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March 12, 1993 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-03-12

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ARTS

Norrington defends Haydn

ZOll1rS

by Kirk Wetters
The composerFranzJoseph Haydn
will be on trial Sunday afternoon at
Hill Auditorium, but, with the aid and
advocacy of the scholar-conductor
Roger Norrington,.Haydn will surely
be honorably acquitted. IfNorrington's
persuasive support of Haydn in a re-
cent interview is matlched by his per-
formance with the Orchestra of St.
Luke's, then Haydn can surely rest in
peace. "We play to win," Norrington
quipped..
In addition to wit and charm,
Haydn's music shows an astounding
degree of musical understanding and
superb craftsmanship, a fact some-
times obscured by those who try to
make Haydn into someone he's not:
Mozart. "Haydn's not nearly so dra-
matic as Mozart," Norrington said.
"He's more interested in wit and ur-
banity. Haydn's incredibly full ofchar-
acter- you need to play it with a lot of
imagination, smartly, with a lot of un-
derstanding of beat and the kind of
dance rhythms which underline his
music, and which most of his music
came from. Whereas Mozart is a bit
more sexy, he's got this very big har-
monic palate."

On Haydn's rather- limited popu-
larity, Norrington said, "If it's badly
played (and that can mean a lot of
things,) it can just sometimes sound
like not much - like a little bit of
cutesy, pretty music. People sort of
like it, but they don't get it, they don't
get off on it."
Norrington also stressed the diffi-
culty and importance of Haydn inter-
pretation. "He needs tobe terribly well-
played," he said. "You need to bring
out the wit-a tremendous amount of
wit - and good humor, surprise and
phrasing. Those are the things I try to
do, and then I think it sounds as good
as any music ever written. He just
needs a little help."
Although the Orchestra of St.
Luke's play standard, modern instru-
ments, Norrington is a well-known
member of the "original instruments"
movement. Original instrument
groups, such as Norrington's London
Classical Players, use the same types
of instruments as would have been
used at the time of a work's composi-
tion.
More important to Norring ton than
the use of historically correct instru-
ments is the use of history to build style

and interpretation. "The instruments
don'teffect theperformance, they only
effect the sound it makes," he said.
"The thing is to get as near to the music
as possible. It's the music that matters.
The original instruments are just sort
of a very interesting hobby."
Some question the desirability of
historically informed performances.
For example, John Guinn of the De-
troit Free Press said, "We can't listen
now in the same way as they did then.
Older music endures because it can
speak to us now in different ways. The
"The most respectful
thing I could do to a
composer is to try to
find out what he's
saying and how he's
saying it...
intent of music is to move people, not
to hear a history lesson."
Norrington, however, believes that
the historical understanding is essen-
tial to musical understanding. "Of
course we play the music now, with
our own tastes and our own feelings,"
he said. "We can't be there in the past,

but we can enjoy the contact with the
people there.
"The most respectful thing I could
do to a composer is to try to find out
what he's saying and how he's saying
it, and to believe in his world and to
travel to it without too many precon-
ceptions," saidNorrington.Thesecom-
posers are more important than we are.
The music is what matters - history
just feeds it. Lots of things feed a
performance: imagination, history in-
formation about playing styles - ev-
erything feeds it. To ignore any of this
is to cut it off."
Norrington admitted thathistorical
interpretations have challenged and
scared many in the musical world.
"People fear a historical approach
which is not alive. That would be a
great mistake, but then any musical
performance which was not alive
would be a great mistake. The past
won't invade the present. The more we
learn about the past, it's not going to
stop us from giving goodperformances.
Itdoesn'tlimit us. It frees us to be more
imaginative," he said.
Original instruments and perfor-
mances allow musicians and audiences
to revel in the inherent anachronism of

Norrington
all classical music. Norrington sarcas-
tically commented, "Why go around
using instruments which are so clearly
out of date? Why use funny, old-fash-
ioned instruments like violins? If you're
really living in 1993, what's wrong
with a synthesizer? And, if you're go-
ing to use a violin of 1900, why not use
a violin of 1800?"
THE ORCHESTRA OFST. LUKE'S
with ROGER NORRINGTON and
soprano NANCYARGENTA will
perform an all-Haydn program,
modeled after the concerts which
Haydn himself gave at his academy
in London, Sunday at 4 p.m. at Hill
Auditorium. Tickets are $14 to $40,
with $8 rush tickets available
Saturday morning at the Union
ticket office. Call 764-2538.

Bob Telson
Callin You
Warner Bros. Records
Bob Telson's debut, Calling You, is
divided into three sections, the firsteight
tracks consisting of the mostly all musi-
cal compositions written for Twyla
Tharp's dance piece, "Sextet."The songs
are the result of a merging of Spanish
flamenco music with jazz and R & B
influences, the sparse lyrical appear-

ances being sung in Spanish, as the
music demands they be.
The last two sections of the CD are
one track long each, both songs coming
from soundtracks of Percy Adlon films.
"Calling You," the title song of the LP
was originally from the movie "Bagdad
Cafe."It earned Telson an Oscar nomi-
nation for Best Song in 1989. It's one of
those "you'd know it if you heard it"
songs. "Barefoot," from the unreleased

"Salmonberries," is less rich in history,
but does sport the infamous k.d. Lang
on lead vocals.
Granted, there is much pomp ac-
companying this LP. Still, there's some-
thing amazingly compelling about it.
There's a honing quality to it, one that
perhaps can only be captured by some-
one who doesn't release a debut album
until after he's not only been around the
block but across the globe.
-Kim Yaged
Various Artists
Blues Masters vol. 1-5
Rhino
You've seen Lonnie Brooks, Robert
Jr. Lockwood, and countless other blues
artists at Rick's or the Pig. You listen to
Eric Cole's show on WCBN, and you
want to expand the blues section in your
own record collection beyond Eric
Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The
only problem is that every time you
walk into a record store, you're over-
whelmed by what's available. By now,
each of the major peiformers, from
Lightnin' Hopkins to Albert Collins to
Blind Lemon Jefferson has a box set
you could shell out major bucks for.
There are many multi-artist compila-
tions, but those are mostly label spe-
cific. You can't have them all, so you
never get any. The Rhino "Blues Mas-
ters" series is for you.
Each disc is organized thematically,
and the material on each spans decades
worth of blues players. "Texas Blues"
details the progression from Jefferson
and Hopkins to the Vaughn brothers.
"Harmonica Classics" shows that the
Fabulous Thunderbirds have more in
common with Junior Wells or Little
Walter than they do with their hit "Tuff
Enuff." "Jump Blues Classic" is the
most time specific of the five, since the
genre faded away with the evolution of

Rock 'n' Roll through the fifties.
An interesting aspect of the collec-
tion is that many artists span a few
contexts, so they are included on more
than one disc. Jimmy Reed is noted as
"perhaps the most influential bluesman
of all," in the liner notes for "Harmonica
Classics," and each disc he appears on
higlights each reason why. On that vol-
ume, he is selected for his innovative
blowing, and on "Postwar Chicago
Blues" he is included for his early im-
pact on the electic blues movement of
the sixties. The "Urban Blues" setshows
artists also included on the Chicago and
Texas discs have much in common.
There are a few minor complaints
about the series. Though "Classic Blues
Women"willbe released sometime next
year, there are are only a handful of
female blues artists featured on these
five discs. In the complete list of artists
to be included, there is no mention of
Taj Mahal, John Hammond Jr., or con-
temporary country blues artists like
Cephus and Wiggins. There also should
be a New Orleans disc with Professor
Longhair, James Booker, Walter
"Wolfman" Washington, Dr. John and
C.J. Chenier, to name even more artists
not included on the list either.
Regardless, these five initial releases
will make any blues fan desperately
anticipate the nextten. Bluesradioshow
hosts can pop any of these on, go out for
a burger, and come back an hour later
without having his audience suspect a
thing. The Blues Masters collection is
the education necessary to earn a Mas-
ter of Blues degree.
-Andrew J. Cahn
Grand Puba
Reel To Reel
Elektra
Straight up: If there's anyone out
there who calls themselves hip hop junk-

tv"Pt
AIX,
-
**
Summer Session. %
I
A,,
It's Mol
mit
y w Than Sums
I t's Boub
,F at Boult
E .-r
Av

ies and still haven't gotten with this yet,
come together. Because when it comes
to mad lyrical skills and picture-perfect
freestyle flow, nobody does it better
than the Puba. Verses roll off his tongue
so naturally, this brutha must have been
rhyming before he could walk.
"Reel To Reel," Puba's first solo
joint since leaving the legendary Brand
Nubian, hits withoutreally trying. More
than half of this CD sounds like he just
made itup ashe went along, because it's
justso effortless. Check"Big KidsDon't
Play," and marvel at the sheer brilliance
of Puba's delivery.
Puba does kick some 5% science,
reminiscent of his work with Brand
Nubian (best evidenced on the killer
"Soul Controller," as well as "Proper
Education"). But for the most part, this
joint is Puba making it plainas to who's
got the most skills on the block (he even
drops a mellow-groove love song with
"Baby What's Your Name?").
So if yaain'tgotit, putthis down and
go get it. I got no reason to lie to you...
-Scott Sterling
Simple Minds
Glittering Prize '81- '92
A &M Records
If youjustwantthehits, this 12-song
compilation will suit you fine; from
"Promised You A Miracle" to "(Don't
You) ForgetAboutMe" and "Alive and
Kicking," all of SimpleMinds' fiveTop
40hitsarehere, thrown together with no
regard to chronology or sound. If you
want to know what Simple Minds was
about, you'll have to stick with the
original albums. Over half the tracks
date from after 1985, including an inex-
plicable three songs from their latest
album, "The Real Life." Earlier albums,
such as "Sparkle in the Rain" and "New
Gold Dream," barely have an impact on
the collection. "Glittering Prize," the
song the album wasnamed after, doesn't
even appear. Despite it's major short-
comings, "Glittering Prize '81-92"' has
quite a few good songs, making it a
good listen if not a good portrait of the
band.
-Tom Erlewine

talks a
good game
by Tom Erlewine
Almost any rock musician would
not be able to speak for hours on end
about anything except music, and even
then many would find it hard to pay
attention. Despite what their egos may
tell them, most musicians aren't all that
interesting. Henry Rollins is the rare
exception - a musician who is more
interesting when he talks than when he
plays. From the seminal 80s hard-core
punk band Black Flag to the current
Rollins Band, he has made brutally in-
tense music throughout his career. In
Henry Rollins
The Boxed Life
Imago
fact, Rollins' music is often too honest,
and serious - prolonged listening to
Rollins guarantees ear fatigue. In his
rock albums, Rollins leaves no room to
breathe and little room for humor, which
is the ingredient that makes "The Boxed
Life," a 2-CD live spoken-word compi-
lation, so successful.
Some have called Rollins a philoso-
pher for the Lollapalooza generation,
which is not only condescending, it's
inaccurate. Rollins is older and decid-
edly more bitter than most members of
the Lollapalooza generation and "The
Boxed Life" isn't a series of serious,
high-minded philosophical treatises on
the state of the world. Instead, the album
is full of stories - smart, funny, and
insightful stories. With the exception of
two awkwardly graceful poems, noth-
ing on "The Boxed Life" is scripted, it
is all improvised on stage. Thankfully,
Rollins is blessed with perfect timing, a
keen eye for detail, and a sharp sense of
humor. Listen to the way he can barely
bring himself to utter Edie Brickell's
name on "Hating Someone's Guts -
Pt. 1" or how he throws away a small,
telling detail in the middle of a story ("I
never saw my dad after I was a certain
age, when I came to my senses"). These
are the qualities that makes Rollins a
sublime storyteller, capable of extract-
ing an enormous amountofhumor from
painful, harrowing situations.
The half-hour, two-part "Strength"
on the first disc showcases Rollins'
skills at their peak. During the first part,
Rollins builds from a story of harassing
a classmate in his high-school science
class to a monumental dissection disas-
ter in the same class. This story neatly
segues into a similar tale about his job at
NIH where he had to kill the entire
population of animals because of a vi-
rus outbreak that he personally spread
through the lab. Both of these stories are
disturbing and all the more powerful
because of the humor that punctuates
the horror. Rollins brings the same
venom and humor to Scud missiles,
necrophelia, safe sex, U2 worship, de-
pression, and every aspect of flying.
Rollins' rich storytelling skills make
every story interesting even after listen-
ing to the album several times.
In the end, the greatest success of
"The Boxed Life" is the fact that it
appeals to people who can't stand
Rollins' music. Oras his Canadian friend
"The Odd Ball" says at the end of the

first disc: "Spoken-word great. Spo-
ken-word great. Music? Sounds like
warmed-over Iron Maiden. It sucks."
Henry Rollins is appearing Friday,
March 12, at the Michigan Theater.
The show (which reportedly repeats
no material from "The Boxed Life")
begins at 8.00 pm. Tickets are $10.00
in advance.

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