BACKTRACKS: Thomas Holcomb


This time around on BACKTRACKS, newsroom developer and tech expert Thomas Holcomb tells us how a piece of music became his constant companion at a time when he felt cut off from the rest of his family and friends.

LISTEN to his story here:


It was the music of Argentinian saxophonist and composer Gato Barbieri that guided Thomas’ daily journey from darkness to light. Out of print until its reissue in 2007, Barbieri’s 1977 album Ruby Ruby was a romantic collection of Latin jazz compositions produced by Herb Alpert. The record moved from soothing balladry to energetic jams, driven by Barbieri’s warm-blooded sax melodies. The track Thomas talks about here featured guitar work by Lee Ritenour with drummer Steve Gadd and Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Da Costa.


Here then is the full recording to keep you company as you head out into your day:

BACKTRACKS: Francis Mateo

On this third edition of BACKTRACKS, actor and poet Francis Mateo takes us back to his childhood in the Dominican Republic, where a Cuban love song inspires tears during a blackout, and an American pop song gets the kids scatting at a family party.

Listen to Francis here:

The first song Francis discusses is “Veinte Anos” as performed by Omara Portuondo with The Buena Vista Social Club. Omara was the only female member of the ensemble. “Veinte Anos” is a Cuban form of the bolero-son, originally written by singer, guitarist and composer María Teresa Vera, whose career began in the early 1900s and spanned decades until her retirement in 1962. She was a renowned practitioner of Cuban roots music called trova, after the trovadores who traveled around earning a living by singing and playing guitar. Vera passed away in late 1965.

Here is a recording of Veinte Anos by Maria Teresa Vera, recorded around 1958:

Our BACKTRACKS guest, Francis Mateo remains inspired by both Latin and American music, especially when it comes to his writing:

Ten or fifteen years ago, I was hooked on Silvio Rodriguez, this Cuban singer songwriter. To listen to his voice, to listen to how he made these lines, these verses, it was really great for me. I have his whole collection. The thing is there are days when I just want to listen to Bach…but there are days when I just want to hear some lyrics. I like stories better, like Bob Dylan. I mean to me, Bob Dylan was amazing, and Bob Marley. Just the mood that it puts you in, that’s the main thing, this mood of opening yourself to the world and just receiving everything. And hopefully you can give something back. I’m a writer, and what I write is nothing compared to these people I mentioned. And yet, I can’t stop writing because it’s something that I need to do.

We’ll leave you with a sample of Francis Mateo performing his poetry:

Backtracks: Jocelyn Gonzales

On this second BACKTRACKS offering, The MMiXdown’s Jocelyn Gonzales tells the story of a love song that echoes through her childhood to the present day. It’s a tune that, for her, has come to symbolize her cultural heritage and her parents’ devotion to each other.

Teddy and Felicitas Gonzales, Manila, Philippines ca. 1967

Listen to her audio essay below:


This classic Filipino kundiman that Jocelyn remembers was written in 1938 by Miguel Velarde Jr. for the movie, Bituing Marikit. In the film, the song was performed by matinee idol Rogelia de la Rosa, known as “The King of the Philippine Movies”. In true Filipino fashion, Rosa switched over from acting to public office, later serving in the Philippine Senate and as a diplomat under Ferdinand Marcos.
In 1964, Tom Spinosa and Mike Velarde Jr released an English/Tagalog version of the song, greatly increasing it’s familiarity in the United States. On the Tri-World Records release, Cora and Santos Beloy performed the song. Of this version, the original composer Velarde remarked:

“Sometime in 1960 a famous US singer who made a personal appearance in Manila presented me a contract seeking authority to record ‘Dahil Sa Iyo’ in the States. The five figure offer was fabulous but I turned it down – simply because she wanted to change the title to an American title. I couldn’t, and wouldn’t sell the identity we are trying hard to establish. The merits of the song is its identity.”

-Patrick Grant

Backtracks: Daniel Reyes Llinas

Just what WAS that first song or instrumental you heard at an early age, when you acknowledged music’s place in your life? Where were you and how did you hear it? That’s what we asked people for our new audio project, BACKTRACKS. We’re recording conversations and essays about our most formative musical memories.

First up, let’s meet composer, guitarist and media artist Daniel Reyes Llinas, who was lured away from singing in the choir to picking up his first axe by an Argentinian new wave pop song.

Listen to Daniel’s BACKTRACKS story here:

I’m from Bogota, Colombia. My family is made up of my mother, she was a TV soap opera actress. My biological father was a famous musician, he helped to create the Colombian music industry back in 1950s, 1960s. I never got to meet him, not that I know of. I have a step-father who’s my “love” father. That’s my origins.

It’s very common in Colombia to go to Catholic school, and when you go to Catholic school, you have to become part of the choir. I was six or seven, I had a very angelic voice. I don’t know, I had good intonation. That was my first approach to music. It was a priest named Ivan, the director of the choir…and he would bring us these pop songs, from Portuguese or Argentinian pop singers, and he will change the lyrics to praise God.

Then when you were in 5th grade…you get to play the guitar. They have a room with 50 guitars hanging on the walls. They will teach us how to hold the guitar, and they say, “This is the 6th string, this is E, everybody play E! ” Fifty kids playing E – chung, chung, chung! It sounded like bees or something.


The song that Daniel discusses is called “Cuando pase el temblor” by the Argentinian band, Soda Stereo. The band was formed in the early 1980’s by guitarist/vocalist Gustavo Cerati, bass player Zeta Bosio, and drummer Charly Alberti. With a pop mixture of reggae, ska, new wave and noise rock, Soda Stereo was at the forefront of the Argentinian rock movement, and remained popular well into the 90s. After their farewell tour in 1997, they successfully reunited in 2007, three years before Gustavo Certi (now a prominent solo artist) suffered a stroke onstage in Venezuela. He remains in a coma to this day.

Daniel Reyes Llinas has a new album called Molino – listen to clips on his website:

- Jocelyn

THE LADDER OF RED @ Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center

Created for ROBERT WILSON’s WATERMILL BENEFIT 2002, THE RED NIGHT. Conceived, designed, & directed by ANDREY BARTENEV, original music by PATRICK GRANT (music a.k.a. “INFLUX”), text by CHRISTOPHER KNOWLES, stage managed by SUE JANE STOKER, produced by ROBERT WILSON, performed by the WATERMILL ARTISTS of 2002.

Music performed by: Patrick Grant (keyboard), Jed Distler (piano), Paul Desilva (organ), Keith Bonner (flute), Thomas P. Oberle (clarinet), Darryl Gregory (trombone), David Simons (percussion), Michael Evans (drums), Alejandra Mahave (viola), Grace Lin (cello), & Mark Steven Brooks (electric bass)

Composers Concordance Festival 2012

January 27 – February 6, 2012, New York City & NJ

The Most Eclectic Contemporary Music Festival of the Season
Transversing genres, locales and aesthetic modes throughout NYC and beyond

Festival Website:

Click here for a PDF version of the press release:

With a 28-year history of leading-edge concert production in NYC, Composers Concordance presents The Composers Concordance Festival 2012. This will be a whirlwind of five innovative contemporary music concerts in ten days, including over 40 of NYC’s most distinctive and accomplished composers. This festival spotlights the composer in different contexts, engaging the audience and performer in the creative process, and contending with the dizzying multiplicity of styles within today’s music scene. All the while, Composers Concordance puts a premium on distinguishability, that factor by which we remember and denote individual identity – and it’s that aspect, the distinction and breadth of the composer’s message, on which we’ll chiefly focus.

The first concert, ‘Songs‘, shows the various vocal styles the composer writes songs for. From the traditional western classical soprano and baritone, to the modern pop/r&b diva, to voices of other world cultures that stretch the boundaries of notation and pitch.

The Composers Play Composers Marathon‘ shows the composer as a performer of his or her own music. A common practice in baroque, classical and romantic periods but rarer in the mid 20th century. Toward the end of the century and into the new 21st century, the art of the composer-as-performer is re-emerging, and on this marathon we hear no fewer than 27 composers interpreting their own works.

New Blues‘ asks the composer to show his or her compositional skill and voice in this very particular genre that influenced so much of the music in the 20th century. With the 100-year anniversary of the first publication of a blues piece by W.C. Handy, we look at how the 21st century composer is influenced by this style.

The development of technology was quick in the 20th century, and it inspired composers to create brand new timbres and sonorities with the possibilities electronic manipulation of sound provided. We see what the 21st century composer has to offer to progress further the art of computers, amplifiers, and circuits in the ‘Electronics‘ concert of the festival.

With the final concert: ‘Ensemble‘, we witness the composer in an ensemble setting, performing each others’ music. The ensemble in question is the Composers Concordance Ensemble (which is the ensemble-in-residence at William Paterson University), made up of the directors of comp cord as well as regular performers and composers associated with the group.

NOTE: There will be a press conference before the first performance on January 27th, at 5:30pm at The Turtle Bay Music School. Members of the press are invited to attend and learn more about the festival. RSVP:

Festival Schedule:

Composers Celebrate the Diversity of Song
Part of the Turtle Bay Visiting Artist Series

January 27th at 6:30pm

Turtle Bay Music School
Em Lee Concert Hall
244 East 52nd St, NYC
(212) 753-8811
Admission: Free

Composers: Cody Brown, Dan Cooper, Charles Coleman, Luis Cobo, Duke Ellington/Pritsker, Milica Paranosic, Gene Pritsker, and Bob Rodriguez

Performers:  Bobby Avey, Gernot Bernroider, Cody Brown, John Clark, Charles Coleman, Dan Cooper, Mat Fieldes, Laura Kay, Taka Kigawa, Milica Paranosic, Edmundo Ramirez, Chanda Rule, Sean Satin, and Keve Wilson

The 3rd Annual Composers Play Composers Marathon
Composers Performing Their Own Music
January 29th at 7pm

85 Ave A, NYC
(212) 777-1157
Admission: $20

Composer/Performers: Cristian Amigo, Loop B, Dan Barrett, Eve Beglarian, Svjetlana Bukvich-Nichols, Peter Breiner, David Chesky, Luis Cobo, Valerie Coleman, Dan Cooper, Jed Distler, Patrick Grant, Franz Hackl, Sara Holtzschue, Peter Jarvis, Andrew M. Lee, Peri Mauer, Daniel Palkowski, Milica Paranosic, Gene Pritsker, David Saperstein, Larry Simon, David Soldier, Rubens Salles, Eleonor Sandresky, Ezequiel Viñao, and Michael Wolff

Marking 100 Years of the Blues
Composers Bring the Genre into the 21st Century
Performed by The International Street Cannibals Ensemble
January 31st at 9pm

62 Ave C, NYC
(646) 546-5206
Admission: $10

Composers: Dan Barrett, John Clark, Dan Cooper, Glenn Cornett, Patrick Grant, Robert Johnson, Earl Maneein, Milica Paranosic, Gene Pritsker, and Joseph Pehrson

Performers: Dan Barrett, Lynn Bechtold, John Clark, Dan Cooper, Glenn Cornett, Glenn Cornett, Jennifer DeVore, Patrick Grant, Earl Maneein, Cesare Papetti, Milica Paranosic, Gene Pritsker, and Malik Work

Music for Electronics and Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
Composers Working with New Media
February 3rd at 8pm

Gallery MC
549 West 52nd Street, 8th Floor
(bet. 10th & 11th Ave), NYC
(212) 581-1966
Admission: $10

Composers: Loop B, Lynn Bechtold, Glenn Cornett, Dan Cooper, Dinu Ghezzo, Patrick Grant, Lainie Fefferman, Franz Hackl, Mari Kimura, Daniel Palkowski, Milica Paranosic/Joel Chadabe, Gene Pritsker, and Eric Somers

Performers: Loop B, Glenn Cornett, Lynn Bechtold, Gene Pritsker, Daniel Palkowski, Lainie Fefferman, Peter Christian Hall, Mari Kimura, Milica Paranosic, and Franz Hackl

Visual projections: Carmen Kordas

Composers Performing within an Ensemble
The Composers Concordance Ensemble at William Paterson University
February 6th at 7pm

William Paterson University
300 Pompton Road Wayne, NJ
(973) 720-2315
Admission: $5

Composers: John Cage, Dan Cooper, Robert Dick, Patrick Hardish, Peter Jarvis, Otto Luening, Milica Paranosic, Joseph Pehrson, and Gene Pritsker

Performers: Dan Barrett, Lynn Bechtold, Robert Dick, Peter Jarvis, Milica Paranosic, Gene Pritsker, and Michiyo Suzuki

For press inquiries, contact Composers Concordance

Complete iNFO at:

The Revolution Will Not Be Autotuned

This week on Public Radio International’s STUDIO 360:

I speak with Jon Pareles, chief pop music critic for the NY Times, about the History of Audio Effects in Pop Music over the last 60 years in a segment hosted by Kurt Andersen and produced by Jocelyn Gonzales.

Locally, it airs in New York City on Saturdays at 4 PM on WNYC 93.9 FM. National times for the week will vary on PRI’s affiliates.

Here’s a link where it’s available as a stream or as a podcast. Check it out if you can. Thx.

Listen HERE:

- Patrick Grant

Tilting at Windchills: Make Music Winter REVIEW

Here’s a New York Times write-up of the Tilted Axes guitar parade, along with reviews of some of the other parades that were a part of Make Music Winter in NYC – Marching to Their Own Drummers:


“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” a passerby said as Patrick Grant and his small platoon of electric guitarists and percussionists filed into St. Mark’s Church on East 10th Street. The musicians — roughly 20, with guitars plugged into miniature, battery-powered Danelectro amplifiers — had just finished a circuitous 85-minute journey from Rivington Guitars, on East Fourth Street, through the East Village, around Union Square Park, and on to the church, playing Mr. Grant’s insistently upbeat “Tilted Axes” as they walked.

The procession proved a fascinating barometer of New Yorkers’ tolerance for mild artistic eccentricity. Most people whose paths the ensemble crossed either smiled and stopped to watch, or scarcely glanced at the players, as if a parade of amplified guitarists was something you were likely to see at any time here.

A few happenstance listeners clapped to the rhythms of Mr. Grant’s piece — a series of simple, repeated chord progressions, to which a few players contributed spicy lead lines — and others joined the parade. No one seemed impatient or put out. And many a cellphone was drawn to document the performance.

Mr. Grant and his colleagues — among them, the guitarists Larry Simon, Angela Babin, Alex Baxter, Cristian Amigo and Nick Didkovsky — ended the piece inside the church after circling its auditorium a handful of times. They probably could have played for another 85 minutes, but on a signal from Mr. Grant, they produced a final, briskly strummed cathartic chord and settled in for what he called the “afterglow party.” - ALLAN KOZINN

For a brief glimpse of Tilted Axes, here’s video from along the parade route:

Make Music New York founder Aaron Friedman has said that Make Music Winter was inspired by Phil Kline‘s annual boombox parade Unsilent Night, which was performed this year on December 17. Kline’s piece Peregrine made its American debut at Make Music Winter, a musical procession which began at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, and made its way through Park Slope to JJ Byrne Park.

Unsilent Night is a neighborhood institution here in the East Village, many I know have been a part of it at one time or another. I’ll end with a video profile of the yearly event from 2008 and thank Unsilent Night for being such a wonderful inspiration for the musicians who participated in Make Music Winter:

- Jocelyn Gonzales