04-23-19 | Songs for Listening | Alec Hanley Bemis
Writer, manager, and label head Alec Hanley Bemis picked tunes for Tuesday, April 23 at Songs for Listening. After a decade as a cultural journalist for the LA Weekly and NY Times among others, Alec devoted himself exclusively to music business work in the mid-00s — running the Brassland label, which he founded in 2001 with two members of The National, and employed independently as a creative producer and manager.
Brassland released The National's first three recordings as well as key releases in the alternative classical world (Clogs, Nico Muhly) and breakthroughs for an eclectic roster including Buke and Gase, This Is The Kit, pianist/producer Thomas "Doveman" Bartlett, choreographer Steven Reker and NYC crooner Baby Dayliner. He has served as a long-time manager of Alexi Murdoch, and a short-term manager of Dirty Projectors and A Great Big World. He has consulted on & curated for venues including Dublin's National Concert Hall Ireland, Australia's Adelaide Festival, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece and the Denniston Hill residency program in New York's Catskills.
Here’s Alec’s notes on his playlist:
”These are songs I've been obsessed with — a few of which have stuck with me for years (Void, Joni Mitchell, Jai Paul, Moondog), but most of which I've discovered more recently. Though I've been involved in a fair share of live events, I'm definitely a recorded music person at heart, and these songs all refuse to give up their mystery no matter how many repeat listenings I give them.
I tried to represent a few different areas I gravitate toward — niche genres like American hardcore (Void), British folk (Anne Briggs), and global music emerging from the internet's edges (Triad God, Jai Paul). Or superstars during eras that people discount ... which is probably the real gauge of their greatness (Dylan, Mitchell, D'Angelo). Also a Miley Cyrus track because pop is real; she is way more interesting than she's given credit for; and on this particular song she sounds like she could take on Dolly Parton. And Moondog because I felt like I needed to include at least one piece of "classical" music. Ha.
Few of these recordings adhere to traditional notions of high fidelity — and that's intentional. I think often about an answer the composer David Lang gave at a pre-concert talk at Carnegie Hall: "I'm in the business of managing energy." Or something Sufjan Stevens said in an interview I conducted with him: "I'm just making these ... shapes." I'm paraphrasing in both cases, but the point is this: music has evolved forms, genres & traditions — but the success of a piece will always be based on the marshaling of actual magical forces. Music is simultaneously a dream and a form of communication and a messy abstraction.
For artists like Void, Triad God, D'Angelo, Anne Briggs, Jai Paul their mysteries are probably, in part, existential. They're all folks whose slim discographies have had an impact (at least on other musicians) which far outweighs their profligacy. Which is a big ass fancy-worded way of saying that music is powerful, and that I'll forever believe a single song can change the world.”
'Who Are You?' by Void from 'Side B'
'All is Loneliness' by Moondog from 'The Viking of 6th Ave'
'Go Your Way' by Anne Briggs from 'Anne Briggs'
'Passion Play (When The Slaves Are Free)' by Joni Mitchell from 'Night Ride Home'
'Ain't Gonna Go To Hell for Anybody' by Bob Dylan from 'Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
'Gway Lo' by Triad God from 'Triad'
'BTSU' Jai Paul from 'BTSU'
'Unshaken' by D'Anglo from 'Unshaken'
'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart' by Mark Ronson & Miley Cyrus from 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart'
'Why We Build the Wall' by Anais Mitchell from 'Hadestown: The Myth. The Musical'
'Dyin Day' by Anais Mitchell from 'Young Man in America'