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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Pure power: Igor Stravinsky

An inspiration to countless musicians, Igor Stravinsky is a name known throughout the world. His music is of the most intricate and complex nature, tearing up all the rules used in composing traditional classical music and groundbreaking at the time due to its atonal nature. This led to the infamous riot during the opening ballet performance of The Rite of Spring in Paris in 1913, or so the story goes.

On a personal level, I absolutely love Stravinsky and his mad compositions, joining the millions of people who are probably far more knowledgeable than myself on the subject. However, after witnessing The Rite of Spring at the Royal Opera House last Wednesday, I feel the need to share the excerpts of Stravinsky’s music that have had a profound effect on me.

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In terms of raw power and a wonderful feeling of dread, Dance Of The Young Girls (Section 2, Part 1) from The Rite Of Spring is on a plateau all of its own. The accentuated stabs throughout the piece can not fail to force your spine into a state of rigidity, building up the terror incessantly and reaching a pinnacle from 2.09 onwards. The layering of instruments is beautiful, twisting woodwind lines contrasted with the urgently rising and falling strings. The crescendo comes to a head with The Mock Abduction (Section 3, Part 1) at 3.11, a monstrous piece of music that assaults all of the senses. It is truly magnificent and petrifying.

The Rite Of Spring’s importance in cultural significance is huge, as is Stravisnky’s music in general. It forced people to reconsider what music could mean, how it should sound and inspired composers and musicians to alter or experiment with their technique.

A final, tiny excerpt that has always stuck in my mind is a certain passage from Chez Petrushka, lifted from the ballet Petrushka. Between 0.46 and 1.00, the choice of note and lightning speed with which it is executed places me into a happy and delighted stupor.

I’m stating the obvious here, but Igor Stravinsky was a momentous force to be reckoned with. Enjoy it.

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Sometimes your luck runs out……..

On Tuesday last week, I was fortunate enough to be perusing the London gig listings on the TimeOut website and unearthed the fact that the Hot Club of Cowtown were playing the Cecil Sharp House the following night – cue a mad rush to get tickets followed by a joyous evening of expertly delivered jazz.

With this band however I have not been so lucky. White Denim are playing two nights at the Village Underground this month, with both sold out. Bah.

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Released this year, Corsicana Lemonade is the latest album from White Denim and is a dandy mix of math grooves, bluesy country licks, happy-go-lucky waltzes and that unmistakable American vocal tone and style. Come Back is a prime cut of music – tricky guitar work, super tight rhythm and reverb drenched vocals. The chorus in particular is laden with sweet drum hi-hat stabs and repeating musical motifs, the first at 0.47 to 1.03.

The album as a whole has its meandering moments, as well as featuring an almost carbon copy chord progression of Thin Lizzy’s Don’t Believe A Word on the opening track, but contains enough decent material packed full of ideas to keep one thoroughly hooked.

I might add that in comparison to the other album of theirs I purchased, Last Day Of Summer, Corsicana Lemonade is a much more breezy and straightforward affair. Perhaps more radio friendly if you will, no doubt down to the slicker production and more accessible sound. The below tracks, I’d Have It Just The Way We Were and Home Together, are the first two songs from Last Day of Summer. The former showcases the intricacies and technicality the group are capable of, with inventive drumming from 0.58, while the latter has a superb vocal melody. I could not afford to leave one or the other out.

Go out and explore White Denim. They have a sound which they can call their own, which is all too often a rarity these days.

The man who inspired my fervent appetite for a 335

As some of you may know, I recently acquired a guitar that I have pined after for many a year – the Gibson ES-335. It does not fail to disappoint, with incredible tone, build and looks. Yikes.

What compelled me to yearn for such a thing of beauty? Was it the well-known Back To The Future scene? Chuck Berry duck walking around like a loon? BB King making his ES-335 purr with his trademark blues licks?

No! It was one man only – the now sadly deceased Alvin Lee.

Man had good tone.

Man had good tone.

At one point the fastest guitarist on the planet, Alvin Lee and his band Ten Years After played the blues at an electrifying speed and volume, equally at home with the softer and more soulful touch as they were with all out rock and roll.

In fact, the below song inspired me to learn to play the guitar, with the tone that Lee wrangles out of his ES-335 firmly imprinted upon my brain from a young age. Pilfered from my father’s record collection as a teenager, I’m Going Home (taken from the album Recorded Live) will tear through your ears and inject adrenaline straight into your backbone.

The whirlwind introduction gives way to Lee throwing out some great blues playing and singing with a gurgling bass. The real moment of magic though is at 4.03 until 4.50. A flurry of notes with fantastic spacing followed by some of the earliest shredding on record, it literally propelled me to pick up the stringed slab of wood. Bridge pickup, just enough bite and the perfect amount of overdrive sent me into a music induced coma of joy.

Picking up again at 6.04 with tuneful organ backing, it is topped off by phenomenal playing between 8.08 and 8.41. It is what the guitar was designed for. The entire Recorded Live album is well worth a listen, as it is a fantastic, energetic live album by any standard showcasing one of Britain’s greatest unsung guitar heroes.

Click here for the famous live video of the song recorded live when Ten Years After took to the stage at Woodstock Festival in 1969.

Now, back to the latest addition of ma famille……