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Posts Tagged ‘song’

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Photo: David Tipling/Getty Images
The nightingale’s song has been inspiring writers for more than a thousand years, but today most people have only recordings.

I’m reading one of the Narnia books to my younger grandson (The Horse and His Boy), and naturally some of the cultural references are to author CS Lewis’s England. We turned to our North American bird book when a nightingale was mentioned, and no nightingale was there. I’ll be showing him this story.

Patrick Barkham reports at the Guardian, “The nightingale has virtually disappeared from Britain over the past 50 years, its population plummeting by 93% to fewer than 5,500 pairs. But now a chorus of nightingale events are being arranged by artists, musicians and filmmakers to raise awareness of the plight of one of the country’s most celebrated but endangered birds.

“Birdsong was played on phones [in April] as the street artist ATM spent the day painting a nightingale in a gallery on the square, and more than 750 people attended a concert [of musicians performing] with amplified nightingale song.

Let Nature Sing, a track of pure birdsong including the nightingale, has been released by the RSPB to highlight the loss of more than 40 million birds from the UK in 50 years. …

“Its song was played in Berkeley Square as ATM painted a nightingale on the tailplane of a Wellington bomber at an event organised by the makers of a new documentary, The Last Song of the Nightingale.

“In 1924, the BBC’s first live-to-radio broadcast featured the cellist Beatrice Harrison playing a duet with a nightingale recorded in her garden in Surrey. The BBC continued this annual tradition until 1942, when the broadcast was famously abandoned when microphones picked up the sound of Wellington and Lancaster bombers en route to attack Germany, and the radio engineers realised the sounds could forewarn Hitler. …

“[Folksinger Sam] Lee said the nightingale was the most inspiring of musicians.

“ ‘For me it’s pure song,’ he said. ‘It’s an animal that is so utterly at one with music and the environment and using all the tropes and articulation and emotional capacity of a human musician, in the shape of a tiny brown feathered being.’ …

“Lee will rework the classic song ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ at a free Extinction Rebellion event in the square, after which the audience will be encouraged to disperse through the streets of London with the nightingales’ song playing on their phones.

“Lee said … ‘At this rate we’re going to lose our nightingales, and so many species are in massive decline. We have to start celebrating these species and the arts are a very important way of brokering awareness and creating an agency for change.’ …

“ATM said he was convinced that nightingales did once sing in Berkeley Square. ‘It’s all about whether there was dense scrub in the square and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one singing here 150 years ago.

“ ‘I lived in Berlin and the nightingale’s song was a common sound. Unfortunately the modern ethos of park-keeping is lawns and open spaces. People are frightened of the impenetrable places the nightingale needs.’ ”

More.

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At WBUR’s The Artery, Andrea Shea has a story about a composer with a penchant for unusual texts: the package blurbs practically everyone reads at breakfast when the newspaper hasn’t arrived.

“Musicians are always searching for inspiration,” writes Shea, “and sometimes they find it in some unlikely places.

“Take Brian Friedland, a prolific Boston composer and jazz pianist who’s discovered a creative goldmine in his cupboards. He takes words on packaging for products such as granola, mouthwash and tea, then sets them to some pretty sophisticated music. Friedland calls the funny-but-serious project ‘Household Items’ and he has a new CD. …

“Friedland is not a singer, but he sees amusing, absurdist potential in labels featuring characters, quests or ‘extreme’ wording. He started foraging for inspiration about eight years ago and had an epiphany when he read a can of carpet cleaner after his cat missed the litter box.

“It read, ‘Do not. Do not puncture. Do not freeze. Do not incinerate. Do not expose to heat above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not inhale.’ He made them into a percussive, vocally complex work where the singer repeats, ‘Do not! Do not! Do not puncture,’ with urgency.”

Percussionist and singer Laura Grill “performed a few songs, including one about a fragrant skin moisturizer.

“ ‘There’s one benefit of having these sort of accessible lyrics,’Grill said, ‘because people are like, “Oh right — Avon Peach Hand Lotion — I can connect with that.” ’

“Grill, also an [New England Conservatory] alum, says Friedland has found a unique solution to an age-old problem.

“ ‘As someone who enjoys composing and arranging, one of the hardest things is trying to write lyrics,’ she said, ‘so Brian finds them on his coffee packages and appliances.’ ”

Listen to Friedland’s SleepyTime tea music with lyrics taken straight from the box at WBUR, here.

Photo: Andrea Shea/WBUR
Brian Friedland, a composer who puts text from product packaging to music.

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Here’s a tip for anyone planning to be in London in late fall. A cabaret festival, said to be the first ever, will take place in locales around the city.

Matthew Hemley writes at The Stage, “Comedian Alexander Armstrong and US singer Michael Feinstein are among the performers lined up to appear as part of the first London Festival of Cabaret.

“The festival will run from October 22 until November 15 with events taking place in a variety of venues across London.”Other acts taking part include Elaine Paige, Maria Friedman and Barb Jungr.

“Armstrong will appear in Alexander Armstrong and his Band Celebrate the Great British Songbook from October 28 to 31 at the St James Theatre, where Friedman will give a master class in performing cabaret on October 25.

“Friedman said: ‘Cabaret is a unique way for an artist to hone their communication skills, allowing the audience an up-close, concentrated, in-the-moment experience.’ ”

More.

My husband and I enjoy cabaret music. We like to catch Will McMillan when he performs, whether it’s in Jeff Flaster’s original musical Tortoise or on the terrace in front of Cambridge Adult Ed.

Are you going to London, Will? These London guys need to see the show you put on with Bobbi and Doug, don’t you think?

Photo: Willsings.com

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Quoting from The Next Web, Andrew Sullivan posts today about a Canadian astronaut who may be on his last trip to space, given the Canadian government’s cutbacks.

“Commander Chris Hadfield is one of the most memorable astronauts to have gone into space, so it was fitting that his farewell moment to the world saw him record the first ever music video from space.

“Ahead of his return to Earth on Monday after five months at the International Space Station (ISS), the 53-year-old Canadian astronaut fittingly covered the David Bowie classic ‘Space Oddity’ in a poignant video.

“Hadfield has maintained strong links to folks at home, having entertained his 700,000-plus Twitter followers with regular photos and commentary, and taken part in a Reddit AMA interview, but music was always a focus for him.

“He recorded the first song in space last December, and, speaking before his latest mission, he admitted that he would record a range of songs in space.”

Read more at AndrewSullivan.

This video is really, really wonderful.

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A 91-year-old Hindu gentleman has joined the tai chi chuan class I take Saturday mornings. His wife brings him a little after we have started, and he walks slowly between the wall of mirrors and the line of practicing students to sit in a folding metal chair, where the teacher explains the upper-body part of the exercises so he can join in. Age has not kept him from that.

After today’s class, I was driving home and heard Susan Stamberg interview Marian McPartland, 94, here, on National Public Radio. A fantastic jazz pianist, McPartland recorded her last Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz show only two years ago — after 33 years — but continues as artistic director. She is also the subject of a documentary called In Good Time that highlights the day in August 1958 when she was part of a famous photo of jazz greats in Harlem, below.

Speaking of nonagenarians, folksinger and activist Pete Seeger, 93, showed up on Colbert recently. At first I thought he was not answering a question and was wandering, but it soon became clear he was unfurling a story in his own way and that it would end precisely on point.

Seeger still splits logs to heat his house with wood. And his banjo playing hasn’t aged a bit.

Photograph: Art Kane/Art Kane Archives

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Did anyone watch the television show Rin Tin Tin as a kid?

I thought of it today when I read this awesome AP story:

“The birth of a white bison, among the rarest of animals, is bringing Native Americans who consider it a sacred event to celebrate at one of the least likely of places, a farm in New England.

“Hundreds of people, including tribal elders from South Dakota, are expected to attend naming ceremonies later this month at the northwestern Connecticut farm of Peter Fay, a fourth-generation Goshen farmer.

“Native Americans in the area have come with gifts of tobacco and colored flags for Fay and the bull calf since it was born there a month ago, and Fay is planning to offer his hay field as a campsite for the expected crowds.

” ‘They say it’s going to bring good things to all people in the world. How can you beat that? That’s the way I look at it,’ Fay said.” More. (There’s a photo there, too.)

I knew I had to blog about it because I loved the Rin Tin Tin episode when young Rusty is in dire straights and is saved by the White Buffalo. I know the song from that episode by heart. It was one of my brother’s records when he was little, although I don’t think it made it into the website with his blues records.

“There’s an old Indian legend that I heard long ago.
“It’s about a special valley and the White Buffalo.

“The legend says you’ll find it if your heart is brave and true
“And you treat all men as brothers no matter what they do.

“I have searched for that valley since I started to grow.
“I won’t stop until I find it — and the White Buffalo.”

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You may recall that six grandmothers from the former Soviet Union competed in Eurovision. We blogged about them here. Loreen from Sweden won first prize, but the babushki came in second.

In a follow-up story in the NY Times, Andrew Kramer writes that the grandmas’ fame is bringing a modicum of prosperity to their forgotten village. In particular, it is rebuilding the church that Stalin destroyed and that they loved in secret. They chose to spend their winnings on the church.

“For years, Buranovo was a dying village, one of many in the Russian countryside left behind by an oil-driven boom that revitalized drab Soviet cities and drew the young away from the farms that had sustained their parents. …

“Now, the women’s good fortune is transforming not only their lives, but also Buranovo. In appreciation of the group’s near victory, the local government is building a water pipeline, installing streetlights and high-speed Internet for the village’s sole school and laying new gravel on the main roads. …

“It all began with a miracle, said Olga N. Tuktareva, the leader of the singing group …. Ms. Tuktareva recalled strolling about the village with a friend in 2008 and lamenting a sad episode in local history: the destruction of the Church of the Trinity, taken down like countless other churches in Stalin’s Russia. …

“During that walk, Ms. Tuktareva recalled, her cellphone rang. It was a music producer in Moscow who had heard of the singing babushki …”

Read more.

Photograph: Oleg Nikishin

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