miércoles, diciembre 22, 2010

Kanye West: cuando la voz personal distorsiona a la voz artística


I. Cuando la polémica ensombrece al talento

Resulta difícil separar la faceta personal de la profesional en los artistas de estos tiempos. En una sociedad gobernada por un excesivo culto a la celebridad, alimentado por la sobre-exposición de la vida privada de famosos mediante programas de reality TV y páginas en Twitter, en las que las mismas celebridades ofrecen acceso a su intimidad, es realmente complicado diferenciar entre lo que cierto artista hace y sobre lo que cierto artista es.

Sin embargo, dicha tarea se hace aun más difícil cuando esa línea es traspasada intencionalmente por el artista en cuestión. Y cuando se trata de uno con un ego tan desproporcionado como el de Kanye West, también se convierte en todo un reto tratar de escribir sobre su música sin tocar, aunque sea un poco, su avasallante personalidad.

Mi intención con este post es escribir sobre My twisted dark beautiful fantasy (2010), la más reciente producción de Kanye West. Las expectativas que generaron su lanzamiento fueron directamente fomentadas por una serie de sucesos en la vida de Kanye (faceta personal) que quizá dieron más que hablar que el actual contenido musical del disco (faceta profesional):

Su infame interrupción en el discurso de agradecimiento de Taylor Swift en los VMA's del 2009; las reiteradas disculpas que luego le ofrecería a ella; la revelación del ex-presidente George W. Bush de que Kanye West le llamara racista por su tardía -o casi nula- respuesta ante la tragedia de Katrina fuera "uno de los momentos más bajos de su presidencia"; y la reciente controversia ocasionada por una entrevista que le hiciera Matt Lauer, corresponsal del Today Show, fueron todos eventos que lograron generar una anticipación ciertamente inédita para el nuevo disco de un artista pop.

Por otro lado, el talento de West también daba muestras de que lo que estaba a punto de editar sería de una altísima calidad. Durante el último par de meses, Kanye se dio a la tarea de postear semanalmente un tema nuevo en su blog. Asimismo ofreció sorpresivas visitas a las oficinas de los portales Google y Facebook, y la revista RollingStone para cantar temas a cappella -todas documentadas en video. Esto permitió que tanto seguidores, como críticos y blogueros, pudieran tener un adelanto de su producción. Los tweets que aparecieron en su recién abierta página en Twitter también contribuyeron a alimentar la creciente expectativa.

II. De productor a una de las más célebres estrellas pop del momento

Kanye West comienza a ganar notoriedad en la escena del rap norteamericano gracias a su destacado trabajo como productor. Sus beats (pistas) consistían de samples (muestras) de temas soul de los 60 y 70, cuyas voces eran moduladas de manera más aguda, y cuya base rítmica era confeccionada en una MPC -la máquina de ritmos emblemática del hip-hop. Otra de las marcas del "sonido Kanye" es la inclusión de arreglos de cuerdas en sus beats -hecho que lo motivó a incluir a un trío de músicos sinfónicos para sus presentaciones en vivo.

(Si quieren tener una idea del extraordinario talento de West como productor, los invito a que escuchen el disco Be (2006) de Common, considerado por raperos y productores como una obra maestra del sampling.)

En la segunda mitad de los 90, Kanye comienza a obtener cierto reconocimiento gracias a su trabajo como productor de artistas underground de Chicago. Su trabajo con raperos mainstream vería su consolidación en la producción de temas para los discos The dinasty roc: La familia (2000) y The Blueprint (2001) de Jay-Z. De allí en adelante se convertiría en uno de los productores más solicitados del hip-hop y R&B norteamericanos. Su nombre aparece en los créditos de temas producidos para artistas como T.I, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Mos Def, Diddy, The Game y Nas.

Kanye West también ha fungido como protagonista en el lanzamiento, consolidación y resurrección de la carrera de los más importantes artistas de la música negra norteamericana. Su rol como productor en los álbumes Be y Finding forever le brinda un segundo aire a la estancada carrera de Common. Asimismo fue pilar fundamental en el desarrollo de la carrera como solista de Talib Kweli. (Get by, es uno de mis beats favoritos de Kanye.) Su participación en la producción de varios temas de The Carter III, de Lil Wayne, ayuda a convertirlo en el disco hip-hop más vendido del 2009. De igual manera, West juega un papel determinante en el debut de su asiduo colaborador y promesa del neo-soul John Legend -su ópera prima, Get lifted, fue el primer disco editado por G.O.O.D., la disquera que Kanye fundó.

Cuando West decide tomar el micrófono y rapear, muchos no tardarían en expresar sus dudas respecto a su nueva empresa. Ninguna disquera quería firmarlo como artista; ni siquiera Roc-A-Fella, que ya lo tenía contratado como productor y que fue fundada y presidida por su amigo Jay-Z. Hasta sus más cercanos colegas y amigos: John Legend, Diddy y Common subestimaron su talento como incipiente rapero.

Luego de sufrir un grave accidente automovilístico en el casi pierde la vida, Kanye West finalmente decide lanzarse como solista sorprendiendo a la crítica y al público. Kanye editaría el trío de las producciones más exitosas del rap a comienzos del nuevo siglo: The college dropout (2004), Late registration (2005) y Graduation (2007). La consistente línea trazada por esta tripleta de álbumes se vería interrumpida por la edición de 808's and heartbreak (2008), un disco experimental saturado de Auto-tune melancólico, en el que Kanye se desahogó tanto de la muerte de su madre como del final de una larga relación sentimental. El disco desconcertó a la crítica y enfureció a muchos de sus acérrimos seguidores. No obstante el disco, como los tres anteriores, logró conseguir el primer lugar de la cartelera Billboard.

III. La bella, oscura y retorcida fantasía de Kanye

El incidente con Taylor Swift obligaría a Kanye a bajar su perfil y silenciar su verborrea ególatra, ocasionando la cancelación de una gira con Lady Gaga como telonera y el lanzamiento de una línea de ropa. West parte entonces a Japón y luego a Italia, donde hace una pasantía para Fendi.

A comienzos de Mayo comienzan a esparcirse rumores en Internet de que West había comenzado a trabajar en su nuevo disco en las ciudades de Hawaii, Londres y Nueva York. Los nombres de los productores RZA, Q-Tip, No I.D. y Pete Rock empiezan a sonar entre la larga lista de colaboraciones presentes en el álbum.

POWER, el primer tema que Kanye postea en su blog, sorprende a fanáticos y a blogueros, quienes pronosticaron al unísono que si el resto del disco era tan bueno como este sencillo, pues estaría destinado a convertirse en uno de los mejores discos de hip-hop editados a comienzos de este milenio.

Al escuchar el disco, dicha aseveración no resulta para nada exagerada: My twisted dark beautiful fantasy impacta desde el principio. Dark fantasy inicia con un soberbio acorde de piano, unos cellos y un épico coro de voces. El tema sirve como un excelente preludio para el resto del material en el disco.

Gorgeous sorprende por una hipnótica línea de guitarra muy cercana al sonido de la legendaria banda de funk-rock Funkadelic. Asimismo, la voz de Kid Cudi en el coro le añade un irresistible aura de introspección al tema.

POWER es un tema muy "Kanye", muy similar a su primer éxito, Jesus walks, en el que el ritmo sirve como la herramienta más poderosa y atractiva del tema. La participación del cantante Dwele al final del tema es sencillamente excepcional.

All of the lights es en mi opinión el mejor tema del disco. Esta pieza es sencillamente un triunfo del enorme talento de Kanye como compositor, arreglista y productor. Cada uno de los invitados ofrece una estupenda participación. (Hasta Elton John ofrece su talento en el piano en una parte de la canción.) El clímax de la pieza está representado por un coro que reúne a las mejores voces del pop norteamericano del momento: Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, John Legend y Fergie. La manera en la que Kanye administró cada una de estas voces, en términos de mezcla y de producción, es digna de admiración. All of the lights es una de las mejores canciones que haya escuchado en mucho tiempo y es uno de los estandartes definitivos de la producción.

Monster es otro de los hitos del disco. Este tema es el que quizá responda más a una sonoridad hip-hop tradicional. Las participaciones de Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj y Jay-Z le añaden ese perfil urbano, peligroso y emblemático del rap. Monster suena a calle.

So appalled y Hell of a life son los temas prescindibles del disco, los culpables de que el disco no sea perfecto.

Devil in a new dress es otra canción con un soberbio beat. La imponente participación de Rick Ross confirma el gran momento del rapero en la escena del hip-hop norteamericano. El solo de guitarra que suena a la mitad de la canción no sólo es excepcional (¿cuál otro rapero ha incluido un solo de guitarra en uno de sus beats?), sino que también suena excelso.

Runaway es otra de las obras maestras del disco. El beat consiste de un conjunto de notas negras, tocadas repetidamente casi de manera minimalista, y que en vez de hacerlo predecible lo que hace es mantener tu atención hasta el final del tema. En él, la voz de Kanye se hace incomprensible gracias a un efecto que distorsiona su voz. Aunque abstracto, el mensaje se entiende: otra indiscutible muestra de genialidad.

Blame game cuenta con la exquisita colaboración del cantante John Legend. Esta canción es una de mis favoritas del disco. Al final Kanye se atreve a cantar desafinadamente pero de manera muy conmovedora. El broche de oro es una hilarante participación del comediante Chris Rock.

Lost in the world cierra de manera magistral este extraordinario álbum. El tema, basado en uno de la banda indie Bon Iver, es triunfalista y cierra de manera perfecta uno de los mejores discos del 2010.

Kanye no sólo cuenta con un extraordinario talento sino que también ha demostrado una genial audacia al romper algunos paradigmas del pop: Los beats son sofisticados (los samples han sido astutamente manipulados, los arreglos de cuerdas exudan sobriedad), las canciones son inusualmente largas (la mayoría de los temas sobrepasan los cinco minutos de duración), la estructura de los temas escapa al esquema tradicional de los temas pop (hay intros, outros, melodías que bien pudieran ser coros pero que están puestos al final de la canción) y la selección de los artistas invitados no sólo ha sido magistral, sino que su participación ha sido eficazmente administrada.

El peor enemigo del talento de Kanye es precisamente su ego. Conozco mucha gente que se rehúsa a escuchar su música simplemente porque les cae mal el tipo. Como dije al principio de este post: resulta particularmente difícil en estos tiempos separar al artista de la persona. Yo también encuentro particularmente desagradable su egolatría, pero es uno de los músicos de la actualidad que más respeto.

En un concierto que dio en estos días en Nueva York, Kanye se dio a la tarea de dar un discurso en el que nuevamente arremetió contra Bush, sus críticos y Taylor Swift. En medio de su insoportable verborrea, un fanático habló por muchos de los que sólo queremos escuchar su música: "Shut up, Kanye! Who cares?" Al disfrutar de la extraordinaria voz artística de Kanye West en un disco tan bueno como este, lo que uno menos quiere escuchar es la intolerable prepotencia de su voz personal.

Este es el video/cortometraje del tema Runaway

jueves, diciembre 16, 2010

Janelle Monae: a groundbreaking music gem


I've always been particularly drawn to debut releases by promising artists. When you listen to the first records from already established music legends, you can always find an explanation to why later they would become great artists. That's exactly what happens when you listen to Janelle Monae's The Archandroid (2010): you're listening to a star in the making. This funk/rock/R&B/old school soul extravaganza is not just ambitious, this music is epic. Monae has approached several genres with a breathtaking artistry. Her first album is a beautiful piece of art and it's one of the best records released this year. This is the type of music artists like Prince and Erykah Badu wish they had made. Yes, The Archandroid is that great. So, please, take a listen and allow yourself to feel pleasantly overwhelmed.

This is a live performance of Tightrope

jueves, diciembre 09, 2010

Dos minutos


Sé que no sientes lo mismo que yo.


De todas formas, me gustaría pedirte un favor.

Me gustaría que nos viéramos en Altamira. Podríamos tomarnos un café o almorzar, tú me dices. Allí te propondría lo que aspiro hacer contigo.

Me gustaría que nos fuésemos a un lugar donde podamos caminar.

Debe ser una acera larga. Puede ser una plaza también. Altamira tiene varias, por eso la escogí. El punto es que tiene que ser un sitio donde podamos caminar por dos minutos. Ininterrumpidamente.

En lo que lleguemos a ese lugar me gustaría tomar tu mano. Prometo no hacer más que eso. No haré nada con lo que no estés de acuerdo. Yo lo que quiero es construir un recuerdo, con tu ayuda.

Si me dejas tomar tu mano, caminaremos. Y caminaremos por dos minutos. Lo que dura una canción de Los Beatles. Lo que dura en promedio una llamada telefónica. Lo que dura caminar una cuadra entera.

Y lo que tiene que durar, como mínimo, una acción que luego se quiere recordar por mucho tiempo.

Luego caminaremos con nuestras manos agarradas, pero no hablaremos. Ni siquiera nos miraremos. Sólo caminaremos.

Es importante que nada nos interrumpa. Si alguien se nos cruza y amenaza con romper nuestro lazo, pues nos moveremos a un lado y lo esquivaremos, pero seguiremos adelante agarrándonos las manos con fuerza.

Caminaremos lento, pero no demasiado. Nuestro paso debe ser firme, pero no apresurado.

Luego de esos dos minutos soltaré tu mano. Y seguiré caminando. Tú podrás detenerte, caminar hacia otro lado. Podrás hacer cualquier cosa menos seguirme. Cualquier cosa menos hablarme.

Yo seguiré caminando y trataré de que no se me olvide lo que acaba de pasar.

El tacto de tu mano, los colores de Altamira que nos rodearon, el olor de mi parte favorita de Caracas.

Esos dos minutos en que lucimos, para los demás (y para mí), como una de esas parejas que muestran en público ese lazo físico y sentimental.

Esos dos minutos en que fuimos dos.

Esos dos minutos en que fuimos dos y que fuimos uno.

En que fuimos dos y que fuimos uno.

Y que fuimos uno.

Fuimos uno.

Uno.

miércoles, diciembre 08, 2010

Alondra de la Parra y la Orquesta Filarmónica de las Américas


Una de las bendiciones más grandes que he tenido la fortuna de experimentar en Nueva York ha sido trabajar con personas ciertamente extraordinarias. Un año antes de venirme, se publicó en el New York Times un perfil de Alondra de la Parra, una talentosa y emprendedora directora mexicana que se dio a la tarea de fundar un ensamble sinfónico, con el objetivo de interpretar obras compuestas por noveles y renombrados compositores latinoamericanos. La lectura de ese artículo no sólo me resultó altamente inspiradora, sino que también hizo que incluyera a Alondra de la Parra en la lista de artistas y gestores culturales que más admiro.

Alondra de la Parra fundó la
Orquesta Filarmónica de las Américas con tanto sólo 23 años de edad, cuando aún realizaba estudios de Piano y Dirección en la Manhattan School of Music. Actualmente, de la Parra es Embajadora Cultural de Turismo de México, es el miembro más joven de la Junta de los Premios Grammy Latino y hasta su elegante manera de vestir en tarima ha sido elogiada por revistas como Jane y Vogue.

En principio, de la Parra creó dicho ensamble para producir un concierto formado exclusivamente de repertorio latinoamericano. Sin embargo, la orquesta ha crecido hasta convertirse en una organización sin fines de lucro que maneja un presupuesto de 1,5 millones de dólares, desarrolla un programa educacional para niños en las escuelas públicas de Nueva York, organiza un concurso de jóvenes compositores, posee un contrato de grabación con Sony Classical y su ensamble, que se ha presentado con éxito en los más prestigiosos recintos de Estados Unidos, está a punto de embarcarse en su tercera gira internacional. Esta cadena de impresionantes logros le han ganado a esta extraordinaria músico mexicana elogios por parte de destacadas personalidades de la música clásica como los directores
Simon Rattle, Kurt Masur y Marin Alsop (la primera mujer en dirigir una orquesta estadounidense), y el prodigio del violín Joshua Bell.

En el instituto donde realicé mis estudios de ingeniería de sonido, tuve la suerte de tener a Flavio Gaete como mi profesor del curso de MIDI. Resulta que él toca la viola para la orquesta que dirige Alondra. Hace algunos meses, Flavio se encargó de la producción de un concierto para niños que esta orquesta haría en el
Museo del Barrio. Él necesitaba ayuda en la edición del algunos videos y en otros detalles de producción. Yo me le puse a la orden y lo asistí en la producción del evento, dándole comienzo de esta manera a una de las experiencias más enriquecedoras que he tenido la oportunidad de vivir acá en Nueva York.

En Agosto de este año, Alondra de la Parra y la Orquesta Filarmónica de las Américas editaron su primera producción titulada
Mi alma mexicana (2010), un disco doble en el que se registran casi doscientos años de música mexicana. El álbum ha logrado un éxito sin precedentes para un ensamble tan joven como este: alcanzó el primer lugar del cartelera de música clásica de iTunes y ha recibido reseñas muy positivas por parte de la prensa especializada.

Haber trabajado para esta organización fue un verdadero honor y una experiencia que recordaré para siempre con mucho cariño, así que para mí también es todo un orgullo poder presentarles este maravilloso trabajo en La vida es una nota.

Los invito entonces a que vean el siguiente video en el que Alondra explica el concepto de esta extraordinaria producción.

jueves, diciembre 02, 2010

Cee Lo Green: a throwback to greatness


Cee Lo Green found about his ability to sing almost by accident. On his seminal hip-hop group, Goodie Mob, he basically just rapped. However, he was often featured in other artists' albums, and that led him to develop a solo career as a singer. He began by being a neo-soul artist, a label most of his contemporary fellows carried throughout the nineties. His success was very modest though. That would drastically change due to his participation on Gnarls Barkley with the aide of extraordinaire producer Danger Mouse. That landmark may have given him a great push of confidence to finally deliver great music as a solo artist. That proof of greatness is called Lady Killer (2010), his most recent endeavor. This album immediately became one of my favorites of this year just by listening to it a couple of times. Yes, it's great. And yes, I'm already considering it as one of the best albums of 2010.

This is the video for F*ck you

lunes, noviembre 29, 2010

On how Valery Gergiev made New York City sound like Mahler


I. Mahler and New York

Gustav Mahler and New York hold an intimate relationship. Mahler lived the final years of his life in the city, from 1908 until 1911, where he conducted the Metropolitan Opera right after leading the Vienna Court Opera, where he was praised by his outrageous performances and also established the strict -and still existent- protocol concertgoers must follow in terms of dress code, behavior and applauses. In 1909, Gustav Mahler would become the Musical Director of the New York Philharmonic.

Mahler's years in New York were bittersweet. His tenure at the Metropolitan Opera was acclaimed by the media, but his first season with the New York Philharmonic was frustrating throughout the 46 concerts it offered: it gained him harsh criticism because of his program choices, and the box office revealed significant losses.

In spite of these hard circumstances, Mahler kept on conducting the New York Philharmonic through 1911. At the beginning of that year, Mahler would start to complain about a persistent pain in his throat, an injury that failed to bring down his drive of conducting and writing music. On February 21st, 1911, Mahler conducted his last concert at Carnegie Hall. From that moment on, his health gradually worsened until he passed away on May 18th, 1911.

This year represents Mahler's 150th birthday, and 2011 signifies the centenary of Mahler's death. New York paid homage to one of the most important composers ever -and one of its most prominent conductors- through a cycle of some of his symphonies performed by one of Europe's finest ensembles: Mariinsky Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev.

II. Gergiev, his theater and his orchestra

Valery Gergiev is not just one of the most remarkable conductors nowadays. This Russian titan is also one of the most emblematic cultural managers of these times. General and Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theater, Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Honorary Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera are all roles that have earned him the title of "the hardest working conductor".

Gergiev has run the Mariinsky Theater since 1988. Since then, he embarked himself on making it into one of the best cultural institutions of the world, an already achieved goal thanks to his deep-rooted patriotism, a sharp group of politic skills and lots of work: the Mariinsky Orchestra is the opera ensemble with the largest annual number of performances and it's also the best paid in the world.

One of the main objectives Gergiev has set himself with his orchestra is to exalt the music from Russian composers of the twentieth century like Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, one that was vetoed throughout the last century by several orchestras due to their strong political attachment. Gergiev has firmly called the attention to their music: "You have to stop associating Shostakovich's music with Stalin, in Shostakovich's music there's just his music, and it's beautiful music", the Russian conductor declared in a recent interview with Charlie Rose.

This sensitive liaison between politics and art, so inherent to Russian culture, is something that is very difficult to assimilate and hence to understand for the American society -one wherein art isn't well viewed when it gets too political. Additionally, Gergiev has been severely criticized in the States because of his close relationship to Vladimir Putin.

However, Gergiev's effort to turn his beloved theater into one of the most important cultural complexes around the world, rather than looking diminished, it keeps on growing vigorously. In 2012, he hopes to inaugurate the new Mariinsky Hall, a venue that's been built with the most advanced technology for operatic spaces. If that wasn't enough already, Gergiev has also founded a record company by the name of Mariinsky Label to release high quality recordings with his orchestra -something that, according to him, isn't possible to get anymore from the already established and big classical music labels. The releases include a complete cycle of Shostakovich's symphonies and other works by Stravinsky and Prokofiev, and critics and listeners have already praised them.

All of these initiatives might respond to the ultimate goal Gergiev looks forward to achieve: inspire young people to make music. "Just like Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky decided to become composers after being at the Bolshoi and Kirov Theaters, that's what I hope it happens when one kid enters and experiences one of my concerts at the Mariinsky Theater". (When he performed Mahler's Fifth Symphony, the first four rows in the Orchestra section of Carnegie Hall were indeed occupied by kids from public schools of New York.)

III. The verdict

According to The New York Times, Mariinsky Orchestra's distinctive sound consists of "mellow, warm strings; reedy and soft-edged poignancy woodwinds; and weighty and rich brasses". However, when this journal reviewed this series of concerts, it remarked some inconsistencies during the performances of the Second and Eighth Symphonies. (The Times attributed this imprecision to the frantic agenda the orchestra had to face in the course of its New York run.)

(Just so you have an idea of how much it takes these two symphonies to be played, it's been said that in terms of production it could take even a year to coordinate between the orchestra, the venue and the large number of choral ensembles involved. That's why many consider it's highly unlikely that there's any other orchestra in the world capable of playing a group of six Mahler symphonies in just five days -one that especially includes the second and eighth.)

Gergiev has stated that a great conductor's role "is not to order, but to inspire". And even though some of his musicians have complained about their exhaustive rehearsals, they do not hesitate to admire and celebrate their Maestro's energy and leadership.

I always dreamed of watching Gergiev and his beloved orchestra doing their thing. When it finally came true, I could witnessed his impressive way of conducting and noticed how his musicians played inspired guided by his baton.

miércoles, noviembre 24, 2010

Linkin Park: delivering another type of success


Linkin Park is so commercially successful already that it didn't need to worry about how much its latest record was going to sale. That's one of the many advantages of success. Instead of making an effort to deliver yet another typical -and indeed commercial- endeavor, Linkin Park has gone experimental. And they sound amazing. A thousand suns (2010) is like nothing they have edited before. In this album the production is refined, electronica plays an outstanding and definitive role, and many interludes add to the album a subtle yet appropriate mystique of edginess. When a band pushes his boundaries and offers a groundbreaking material like these, you can't but feel a great amount of respect for their talent. Linkin Park, by trying to sound different, has managed to sound striking.

This is the video for The catalyst

lunes, noviembre 22, 2010

Somos...


Somos uno, dos, tres puntos, puestos uno al lado del otro.


Somos tres puntos que están en fila, como soldados que esperan por una orden.

Somos tres puntos que duran lo que dura un mientras tanto.

Somos tres puntos que caminan agarrados de las manos por temor a perderse.

Somos tres puntos que aguardan al final de un muelle, de un terminal de autobuses, de una aduana de aeropuerto.

Somos tres puntos que tienen la ilusión de los optimistas.

Somos tres puntos perseverantes, como los árboles en otoño.

Somos tres puntos que suspiran, pero que rechazan la fácil tentación de la nostalgia.

Somos tres puntos que entonan en armonía la canción del sueño.

Somos tres puntos que yacen como monedas en el fondo de algún pozo que guarda deseos.

Somos tres puntos que suenan a un gemido irrefrenable.

Somos tres puntos pacientes, como el que espera en invierno la llegada del verano.

Somos tres puntos que sueñan como los niños en Diciembre.

Somos tres puntos que oscilan entre la interrogación y la exclamación.

Somos tres puntos que esperan por ti, por mí.


Eso es lo que somos.


Somos tres puntos suspensivos, al final de una oración que aún no tiene final.

jueves, noviembre 18, 2010

Prince: when 'not that great' actually means 'very good'


I've been following Prince's career since he had his last comeback -when he edited Musicology (2004). Listening to such a great album made me listen to his classic albums, and that research led me to become his fan. After releasing Musicology, Prince has maintained quite a prolific recording pace. His most recent efforts have not been good, though. When I was about to listen 20TEN (2010), I felt a little uptight about running into another regular delivery, but I was wrong. This album, while it certainly doesn't reach Prince's greatness, it does offer some very good tunes. The thing about Prince is that he has such an enormous talent, that when he makes records not as good as his previous efforts, they end up being actually very good. 20TEN is appealing, funky and exquisite -the ballads are just beautiful. When you're listening to an album made by one of your favorite artists, you shouldn't be so snob about it, you just have to trust in their artistry and allow yourself to have fun with it.

lunes, noviembre 15, 2010

Three movies I just can't wait to see

Somewhere



Black Swan



Blue Valentine

viernes, noviembre 12, 2010

Sufjan Stevens: musique extraordinaire


Sufjan Stevens belongs to that rare and exclusive type of musicians that even musicians themselves look up to. Yes, he's that good. He's known for embarking on sophisticated musical endeavors, but it'd be inaccurate to say his work is ambitious. He just seems to have a remarkable talent to pull all of that grandeur off present in his records. For his latest record, Age of adz (2010), he has written a magnificent score for synths. His previous efforts were more acoustic driven; yet his turn to the electronic field proves to stay magnificent. The way he arranges his vocal and instrumental harmonies, definitively one of his strongest skills, shines throughout the entire album. Sufjan Stevens writes, plays and sings beautiful music. Age of adz is a modern music masterpiece. Please, take a listen to this music and allow it to embellish your life.

Listen to I walked

miércoles, noviembre 10, 2010

Yani: cuando la pena asesina a la esperanza


Este es un post triste.

Constantemente estoy pendiente de la música que se está haciendo en Caracas. Muchas bandas y Dj's ponen sus EP's y discos en sus MySpace y blogs para que la gente los pueda descargar de manera gratuita. En estos días, mientras buscaba nueva música por Internet, volví a encontrarme con la historia de Yani. La triste historia de Yani.

Yani era un joven artista que estaba a punto de editar Sorrow/Hope (2009), su primer disco como solista. Aunque lo grabó y lo dejó listo, nunca pudo ver su producción materializada: murió asesinado de seis puñaladas en circunstancias aún no resueltas. Tenía sólo 21 años.

Esta es una de las tantas y lamentables historias que tienen lugar en la ciudad de Caracas, y la verdad es que se me hace difícil tratar de describirles lo que sentí, primero cuando me enteré de todo esto hace ya más de un año y, segundo, cuando recientemente vi el documental que abajo les posteo -un video que documenta el proceso de grabación del primer disco de Yani.

Creo que tristeza y arrechera son los sentimientos más cercanos a lo que sentí al leer el terrible relato de cómo murió este joven músico. Esta espeluznante historia registra cómo un prometedor talento como el de Yani se vio truncado por la espiral de violencia que azota y consume a la ciudad donde nací, a la ciudad que amo, a mi ciudad.

Los invito entonces a que conozcan más sobre Yani visitando la página de "Justicia para Yani" en Facebook y lo sigan en Twitter; escuchen Sorrow/Hope en su MySpace; lean la excelente crónica Y llegaron los cuchillos, escrita por Jessica Polanco (publicada en la revista Marcapasos); y finalmente, a que vean el siguiente documental:





Que descanses en paz, pana.

jueves, noviembre 04, 2010

Belle & Sebastian: when love plays music


When you're about to listen to an album entitled Belle & Sebastian Write about love, you could pretty much have a good idea of the type of songs you'll hear. And Scottish ensemble Belle & Sebastian has managed to give you just what you want to hear, and much more. The tunes they have written for their last record are endearing, charming and heartfelt, and they'll surely draw you a lovely smile upon your face when you sing, dance or love with them. This album works great as a soundtrack to when your heart is filled with love. It sounds corny, right? It's okay. Corny has never sounded cooler. So take a listen to Belle & Sebastian Write about love and fall in love. Or fall in love first and then listen. It's up to you. Belle & Sebastian have done their part.

This is the video for I want the world to stop

domingo, octubre 31, 2010

Los "cool"


Los "cool" son individuos que hacen cosas "cool". Ellos mismos son los que encargan de dictar lo que es "cool" y lo que no es "cool". Y encontrarán la manera de hacértelo saber.

Los "cool" no sólo se conforman con ser "cool", a ellos les resulta imperativo hacerlo público. Para ello harán uso de sus cuentas en Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr. Y blogs. Porque resulta que desde hace un par de años, también es "cool" tener un blog.

Los "cool" se saludan de manera "cool". Si se encuentran en un evento "cool" como la fiesta de lanzamiento de una nueva bebida energizante, la inauguración de un nuevo local "cool" o el aniversario de una revista "cool", las mujeres "cool" se saludarán con un beso en cada mejilla, a lo francés, mientras que los hombres "cool" se saludarán con un medio abrazo luego de darse un apretón de manos con cierto toque "hip-hop". (Porque sí, oh, sí, el hip-hop es muy "cool".)

Los "cool" usan palabras que son "cool" en otros idiomas. El inglés es su primera opción, pero también suelen utilizar el francés y el italiano -aunque no lo sepan hablar. (El alemán no es "cool", por cierto.)

Los "cool" viajan a sitios "cool". Londres, Nueva York, Los Ángeles y Barcelona suelen ser sus destinos predilectos. Ellos compartirán sus experiencias mediante tweets, o posts en sus blogs, en los que escribirán sobre lo que hacen por allá -y hasta sobre lo que no pudieron hacer también. De igual forma, ellos se encargarán de hacerte saber que fueron a muchos conciertos de artistas "cool" mientras estuvieron por allá.

Los "cool" pertenecen a un exclusivo grupo de personas. Algunos "cool" trabajan en radio, prensa y productoras de eventos como fiestas, conciertos, desfiles de moda, ferias de arte y de diseño. Su trabajo les garantiza un privilegiado acceso a ciertas cosas que el resto de las personas no tiene. Por ejemplo, si un famoso cantante se encuentra de visita en Caracas o en Nueva York para ofrecer una presentación, ellos seguramente tendrán acceso a la rueda de prensa, al backstage del concierto, o a entrevistarlo en su programa de radio "cool". Los "cool" no tardarán entonces en postear, en su blog o en su páginas en Twitter y Facebook, alguna anécdota relacionada con esa experiencia. Dirán algo así como que se encontraron con el cantante Sultanito en los pasillos de tal hotel y que luego se pusieron a hablar con él. El tweet dirá algo así como "acabo de hablar con Sultanito! demasiado pana!" Una foto donde se muestre a Sultanito junto al "cool" de lo más sonriente registrará el hecho.

A los "cool" les encanta hacer reuniones en sus casas "cool", donde sólo invitan a sus amigos "cool". Una vez más, ellos lo notificarán vía Twitter. Incluso, estando bajo el mismo techo, se twittearán chistes internos entre ellos, es decir, cosas que sólo los "cool" pueden entender. Los tweets vendrán firmados por el hashtag que se ha creado para la ocasión.

Lo que no saben los "cool", es que los verdaderos cool, los que no llevan comillas, son precisamente cool porque no buscan serlo. A diferencia de los "cool", ellos dejan que sus ideas, proyectos y logros, que es a final de cuentas lo que los hace cool, hablen por sí mismos.


Lo que no saben los "cool", es que la gente más cool de este mundo es la más humilde.

miércoles, octubre 27, 2010

Oneohtrix Point Never: scoring a dirty environment


I love listening to weird music. But “weird” in the sense of being made out of a genuine creative impulse, not “weird” just because of trying to sound “experimental”. That been said, electronic music seems to be one of the most fertile fields where experimental undertakings grow healthy. With the aide of such a great amount of available technological tools, a lot of musicians have been able to make music using just their laptops –“laptop music” has already become some sort of a term to describe that type of music as a matter of fact. However, just a few artists have proved to be talented and hard working enough to deliver significant material. Oneohtrix Point Never is one of those musicians that belong to that elite. On Returnal (2010), his latest effort, Daniel Lepatin has made a delightful work of “ambient noise” –synth-oriented music filled with rare sounds, made with the purpose of taking you on a journey to places you’ve never thought of before. His music might be challenging to listen to at first indeed, but once you pay a good amount of attention and lose yourself to his offer, you’ll certainly enjoy this great weird music. Give yourself a treat, get out that listening comfort zone and listen to this unusual yet beautiful music.

Listen to this remix of Returnal featuring Antony Hegarty

sábado, octubre 23, 2010

A veces blanco y negro


A veces sueño en blanco y negro.

Sueño que beso a alguien que quiero en blanco y negro.
Sueño que beso a alguien que quiero en una ciudad en blanco y negro.


Y hay veces, como esta, en las que vivo ese sueño en blanco y negro.

Hay veces en las que vivo que beso a alguien que quiero en blanco y negro.
Hay veces en las que vivo que beso a alguien que quiero en una ciudad en blanco negro.



(La foto es de Robert Doisneau y se titula "Le baiser de l'Hotel de Ville")

jueves, octubre 21, 2010

Así suena el cielo



Allá donde estás tú, abuelo.

Quien te ama y te extraña,

Tu nieto


(Final de la Sinfonía No. 2 “Resurrección” de Gustav Mahler, interpretada por la London Philharmonic Orchestra y dirigida por Leonard Bernstein)

miércoles, octubre 20, 2010

Time stands still: the endless drama of war


War is a drama within itself. Every work of art that aspires to portray this prominent attribute of human condition must touch and embrace sensitive issues inherent to it -loss, hurt, suffering. So when you go to see a play that promises to embark on such a challenging endeavor, and you get out of the theater genuinely touched by experiencing a tour de force onstage, that work of art has succeeded indeed. That been said, Time stands still is a successful dramatic play.

Time stands still, written by Donald Margulies and directed by Daniel Sullivan, tells the story of Sarah (Laura Linney), a war photographer who gets seriously hurt while covering an armed conflict in Afghanistan. Sarah comes back to New York to recover from those injuries with the aide of Jamie (Brian D'Arcy James), her longtime boyfriend. The play focuses then on those critical days -the postwar days.

This production not only concentrates on war as a general topic; it also presents it to us as a personal subject. Each one of the characters faces his own wars. Sarah's is perhaps the most explicit case -she has to deal directly with the consequences of being so close to the war. Jamie, for instance, has to fight with his doubts on his current relationship with Sarah and his discontent of living an unfulfilled life. Richard (Eric Bogosian), Sarah’s friend and boss, faces his own conflict against aging, somewhat materialized by the relationship he maintains with Mandy (Christina Ricci) -a woman much younger than him. And finally, Mandy has to struggle with her new group of friends, one that, according to her, chooses to only look at the darkest side of life.

Mandy is a crucial character in the play. She embodies a fresh point of view. Her shallowness not only brings the funniest moments to the stage -it also offers a different perspective, perhaps due to her youth. Mandy's role is quite significant in dramas as deep as this. Without her part, the play might end up becoming a load too heavy to carry for the theatergoers throughout its almost two hours. Her bright standpoint delivers an enjoyable and necessary amount of fun to the production.

One of the most outstanding features of the play is definitely its cast. Everyone delivers an astonishing performance. Laura Linney undoubtedly offers the strongest -and most applauded- one. Christina Ricci, on her Broadway debut, managed to impress us all by offering a hilarious performance. Eric Bogosian gives also a terrific act. Brian D'Arcy James is also a good addition, perhaps a little bit eclipsed by the dazzling participation of the rest.

The first act of the play is, in my opinion, the best accomplished. It involves the war's most severe damage on Sarah -her emotional injuries. Another type of battle soon surfaces between Jamie and Sarah because of that psychological fragility. During this part of the play, Sarah confesses she was unfaithful to Jamie while she was in Afghanistan -her lover was killed by the same bomb that caused her those terrible wounds. Consequently, this not only accentuates Jamie's insecurities about his relationship with her, but it also emphasizes his worries about where his own life might be heading. He loves Sarah and ends up by forgiving her, but the war doesn't quite end yet.

This is the definite dramatic peak of the play, and it comes at the end of the first act. The climax manages to last longer than you would have normally expected, and it extends just enough to grab the attention of an audience that loses itself to the most endearing passage of the production. This is the best moment in the play.

In contrast, the second act is the most positive one, but it is also the weakest. The play loses that remarkable tension it brought at the end of the first one, and the performances fall short not because of the actors, but because of the plot itself. In the second half of the play Sarah and Jamie get married and Mandy gets pregnant. Everything seems to be working out well for everyone but that, once again, doesn’t mean the conflict is over -at least for Sarah.

Sarah got married to Jamie under the promise that she would try to make significant changes in her life –live her days at a slower pace, have a child. But she fails at it. On the other hand, Jamie moves on with his life, first by breaking up with her and then by dating another woman. In parallel, Mandy and Eric live happily as a couple enjoying the company of a new comer –their new baby.

For Sarah, though, it seemed as if life didn't go on. She totally recovered physically at the end of the play but her mindset, as a picture, remained unaltered, static, inert.

Her life, as a picture, stood still.

martes, octubre 12, 2010

Mark Ronson: a piece of good taste


I couldn't think of a better word to describe Mark Ronson's musical personality than 'versatile'. Celebrity Dj, producer and music conaisseur have been the terms used by the media to portray him. Nonetheless, Ronson has now embarked himself on becoming a songwriter with the release of Record collection (2010) -his sophomore album as a solo artist. Ronson has produced tracks for artists like Lily Allen, Robbie Williams, Adele, Amy Winehouse and, most recently, Duran Duran. He has admitted that, after working with the legendary British act, he became obsessed with synthesizers and their sound aesthetics. If you listen to Bang bang bang, the first track on the album, you'll definitely tell the influence. Unlike Version (2007), his opera prima, where Ronson arranged and produced covers à la old-school soul, Record moves forward and goes modern -and original. For this album, Ronson has written original tunes (and also sings) with the aid of his many collaborators including Boy George, Q-Tip, Ghostface Killah and D'Angelo. Record collection is catchy, poppy, dancey, and somewhat sophisticated. This is the type of album producers make -detail oriented, strong focus on structure and arrangements and with an evident intention of delivering good songs. Record collection is not just a fun album; it also embodies a very good promise of what Ronson may offer us soon.

This is the video for Bang bang bang featuring MNDR and Q-Tip


lunes, octubre 04, 2010

On three great Metal records


Metal has been one of the types of music I've been listening to the most since I was a kid. Metallica's Black Album and Pantera's Official 101 Life Proof became the definitive soundtrack of my teenage years -which is when I started to listen seriously to music.

Listening to those bands led me to discover other legendary metal acts like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin -a group on which many agree to consider one of hard rock's predecessors.

Later on, when I was in High School, I became an enthusiastic follower of Nu-Metal, a genre that seemed to take the command from Rage Against the Machine and Faith No More, both pioneers in combining rap with rock. I really just can't remember how many times I must have listened to Korn's Follow the leader, Incubus' S.C.I.E.N.C.E., Deftones' Around the fur, Limp Bizkit's Significant other or Linkin Park's Hybrid theory.

When I got into College I discovered the amazing music of The Doors, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, and even though I was starting to lose interest in Nu-Metal, I never stopped listening to Metal -Pantera's live album was among the first ones I put in my first iPod and I'm sure it will hold its position among my all-time favorite records.

After that whole Nu-Metal craze was over, I stopped listening to it. I just wasn't into it anymore. However, there was a band I'd never stop listening to, simply because they managed to stand out from the rest. They weren't necessarily a Nu-Metal band but, in a way, they managed to take advantage of the great moment that music was having.

First record: Mudvayne

That band was called Mudvayne: four guys that played heavy music with their painted faces. And they were special not only because of their colorful act on stage, but because they were also astonishingly proficient with their instruments. Additionally, the structure of their songs resembled more those of a progressive rock act than those of a regular metal: refined intros, virtuosic transitions and sophisticated riffs. Their approach felt more stylish than the others', thus their sound ended up being quite unique. Their music could sometimes reached a few melodic peaks, yet it was not catchy; their music was accessible, yet it was never easy to listen to.

Mudvayne never stopped making music. It wasn't always good, but they worked hard to keep an admirable prolific pace. Earlier this year they edited Mudvayne, in my opinion, one of their best releases to date. After their disappointing New game (2008), which drove them to a failed attempt to deliver short and mediocre radio-friendly tunes, they have come up with great material much closer to that outrageous music they recorded on Ld 50 (2000) and The end of all things to come (2002) -my other favorites of their catalog.

For this new album, they're back with complex songs -elaborate intros, experimental endings and intricate arrangements. Mudvayne is a great testament to their outstanding talent. Once again, they have immersed themselves into structure-oriented songwriting to craft excellent pieces. Take for example 1000 mile journey and Heard it all before, tunes that show how much they have progressed as song auteurs. Growth is what you shall recognize if you compare this music to that of their previous efforts.

This is the video for Scream with me



Second record: Stampede

One of the saddest moments in metal history, the murder of Pantera's extraordinary and beloved guitar player Dimebag Darrell, would bring Mudvayne and Pantera's worlds together. They joined forces to form a southern metal supergroup called Hellyeah! The new ensemble promised a lot, but it failed to please metal's legion of fans when they released their self-titled album in 2007.

Luckily, their sophomore record tells another story: expectations have not only been fulfilled this time, they have been exceeded. With Stampede (2010) they have accomplished to literally sound like supergroup. And that means great music. You'll find good trash metal in frantic tunes and you'll even get to find beautiful melodies in some ballads. When every member of a group brings his best to the table, a solid piece of music like Stampede gets made.

This is the video for Cowboy way



Third record: The final frontier

Iron Maiden was one of those bands I never stopped listening to once I discovered it. I was so fascinated by their songs, that I remember I even started to collect several live versions of them -which it wasn't hard since they have plenty of live recordings. Nonetheless, I wasn't impressed by the music they were making in recent years. It seemed to me that they were not bringing anything fresh; instead, it seemed they had found a formula and then refused to stay out of that comfort zone.

A few weeks ago Iron Maiden crafted quite a surprise to metal listeners around the world. A huge buzz over the Internet said that Iron Maiden had challenged themselves while recording The final frontier (2010), their last record. It then became mandatory for me to hear that in order to believe it. It was a promise that sounded way too good to be true.

And it was great, as a matter of fact. The final frontier is one of the finest metal records I've heard in a long time. This music literally blew me away. I just couldn't believe what I was listening to when I first played it in my iPod. And trust me, I'm not overreacting -this album is that good.

Unlike other metal big names that continue to release new music like Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell or even Metallica, Iron Maiden have proved with The final frontier that a music legend can indeed write legendary music.

This is the video for The final frontier



When I was a little boy I always wondered if I would ever get bored of listening to distorted guitars, blasting cymbals and screaming vocals. Now, being almost 30, I'm sure I will not stop listening to this music as long as it stays relevant and interesting - just as these three records I have written about have managed to accomplish.

lunes, septiembre 27, 2010

New York, and its Philharmonic


The MTA, the New York Knicks and the New York Philharmonic were among the few things New Yorkers weren't proud of a year ago. The subway was (and still is) one of the most inefficient and disorganized of America, the Knicks hadn't made it to the playoffs in quite a while and the Philharmonic didn't possess the prestige it once had.

This last complaint wasn't a simple one -it implied legacy issues. Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the first orchestra of the United States. Its Music Directors have been legends in the likes of Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein and Pierre Boulez. This ensemble premiered in America several of the most important pieces written by European composers -Brahms' 4th Symphony, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, and Dvorak’s From the New World Symphony. The most prominent conductors and soloists of the last couple of centuries have played for it in quality of guests. Likewise, the New York Philharmonic holds the world record of concerts made by an orchestra: more than 15,000 performances.

So what were New Yorkers complaining about then? The answer surrounded the name of Alan Gilbert, the New York Philharmonic's current Music Director. However, nothing he had to do with the descent of the orchestra's prestige. In fact, Gilbert recently concluded his first season praised by the critics and, what could be even more significant, beloved by the Philharmonic's audience. Frustration then consisted more of Gilbert's selection as the new Music Director of New York's main orchestra.

The search for Lorin Maazel's replacement -the latter Philharmonic's Music Director- involved huge expectations, controversy and discontent. Maazel was the last link of a chain of prominent musicians that conducted the New York Philharmonic over the second half of the 20th century -George Szell, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta and Kurt Masur-: a period preceded by the extraordinary tenure of Leonard Bernstein.

When Maazel's contract with the Philharmonic was coming to an end, its Board of Directors decided to hire a new conductor that would guarantee some sort of continuity to that magnificent series of conductors. The name of one of the most well known -and controversial- conductors of the beginning of the 21st century stood out the most to fill the vacancy: Riccardo Muti.

Muti, 67, embodied the perfect choice to take the baton of the New York Philharmonic. With an impressive resumé, the Italian conductor became the most sought after musician by the New York media and audience to take the lead of its orchestra. Muti had already conducted the Philharmonic on several occasions as a guest conductor and said concerts were highly anticipated by concertgoers and critics. (The New York Philharmonic musicians had also expressed their joy of playing for Muti, which is a vital factor when it comes to choose the main leader of any orchestra.)

Even when the Board denied the rumor of having made an offer to Muti, some blogs had already informed, extra-officially, that some sort of proposal had in fact been made to him. Those rumors would be confirmed later when Muti rejected the offer. This would not only provoke discontent among certain circles, it would also mean the beginning of an outrageous controversy. Soon after Muti discarded the New York Philharmonic's position, alluding that he was not interested in conducting any American orchestra, he would sign a contract to become the new Chicago Symphony's Music Director in 2010.

New York City's pride couldn't be more affected. There has been a historic rivalry between Chicago and New York, and that competition has also reached the main orchestras of both cities. At the end of 19th century, Theodore Thomas, who was the New York Philharmonic's conductor in 1891, abandoned it to create the Chicago Symphony, an ensemble currently considered one of the best orchestras in the world, due to the high quality of its performances and its recordings -a couple of endeavors developed during the excellent commands of Maestros Georg Solti and Daniel Barenboim.

After a few weeks, the controversy gradually diminished and the Board chose Alan Gilbert as the New York Philharmonic's Music Director. The announcement caused disappointment among certain classical music circles. Not only because of the recently signed's lack of recognition, but because of the unforeseeable turn the Board had taken. On one hand, by choosing Muti they would have looked for some sort of continuity -perhaps not literal but very close indeed- to the conservative line drawn by Masur, Mehta and Maazel. On the other hand by choosing Gilbert, the move would represent some sort of a rare strategy.

This initiative, though, joins the recent trend followed by some American orchestras of singing young conductors in an apparent attempt to refresh that aged trait classical music has always been associated with. From this series of hiring, Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel's (29) as the new Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director might have been the most noteworthy. (His naming was highly publicized, and his welcome ceremony was headlined by a remarkable group of celebrities and covered by international media). The most recent signings include the French Ludovic Morlot (36) as Seattle Symphony's Music Director, and the Canadian Yannick Nézet-Seguin (35) to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Alan Gilbert may not be a name that resonates as strong as Muti's, but one cannot underestimate his achievements. He was named Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra's Music Director when he was only 29 years old. Throughout his nine years' term, the assistance to his concerts increased and he also obtained more funding from the Sweden Government. He also recorded with this orchestra a praised version of Mahler's Ninth Symphony. In parallel, he was the Music Director for the Santa Fe Opera, where he enhanced his opera conducting skills. On September 16th, 2009 at the age of 42, Alan Gilbert would become the first New Yorker ever to conduct the New York Philharmonic -an orchestra he had already conducted on several occasions since 2001. (He also conducts his mother, who plays the violin for the orchestra.)

Alan Gilbert's first season achieved several triumphs. The program managed to be balanced by delivering a catalog that included famous pieces along with others lesser known. Similarly, Gilbert conducted a good number of pieces written by novel composers -a sensitive issue among the critics, who naturally applauded the decision. The performance of Ligeti's opera Le grand macabre was perhaps the Gilbert's accomplishment most remarked by the media. (The New York Times called it "a landmark in New York Philharmonic's history".) The season's end consisted of the performance of Beethoven's Misa Solemnis, an epic and rarely played piece, even when the German composer himself considered "as the most beautiful of my entire repertoire".

The New York Philharmonic is an ensemble that perhaps required of a leader with an already obtained legacy like Riccardo Muti, but Gilbert has known to earn his own merit with talent, determination and audacity. Gilbert may not possess the features of other American orchestras' conductors: James Levine's profficiency (Boston Symphony Orchestra), Franz Welser-Möst's operatic versatility (Cleveland Orchestra), Michael Tilson Thomas' mediatic charisma (San Francisco Symphony), Gustavo Dudamel's popularity (Los Angeles Philharmonic).

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that none of those conductors have had to face such a harsh beginning as Gilbert's. New York is certainly a relentless town. And when it comes to its cultural icons they don't hesitate to show their most ruthless side. Alan Gilbert has proved to be prepared and intelligent enough to assume this difficult task and, in just a season, has begun to bring back to his hometown the pride of having one of the most important orchestras around the world.