Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Exciting musical news

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

“O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff came up on random play today.

Or the Old Spice music to some of us of a certain age. Also used in the X Factor.

It’s a marvellous piece of music. But I’d never thought much about the words before.

Which is today’s exciting news – there are proper words, and you can sing along.
In Latin!

It turns out that the words are older than the music by several centuries, and are actually pretty cool. In fact, over here you can read the words along with the music, and the English translation. What a clever old internet it is.

(As an aside, if you followed the second link above, I remember watching that live. They were amazing, but put on very scary faces for it. Very impressive!)

Musical News

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Two pieces of musical news today, one from the radio, and one from my ipod.

On shuffle while I was out cycling today I heard “Over There” by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. You can imagine my surprise when I immediately recognised it as that curse of the airwaves, the Go Compare tune (and no, I am not putting a link to the go compare tune in my blog! Just turn on your tv, and leave it for a few minutes and you’ll find it yourself). So for anyone who has found themselves whistling or humming that tune accidentally, this is excellent news – it has a more civilised pedigree that you might expect, and your actually humming a Glenn Miller tune!

The other musical news is that the Beach Boys classic “Sloop John B” has become a marching tune on the twelfth! They played a clip of it on Talkback, and then Wendy Austin helpfully explained that this was not simply a marching band expanding their repertoire in an unusual direction, but was in fact deeply offensive. I was hugely disappointed, as I would have liked to hear them tackle Good Vibrations or Barbara Ann (though of course flute bands always suffer from not having enough bass which wouldn’t help in the harmonies). I was hoping the story behind this would be that the Beach Boys had accidentally picked a folk tune which also had loyalist lyrics, but it turns out not to be the case. Apparently the Beach Boys did get there first, and then someone did a re-write on their lyrics. If you don’t believe me, you can hear it here.
Such a shame.

In other non-musical news, the weather has been unexpectedly good, and I got to cycle yesterday and today. Today I made it to the International Airport and back, which was a stupid idea, and I was knackered long before home. But on the bright side I did get to stop for Maud’s ice cream in Templepatrick, which was just what I needed. And another stop at the Indian takeaway down the street to refuel when I got home. 40 miles – a good afternoon out!

Van Morrison at the Odyssey

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Tonight I got to see and hear Van Morrison live at the Odyssey.  What a great night 🙂

He hasn’t changed since the last time I saw him – he still has no interest in talking (the only words he said all night were to thank the audience, and to get the audience to applaud the band). But he lets his music do the talking for him. As I remember from before, he leads his band all the way – waving at them, pointing, talking to them, directing the music. And he loses himself in it too, the head nodding, and applauding some of the solos.

But what made this concert special was that he doesn’t have a new album to sell this time round. So instead of new songs the audience doesn’t know, this was mainly old songs that we did know. But not as we know them. His band included a trombone and saxaphone, plus a part time trumpet and keyboard player (an odd combo I thought). So it went from having the feel of a jazz quartet when he joined in on his sax, to a solid horn section backing up the rest of the band (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums and more percussion) with brass stabs. As always, the arrangements were really good, with some really subtle details on muted trumpet and tinkly piano. He started with a great, really fresh version of brown eyed girl with very jazzy horns. My immediate thought was “Wow – he’s still got it. Michael Buble or Jamie Cullum could be singing that arrangement”. And I was really pleased about that, because Van is getting on a bit, but he can still do it. Other classics were Gloria, Tupelo Honey, Moondance, Sometimes we cray, and Have I told you lately. And others I can’t think of right now. All of them reworked and sounding fresh, and unpredictably performed by Van himself, when he gets stuck on a line or a word and uses his voice as an instrument, repeating whatever it is again and again. He’s also very unsentimental with his own songs – a lot of them end very suddenly, with no gradual run down at all.

I’ve got no pictures, because they would have been awful from my phone, because the staff were telling peopple off for taking them, and because I know Van hates that sort of thing. I fully expect to have sore neck in the morning from sitting at an angle for two and a half hours. But I don’t care. I still thank Van Morrison is great.

(And his daughter was pretty good too as a support act – she can sing!)

PS: Double Usefulness also enjoyed the gig, and you can read his review here. It’s probably better than mine ; )

Bob Dylan

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

This came up on random play today:

God said to Abraham “Kill me a son”
Abe said “Man you must be puttin’ me on”
God said “No”
Abe said “What?”
God said “You can do what you want Abe
but the next time you see me coming
you better run”
Well Abe said “Where you want this killing done?”
God said “Out on Highway 61”.

Bob Dylan either knows nothing about theology, or a great deal. I can never decide which.

An unexpected night out

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I’m still on holiday, in Majorca. One day, as I aimlessly wandered around exploring the resort, I came upon a poster advertising the Pollensa Music Festival. And unexpectedly, I recognised one of the groups performing – the Swingle Singers. 

Although you may not know the name, their work is heard in many an odd place, for example in Glee. singing all the a capella bits. They’ve also been heard in the odd advert and pop tune. Their sound is quite distinctive – a capella means they use no musical instruments at all, and even their drum sounds are done by beatboxing. I think it’s a great sound.

So I managed to get myself a ticket, and then managed to get myself to the venue (no thanks to the local bus company). And what a great night!

The concert was in the Convert of Santa Domingo, in an open courtyard – a splendid venue on a warm summer night. And the group were, as expected, brilliant. I’ll admit that sometimes the harmonies go from being beautiful to complicated, or even just very interesting, but nonetheless it’s the best use of 8 voices that I’ve ever heard. Some of it just made the hairs stand on the back of my neck. And other parts just left me grinning. (Their “Flight of the Bumblebee” is just amazing).

If you don’t believe me, check them out on YouTube or google them.

An unexpected, but very splendid night out!

The Dark Side of the Moon

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Fashion is a funny old thing. Sometimes you’re an early adopted, sometimes you come to the party late. But some things never quite go out of fashion. Some things are just regarded as timeless classics. One of those things is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It’s an album almost as old as I am, that caused a huge stir when it was released, and stayed in the charts for an unprecedented length of time.

I bought myself a Pink Floyd compilation a year or two ago, and quite liked it. It became a favourite when I was in Singapore. But only then did I realise that my favourite tracks  from the compilation nearly all came from one album. So I bought it this month. And I think it’s brilliant.

It’s prog-rock, meant to be listened to as a whole, not a set of unrelated tracks. And that is one of the album’s strengths, that the tracks are related. This is an album about life, in all its richness. The first lyrics are “breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care” and that probably sets a tone for how the album engages with life. As it goes on, it talks about restlessness, missed opportunities, money, war, poverty, madness and lots of other things. Maybe not so much about romance, now that I think about it. Wow. What a great album : )

I’ll admit that I don’t really dig the instrumentals On the Run and Any Colour you Like. But I think the rest of it is pure genius. I love the beauty of the tune of Us and Them, coupled with the sheer humanity of the lyrics. I love the anguish of Time “No-one told you when to run – you missed the starting gun”. I love the ego of Money. You never really know what to make of the Great Gig in the Sky. But on a good day, it’s just sublime, and does what it says on the tin.

But my favourites are actually the final pair of tracks. Somehow Brain Damage manages to be positive, and “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” is an affirming statement, rather than a negative one. And the final words are pure poetry “Everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”. Everything should be right, and in-tune, and perfect. But it isn’t, because however great and shiny the sun is, the moon manages to get in the way. And boys and girls of the internet, isn’t life just like that?

That was long and rambling. But anyway, I like this album. I’ve now loaned it to a friend, so it’ll be interesting to head what they make of it.

Paulo Nutini – Sunny Side Up

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I often complain about the music listened to by those young people. Often it’s not actual music as such, just semi-structured, or even insufficiently structured noise. (Was that curmudgeonly enough? Oh good.)

But recently I had to break a twenty pound note to get change for a car park machine (boring story – don’t let it worry you), so I popped into HMV in Milton Keynes and decided to buy a CD (rather than something from Starbucks, since they’d cost about the same).

And so I bought Paulo Nutini’s Sunny Side Up. And what a delightful album it is.

It starts off joyfully and raucously with 10/10, a ska track, complete with plenty of brass and lots of emphasis on the off-beats. I have no idea what he’s saying most of the time, but it’s a great track.

Then we move on to Coming Up Easy, which is a bit more laid back, but still with a bit of a soul feel to it. For most of the track I thought it was just okay, but then at the end Paulo turns into Van Morrison repeating the mantra “in love I was created, and in love is how I hope I die”, which really makes the track for me. In this one, I can kind of work out what he is saying, but still have no real idea what the song is actually about.

We then have a couple of good tracks, more laid back, storytelling sort of songs – quite good songs, but less exciting. But I’ve got to move on to Pencil Full of Lead, a fantastic song, basically impossible to describe or categorise, but described by a friend as “like something out of the jungle book”, which is a pretty good comparison, as it’s not very unlike I wanna be like you, in terms of feel. As I’ve said, a great song, which got a lot of much-deserved airplay and is completely positive and uplifting – “I got food in my belly and a license for my telly and nothing’s gonna bring me down” is a great philosophy. The highlight of the album.

But then when you think things are settling down, we get track 8, High Hopes (this live version is cool, but the album version is more delicate). It might sound unkind when I say it sounds like the closing credits song for a Disney film that hasn’t been made yet, but it’s got an innocence about the sound of the recorders, ukulele and harmonica, and a positivity about it that gives it that sort of feel. I like this track almost as much as Pencil full of lead. And another fine positive message in it too “there’s no harm in being wrong you know – to me it’s common ground”.

From there it does calm down a bit, but picks up yet again with Simple Things, a pure country and western song. Or at least it would be, if he wasn’t so Scottish. This one starts off quite sensibly, and then goes mental half way through. And who can argue about the value of the simple things “like going round his mums house for his tea”.

I got this album pretty cheap, but I can honestly say it was worth every penny – one of the things I most often complain about in modern music is that it is often quite depressing. Even if the words aren’t depressing, the sound of it is depressing. Well, this album does what it says on the tin, and I enjoy Paulo’s sunny disposition.

Though he is clearly bonkers, of course.

Sentient MP3 player – again

Monday, September 28th, 2009

On holiday, I brought my new little mp3 player with me, the one I bought to replace the one I landed on when I fell off my bike (crunch). It’s a Zen Stone Plus – a tiny little player, with 2Gb of memory, and an FM radio.

Unexpectedly, it took a complete fascination with one song (out of the maybe 200 or so on it), and decided to play it most days, in a very un-random way. I started to wonder what it was trying to tell me.

The song was “This land is your land”, by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (do give it a listen – here for example). The Dap Kings are the backing band Mark Ronson used for his Version album, backing the likes of Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. This is them in their natural environment, with their usual lead singer. It’s very funky, and I do like it.

The song is clearly inspired by Woody Guthrie, with its message of a land to be shared by all. But I reckoned the bit that stood out most for me was the 4th verse:

One bright sunny morning
in the shadow of the steeple
down by the welfare office
I saw my people.
They stood hungry
and I stood wondering
If this land was made for you and me.

And in this verse, there was one word that stood out. The word “my”. The writer did not see “the people”, or “some people”, or “a crowd of people”. They saw “my people”. I think that one line challenges a lot of what is wrong with the world today.

Are the hungry in the welfare line my people?  Do I associate or identify with them? Or are they just “some people”, or “poor people”. We can give money to good causes for good reasons without giving ourselves.

So that’s what I think my MP3 player was challenging me with.

Or I could be reading too much into a poorly written pseudo-random playlist function.

But it’s worth thinking about.

A hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Monday, April 13th, 2009

I was out on my bike this morning. And a wonderful song came up on shuffle on my ipod. So I thought I would share it with y’all. Just in case there is any doubt that Bob Dylan is one of the greatest lyricists that ever lived (and I know of no such doubt, but just on the off-chance), may I draw your attention to “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”.

Not being an extreme Bob Dylanophile (which sounds like one of those bizarre creatures that live in volcanic vents in the ocean floor), I don’t know a lot about the history of the song or anything. But rather than me regurgitate a wikipedia article to you, I’ll just add a link to it later on, and we can both read it together.

Anyway, the song describes the journeys of a young man who has been travelling, and returned home to his doting parents. The parents question their beloved son on his travels. “Where have you been, my blue-eyed son?” they begin. He tells them of a number of faintly disturbing places. Trying a different direction they ask “What have you seen?”. He describes the sights he has seen, which are even more unpleasant than the places were. The parents try again with “What did you hear?”. Mostly that’s the sounds of sorrow and pain. In desperation, they ask “Who did you meet?”. Unexpectedly, there is some good news here, but not much. After each verse, the chorus warns that “A hard rain’s a-gonna fall”, which I always think of as my favourite musical prophesy of doom. It doesn’t say much about this rain, but given the overall tone of the song, I think we can assume that it isn’t going to be good. Then comes the final question – “What’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?”. I suspect that my own answer might be “I’m going to stay right here, and I’m never going back out there because it’s all horrible” (obviously re-worded a bit to make it fit the tune). But Bob Dylan’s answer is “I’m going back out before the rain starts to fall”, and describes all the horrible places where he is prepared to go. Having seen the horror of the world, he does not turn away from it, but instead goes out to do something about it, while he still can. This last verse always challenges me.

As a post-script, I should admit that this morning I didn’t listen to Bob Dylan’s original version of the song, and instead was listening to the version recorded by Brian Ferry and/or Roxy Music (I’m never quite sure which). I like this version because of its richer instrumentation, and the fact that it goes along much more quickly, which keeps your attention better for what is otherwise quite a long song. However, it does miss out the “who did you meet” verse, which has the excellent lines “I met one man who was wounded in love, I met another man who was wounded with hatred”, which is beautifully symmetric.

And finally, some links – you can find a version of the song on youtube to listen to here (though I warn you the video is awful, and the song has been editted in some way), the original lyrics to read here, and that wikipedia article is here, but it doesn’t say a great deal.


Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

The long-awaited Lisburn 10k was this evening. Four of us ran it for ACTS Ministries – Nikki, Stephen, John and myself. I am pleased to report that we all made it safely round, and got our medals at the end.

It was an interesting experience. I followed my race strategy, which was to put my MP3 player on at the start (a small, light one – not my big clumpety iPod), and ran to the music, as I usually do. It worked pretty well for me. I started to flag a bit coming up to the half-way point, but was revived by knowing I was half-way, and listening to Hey Ya, by Outkast. This set a faster pace, sounds a bit upbeat, and gave me the chance to ponder the lyrics:

If what they say is ‘nothing lasts forever’
 then what makes, then what makes,
then what makes, then what makes
 love the exception?”

which I thought was worth some consideration.

Likewise at about the 8km mark when James Morrison sang:

Well I know that it’s a wonderful world,
 but I can’t see it right now
 I thought that I was doing well,
 but I just want to cry now.

it didn’t feel completely out of place at that stage in the ordeal.

But at the end, I felt pleased to come in at under an hour (54 mins 34 seconds by my watch – official timings still to come), and to be still able to walk. Never have I been so pleased to hear the Kaiser Chiefs, which was the music for a final fast push to the end. Mind you, it took nearly as long to get out of the car park afterwards as it did to run the race. Anyway, I’ve achieved something unexpected, and I’m pleased. Goodnight world 🙂