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Sunday, 25 May 2008

Recent musical experiences

I went to see the Alexander Hawkins Ensemble on Sunday, and I can report they are very good. I'm not sure if they are famous in the jazz world, but they seem to be extremely talented and have a lot of fun. They are really versatile, sometimes playing the kind of modern jazz that I don't really "get", sometimes making atmospheric sounds that wouldn't be out of place in an album by the cinematic orchestra, and sometimes playing jazz with funky beats and rhythms. There was one solo guitarist-singer song too, and one moment where the pianist interchanged between big romantic classical chords and making sounds with the strings by reaching inside the piano. The players were playing (mainly) a piano, double bass, cello, electric guitar, drumkit and steel drum. I've never seen a steel drum and a cello together, and several other combinations there aren't too normal either.

It was music that you could allow to direct your thoughts here there and everywhere in the sections where it was it was hard to follow all 6 parts. My thoughts wandered to other music I have heard, to sex, to exams and the future, to my family and the past, and finally to looking for the personality in each player individually...

The first one that struck me was the drummer. He was a Roman. An ancient one. Playing the drums. He was quite solemn about it as if he were performing a ritual. I doubt he knows he's a Roman, but I do.
Then there was the pianist. He knew how to make so many noises on the piano, I can imagine him dropping out of a conversation just to enter into his little reverie in which he thinks of new sounds to make.
The double bassist was from the twenties, with a serious job by day, keeping the books for the family business, who sneaked out at night to a speakeasy to play his double bass while they weren't watching.
The other ones had personalities too, but the ones I invented weren't as good, so I won't bore you. And it was good. And I'll probably be getting either a cinematic orchestra album soon cos I enjoyed the concert a lot.

My second musical experience was the Eurovision Song Contest last night. A bit of a contrast to the aforementioned concert, I admit. As usual it was full of terrible songs, comedy acts, people who take themselves seriously and people who don't. A group of people from the materials department came to our house, and enjoyed lots of pizza and other food while pointing out the little touches that made the songs special, like flashy lights, costumes, women taking off clothes, props, fireworks, dance routines and backing singers. We were dismayed by the lack of cheesy key changes in this year's contest, but the voting patterns did not fail to impress, with drinking required when your chosen "bad" song got points, and when your chosen "good" song didn't get any. We were too well-behaved to get very drunk, but it's always fun! I didn't feel that Terry Wogan was at his best though, he definitely came out with some classic comments about belly-buttons and political voting, but his irony was tinged with sadness that the best song would never win because of the "political" (I doubt it actually has much to do with politics) voting. He was right of course, the Russian song that won was average at best, even by the standards of eurovision. And it seems he may not be back to present the contest next year. I wonder how many viewers will turn off without his wonderful comments on the performers and presenters on stage.

Other recent musical experiences include:
-finding a load of my Dad's old music and discovering he listened to Lenny Kravitz in addition to Chris de Burgh, Trad Jazz and Dire Straits that I already knew about. Urgh!
-listening to an interview with Usher in which he said the song "Love in the club" (about making love... in a club) was connecting with men because everyone thinks it, and then telling the interviewer that he had never made love in a club but had done in various other places e.g. planes. Listening to people discussing a song like that made me chuckle - it really doesn't seem like there's much to add, the lyrics are clear enough
-joining a choir in college. More to follow at some point I imagine on that one

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