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The Rambler :: blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I paid for this DVD, dammit 


If you've bought or rented a Fox DVD recently, you'll know what I'm talking about: those wretched intros that preach (incorrectly) that theft is the same as infringing copyright. They annoy me more than almost anything - I dread the day they start putting similar voiceovers onto CDs. I've not verified this, but it's my guess that you only get them on genuine DVDs, not pirates, which makes them doubly annoying: my suspicion has long been that this sort of crap (which is getting deeper and deeper with every new DVD I watch) is aggressively targeted at the generally law-abiding citizens of the world. For starters, I can't imagine that there's a professional pirate in the world who hasn't actually realised the illegality of what he's doing, so this sort of stuff isn't aimed at them.

No, these pokes and prods are aimed at the rampantly criminal middle classes, graciously paying up to 20 pounds a throw to settle down to a film in the comfort of their (our) own homes. Those Fox ads are already causing quite a kerfuffle, but if you want to know what they're really about, use your ears.

The ads, as they appear on UK-bought DVDs at least, are soundtracked to a kind of nu-metal-by-committee wash. It's pretty unremarkable to these leathery ears, but if you were to put together the sort of music that was the aural equivalent of a hoodie to the good law-abiding citizens of middle England, it would sound rather like this. Fast, heavy drums, and sawmill guitars. (Somewhat blunted by the corporate horror of it all.) It's a crass cliché (and a misrepresentative one at that), but these are film lawyers, not minds attuned to the subtle pulse of contemporary culture. This is music designed to put the frighteners on our mothers, and it confirms the veracity of my instinctive reaction to these warnings: they are intended to threaten the small fry, the potential minor infringers who at worse will run off a copy for a friend. They are a calculated offence to everyone who legitimately buys or rents their DVDs.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Holst Singers, Temple Church, 28 January 2006 


Last night at the surprisingly well-hidden Temple Church, secreted in the passageways of establishment off Fleet Street, the Holst Singers, conducted by Stephen Layton, gave ample evidence of their claim to be one of Britain's foremost choirs. It has been a while since I last went to an all-choral concert, and a long time too since I last enjoyed a concert as consistently as this.

The principal focus of the programme, as I highlighted in my preview a week or so ago, was the 37 year-old Polish composer Paweł Łukaszewski, and although space was found for four appearances of his music it was only one of a number of themes covered in the evening.

The dominant work of the evening was Łukaszewski's Mass, a UK première, here given in its version for chorus and organ. This was divided into two (Kyrie, Gloria and Offertorium, and Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Ite missa est), forming substantial centres for each half of the concert. The significance attached to this work was highlighted by the choir’s procession each time from the Round end of the church, where the other works were all sung, to the Altar; after each half of the Mass, they would process back to the Round. Each of these four transitions was accompanied by the organ, superbly played by William Whitehead. On one occasion this organ music formed part of Łukaszewski's Mass; the other three were Messiaen. Any sense, however, that the concert might be leaning too heavily on the formality of Catholic liturgy was dispelled by the organ's fourth intervention, 'Joie et clarté des corps glorieux' from Messiaen's Les corps glorieux. The larger organ cycle may represent the abolition of physical boundaries, a highly symbolised meditation on the death of Death, but this movement with its extravagant solo lines is best described, frankly, as be-bop Messiaen. I wasn't the only person in the church stifling a grin at this point.

As well as Messiaen's organ music, the other mini-theme of the concert was twentieth-century British choral music, a staple of the Holst Singers' repertoire, and represented by some fine examples of the genre. The second half opened with Peter Warlock's The Full Heart, a prime example of that mid-century English choral style that, I think, is some of the most harmonically adventurous music ever written within an essentially conventional melodic, tonal framework. If you've read any of my pronouncements on Herbert Howells, you'll know how highly I rate this kind of thing. The piece achieved a certain notoriety for its difficulties when it was published just after World War I – one conductor claimed his choir needed 36 rehearsals to perfect it. Needless to say, the Holst Singers handled it with aplomb.

Actually, speaking to members of the choir, the really tricky piece of the evening was James MacMillan's Christus vincit, which closed the first half. Not least among its difficulties is a high, exposed soprano solo, sung beautifully by Nicola Wookey. MacMillan isn't always the coolest of composers, but I’ve long taken secret pleasure in his music; one of the first contemporary works I learnt well was, naturally, Veni, veni, Emmanuel. His short violin and piano work After the Tryst is one of the most perfect miniatures I know, and there was something of its solid, languorous harmonies and almost independently spiralling melody in sections of Christus vincit.

The other two English works were both carols, by Jonathan Harvey and Jonathan Dove, taken from the lengthy series of new carols commissioned for the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College Cambridge. The unveiling of these on a candlelit Christmas Eve afternoon is one of the musical highlights of Christmas, and as a result I'd heard both of these before. I think on a second listening, I prefer the Harvey – typically rich, resonant Harvey – and it easy to understand the appeal to a composer of his spiritual sensibilities of Bishop John V. Taylor's text:
Should you hear them singing among stars
or whispering secrets of a wiser world,
do not imagine ardent, fledgling children;
they are intelligences old as sunrise.

...

Their melody strides not from bar to bar,
but, like a painting, hangs there entire,
one chord of limitless communication.
But of course the principal focus of the concert was Łukaszewski, and three of his works were presented: the Mass, Ave Maria, and O Radix Jesse, which opened the concert. This latter is taken from the composer's Seven Magnificat Antiphons, to be performed in their entirety in the Singers' 8 April concert. This was much the sort of work I was expecting from Łukaszewski, a thickly-scored, heady blend of harmony, melody, and echoing drones, characteristic of other contemporary Polish choral writing. It is a lovely work and as a result made an intriguing preview for April.

Like the Antiphons, Ave Maria is another early piece by the composer (if 37 year-olds have early works), and was another attractive example of the type, although O Radix Jesse is certainly the more substantial composition. The Mass, however, I found a little disappointing. Having seen Łukaszewski's strength in writing the sort of choral harmonies that hang like vapour trails, the Mass's opening Kyrie presented a more assertive style that relied heavily on open octaves and fifths. These minimal resources were deliberately chosen but this decision did not really convince, and the composer's most mature work of the evening too often sounded like the work of a less-experienced man. The programming may not have helped – it had to follow 'Desseins eternelles', from Messiaen's La nativité du Seigneur, a rich Christmas pudding of a work. The second half of the Mass was greatly improved, and the Agnus Dei is certainly the finest of its six movements, a successful marriage of the dense harmonic language of O Radix Jesse with the celebratory tone of the Mass as a whole. There was certainly enough here to make me want to hear the whole piece again.

Evident from all three pieces was Łukaszewski's skill in drawing depth and detail from apparently 2-dimensional material – one absolute stonker of a chord leapt out of nowhere towards the end of the Kyrie – and it is this quality of his music, as well as its frequent beauty, that makes me unreservedly recommend the Holst Singers' rematch on 8 April.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Links for the week 


Just a quickie this one.

Spotted by Avant Music News, Insect and Individual is an mp3 blog posting albums by artists on the famous Nurse With Wound list.

And if you hadn't had enough IP shenanigans for one day, how about the absolute corker that is the 'Digital Content Protection Act of 2006', reported on WFMU. Here's some analysis that probably won't help you sleep better tonight.

Ach, cheer up, and thumb your nose at the same time: here are some sweet James Murphy/Juan MacLean mixes for all you DFA heads - thanks Halvorsen for the pointer.


New License for Laptop DJs 


Some clarifications, and some applause

The new license for digital DJs came onto the scene back in September (notwithstanding a growing backlash against laptop Djing), and is now causing a minor kerfuffle on Dissensus and at kode 9's place.

The present worry is over section 3.1 of the example license posted by the Digital DJ resource site, in particular the following:
3.1 The Licensee hereby warrants, represents and undertakes that it shall:

(1) Dub each Track in its entirety provided that the Fade-down Section of any Track may be subject to the use of premature fade and cross-faded or overlapped with the Track following immediately thereafter provided that the period of audible cross fade or overlap does not exceed 2 (two) seconds;

(2) not Dub Tracks in such a way as to accelerate the rate of the Fade-up Section at the commencement of any Track;

(3) Dub Tracks so that all reproductions of Sound Recordings on a DJ Database or Back-up Database will be of sufficient technical standard so that the quality of the original Sound Recording is reasonably preserved for any person listening to the Service;

(4) not mix, remix, Segue, edit, change or otherwise manipulate the sounds of any Sound Recording so that the sounds on the Dubbed copy of the Sound Recording are different from those on the original Sound Recording
The important word is 'Dub' - defined in the license preamble as
"Dub" means re-record, reproduce and/or copy or otherwise duplicate sound recordings
Therefore, the terms quoted above are all in respect of making a re-recording of the tracks that you are using to DJ with. The law allows you to make back-up recordings of these for your security, but in doing so you must respect the integrity of the original track.

The principle that's being applied here is that as a digital DJ you have to treat your digital files as though they were records in a box: do what you like while you're actually playing your set, but when you've finished, they all go back in the box exactly as they came out. This looks like quite a sensible bit of legislation, given the uninspiring form elsewhere in the realm of music and digital copyright. I have no expectation that most small-time bar DJs won't bother to stump up for their £200 license (the figure quoted by DJ Magazine, although this doesn't include VAT, and will be subject to inexation each year), but then they may not have bothered to pay for the standard license that the PPL already produce. What the PPL's new digital license does seem to do is cover up all the inevitable cracks and uncertainties that open up with the transfer to digital, and so far seems to do so in a sensible fashion. This is good (although it's not clear why the conventional license is scaled according to size of venue, and the digital one isn't.)

And now some worries

What is of rather more serious concern however is the PPL's plans to introduce in the near future a DRM requirement for all their licencees. So if you want a license to DigiDJ, you'll need to show that all the tracks in your Database (or all the ones that you're going to use) are DRM'd up. God knows what kind of ramification that might have, but the first that springs to mind is your mate, the bedroom producer who just needs a break. He emails you his latest tune to play next Saturday, but he can't DRM it. Well, he could, if he had access to the same sort of software as Sony or Apple, but then handing that kind of thing out to every bedroom producer in the land would rather kill the lock's potency, wouldn't it...

Ach, my hackles just rise at those three cursèd initials. I don't know what the PPL's plans might mean - like I say, possibly not much since I don't believe most DJs or small venues worry too much about their current music licences; but the further DRM reaches, the more I worry.


Monday, January 23, 2006

A grammar geek writes 


Does anyone else's blood run cold at the phrase 'sort links by recency' that now appears at the top of Technorati results pages? It can't just be me, can it?

*shudder*


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Musical Deaths in 2005 


What follows is my second annual summary of all the musicians - who I'm aware of - who died in the last year. The list for 2004, with accompanying explanation, may be found here; an explanation of how this list was compiled may be found here. The list below is in rough reverse chronological order, and picks up where the 2004 list finished; as a result some of the earliest names in fact died very late 2004.

Whereas 2004 felt like a particularly morbid year for music, 2005 felt slightly luckier. This is not to say, however, that we were fortunate enough not to lose any major figures. Far from it, and in fact my list is topped by one of the greatest losses of them all, the peerless soprano Birgit Nilsson, who died on Christmas Day. For completely understandable reasons, her family kept notice of her death private until her burial on 11th January; as a result, one or two press reports still mistakenly state that she died on the 11th. Opera also said farewell to the singers Victoria de los Angeles, Margherita Carosio, Deon van der Walt (shot dead, apparently in a dispute with his father, at 47), James King, Piero Cappuccilli, Ghena Dimitrova, Edna Graham, Theodor Uppmann, Una Hale, Ara Berberian and June Bronhill; the conductor Marcello Viotti; and the managers and impresarios Stella Chitty, Leonard Ingrams and Patric Schmid.

Guitarists also suffered: two of the most important players of recent times, Derek Bailey and Link Wray are no longer with us. 2005 also said goodbye to two accordionists - Myron Floren and Emiliano Zuleta - and two pipers - Martyn Bennett and Calum Campbell.

In the academic community, the losses of Gerard Béhague, Mantle Hood and Stanley Sadie, all three monumental figures, will be keenly felt. The British concert music scene was saddened by the loss of two of its most distinguished energisers, Susan Bradshaw and Felix Aprahamian. Electronic music was shaken by the deaths of Hugh Davies on New Year's Day, and of Robert Moog and Luc Ferrari only a day apart from one another.

And finally, but by no means least, anyone at all involved in music will have been saddened to learn of the departures of Albert Mangelsdorff, Luther Vandross, Artie Shaw and Junior Delgado, who are all major losses.

Rest in Peace, all of you.

Birgit Nilsson
Operatic soprano

Jamie Hodgson
Jazz photographer

Bill DeArango
Jazz guitarist

Lou Rawls
Singer

Sumi Jenner
Rock manager

Bryan Harvey
Guitarist with House of Freaks

Jack Langstaff
Singer and music teacher

Derek Bailey
Improv guitarist

Scott Reiss
Recorder virtuoso

Gyorgy Sandor
Pianist

Sydney Leff
Jazz sheet music illustrator

Jerry Lynn Williams
Songwriter

Danny Williams
'Moon River' singer

Donald Martino
Composer. (Publisher's notice of death)

Stephen Mosko
Conductor and composer

Deon van der Walt
South African opera singer

Johnny Tanner
Soul singer with the 5 Royales

Wilson 'Lit' Waters Jr
Gospel singer with the Fairfield Four

Fritz Richmond
Washtub and jug player

Chris Whitley
Rock guitarist

James King
Operatic tenor

Harry Freedman
Canadian composer

Alfred Reed
Wind band composer

Link Wray
Pioneering guitarist

Roy Brooks
Jazz drummer

Suzanne Rosza
Violinist with the Amadeus Quartet

William Grass
Flautist

Gardner Read
Composer

Patric Schmid
Opera impresario

Vilho Luolajan-Mikkola
Finnish composer

Emiliano Zuleta
Colombian composer and accordionist

Cedric 'Skitch' Henderson
''Tonight Show" bandleader and founder of the New York Pops

Robert Gerle
Concert violinist

Simon Hobart
Club promoter and DJ

Eleanor Warren
Cellist and BBC Radio 3 producer

Oleg Lundstrem
Russian big band leader

Esther Salaman
Mezzo soprano

Shirley Horn
Jazz pianist and vocalist

Baker Knight
Songwriter

Leni Alexander
Chilean composer

Frank Condatore
Bassist and swing band leader

Mike Gibbins
Drummer with Badfinger

Harold Leventhal
Folk music promoter

Emilinha Borba
Brazilian crooner

Jack Lesberg
Jazz bassist

Vakhtang Jordania
Soviet conductor

Hal Kalin
Rock 'n' roll singer, one half of the Kalin Twins

Paul Pena
Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter

Noel Mander
Organ builder

Steve Marcus
Jazz fusion saxophonist

Willie Hutch
Songwriter for the Jackson 5

Tommy Thomas
Conga player

Joel Hirschhorn
Oscar-winning songwriter

Jeronimas Kacinskas
Lithuanian composer, and Berklee teacher

Al Casey
Jazz guitarist

Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown
Blues guitarist and singer

Melvin F. Wanzo
Big band trombonist

Nathan Joseph
Founder of British folk and blues label Transatlantic

Richard Loring
Hollywood songwriter

D. D'Amour
Thrash guitarist with Voivod

R. L. Burnside
Blues musician

Les Braid
Bass guitarist with The Swinging Blue Jeans

Koji Tano
Japanese experimental noise artist

Danny Taylor
Psychedelic breakbeat rock drummer

Arnold Cooke
Composer

Luc Ferrari
Electro-acoustic composer

Earl Zindars
Jazz composer

Robert Moog
Inventor of the Moog synthesiser

Randy 'Biscuit' Turner
Big Boys singer

Esther Wong
"Godmother of punk"

John Stubblefield
Jazz saxophonist

Vassar Clements
Fiddle player

John Loder
Owner of Southern Records

Carlo Little
Drummer with Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart

Nick Perito
Hollywood composer

Francy Boland
Jazz pianist and arranger

Robert Wright
Composer of musicals

Joe Scurfield
Fiddler, comedian and activist

Leonard Ingrams
Opera impresario and founder of Garsington opera

Ki Mantle Hood
Pioneering ethnomusicologist

Keter Betts
Jazz bassist

Ibrahim Ferrer
Buena Vista Social Club front man

Doug Sharp
Organist and photographer

'Little' Milton Campbell
Blues guitarist and singer

Eli 'Lucky' Thompson
Tenor jazz saxophonist

Christopher Bunting
Cellist

Piero Cappuccilli
Operatic baritone

Thomas Kakuska
Violinist with the Alban Berg quartet

June Haver
1940s actress and singer

'Stranger' Malone
Country music clarinettist

Al Aronowitz
Rock journalist

Al McKibbon
Jazz bassist

Hildegarde
Cabaret singer

Robert Wright
Stage and film composer

Frank Deniz
Welsh guitarist

Albert Mangelsdorff
Jazz trombonist

Joe O'Brien
Veteran New York radio DJ

Susan Lydon
Writer helped start Rolling Stone

John Herald
Bluegrass singer

Blue Barron
Big band leader

William Henry Weatherspoon
Motown producer

Michael Gibson
Broadway orchestrator

Myron Floren
Accordionist

Long John Baldry
British rhythm and blues guitarist and singer

Laurel Aitken
'Godfather of Ska'

Geraldine Fitzgerald
Actress-singer

Joe Harnell
Pianist, arranger and conductor

Denis D'Ell
Singer with the Honeycombs

John Stubblefield
Tenor saxophonist

Isidore Cohen
Violinist

Frances Langford
Actress-singer

Pierre Michelot
Jazz bassist

Renaldo "Obie" Benson
One of the Four Tops

Luther Vandross
Soul legend

Frank Harte
Singer and collector of Irish songs

Siegfried Palm
Cellist

Basil Kirchin
Drummer and experimental composer

C. Carson Parks
Songwriter and music publisher

David Breeden
Clarinetist

Stella Chitty
Stage manager at Covent Garden

Chet Helms
Promoter of Janis Joplin

Ghena Dimitrova
Operatic soprano

Gerard Béhague
Latin American music scholar

Jaime Mendoza-Nava
Film and TV composer

Billy Bauer
Jazz guitarist

Roger M. Scott
Orchestral bassist

Carlo Maria Giulini
Conductor

David Diamond
Composer

Stan Wilson
San Francisco folk singer

Simon Waronker
Founder of Liberty records

Ghena Dimitrova
Soprano

Michalis Yenitsaris
Bouzouki player

Edna Graham
Operatic soprano and conductor

Pierre Moerlen
Drummer with Gong

Kenneth Schermerhorn
Conductor

Dennis Eberhard
Composer

Richard Lewine
Broadway composer

Ruth Laredo
Pianist

Oscar Brown Junior
Singer and songwriter

Stan Levey
Jazz drummer

George Rochberg
Composer

Keith Miller
All-round musician

Thurl Ravenscroft
Singer and voice of Tony the Tiger

Nasrat Parsa
Afghan pop star

George 'Wild Child' Butler
Blues harmonica player

Surya Kumari
Indian singer, dancer and actor

Jimmy Martin
Country singer

Jimmy Martin, 77
Bluegrass singer and guitarist

Eddie Barclay
Record producer

John Patton Jr.
Singer

Johnnie Stewart
Creator of Top of the Pops

Benny Bailey
Jazz trumpeter

Grant Johannesen
Mormon pianist

Percy Heath
Bassist with the Modern Jazz Quartet

Hasil Adkins
Rockabilly singer-songwiter

Jimmy Woode
Bassist for Duke Ellington

Tehmina Mehta
Matriarch of classical music family

Cyril Tawney
Folk singer and songwriter

Robert Farnon
Trumpeter and light music composer

Niels-Henning Oersted Pedersen
Danish jazz bassist, aka NHOP

Juggy Murray
Founder of Sue Records

Salvatore Tutti 'Toots' Camarata
Conductor, arranger and record company executive

Ehud Manor
Songwriter behind Israeli Eurovision win in 1978

Jerry Byrd
Country guitarist

John Fred
Singer and songwriter

Junior Delgado
Roots-reggae singer and producer

Johnnie Johnson
Rock 'n' roll pioneer and inspiration for Johnny B Goode

Kathie Kay
Singer with the Billy Cotton band

Richard Wolfson
Member of Towering Inferno

Stephanie Shepard
Singer

Norbert Brainin
Violinist, leader of the Amadeus Quartet

Alexander Brott
Conductor and composer

Laurette Goldberg
Harpsichordist and champion of early music

Jack Keller
Composer of TV themes, including 'Bewitched'

Gwydion Brooke
Bassoonist

David Measham
Conductor

Rod Price
Foghat guitarist

Sylvia Meyer
Harpist and first female member of the National Symphony Orchestra

Dame Moura Lympany
Pianist

David Lerchey
Singer with the Del-Vikings

Meredith Davies
Conductor

Paul Hester
Drummer with Crowded House

Ifor James
Horn player

Goldie Hill
Country and western singer

Saul Isarel Holiff
Former manager of Johnny Cash

Gary Bertini
Conductor

Theodor Uppman
Baritone

Bobby Short
Cabaret singer and pianist

Lalo Guerrero
Pioneering barrio singer

Danny Joe Brown
Lead singer with Molly Hatchet

Justin Hinds
Reggae singer

Larry Bunker
Jazz drummer

Chris LeDoux
Country singer and bareback rider

Lázaro Ros
Afro-Cuban singer

Lyn Collins
Funk singer

Jeanette Schmid
AKA 'Baroness Lips von Lipstrill', Austria's last professional whistler.

Una Hale
Soprano

George Scott
Singer with the Blind Boys of Alabama

Kathie Kay
Big band singer

Sergiu Comissiona
Conductor

Goldie Hill
Country singer

Dorris Henderson
Folk singer

Dave Goodman
Early producer for the Sex Pistols

Joe Carter
Member of the famous Carter country music family

Trude Rittmann
Broadway arranger. Once described as "Germany's most brilliant woman composer"

Martin Denny
Musician and bandleader known as the 'Father of Exoctica'

Tommy Vance
Rock DJ

Chris Curtis
Songwriter and drummer for the Searchers

Edward Patten
Member of Gladys Knight & the Pips

Ara Berberian
Operatic bass

Robert Koff
Violinist who cofounded Juilliard quartet

Harry Simeone
Choral conductor and arranger

Mabel Robinson Simms
Jazz pianist and vocalist

Sid Long
Folk singer

Pam Bricker
Singer who appeared with Thievery Corporation

Bill Potts
Jazz pianist, arranger and composer

Tyrone Davis
Soul singer

Sammi Smith
Country singer

John Raitt
Broadway baritone

Marcello Viotti
Opera conductor at La Fenice

Pete Sayers
Country musician

Sixten Ehrling
Conductor

Robert 'Sunny' Spencer
Member of western music group Sons of the Pioneers

Andreas Makris
Violinist and composer

Armand Kaproff
Hollywood cellist

Jimmy Smith
Hammond organist

Nick Kilroy
Discovered the Junior Boys

Keith Knudsen
Drummer with Doobie Brothers

Ruth Packer
Soprano

Lazar Berman
Pianist

Merle Kilgore
Co-writer of 'Ring of Fire' country hit

Eric Griffiths
Founder member of the Quarry Men, who made way for George Harrison

Calum Campbell
Hebridean piper

Martyn Bennett
Celtic music star

Ray Peterson
Singer

Susan Bradshaw
Writer, broadcaster, performer, teacher, composer and champion of new music

Jim Capaldi
Drummer with Traffic

John Duarte
Guitar composer

June Bronhill
Australian light opera soprano

Consuelo Velázquez
Mexican songwriter

Herbert Downes
Viola player with the Philharmonia orchestra

Bezerra da Silva
Sambista, 'Godfather of gangsta rap'

Solomon King
aka Allen Levy. Singer

Margherita Carosio
Operatic soprano

Nell Rankin
Mezzo soprano

Felix Aprahamian
Music critic and promoter

James Griffin
Songwriter with Bread

Victoria de los Angeles
Soprano

Spencer Dryden
Drummer for Jefferson Airplane

Danny Sugerman
Doors manager since 1971

Hugh Davies
Electronic music innovator

Bert Reid
Saxophonist with Crown Heights Affair

Bo Wallner
Swedish musicologist

Leslie Gourse
Jazz biographer

Mack Vickery
Nashville songwriter

Artie Shaw
Swing jazz clarinetist

Hank Garland
Guitarist for Elvis and Roy Orbison

Son Seals
Blues guitarist

Homi Kanga
Indian violinist

Freddie Perren
Composer

Martha Carson
Gospel musician

Dick Heckstall-Smith
Saxophonist


Universal announce deleted music MP3 store 


This is an interesting development: Universal are to exhume 100,000 deleted tracks from their archive to sell online.

First thoughts:

100,000 tracks doesn't sound like a very big back catalogue (iTunes has a million, and hardly any of them are what you want).

But, this is a good thing in principle - UMG have finally clued up that people still want to buy the old stuff.

Money quote: Barney Wragg, senior vice president of Universal's eLabs division. "At the moment, if people pay large amounts of money to buy this music secondhand none of that is going back to the artist." I wondered when they were going to try to screw the faithful crate digger. Thing is, he doesn't want an invisible, inferior quality, over-priced, DRM'd lump of code. He wants the record. Is UMG's long tail going to be as long as they think?


Get Carpark 


In case you're wondering, by the way, I wasn't at any of the Get [Elliott] Carter business at the Barbican at the weekend. I was, however, in Gateshead, in sight of the Get Carter carpark, which is a nice little coincidence, and something I also found easier to muster enthusiasm for.

Although the site was down last time I looked, there are some beautiful pictures of Owen Luder's masterpiece here, if you can get the link to work.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Links for the week 


Gerard McBurney writes in the Guardian on Shostakovich's continuing ability to divide the critics.

Avant-garde/free jazz freakout fans take note: Ubuweb have posted mp3s of the long out-of-print John Cage meets Sun Ra album [thanks Free Albums Galore and Avant Music News for the notice]. In fact, WFMU have a complete run-down of recent Ubu additions.

And if City of Sound's post on digital music was last week's 'read later when you get some time' article, Kyle Gann's new analysis of Mikel Rouse's Quick Thrust is this week's. Ah, that mythical Sunday afternoon when I have time and energy to catch up on my reading...

Meanwhile, I can at least catch up on my listening: just before Christmas Kid Kameleon posted a mix-survey of 12 years of drum and bass. Coming a little late to this, but I'm here to tell you it's a junglist corker.


Monday, January 16, 2006

New Music Notes, new blog 


A quick heads up on a newish new music blog that has been brought to my attention: Alan Taylor's New Music Notes. Alan is a composer himself [homepage] and his posts are frequently embellished with MIDI and mp3 extracts of his own music.


Small observation 


I was in Waterstones over the weekend, and noticed that although they have a shelf devoted to 'digital music', the entire shelf was given over to iPod/iTunes user guides. Loads of them. This means one of two things to me:

1. People with a Zen, or other mp3 player, are smart enough to be able to work it without an expensive self-help guide. [Update: the situation may be worse than first thought]

2. People with a Zen, or other mp3 player, might as well not exist, because the industry has already forgotten about you.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Holst Singers – Paweł Łukaszewski 


I've been made aware of a couple of concerts that the Holst Singers are giving in London later this year, which well deserve attention. Having recently begun a partnership with Paweł Łukaszewski the choir is including works by the 37-year-old Polish composer in each concert. For anyone that knows me, the words 'young Polish composer' are enough to grab my notice from the start. The first, on 28 January, includes the world premiere of the organ version of his Mass for choir and wind instruments; and the second, on 8 April, brings Łukaszewski's 7 Magnificat Antiphons to its London premiere.

I came across Łukaszewski's music in Warsaw in 2004 (my thoughts on his Second String Quartet are towards the bottom of the page). He's not to be confused with his father Wojciech (another composer), or his younger brother Marcin (a pianist). All three have strong reputations in Poland, although it is only Paweł who is mentioned in Adrian Thomas's Polish Music Since Szymanowski, where he is described as "best known for his resolutely anti-modernist sacred choral music". The Holst Singers' musical director Stephen Layton says that on first hearing Łukaszewski's music he was "struck by the spiritual intensity of Paweł's compositions - reminiscent of composers such as Górecki and Pärt - but also by the harmonic sophistication and variety of colour in his music."

At the risk of establishing a cliché that may haunt the composer in years to come, Łukaszewski is from that peculiarly Eastern European school of recent sacred music that is led by Pärt and Górecki, but also includes Kancheli, Gubaidulina, and some works by other Poles including Penderecki and Kilar. If you enjoy any of these composers, you are likely to get something from the Holst Singers' concerts, not least because of the sympathetic programming that includes pieces by Jonathans Harvey and Dove, James MacMillan, Pärt and Górecki themselves, and earlier music by Holst and Peter Warlock. All very fine stuff indeed, and I recommend you get yourself down there. Temple Church is perhaps not the easiest of London's venues to find, but directions may be found here.

Details: £12 (£8 conc.) | South Bank Centre Box Office | 08701 633833

Concert 1 | 28 January 2006 | 7.30pm | Temple Church

Łukazsewski: Mass for choir and wind instruments (organ version)
Macmillan: Christus Vincit
Harvey: The Angels
Jonathan Dove: The Three Kings
Peter Warlock: The Full Heart
Górecki: Totus Tuus

Concert 2 | 8 April 2006 | 7.30pm | Temple Church

Łukaszewski: 7 Magnificat Antiphons
Arvo Pärt: Magnificat
Marin Borkowski: Libera Me
Gustav Holst: The Evening Watch


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Links for the week 


Some of these are held over from Christmas/New Year period, so bear with:

Andreas Scholl - too cool for school. At least judging by the contents of his iPod. (Although, can we now draw a line under this 'half-arsed analysis of public figures via free commercial advertising' please? Oh, apparently not.)

All crew should check out last night's Breezeblock show via BBC Radio 1's Listen again. This one'll be on the minidisc for weeks to come.

Elliot Carter's weekend on the South Bank starts on Friday - as a result, there have been a couple of nice interviews with him in the recent press: here's the Guardian; here's the Telegraph.

And in anticipation of some London performances of Osvaldo Golijov at the end of the month - 'first great new composer of the century', apparently (like Ride were the 'first great new band of the 90s' back in the day) - the Guardian has an interview with the man.

Here's an excellent-looking article on music and the role of digital technology. I confess I've not read it all yet, but it comes highly recommended from Jonathan, and that's good enough for me.

Tongue appropriately in cheek, Alex Ross has compiled an all-time ranking of musicians, according to Google hits. Nuff respect to Beethoven, who nearly matches Britney Spears, but without the advantage of cropping up all over the web's seedier avenues...

And finally, this is really the end of an era: Tom Ewing has called time on New York London Paris Munich, one of the original - and still best - pop music blogs. Much, much respect.


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