Tag Archive for alumni music

Rapper Le1f ’11 chooses his American music playlist

Rapper Le1f ’11 discussed the qualities of American music on NPR's 'Here & Now.'  (Photo: Le1f.com)

Rapper Le1f ’11 discussed the qualities of American music on NPR’s ‘Here & Now.’ (Photo: Le1f.com)

New York rapper and music producer Khalif Daoud ’11, known professionally as Le1f, was one of the musicians polled by WBUR-Boston and NPR’s Here & Now with the question “What is American music?”

“Growing up, the idea of ‘Americana’ as a word was intimidating to me,” he told hosts Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson. “The patriotism behind it, and the American dream, I always related that to whiteness and I didn’t easily see how I fit into that category, that culture. But I came to understand that blues and jazz and rock and roll, and all these other genres, that’s folk music to me.”

Asked to assemble a playlist, he offered first, “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” by The Crystals (1962, written by Gerry Goffin, Carol King, Phil Spector), explaining, “It feels American to me in the way it expresses such a sad story in such a frank way. It doesn’t condone domestic abuse, but it also doesn’t preach, either. That’s a style that… I’ve only experienced in American folk music and blues music.”

His second song choice, “Unpretty” by TLC (1999, FanMail), was important to him: “They discuss issues of self image and body dysmorphia in this anecdotal way and very empowering way…. That was such a big song for me. I don’t remember taking note to uplifting music in that way until this song happened.”

“Bad Religion” by Frank Ocean (2012, Channel Orange) was third on his playlist: “Having such a beautiful iconic singer tell the story of a same-sex love… it was a big turning point for how R&B and urban America might accept someone who isn’t straight and support their work.”

His own song, “Taxi,” off his latest album, Riot Boi, he explained, is a song “about my personal fears of rejection over my complexion and how that has been met in reality, both romantically and in very small ways… “

All four, he noted, gave voice to the black American dream, describing struggles to which he could relate and with an acceptance of difference in perspective, of moral ambiguity.

To listen to the interview and accompanying music clips, click here.

Ethnomusicologist and Musician Scott Ph.D. ’97 Honored in India

Stan Scott Ph.D. ’97

Ethnomusicologist and musician Stan Scott Ph.D. ’97, was honored by the Indian Musicological Society and the Mumbai Music Forum with their “Award for Contribution to the Cause of Indian Music by an Overseas-Resident Personality.” He was presented the award in absentia at the Jan. 21 Sangeet Research Academy conference held at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, and he will receive the presentation personally in March, when he’ll be performing in Delhi and Mumbai.

Scott, a private lessons teacher in the Music Department, teaches banjo, mandolin and guitar.

Also writer, Scott is the co-author of two ethnomusicology textbooks:  Music in Ireland:  Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture (Oxford University Press, 2004) and Exploring the World of Music (Kendall Hunt, 1998). He is the director of the Rangila School of Music in Connecticut and has also taught classes at Yale, Wesleyan and Southern Connecticut State universities.

Of his singing, the former President of India, the late K. R. Narayanan, wrote: “It was an incredible achievement for you to have mastered Hindustani classical music and sung it with such effortless ease. You have not only learnt the technique but captured the spirit of Indian classical music…I would consider this an important contribution to the promotion of understanding between the Indian and the American peoples.”

Scott’s most recent album is The Weaver’s Song: Bhajans of North India (Rangila World Music, 2011), a cross-cultural collaboration between Indian and American musicians, presenting repertoire from a six-century range in a contemporary improvisational format.  It features Indian classical and devotional music performed in the style of a small chamber ensemble, with rich interaction between virtuoso soloists, tightly woven ensemble playing, and exquisite vocal choruses.

See his web site at  http://stanscottmusic.com/.

WSJ Profiles “Exciting” Jazz Guitarist and Composer Halvorson ’02

Mary Halvorson '02

In the Wall Street Journal, Steve Dollar recently wrote a profile of jazz guitarist and composer Mary Halvorson ’02 (www.maryhalvorson.com) as she recorded tracks for her next ensemble album for the independent Firehouse 12 label, founded by cornetist and composer Taylor Ho Bynum ’98 and engineer Nick Lloyd.

Dollar praises Halvorson as “one of the most exciting and original guitarists in jazz” and describes her “often mercurial sound. On a given song, Ms. Halvorson may play a clean, precise line with a tone that hovers like a raised eyebrow, then slip into a beguiling phrase with vintage resonance, then veer into a feverish, sci-fi soundscape of briskly shredded notes—the last of it pumped through a handful of gizmos that include a ring modulator built by Moog and a distortion box called the Rat.”

Halverson comments, “You create a balance of having a beautiful melody with something slightly off about it, and maybe it takes a weird turn and then it’s another beautiful melody. It’s about creating something that is cool and beautiful and really surprising.”

Dollar notes that at recording sessions Halvorson “really asserts herself as a composer. She’s writing more pieces that feature horns—trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson and alto saxophonist Jon Irabragon would join the trio for the second half of recording—reaching for more color and depth.”

Like several other jazz musicians, Halvorson performs with several different groups, as well as with her former Wesleyan professor Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum ’98, and Katherine Young ’08 as the Diamond Wall Quartet.

Album by Dingman ’02 Features Middletown Reflections

Chris Dingman '02. (Photo by Adriana Lopetrone)

Vibraphonist and composer Chris Dingman ’02 releases his debut album, Waking Dreams, on June 21, 2011 on Between Worlds Music. Dingman is joined by many of New York’s best young musicians including trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Loren Stillman, pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Joe Sanders, and drummer Justin Brown.

Dingman recreates the experience of dreams in the form of a suite of new music that travels over its 14 tracks from darkness to light, from hazy melancholy to serene peace, while moving, often obliquely, through moments and memories from the composer’s life.

The CD Release Party will be held on Saturday, June 18 at the Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013.
Sets at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Dingman shares the following comments about the Waking Dreams CD:

“My time at Wesleyan had a deep impact on my musical life. Although I graduated in 2002, it wasn’t until 2006 that I found myself writing music about my experiences in Middletown. ‘Indian Hill’ is one of the clearest pieces that I wrote during this time. Specifically, the piece harkens back to times spent in reflection with friends at the top of Indian Hill cemetery. But the song also represents this formative period in my life in general, and the feeling of transformation that I experienced while wandering the Wesleyan campus during my sophomore and junior years.

“When I was putting together the album Waking Dreams—a narrative suite that tells a story of my experiences over the past decade—it was clear that my time at Wesleyan was the incubator for my life (musical and otherwise) as it is today.  ‘Indian Hill’ became the theme of the album, recurring several times to remind the listener where the story began and to reflect on its progress. The music simulates how past experiences come back around, sometimes hauntingly, but often beautifully, to help us in the future. My experiences at Wesleyan have come back to me time and again in so many ways, and I am very happy to have a chance to express that in Waking Dreams.”

For more about Dingman and his music, go to http://www.chrisdingman.com.

For publicity information, please contact Matt Merewitz (matt@fullyaltered.com) at Fully Altered Media (http://www.fullyaltered.com).

Eurydice CD by Twining MA ’06 Inspired by Orpheus Myth

Toby Twining MA '06

Toby Twining MA ’06 has released a new album of his musical compositions, Eurydice (Cantaloupe Music), which represents the next wave of Western harmony and a capella music. Eurydice began as a score for Sarah Ruhl’s play of the same name, directed by Blanka Zizka and produced for the Wilma Theatre in Philadelphia in 2008. The play reinterprets the classic myth of Orpheus, telling the story from Eurydice’s point of view and including a reunion with her father in the underworld.

Composing for four singers and a cello, Twining found this underworld setting to be the perfect environment—quirky, funny and dangerous—for a variety of surprising vocal effects: tremolos, overtones, and ingressive croaks.

In realizing this new work, Twining has developed an interest in the neuroscience of listening. He explains, “Research tells us how the brain processes harmony—that is, how neurons fire in response to musical pitches that relate to each other. My aim is to write music that triggers neurons in new ways, resulting in new harmonies.”

Galison ’81 Shows Musical Range on New Album

Will Galison '81

Will Galison ’81 has released a new music album, Line Open, featuring his unique gifts as harmonica virtuouso, guitarist, composer, lyricist, singer and arranger.

He has co-produced a collection of songs that reflects a wide musical and emotional range and reveals his sly wit and compassionate outlook. The recording features some of New York’s finest musicians, including Steve Gaboury (co-producer and keyboards), Ben Wittman and Shawn Pelton (drums), Tony Garnier and Zev Katz (bass), Marc Shulman (guitar), and Catherine Russell, Elaine Caswell and Sonya Valet on vocals.

Galison is known among musicians as a premiere jazz and studio harmonica player. His singular harmonica sound has been heard in the themes of Sesame Street, The Untouchables, Bagdad Café and hundreds of other movie scores, albums and commercials.

In 2004, Will broadened his scope by recording the album Got You on My Mind with singer Madeleine Peyroux, on which he provided guitar and vocals in addition to his harmonica playing.

Album by Wilson ’78 Featured in Downbeat Magazine

Dave Wilson ’78

Spiral, a CD by the Dave Wilson [’78] Quartet received a three-and-a-half star review in the November issue of Downbeat magazine. Released last June on Summit Records, Spiral features six original compositions by Wilson and arrangements of three contemporary classics, including the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil. ”

“With a crack band in pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Tony Marino and Adam Nussbaum on drums, saxophonist Dave Wilson knows how to pick them and the music,” writes critic John Ephland of Downbeat.

Additionally, in a review in the December issue of JazzTimes Magazine, critic Bill Milkowski observed that “Pennsylvania-based saxophonist-educator Dave Wilson elevates his game and blows with authority on this collection of originals and smartly plucked covers. “

Says Wilson about the music on the album: “These songs, including the original compositions and the ‘cover’ tunes, are all, for various reasons, close to my heart. They are like personal statements of where I am at in my life, musically and otherwise. When I make and play music like this I am trying to communicate such heartfelt sentiments to the listener, whether they are in the club, the concert hall, or listening to the recording.”

A philosophy major at Wesleyan, he also holds a BS in music education from Lebanon Valley College. He resides in the Lancaster, Pa., area and teaches private music lessons on woodwinds and continues to write, record, and play music in the Mid-Atlantic area and at jazz festivals around the country.

To learn more about upcoming performances, go to http://davewilsonmusic.org/

Video by Waring Ph.D ’82 Teaches Craft of Making Instruments

Dennis Waring Ph.D ’82

Dennis Waring Ph.D ’82 has created a new video titled From Trash to Tunes, designed to teach children, families and educators the craft of making simple musical instruments from items around the house.

The video introduces children to the science of sound and the history of musical instruments. Detailed demonstrations show how to construct more than a dozen instruments from recycled materials. Families can organize their own band at home as they “go green.”

Waring is an ethnomusicologist, educator, author, instrument maker, collector, performer, and arts consultant. He teaches world music, American music and music education courses on the university level, and has taught children about music in public primary, middle and high schools for the past 25 years. He has written six books on instrument making.

Album by Williams ’89 Looks Back at Her 20-Year Career

New album by Dar Williams '89

Dar Williams ’89 has released a new double retrospective CD, Many Great Companions (Razor and Tie). The first CD contains live acoustic performances that reimagine fan favorites, while the second showcases original recordings from past albums of her 20-year career. The collection features guests such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sara and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, Patty Larkin and the trio Motherlode. Songs Williams revisits include “As Cool as I Am,” “Spring Street,” “When I Was a Boy” and “The Babysitter’s Here.”

In his recent review of the album in American Songwriter, Matt Popkin writes: “Throughout the new recordings, Williams’ voice is as strong and clear as ever. In some cases, her vocal performance has even improved—her new take on “When I Was A Boy” now has a much more mature tone. That aged quality spills over to “As Cool As I Am,” where the boisterousness of original becomes a little less spoken word and a little more coffee shop performance on the re-recording.”

Durwood ’86 Creates Sesame Video Music

Peter Durwood ’86 and Grover.

Singer and composer Peter Durwood ’86, who crafts music and sound design for Sesame Workshop digital products, recently created the sound for a Sesame video that has become popular on YouTube.

In it, Grover, the furry blue monster, riffs on the Old Spice web-ads.

“I was an art major at Wes, but an unofficial music minor, particularly enjoying Mark Slobin’s Worlds of Music course, several semesters of African Drumming with Abraham Adzinyah, and Bill Lowe’s remarkable History of African-American Music,” says Durwood.

His album, Peter Durwood, will soon be available on iTunes.

Charness ’10 Wins Songwriting Award

Dan Charness ’10

Dan Charness ’10 won first place in the folk/acoustic category of the Indie International Songwriting Contest for his song, “Summertime Delight,” which he also arranged produced, recorded and mixed.

A cellist since the age of four, he Charness was a Phi Beta Kappa history major at Wesleyan and has recently moved to New York City to pursue a career in music. Two weeks after arriving, he landed his first gig in the City—at Caffé Vivaldi on Nov. 7, in Greenwich Village.

While Charness spent his earlier years immersed in classical music, he used his four years at Wesleyan to develop further breadth in his musical interests—including a thesis on the Beatles and Baby-Boomers, with Professor of History Ron Schatz and Professor of Music Eric Charry as his advisers; an internship at a recording studio; and three years in The Spirits, Wesleyan’s traditional all-male a cappella group.

“I joined the Wesleyan Spirits as a sophomore,”