, on bass, Dave Hol-
land, and Chick Corea on elec-
tric piano. It was a youth coup,
all of the old stand-bys in the
band had split. R o n Carter,
Miles, ex-bassist, had left a while
back, Herbie Hancock, Miles'
ex-pianist, and Tony Williams,

be yond


he seemed to be doing all the
work, alternating between so-
prano and tenor saxes. To con-
fuse me more, they didn't play
any songs anybody had heard
before. They jammed f o r an
hour straight.
When t h e y finished, about
ten or fifteen guys in the first
row gave them a standing ova-
tion, the other thousand or so
people applauded politely. I
guess I wasn't the o n 1y one
they'd lost.
I hadn't prepared enough for
Miles. Back to the studies. I
picked up on his latest records,
Miles in the Sky, Les Filles de
Kilimanjaro, a n d In a Silent
Way, and continued to read the
many sterling reviews of Miles'
concerts. (Miles hasn't received
less than a spectacular review in
the last two years.) -
The first thing I noticed about
the records was that they were
completely different than the
fifties and early sixties stuff I
had been listening to before. He
played sparser on the new rec-
ords, using fewer notes, he
didn't deal with chords as much,
he was into running scales. He
was mixing rock beats and old
bop rhythms with avant-garde
free form.
All things considered, though,
Miles' new records and Miles'
live performances are still two
different worlds. On record, he
is overly conscious of mood and
color, like In a Silent Way, in
which he achieves a sonorous
lulling mood, effectively exploit-
ing the melodic texture of the
electric piano, as well as the
hypnotic rock beat, particular-
ly in the theme song "In a Si-
lent Way."
The "live" Miles is much
freer and violent. The album
that comes closest to approxi-
mating a live Davis Quintet per-
formance is Miles in the Sky.
In it, Miles' old drummer, Tony
Williams, and his ex-bassist,
Ron Carter, supply the dynamic
rumbling background w h i c h
play behind Miles' occasional
violent explosions, which he
adeptly sneaks in between his
more subtle passages.
Miles is as difficult as any
classical musician. My. New

The pieces in Monday night's?
Composers Forum tried to re-
concile traditional dramatic
form with the more modern pro-
cedures of real-time improvisa-
tion and open musical "space".
Most of the basic sound ele-
ments and gestures used in all
of the evenings works were in-
troduced in Kurt Carpenter's
Heart of Darkness. Borrowing
the title from Joseph Conrad,
Carpenter constructed a color
and articulation piece for small
ensemble, which progressed in
strict dramatic form with its
inherent contrasts and irrever-
sible climax.
Heart of Darkness began with
immobile quiet sounds punc-
tuated by soft blips. Very at-
tenuated flute harmonics (whist-
ling sounds), unusual b r a s s
harmonics, hitting the mouth-
piece and playing inside t h e
piano and other expanded uses
of the instruments were used in
an inventive manner, although
the sounds themselves were not
unusual for new music.
The piece gradually introduc-
ed more rapid articulations and
built to a tremendous crescendo.
A stinger finished the p i e c e
when the cases for the percus-
sion instruments were banged to
the floor.
A clock controlled the dura-
tions of the various sections; no
conductor was employed.
Thomas Clark's String Trio
was dominated more by musical
intent than a desire to imagine
new machinations. Clark lim-
ited himself to a small ensemble
and gestures that suggested ver-
bal conversation. By a subtle
feeling for harmony and spac-
ing, Clark's piece was the best
developed composition of the
evening, and completely justified
the use of the slow-fast dra-
matic form.
Two songs comprising Whirld-
'ness by Richard Manderville,
based on poetry by Eve Eden;
were beautifully sung by Kath-
eryn Chism. As the title sug-
gests, the sounds were events su-
spended in clear space, and were
directly evoked by the mean-
ing of the poetry. The instru-
ments listed as "accompani-
ment" by Manderville actually
went beyond that at times to
distribute and reiterate sounds
across the stage. Sometimes this
transference took the form of
obvious onomatopoeia, for exam-
ple when the text referred to
"wind" and a solo flute follow-
ed. But the mystery of the piece
remained a personal statement.
It was hard to guess exactly
what the title of David Foley's
Entrance Not For Everyone re-
ferred to, since there were no
program notes or direct sugges-
tions in the music. This piece
for wind ensemble was of a fore-
boding nature throughout and
contained a great deal of mater-
ial; perhaps too much for its
short duration.
The most 'avant' work of the

concert was Robert Boury's
Hearsay, for two dancers a n d
amplified prepared piano celest,
piano played inside, and piano
played in the normal manner.
The dancers, Alsace Leitz and
Jennifer Cole, choreographed
their movements independent of
the score. The dancers would in-
fluence the players to "turn on
or off" as they passed through
sectors of tape laid on the stage
The score sets up a plus-
minus situation, akin to Karl-,
h e i n z Stockhausen's Spiral.
Three sound parameters are in-
dicated;' register (top-score),
amplitude (middle), and number
of attacks (duration-lowest). A
plus sign indicates an. increase
of the parameter it is in, a
minus is a decrease and an equal
sign means to keep the para-
meter unchanged. Additional
arrows indicate to repeat and
reduce/or expand what you have
just improvised. The players
are, therefore, called upon to
make extensive use of improvi-
sation and memory abilities.
Any piece of well known music
can be used to provide the ac-
tual tonal material to be chang-

ed. In the case of this perform-
ance, it was the "alcott" move-
ment of Charles Ives' Concord
Sonata. A clock delimited the
time of the performance, as in
Heart of Darkness.
Again the sense of dramatic
form dominated; even in this
"open graph" treatment, the
plus signs gradually accumulat-
ed and then softened into rows
of minuses. The lights were
completely off at the beginning
and end of the piece and were
at their brightest during theI
". . . and everybody knows
that the presence of musicians,
inocent, however diverting it
may have been in, say, the 12th
century, when everything outside
the gates was eating each other,
no longer, in itself, transports
us ... it is usually both unreal
in a way that we don't need
unreality and precious. Perhaps
when things settle down, if they
ever do, the situation won't be
so demanding, but right now we
are a long way from being in a
position to expect people to list-
en, even if they could. We have
to find ways to cause things to
go wrong in their minds."
-Source Magazine (Jan., 1968)

Feb. 17, 18-Tues., W.d.
American Culture Film
dir. JOHN HUSTON (1941)
Humphrey Bogart mixes
work and romance in a
unsentimental detective
story. Mary Astor, Peter


7 & 9:05



Election of LSA
Student Assembly Members



1:30 P.M.

Submit Petitions (25 LSA signatures)
to 1018 Angell Hall by Friday, Feb. 20


375 No. MAPLE RD."769.13OO


the ex-drummer, had just tak-
en off to make it on their own.
When th e music started it
was violent DeJohnette was
flaying the drums ferociously-
everything was rumbling - ev-
erything but Miles - cool Miles
wasn't even playing, in fact he
was walking off the stage.
I could catch a glimpse of him
standing in the wings of the
stage, not doing much of any-
thing, but after five minutes or
so, he started to make his way

back on stage and up to the
microphone. The mike was at a
height equal to his waist, that
was the way he did it, bending
his knees and back all the way
down so he could get the trum-
pet bell down near the mike.
He blew a few notes and walk-
ed off again. That freaked me
out - but after a few more en-
trances and exits I got used to
it. I was beginning to wonder
why the band wasn't called the
Wayne Shorter Quintet, since

M IA FARROW~l .t l rtu .z',d~ S .' rt='~~

2ctYi 01

Ackles: A powerful presence

Energy is a term often applied
to over-amplified rock bands,
but if David Ackles did anything
at all Sunday night at Canter-
bury House, he generated a sub-
tle but powerful energy to the
audience. And the audience was
delighted, bringing him back for
two encores.
Ackles is a pianist/composer/
singer dealing in dramatic song.
His voice is often as raw .as
Jellyroll Morton and as force-
ful as an opera singer. His roots
range from Brecht and Weill
-to subtle country melodies. Sim-
ply that description would seem
to indicate how unusual h i s
medium is..
:Though some find Ackles' songs
depressing, that did not seem
at all true Sunday night. Much
of David's music is about strug-
gle, but the glow of his eyes and
his powerful presence seem to
indicate that he has won.
Songs like "Candy Man," a
true story about a one armed"
war veteran who distributed por-
nography to children, o f t e n
seem too overblown and drama-
tic. In his new material Ackles
has overcome this. "Subway to
the Country," the title song from
his second Elektra album, is
about bringing children up in
the city "where there's so much
dirt they think that snow is
grey." Even if that seems to
be a downer, Ackles has made
it somehow refreshing, reflect-
ing all the jobs of childhood
and a hope there may someday
be a subway to the country.
Probably the most exciting
part of Ackles' performance was
a new untitled song that he sang
in public for the first time Fri-
day night. With the light sound
of a country hymn, Ackles sang
of Sunday night singing in an
old white church where "Dad
played the bass, Mom played the
Art lecture
set today
The public is invited to a gal-
lery lecture on the exhibition
"Contemporary Paintings from
the Collection of Joseph H. Haz-
en" today at 4 p.m. in the West
Gallery of the Museum of Art.
The speaker will be Prof. Joel
Isaacson. There is no admis-
sion fee.
The lecture is sponsored by
the Friends of the Museum of
Art, an association of individ-
-. ti 's~isaa i~aof !

drums, and I played the piano/
And Jesus sang the songs."
When he repeated the song in
the second set, the audience
sang along.,
Ackles dealt with everything
.from police brutality in L o s
Angeles, to heroine addiction in
"Main Line Saloon," and socie-
ty as a whole in "Inmates of
the Institution."
"The Road to Cairo," one of
his older songs, is very personal
but strongly drew the empathy
of the audience. "Such a Wo-
man," perhaps Ackles' only real
tear jerker, is equally as person-
al, and so musically effective
that it visably moved much of
the audience.
Sitting atop the Chicago yel-
low pages, Ackles carried on a
friendly conversation with the
audience. Still somewhat ner-
vous, his communication with
the people laid the greatest con-
trast between Sunday night, and
his performance here a year
ago. Instead of making the lis-
tener uncomfortable by n o t
talking to him, Ackles now uses
his short raps as effective tran-
sitions into his songs.
Even though his new s o n g s
are much less "syrupy" than his
older ones, some might main-
tain Ackles is too sentimental.
I would say, instead, that his
work is very intelligent. "Amer-
ican Gothic" is a song about a
man who "drinks till he drowns
in his dreams" and his wife
who thrives on a wish for new

shoes. This is a simple, accurate
analysis of much of middle
At 32, Ackles has seen that
America, and most of the rest
of the world. A former play-
wright with an MA from the
University of Southrn Califor-
nia, he often uses internal dia-
logue - talking with the other
characters in his songs.
The piano accompaniment, a
welcome change from guitar,
contributed largely to the uni-
queness of the performance.
Ackles' piano is effective, though
not flawless, as an occasional
wrong note may sneak into a
chord. For the most part, he
seems to play in a honky tonk,
classical style, pounding on the
keys, but using especially inter-
esting chord combinations.
His voice was usually strong,
though sometimes sensitive and
gentle. "Out on the Road," the
last song of the evening, w a s
the vocal highlight. The song
began in a sad conversational
tone, building to a driving cli-
max; Ackles' voice bursting at
its seams in a carefully control-
led shout, "And if you do not
understand/ How we got to . .
lend a helping hand,/ Then all
I can do is pray/ Please let me
stay out on the road."
Ackles' voice was powerful, his
music intriguing, his poetry
moving. Combined with his
strong, friendly presence, it is
no wonder the crowd was so
reluctant to leave.


The Merry Widow



Operetta by
Franz Lehar
Conductor: JOSEF BLATT
Stage Direction :
FEBRUARY 27 and 20
MARCH 2 and 3
Mendelssohn Theatre

8 P.M.

Admission $3.00
Ticket Information 764-6118
MICHIGAN 48104. BOX OFFICE HOURS: FEB. 23-26, 12:30-
5 P.M.; FEB. 27-28, MAR. 2, 3, 12:30-8 P.M. (CLOSED SUN-
School of Music and Department of Art 9 University of Michigan


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