May 30, 2016


          On Sunday, April 24th, 2016, my daughter and I drove to the historic Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket to listen to Anima Brass, a brass quintet, play. It was a beautiful spring day for an excursion, made all the better for the anticipation of hearing Classical music: few things are more uplifting. I had some reservations, for the free concert was given by students at Stony Brook University. Would these young musicians be as polished as professionals? Or more akin to the sometimes-rough-around-the-edges high school performances I’d smiled through as my children grew?
          The performance space was the library’s historic periodical reading room, the original 1892 Tudor-style building. It was a perfect venue to hear Classical music. The vaulted, beamed ceiling, the wooden staircase winding up to a loft, and stained glass windows, including a large one of the angel Gabriel, transported me back in time, setting the stage magnificently. The scattering of comfortable leather armchairs were already taken, so we sat on a pair of plastic chairs. Many in the audience were elderly, as one might expect for a Classical concert; some were family members or friends of the performers. People were dressed casually, just locals enjoying a Sunday afternoon in their community, not at all like the formal atmosphere in Carnegie Hall. The room filled; more chairs were hastily brought in; the crowd spilled into the room beyond.
          Anima Brass entered in suits and ties. All five were young men, which didn’t surprise me given my own experiences playing baritone horn in my youth. There were two trumpeters, John-Thomas Burson and Thomas Pang; Austin Sposato on French horn, Michael Lockwood on trombone, and Jeff Smith on bass trombone. The band set up quietly in a nook by the fireplace while a librarian introduced them, and without further ado began to play.
          First in the set was Scherzo, a 1963 composition by John Cheetham, an energetic and complex piece that was reminiscent of a Wild West movie soundtrack. Following that came six brief chansons, or songs, by late-1400’s French composer Josquin des Prez, arranged for brass quintet by Raymund Mase. The songs ranged from somber, with long drawn-out notes, to joyful, with lively toots and sweet harmonies. I closed my eyes and it might have been 500 years ago. Next, the band performed Russian composer Victor Ewald’s Quintet #3, written circa 1912, a romantic piece in four movements. The five musicians were like fingers on a hand, working seamlessly together; each instrument a separate thread weaving a tapestry of sound, creating a whole far greater than merely the sum of its parts.
          After a brief intermission, during which the performers spoke quietly with audience members of their acquaintance, the concert resumed with Three Pieces, written in the 1800’s by German composer Ludwig Maurer and edited by Rogert Nagel. Many in the audience closed their eyes as they listened, heads nodding in time with the rhythm, smiles on their faces. Following that romantic selection came something wholly unexpected: the world premiere performance of a piece composed by a Stony Brook graduate student, Joe Sferra, seated beside me in the audience. Sferra was called upon to introduce his work, titled “Anima for Brass quintet”, which he had written specifically for Anima Brass. He described it as a piece with a “disembodied start” that “coalesces” and then “gradually falls apart”, and I knew I was about to hear something very different.
          The opening was disjointed, each instrument seeming to pipe up almost randomly, which gave the listener the opportunity to hear the unique tone and character of each one individually: the playful slides and swoops of the trombones; the dulcet tone of the horn; the light toots of the trumpets. The sounds became cohesive and a jazzy melody emerged, only to fracture, with pregnant pauses keeping the audience expectant and off-balance. It was a fascinating glimpse at how Classical instruments can be used in surprising ways to create something completely different from “Classical music”, something that honors the style and form of its roots, but is innovative and free.
          The final piece was a return to more traditional fare: German composer Oskar Bohme’s Sextet in E-flat minor, for which the quintet was joined by guest Lucas Balslov on trumpet. The additional trumpet made for a fuller, richer sound. The music built to a crescendo that filled the room, soaring to the vaulted ceiling. A final fanfare closed the concert, and Anima Brass bowed as we applauded.
          As the audience drifted somewhat reluctantly into the modern addition to the library and the everyday world, I lingered a moment to thank the talented young musicians for a delightful afternoon. Anima Brass and other Stony Brook groups offer free performances throughout the community every weekend, and I am resolved to attend more. Music is food for the soul and I find myself hungry for more.

--Sarah Wood


          I went to see this fantastic trio called Migos based out of Atlanta, Georgia. The concert was held in the nightclub, Irving Plaza, on Irving Street in the city. The style of this music could be defined as two things, trap music or southern drill, depending on who you talk to. It’s more of an aggressive style of rapping that focuses on a dangerous life of selling drugs and toting weapons, all in the name of making it big. I picked this group because I have a deep fascination with the rap scene that emerges from the South and how the culture spreads into vast corners of the country, also because they are indeed my favorite artists in the game right now. To give a little background of the group, they are all family with Quavo (Quavious Marshall) being Takeoff’s (Kirshnik Ball) uncle and Offset (Kiari Cephus) being Quavo’s cousin.
          The venue was perfectly my style. The moment I walked into the venue, I thought to myself, “I’m home.” There was a constant light display shining around the entire venue with all different colors. It gave the whole experience a very drug-induced vibe and I’m pretty sure that is more or less what the rappers were going for by choosing this abundant light. The venue was set up so if you battled and squirmed you could reach the front of the stage. I kid you not when I say I was less than five feet away from the trio, and that fact alone made the night worth every single cent I paid. I was in utter and complete euphoria over seeing my favorite artists in the entire world so up close and personal.
          Throughout the entire night, the venue and the environment around me reinforced the idea that the people who listen to this type of Southern rap are quite the rowdy crowd. There was a fight midway through the show and the rappers sang “Aint’ Here For That” acapella until the brawlers were removed from the venue. It was hilarious to see the rappers clowning on the two fools for fighting in what was supposed to be a good time. The performers interacted with the audience almost constantly, asking the audience to sing the lyrics. The group also created a dance move called the “dab” in which one tucks their head in the elbow of their arm while pointing both their hands in the opposite direction, so that was the dance move that was seen the most.
          This rap group does not actually use any instruments themselves, but relies purely on their lyrical craft. The music and lyrics itself are especially meaningful in the sense that every song details the struggle they have gone through to reach this point of fame in their career and how humble they are to be in the position that they created for themselves. Whether it’s talking about being locked up in the cell or selling pounds of drugs, they speak the truth of the past present and future, while setting trends and creating a new style. Their rapping style can range from melodic and slow to fast and loud when they have something emotionally-charged to get off their chests.
          In total, the whole experience met my expectations and went above and beyond how enjoyable I thought the night would be. I could have never imagined the level of tom-foolery that would be permitted within a legal establishment, or the level of emotion that could ring from lyrics about things that rappers have been talking about for decades: money, drugs, and guns. This concert solidified these rappers as my favorite and has only encouraged me to start buying the entire album to support them being able to tour and do dope stuff for their dedicated fan base. The rappers did so much to ensure a great performance and I can say wholeheartedly that I would go back and see them as many times as possible, for it was one of the most entertaining events I have been to in quite a long time.

--Gabriel Mark

January 31, 2016

Grateful Dead

          The time is 3:45 p.m. We have to catch a 4:00 p.m train to Penn Station and we’re still in my friend’s driveway. Now, if we miss this train, we miss the show, so we drove like wild people to the station. We made the train by the skin of our teeth. We’ve been waiting to see the Grateful Dead ever since middle school. I remember in seventh grade when my friends and I would always hang out in my garage and work on our bikes, we were always fascinated with the electric guitar. When we were shown the Grateful Dead from my older brother, we loved it at first listening. We knew if we ever had the chance, we would go to a Grateful Dead concert. Though their was a change in this concert, John Mayer was the lead singer for the show.
          Before this concert, I’ve never been to Madison Square Garden, but I always wanted to. This was a perfect opportunity to knock out two birds with one stone. When I say that this venue was huge, I mean huge! The concerts I go to are only the size of two story houses, so you can imagine the excitement that was running through me: I loved this venue. The vibe that was created within the venue was euphoric. The smell of drugs and beer lingered throughout the venue. When we got to our seats within Madison Square Garden, we noticed that we didn't have the best seats and we were afraid that the music would be faint. Nope! The drums and bass throughout the concert had my seat vibrating. We knew going into the concert that there was going to be a lot of older folks there, but we didn't mind because we were all enjoying the great vibes. When we got to our seats, we also introduced ourselves to our seat neighbors that were sitting in front and behind us. Even though they were in their late 30's and early 40's, we all shared an awesome, unforgettable time.
          Grateful Dead rarely interacted with the audience, which was a little disappointing. Nevertheless, this didn’t take away from a once in a lifetime experience. When the band came out, I noticed that John Mayer was dressed different than all the other band members. All the orginal band members wore a T-shirt and jeans, while John Mayer wore an orange button-down shirt with a golden rolex, jeans, and moccasins. Honestly, I think John Mayer looked more comfortable on the stage than anyone else. Throughout the concert, all the band members stood besides the drummer, and my friends and I stood with them the whole concert. Many of the songs they played throughout the night were a lot of their classics and some of them sounded like they were written just the other day. I absolutely loved this show! I’ve wanted to see this band since 7th grade and the fact that I actually saw them in person was an indescribable experience. One thing I do wish the band would improve was the lights. The lights can affect everything within a concert. Iit would've been really cool to see a psychedelic light show while I was there.
          The instruments that were used throughout the show consisted of drums, bass, piano, organ, and two electric guitars. While I was there, I was wondering why they had rugs on the stage. That seemed to be a strategy to get rid of all the wires that were placed all over the ground. I was very surprised that they didn't use bluetooth connections on their guitars and bass. They all used wire connections, which gave an authentic feeling to it. Another factor that impressed me was how beautiful the vocals were. I thought that John Mayer was going to ruin the sound of this amazing band, but infact he enhanced it. When the band was doing their sweet guitar solos with Mayer’s voice coming in and out of the solos, it made me feel like I was in the music.
          Going into the show, I had high expectations for the rest of the band, but had doubts that John Mayer could pull it off. I thought no one could match the original band's vocals, but I was wrong; I loved the vocals. I fell in love with a lot of bands while I was in middle school, but never had the ambition to go. After this concert, I’m going to at a lot more band-oriented concerts. It was unbelievable and a life changing experience. The next band I'd love to see is AC/DC; that's been on the list for years.

--Bryan Olsson


         On September 17th, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, I was lucky enough to see the best performer of all times, the Legend and the Queen of Pop Music, Madonna. I have to admit I am not a true, diehard fan of Madonna. I don’t know all her lyrics by heart, and I don’t listen to her music on a daily basis. But anyway, I was very excited to find out that tickets were still available because to see Madonna live was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
         As I mentioned earlier, the performance took place at Madison Square Garden, the historic venue, one of the most famous arenas in the world that fits twenty thousand people. It wasn’t a surprise that the tickets were sold out in a heartbeat. I have never attended a concert on such a huge level. That’s why at first I was shocked to see that many people in one place. The audience was extremely diverse: different age groups, different nationalities, approximately equal amount of men and women. There were many happy couples, some gays, mostly in shape and attractive, and groups of young girls everywhere. Everybody was extremely excited, anxious and having a great time dancing, screaming and singing loudly along with Madonna. Looking around, I could tell that not too many people spent time picking a special outfit for the night. Most of them were dressed very casually, jeans and tee shirts. Even though there were thousands of complete strangers around me, the atmosphere of the place itself, the audience, the positive vibes made me feel as if I was part of something epic that was about to happen. And I wasn’t wrong. What an experience that concert was! Everybody knows that Madonna is one of the best performers in the world, but until you see her live you really have no idea how good she is.
          It wasn’t just a concert; it was a theatrical spectacle in which music is combined with dance, costumes, and acrobatic tricks performed by dancers. Madonna brought us to the different worlds changing the stage set up at least four times. She was quite aggressive and provocative in the first section of her show that was filled with religious and Asian motifs. Madonna was dressed up in a red and black samurai kimono while her dancers were wearing geisha costumes at one point and white ruffled panties and bras as part of a sexy nuns outfit later. But Madonna can’t stay the same for long. She showed us that she could be romantic and flirtatious wearing the Flamenco- style dress during the Spanish/Mexican inspired part of the show. The party -like atmosphere was created in the third segment of her performances when she appeared wearing a flapper dress covered with thousands of crystals and long fringed gloves. During the whole show, Madonna didn’t stop dancing. And I have to say she was as good as her professional dancers, who were probably half of her age. She was quite open and personal with the audience trying to interact with people by asking questions and suggesting them to sing along. She even brought a random guy on stage and made him a part of the show.
          Even though the choreography, shocking costumes, videos and theatrical elements seemed to be very important during Madonna’s performance, her voice played a very important part as well. The quality of her voice was changing from song to song. It varied from a thin, high-pitched voice to a more deep, velvety and warm version of it. I was truly amazed by her singing live and dancing at the same time. The Rebel Heart Tour represents two completely different sides of the singer: Rebellious and Romantic. She admits this herself saying: “I might be cynical about love, but I’m very romantic.” She says that true love is her favorite subject. All kinds of different instruments were chosen to support her vocals: electric, bass and acoustic guitars, drums, keyboard, synthesizer, ukulele, tambourine and many others. Madonna even played an acoustic guitar (“Who’s That Girl”), an electric guitar (“Burning up”) and ukulele (“True Blue”) herself.
          Overall, the concert exceeded my expectations and defiantly became a memorable experience. Madonna is really the best entertainer, who catches your attention from the very first second and doesn’t let you go until the very end. She completely owns the stage and the audience, while enjoying the whole process and having fun herself.

--Daria Greenlee