Thursday, March 25, 2010

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup (The Beatles)

Good friend Greg sent me an interesting email recently that got me thinking. He was venting about the lack of appreciation of modern culture by high culture (his description used the term arty-farty people). This is something that I remember discussing at university (probably with Greg!). The something is the low art vs high art debate which is a close cousin of the populist vs niche art debate.

Greg's contention is that 'there are musicians today who may write pop or rock music but they are every bit the genius the art-snobs claim Mozart to be. And there are lyric writers who are, as poets, every bit as good as Byron and Shelley were'.

This is a classic low art vs high art situation. I can love and appreciate poets like Walt Whitman and William Wordsworth (high art) as well as modern poets in all but name like E (from The Eels) and John Lennon. But Greg's saying that art-snobs won't allow me to bracket Whitman and E together. A spurious argument, I think (and so does Greg) because that judgment's based on something that has not been correctly understood. Someone who only listens to classical arias and ignores Jackson Browne doesn't know their elbow from their arsenal (literally). It is therefore a false argument. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

On the other hand - there are plenty of sub standard musicians who give the art snobs ammunition for their argument. For every Beatles or Miles Davis there is a James Last or Hollywood Strings. I love the Big Band jazz sound of Glenn Miller et al but they didn't shift as many units as Hooked On Swing.

On the whole, though, I agree with Greg. An example? While I was typing this a Patti Smith song (Easter) emerged from the p-pod shuffle.

Patti Smith is someone who blurs all sorts of boundaries. She's a visionary poet, a performance artist, a writer, a critic, a singer, a mother, a guitarist, and, amongst other things, a force to be reckoned with.

Here she is doing Easter - a song that has a great lyric and contains a poem (you can tell where the poem is). It's also a beautiful piece of music. Is it great? Not sure, but I certainly like it and reflect on it. It's original. It's haunting. It contains a personal set of resonances. It contains an interesting theme and viewpoint, and it does so with a memorable set of images. She named the album after it so it must be important to her.

Easter Sunday, we were walking.
Easter Sunday, we were talking.
Isabel, my little one, take my hand. Time has come.

Isabella, all is glowing.
Isabella, all is knowing.
And my heart, Isabella.
And my head, Isabella.

Frederick and Vitalie, savior dwells inside of thee.
Oh, the path leads to the sun. Brother, sister, time has come.

Isabella, all is glowing.
Isabella, all is knowing.
Isabella, we are dying.
Isabella, we are rising.

I am the spring, the holy ground,
the endless seed of mystery,
the thorn, the veil, the face of grace,
the brazen image, the thief of sleep,
the ambassador of dreams, the prince of peace.
I am the sword, the wound, the stain.
Scorned transfigured child of Cain.
I rend, I end, I return.
Again I am the salt, the bitter laugh.
I am the gas in a womb of light, the evening star,
the ball of sight that leads that sheds the tears of Christ
dying and drying as I rise tonight.

Isabella, we are rising.
Isabella, we are rising . .

In the spirit of celebrating some more low art here is one of my favourite poems. It's called Across The Universe...
Words are flowing out
like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither
wildly as they slip away
across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of
are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me.

Images of broken light
which dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a
restless wind inside a letter box
They tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing
Through my opened ears, inciting and inviting me,
Limitless undying Love
which shines around me like a million suns,
and calls me on and on
Across the universe John Lennon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Everyone get our of your bodies (P M Dawn)

I love my purdy-pod (p-pod) shuffle.

It's like having my own eccentric radio station, filled with all the music that I love.

I know that's a no brainer I chose all the music from my collection, and I know it contradicts one of my pet peeves of the moment - that creating a coherent album of songs is a lost art. Why is it no one is making coherent albums anymore? Two reasons - 1) records gave way to CDs and 2) CDs gave way to downloads of single songs.

Yes I love the record format - two sides (or four or six) that were sequenced with care and diligence. Alas - no longer. CDs became bloated and indistinct in form - one (sometimes really long) side.

But the kids aren't buying CDs. Their attention span is such that they can't comprehend the length of imagination required to strap on headphones and listen to Dark Side of the Moon anymore. and therefore I suffer because the redundant record companies

But I'm loving the contrasts that the shuffle draws out. From one musical genre to another in an instant. One second it can be a Paul Desmond cool jazz track then it can swing into the Norwegian metal of Opeth and then maybe Dwight Yokam's country vibe. It's so cool!

I'll show you what I mean - I'm going to type out this entry to the next 10 songs to give you a snapshot of Radio Wozza.

The first up is The Mars Volta with L'Via L'Viaquez. A crazy spiky lope of a song that acts like it's fixing to end at any second. In fact it sounds like about four different songs mashed together and left to marinate in the sun. It is quite brilliant.

It's followed by The Casuals Jesamine - all summery gloss and glimmer. A pretty perfect pop song that makes me (butterfly) smile. When the horns and strings swoop in it builds and then falls away and then I realise it's like candy floss. There is no substance to the lyric. A butterfly child? What the hey? It ends...

Now it's Ozric Tentacles' Afroclonk - quasi African drums/percussion and pipes conjure up images of the high veld. That mixes with synth squirts of hippy colour, until some rock guitar fades in with the drums and rhythm comes back. Great groove going on in this one.

Track four is The Cult with Edie (Caio Baby) - a straightforward rawk song in ballad form. I love the Cult's retro cool. Here they latch onto one of Andy Warhols acolytes and pay her some kind of homage (I think).

Five - Herbie Hancock Live and Awake - cool jazz sax piano and drums combo. I'm a late comer to the Herbie canon. But I'm catching up fast.

Six - Catarock song #5 (it has a Thai title that the p-pod can't read). This is a band from Thailand. I bought their CD in Bangkok and I love all the barking mad songs on it. Each track is very different in style - heavy metal, melodic pop, hard rock or smooth ballad are the four prevalent styles. This one is of the last variety. It has a gorgeous melody and the lyrics are of course in Thai so lord knows what he is on about but I love it. A 30 sec clip contains bits of the album.

Seven - The Datsuns Freeze Sucker = some good old fashion high pitched vocals on a seventies style hard rock base. Perfecto from the New Zealand band who have not yet bettered that first album.

Eight - in Belfast now for Van Morrison's Real Gone. Effortless swing. A brilliant combination of his relaxed van the man vocal with bushed stabs on the drums, horns and a solid organ bedrock. Mmmm - one of my favs! Great for bopping around the room (which I'm going to do,,,now).

Nine - Bob Dylan Things Have Changed. A cheerful beat and dark lyrics about a man with his head in the noose. Dylan sings in his Travelin Wilbury mode - which I like. After a while you notice that the beat doesn't deviate and it takes on a persistent heart beat. If it was on a Dylan album it wouldn't stand out in the same way. Some beautiful guitar gives a hint of pathos that suits the song's underlying mood.

Finally, track ten is back to weirdsville -Jack Bruce Mickey the Fiddler. I'm a big fan of Jack's post Cream songs. They play around with structure and his voice is glorious. He can convey so much with just a slight vocal nuance.

So there you go - Radio Wozza!! Unique and all mine!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Make a jazz noise here (Frank Zappa)

More and more these days I am drawn to jazz noises. I love the main Starbucks store at Doha's City Center mall. Each time we're at the mall I make a visit to this Starbucks - partly for the ritual cup of tea and muffin, but also for the great jazz music they play. Sets up a great ambiance. Last night there was a Ferrari promo happening in the mall with loud garish techno music. We moved through the mall to Starbucks and there was some great Coleman Hawkins' style track playing. It was such a relief! Given the contrast to the loud techno, I could feel myself relax immediately.

I recently picked up a number of jazz CDs in Belgium and England. Verve have an excellent sampler series available that I have collected for a while. Called Jazz club they have grouped music into sub genres like swinging jazz piano, driving jazz, thriller jazz (TV themes reworked by various jazz hipsters), saxophone ballads - that sort of thing. The one I got in Belgium was called Jazz For Meditation. It does what it says on the tin. It collects together jazzers like Randy Weston and song titles like 'Bamboo Flute Blues' and instruments like tabla, flute and sax to create an eastern sounding groove. Perfect for Sunday mornings.

Here's a sample of what this style of music has to offer from Alice Coltrane. Chuck this on and meditate away!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I journey through the desert of the mind (Queens of the Stone Age)

I was keen to find out the name of this Queens Of The Stone Age riffage extravaganza after hearing it a few times on Radio Hauraki but it kept eluding me. It took ages but I managed to eventually catch it. Then came the finding of the parent album - Songs For The Deaf. No luck in Doha so it was on the list for tracking down in Europe. Duly found a copy in Brugges and subsequently saw it in Fopp for 3 pound!

Here's the awesome No One Knows by QFTSA.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jason's Theme (John Powell)

One of the smallest categories in my collection is labelled ' Original Soundtracks'. That is - not compilations of existing songs - 'original' means that they are soundtracks specifically written for a specific film. It's tiny. Off the top of my head I can think of only the following in my collection:

The Monkees - Head
Badly Drawn Boy - About A Boy
Prince - Batman

The Beatles - Hard Day's Night and Help (and these are a stretch aren't they)

And you'll have noticed that these are obviously all essentially soundtracks of pop songs and not soundtracks of proper film music. The list of those is even smaller - Apocalypse Now. The soundtrack is largely instrumental music and dialogue with the Doors and Suzie Q thrown in.

Samantha beats me easily on this cos she loves Hans Zimmer's stuff. Keegan will eat me cos he loves film and he loves music. For me though I've seldom seen a film and thought - I must get that soundtrack. If it's a great film I usually don't notice the music and if it's a crap film I don't want to be reminded of the experience by buying the soundtrack. So - 0ne - it has to be a great movie, with a (two) great soundtrack, thirdly, I have to notice the soundtrack. But not only those three things - I also have to absolutely love the soundtrack! Only four films have ever done all four for me - the aforementioned Apocalypse Now and The Bourne Trilogy. Star Wars has come close but I don't love John Williams music sufficiently to listen to again and again.

So I've been looking for them for years in NZ and never had any luck.

Until my visit to London and Brugges. The list from the last post had the Bourne soundtracks on it. I've been searching for them for years and finally I found them. First in Brugges I bought Ultimatum and cheaply - 10 euro; then at HMV in Oxford St I got the first two - Identity and Supremacy (not so cheap - 16 pound each). Wahoo!!

Best moment was when I put on in the apartment and Jacky said - 'That's's from the Bourne films isn't it?' This qualifies as extremely high praise!