Tag: Interesting Music

When composers move on & great music for Wind Band.

I recently read in one of my professional music journals of the death of a great British composer called Guy Woolfenden. Now this was not particularly remarkable and though he had an obituary in the papers he was not especially famous and in fact he passed away last April and I had not heard until September.

Just a brief round-up, he was mostly famous for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company for whom he was the musical director and composer for 37 years. I first came across him/his music in 1985 when I joined my local Wind Band and this “new” piece was presented to the band called “Gallimaufry”. No, I didn’t know what it meant either (Def – a confused jumble or medley of things) but this piece of music was great. It was also quite newly published so we would have been one of the first bands to perform it. Well, the band at the time really enjoyed learning it and 12 yr old me got to play the Bass Drum and blow a solo whistle note!

But this piece was not just one of those “nice” pieces, it has travelled with me for the last 30 years. It stuck in my memory as an earworm at the time, and over the years, the same band (who I now work for) gets it out from time to time. The current youths don’t seem to appreciate its beauty as much as previous incarnations buy hey…

I also come across it regularly with an adult community band I often guest with and I am sure that many bands across the world have this as a staple concert item. I was also fortunate to have a recording to listen to of our first performance so it has been a piece I have got to know extremely well.

So why is it such a good piece of music? I have never seen the point in over analysing this sort of thing from a technical perspective, but for me it has good tunes, majestic harmonies, intricate lines, one of the most beautiful melodies ever written and fun percussion parts! What’s not to like? Of course, yet again we come back to personal memories and experiences but the fact that almost all players who come across this particular piece seem to love it as well speaks volumes about its clear musical value.

When researching for this blog, not only did I discover that Guy Woolfenden had studied at the Guildhall in London, where I had studied Percussion, but that he also went to the same senior school in Croydon! I had never had that knowledge – and there I had been, humming his tunes around the school grounds, oblivious to the fact he himself had been there!! Perhaps there was always meant to be a connection??

I also came across this gem of a video with a reasonably good performance of the work (there are some fine ones around!) but more importantly it was a part of a concert dedicated to Guy’s music, and seems to be a last public appearance of the great composer. Looking a little frail, he and his wife are in attendance to this glorious work. There is also a brief spoken introduction by the conductor which sums it all up perfectly.

Enjoy then, this most marvellous of works, for a fantastic type of ensemble, for a fitting tribute to a true British talent.

 

Love as ever,

Chris K.

Is music only good by association?

Today’s theme asks that difficult question, when a particular piece of music is also related to another event, image, media, memory etc, is the music alone good or the association of the music with the other ingredient which makes the music good?

I can think of many many pieces of music that I can associate with happy memories. I can literally plot a soundtrack to my life, particularly my teenage years. It is something I enjoy and am perhaps obsessed with. I love time lines. But what if I were to live a parallel life without these pieces of music and then hear them when I am in my forties? Would I still like them? Would they mean anything to me? What made them good in the first place?

I often see on Facebook, or when chatting to friends, “oh, this is a great piece of music, you’ll love it!” and though I might nod along encouragingly if listening to a track, it is unusual to instantly go “wow, that’s amazing, I love it” which is not perhaps surprising, as everyone’s musical tastes are different – and indeed I am doing the very same by introducing readers here to my particular stand out tracks. It might inspire me to listen again to a particular artist or song but the first listen is not often an instant hit in music.

So how do we test this?

I often have a captive audience in my car that I can spray with my musical choices to see what sticks. I am of course talking about my children.

From an early age (oldest is now 9, younger is 6) I have been putting my iPod on “Shuffle” and judging any reaction from them. In fact, it is now a little game we often play where they get to shout out if they want me to skip to the next track. I am always intrigued by their reactions and comments. Sometimes they just let it run, sometimes they recognise it from before somewhere and sometimes they like it so much they ask to stop the shuffle and switch to the entire album.

I make mental notes of the sort of things they are attracted to. I am generally happy with our progress in this field. Skipping over the issue of discovering their “own” music, which they will inevitably do, I feel I am giving them an opportunity to hear music they would otherwise not be presented with as well as the opportunity to discuss why they like or dislike particular tracks. They will quite happily listen to the entire “War of the Worlds” album as well as “Gummi Bear” or “Crazy Frog”. But to them, they are forming their own memories of some of these tracks. My first memories of the Jeff Wayne classic was some time soon after it was released, one particular teacher at junior school would frequently use the opening track (or maybe a single version) as our “play in” music to school assemblies. “The chances of anything coming to earth, are a million to one, but still they come….” are not perhaps best thoughts for small children first thing in the morning, but hey, at my junior school? Martians were the least of our worries….

But my boys may well remember this Album as the one they listened to on our way back from holiday one year….or whatever.

So I was very excited when, without any prompting, my oldest proclaimed a love for a particular track which I also had adored since I was about the same age. It does however come with a clear attachment. It is a theme to a TV show, perhaps the best TV show ever made, certainly my favourite (and you can quote me) and we are talking about…

The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I’m not going to extol the TV show’s comedic virtues here but the opening music, and indeed the music used throughout, had a dramatic impact on me at the time, and this was picked up some 30 years later by my son. I loved the theme tune so much that I couldn’t wait for the BBC to repeat the show so that I could stuff my tape recorder under the TV speaker to get my own recording that I could listen to over and over. Which I did. My son loves it as well. When he first watched the TV series, he also spent ages singing it around the place. The difference now is that he can choose to listen to it over and over again via the Internet!

So is it a lovely bit of music or is it the association with the great TV show that has made it good? I don’t know. I remember liking it straight away, but time blurs this and my association with liking it in the early 80s gives it a warm fuzzy glow as well.

When thinking about this blog, I did a little research and learned a little bit more about the piece. Here’s the Wiki entry:

The theme tune used for the radio, television, LP and film versions is “Journey of the Sorcerer“, an instrumental piece composed by Bernie Leadon and recorded by The Eagles on their album One of These Nights. Only the transmitted radio series used the original recording; a sound-alike cover by Tim Souster was used for the LP and TV series, another arrangement by Joby Talbot was used for the 2005 film, and still another arrangement, this time by Philip Pope, was recorded to be released with the CDs of the last three radio series. Apparently, Adams chose this song for its futuristic-sounding nature, but also for the fact that it had a banjo in it, which, as Geoffrey Perkins recalls, Adams said would give an “on the road, hitch-hiking feel” to it.

So I have now discovered a glorious 6 minute version exist of the original!

Anyway, I present to you the somehow enchanting version I originally knew that was from the TV series, arranged by Tim Souster. Is it good? Have you heard it before? Do you like it? I would be intrigued to hear opinions from anyone who does NOT know the TV show but finds the music appealing…

 

Love as ever,

 

Chris K

When sport meets music – the result?…

Five circles2

In my world, Sport and Music don’t mix. 

In schools, sports fixtures are the eternal pain up the everything for a music department. I still cannot work out quite why sport is considered “more important” than music but it is. In all schools as far as I can see. Except maybe choir schools…or specialist schools…you know what I mean.

If a student was to get a letter from school saying they had been “selected” for the XXXX team, and that they would now be required to attend training three times a week before/after school, they would I imagine feel honoured, privileged, and delighted at being chosen. The family would rally around so they could attend all the practices and missing any or heaven forbid a MATCH would be considered unthinkable.

But swing this around to music  –

Dear Mr & Mrs Bloggs,

Your son has been chosen to sing in the school choir and will now be required to attend practice three times a week and attend all school concerts and competitions as required. These may also be at weekends.

Yours,

Mr F Sharp

Well, I will all allow a few exceptions but I would expect in most schools that a rude letter from the parents might be sent in.

However, putting my personal gripes about education aside, when we mix the two, many wonderful things have happened. And I am talking about “Sports Themes”.

Think of all the great BBC sporting themes we have alone, The Cricket Theme, Wimbledon, Ski Sunday, theat really groovy one they used to use for the Snooker (Dragnet) and even Match of the Day is a classic. All fine miniature works of musical art. And there are many more.

Now we are in Olympics season, of course there is only one theme that covers this, you know what it is, Danny Boyle knew as well….

Chariots Of Fire.

Hardly a TV or Film shot of people running goes by (well, in any kind of spoof) without the iconic music being played, unless its involves horses, then it’s Black Beauty…

And it is a wonderful piece of music, the original that is. Don’t go for any copy or cover, that’s like drinking Virgin Cola. No, the Original track, called “Titles” by Greek composer Vangelis is a thing of beauty. Listen to it carefully to hear all the details and it is joyous.

Like my last music post, this takes me back to younger days. I was nine when the film came out and the music kind of drifted into my subconscious. I kind of knew it but not well enough. I did end up borrowing a tape of it off a friend once and made a copy (nothing changes) which I listened to to death. I only copied this main track though and it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I bought the album, on vinyl.

And what a real treat this is. The main theme is sublime but the other tracks are equally attractive. The big V just has a way with electronics that makes it so expressive, which most electronic music, certainly of the time, was almost the complete opposite of.

The track I want to treat you to today is the second on the album called “Five Circles” and it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know. There are no acoustic instruments in it at all, not even piano, and yet it is so expressive.

Pleased be moved by this work of art, perhaps while watching some amazing Olympic achievement.

 

 

Love as ever,

Chris K

First blog post….

First blog post….

Ok, so I now become a “Blogger”. Odd, as I’ve never read anyone else’s blogs but what I want to do is not appropriate for Facebook as that’s about friends, though I would be happy for my “Friends” to read this as well.

No, this is about my two personal passions so I can happily go on and on about them without bothering those who aren’t really that interested. And what are these passions I hear you ask? Well, one should be pretty obvious to anyone who knows me as that is Music. I studied music at the Guildhall in London and spend most of my time currently playing, teaching, writing or examining music.

The other “passion” is really quite new. I have only been thinking about this since late December 2013 and before this time I had only heard about it but had never known anything about it, certainly never imagined I would get involved in it and could not have predicted how fascinating and enjoyable I would have found it! It is, and the blog title does I suppose hint at this……Financial Trading.

Yes, that’s right, I trade the global financial markets pretty much every day. Sounds grand doesn’t it. Well, it kind of is, and it isn’t. I don’t have the kind of funds to invest that the big banks do so my profits/losses are currently insignificant in the grand scale of things but I am still a part of it and can see the sense it taking control of your own finances (I no longer pay into a pension fund) and if things continue the way they have been going, maybe one day I will be earning life changing sums of money from this.

So, I will keep this “first post” brief and let you know my thoughts on how I intend to continue with this. I will be creating two running themes in my blogs, one about all the things which I love about all my experiences in music – favourite “tunes”, comments on teaching and examining, tales about my own performing experiences and mostly my fascination with the development of music over the last 50 odd years.

My second, and likely to be more frequent (sorry but this is so much more interesting to me at the moment) theme will of course be about my trading experiences. I will probably comment on my own positions, how and why I do certain things and my personal takes on the state of markets etc. Who knows, if I get any readers, either of my thoughts may influence those who initially read for one. So I may get someone interested in Trading learn the best way to do a snare drum roll, or which UK number one was the first to feature all electronic instruments…Conversely, my musical followers may learn how they can start creating their own pension fund, or benefit financially from the next market crash!

Anyway, let’s see how this thing rolls, I am on holidays at the moment, well from teaching anyway, so it feels like holidays, so hopefully will have some spare time to keep things moving. If you can, do let me know which bit of content you enjoy and I’ll try to do more of it. Keep your negative thoughts to yourself though….

Love as ever,

Chris K