Brandi Carlile decided to play Joni Mitchell Blue’s 1971 album in its entirety at Disney Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and site of many classical music creations. One of the reasons was to remind the public for almost 75 years old. Unique state among the popular musicians of the last half-century. “We do not live in the days of Shakespeare, Rembrandt or Beethoven,” he said before appearing on October 14. “But we live in Joni Mitchell’s time.”
This hyperbole of love is not unknown. He is surrounded by Mitchell and has been generated by her throughout her career. Lindsay Zoladz said in a 2017 essay on Mitchell that the casual assertion of the singer and songwriter of her own genius made men feel uncomfortable in such a way that they underestimated her, but the evidence suggests a more complex reality. Mitchell has indeed praised the rock press since the beginning of his career, although he has sometimes been a victim of his sexist irreverence.
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What was different was that she had fought against this unsuspecting treatment. He demanded something more serious, similar to what visual artists and classical composers received. “I live in a box of paintings”, he sang in Blue’s “A Case of You”, identifying with the more “serious” art of painting, while shouting his love for rock’n’roll. roll. He addressed Beethoven as a friend in his 1972 song “The Judgment of the Moon and the Stars” and (as Ken Kesey and beatnik Lord Buckley before it) released the name “Willy the Shake” in “Talk To Me”. 1977.
Like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, the only two singer-songwriters she said were like spirits, Mitchell explained that he was not in the pop game just for money or hot sex. She sought a place in eternity from the beginning. In asking this question, he forced the re-examination of popular music itself.
What happens to the artistic genius is that it’s not really an abstract concept. It is a state conferred by cultural institutions in recognition of particular works. In music, this is done traditionally by the incorporation of works in the repertoire: the compositions of an artist interpreted by other people. It is the fundamental structure of classical music and has been adopted differently in jazz through the idea of standards.
Even less organized realms, such as gospel and blues, followed a kind of repertoire model. However, after rock and roll became the norm, things got complicated. Cover songs or even tribute albums filled with stars have rarely captured the imprint of a sonata often performed. Before undergoing the 2015 aneurysm that he was still recovering, Mitchell took steps to make his work a repertoire. He launched the orchestral anthology of his own songs, Travelogue, in 2002 and collaborated with the Alberta Ballet in “The Fiddle and the Drum” of 2009. “, which used old songs with some news. his beloved old man with this concert was to continue this work of transforming Mitchell’s music into a repertoire, in a serious and beautiful way.
Originally, pop became a roped repertoire with an “s” that made it “pop” – light dishes that attracted more informal music fans to the symphony hall. Jazz musicians also play their favorite pop melodies in ways that broaden or exploit their boundaries, making music more serious However, such reinterpretations inevitably look like qualifiers. Music needs to be improved before it can be considered canonical.
Carlile’s reading of Blue establishes another approach. The original interpretations left by the album, often alone, incite the performers to simply copy what is there or go crazy in the other direction, with voluminous and sometimes illegible translations. Carlile was looking for a respectful but lively way.
She and her musical director, Jon Cowherd, trained their ears on Mitchell’s original recording, absorbing the key elements from handling piano keys to manipulating vibrato in certain vocal phrases. Carl’s regular members, Phil and Tim Hanseroth, did the same, Phil developing the single bass part of the album, created by Stephen Stills in the song “Carey”, and Tim consulting directly with Mitchell to learn how to approach an instrument. the key, the dulcimer. The whole group and the strings section were slowly expanding the scope of the album, including Russ Kunkel, who had played drums on three blue tracks that brought a sense of discipline similar to the project.
The result, though still based on the expressiveness of pop, has been compared to a highly representative classical or jazz performance, characterized by types of disordered bars or alleged games hailing stars full of stories that characterize musical tributes popular.
Carlile’s deep concentration distracted attention from the athletic prowess needed to sing Mitchell’s notoriously difficult melodies and the music itself. Blue was considered one of Mitchell’s masterpieces, but it is an act that had to be experienced in its original form, preferably via the private link that a listener establishes with an album in intimacy in a room or with headphones.
Carlile and her collaborators have given Blue a different life, a life together, a life that can be regenerated if others choose to approach the album as a repertoire. By the time he reached his point of departure, Brandi Carlile was ready to argue another point: to interpret “Shine”, one of Mitchell’s most recent compositions, and his own “Party of One,” inspired by Blue, suggested how Mitchell’s work, as she said, does not begin or end with Blue.
And so the challenging part of Beethoven was fulfilled; Blue has become a repertoire, in the classical sense of the term, carefully placed in a heritage of serious music without restrictions of high and low divisions. But what about Mitchell’s words? Carlile and his wife Catherine Shepherd, in collaboration with filmmaker Kathlyn Horan as an editor, imagined an ingenious way to make this Shakespearian rag. They asked a group of friends Mitchell’s artists (though definitely collapsed) to share their favorite letter from the writer, whether spoken or sung, with perhaps a word about why these lines spoke to them.
Using the camera feature of their phone, musicians, actors, and others create a collage of their moving ideas, jokes, and wonders, showing how Mitchell’s words, such as Bardo’s quotes, help people understand their stories. own changes in life and become a means of informal communication. depth
Sheryl Crow sings the first verse of “Amelia”, sitting on the bed of a hotel room. Courtney Barnett, in similar places of accommodation elsewhere, pronounces the first immortal line of “All I want”: I am on an isolated road, and I travel, travel, travel. Trombone Shorty and Tom Morello form a montage that celebrates the social commentary of “Big Yellow Taxi”. Others go for the darkest: Rosanne Cash, in a locker room, paints the night scene of “Night Ride Home” in 1991, while Dave Grohl, holding his phone with his camera as far as possible from his face, discovers a piece of juvenile film. which proved prophetic for both Joni and himself: “Will tell the drummer” of 1966. Cameron Crowe chooses the lines “Song For Sharon”, reading them from a piece of paper to Mitchell’s painting in the hall of his house.
Emma Thompson sings in her own room, also “Taxi”, instead of Mitchell’s standard that she played memorable in the movie Love, Actually. This song, “Both Sides Now”, receives a memorable tribute from the legendary recording director, Clive Davis, who sings it as a bar mitzvah blessing. It also offers some grace to Elton John, elegant in a dress, who shares some lines of “My Best To You”. This is a big band standard that Joni recorded at the end of the 90s, and its inclusion reminds us that vocalization can also be a form of author.
At Disney Hall, this selfie bus served as the night’s presentation and caused the screams of the crowd, who loved the parade of familiar faces. But the short film is a work of art in itself, because of this underlying message: what makes words become a repertoire is their resonance in the hearts and minds of people who might never to meet or share. reference points.
Musical fans like Brandi Carlile and her ensemble are needed to share Blue’s sounds in a classic performance; but Mitchell’s words, as sounds and as wisdom, resonate in the minds of all who love him and will last because strong interpretations or whispered rehearsals occur when there is no one else. close: each of us, fervent fans of Joni or singing on the radio. At the same time, learn to understand love and life from the map left by his pen.
This recognition of Mitchell’s work as a shared language makes understandable the high comparisons that Brandi Carlile repeats. In “For the Roses”, written in the early 1970s, Mitchell lamented the fate of songwriters who wanted to become poets but had to sit in the record company’s offices and ask a guy to “circulate his soul”. In 2019, his work found a different way to flow, thanks to friends like Brandi Carlile, and last.