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JMT 1.12 Eclipsed By the Moon

 

Jane's Musical Takeaway
bits and bobs and my two cents

Episode 12: Eclipsed by the Moon

The song 'Brain Damage' by Pink Floyd concludes with the lines And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon. This is the next to last song on the album, which means well over half an hour passes before the band namechecks the title of their classic work The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), now recognized by critics as one of the greatest albums of all time. Scientifically speaking, there is no dark side of the moon because the moon is tidally locked. There is a far side, which can only be seen from space, but happily, Pink Floyd chose the more poetic version for their record title. While they were still recording the album, they discovered that another band called Medicine Head was releasing a disc by the same name, so they shifted their album title to Eclipse. When the album by the other band came to naught, the original title was restored.

JMT 1.11 A Little Night Music (not!)

 

Jane's Musical Takeaway
bits and bobs and my two cents

Episode 11: A Little Night Music (not!)

Ready for a challenge? In today's episode we're going to do a little musical sleuthing, commonly known as musical analysis. Actually, there's nothing little about the classical work commonly known as A Little Night Music or Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (sorry, Sondheim fans will have to wait for another episode). Although there are only 4 extant movements of the original 5, resulting in about 15-17 minutes of music, it seems that everyone knows some of the melody even if they can't remember who wrote it in the first place.

JMT 1.10 Enya, from Tolkien to Dark Sky

 

There were few pop and new age fans who missed Enya's break-out hit 'Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)' from her 1989 album Watermark. Fans of other genres, however, may not have discovered her work until Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy. In fact, if Enya were to be known for only one thing, it would probably be the song 'May It Be' from The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) - despite the fact that the orchestration is by Howard Shore, the lyrics are by her long-time collaborator Roma Ryan, and the fictional Elvish words were written by author JRR Tolkien.

JMT 1.09 Sax, Drums, & Rock 'n Roll

 

The members of the saxophone family are an established part of the jazz and marching band worlds, and they continue to make inroads into classical orchestral repertoire. There are myriad television themes such as The Benny Hill Show (Boots Randolph's 1963 hit 'Yakety Sak'), along with a plethora of film themes such as St Elmo's Fire that feature this evocative woodwind instrument. Saxophones are also indispensable when it comes to R&B and funk, but when it comes to the world of rock and roll, where electronics and synthesizers often reign supreme, the sax can seem a bit neglected. I can already see some of you waving your hands and screaming 'Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band', and of course, you're absolutely correct! However, there's a bit more to sax and rock 'n roll than the Boss.

 

JMT 1.08 Johann Pachelbel's Tacos

 

There is one piece of classical music so culturally pervasive that people can spontaneously begin arguing over whether it's a Christmas melody, a wedding song, or an ode to a fast food restaurant. If you haven't already guessed, today's takeaway will be discussing the famous Pachelbel Canon (one 'n'). Let me begin by making a few brief points:

JMT 1.07 Lady Mary, a dulcimer journey

 

The most intriguing and unusual instruments seem to be found either in the avant garde or in folk music traditions from around the world. My favourite folk instrument from the United States is a descendant of the European lap zither called the Appalachian or mountain dulcimer. Award-winning dulcimer artist Irma Reeder recently released a phenomenal CD entitled Lady Mary: a Musical Journey of Wood, Strings, and Voice that I cannot wait to share with you. In the interest of full disclosure, I will freely admit that I've known Irma for longer than either one of us cares to admit, but friendship aside, this is still an amazing album. Let's find out why.

JMT 1.06 Life, Space, Tranquility Base

 

Have you ever wondered where music fits into your life? Is it a passion or a distraction? Something you take for granted or something you can't live without? From store muzak to soundtracks to satellite radio to car horns, there's little escape in today’s world. And even if there were, you would find nature intruding upon the silence: birds, insects, animals, the changing pitch of wind and wave, the rhythm of leaves rustling in the trees, even your own heartbeat.

I certainly understand the place of useful music, the sound tapestry which enhances our chosen media consumption, and I also understand the need to write or listen to music that expresses our inner feelings. To be honest, we could be having this discussion about great literature or artistic masterpieces. But I still wonder why so many of us are driven to relate the story of events, people, the changing of the seasons, or even night into day - with music. I want to share one of my favourite commemorative pieces with you: the beautifully evocative song by Eric Brace called 'Tranquility Base'.

JMT 1.05 Dave Brubeck Takes 5

 

Learning to count is a basic childhood skill acquired through games, songs, and patterns; as we grow up it's not all about the maths. Counting is used in endless ways from keeping score in a sports match, to teaching a marching band or parade group to walk on the same foot at the same time, to figuring out if there are enough slices of pizza to go around. Counting is an important part of dance and gymnastics routines, and it's also an important part of music.

JMT 1.04 Side Dish: The Lighthouse's Tale

 

Rather than looking at an artist, an instrument, or even a style, today's musical takeaway is a side dish that goes behind the scenes to figure out what makes a song amazing. Is it the band? the arrangement? the lead vocal, the guitar solo, or the jam? the writers or the producers? Certainly all of those elements come into play, but let's examine 'The Lighthouse's Tale' by Adam McKenzie and Chris Thile, recorded by Nickel Creek, and try to figure out what makes it tick. Some of you will undoubtedly know this song, but even if you don't, I hope you'll join me in this brief exploration.

JMT 1.03 The Theremin: Ether Music

 

You've probably heard it many times, but with the advent of more sophisticated synthesizers and complex electronic instruments, the sound of the Theremin is no longer as noticeable as it was when it was first invented in the 1920s - or even in the 1940s-50s when it became ubiquitous with Hollywood soundtracks for mystery, thriller, and sci-fi films. (see also Meet the Theremin)

The first thing you need to know is that you play the instrument by waving your hands. Literally. No keys, valves, or pistons; no strings, bows, slides, or reeds; no pesky buttons - sounds amazingly easy, right? Actually, it's amazingly difficult - but don't let that stop you. Learning to play an instrument is always half the fun, so long as you don't expect to become a concert artist overnight. 

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