Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

What I listened to in 2022

Posted in Classical,J-Pop,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the December 28th, 2022

I’ve always enjoy reading other people’s lists of their favorite music of the year past, so here in alphabetical order are 20 new albums that gave me the most listening pleasure during 2022. As usual, a heavy emphasis on local musicians from the Chicago area.

Beyonce, Rennaisance, not quite as great as Lemonade, but then again what is? (Tidal; Spotify)

Dehd, Blue Skies, alternative pop/rock by terrific Chicago band (Tidal; Spotify)

Horsegirl, Versions of Modern Performance, moody debut album from Chicago band that updates the sound of 1990s alternative rock (Tidal; Spotify)

Samara Joy, Linger Awhile, young jazz vocalist turns in a nice set of standards (Tidal; Spotify)

The Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies/Everybody’s in Show Biz Box Set, two early 1970s Kinks’ albums get the fiftieth anniversary reissue treatment (Tidal and Tidal; Spotify and Spotify)

Les Rallizes Dénudés, OZ DAYS LIVE 1972-3 Kichijoi: The 50th Anniversary Collection, widely bootlegged live recordings by Japanese underground legends finally get a proper release (Tidal; Spotify)

The Linda Lindas, Growing Up, irresistible punk-pop with a nice political edge from a teenaged combo whose sudden emergence made the pandemic a little more bearable (Tidal; Spotify)

Lizzo, Special, for when I need uplift (Tidal; Spotify)

Makaya McCraven, In These Times, powerful statement by a tremendously creative Chicago jazz composer, arranger, and percussionist. (Tidal; Spotify)

ネクライトーキー (NECRY TALKIE), Memories2, the latest from eclectic Osaka-based pop/rock band (Tidal; Spotify)

Mali Obomsawim, Sweet Tooth, very appealing collage of avant-garde jazz, pop melodies, and Native American cultural traditions (Tidal; Spotify)

Nora O’Connor, My Heart, talented Chicagoan jazz/pop vocalist (Tidal; Spotify)

Gilbert O’Sullivan, Driven, new collection of pop tunes from the man whose March concert (my first popular music live show in three years) brought tears to my face when he performed “We Will” (Tidal; Spotify)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Live at the Fillmore, 1997 (Tidal, Spotify)

She & Him, Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson, nice selection of Brian’s songs, tastefully covered (Tidal; Spotify)

Various artists, Starstruck: A Tribute to the Kinks, a collection of new punked-up covers of my musical heroes (Tidal; Spotify)

Wet Leg, Wet Leg, “Chaise Lounge” is probably the song I most often caught myself singing in my head this year (Tidal; Spotify)

Wilco, Cruel Country (Tidal; Spotify)

The Robert Wilkinson Band, Lost and Found, a delicious pop/rock album by Minneapolis legend that was recorded back in the 1990s but only released this year(Blackberry Way Records; Tidal; Spotify)

YeYe, 『はみ出て!』(Hamidete!), latest collection from Kyoto-based singer-songwriter who has been putting out terrific music for several years (Tidal; Spotify)

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How to be an Ethical Music Fan in a Corrupt World

Posted in Books,Change is Bad,Classical,J-Pop,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the March 26th, 2019

1). How to buy music: Never, ever order your music from or its woeful kin. Obviously. Your local record shop, should you be so lucky as to still have one, needs your business. Another alternative is buying directly from the artist’s website. It’ll probably cost you a couple extra bucks, but that’s a low price to pay for retaining the rights to your soul. Online retailers have replaced record companies as the Satan of the music industry. Don’t feed Satan.

2). How to listen to music: Here’s how you can pry something out of Satan. After you have bought the CD or vinyl or mp3 download, use a streaming service to listen to the tunes. If you don’t subscribe to a streaming service, try YouTube. They all pay shit royalties to artists and composers, but after you’ve already shelled out a fair price for your own copy, listening via a streaming service throws a few more pennies in the direction of the people who actually made the music.

3). How to find new music: Read. Good music writing teaches you about your own limits and points out a way past them. Criticism is being squeezed as badly by capitalism as any other branch of today’s music world. If you are so lucky as to live in a place where the local press runs music criticism, read it. Then like it and share it on social media: publishers count up those beans. And buy and read books. Your local bookstore has shelves bursting with excellent writing on music. You could start with Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, Mark Fisher’s K-Punk, or Jim Walsh’s Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes, to name three random examples sitting on my desk right now.

Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments. We need all the ideas we can get.

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My Viennese Summer

Posted in Art,Books,Classical,Fiction,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the September 28th, 2013

I hope that you had a good summer, wherever and however you spent it. Classes at UChicago start Monday, so let me try to recap my own summer. For me, 2013 was the summer of Vienna, in imagination and reality.

The July 31 free concert by the Grant Park Orchestra in Millennium Park helped get things started. The program consisted of a single piece: the rarely performed Symphony No. 2 by Viennese composer Antonio Bruckner. It’s a delightfully sweet composition, especially in the slow movement, and the performance on a fine summer evening captured it quite gracefully. Mentally I was already walking alongside the Danube, the Blue Danube.

Around the same time, I began my background reading: two fine cultural histories of Vienna: Frederic Morton’s A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889 (1980) and Carl E. Schorske’s Fin–de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (1980). From there, I moved onto Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday (1942), an elegiac memoir of the novelist’s life in Vienna that he completed in exile in South America, the day before he committed suicide. I also read Vienna Idylls, a collection of short stories by Arthur Schnitzler. It’s easy to understand why Freud loved Schnitzler: his fiction throbs with repressed desires and unspoken impulses. His characters say one thing, but clearly mean something entirely different. They think they desire one object, but obviously covet the exact opposite. Modernity in a nutshell.

On the morning of August 6, we arrived at the airport in Vienna, took the express train into the city and then the subway to Graben. The moment we emerged at the top of the escalator from the Stephansplatz underground and into the ancient plaza was stunning–as was the heat. We checked into our hotel and began a dazed four-day visit. The highlights for me were visiting Berggasse 19–the apartment where Sigmund Freud lived and worked from 1891 until 1938, when he went into exile after the Nazis took over Austria–and the Prater amusement park, home of the famous Ferris wheel. I’ve always loved carnivals and fairs (a few weeks after Vienna we made our annual pilgrimage to the Minnesota State Fair), and I especially liked Prater because it was the only time during our visit to Austria that we mingled with working class, immigrants, teen-agers: ordinary folks, out like us for a good time on a pleasant summer night.

Another highlight was the Secession museum, where we spent half an hour in the company of Klimt’s Beethoven freize.
The Secession was also hosting an exhibit of the work of Thomas Locher, inspired by Jacques Derrida’s writings on Mauss and the gift–which have been enormously influential on my own scholarship. We had to rush through that exhibit, though, as the museum was closing. After exiting we wandered through the outdoor night market that lies just outside the museum.

In the two months since we returned from Vienna, I find myself stumbling into references to Vienna everywhere. Summer’s gone, but I’m still walking alongside the Danube.

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Looking Back on 2012 (Part Two)

July brought many exciting developments. I was promoted to full Professor and became chair of my department at the University of Chicago. The Japanese translation of Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon came out from Byakuya Shobo. At around the same time, the discovery I helped make of some previously unknown 1950 Sacramento concert recordings by Misora Hibari, Kasagi Shizuko, Yamaguchi Yoshiko and many other Japanese singing stars became big news in Japan. I was apparently a featured item on television “wide shows” for a couple of days; I’m told that at least one of the shows introduced me with a photograph that was not actually of me. The Japanese edition of the book was well received, too; dozens of newspapers and magazines ran favorable reviews.

The whole family flew to Tokyo in late July. I spent a couple of days doing press interviews at my publishers’ offices in Takadanobaba. On July 29, Satoko and I were able to participate in one of the largest anti-nuclear demonstrations of the year, a march that started from Hibiya Park and ended up surrounding the Diet building. We celebrated the children’s birthdays up in Sendai with Satoko’s parents. With the help of a reporter from the Kyodo Tsushin wire service, I was able to get a copy of the 1950 wire recording of her Sacramento concert to 92-year-old Yamaguchi Yoshiko, who gave an interview about how delighted she was to hear it. As a result, once again I showed up in newspapers across Japan.

We returned to Chicago in early August. I recorded a segment for public radio’s “To the Best of Our Knowledge,” which was broadcast nationally later in the month (you can listen online here). We brought the whole family to a terrific play,”The Death of Harry Houdini,” at the House Theater. We ran up to Minnesota again to celebrate what would have been my father’s 75th birthday on August 15, and while there I saw another ballgame at Target Field. I also got to see one of my old favorite local bands, the Flamin’ Oh’s, play a show at Mears Park in downtown St. Paul. Back in Chicago at the end of the month, we attended the opening night “Tribute to Ella” with Dee Alexander, Frieda Lee, and Spider Saloff at the Chicago Jazz Festival. I returned again on the last day of the festival to catch stellar sets by the Steve Coleman Group and Pierre Dørge And The New Jungle Orchestra–two more favorite musical discoveries of the year.

In September things started gearing up in my new role as department chair, but on a stormy night we saw Bruce Springsteen give a fine concert up at Wrigley Field, and when the Twins swung through town early in the month I ran over to New Comiskey Park to take in a game. Late in the month I filled my car with grad students and drove to Kalamazoo for the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs meeting at Western Michigan University.

Classes started in October. I taught two seminars this past fall–one on Japanese literary discourses of “furusato” (hometown), the other on Japanese cultures of the Cold War. As usual, I learned a great deal from the students in both. Extracurricular activities slowed down as I resumed full-time teaching, of course, but I still managed to get out now and then. In early October, I saw a nice set by guitarist Wayne Krantz at Martyr’s and later in the month caught an intriguing performance by shamisen composer Kimura Shunsuke. In October, I attended the Association for Japanese Literary Studies meeting at Ohio State, reconnecting with many old friends and meeting some new ones. I also enjoyed the opportunity to make a presentation about the 1950 wire recordings at the annual Humanities Day celebration here on campus in Hyde Park.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving at home, with me preparing the turkey as usual. In December, we enjoyed a show by Leo Kottke up at SPACE in Evanston, as well as a terrific performance of Barber’s Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony by the CSO. I made another trip to Los Angeles to give a talk at UCLA and to film an interview about the 1950 wire recording of Misora Hibari for a television special which was broadcast in Japan on the BS-TBS network on December 7. We spent Christmas with family in Minnesota, quiet and relaxing. On Boxing Day, we went ice skating with a big group of my cousins and their children.

Later today we’ll bring our 2012 cultural calendar to a close by attending the acclaimed production of “Annie” at the Paramount Theater in Illinois: the last few years, our family has made a tradition of attending a musical in the week between Christmas and New Years. We also have tickets to see the opening night of Buddy Guy’s annual stand at his own blues club downtown later this week, and we’re off to Second City a few days after that for some comedy.

It really has been a blessed year for us: writing this up has helped remind me how lucky I am. I’m surrounded by a supportive family, wonderful friends and colleagues, students who keep me on my toes, and a city that bustles with creativity and energy. As usual, I have compiled a long list of New Years’ resolutions, but I won’t bore you with those. Suffice it to say that I am looking forward to 2013.

Let me end by wishing you joy, peace, and health in 2013. Thanks for stopping by.

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Looking Back on 2012 (Part One)

I have several projects with looming year-end deadlines. I really should be working on those this morning. Which, of course, makes this an excellent time to devote instead to an update here. 2012 is fast winding down. What kind of year was it?

A fine and memorable one, thank you. Not without its bumps and bruises, of course, but those just help remind me that I’m alive. I end the year feeling gratitude and hope.

The first half of 2012 found me on sabbatical. In early January, I flew to Seattle for the MLA convention. I saw old friends, sat in on some good panels, caught the film “The Descendants” in a cinema across from the hotel–and accepted the Scaglione Prize for the translation I co-edited of Natsume Soseki’s Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings. Later that month, I flew up to Ann Arbor to participate in a faculty workshop, and a week later I presented a talk at another faculty seminar at Northwestern University. The month ended with Satoko and I enjoying a performance by Westside blues legend Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater at SPACE, the little-club-that-could up in Evanston.

In February, we caught Ricardo Muti conducting the CSO in Franck’s Symphony in D minor and then, a few days later, I attended the University of Chicago Folk Festival, featuring Billy Boy Arnold. The most exciting event of the month: my book, Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop, came out from Columbia University Press. I heard many nice things about it from people–to the point that I started to worry that it must not be very good. If something you write doesn’t piss anyone off, how interesting can it be? But later I heard through the grapevine that a number of senior scholars in my field hated it. I felt reassured. In late February DePaul University hosted a fun workshop based on the book for Chicago public school teachers.

On the first day of March we watched Pierre Boulez lead the CSO in a wonderful performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. The next morning I was off to NYC for meetings. Then on March 10-11 I co-hosted a conference in honor of my colleague, Norma Field, who retired at the end of the 2011-12 academic year. “What March 11 Means to Me” brought together an amazing group of public intellectuals from Japan for personal and philosophical reflections on the first anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster: Amamiya Karin, Komori Yoichi, Ryusawa Takeshi, Takahashi Tetsuya, and Yokoyu Sonoko. The following week, I traveled to Toronto for the AAS annual meeting, where I chaired a roundtable discussion on the 1950 wire recordings of Japanese performers in concert in Sacramento (more on those anon).

In April, I was back in NYC for a lecture at Columbia University. While there, I saw the acclaimed revival of “Death of a Salesman” with Philip Seymour Hoffman and caught up with a few old friends. Back in Chicago, we attended a lively concert by Rodrigo y Gabriela and a fine performance by the Alvin Ailey dance company a few days later. Later in the month, I drove up to the Twin Cities to visit family and friends, catching a Twins game while there and a Beloit Snappers minor-league game on the drive home. During the month, I also finished up an article on Natsume Soseki’s conception of world literature, which appeared in the May/June issue of the Iwanami Shoten journal Bungaku.

On May Day I joined the protest march that started out from Union Park and made its way past the site of the Haymarket Massacre (the historical origin of May Day) before ending at a rally downtown. A few days later, we caught a live performance by one of my favorite musical discoveries of the year: Kids These Days. The group manages to combine rock, funk, jazz, and hip hop and make it all work; their debut album Traphouse Rock came out later in the year and was one of my favorite records of 2012.

Later in May I attended the Atomic Age II conference at Chicago. It featured a keynote address from Koide Hiroaki, one of the most important critics of Japan’s “nuclear village.” The next day, we joined a group to visit the nature preserve in the western suburbs where the remains of Chicago Piles 1 and 2 (the world’s first nuclear reactors) are buried. Later in the month we caught a surprise cameo appearance by Ray Davies at a public television benefit concert, and then I was off to Tokyo for a quick one-week visit. During that trip, I attended the May sumo tournament, met a number of scholars, visited libraries and bookstores, and stopped by an exhibit of photographs by Mike Nogami. After coming back to Chicago, I survived the NATO conference shut-down of the city, dragged the kids to the reunited Beach Boys concert at the Chicago Theater, and enjoyed a Millenium Park performance by Kelly Hogan (another key musical discovery of the year). We ended the month by catching Court Theater’s production of “Angels in America” with Larry Yando’s memorable turn as Ray Cohn.

As June began, I flew to Los Angeles to join in the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. It was lovely to catch up with old friends from UCLA, and while there I got to meet and chat briefly with one of my childhood heroes, Daniel Inouye (RIP, Senator Inouye). It turned out that he was one of the 442nd veterans involved in inviting Misora Hibari to Hawaii in 1950 for a charity concert–which led in turn to the 1950 Sacramento concert recordings. Another quick trip to Minnesota followed, and I was back home to catch the last day of the Chicago Blues Festival, including an uplifting headliner set by Mavis Staples. During June we also caught the CSO a couple times, including an eye-opening public rehearsal led by Ricardo Muti, and we visited the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit at the Art Institute. But the cultural highlight of the month was the acclaimed production of “The Iceman Cometh” at the Goodman Theater, with an ensemble cast so strong that the supposed stars, Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane, mostly just blended into the scenery.

July is when things really got busy. I’ll write about the second half of the year tomorrow. In the meantime, I really should get hopping on those year-end projects….

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Janáček and Schoenberg, too

Posted in Classical,Music by bourdaghs on the December 5th, 2010

We went to Symphony Center last night to see Pierre Boulez conduct an exhilarating program with the Chicago Symphony. It was the kind of performance that leaves you with goosebumps, even the morning after.

The evening opened with the orchestral version of Schoenberg’s 1899 composition, “Transfigured Night.” I know this primarily in its original format, as a piece for a string sextet. With five or six times that many strings thrown into the mix the piece not surprisingly feels fuller. In particular, the brief dissonant section in the second movement (I think it’s the second movement, anyhow) hit with greater force, setting a sharper contrast with the lush Brahms-like lyricism that characterizes the rest of the piece. It’s a lovely work, and the orchestra played with great precision and beauty.

After the intermission came the Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, a stirring epic that should be much better known than it is. A barbaric yawp that sounds more like fire and brimstone than anything you’d expect to hear in church (especially on the maniacal pipe organ solo that comprises the penultimate movement, played last night with appropriately over-the-top intensity by Paul Jacobs), it employs a full choir, pipe organ, four vocal soloists, and an enormous orchestra. You have the feeling, in other words, the you’re getting your money’s worth when you see this one performed live.

Boulez led the massed musicians at a brisk pace, and everyone performed brilliantly. Seeing it played live, I came to realize how the work is largely structured around a dialogue between the chorus and the brass section: they pick up each other’s lines, interrupt one another, echo each other’s chord patterns.

There was a small bit of drama in last night’s performance. I happened to be watching vocal soloist Mikhail Petrenko sitting in his chair, obviously getting mentally prepared to stand up and take his first solo. Suddenly, his foot slid back under his seat and knocked over the glass of water that was sitting there. He quickly reached down to set it back upright. I kept wondering if they would bring him a new glass between movements, but they didn’t. I also wondered if tenor Lance Ryan might slide his glass of water over to the other side of his chair to share with his bass partner, but that didn’t happen either. The other three vocalists kept sipped elegantly at their glasses of water to moisten their throats between their singing parts, but poor Petrenko had to go without. At any rate, he got through the rest of the performance without incident and sounded fine.

Boulez carries himself on stage with reserve, employing body language that I can only describe as charming. It’s hard to believe you are watching one of the legendary firebrands of modern classical music when you see him conduct. Perhaps he’s mellowed at age 85.

At any rate, a night at the symphony to remember. Both Andrew Patner (Sun-Times) and John von Rhein (Tribune) gave enthusiastic reviews to the program, as well.

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Posted in Classical,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the December 3rd, 2010

Last night we attend my daughter’s high school winter concert here in Chicago. She sings in the choir, but we also enjoyed sets by the school orchestra, chamber ensemble, band and jazz ensemble. The band played a very striking piece I’d never heard before: “Whirlwind,” composed by Jodie Blackshaw. The worktakes a number of important elements from twentieth-century avant-garde classical styles (aleatory passages, nonconventional instruments, offbeat instructions to the players) and briiliantly arranges them into a form that is fully accessible to an amateur youth orchestra. The kids seemed to enjoy playing it last night.

I snooped around today a bit and came up with this website from the publishers of the score. The site informs us that Blackshaw won the Frank Ticheli Composition Contest with it. On YouTube, I came up with video of a performance by the Singapore American School Sixth Grade Band. It’s just cool to see an ambitious composition like this enter the musical repertoire of high school bands.

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This and That

Posted in Classical,Current Events,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the November 5th, 2010

It’s been a jumbled week, with little time for arranging thoughts into anything so orderly as sentences.

A week ago Thursday, I made my first visit of the season to Symphony Center to see Jaap van Zweden lead the local favorites in a very fine program of Mahler, Shostakovich, and John Luther Adams. Both Andrew Patner of the Sun-Times and and John von Rhein of the Tribune loved the Shostakovich but had reservations about the Adams and the Mahler, but I heard it the other way around. My usual bad taste, of course.

Adams’ “Dark Waves” was a hypnotic piece, a single sustained wave of sound that develops details of texture and dynamics across its twelve minutes. Adams was in the house and took a bow with the orchestra after the piece. The Mahler consisted of four songs from his “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” in which the composer wears his charming hat, as opposed to his bombastic helmet (think, for example, of the last movement from his Fourth Symphony). Measha Brueggergosman was the guest vocalist, and she performed with grace and wit. Patner and von Rhein complained about her vocal chops, but my only fear was that we might all be blinded: she wore a shiny all-platinum dress and I thought somebody might take a flash picture. The program closed with Shostakovich’s magnificent (and seldom played) Symphony No. 8 in C minor. The local newspaper critics both fall over themselves in their rush to praise the performance, but I thought the long first movement was rather perfunctory. It did come to life in the latter half, though, with particularly brilliant performances from the woodwinds.

I’ll be back to see the Chicago Symphony again in early December, when Pierre Boulez conducts Janáček and Schoenberg: more glorious twentieth-century classical. I can’t wait.

In the meanwhile, out there in the world there appears to have been an election of some sort. Why anyone would hand the keys back to the same people who crashed the car two years ago is a mystery to me, but then again democracy always is a little bit mysterious.

David Byrne, in the meanwhile, is marrying folks in NYC. Stew is out on the road, playing gigs (he’ll be here in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Art next week). And Dave Davies makes it painfully clear that the Kinks won’t be reuniting anytime soon.

Older brother Ray, on the other hand, continues touring in Europe. Let me leave you with some fan video from Sunday night in Paris and Monday night in Amsterdam. Here’s hoping next week is a quiet one, for you and me both.

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Sakamoto Ryuichi at the Vic

Posted in Classical,J-Pop,Music by bourdaghs on the October 26th, 2010

Sakamoto Ryuichi played a stunningly beautiful one-man show earlier tonight at the Vic here in Chicago. It was mostly solo piano, although he used a number of electronic effects to add layers of complexity to the music.

The evening opened with an atmospheric number in which Sakamoto strummed directly on the strings inside the piano in accompaniment to a prerecorded quiet soundtrack–something like crickets chirping on a summer night. This was followed by “Hibari,” the first of three duet numbers. There were two pianos on stage, one played directly by Sakamoto, the other played indiirectly–often via prerecorded tracks, but sometimes it seemed as Sakamoto was feeding his own live playing into a kind of sequencer that immediately transferred the pattern to the second piano. “Hibari” is a hypnotic, captivating track from Sakamoto’s latest album, a fine instance of musical minimalism, and it worked wonderfully live.

The set also included a number of Sakamoto’s hits, all rendered solo on the piano — “Amore,” “A Flower is Not a Flower” (also a “virtual duet”), “The Last Emperor,” and (closing the main set) “Merry Christmas, Mister Lawrence.” Sakamoto is an expressive player: he brought a delicate touch to the numbers, highlighting the details of their musical texture in strikingly beautiful ways. The stage was sparse; there were constant images, mostly abstract, projected on the screen in back.

The audience didn’t quite know how to react to the show at first, and the first several songs were greeted with silence. It was finally after the fifth number (“Amore”) that people started clapping between songs. By the end of the encore, though, they knew what to do: give Sakamoto a rousing standing ovation. Sakamoto loosened up a bit on the three-song encore: he put his body into his playing more than he had in the main set, and it probably helped that the songs were some of his best-loved compositions.

We got to go backstage after the show and chat briefly with Sakamoto. He joked about all the incidental noise from inside and outside the theater. I asked him how conscious he was of, say, the sound of the El trains that rumbled the theater, and he replied that he certainly heard it, but like John Cage he thinks noise is music too.

I’d seen Sakamoto perform earlier this year with Yellow Magic Orchestra in a huge outdoor rock festival in Tokyo (where the set included a couple of the numbers that Sakamoto played in his Chicago gig: “Tibetan Dance” and “Thousand Knives”), and I asked him about the difference mentally for a performer in that sort of event versus the more intimate show he had just played. He said it was much more nerve-wracking to do a solo show: with more players on stage, there is a sense of safety in numbers, but when you’re out there alone, there’s no place to hide.

A few weeks ago, on his Twitter account, Sakamoto responded to a query from a fan, asking how the fan could become a great pianist like Sakamoto. His response: “Don’t practice!” The man, in other words, has a sense of humor on top of being a gifted composer and performer. He heads for the West Coast next; it’s a show well worth seeing if it comes to your town.

The full set list (from Sakamoto’s homepage)
1. glacier
2. improvisation
3. hibari
4. improvisation 2
5. amore
6. a flower is not a flower
7. tango
8. bibo no aozora
9. high heels
10. loneliness
11. the sheltering sky
12. the last emperor
13. merry christmas mr.lawrence

encore 1
14. tibetan dance
15. happy end
16. thousand knives

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The Autumn Concert Season

Posted in Classical,J-Pop,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the August 12th, 2010

Well, our upcoming fall concert-going season is pretty well set, and I’m looking forward to some exciting live music. Here are the events we’re planning to attend. How about you?

September 4-5: Chicago Jazz Festival (one of the nation’s premiere jazz events, and it’s all free!)

September 19: Aimee Mann (Old Town School of Folk Music)

September 25: Hyde Park Jazz Festival (Almost as good as the Chicago Jazz Festival, and it’s all free, too)

September 30: Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Center; Riccardo Muti conducts Mozart and Haydn)

October 1: Eels (Metro)

October 26: Sakamoto Ryuichi (Vic Theatre)

November 13: Stew and The Negro Problem, featuring Heidi Rodewald (Museum of Contemporary Art)

December 2: Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Center; Pierre Boulez conducts Schoenberg and Janáček)

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