Tag Archives: The Mountain Goats

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.
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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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Dec. 15 – Music We Missed in 2009

It’s final exams week and students and faculty are cramming to prepare for the exam, take the exam, finish the paper and get on with the grading process.  Whew!  Every seat in the library is occupied by a student with his or her laptop, a pile of books, and all the objects today’s student needs: highlighters, coffee, iPod, snacks, big huge calculator, phone charger and a few good luck charms.

This is the week that gives rise to a dream we have the rest of our life – the day we show up at class for the final exam and realize we never went to class.  I’ve had that dream many, many times myself.  I’m sure someone on this list can tell me what it means.

GRR’s final exam question is this:  what did we miss this year?  As we’ve perused many top ten and ten best lists in the last couple of weeks, we’ve noticed a few songs and artists that somehow completely escaped our attention during 2009.  Brian and Dan try hard to stay on top of this stuff, but, hey, we’re busy guys, too.  We can’t notice everything going on in the big world of music.

We’ll be hearing songs from 2009 releases from Dan Auerbach, The Clientele, The Eels, Alicia Keys, David Bazan, John Gorka, Pieta Brown, Silversun Pickups, The Mountain Goats and others.  Just about all of these songs have been named by someone as a notable recording for 2009 but never played on Great River Radio.  We’ll also play a couple songs from the just released “Minnesota Beatles Project, Volume 1” – interpretations of Beatles tunes by local bands, including Roma di Luna’s cover of “I Will.”

And two notes of upcoming shows: in one of our first shows of the new decade, Great River Radio will take a look back at the “Oughts” (2000-2009). We’re digging through our hard drives and doing the research so that we can bring you a full program of the most influential music of the decade.  Let us know what you think were the most important (not necessarily the “best” or “favorite”) albums or artists in 2000-2009? Post your selections on our website at https://greatriverradio.wordpress.com.

Finally, note also that Great River Radio’s fourth annual holiday music show will be next week (Dec. 22.) You’ll want to tune in while you’re wrapping gifts or snuggling with your SO beside an open fire.

You can listen to Great River Radio live today from 4-6 p.m. (CST) via the KUST stream: www.kustradio.com

Or listen at your leisure to our archived shows at https://greatriverradio.wordpress.com

Chat with us during the show via AIM or iChat: kustradio

Playlist
Slow Down-Suicide Commandos
Heartbroken, In Disrepair-Dan Auerbach
I Wonder Who We Are-The Clientele
That Look You Give That Guy-Eels
Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart-Alicia Keys
Please, Baby, Please-David Bazan
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free-Levon Helm
Ignorance and Privilege-John Gorka
You’re My Lover Now-Pieta Brown
Hell or High Water-William Elliott Whitmore
Train Song-Feist and Ben Gibbard
Waiting For My Child (live)-Mavis Staples
Higher Ground-Robert Randolph & The Clark Sisters
Panic Switch – Silversun Pickups
Flashing Red Light Means Go-The Boxer Rebellion
Je t’aime-Staff Benda Bilili
Genesis 3:23-The Mountain Goats
I Will-Roma di Luna
The Giant of Illinois-Andrew Bird
Sort of Revolution-Fink
True Love Will Find You In The End-Headless Heroes
Neighborhood #1-Arcade Fire

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