The Band

American Civil warTo vary things a little, today I’ll post a song not from a band, but from the “The Band“.

Initially a support group of several singers, especially Bob Dylan, they eventually became a band and came out with that name precisely for being “the band” of several frontmen.

I got to know this song I’m posting – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – from Joan Baez, and although I have been addicted to her version for a while, and although it was the most successful version, and although I am a fairly good fan of Joan Baez, I think the best version of the song is a live version from “The Band“.

I’ll leave you here both the original and Joan’s cover, but first the first place goes to the version below 😉

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jREUrbGGrgM]
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Keeping roaming

Well, I hope that Lourenço doesn’t mind, but today I am going to continue the journey he started.

I am going to bring you a Serbian song that I first heard  at the closing ceremony of this year’s Handball European Championship (after watching the great final game between Denmark and Serbia, by the way!).

I must say that what first caught was not the song, but the dance that was being performed – I am not a great fan of dancing, but what they did really struck me! So I’ll leave you the performance that contains both the song and the dancing (if you only watch what I am talking about, jump to the minute 4:50:

The song that starts at 4:50 is Vrtlog, by Dejan Petrovic

Curiosities and special effects!

Houdy!

I love music. Melodic, Inharmonial, Cacophonic, Euphonic, Brutal, Soft, Simple, Complex, anything (well, almost). And, as a professional music consumer I’m also interested in everything related – the bands history and relations with other bands, how certain songs are composed/produced/whatever and other curiosities. Thus, it made all sense to write this post about some curiosities and special effects.

Ok, let’s start with special effects. I once saw a documentary from the series Classic Albums about the Judas Priest best seller British Steel. In the time it was released (1980), digital sampling was not widely available and so any extra sounds to be added would have to be analog recorded and processed. This paved the way to ingenuity: for example, the song Metal Gods, about machines taking over the Earth, needed the sound of machines marching. Listen to this snippet of the song and tell me how do you think they achieved it?

If you said a cutlery tray, you’re correct! They also broke milk bottles and used police sirens in the song Breaking the law. Inventive, ha?

Another guy who loved inventing was Frank Zappa (remember him?). He created a composition technique called Xenochrony, which comes from the greek words strange and time and consists on extracting a musical part from one song and putting it inside another song. All the guitar solos in his rock opera (another one, yes) Joe’s Garage are xenochronous, but a great example of xenochrony is the song Rubber Shirt. In Zappa’s words:

And so the musical result is the result of two musicians, who were never in the same room at the same time, playing at two different rates in two different moods for two different purposes, when blended together, yielding a third result which is musical and synchronizes in a strange way. That’s Xenochrony.

Zappa also used polyrhythms in his career (as did Queen, King Crimson, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix). Polyrhythms are the fusion of two tempos together, like in this example.

And finally, here’s the curiosities!

Zappa must be mentioned again, as he was so eccentric. He was probably the only artist to release an instrumental album (Jazz from Hell) with an “explicit lyrics” sticker. Yes, in an album without any lyrics whatsoever! That’s how harmful his music can be to your hears haha!

Last but not the least, we arrive to the very good icelandic band, Sigur Rós. They are amazing, their music is so different from everything else, so soothing yet daunting. Just listen to their masterpiece Viðrar vel til loftárása:

But that is not why I brought them here. Their 3rd album in 2002 was sung entirely in a constructed language with no semantics called Vonlenska, or Hopelandic. How awesome is that?

But, however awesome that is, they were not the first to do it. In the early 70’s, the french drummer and composer Christian Vander assembled together a band called Magma in which all songs are sung in Kobaïan, the language of the fictional planet Kobaïa. Their music is completely different from anything you’ve ever heard, to the extent that it generated a whole new genre, Zeuhl, which is Kobaïan for celestial. It is a mixture of jazz, big band, large choruses, rock, heavy bass-driven music. As one of the many Magma alumni said:

Zeuhl sounds like, well, about what you’d expect an alien rock opera to sound like: massed, chanted choral motifs, martial, repetitive percussion, sudden bursts of explosive improv and just as unexpected lapses into eerie, minimalist trance-rock.

Hope you liked this as much as I enjoyed putting it all together! 😀

Russian composers: Part II

Hello again!

Today we are back to Mother Russia to visit another great composer: Modest Mussorgsky. He was another one of The Five (the other I presented was Rimsky-Korsakov, remember?). He is most known for the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition and the piece for orchestra Night on the Bald Mountain. Both belong to my favourite classical pieces, and I hope you’ll understand why right away.

The latter was never performed during Mussorgsky’s life, with the better known version being an edition by Korsakov (him again, yes). Similar situations happened with both pieces, with Ravel (the guy of the Bolèro) making an orchestral version of Pictures and Konstantin Chernov a piano version of the Bald Mountain. As all 4 versions are amazing, I decided to post here all of them, so yes, this will be another enormous post 😛

I’m usually not very fond of piano solo compositions, but both the original Pictures by the hand of Evgeny Kissin (no introduction necessary, I hope) and this version of Bald Mountain by the amazing Boris Berezovsky are extraordinary.

Just another note: the megalomanic Emerson, Lake & Palmer did a rock version of the whole Pictures at an Exhibition live. You can check it out here (it is pretty good, actually)

Oh, I almost forgot, here’s the customary playlist to anyone patient enough to listen to all this haha!