Tiny Desk

Gabriel Kahane

Gabriel Kahane: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/142514755/142633159" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Gabriel Kahane seems to enjoy blurring the lines between indie rock and indie classical. He arrived at the NPR Music offices with a string quartet and an electric guitarist in tow, and though they hadn't played together for long, you'd never know it. That says something about these musicians (one of whom, the violist Caleb Burhans, is a terrific young composer), because Kahane's songs are rigorously crafted — some with the insight and wit of Schubert lieder, but telling decidedly more contemporary stories.

The tongue-in-cheek "Charming Disease," for example, is a bleak portrait of a struggling alcoholic ("You were on the floor when I got home / Scraped you up, cleaned you off, got you out the door") with a catchy hook. But with its see-sawing, minimalist piano chords, shifting harmonies and unexpected melodic curves, it feels right to call it a composition.

The classical music thing comes naturally to Kahane. His father, Jeffrey Kahane, is a celebrated concert pianist and music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Kahane, like his dad, plays piano, but also guitar — and he sings with a voice that's lithe and expressive. He writes chamber music, lighthearted pop songs and commissions for orchestras like the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The music Kahane performs here is all from his recent album, Where Are the Arms, a suite of 11 smart songs that weave in, out and between pop, rock and classical, covering a broad range of emotions. The title track is a wistful plea, anchored by delicately repeating guitar arpeggios.

"Last Dance," which closes this Tiny Desk Concert, unreels in three little scenes, like a miniature opera. Kahane sings the recitative-like descriptions of his protagonist's daily routines, and then he pauses to launch a song within the song, a kind of pulsating pop fugue that ends in a satisfying cadence.

Set List
  • "Charming Disease"
  • "Where Are The Arms"
  • "Last Dance"
Credits

Michael Katzif, Cristina Fletes (cameras); edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Cristina Fletes/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Chicano Batman performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar., 30, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Chicano Batman

Chicano Batman comes with a sound that perfectly captures dark lounges, quinceñera dances, car shows and backyard parties.

Ljova & Kontraband perform at Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 13th 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Ljova And The Kontraband

Composer, arranger and viola player Ljova lead his Kontraband to the Tiny Desk for an eclectic swirl of Western classical, jazz, tango and Eastern European and Balkan folk music.

Sinkane performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 21, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Sinkane

You can hear a great New York jazz band in the rhythms of Sinkane, but you can also hear the influence of Bob Marley and the hypnotic repetition of Sudanese desert sounds.

Noname performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 28, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Noname

The power of language to penetrate a difficult subject, and the power of performance to share that language, are the gifts Noname brought to the Tiny Desk.

Delicate Steve performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar. 3, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Delicate Steve

This fierce and lyrical guitar player writes playful instrumental music led by hooky vocals — but there is no voice, just the human-like twang of a glass slide on a guitar.

Sampha performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 7, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Sampha

A Tiny Desk Concert as intimate as it gets (that's saying something). Just Sampha, a piano and three heart-wrenching songs that seem to double as coping mechanisms.

Red Baraat performs at Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 8, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tiny Desk Special Edition: Red Baraat's Holi Celebration

The Brooklyn bhangra band come to the Tiny Desk in celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of color that welcomes the coming of spring.

Tank And The Bangas perform perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar. 6, 2017. (Niki Walker/NPR) Niki Walker/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Niki Walker/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tank And The Bangas

Tank And The Bangas' victory lap around the Tiny Desk was momentous, celebratory and deeply touching, with a flair and alchemy of styles that could come from New Orleans.

Maren Morris performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 16, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Maren Morris

One of the newest Grammy winners stops by the Tiny Desk to share her winking, sometimes tongue-in-cheek songs.

Ninet Tayeb performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 14, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Ninet

One of Israel's very popular artists may be walking a similar path to early-career Joan Jett — she brought that same intensity to the Tiny Desk.

Back To Top