March 14, 2009


(Roy Harris - 1898-1979)

This is something of an experiment. With news in historic perspective Monday through Friday, Backstage Weekend with live groups on Saturday, I thought I would try to mix it up a bit for late Saturday/early Sunday; a sort of Panorama of Arts type thing. I figure most days we're all pretty bludgeoned with unfolding events, pundits spin and hysteria. So why not offer a break from all that and get a small recharge of the batteries? So here is the first of what I hope will be a weekly feature, Weekend Galimaufry. Classical, Jazz, World music, historic performances, interviews with artists, writers, musicians - poetry readings. A sort of grab bag of ear candy. Stuff you might remember and not heard for a long time, or things you may never have heard of. The sole purpose is to share a bit of culture here and there; all the time digging through my vault. So enjoy and come back often. And as always, requests are welcome.

So . . . first up is one of my favorite American composers, Roy Harris. His was one of the first 78's in my collection as a kid (Quintet for Piano and Strings - Victor M752). When you're an 8 year old, you become a sponge for things and first impressions always seem to last.

This particular recording comes from a broadcast in 1945 featuring Harris conducting the ABC (American Broadcasting Company) Symphony performing his Phantasy - a piece I've never seen in any other form. The closest it seems to come to is another Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra from the early 1950's - but it's not the same one. This is a big, broody piece that almost sounds as though it would make a great soundtrack behind a Robert Mitchum/Ida Lupino movie. Bear in mind, this composition comes around the same time Jazz was making big leaps, experimenting in the area of composition and arrangement (i.e. Stan Kenton, Claude Thornhill, Boyd Raeburn etc. etc.).

At any rate, it's a wonderfully evocative piece of music that's been sadly neglected. I also took advantage of the screen time and plastered a montage of photos by Steichen, Stieglitz, Mydans and a bit of Edward Hopper. A big dose of Americana.

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