Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Six Best Songs Over Thirty Minutes Long

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 11:37 AM

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3. Sleep - "Dopesmoker" Dopesmoker by Sleep on Grooveshark

Sleep's "Dopesmoker" is an hour-long doom metal masterpiece. No huge surprises throughout, just flawless execution: meaty bass, neanderthal drums, and amps stacked taller than the weird TV remote thing that the ape people freak out about in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The vocals were actually sung into a bong with a microphone inside*. If you have a beard, you need this album.

*this is completely false

2. Ornette Coleman - "Free Jazz" Free Jazz by Ornette Coleman on Grooveshark

Free Jazz coined the term for Ornette Coleman's distinctive abstract style, but the album was not the defining moment for his playing. That would be The Shape Of Jazz To Come, an album so controversial that Miles Davis's Kind Of Blue, released around the same time, landed relatively under the radar of many critics who were still dissecting Coleman. Free Jazz is a more singular work than its encompassing title implies. It is a collective improvisation featuring avant-garde legends Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry and Scott LaFaro as well as relatively straightforward players with a wild streak like Freddie Hubbard and Charlie Haden. The interplay between players is captivating, and it is especially innovative in its use of stereo recording; the "double quartet" is set up with each rhythm section in a different channel, so the musical crosstalk lends itself to headphone magic.

1. Terry Riley - "In C" In C (Instrumental) by Terry Riley on Grooveshark

"In C" is the most important piece of twentieth century classical music that has gone largely unheard in the broad sense. On paper alone, it is a revolution, a work for unlimited musicians playing fifty three melodies at their own will with very few rules. The melodies themselves are easy-ish; just a few would be difficult for the average high school band geek. The only obvious structure is a pulsing piano giving tempo to the players - which was thought up and performed at the piece's debut by Riley's contemporary Steve Reich. The song has been performed by orchestras, hippie collectives, new music groups, and rock bands. I have yet to find a recording under thirty minutes, but legend tells of "In C" performances going on for days. Riley's piece began the movement known as minimalism (which is as annoying a term to Terry Riley as "emo" is to a Get Up Kid). Without "In C," we would not have the following: Phillip Glass' Koyaanisqatsi, Steve Reich's Music For Eighteen Musicians, Brian Eno's Music For Airports, this awesome website or anything by Tortoise. There would have been an empty spot at the All Tomorrow's Parties event curated by Animal Collective, who chose Riley as a performer, and the Who's "Baba O'Riley" would have had a different title and a way less interesting introduction. For all this, we thank you Terry Riley.

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