I've complained in the past about my inability to devote much time to blogging, and I'm in that frame of mind again today. I do, however, have a better excuse than usual: This afternoon marks my first time off after 19 consecutive days of work -- a majority of those days in the 12-18 hour range, weekends included.
True, there are those who would argue that spending weekends at Glimmerglass Opera and the Bard Music Festival doesn't exactly construe arduous labor. I'm inclined to agree to a point, until the reality of writing marginally intelligent thoughts about four operas in three days, or four concerts, each two-and-a-half hours long, in two days -- on deadline -- hits home.
What's happened is this: Two weeks ago, for reasons I will not go into, I was promoted at Time Out New York. I'm now the music editor -- not the classical & opera editor (which I've been for seven years), not the associate music editor (which I added three years ago, and which largely amounted to being air-traffic controller for the massive listings section), but the overseer of the Whole Enchilada.
Making the decision to take on added responsibilities was difficult, to say the least. When the invitation came, the thing that hung me up the most was my sense that when I started contributing to the Times two years ago, I made a conscious decision to concentrate my mental efforts, on and off the clock, to expanding my grasp of the entire classical repertoire. That was the world I would inhabit; my pop, metal and jazz inclinations, while still very real, were moved to a back burner for simmering.
What this meant was that when the opportunity for promotion was first raised, I was of a mind that I now made a poor candidate for music editor at a lively, fast-paced and aggressively exploratory publication like Time Out. I'm not the guy who prowls the clubs in Williamsburg and the East Village looking for fresh blood. I've never once attended a Todd P show, nor have I been to a JellyNYC Pool Party at the soon-to-be-repurposed McCarren Park Pool. I'm on 75 percent of the mailing lists for promotional CDs now, I'd guess, but I don't receive advances for acts like Lil Wayne, Albert Hammond Jr. or the Ting Tings.
Even so, on the advice of virtually everyone near and dear to me, I accepted the gig. I was convinced, by people whose opinions hold weight, that among the qualities I could bring to the job was an unusually broad overview of the entire music scene -- classical music included -- and I'd be able to surround myself with colleagues who would bring whatever ground-floor and basement-level expertise I might lack.
So, on with the show. I'm looking at this as a rigorous challenge, an opportunity for growth and, admittedly, a bit of a grand adventure. Can I integrate the two music sections, classical and not-classical, more organically? That remains to be seen; my first tentative experiment along those lines is coming up in a few weeks, although you could say it started when I hired Cristina Black, a sharp pop writer with classical training, to review Nico Muhly's latest album in the classical pages of Time Out a few weeks ago.
Before you ask, yes, I will continue to contribute to The New York Times for as long as they care to keep me around. I still have a great deal to learn there, and the opportunity to continue improving my craft under expert supervision is one I don't take lightly.
Meanwhile, despite the long, long weeks and hours, the isolation and the stress, I find myself completely strangely energized by the new challenges I've taken on. For one, I'm digging into hip-hop in a way I haven't been able to in years. Already I've discovered that the new untitled CD by Nas is a brilliant, inspired piece of work. Prodded by a single review from my Times colleague Jon Caramanica, I've plunged headlong into the world of mixtapes, hip-hop's street-level combination of laboratory and hype machine. Most of this material can be tracked down for free online, but Mixtapepass has proved to be a reliable, economical resource for the best of what's out there.
I'll urge anyone with a bit of curiosity and a sense of humor to head to The Daily Kush, where Asher Roth, a young white rapper from Morrisville, PA, distributes his musically sharp, devastatingly funny mixtape, The Greenhouse Effect, free of charge. As I wrote in a listing that will appear in next week's Time Out connected to Roth's upcoming appearance at S.O.B.'s, this is the very last moment you'll be able to ask, "Asher who?" Check out his MySpace page for a pointed response to Lil Wayne's ubiquitous "A Milli," and head to YouTube for his video of "Roth Boys," a sly Jay-Z parody. (Compare it to this.)
As always, I'll end by thanking you for stopping by, and for your patience during the long stretches with no updates. I'll promise -- for the 725th time -- to try and do better.
Greg Osby - 9 Levels (Inner Circle Music download)
Depeche Mode - Speak & Spell (Sire/Rhino)
The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die (Bad Boy)
Ludacris & DJ Drama - The Preview (mixtape)
DJ Envy - Purple Codeine, Vol. 18 (mixtape)
The Game, DJ Haze & Tapemasters Inc. - To Live & Die in L.A. (mixtape)
Andrew Russo - Mix Tape (Endeavor Classics; TONY review)
Donny McCaslin Trio - Recommended Tools (Greenleaf Music)
King Crimson - 40th Anniversary Tour Box (DGM)
Talking Heads - The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads (Sire/Rhino)
Brooklyn Rider - Passport (In a Circle)
David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Topspin download)
Nas & DJ Green Lantern - The N****r Tape (mixtape)*
Bruno Mantovani - Le Sette Chiese; Streets; Eclair de Lune - IRCAM, Ensemble Intercontemporain/Susanna Mälkki (Kairos)
Joseph Martin Krauss - Olympie (excerpts); Cantatas: La Scusa; La Primavera; La Gelosia; La Pesca - Simone Kermes, L'Arte del Mondo/Werner Ehrhardt (Phoenix Edition)
Solange - Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams (Music World/Geffen); "F*@k the Industry (Signed Sincerely)" (MP3 download from Hadley Street Journal)**
Asher Roth, Don Cannon & DJ Drama - The Greenhouse Effect, Vol. 1 (mixtape)
King Crimson - Park West, Chicago, IL, August 7, 2008 (DGMlive official download)
Young Jeezy, the Hitmen & CEO - The Delivery Man (mixtape)
* Obviously, that's not the actual title of the Nas mixtape. My censorship, though it ironically echoes the refusal by Nas's label to release his new album with the unexpurgated title he wanted, is meant to maintain my personal policy of avoiding profanity and other buzz words that might get my blog blocked in public libraries, schools and some international territories. Hope that's understandable.
** On the other hand, this is the accurate title for Solange's web-only single.