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Thomas J. West Music

Live webcam private music lessons, music education articles, compositions, clinician services, reviews

Great Performances

Performances that inspire and impress. Enjoy.

 
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  • Great Performances: Mike Tompkins Does D...
    by ★ Owner on July 10, 2012 at 4:48 PM
    3992 Views - 0 Comments


    I have featured live looping artists like Dub FX in the past, and recently I mentioned Kimbra's live looping at the latest SXSW convention. Live Looping is using looping software to record short segments of music that are then "looped", or repeated. A single performer can create layers of music to perform on top of. Live looping takes skill and an understanding of orchestration. These artists make live looping look easy.

    Three days ago, YouTube a cappella artist Mike Tompkins took up a challenge given to him by his fans - to do an a cappella cover of a dubstep tune. Using Ableton Live software and some controllers, Tompkins did a really excellent cover of two dubstep artists - Skrillex and Santigold. As I have mentioned previously, dubstep is a genre of music that is exploding in popularity with high school and college age students. The dance beats and electronic sounds of dubstep appeal widely to many youth, as evidenced by the fact that Tompkins' video is alredy up to half a million views in the first three days!

  • Great Performances: Raleigh Ringers Hand...
    by ★ Owner on June 25, 2012 at 9:35 PM
    4446 Views - 0 Comments


    I typically feature music performances on this series that demonstrate amazing technique and dedication, some innovative form of music performance, or something that is just plain entertaining. While nothing here is innovative, it definitely is impressive and entertaining. The Raleigh Ringers are a handbell ensemble that can truly deliver amazing performances like this one

  • Great Performances: Mike Dawes Covers Go...
    by ★ Owner on June 22, 2012 at 4:43 PM
    4008 Views - 0 Comments


    It's hard to be in American culture right now and not have been exposed to Gotye's "Someone That I Used to Know". It's a simple song in D Dorian that has really lit a fire in the hearts of many. As with most immensely popular songs, it has been covered, reinvented, remixed, and mashed-up thousands of times on the internet. Some of these reinventions are extremely popular as well, ganering hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. I shared one of those covers once before when the Canadian band Walk Off The Earth played the song with five people on one guitar.


    This song is simple enough that a trick like that is possible. Or, if you are a really talented solo guitarist, you can just play the entire thing yourself. Mike Dawes accomplishes just that in this video. It's all him - no overdub or compositing of any kind. Skill like this is deceptively hard - the performance is so seemless it is easy to forget that he is making every single sound, not just the melody line, two-note bass, and even percussion. This is yet another example of a performer who easily has over 10,000 hours of playing time logged in.

  • Great Performances - Contrabassoon Audit...
    by ★ Owner on April 12, 2012 at 9:12 AM
    2790 Views - 0 Comments


    Contrabassoon, self painted by Mezzofortist


    For any of us who have ever given an instrumental audition for a band or orchestra, or for those who have had to sit on an election committe or adjudicators panel and listen to performer after performer for hours, I give you a memorable contrabassoon orchestral audition. The clacking keys, the gasping for breath, and the gutteral vibrations of the big horn blend sublimely with some of your favorite orchestral excerpts, including "Also Sprach Zarathustra", the march from Beethoven 9, "Petrushka", Holst's "The Planets", some Ravel, and ending with "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (during which I swear there is a snicker). I guarantee you've never heard those excerpts quite like this. I also love the auditioner's classic audition lines: "Can I have another go?" and "Should I call you?"

  • Great Performances - Peter Hollens And L...
    by ★ Owner on April 7, 2012 at 9:43 AM
    3515 Views - 0 Comments

    I have previously featured videos by both a cappella artist Peter Hollens and dubstep violinist Lindsey Sterling. The two have teamed together to produce a YouTube video cover of the theme from 2011 video game of the year Skyrim. It is a remarkable achievement, both in Tom Anderson's 12-part vocal score, Devin Graham's cinematography, Ben Leiberman's editing, and Bill Hare's mixing. These are all artists who are making a living doing what they love without "being chosen" by a major recording label.


    This video has had over 1 million viewers in the first two days since upload - a testament to Peter Hollens' ability to do artistic covers of material that appeals to a wide audience. You know a video is a bona fide YouTube success when fans start overdubbing and remixing it, such as this one - it's really funny.


    This video is a testament to the collaborative power of the internet and to keeping alive musical creativity in the mainstream that is more than a quarter-inch deep. The world needs more artists like these who can appeal to a mass audience and yet still bring well-crafted and aesthetically rich music and video to bear without having to distribute it through the entertainment industry's money machine.

  • Great Performances - CPFA Friday Night C...
    by ★ Owner on March 12, 2012 at 9:13 AM
    3404 Views - 0 Comments


    There are many things about working for a unique blended learning school that I really enjoy. One of the benefits are great extra-curricular programs that The Center for Performing and Fine Arts offers to its students and families. Theatre productions, Life After High School Workshops, Dinner and a Movie Nights (classic films of the 50's and earlier), and Friday Night Cafe. Friday Night Cafe features student performances of all kinds - music, skits, comedy routines, dance numbers, all volunteer and screened by our Center's Director.


    This particular Cafe was a special occasion: one of our senior students, as part of her senior project, held a silent art auction featuring artwork by CPFA students and faculty. Auction winners were announced at the end of the evening. The auction proceeds and Cafe ticket income went to Art Feeds, a non-[profit organization prodiving artistic experiences to underprivelidged children. Over $1,300 was raised through this effort.


    This performance of the jazz standard "Song for My Father" features myself on clarinet, senior Kendall Johnson on guitar, and CPFA guitar teacher Sean Townsend. It's an up-tempo take on a classic latin chart. I apologize for the video quality - it was shot on my cell phone.

  • Great Performances - Mt. Lebanon Winter ...
    by ★ Owner on February 28, 2012 at 7:50 AM
    3631 Views - 0 Comments

    Yes, I'm a little biased, as this is my alma mater and the Winter Guard's director is a childhood friend of mine. Despite those connections, this is a very technical and artful indoor guard presentation of one of my favorite choral works of all time, Morten Laurisden's "O Magnum Mysterium". I have featured this piece before as sung by the incomparable University of Utah singers under Dr. Brady Allred here.


    The number of hours of work and repetition that goes into making a piece of art such as this performance is hard for people outside of performing arts to fathom. And this is a high school group. Whoever says that American public schools are failing us is speaking in complete ignorance. Performance art such as this empowers the performers to become better people as adults. It makes emotional connections that are indelibly etched into people's memories.


    Congratulations to the Lebo Winter Guard and to my friend Carrie Duffner and fellow director Jason Greenawalt. There's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on that gym floor, hidden under the veil of Laurisden's masterpiece and a lot of technical know-how.

  • Great Performances - Lindsey Stirling Du...
    by ★ Owner on February 24, 2012 at 8:29 AM
    4043 Views - 0 Comments


    With the advent of social media and the democratization of communications, not only are regimes crumbling in the Middle East, but new forms of art and music are finding their way into the mainstream. What's the next big thing in popular music? Dubstep.It's big enough now that it is finding its way into the Grammys.


    Born in the dance halls of Britain, Dubstep has been quietly growing in popularity for about 15 years. I have previously featured solo a cappella Dubstep artist DubFX on my Great Performances series, and here today is another Dubstep artist who is blending the classical with the contemporary. Lindsey Stirling is a violinist, composer, and visionary who writes her own original music, makes the sheet music available online, and is filming awesome videos like this one. She's also majoring in Therapeutic Recreation at BYU and plans to work with at-risk teenage girls in the future.


    Lindsey's sheet music for this piece is available for sale here.


    Her inspiration for "Crystallize" was observing Dr. Masaru Emoto's images of ice crystals after being exposed to different types of emotions - a bit of controversial research I have been interested in and aware of for over five years. Read her description here.

  • Great Perfomances - Julian Bliss And Ash...
    by ★ Owner on February 9, 2012 at 8:09 AM
    3579 Views - 0 Comments

    There's nothing truly innovative about this video, but it is another great example of what happens when high musical and kinesthetic aptitude is paired with the 10,000 hour principle. Julian Wass was 13 when this performance before the Queen of England at The Queen's Jubilee occurred in 2010. He is accompanied by 23-year-old Ashley Wass, an equally accomplished pianist.


    What is important to note here is that this is high-caliber performing that is not of Eastern descent. So many prodigious young performers come our way from China and Japan, but this is due primarily to culutral differences there which I have discussed in other articles.


  • Great Performances: Walk Off The Earth P...
    by ★ Owner on January 14, 2012 at 11:04 AM
    3387 Views - 0 Comments

    This particular performance is not of the caliber I normally include in the Great Performances series, but the novelty of how it is being performed is worth observing. Walk Off The Earth is an Ontario-based independent contemporary band that specializes in inventive covers of popular songs and their own originals, This particular cover of "Somebody I Used to Know" by Goyte was shared with me on Google Plus. All five members of the band play one acoustic guitar, each taking a piece of the composition as their own. It's a very simple song going back and forth between D minor and C major in D dorian.


    Their other material is equally as inventive and interesting, incorporating loop pedals and unconventional instruments. This kind of creativity is sorely needed in contemporary music, and whether or not they are ever signed by a major label is really immaterial. Be sure to visit their YouTube channel and check out the other innovative materials they have posted (fair warning: they have potty mouths).

  • Great Performances - University of Minne...
    by ★ Owner on December 15, 2011 at 10:32 AM
    2489 Views - 0 Comments

    'Tis the season for holiday flash mobs!

     

    This is a particularly good one. It begins with a solo alto saxophonist playing in the University of Minnesota's Calson School of Management foyer. Singers begin to join in, and then security shows up. And THAT'S when it starts getting interesting!

     

    Well played, Golden Gopher School of Music, well played.

     

  • Great Performances - John Eidsvoog Plays...
    by ★ Owner on December 15, 2011 at 10:31 AM
    2766 Views - 0 Comments

    This video was making the rounds today amongst my band director and musician contemporaries on Facebook today. This is so inventive and cool! Leroy Anderson was a master of the pop orchestra number, and this treatment of "Sleigh Ride" is not only rhythmically engaging but harmonically interesting.


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