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  • Classical

    22. Okt. 2006, 22:41

    I'm no expert, but I'm exploring and hope to learn a lot more about it (especially to pick up some compositional techniques). I've loved Renaissance and Early Music for a while, especially instrumental dances and ballads, and of course vocal polyphony (a la Josquin des Prez, Claudio Monteverdi, Palestrina, etc). My parents made me aware of Renaissance polyphony early on by taking me to Anonymous 4 and Chanticleer Christmas concerts when I was a kid. Rather than the other way around, this interest was part of what initially attracted me to Gentle Giant, as well as Gryphon, although my knowledge of Early Music and its history has expanded since then (along with Medieval and Renaissance history and literature and so on).

    I've just begun delving into some 20th century classical. I'm finding out that Prokofiev is wonderful, specifically his Symphony No 5. I just went to an amazing concert, it was the New York Philharmonic performing Prokofiev's score to "Alexander Nevsky" while projecting the film above the orchestra. Wow!!

    I've tried various pieces by Debussy a number of times and most of it hasn't "clicked" for me. Perphaps part of it is that I don't entirely understand the musical language, or maybe the historical context, but I can't relate to it very well, largely because of the apparent lack of strong rhythmic grooves(which Prokofiev has in spades). I'd like to hear how Debussy admirers approach his music, what it is that draws them in.
  • Vocal similarities?

    21. Sep. 2006, 18:04

    I don't consider myself a vocally-oriented listener, nor a particularly ambitious singer myself, although I seem to get more comments on my (Nell James) voice than anything else. I was listening to Rilo Kiley the other day, and was remembering how Jenny Lewis is the only vocalist who I and other people have agreed I sound a tiny little bit like. I'm not sure who else. I've gotten a couple comparisons to Suzanne Vega, but I don't quite hear it. Hmm.

    One of my favorite vocalists is Roye Albrighton from Nektar, and I think he has influenced me (particularly in his use of vibratto) but maybe not in a way noticeable to anyone except myself.

    Almost all of my favorite vocalists are male. I'm not innately closed off to female voices, I think it's just that my favorite kinds of music (and music in general!) are male-dominated. I do like Harriet Wheeler from The Sundays, though I can't claim much similarity to her, as well as Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins. I cannot deny that Annie Haslam from Renaissance is very pleasant to listen to, though perhaps a bit too-perfect and technical.

    Another male voice that I really enjoy listening to is Phil Shulman from Gentle Giant. He sings on just a few of their early songs, but I like his voice the best of their three lead singers.

    Then, of course, there is Elvis Costello!
  • Who influenced The Who?

    18. Sep. 2006, 19:13

    Okay, so I'm listening to The Moody Blues, specifically Lunch Break. Did The Who get their sound from this, or vice versa? Or did they just both reinterpret The Beatles in the same way, independant of each other?
  • The Lowest Trees Have Tops

    15. Sep. 2006, 2:36

    "The Lowest Trees Have Tops"
    John Dowland

    The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall,
    The fly her spleen, the little spark his heat,
    And slender hairs cast shadows though but small,
    And bees have stings although they be not great,
    Seas have their source, and so have shallow springs,
    And love is love in beggars and in kings.

    Where waters smoothest run, deep are the fords;
    The dial stirs, yet none percieves it move;
    The firmest faith is in the fewest words,
    The turtles cannot sing, and yet they love;
    True hearts have eyes and ears, no tongues to speak:
    They hear and see and sigh, and then they break.
  • Musings on "Treasure" by Cocteau Twins

    6. Sep. 2006, 22:55

    I confess I've never really heard Cocteau Twins until recently, I'm just discovering Treasure. I really like it a lot, and what strikes me is that it's much more rhythmically complex than I would've expected from something of this genre. The vocal phrases are not your standard single-melody eight-note stuff. (There are even a few triplets in there, which is pretty exciting for music geeks such as myself.) This helps to keep the songs interesting as they march on into endless repetition. I know some people love hypnotic atmosphere for its own sake, but I usually find active, varied music more compelling.

    Some of the material on this album actually reminds me a bit of Gentle Giant (and things that I've tried to do in my own music) in the way the phrases flow, and how the counter-melodies and counter-rhythms in the vocals overlap and cluster together at points. Compare the Twin's "Pandora" to "Empty City" from Interview - specifically the vocal part that starts just under a minute in. Obviously the Giant song is more complex, but there are definitely common links in the main verse sections. In addition to the vocals, they both feature a lovely lilting 6/8, very mellow and atmospheric, driven by clean guitar textures. And they both make effective use of sparser instrumental sections to contrast and set the stage for the busier vocal counterpoint.

    Other songs that use these techniques similarly are Twin's "Ivo" and Giant's "No God's a Man" from The Power And The Glory, a dear favorite of mine.

    Another thing: having read a little bit about the history of the Cocteau Twins and Elizabeth Fraser's famous gibberish lyrics, along with being ethereal and mystical I imagine she was shaping the syllables to facilitate the rhythmic stretching and stuttering of the melodies, which has the potential to be very awkward to perform if the syllables don't fall in the right place. Maybe she just couldn't be bothered to find pre-existing words that fit the music (which was probably written prior to lyrics, or most likely simultaneously). This reminds me of Jon Anderson of Yes, who has always said he wrote lyrics for the music, not for the meaning of the words themselves. One wonders if he would've been better off going for gibberish syllables instead of coming up with cryptic phrases like:

    Gold stainless nail
    Torn through the distance of man
    As they regard the summit.

    Then again, that would've deprived many acidheads their joyful hours of psuedo-intellectual analysis and perceived spiritual validation.

    Anyway, Anderson and Fraser are both very elfin.