October 3, 2013
Whether you’re going out for a run or planning a long drive or settling down for a study session, sometimes you need music that gets your pulse and tickles your brain. I always hear that classical music is completely wrong for this kind of thing, but you just have to know where to look. Listen to these bits and see if you agree.
- Nagoya Marimbas, by Steve Reich
There’s a jazzy feel to this piece, which clips along on the overlapping patterns of several marimba players.
- “J.S. Bach DM Gigue,” from the album Live Duets, Mike Marshall and Chris Thile, mandolins.
Two renowned mandolinists who really love their Bach, create a grooving version of one of his dances.
- “Gaguenardise” (Mocking) from Petite Quatuor pour Saxophones, by Jean Francaix. Adelphi Saxophone Quartet.
An unexpected delight, this slim piece from 1935 takes most of the raucous edge away from the saxophone quartet.
- Finale from Octet for Wind Instruments, by Igor Stravinsky.
With its metronomic eighth notes, this is less a grooving piece than a relentlessly mechanical one. But the rhythmic pop of its melodies and the jazzy last part make it irresistible.
- Allegro, molto vigoroso from Concerto in Slendro, by Lou Harrison. California Symphony, Barry Jekowsky, cond.
I love Lou Harrison and here’s why: instantly recognizable sound world with unusual instruments and tuning, great melodies, and a rhythmic movement that really lifts you up out of your seat.
- “Music for a Found Harmonium” by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. From the album Cafe del Mar, Vol. 1
Another group that found what it was looking for in the minimalist aesthetic. Gotta love the harmonium, which really does sound here like it was found somewhere and just incorporated into the ensemble.
- Finale: Allegro assai from String Quartet No. 15 (D. 887), by Franz Schubert. Artemis Quartet.
A big piece to finish, this is kind of what you expect from the finale to a classical string quartet and kind of not. But aside from the brilliant conception (and the tendonitis it visits on players who work on it too much), this movement has a single-minded rhythmic drive that keeps it high up on my personal playlist.