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Friday Miscellanea

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Friday Miscellanea

For those who are especially obsessed with The Beatles or the electric bass, here is just the bass track from Abbey Road:

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Way back when I was a graduate student in musicology I went to a conference in Rochester and one of the most interesting papers given was on the remarkable, actually unique, success of the Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Górecki on the pop charts in Europe. Now The Guardian has a feature on this: ‘The planets aligned!’ How Górecki’s Third Symphony stormed the 90s pop charts.

A profoundly mournful classical work, written by one of Poland’s leading avant-garde composers, vied with REM and Paul McCartney to become a huge bestseller in 1992. Those involved recall a truly surprising hit 

Unsurprisingly, the recording did not start life intending to keep the company of Madonna and Prince – but in late 1992 the symphony was soaring high. For 11 weeks it was among the 40 bestselling albums in the UK, peaking at No 6 in early February 1993, in between Paul McCartney’s Off the Ground and REM’s Automatic for the People. It topped the classical charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and total sales today have surpassed 1m – an unthinkable and still unique figure in contemporary classical music. Thirty years on from its April 1992 release, the album’s ascent is the stuff of legend.

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I'm often surprised at how frequently the Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on music: ‘Real Life Rock’ Review: Finding Treasure in Music’s Basement

Court cases, books and movies aside, Mr. Marcus returns always to music, especially the songs of rock ’n’ roll’s golden age as well as their offspring. His goal here is not only to remind us how good that music is but also how completely it permeates our culture. Much of what he notices seems intended to bring a wry smile to the reader’s face, as when he reports that a flyer for Skylark Dry Cleaning in St. Paul, Minn., uses for its headline “The bird is the word,” which is the refrain from the Trashmen’s 1963 song “Surfin’ Bird,” or that San Francisco’s Gimme Shelter Realtors, whom you’d think would want to convey an atmosphere of safety and comfort, cheerfully took for themselves the title of one of the Rolling Stones’ more apocalyptic numbers. Even better (or worse), the ad Mr. Marcus saw listed for sale a property located at 616 Page Street which had been occupied in 1967 by the Manson Family. Who else but Greil Marcus would recall that?

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I have been known to jokingly ask "name three great Canadian composers" (there is a also a Swiss version) followed by "ok, name just one." The answer to the latter question might well be Claude Vivier who died tragically young at age thirty-four. This weekend the Southbank Centre in London is presenting three concerts devoted to his music--oh to be in London! There is also a lengthy introduction to the composer and his work at the site: Who is Claude Vivier?

Vivier’s music was greatly influenced by the places he visited; with a stay in Bali in 1976 making a particular impression on the composer. Several of his subsequent works drew on the atmosphere and soundscape of the Indonesian island and its people. Among them Pulau Dewata (Island of Gods) a piece of nine melodies, specifically dedicated to the people of Bali. Describing the work Vivier said ‘I wanted to write a piece imbued with the spirit of Bali: its dances, its rhythms and, above all, an explosion of life, simple and candid’.

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3 Quarks Daily, which seems to focus on "Science Arts Politics Philosophy Literature" offers to instruct us in Writing About Music.

I’m not sure anyone has ever figured out how to write about music. This is a dangerous statement to make, and I’m sure readers will be quick to point out writers who have been able to capture something as intangible as sound via the written word. This would be a happy result of this article, and I welcome any and all suggestions. I should also say that I don’t mean there are no good music writers; there are, and I have certain writers I follow and read. But the question of how to write about music remains a tricky one.

I think that the subtext here is "without making use of any musical examples or technical terms from music theory." Because that is the problem of writing about music for the general public and one that I cheerfully ignore on this blog. Which is why it is not worthwhile monetizing it! Mind you, the article does say some interesting things about bass lines.

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An article on efforts to preserve some out of the way Canadian music: History on record: How the CBC Northern Service built a unique trove of Canadian music

The North has always been home to a vibrant culture, but sharing it with the rest of the country has been a challenge.

In the early 1970s CBC North, then called the CBC Northern Service, decided starting a record label was the way to do it.

CBC producer Les McLaughlin first pitched the idea in 1968 when he was working in Montreal.

"The head of the Montreal service was a fellow named Sheldon O'Connell," the late McLaughlin said in a documentary on the Northern Service. "He thought one of the ways we could promote northern broadcasting and help northern people gain a certain amount of recognition was to produce recordings in their language."

CBC producers started searching the region for musicians. Initially, the recordings were made only for local radio play, but once it became obvious there was some real talent in the North, McLaughlin decided to transfer the music to vinyl records that were distributed across the country.

Somewhere in a CBC archive are recordings of me playing the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez and the Villa-Lobos Guitar Concerto, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to be released.

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I haven't said anything critical of scientific research into music for months now, we're overdue! Musical preferences linked to personality summarizes some recent research.

The American Psychological Association has published a paper that seems to suggest that there are universal patterns in musical preferences.

The study of preferential reactions to Western music used data from more than 350,000 people in 53 countries spanning six continents and found links between musical preferences and personality which are similar worldwide. This suggests that music could play a greater role in joining people and surmounting social division, as well as offering currently untapped therapeutic benefits.

Uh-huh. The model of music used here is called MUSIC standing for these five key musical styles:

Mellow (featuring romantic, slow, and quiet attributes as heard in soft rock, R&B, and adult contemporary genres),

Unpretentious (uncomplicated, relaxing, and unaggressive attributes as heard in country genres),

Sophisticated (inspiring, complex, and dynamic features as heard in classical, operatic, avant-garde, and traditional jazz genres),

Intense (distorted, loud, and aggressive attributes as heard in classic rock, punk, heavy metal, and power pop genres), and

Contemporary (rhythmic, upbeat, and electronic attributes as heard in the rap, electronica, Latin, and Euro-pop genres).

Why five and not four or six or twenty? And why these? One searches for any reason other than it makes for a nice acronym. Here's a quote from a researcher:

We thought that neuroticism would have likely gone one of two ways, either preferring sad music to express their loneliness or preferring upbeat music to shift their mood. Actually, on average, they seem to prefer more intense musical styles, which perhaps reflects inner angst and frustration.

Nothing there but speculation and unfounded assumptions that I can see. This is one of those numerous psychological studies whose results will undoubtedly defy reproduction.

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Moving on to the musical part of the miscellanea we have to start with Górecki of course:

And because I was just reading about this music, here is an Ayre by William Lawes for consort of viols and chamber organ:

And finally, some Claude Vivier. This is Pulau Dewata from 1977:

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