Archive for the ‘ Music ’ Category

World Music NYC

I love to travel around the world, but sometimes I don’t even need to leave New York City to get my fill of exotic culture. In the past two days, I have seen three amazing bands hailing from three distinctly different pockets of our planet. Dengue Fever is based in L.A. but features a Cambodian singer and rocks a sonic tribute to the Cambodian pop sound of the 1960’s. It is deliciously funky and her voice is transcendent; the Cambodian lyrics are indecipherable but her ethereal voice adds a perfect alien element to the grooves. Sharing the same bill at Webster Hall was Syrian techno maestro Omar Souleyman, who pumped out Middle-Eastern beats for a very devoted and appreciative crowd. The show was beautifully strange and delightfully exotic; an instant journey to a fantastic far-away land.

The Celebrate Brooklyn concert series in Prospect Park is one of the greatest aspects of summer in the city, and yesterday they kicked off the season with Jamaican reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. The park was packed with all ages loving his classic tunes and message of peace, love and freedom. This Saturday night in the park is AfroCubism, a group of musicians from Mali and Cuba, who collaborated on an outstanding album bridging the two cultures and next Saturday is Balkan Beat Box, an Eastern European influenced hip hop group.

Music unites us, effortlessly crossing linguistic and political barriers, while giving us a reason to congregate, dance and make noise together; it is the essence of joyful expression and deeply beautiful communication.

The Great Googa Mooga

The Nethermead in Prospect Park is one of the most beautiful and amazing areas of this city and a perfect spot for a music festival. The 9th St. Bandshell is a wonderful music venue, of course, but The Nethermead is completely natural and out of sight to cars or buildings.  I had seen a Carribean festival there about 10 years ago, but nothing since, so when The Great Googa Mooga, a craft food, beer and wine music festival, was announced there, I was amped! I dutifully claimed my free tickets the moment they went on sale (80,000 sold out in about 10 minutes) and headed over on Saturday to find an ABSOLUTE NIGHTMARE! The lines were insane for everything and they were requiring a cash conversion to “Googa Moula”, which was apparently intended to be a debit card system that failed and was replaced with an arcade-style raffle ticket currency, which would have been hilarious had it not caused a complete meltdown, both of commerce and my mental stability. After 2 hours (!) of waiting, and just when we reached the front of the trading line, they ran out of tickets. This epic currency crash finally broke the organizers and they reverted to everybody’s favorite method of exchange, The Dollar.

As the lines disappeared and food and beverage flowed in perfect weather, the festival recovered nicely, and Saturday afternoon featured some great music from The Roots. We arrived on Sunday fearing the worst, but the situation had been alleviated and I was able to sample some delicious food and drink with minimal waiting. I love Porchetta sandwiches, which I normally have to travel to Manhattan to enjoy, but there they were, in the middle of Brooklyn, finished off with a Brewer’s Blondie from Baked in Red Hook. I attended the Hot Sauce Takedown and melted my face off on ten local sauces, proudly supporting my friend’s Daliente entry, which won The Audience Choice award! The Beer and Wine Tents were packed with quality selections, and I sampled probably too many. I also witnessed what may be the most entertaining performance of my life in Peelander-Z, a Japanese punk band with wacky costumes and zany antics, playing much of the show from/with the audience, moving through and around us and behind us, climbing up us and then onto and down the string of port-a-potties… Lez Zeppelin is an all-female tribute band who rips it like the record with the stage swagger of all four members, and the festival closed with Hall and Oates, who sound almost exactly like their Greatest Hits album.

All in all, it was an amazing recovery for what was about to go down as the worst New York festival disaster since Field Day ’03. It brought together so many of the things that I love about living in the city; food, booze, friends and music, in one of my favorite spots. I am grateful to the organizers for bringing this here and hope they have learned from their mistakes and will continue to develop this community celebration.



I’m pretty sure I laughed when I first heard “The Robots” for the first time in 9th grade. It was… ridiculous. I had never heard anything like it before and it truly seemed like a parody, yet there was something ingenious about it that I couldn’t quite comprehend. When I finally came around and really started listening to electronic music ten years later, it dawned on me that Kraftwerk were true pioneers and far ahead of their time.

I saw them perform seven years ago and they absolutely blew my mind with a triptych of video projections at Hammerstein Ballroom, but last night the venue was MOMA and the video was 3D. It was… ridiculous. The influence is obvious today in music everywhere, including my own.



Last night was a delightful romp in room 3 of Radio Stars Karaoke in celebration of Annie and Erik’s engagement. They met through mutual friends and made out for the first time in the dark corner of a karaoke room so it was appropriate that we would congregate in a similar studio and sing our faces off all night long. Singing together makes bonding stronger and we are lucky to have friends who appreciate this and love to let it out from time to time. I get to sing in my classes everyday, but singing karaoke brings out the real soul!

Congratulations to Annie and Erik and I am thrilled that Annik will be exchanging vows of eternal love!

Buster Keaton and Guitars

Buster Keaton films are the very definition of classic; they are time machines to an era of simplicity and authenticity, and I am always struck by how real it all seems, despite the obvious ridiculousness of the plots and slapstick. This was filmmaking in its purest magic, before special effects became the attraction. It is the characters and the core of their actions, be they brutal physical comedy or tender facial expressions, that hold our attention and connect with an audience a century later.

Thia week I attended two evenings of the New York Guitar Festival featuring seven Buster Keaton films accompanied by different musical acts. Each artist’s take was unique and brought a fresh and live element to this classic artwork. Some of the musicians added atmosphere through propulsive rhythm or gorgeous acoustic sounds or electric feedback and synced to the action of the film at various moments. The films are short and fast-paced, with just enough time to get a sense of the musical style before the next act. It was hosted by the famous voice of NPR, John Schaeffer, who conducted an interview with each of the musicians about their approach to the project. Great acts that I had heard before included Kaki King, Keller Williams and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth (who hung his guitar from the rafters and swung it over the audience as he smacked it with his hands, violin bows and drum sticks) while I was introduced to other great music by Buke and Gass (playing Baritone Ukulele and Guitar-Bass), Redhooker and my Brightest Diamond. Everyone found something in the films and amplified it with their music. Since my amazing experiences watching Philip Glass perform his score to Dracula in 2000 and Sufjan Stevens perform to film of the BQE in 2007, I have been on a quest seeking great unions of sound and visuals. These two evenings were memorable and inspiring additions to my collection.

Open Your Eyes

Godot is an artist who creates some amazing stop-action videos with all sorts of different media. He is an innovator and an activist who craves social justice, using art to promote Supergoodness in all aspects of life. He is also my brother-in-law and I have been lucky to work with him, producing soundtracks for a number of his videos. Here is one that I recently collaborated on, with video shot in the art jungle of Berlin. Enjoy!

Open Your Eyes


One of my favorite activities is playing DJ for a group of people interested in listening and maybe even dancing to the music I play. I love finding songs appropriate for any situation and sharing them with friends or strangers, who in turn provide feedback and requests, creating a playlist I could never have made on my own. It is as much about discovering music as it is about listening.

Tonight I was asked to curate the sounds for Ars Nova, an amazing little theatre that always throws great parties. They are committed to stimulating new work and recognize the importance of social exchange in this development, which is, I believe, why they offer their amazing penthouse loft stocked with free booze for these events.

I would love to watch time lapse footage of tonight’s party. It was packed to begin with and only a few interspersed bodies were shaking to the beats, which ranged from 60’s Soul to Indie pop. As the night wore on, though, and noticeably when the classic 80’s dropped, the crowd both thinned and found their groove, feeding itself with familiar beats and losing those awkward inhibitions that force us to remain rigid in the face of overwhelming funk.

As the dance floor came alive, so too did the song requests. As a DJ, it can be a risk to turn over song selection to the masses, but the duty would not be as fun for me as a strict dictator, so I entrust the ones convulsing on the floor with choosing the next song and manifesting their own destiny. Spotify provides the awesome power of instant gratification for any song jones, and playing a request is as easy as thinking of it. I see my DJ role as more facilitator than tastemaker. I like making people happy.

Music Alive

It has been a couple weeks of great musical entertainment for me. Wilco at Central Park Summerstage, Jon Brion at Le Poisson Rouge, and Deadmau5 at Roseland; all of them wonderfully different and uniquely fun. Wilco rocks as hard as any band with a rare restraint that pulls you forward as a listener. Jon Brion is the best musician I have ever seen, playing solo and recording drum, piano, glockenspiel, guitar and bass loops, building his songs with sweet harmony and jaw-dropping skill into some absolutely beautiful sonic collages. Deadmau5 is one of the biggest DJs in the world now and performs his bass-blasting vibrations perched high on a stunning light-and-projections visual set while the kids dance hard.

I love all music. From around the world, with any instruments, I listen to everything. Rhapsody and now Spotify have made that even easier, making music virtually free and offering allowing a diversity of taste and consumption previously unimaginable. Recorded music is now easily and instantly accessible, which is a cultural bonanza, but also creates the problem of too much information. How can we differentiate between all the artists creating this music? It is, in my mind, a live performance that makes the music truly memorable. When the music is performed and captivates the audience, it creates an ephemeral experience that can last a lifetime; a moment in our brief lives that can never be replayed endlessly on the internet. In a world of supply and demand that dictates value, infinite access decreases a work’s worth, while a unique and powerful live experience is truly priceless.


The last two weeks have been a gentle ease-in to a precisely scheduled life as classes at various workplaces are starting on a rolling timetable. I expect my teaching capacities to be fully engaged and operational within the next week and look forward to a “rigorous” fall semester…

But in the meantime I’ve had some free time which is almost completely monopolized by creative music production. Since spending a month without my studio, I have had a stream of rhythms and melodies pouring into my laptop and have condensed them into few songs which I offer here. Supergood music is always free. Love and share!

India: Soundtrack

I brought my laptop to India. I debated it for months, and decided to lug it for a few reasons: the most practical was as a storage device for all my videos. I had two 4 GB cards that were obviously insufficient video time, so I needed to fill and dump them. While unnecessary, the ability to record music and blog is a treasured joy and the weight and space sacrifice in my tiny backpack seemed inconsequential. Travel tends to throw some tricks at you and after 6 days, the power adapter was fried by a generator on our houseboat and although the computer itself was thankfully spared, it was rendered useless. When we made it to Delhi 8 days later, I tuk tukked it to the Apple Store in search of a new cable, and they told me that they were all out of the MacBook adapters. They allowed me to charge the computer in the store for a while, which gave me just enough juice to download my videos through the end of the trip and I was able to thumb some blogposts on my iPhone, but unfortunately, my music production was halted. I am looking at it as a gentle reminder that visual and aural India is too valuable to be spent on a small box with earphones.

But in the few hours that I did have an operational studio, I did produce some music that I enjoy listening to. Enjoy!