Music Notes – November 2012

Saint John prepares for CFMA Awards

The 8th annual Canadian Folk Music Awards will be held in Saint John, New Brunswick November 15-17. Local organizers have planned a week-long celebration with community performances, open mics, and nominee showcases. Festivities will culminate with a gala on November 17th at the Imperial Theatre where winners in 17 award categories will be announced. Host of the bilingual event is Benoit Bourque of the Quebecois band La Bottine Souriante. The CFMA awards celebrate the diversity and depth of roots music in this country. Among the 86 nominees are artists from across Canada, representing a wide variety of genres, including singer-songwriters, traditional musicians, Quebecois, blues, bluegrass, and “world music.” Unfortunately two categories have been eliminated this year. There will be no award for aboriginal songwriter or world solo artist. CFMA should redress this backsliding next year. Also, how about an award for best social justice songwriter? For info: http://folkawards.ca/.

Carry it on, Pete Seeger  

Pete Seeger, now 93, has been in the news a lot this fall. For starters, he’s released two new albums. “A More Perfect Union” teams Pete up with songwriter Lorre Wyatt. The pair have written 15 new songs and are helped out by a cast of friends including Bruce Springsteen, Emmy Lou Harris, and Steve Earle, plus neighbours from down the road. “Pete Remembers Woody,” timed to coincide with Guthrie’s 100th birthday, includes personal recollections interspersed with new versions of Woody’s songs recorded by Pete and others (including Arlo Guthrie). Pete’s still performing too. In August he was a guest on the popular “Colbert Report,” singing his anti-war song “Quite Early Morning.” In September he participated in the gala “Woody 100” concert at Brooklyn College. If that’s not enough there’s also the recent release of “Pete Seeger: His Life In His Own Words,” an anthology of writings including letters, published articles, stories and poetry. For info: www.peteseegermusic.com/.

Chicago symphony musicians fight back

Perhaps there was something contagious about the recent successful Chicago teachers strike. Two days after teachers ratified their agreement, 100 members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra walked off the job in opposition to management demands for a 5% pay cut and increased employee benefit contributions. Other orchestras have been hit hard in the past year, notably Detroit symphony musicians who swallowed a 25% pay cut after an epic six-month strike. CSO musicians had accepted wage concessions in their previous contract, and management, although flush with cash, figured they could exact another pound of flesh. But community support was strong and the musicians weathered the media abuse. On September 25th they ratified a compromise deal: a 4.7% wage increase but steeper employee benefit contributions. Perhaps the CSO’s October 3rd appearance at Carnegie Hall’s season opener was a factor in the quick settlement. Still, after a tough year, North American symphony musicians can celebrate a modest victory.

UK musicians rally for Morning Star

A 33-track double benefit album for British socialist daily Morning Star is receiving critical praise in UK folk circles. R2 Magazine rated the album five stars and online music journal NetRhythms chose it album of the month. All of which is to say that if you’re a socialist and a fan of contemporary people’s music, you’ll probably find a lot to like in this cornucopia of musical styles. Performers include Birmingham’s 15-piece mega folk band The Destroyers, former Housemartin singer Paul Heaton, and celebrated political singer-songwriter Robb Johnson. “We’re All in It Together” is curated by singer-songwriter Michael Weston King and released on Red Planet Records. For a sample check out The Destroyers’ delightfully malicious “Where Has The Money Gone?” on YouTube. If you’re one of many Canadians who follow Morning Star’s free online edition, you can support the paper and discover a vital contemporary progressive UK music scene by purchasing the album. For info: www.morningstaronline.co.uk.

Earth losing its animal soundscape

The failure of capitalism to engage sustainably with nature has led to unprecedented species extinction. Now a musician-scientist has documented what this means to the earth’s soundscape (the acoustic environment, including natural sounds, animal sounds, and the sounds of human activity). Bernie Krause is a musician, author, and bio-acoustician. In the sixties he pioneered the analog synthesizer and became an influential electronic music composer, with an acclaimed series of albums and film soundtracks. In 1975 Krause turned to the emerging field of bio-acoustics. Since then he’s released 4500 hours of soundscape recordings from around the world, including 15,000 animal species. He’s well-qualified to report the distressing news that the earth’s animal soundscape is fast disappearing. Krause estimates that half of his recordings are now archives, because the habitats are gone or hopelessly compromised. “Little by little,” he writes in his important new book The Great Animal Orchestra, “the chorus of the natural world is in the process of being quietened.”  For info: http://www.wildsanctuary.com/.

 

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