James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix) (1942-70)
Star Spangled Banner (1780/1814/1969)
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States of America. The lyrics come from "Defence of Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.
The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London. "The Anacreontic Song" (or "To Anacreon in Heaven"), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key's poem and renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner", it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one and a half octaves, it is known for being difficult to sing.
During the final set of the historic Woodstock music festival Jimi Hendrix let loose with a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner on electric guitar that's been called everything from the most important political rock statement of the 1960s, to an afterthought caught in one of Hendrix's worst performances. It was his first gig since the breakup of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and all but 10% of the festival's 400,000 concert goers stayed for his Monday morning set. But there was no question the performance was controversial. Even today, music scholars can't agree on what message, if any, Hendrix's screaming guitar and ballistic feedback was trying to deliver.
Astor Piazzolla (1921-92)
Le Grand Tango (1990)
As a young man, Astor Piazzolla learned to play the bandoneon, the Argentinian accordion-like instrument that uses buttons rather than a keyboard, and he became a virtuoso on it. But his musical path was not at first clear: he gave concerts, made a film soundtrack, and created his own bands before a desire for wider expression drove him to the study of classical music. He received a grant to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and it was that great teacher who advised him to follow his passion for the Argentinean tango as the source for his own music.
Piazzolla returned to Argentina and gradually evolved his own style, one that combines the tango, jazz and classical music. In his hands, the tango-which had deteriorated into a soft, popular form-was revitalized. Piazzolla transformed this old Argentinean dance into music capable of a variety of expression and fusing sharply-contrasted moods: his tangos are by turn fiery, melancholy, passionate, tense, violent, lyric and always driven by an endless supply of rhythmic energy.
Le Grand Tango, which Piazzolla wrote specifically for cello and piano, is one of his few chamber works and one of his few pieces of "classical" music, though it too is driven by the varying moods and vitality of the tango. This is a big piece, and it has become a great favorite of cellists-there are a number of recordings available. Le Grand Tango is episodic in structure: moments of lilting languor alternate with impassioned sequences full of energy, and finally this Tango rushes to its fiery close on a great upward glissando.
Mason Bates (1977- )
Red River (2007)
Combining a chamber ensemble with the rythmic power and drama of electronics, Red River traces the journey of the great Colorado River to its various destinations in the Southwest - Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and ending in the California desert.
Various streams accumulate as the runoff from the Rockies builds into a formidable body of water and are united in the work’s second movement, Interstate 70, which falls into a bumpy and capricious ride. In the lyrical third movement we find ourselves floating high above the river in the red rocks of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. This ponderous movement ends abruptly with the arrival of enormous machinery, and the ensuing Hoover Slates Vegas movement uses all manner of industrial beats in the electronics to conjure up the building of the Hoover Dam. Exhausted by all this human activity, the river (and the piece) moves to its final resting place, the huge Sonoran Desert in the southeastern California.
Radiohead (1985- )
Karma Police (1997)
Radiohead are an English alternative rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, formed in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (vocals, guitars, piano), Jonny Greenwood (guitars, keyboards, other instruments), Ed O'Brien (guitars, backing vocals), Colin Greenwood (bass, synthesizers) and Phil Selway (drums, percussion).
Radiohead released their first single, "Creep", in 1992. The song was initially unsuccessful, but it became a worldwide hit several months after the release of their debut album, Pablo Honey (1993). Radiohead's popularity rose in the United Kingdom with the release of their second album, The Bends (1995). Radiohead's third album, OK Computer (1997), propelled them to greater international fame. Featuring an expansive sound and themes of modern alienation, OK Computer is often acclaimed as a landmark record of the 1990s.
Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001) marked an evolution in Radiohead's musical style, as the group incorporated experimental electronic music, Krautrock and jazz influences. Hail to the Thief (2003), a mix of guitar-driven rock, electronics and lyrics inspired by war, was the band's final album for their major record label, EMI. Radiohead independently released their seventh album, In Rainbows (2007), originally as a digital download for which customers could set their own price, and later in physical form to critical and chart success. Radiohead released their eighth album, The King of Limbs (2011) in a variety of formats.
David Lang (1957- )
Press Release (1991)
I wrote Press Release in 1991 for Evan Ziporyn. When you compose for one person, you can't get all the colors that you'd have with an ensemble or orchestra, so you have to imagine some sort of interesting problem. I wanted to do something that was really rhythmic. The original idea behind this piece was that of a high melody alternating with a low bass line, so that you get a high pop and a low pop switching back and forth as fast as possible, and these two worlds coexist. I wanted the upper melody to be recognizable and the bottom bass line to be recognizable, to be a real bass line, a driving funk thing. In classical music, the bass is only there to support the melody, which is where the action is. But the bass line is the place where funk music really shines. Who has the best bass lines in the business? I am a big James Brown fan, and, I thought, if you want a bass line, you got to go to James. So I made the key changes sound like James Brown. Because of the way the bass clarinet works, I thought you'd have to press the keys down to make all the low notes, and you'd release the keys to make the high notes....Press Release. I was really proud of myself because I thought I had made this funny joke, and then of course Evan said, "You know, a lot of those high notes you play with all your fingers down, and a lot of those low notes you play with all your fingers up." But I didn't think it was worth it to change the title. - David Lang
Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) (1971- )
Hip Hop Etude #10 (2006)
Having carved a reputation for himself as an innovative composer, performer, violinist, and band leader, Haitian-American artist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) melds his classical music roots with his own cultural references and vibrant musical imagination. Proving that he’s "about as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets" (New York Times), DBR is perhaps the only composer who has collaborated and performed with Philip Glass, Cassandra Wilson, Bill T. Jones, and Lady Gaga. He's received commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Library of Congress, and the sports channel ESPN. He's appeared on American Idol (FOX), America’s Assignment (CBS Evening News), E:60 (ESPN) and been voted one of the "Top 100 New Yorkers" (New York Resident), "Top 40 Under 40 business people" (Crain’s New York Business), "Top 5 Tomorrow’s Newsmakers" (1010 WINS Radio), and spotlighted as a "New Face of Classical Music" (Esquire Magazine).
John Mackey (1973- )
Breakdown Tango (2000)
Commissioned by the Parsons Dance Company, premiered June 13-18, 2000 at The Joyce Theater, New York, NY and dedicated to Garrick Zoeter of the Elm City Ensemble. This work is also called "Dementia" and the ballet is called "Promenade." This work (called "darkly dramatic" by the New York Times, and "an appealing, and at times wonderfully trashy piece" by The Clarinet Magazine), has a virtuostic beginning and ending, with a peculiar tango sandwiched in the middle. It's a bit more jagged than my earlier pieces. The choreography, by Robert Battle, is really, really fantastically odd. Gramophone Magazine described the work by saying, "Certainly one would be hard pressed to find a better piece than John Mackey's Breakdown Tango..." This work was the source of material for "Redline Tango." - John Mackey