Wednesday, January 03, 2007

We all have gaping holes in our music collections I'm sure but some are just ridiculous. My pre-20th century Western classical holdings are minimal (hell, my 20th century ain't that great either) but, like pre-1960 jazz, this was largely a conscious, economic decision from way back, based on the fact that I could hear a great deal of this music on the radio on a fairly regular basis so I'd be better off purchasing things I was less likely to otherwise encounter. One of the reasons I was confident of hearing great unowned-by-me music over the airwaves was the existence of WKCR, the radio station of Columbia University.

I still have a pretty vivid memory of an evening in the late summer of 1972, no one home, me downstairs fiddling with my Dad's ancient, massive radio console/record player. (I wish I could find a photo--I forget the brand name but it was about 2x2x3 feet, brown and cream-colored plastic laminate, big ivory preset buttons, about five or six different radio spectra available) In the spring of that year, I'd discovered Ornette and, over the summer while washing dishes at Block Island, had listened to Brown University's station (WBRU?) where I'd heard Mingus and Terry Riley among others. I'd managed to acquire a general bit of knowledge to the effect that the more interesting stations were clustered down at the lower end of the dial, on the opposite end of the neighborhood from my previous radio home, WNEW-FM way up there at 102.7, so I was casting about in those nether regions when I heard an intense, wailing soprano saxophone. Well, turned out to be Coltrane on one of the longer versions of "My Favorite Things" and the station was KCR. I've been hooked ever since.

I don't listen at home hardly at all any more, but it's still my station of choice when in the car, almost anytime save for the odd Columbia sports broadcast. Their jazz programming is excellent as is their classical and avant-garde. It's one station where you're just about as likely to hear Keith Rowe as Charlie Parker. Some great non-Western music shows as well, including Indian and Chinese affairs I often catch while puttering to and from weekend errands.

They do festivals too, regular 24 hour deals on various birthdays, mostly jazz. But once a year, on the week between Christmas and New Year's, they do a week-long, 24 hour a day extravganza of Bach. Nuttin' but Bach. This year, I happened to be in the car not once, but twice while they were spinning Glenn Gould's 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations. It knocked me out.

I don't have a lot of Bach at home. No good reason, I just don't. There are a couple of LPs of the cello sonatas (Yo-Yo Ma) and one or two others but that's it. So, this evening, I went and bought the Sony 3-disc set rather dopily titled, "A State of Wonder" which includes both the 1955 and 1981 Gould sessions as well as a bunch of outtakes and studio chatter. I heard some of the latter as well the other day and it was pretty damn fascinating. This is the 2002 issue. I know there's a 2005 release (1955 only, I think) that includes additional outtakes like Gould launching into the Star-Spangled Banner which are amazing but that wasn't available, so...

Glad to have this in hand though and looking forward to it. As it happens, I've been unable to listen as yet since another item arrived that had priority, the Perlonex/Rowe/Palestine set. That's the way it goes.

Also looking forward to hearing two new things on Intransitive, Brendan Murray's "Wonders Never Cease" (two albums with "Wonder" in their titles in one day...hmmmm, I wonder....) and Seht & Stelzer's "Exactly What You Lost".

[Later] Listened to the 1955 set. Just amazing.

9 comments:

Robert said...

I have to admit ownership in the Gould Goldberg's myself (even on lp back in my grammar school days) but the edition I bought of Variations this year is 100 times more exiting to me. After you given Gould a whirl you should check this one out:

J.S. Bach Goldberg Variations, 14 Canons (Richard Egarr Harpsichord) (Harmonia Mundi)

Brian Olewnick said...

Robert, I saw that on your listing and I'm intrigued. I admit to a possibly genetic aversion to the harpsichord but still, I'll keep it in mind.

jon abbey said...

"It's one station where you're just about as likely to hear Keith Rowe as Charlie Parker."

um, I don't think so. they've still got a 70 minute Charlie Parker show 5 days a week, Bird Flight.

Brian Olewnick said...

Yeah, that's one show I haven't heard for years...thankfully. But if you turn on Afternoon Music from 3-6, Monday thru Wednesday, there's a reasonable shot at lengthy Rowe. Not sure what they're doing overnights now, but when Transfigured Night was on, you could catch some there also.

jon abbey said...

I'm not saying they never play Keith's stuff. when Jake was still there, they did the whole Erst catalog, over time, once through. but my point is that with almost six hours of CP a week guaranteed, your choice of artists was a bad one.

Brian Olewnick said...

DId I say Charlie? I meant William....

Richard Harland Smith said...

Holes in your record collection? I'll say. I've been to your home (your old one) and seen for myself... no Quarterflash, no Chilliwack, no Katrina and the Waves, no BIG CHILL soundtrack. The word "yeesh" hardly covers it.

Brian Olewnick said...

I have this vague memory of once being tempted to buy--or at least moderately liking--something by Katrina and the Waves.

Though I may be confusing them with Katrina Krimsky.

Prof. Drew LeDrew said...

That Gould set, the 2-fer, is amazing, but I find myself going back to the '55 disk most of the time. This is from someone with almost no other Bach or Gould, just so that's clear.

Also, as a former jazz DJ there, I can confirm that the call letters are in fact WBRU. They housed perhaps the single greatest collection of jazz LPs I have ever laid eyes on. Two rooms. But then, I've never seen your (apparently holey) colleciton, Brian.