Category Archives: music

On “River”, the sad Joni Mitchell song that became a Christmas classic

A fine and detailed study on Mitchell’s great song from her masterpiece album, “Blue”: www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2018/12/07/how-thoroughly-depressing-joni-mitchell-song-became-blue-christmas-classic/

My impression reading it was that there were no sad or melancholy Christmas songs before it, but “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Blue Christmas” are two that immediately come to mind. And later on songs like “Last Christmas” have shown that the holidays can be sometimes difficult.

Read the piece though. Lots of good commentary by great singers who have covered it, as well as what it really means.

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Four fascinating music links

  1. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Iggy Pop & Bernard Sumner of New Order at Carnegie Hall: for fans of either or both, doing one of the best songs ever. (see above)
  2. A Big Choir Sings Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” | Open Culture: so good. I love this.
  3. Thinking About: Strange Fruit (& Friday Links) – Hither & Thither: a thoughtful analysis of a titanic  song.
  4. Hear the Famously Controversial Concert Where Leonard Bernstein Introduces Glenn Gould & His Idiosyncratic Performance of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto (1962) | Open Culture: this is a fascinating bit of musical history. Read the post to see why.
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Slow Radio is a thing and a very good thing

I learned about Slow Radio here: I Listened To Slow Radio For A Week, And Here’s What Happened – HelloGiggles.

What is slow radio? According to that piece:

… it’s basically programming that moves at a very casual pace. It immerses you in sound to help you stay grounded in the present.

Is slow radio music, meditation, a catalog of sounds, or a podcast? The short answer: Yes. When you turn on slow radio, you won’t find any one thing in particular. One episode, you’ll get lost in ambient nature sounds. The next, you’ll hear slow-paced conversations about music. After that, you’ll take a trip through a soundscape on a bustling street in Japan.

 

Sound good? The BBC link to it is  here.

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The Beatles / White Album Box Set

Likely only for hardcore Beatle fans, this box set of the White Album promises to be the White Album on steroids. Rolling Stone has plenty of detail on it, via White Album Box Set: Exclusive Preview of Unheard Beatles Archives – Rolling Stone. It even has a description of one of my favorite odd pieces by McCartney:

12. “Can You Take Me Back?”
The snippet on Side Four that serves as an eerie transition into the abstract sound-collage chaos of “Revolution 9.” Paul toys with it for a couple of minutes, trying to flesh it out into a bit of country blues—“I ain’t happy here, my honey, are you happy here?”

Like “Her Majesty”, it’s a sketch of something, but inserted in such a way as to make the whole album something more original. It’s always haunted me.

 

Here’s a fine introduction to Avro Pärt

This piece – A guide to Arvo Pärt’s music | Music | The Guardian – is a fine introduction to the music of Avro Pärt. This quote sums up his work well:

The success of Pärt’s work – the repertory of choral works he has composed over the last four decades, the instrumental works, even the new symphony he composed in 2008 – is, I think, much more than simple popular acclaim for a composer who uses some familiar chords. Pärt told me that what he wants his music to express is “love for every note”, and in turn, communicate the spiritual power that he sees as music’s essential purpose. Pärt is too modest to say that he has achieved that, but for the listeners who love his music, it’s an irrefutable truth.

There are lots of places to find his music, including YouTube. Here’s one of my favorite pieces, Spiegel im Spiegel

Enjoy that piece, and hopefully enjoy many hours listening to the music of Part.

Want to know why it is so expensive to get tickets to special events?

Then you want to read these two really good pieces on why it is brutally tough to get tickets to an event without paying a fortune:

What it comes down to is a very limited supply and a very high demand. But that’s obvious. Read the pieces to see just how it really plays out.

A short defense of Drake’s dancing in Hotline Bling

It’s well known that Drake has suffered alot of mockery for his dancing in the video for Hotline Bling. This is too bad, because for whatever criticism you can raise for Drake’s dancing, he is no worse than most major pop stars when it comes to dancing. So what’s the problem?

The problem, I see it, is in the directing. Here is the Hotline Bling video. Count the length of the average shot. When I did it, it was in the 5 to 10 second range.

Compare that to Ariana Grande’s Focus video.

Count the length of each shot. The longest is usually no more than 3 seconds: the rest are 1 to 2 seconds. Is she a good dancer? It’s hard to tell. If you go to around the 3 minute mark, you seen alot of dancing, but the shots are still short and the camera is constantly moving. Any short coming in the dancing can be made up for in the editing room. And I’d argue that the Focus video is typical of most videos: very short cuts with lots of camera movement.

Now, it’s possible the director wanted the longer shots due to the changing nature of the lighting. But there is a similar use of dramatic lighting in Justin Timberlake’s Let Me Talk To You/My Love and he comes across well with no loss to the lighting effect

And like Ariana Grande’s video, this video has the performer do well defined step in a 1-4 second shot and then cuts away. This is typical of many music videos. (Yes, JT does have an extended dance routine at the end of My Love, but most of the video is all quick cuts….also, he has been dancing since his early days as a Mouseketeer :))

Drake would have been better off with shorter cuts and simpler dance moves, the kind of thing you find in most other videos.