All posts tagged: music

The music of the Ciompi Quartet

On a recent bright winter day, the members of the Ciompi Quartet gathered at Duke University to play. Inside the airy concert hall space of Baldwin Auditorium, the quartet started, stopped, and tweaked the way they played. An audio technician sat to the side with a laptop and recording equipment for the session. Negotiations abounded. Because of coronavirus restrictions, the group played with their masks on. And then there were the discussions with the composers, both in person and over Zoom, on how to best approach their pieces. The four pieces were by students in Duke’s Music Department. The music was challenging, abstract, moody, with discordant melodies, full of feelings of disconnection and isolation. The music uncomfortably heightened what was going on in the world. One of the pieces was even called, “Disconnected.” After one successful “take,” viola player Jonathan Bagg asked, “How did that sound to you, James?” The composer, himself taken aback by the beauty of the quartet’s playing, had to snap back to reality before responding, “That was great. Thank you.” Despite …

Led Zeppelin in August

A few years ago, I found I liked listening to Led Zeppelin in August. Today, I caught this feeling of listening to Led Zeppelin again as I drove around in the late afternoon after work. North Carolina’s August. That time when it’s like summer can’t take any more of itself. The active, joyful months of June and July are done, and the heat and humidity builds while the sunlight starts to slant. There is a feeling of falling and growing darkness. And rot and decay. For me, the work of summer is often not done by August, but I don’t have the natural impetus for it anymore. But from the best years that I remember, I wonder if August is when the beauty of summer, if you have risen up to it and worked for it, rewards you. Listening to Led Zeppelin’s lyricism in the heat of August is amazing. But that’s not really fair to a band, is it? Who says that a band can only be listened to during one month out of …