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  • For the past couple of weeks, the focus of the AFP Young Adult Music Program has been an in depth study of the basic mechanics of jazz. We have been working on Etta James’ “At Last” for the past couple of months, but we have now begun to break down the chord progression into a series of key changes, and to investigate how we can navigate those changes using scales. We have been breaking down the requisite parts of the chords into the bass movement, the harmonic color notes, and the melody notes, and observing how each note relates to the key, to the chord, and to the function of the chord in the progression.

    Jason has been learning to walk the bass, playing the notes that clearly indicate the movement of the chords, while Raymond, Alex and Gabriel have been learning chord voicings on guitar and piano, observing the movement of the functional character notes from chord to chord. We have been identifying which notes change from chord to chord and which ones stay the same. This is helping to elucidate how the flow of the song works. We have also been looking at how the order and character of the chords indicate which key we can play in at any given time, and where to modulate to a new key.

    With this knowledge, we can determine exactly what function each note of the melody plays from a diatonic harmony perspective. All of this is very analytical and confusing of course, but with the foundation of knowledge these guys have accumulated over the past four years, it is beginning to come into focus. At Last is a great tune to learn this stuff through. The changes are quintessential, and the melody is unique and complex, but very accessible and simple in a way, as well. It is one of the best examples, in my opinion of the cross-pollination of jazz and blues.

    The next step in our exploration of jazz is to incorporate all of this information, forget it momentarily, and improvise freely, whilst never losing at least a distant view of the melody to serve as a guide and blueprint for infinite variations and departures.

    -Barry Komitor

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    Band members Nicholas Petricca, Kevin Ray, Sean Waugaman and Eli Maiman

    Band members Nicholas Petricca, Kevin Ray, Sean Waugaman and Eli Maiman

    Like most Walk The Moon releases, the band’s newest album Talking Is Hard is easy to dance to. The band has continued with their goofy brand of synth-heavy pop songs, but for this their second full-length they have added a guitar-driven older edge. At times the record seems fit for a ‘70 discotheque or ‘80 dancehall; the band channels an older era (paired with what leadman Nicholas Petricca calls “cheese factor”) for songs like “We Are The Kids.”

    “We Are The Kids” is like the synth-centered pop rock answer to Taylor Swift’s “22.” It has that same we-are-young-and-reckless vibe. However, instead of taking TSwift’s route of making fun of exes and dressing up like hipsters, the men of Walk the Moon shout at cops, howl at the moon, rip holes in their shirts and get mud on their sneakers in this slower jam. The glittery guitar and overall underdog attitude make this one of the strongest tracks on the record. The album’s lead single “Shut Up and Dance” is equally as fun and bright. It’s also absolutely infectious. It indeed makes you want to shut up and dance. The boy-meets-girl storyline bares resemblance to “Anna Sun” off the band’s debut record Walk The Moon and proves that lyrically Walk the Moon can still be terribly sweet and charming. Musically, Kevin Ray, the band’s bassist, wrote a wonderfully potent part for “Shut Up and Dance” and the synth gets a great solo halfway through. The song has a great energy that makes you want to jam along, no matter how embarrassing your dance moves are. The snapbacks and Say Anything reference make the music video equally as fun.

    The band continues the throwback with “Sidekick.” In the band’s Spotify commentary for the album, Petricca aptly describes the “funky disco-vibes” and “bubbly synthesizers” of the song. He also admitted that the song is a “semi-embarrassing true story,” which makes this adorable little love song all the sweeter. The song has this really positive, upbeat tone. “Work This Body” is equally as feel good and uplifting. The opening claps and energy of the track showcase the album’s motivating side. The pounding, constantly changing percussion make it the track to work/workout to, but be warned you may break into dance instead of a run.

    Walk the Moon have always been encouraging and cheery with their music and Talking is Hard continues on that trend, but at times with a more political edge. “Different Colors” and “Up 2 U” are the band’s more serious songs. They aren’t straight forward social commentary, but lyrically they definitely hedge into that territory. However, they don’t feel out of place amongst all the talk of dancing and “kissing on the kitchen floor.” Their strength stems from the fact that they don’t losing the energy.

    “Portugal” and “Avalanche” are gentler sounds. The latter still has plenty of synth and beat, but it’s a song you can listen to sitting down. Compared to other songs on the record, which make you want to jump up and dance-along, it’s tamer. In “Avalanche” Petricca drifts through the upper half of his vocal range. He also hits hard lyrically. With lines like “you grow up when I’m not looking / we grow apart without knowing,” he makes the song sweet, but also kind of decimating. During the song’s breakdown, Petricca sings “no matter what you want / somebody else wants it just as bad / no matter what you got / somebody else has got it worse / no matter when I got to you somebody else got to you first.” It’s a simple sentiment, but as usual Petricca hits right on the mark. His lyrics have always been well-crafted and concise and “Portugal” may be lyrically some of his best work.

    Talking might be hard for Petricca and the rest of Walk the Moon, but making music worthy of dancing is definitely a strength. Talking is Hard makes you want to go to the thrift store, buy a really bright windbreaker and dance with reckless abandon. It’s definitely an album worth picking up in physical form. You might even want to complete the throwback, dust off the ol’ walkman and dance.

    Talking Is Hard

    Talking Is Hard

    -Zoe Marquedant

  • My husband Sean Sonderegger is a gifted musician and teacher. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Originally from Los Angeles, he lives with his wife (me) and toddler in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

    Sean describes his style as “90s West Coast meets academia,” pairing dress shirts with Dickies pants. He admits that he still dresses the same way that he used to when he was 20 years old in L.A., wearing blue jeans and novelty shirts. But always paramount in his choice of dress, the clothes must fit loose: “I’ve always worn baggy clothes, I like baggy clothes. If I could pull off wearing a caftan or some traditional clothes that were super-flowing, I would probably do it. But then again, I would probably gain, like, a hundred pounds because I just wouldn’t give a fuck.”

    Click on link below to listen to some of Sean Sonderegger’s music, and then find out more about this madcapper’s most prized fashion items after the jump.

    Jacqueline Colette Prosper, @yummicoco

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  • Opened in the summer of 2013, Garis & Hahn gallery is one of the newest exhibition spaces that has popped up along the Bowery in recent memory. The gallery’s most recent undertaking, a group exhibition entitled “Notes on Undoing” features the work of eleven artists and was curated by Branka Benčić. It is the first survey of contemporary Croatian art that has occurred at the the gallery and brings together eleven different artists including: Eškinja, Vlatka Horvat, Igor Grubic, Tina Gverović, Zlatko Kopljar,Dino Zrnec, Marko Tadić,Damir Ocko,Hrvoje Slovenc,Viktor Popović and Ljiljana Mihaljević.

    A major theme that the show tackles is unraveling the way in which the viewer perceives the artist and the symbiotic relationship that is created when looking at work. These multiple perspectives are informed by the way in which each artist approaches the work and the conceptual projects they are engaging in. The press release for the show states, ”some show an interest in the experience of how the body or object relates to its environment.” As the title suggest, there is an element of this exhibition that is attempting undo the myth of the artist and the artistic process from various vantage points. This very sentiment is taken up in each of the pieces within the exhibition.

    The work in “Notes on Undoing” is diverse and spans the conceptually gambit ranging from sculpture to performance. The exhibition takes up the two floors of the gallery’s space. On the first floor there are various paintings, drawings and sculptures which explore the topic of the show in various ways. On the second floor of the gallery there are two video pieces that are shown within the same room.

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    Viktor Popović, Untitled # 2. Image courtesy of Garis & Hahn Gallery

    Within Ljiljana Mihaljević’s nine minute and thirty five second performance “The Route,” the artist is shown dressed in all black playing a seemingly never ending game of hopscotch. The piece begins with a quote from Nobel Prize Literature recipient Ivo Andrić about “on the circular nature of civilizations and impossibility of finding a direct path to truth.” In the performance the hopscotch grid has been altered by Mihaljević’s and has been drawn in a circle. Mihaljević engages the chalk surface in a variety of fashions and there are several shots of her crawling along it as well as skipping, walking and doing other actions. It is these vary gestures which emphasizes the time element associated with it and the simple action she is performing.

     

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    Ljiljana Mihaljević ,”The Route.” Image courtesy of Garis & Hahn Gallery.

    In Zlatko Kopljar’s short film K16, he is shown digging a hole for over ten minutes. The artist seems to have taken on a role of an undertaker who is preforming this gesture in the darkness of night for no apparent reason. The rhythmic action of Kopljar’s shovel and the moving up dirt brings up larger issues surrounding why he is digging it and what the circumstances surrounding the event are.

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    Zlatko Kopljar, K16. Image courtesy of Garisa and Hahn Gallery

    Both Kopljar’s and Mihaljević’s address issues of time and perception. This is further complicated by the actions that both artists are performing and the medium they are choosing to work in. Through the use of video and film these actions are prolonged and showed on a loop which underscore the idea that both artists could go on forever both playing hop scotch and digging a hole. K16 and “The Journey” are also showcasing the ways in which Koplijar and Mihaljević are attempting to make and remake the frameworks they have created within each of these pieces which in turn is constantly re-situating the way the viewer is responding to the work.

    It is each artist’s unique approach regarding the topic of undoing which helps to elevate the work within the exhibition. “Notes on Undoing” is an exciting exhibition for the Garis & Hahn Gallery and should not be missed.

    The exhibition will run through December 20. Garis & Hahn Gallery is located at 263 Bowery in New York, NY 10002. They are open Tuesday through Saturday 11-7 pm.

    -Anni Irish

  • Though only in its fifth year, DOC NYC seems like a city institution already. The annual event, which ran from November 13 through 20, has become the largest documentary film festival in the country. This year’s DOC NYC encompassed 153 films and events, ranging from screenings of classic docs (Hoop Dreams) and high-profile films (Citizenfour) to premieres from first-time feature filmmakers (Opposite Field, Vessel, many, many others). There were also educational panels and master classes (Finish Your Doc) for aspiring auteurs. Opening Night Film was David Thorpe’s funny, poignant Do I Sound Gay?; Closing Night Film was The Yes Men Are Revolting, which chronicles the prankster-activists’ past five years, directed by Laura Nix and The Yes Men.

    DOC NYC is a testament to the ever-growing popularity of documentaries, due to a number of reasons including an increase in movie outlets, the stylistic crossover between narrative fiction and non-fiction films, and accessibility of digital technology, now that practically everyone can make movies. (Imagine the various permutations that would exist of 1970 classic Gimme Shelter, had Altamont audiences owned smartphones.)

    Festival screenings took place at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas, IFC Center and SVA Theatre; in many cases filmmakers were present to introduce their work and answer questions afterward. Every sort of documentary was represented, broken down into categories including American Perspectives, International Perspectives, Centerstage (performance-focused films), Jock Docs (sports), Fight the Power (activism), Sonic Cinema (music), Docs Redux (classics), and Short List (awards-season picks).

    Cairo Drive

    Cairo Drive; Sherief Elkatsha

    Four major categories were juried competitions; the winners were chosen on closing night: Cairo Drive, directed by Sherief Elkatsha, took the Viewfinders (distinct directorial visions) category. The film, which looks at a cross-section of Cairo residents during the revolution through the eyes of the city’s drivers, is “a funny, endearing, deeply humane look at the everyday struggle to navigate the crazy streets of Egypt’s capital,” according to the jurors. In the Metropolis (New York City stories) category, Thomas Wirthensohn’s Homme Less was the winner. The portrait of photographer Mark Reay, whose life is not as glamorous as it seems, shows “the beauty and cruelty of New York” through “a figure who’s complex, troubling, and fascinating,” said jurors. The Grand Jury Prize winner in the Shorts category was Mirror Image, directed by Danielle Schwartz, in which the Israeli filmmaker questions her grandparents about their mirror, previously owned by a Palestinian household. And the SundanceNow Doc Club Audience Award went to The Hand That Feeds, directed by Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick, an exposé of an Upper East Side Hot & Crusty bakery and its employees’ demands for better wages and working conditions.

    Banksy Does New York; courtesy of HBO

    Banksy Does New York; courtesy of HBO

    Among the many worthwhile movies screened at DOC NYC was Chris Moukarbel’s Banksy Does New York, about the city’s response to the pseudonymous street artist’s month-long “residency” here last year. Moukarbel, whose previous film Me at the Zoo was about a video blogger, does a great job of documenting the scavenger hunt-like event, using Banksy’s own wry audio-guide commentary for his daily installations, scenes of the artworks themselves, and interviews with fans (“Banksy Hunters”), critics, art experts, and both working-class Joes and an upscale gallery owner leaping at a chance to make money. Most fascinating are spontaneous responses like the guys in East New York who charged people $5 to photograph Banksy’s mural in their neighborhood. Or the group of do-gooders who immediately began restoring defaced murals. The film also provides a short history of graffiti art in NYC, including the recent destruction of 5 Pointz in Long Island City.

    No matter what one thinks of Banksy him(her?)self, the movie is an interesting – and enjoyable – examination of the question “Who owns art?” Unlike the excellent Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy had no input into this film (as far as we know). But it is an equally good embodiment of the artist’s work, message and cultural relevance. Banksy Does New York is currently airing on HBO.

    Still Dreaming; Genevieve Russell

    Still Dreaming; Genevieve Russell

    One of several films making their world premiere at the festival was Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller’s Still Dreaming, a lyrical and honest film about the residents of the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J. It documents the efforts of Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, two young theater directors who approached the assisted living facility for retired entertainers with the idea of mounting a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Initially residents react with both enthusiasm and trepidation. Says one former actor about performing onstage, “Nothing else replaces it,” adding, “Bingo is the most mindless thing I can think of.” Confides another elderly but game participant, “I still hope that I can make something of myself that people can remember.”

    Still there are myriad physical and mental infirmities — including dementia and memory loss — to deal with, aside from the usual clash of personalities that are part of any theatrical production. The road to the production is a series of adjustments, setbacks and moments of transcendence. Brody and Steinfeld are challenged at every turn, but maintain their humor and mission for the most part (the film includes one shattering blow-up with a particularly vociferous resident). The filmmakers meld humor and pathos without veering too far into “cute” territory that often shades documentaries about seniors. They include beautiful outdoor scenes of nature that reflect the magic of Midsummer’s theme (somehow transforming suburban New Jersey into a seemingly enchanted forest!). Obvious, though never pushed, are the parallels between the actor/residents and play’s characters regarding what is real and what is imagined. Still Dreaming is currently seeking distribution.

    More information, including festival highlights, at docnyc.net.

    Marina Zogbi