Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘music’

It’s good to be ambitious in a film. It takes a lot of courage to deal with sickness, mortality, bereavement, love, friendship, marriage, parenting, creativity, culture, fame, failure – oh, and Beethoven – in under two hours.

An acclaimed New York string quartet have been playing together for twenty-five years. The cellist is diagnosed with Parkinson’s. And with this unexpected crisis everything else starts to unravel – the music, the relationships, even the past.

Most of this works. There are some powerful scenes. But somehow it didn’t quite fit together for me; I didn’t quite believe in the characters. It felt contrived.

Now surely this is an unfair criticism. The whole point of a chamber piece like this is that it is contrived: five characters (there is a daughter too), on stage before us for two hours, everything as carefully constructed as Beethoven’s quartet itself (op. 131).

It made me wonder about what was missing. Why is it that in a classic Woody Allen film (Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and her Sisters, etc), however extraordinary the characters, and however overwrought the plot, you still believe that they have an existence beyond the film, that you are stepping into their life rather than seeing a life momentarily created for your entertainment?

Why does the willing suspension of disbelief sometimes work and sometimes not? I think this was too actorly, in a self-conscious way; verging on the melodramatic; and simply not as funny as Allen. And without the ragged edges that allow the film in front of you to fade into an imagined reality behind the screen. All of this, somehow, takes away from the authenticity that is the mark of a great film.

So it’s a good film! Go and see it. But with something missing…

Here is the Beethoven:

Read Full Post »

Dave Brubeck has died. His recordings were the first jazz I ever listened to, on a scratchy LP from my dad’s collection; and Paul Desmond’s lyrical playing on Take Five was one of the main reasons I took up alto sax as a teenager.

Here it is, on the original studio version:

And here is John Fordham’s short obituary:

The jazz composer and pianist Dave Brubeck, whose pioneering style in pieces such as Take Five caught listeners’ ears with exotic, challenging rhythms, has died. He was 91.

Californian-born, Brubeck had a career that spanned almost all of American jazz since the second world war. He formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951, and his hypnotically catchy Take Five – written by his gifted saxophonist Paul Desmond in 1959 – was the first jazz instrumental to sell 1m copies.

Brubeck was the first modern jazz musician to be pictured on the cover of Time magazine, on 8 November 1954, and helped define the swinging, smoky rhythms of 1950s and 60s club jazz. The seminal album Time Out, which the quartet released in 1959, is still among the bestselling jazz albums of all time.

Brubeck first learned classical piano from his mother, and later studied with the composer Darius Milhaud. His classical leanings gave him a taste for irregular time signatures, such as 5/4 and 9/8, and structures including rondos and fugues, which are not usually used in jazz.

“When you start out with goals – mine were to play polytonally and polyrhythmically – you never exhaust that,” Brubeck said in 1995. “I started doing that in the 1940s. It’s still a challenge to discover what can be done with just those two elements.”

The rarest of phenomena in the jazz world, a household name, Brubeck enjoyed a six-decade career of astonishing productivity. He died on Wednesday morning of heart failure after being taken ill on his way to a cardiology appointment with his son Darius, according to his manager, Russell Gloyd.

His death comes two days before what would have been his 92nd birthday.

And of course without Paul Desmond and Take Five we wouldn’t have “Sing of the Lord’s Goodness”!

Read Full Post »

I’m onto my third ‘best worship songs ever’ triple-CD in the car – the latest being The Best Live Worship Album…Ever!

This has two of my all-time favourites. I can’t find the same live versions on YouTube, so here are two alternative studio versions.

First, Majesty (Here I am) – not the hymn you often hear in Catholic churches, but the Delirious? song.

Second, There is a Day by Phatfish (I think…). It takes ten seconds to start – be patient!

Read Full Post »

I’ve been choosing some music that I can use during a retreat, to provide a bridge between the words of the input I’m giving and the silence of the time for personal meditation and reflection. I wanted to have a variety of styles, given the variety of participants. I’ve pretty much got the genres of Western polyphony and Catholic/Evangelical worship music covered by my CD collection, so it was good to explore some non-Western Christian music and take myself outside my comfort zone. Here are two of the pieces I chose.

You might say Rachmaninov is part of the Western canon, but in this setting of vespers he is part of a movement that is consciously trying to re-connect Russian sacred music with its roots in traditional Russian chant. This section is the Russian version of the Hail Mary, from All Night Vigil, Op. 37.

And the next piece, sung in Greek and Arabic, is an Easter Chant by Sister Marie Keyrouz, entitled “Christ is risen; in his victorious death he has given life to the dead…”

Sr Keyrouz, a Lebanese nun, is an extraordinary singer (lots of CDs on Amazon here). I first heard her music at a talk by Eamon Duffy, the Cambridge historian. He wanted to show how much of the culture and musical styles that we in the West might associate with Islam, in fact go back beyond the origins of Islam to a pre-Islamic culture. Many of the Eastern chants of Sr Keyrouz, he explained, would have stylistic roots – and possibly even some melodic lines – that stretch back to the 7th century and beyond. You certainly feel that you are being drawn into a profound and living tradition.

Read Full Post »

I found this version of ‘I arise today’ by Lisa Kelly. I’ve always loved the song. It’s not an explicit meditation on the Trinity, but it’s all there in the background, and it’s something beautiful to listen to for Trinity Sunday.

The words, from St Patrick, are here:

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven;

Light of the sun,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of the wind,

Depth of the sea,

Stability of the earth,

Firmness of the rock.

 

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me;

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s hosts to save me

Afar and anear,

Alone or in a mulitude.

 

Christ shield me today

Against wounding

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in the eye that sees me,

Christ in the ear that hears me.

 

I arise today

Through the mighty strength

Of the Lord of creation.

Read Full Post »

Terrence Malick’s film The Tree of Life introduced me to a huge collection of classical music I hadn’t heard before. There is one piece I can’t get out of my head, even months later – it just comes to me in the street, and brings back the pathos and beauty of the whole film.

I finally looked it up this morning. First, I found this great page from THE PLAYLIST that lists ‘all 37 songs’ featured in the film, and has links to recordings of many of them. Then I found the track that has been haunting me, which turns out to be: Pièces de clavecin, Book II 6e Ordre N°5: Les Barricades Mistérieuses, by Francois Couperin (1668-1733).

Here is one version:

And another on piano:

Does anyone know anything about Couperin?

OK, I know this can get a bit obsessive, the YouTube browsing, but here is the last version I’ll post, my favourite so far, which is slightly slower, and much more captivating for that.

Read Full Post »

I admit it – this is just a gratuitous post because I happen to have listened to some old CDs in the car over the last couple of weeks. Anyway, there is no doubt that Radiohead’s OK Computer has stood the test of time and must rank very high in any list of the greatest albums of the nineties.

It’s a triumph of music and mood over meaning. I haven’t got a clue what he is singing about most of the time. But what a mood they create, somehow in that strange space between exhilaration and despair.

Take “Let Down” as an example. Utterly depressing if you just listen to the lyrics, but somehow the music takes you beyond, as if the line about growing wings is not just a sign of desperation and frustration but some half-acknowledged sign of hope – quickly denied.

I need to go back to the album that came before – The Bends. At the time I preferred it over OK Computer because it was still on the edge of a classic rock album. I’m not sure what I’ll think now.

Jason Hirschhorn at Listverse agrees with me!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,199 other followers

%d bloggers like this: