Category Archives: music

One thing leading to another

Reading Roger Scruton’s “Flesh from the Butcher” for my thesis I noticed the word Tafelmusik. My encyclopedia brought up “Tafelmusik für König Ubu“. Anything with the word Ubu in its title piques my interest. “Tafelmusik für König Ubu” appeared to be a German version of Musique pour les soupers du Roi Ubu (1966), a musical composition by Bernd Alois Zimmermann.

I played it [above], it’s wonderful, it’s a sound collage. Not really. It’s a musical composition filled with quotations.

YouTube’s autoplay is on.

The next track [above] starts very sweet and gentle. At 4:55 the most wonderful waltz waltzes in.

Waltzes have these pauses that remind me of weightlessness.

The composition appeared to be “Der Waltzer (1969) by Alfred Schnittke.

I ended up listening to Alfred Schnittke’s music for most of the weekend.

RIP Cecil Taylor (1929 – 2018)

Cecil Taylor was an American pianist and poet. Classically trained, Taylor is generally acknowledged as having been one of the pioneers of free jazz. His music is characterized by an extremely energetic, physical approach, producing complex improvised sounds, frequently involving tone clusters and intricate polyrhythms. His piano technique has been likened to percussion, for example described as “eighty-eight tuned drums” (referring to the number of keys on a standard piano). He has also been described as “like Art Tatum with contemporary-classical leanings”.

His composition Indent (1973) is on Thurston Moore’s Top Ten Free Jazz Underground (1995).

RIP Jacques Higelin (1940 – 2018)

Jacques Higelin was a French pop singer who rose to prominence in the early 1970s. Early in his career, many of Higelin’s songs were effectively blacklisted from French radio because of his controversial left wing political beliefs, and his association with socialist groups.

His song “Pars” (1978) was covered by Grace Jones on her album Warm Leatherette.

Dance of the Peacock by Makhmud Esambayev

Dance of the Peacock by Chechen actor/dancer Makhmud Esambayev is a clip[1] which is currently doing the rounds on Facebook.

It intrigued me because of its kitschiness and I decided to investigate.

It did not take long to figure out that the soundtrack to which Esambayev is dancing, is a cover of the theme of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Sergio Leone. It has a drum break which is not in the original.

It took me more than an hour to find the original film the clip was taken from.

First I found a version with a little bit more footage at the beginning (below).

For a while I thought it came from a children’s movie and I scrubbed through two. These were actually quite nice.

Then, by machine translating the Russian Wikipedia page of Esambayev I found out that the clip comes from a film called Dances of the Peoples of the World (above) in which the Chechen dancer performs a huge number of various dances: “Chaban” (Chechen-Ingush, Uzbek), “Warrior” (Bashkir), “Golden God” (Indian), ritual “Dance of Fire” to the music of de Falla, “La Corrida” (Spanish ) and “Dance with knives” (Tajik)”.

RIP Dennis Edwards (1943 – 2018)

Dennis Edwards was an American singer, notably a lead singer in The Temptations.

He scored a solo hit in 1984 with “Don’t Look Any Further” (day-o day-o, mombajee ai-o!), the video of which [above] is in the top ten of worst videos ever. Just watching it fills you with vicarious shame.

For the jaded and tired among us, it’s a good thing to listen to “City Lights” by William Pitt [above], which rips the bassline and chord structure.

The first well-known sample of the song’s distinctive bassline is in Eric B. & Rakim’s 1987 single “Paid in Full” [above].

RIP Mark E. Smith (1957 – 2018)

Mark E. Smith was an English musician, known for his post-punk group the Fall, a renowned and idiosyncratic offshoot from the UK post-punk popular music scene.

His voice is reminiscent of Jonathan Richman and tracks such as “Big New Prinz” [above] are as weird and danceable as Richman’s “Roadrunner” for example.

On a personal note: the covered “Mr. Pharmacist” in 1986, at a time when I was into garage rock.

P.S. The train footage in the clip of “Big New Prinz” is an example of slow television.

RIP Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)

Hugh Masekela (1939 – 2018)  was a South African musician, composer and singer.

I celebrated Hugh’s 70th birthday nine years ago [1] and pointed to the two compositions of Masekela that are in my top 1000 (“Grazing in the Grass” and “Don’t Go Lose It Baby“).

Above is “African Secret Society”, a 1974 composition by Masekela, soft, breezy and jazzy (and I love the idea of an African secret society).

Also [above] a recent find I discovered after France Gall’s death, “Umqokozo (Children’s Game Song About A New Red Dress)“, a song French musician Serge Gainsbourg used without credit as “Pauvre Lola” and on which you can hear Masekela playing at 0:55.