Lately I have been listening to John Cage's strangely delightful and thoughtful sonatas as performed by Boris Berman. They are very short, running between two to four minutes. There are sixteen sonatas and four interludes, so even after some twenty-five listens I still don’t feel like I can encompass the scope of the music.
This past month I’ve been obsessing over video recordings of Van Morrison concerts, especially early performances from the 70s and 80s. This is partly because I’ve been thinking a lot about poetic pacing and what I guess I’ll call ‘rawness’ in poetry — moments of risk-taking and truth-telling, registers of feeling that create something almost textural in a poem.
For years I’ve listened to the likes of Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Mary Gauthier, and Chris Whitley while writing, as well as a smattering of classical works, but over the past year — perhaps reflecting a spiritual or emotional change — the focus has shifted almost entirely to classical music, both traditional and contemporary. Works by people like Olafur Arnalds, Ludovico Einaudi, Anouar Brahem, Hildur Gudnadottir, Hildegard of Bingen, and Dijan Gasparyan.
Mostly jazz — an idiom in a hard way these days (once Sonny Rollins dies, that’s it for the giants who shaped it from the late 40s onwards; the Toronto jazz festival this year has the nerve to bill KC and the Sunshine Band as its headline act!). Still have a lot of vinyl and have been playing a fair amount of — you guessed it! – Prince, Merle Haggard and, for some unfathomable reason, R.E.M. from the mid-80s.
James Adams is a reporter at The Globe & Mail covering a variety of arts topics.
Aside from waiting for the new Strokes EP to drop so I can buy it just to burn it? I’m listening to Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. Obvious choice, I know. May as well get it out of the way. This is candid Radiohead. Seems to be Johnny Greenwood driven, symphonic and organic. It’s not In Rainbows, but what is?
Then there’s Marlon Williams. Self-titled debut album of a New Zealand singer-songwriter providing his take on American country-western. Voice like something you have to take methadone to kick. Eclectic and fucking eerie.