Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Wide, wide as the ocean...

Come on come on and shake down those shabby bones.
We're tired and torn, creaking and cracked I know.
When did we last make some time?

Spinning with stars, dreams disregarded.
Days are all full, stuffed and congested.
When did we last make the time,
To be scared of the dark,
Where the gods and monsters hide?

Dust ourselves down.

Show me the way to make me a child again.
We'll be amazed by all we can't name and then,
We can at last stop to breathe,
And be scared of the dark,
Where our mind's got space to dream.

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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Springsteen explains Pete Seeger so well...

From Bruce's brilliant introductory speech at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday party:
As Pete and I travelled to Washington for President Obama's Inaugural Celebration, he told me the entire story of "We Shall Overcome". How it moved from a labor movement song and with Pete's inspiration had been adapted by the civil rights movement. That day as we sang "This Land Is Your Land" I looked at Pete, the first black president of the United States was seated to his right, and I thought of the incredible journey that Pete had taken. My own growing up in the sixties in towns scarred by race rioting made that moment nearly unbelievable and Pete had thirty extra years of struggle and real activism on his belt. He was ao happy that day, it was like, Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man!...It was so nice. At rehearsals the day before, it was freezing, like fifteen degrees and Pete was there; he had his flannel shirt on. I said, man, you better wear something besides that flannel shirt! He says, yeah, I got my longjohns on under this thing.

And I asked him how he wanted to approach "This Land Is Your Land". It would be near the end of the show and all he said was, "Well, I know I want to sing all the verses, I want to sing all the ones that Woody wrote, especially the two that get left out, about private property and the relief office." I thought, of course, that's what Pete's done his whole life. He sings all the verses all the time, especially the ones that we'd like to leave out of our history as a people. At some point Pete Seeger decided he'd be a walking, singing reminder of all of America's history. He'd be a living archive of America's music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along, to push American events towards more humane and justified ends. He would have the audacity and the courage to sing in the voice of the people, and despite Pete's somewhat benign, grandfatherly appearance, he is a creature of a stubborn, defiant, and nasty optimism. Inside him he carries a steely toughness that belies that grandfatherly facade and it won't let him take a step back from the things he believes in. At 90, he remains a stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself. Pete Seeger still sings all the verses all the time, and he reminds us of our immense failures as well as shining a light toward our better angels and the horizon where the country we've imagined and hold dear we hope awaits us.

Now on top of it, he never wears it on his sleeve. He has become comfortable and casual in this immense role. He's funny and very eccentric. I'm gonna bring Tommy out, and the song Tommy Morello and I are about to sing I wrote in the mid-nineties and it started as a conversation I was having with myself. It was an attempt to regain my own moorings. Its last verse is the beautiful speech that Tom Joad whispers to his mother at the end of The Grapes of Wrath. "...Wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air Look for me Mom I'll be there."

Well, Pete has always been there.

For me that speech is always aspirational. For Pete, it's simply been a way of life. The singer in my song is in search of the ghost of Tom Joad. The spirit who has the guts and toughness to carry forth, to fight for and live their ideals.

I'm happy to report that spirit, the very ghost of Tom Joad is with us in the flesh tonight. He'll be on this stage momentarily, he's gonna look an awful lot like your granddad who wears flannel shirts and funny hats. He's gonna look like your granddad if your granddad could kick your ass.

This is for Pete...
Watch Bruce's speech right here, big thanks to iamworkingonadream


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Sounding out the Season...

A piece written leading up to and when contemplating Christmas, both the joy of being together yet also the sadness of those missing from families or potentially so...


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Full Choral Hide and Seek with Imogen Heap

Having already listed this song and Imogen Heap's original version of Hide and Seek as a 'stop you in your tracks' song how delighted was I to discover this full choral version?!

Featuring the University of Washington choir with Imogen, totally amazing and so Secret Chord!


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Jeff Buckley - BBC Soul Music Archive - Take 3

I'm delighted to report the BBC has increased the duration of the archived pieces from Radio 4's wonderful Soul Music and have included this edition along with many others, link above.

Here's a re-post of what I wrote about this broadcast back in 2010 which includes some of the content discussed with Jonathan Evens in our book 'The Secret Chord':

BBC Radio 4's edition of 'Soul Music' which featured Dido's Lament turned out to be really special! It always gives me enormous encouragement (and pleasant surprise!) to hear top notch classical maestros admitting truths that most of their colleagues would consider heresy.

The program moved from a fairly conventional start covering thoughts from the mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly and the view of the conductor of the band at the Cenotaph for Remembrance Day.

Jeremy Summerly, the big boss of the Royal Academy of Music and a renowned conductor, issued the first challenges to conventional thinking about the approach to singing the piece. He asked how would anyone know how 17th Century singers would sound and then introduced Alison Moyet's version, praising her approach, the clarity of her timbre and the fact that every word is intelligible. For someone of Jeremy's stature in the classical world to say this is really something, especially as he stated that Purcell's masterpiece is 'the great tune of the 17th Century'.

The closing section of the programme introduced Philip Sheppard, cellist and now composer. He spoke about how he was invited along to be part of the supporting orchestra for Elvis Costello's Meltdown Festival in 1995. One of the pieces was to be Dido's Lament which would be sung by charismatic rock singer Jeff Buckley. Although Philip had never heard of Jeff Buckley before once he heard him singing it had a most profound effect on him:
He seemed to screw every ounce of meaning out of the words and physically he looked like he was wracked with pain and anguish as he was singing it. But what was coming out was beyond ethereal his voice had this quality where it meant so much more than when I had ever heard it before.

But then when he sang it it seemed to be a Lament so much more and it really went beyond what I would consider to be classical music...and to date it's actually probably the greatest musical
experience of my life, in as much as it turned my world inside out.
As a result Philip had to admit:
I know NOTHING about music - at all!
Up to that point I was a musican who played through study rather than a musician who played through feel and now I have to say I seek out people to work with who do not necessarily read music who have their first sense is one of 'ear' rather than of 'technique'...
Philip then goes on to say how this became a pivotal moment in his career which helped him to become a composer, enabling him to move away from being 'a player who just repeated other people's music'.

Jeff Buckley died in a tragic accident just two years later in 1997, sunsequently his version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' reached number one in the US Billboard charts and is considered by many to be the definitive version.

Now Philip thinks of Jeff nearly every day and is ever grateful for the effect of the encounter, even though he only met him for around half an hour...

Listening to this has changed me forever, too, thank you so much...