Music Department Presents “Song of the Land: Poems of Ishion Hutchinson”

Barnes Hall was packed for “Song of the Land: Poems of Ishion Hutchinson,” a performance presented by the Music Department that put Hutchinson’s poetry to compositions by graduate student composers. The performance presented a fusion of the old and the new, incorporating multiple forms of art to deliver a powerful concert. Guest artist Rachel Calloway, a mezzo soprano, sang a dramatic reading that conveyed the emotion communicated in the performance, and did so in a way that drew the audience in to share in the experience with her.  This innovative project brought the respective virtues of literature and music into a symbiotic relationship that managed to showcase both the artistry of the music and the postmodern themes of Hutchinson’s poetry. The English department’s Ishion Hutchinson writes narrative poetry that investigates colonialism through his depictions of landscape and the emotional weight of colonial history.

The Adam Ezra Group Fills an Empty Haunt

The long and short of the Adam Ezra Group’s concert at the Haunt is that it was a great show that no one really went to. Ten or so fans and at least a few people who came for drinks or dinner contributed to the overall sparse feel of the venue. Somehow they still ran out of chairs and stools. I suppose you’re supposed to dance, but the only people on the floor were a middle aged man and a girl I hope was his daughter. It almost seemed like the Group was trying to compensate for the emptiness of the bar with the fullness of its roots rock sound.

COURTESY OF CORNELL CONCERT SERIES

Breathing Out: A Conversation with Simon Shaheen

All music is world music. Few know this more genuinely, more instinctively, than Palestinian-born musician Simon Shaheen. Not only because he has worked with such diverse musical champions as Bill Laswell, Quincy Jones, and Muhammad Abdul Wahhab (the Stravinsky of the Arab world), but also because through his cross-cultural visions he has embodied transcend barriers as a plane soars from one continent to another.  

As a virtuoso of both the violin and the lute-like oud, the latter a cornerstone of many Arabic soundscapes, one might think he would approach these instruments differently, that their voices — torn by a colonially articulated divide — would sing from exclusive worlds. But in his hands, guided by the vastness of his experience, they are an extension of something that cannot be distinguished by the baggage of association.

COURTESY OF REV. SEKOU AND THE HOLY GHOST

“Get Free”: Rev. Sekou and the Holy Ghost to Perform at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca

There was a great deal of hand-wringing about the dearth of protest art being made over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, and after the election of Donald Trump. These hand-wringers, however, appear not to have looked very hard at all. Reverend Osagyefo Sekou and Jay-Marie Hill met on the frontlines of a 2015 Movement for Black Lives protest. After being pepper sprayed arbitrarily by police at the demonstration, where activists were demanding the release of an illegally detained 14 year old, Reverend Sekou helped wash the toxins out of Hill’s eyes. Several weeks later, they would title themselves Rev. Sekou & the Holy Ghost, and release their anthemic record, The Revolution Has Come.

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Americana in Punk Society: John Doe Delivers a Wild Gift at the Haunt

“What are the young people doing here?” a friendly Ithaca local asked me at The Haunt this past Friday night. The crowd, mostly 45-65 year-old Ithacans, was there to see John Doe, the now 63-year-old front-man of the 80’s LA punk band, X. My answer was that I was curious about what he’s gone on to produce as a solo artist. John Doe has come out with six records in the past decade, each far different from those produced by X. His most recent album, The Westerner, was released just this year and features some Western-inspired, psychedelia-tinged, Americana rock. The older artists get, the bolder they get. They write for themselves.

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More Tricks Than Treats?: Pianist Tamara Stefanovich at Barnes

Toward proving that “solo piano” is a misnomer, I might present Friday night’s recital by Tamara Stefanovich as my Exhibit A. Stefanovich knows that the piano is more than a single entity, that the trials of other composers and performers before — if not also echoes of those after — graft their own wires into its evolving circuitry. Not only did she seem to make reference to these histories, but also created an alternative one of her own. Her program was a formidable one. Titled “35 Études,” it brought together knuckle-busting pieces of varying temperament. By way of Frédéric Chopin’s “Étude in F minor (Op.

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Let’s Talk About Our Feelings: Brand New, The Front Bottoms and Modern Baseball at Ithaca College

For those who don’t know, the revival of emo is upon us. In a recent article titled “Modern Baseball and How Emo Grew Up,” Pitchfork’s Dan Caffrey describes how a torrent of bands have emerged over the past few years who bear the influence of the emo acts of the ’90s and 2000s, while eschewing the lyrical immaturity, and bitter misogyny characteristic of those earlier waves. These bands sound far less like the “emo” bands that are freshest in our memories — mainstream acts like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and My Chemical Romance whom genre purists wouldn’t consider emo in the first place — and much more like their more indie-influenced predecessors. How appropriate it is then, that two prominent bands of this resurgence — Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms — have joined emo veterans Brand New on their final tour?

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Bull In The Lo-Fi Rock: West End China Shop at 660 Stewart

When I stooped into the basement of 660 Stewart on Saturday night to catch the debut performance of Cornell’s own West End China Shop, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Going to Fanclub Collective and Ithaca Undergound shows, one sees their fair share of lo-fi rock bands. While there are many standouts, far more common are the acts which are perfectly forgettable. Would West End China Shop be yet another half-serious, irony-soaked project by a group of 20-somethings who, at the end of the day, probably had something better to do? Another whiney, soul-bearing emo band?

Zakir Hussain & Niladri Kumar: A Match Made on Earth

In 1987, Zakir Hussain released one of my favorites among his “nontraditional” albums, Making Music. It was a prophetic title for the world’s leading Indian classical tabla player, whose dedication to doing just that is never clearer than when experiencing him in a live setting. Ithacans had the fortune of doing exactly that last Friday night, when a crowd of over 1000 filled Bailey Hall for his two-and-a-half-hour performance with Niladri Kumar. In characteristic humility, Zakir introduced himself as little more than Niladri’s accompanist, on a mission as he is to promote the rising sitar virtuoso to new, global audiences. The duo began with a Rageshree, a Hindustani raga following a 16-beat rhythm cycle, before moving on to lighter material for the second, along with a few modern surprises.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

What’s Wrong with the Theory of (D+)Evolution: Esperanza Spalding at the State Theatre

Esperanza Spalding sees something different in her music than I do. Out of Emily’s D+Evolution — her most recent album whose namesake tour brought her to the State Theatre this past Sunday — I personally got not only the best album I’ve heard this year, but one of the most halting pop-jazz records I’ve ever heard, period: that rare/vital kind of stuff that manages to wrap music at its most complex and daunting in a package that’s not just digestible, but alluring and outright dazzling, too. If we can take her Sunday performance as any indication, though, Spalding’s own take on the sounds she makes must be pretty far removed from mine. After (or maybe because of) releasing a hifalutin album like Emily’s that’s been getting laurels heaped on it like wood on a fire, it’s little wonder that Spalding seems to be suffering from that age old plight of the popular musician: taking herself way too fucking seriously. Under the guise of a prophet or a sage or a savior or something else like that, Spalding turned what could’ve been a showcase of her downright excellent music into an overwrought mish-mosh of histrionics, bad ideas, philosophizing and pretension.