Tag Archives: Dire Straits

April 20 – The Beauty of Imperfection

Why are we drawn to music? It’s a perplexing question, and one we’ve addressed on a personal level on Great River Radio. Is it simply a matter of taste? Or is it a desire to hear or witness perfection? After all, the general public seems to be in awe of the artist who can deliver a “clean” performance. It’s how we judge our athletes, mathaletes, celebrities and even parenting skills. Flawless = success. But there is new evidence that suggests that although we may be impressed with perfection, our emotional connection to a song arrangement may have more to do with the imperfections – or the unexpected – than a perfect rendition of that song. Dr. Daniel J. Levitin has been studying this phenomenon at McGill University in Montreal with the assistance of many of Great River Radio’s favorite recording artists. And the findings are fascinating.

In an interview, the singer Rosanne Cash said the experiments showed that beautiful compositions and technically skilled performers could do only so much. Emotion in music depends on human shading and imperfections, “bending notes in a certain way,” Ms. Cash said, “holding a note a little longer.”

She said she learned from her father, Johnny Cash, “that your style is a function of your limitations, more so than a function of your skills.”

“You’ve heard plenty of great, great singers that leave you cold,” she said. “They can do gymnastics, amazing things. If you have limitations as a singer, maybe you’re forced to find nuance in a way you don’t have to if you have a four-octave range.”

Before you dismiss Levitin as just another academic trying to force all of his “bias and complicated science stuff” on a favorite subject we’d prefer to just experience without thinking about too it too much, you might be interested to know that he once worked as a producer and engineer for rock legends Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, Blue Oyster Cult, the Grateful Dead and many others. Not impressed? Well, he’s also played sax with Sting (one of Dan’s favorite artists) and Mel Torme (one of Brian’s), and some guitar with David Byrne. In other words, he comes at this from a performer’s perspective as well as a scientist.

Levitin may just be discovering what many of our most successful artists have always intuitively known: it is the elements of unique character and unexpected notes and rhythms that we often connect with.

Geoff Emerick, a recording engineer for the Beatles, said: “Often when we were recording some of those Beatles rhythm tracks, there might be an error incorporated, and you would say, ‘That error sounds rather good,’ and we would actually elaborate on that.

“When everything is perfectly in time, the ear or mind tends to ignore it, much like a clock ticking in your bedroom — after a while you don’t hear it.”

Perhaps, this is a lesson for all of us? We tend to get caught up in the rhythm of life, humming along in a ceaseless succession of regular tasks, duties and activities. It is only when that beat becomes altered that we pay attention to the music around us.

Take a little time today to embrace the imperfections in our lives – the unexpected moments that give meaning to our day. And tune in to Great River Radio to discover some of those voices who continue to surprise us in unexpected ways.

You can read the full article Levitin’s research in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/science/19brain.html

In a new Great River Radio programming twist, Dan and Brian were engaged in a music-library showdown this week. Brian challenged Dan to come up with favorite five songs from 1966 (the year Brian was born). Dan accepted and volleyed his own challenge, asking Brian to come up with five songs inspired by works of art or artists. You’re going to love the music we’ve come up with for these setlists.

And as always, we have a plethora of great new music. You’ll hear from Haley Bonar’s new LP, “Golder.” We’ll check in again with Lucinda Williams and play new tunes from Marissa Nadler, The Mountain Goats, The Belle Brigade and The Raveonettes.

Join us live this afternoon from 4:15-5:45 (CST) for a great new session of Great River Radio.

Peace,

Brian & Dan

Details:
Great River Radio – Wednesdays 4:15-5:45 p.m.
Catch the live stream
Web/Listen Later
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iChat/AIM: kustradio

Playlist
Black River (Live)-Amos Lee
Where Not To Look For Freedom-The Belle Brigade
Running With The Wolves-Cloud Cult
Kid October-Haley Bonar
I’ll Tag Along-Richard Thompson
War In Heaven-The Raveonettes
Baby, I Will Leave You In The Morning-Marissa Nadler
Fade Into You-Mazzy Star
The Age Of Kings-The Mountain Goats
96 Tears-? and the Mysterians
19th Nervous Breakdown-The Rolling Stones
Eight Miles High-The Byrds
God Only Knows-The Beach Boys
Two Trains Running-Paul Butterfield Blues Band
The Art Teacher-Rufus Wainwright
Painted From Memory-Elvis Costello
In The Gallery-Dire Straits
Art School-The Jam
Painting By Chagall-The Weepies

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Nov. 3 – Writers & Writing

John Willmot penned his poetry
riddled with the pox
Nabokov wrote on index cards,
at a lectern in his socks
St. John of the Cross did his best stuff
imprisoned in a box
And Johnny Thunders was half alive
when he wrote Chinese Rocks
Nick Cave (“There She Goes My Beautiful World”)

There are some songs that when you listen to them, you realize that you are listening to poetry (or in other cases, a short story) set to music.  The best songs capture that art within an art – great writing and great composing – and result in something unforgettable. Which is not to say there aren’t a million songs that have great music and silly words, or wonderful lyrics and unlistenable melodies.  (Of course, you never hear anything like that on Great River Radio!)  But looking for songs that are well crafted in both ways is what we are all about here.

Today, GRR is going to showcase some well written songs about writers, writing and the creative process.   Since this is a radio show developed by English majors, this is a Confluence theme that is close to our hearts.  You’ll be hearing songs about Jack Kerouac, Emily Dickinson, John Berryman, Collette and Whitman, as well as the Nick Cave song quoted above in which he makes a plea for creativity to come down from the heavens (or at least from his girlfriend muse).

Before we get to the authors and writing Confluence, we’ll have new and local music from Rogue Valley, Elvis Costello, Sharon Van Etten and Daniel Lanois’ current project, Black Dub.  Our show opener, today’s river song, will be a preview track from the Decemberist’s upcoming release, scheduled to drop in January.

English majors and readers, you can’t miss this show!

Great River Radio – Wednesdays 4:15-5:45 p.m.

Catch the live stream
Web/Listen Later
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iChat/AIM: kustradio

Brian & Dan

Playlist
Down By The Water-The Decemberists
Political World-Bob Dylan
I Believe In You-Black Dub
For The Summer-Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs
Rockaway-Rogue Valley
Northern Lights-Communist Daughter
The Spell That You Cast-Elvis Costello
One Day-Sharon Van Etten
Paperback Writer-The Beatles
Writer’s Minor Holiday-Calexico
Writers Retreat-Lloyd Cole
Stuck Between Stations-The Hold Steady
Cleaning Windows-Van Morrison
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go-Shawn Colvin
The Underwood Typewriter-Fionn Regan
Lady Writer-Dire Straits
Walt Whitman’s Niece-Billy Bragg + Wilco
Slouching Towards Bethlehem-Joni Mitchell
Dangling Conversation-Simon and Garfunkel
There She Goes My Beautiful World-Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

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