Outdoor Music


The end of summer is always filled with aching tastes for crisp fall air and a sweet nostalgia for apricots past. People have drastically different relationships with summer music—specifically outdoor summer music. I think people dig this kind of musical experience for three reasons in no particular order:

  1. Amplification (music coming out of speakers feels very comfy as digital-addicts)
  2. Free (although there’s no free lunch, summer = lots of free concerts)
  3. Food & “proper behavior” (permission to nosh and kibbitz during concerts…not always a perfect thing but some great new music : pie pairings can be explored)

Here are a few selected tastes of Outdoor Music, Summer 2010:

“Have You Ever Been…?”
Grand Performances, Los Angeles

On a very cold summer’s eve, I went to hear The Turtle Island String Quartet play music from their new re-imagined Jimi Hendrix album. The concert took place at Grand Performances in LA, a concrete plaza surrounded by skyscrapers and urban sounds. The performance began while an airplane flew overhead, so it was initially hard to differentiate between fuselage and music. The open space, with a corporate pond dividing performers from audience, had the acoustic of a “distant tunnel.” Every sonority from the quartet was sonically sculpted by the audio engineers who were adding amplification and beyond to the live instruments. So given that the music compositionally originated from Hendrix’s great electric guitar, it felt conceptual and satisfying to hear the strings boosted a la rock.

On another note, it’s always satisfying to go to a performance that is totally diverse at every level. We all know this, but when you make concerts free and there is infrastructure to support both the artists and marketing, lots of people come. At Grand Performances they hand out red buckets for donations. It’s very churchy in that regard, but people really give and people really come.

Proper etiquette goes out the window, as kids run around and people eat their way through movements, but when it’s packed and different the energy is electric. I can’t say that it’s the environment to listen for subtlety, to listen with a critical ear, to hear delicate or complex timbral and sonic differentiations, but then, you can go buy the new Telarc album and have at it: Have You Ever Been…?

Music on Parade
Mammoth Lakes, California

Making Charles happy—an Americana happening: The July 4th parade in the Sierra Nevada mountains featured Americana in motion. Here’s a little sampling of music on trucks:


Aloud Alive Outside New Orleans Jazz Fest
New Orleans, LA

Probably the musical highlight of the last few months was sinking my ears into the New Orleans Jazz Fest. Between Mardi Gras Indians and swinging brass bands, it was music that felt deeply visceral to experience live. The rawness and grittiness felt physical. The intonation that was difficult in recordings sounded great outside. Moreover the music itself felt great. Here are some highlights. Oh and the food was outrageous (would Philomel be even more intoxicating with a little sweet potato pie….?)

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