Thursday, January 31, 2008

Four Musician Questions From Our Colleague Lyn

They say every snowflake is unique. Name a musician who you think is unique and sounds like no one else.

In the organ world, I would say Olivier Messiaen is the most unique. His works don't sound like anyone else, and he has most absolutely a very unique and profoundly beautiful musical language. His voice is hated by neo-traditionalists especially who have no capacity to understand the music, since it is so deeply rooted in Scripture and especially in the Roman Catholic liturgical tradition.

On the secular side, I'd say the German singer Max Rabe, singer in the band Palastorchester, who pionieered the resurrection of countless dance hall numbers from the early 20th century. He has a classic big band tenor voice. The Palastorchester have also arranged several pop tunes in the big band style and have composed many of their own satirical and comic songs. My favorite is the song called "Viagra" in which the band pokes fun at Bill Clinton, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. My second favorite is "Rinderwahn", a song about mad cow disease, quoting the melody of Hail Brittania: "Rinderwahn, man weiss nicht wo die Rinder war'n" ("mad cow disease, one doesn't know where that beef has been..." The text rhymns in German).

Of course we have the other singers with unique voices: Carol Channing (who can forget her excellent quote, "Welcome to this sea of booooooooooze and jaaaaaaaaaaaazz!" and her exclamation of "Raaaaaaspberries!". Then there is Eartha Kitt whose jazzy contralto is soooo sexy. I love her voice on "Wild Party", from the musical of the same name.

My least favorite unique singer is Sarah Brightman, famed ex of over-the-top-bring-out-the-elephants-Delila composer Andrew Lloyd von Webern. I get the feeling her ex hubby wrote those torturously high ariettas for his love and scribbled above the the vocal line "sing five octaves higher than written". The A.L.v.W. "Pie Jesu" from the "Requiem" (which I thought for years was actually a macabre musical, perhaps a sequal to Evita, that traced her after-death life in the glass casket as she vanished and reappeared under the coffee tables of various South American dictators), is the most god-aweful of the Brightman numbers. It can shatter a plastic two-piece champagne flute at 2 inches. On the "super singer side", Sarah more than likely has caverns in her head so high, they rival the groined vaults of the cathedrals at Bauvais and Amiens. (hehehehehe, he said "groin")

Tell us about a cover song you enjoy.

My favorite cover song isn't a cover song per se: the techno-remix of Petula Clark's "Downtown". It's actually a music video made from an old black and white performance of the song way back when. The tempo was slowed down a bit to accomodate the techno riffs. As a result of the editing, Petula's lips don't always match up with the words she's singing, giving it an interesting dubbed effect. Her gestures are so typically 1960's, and coupled with the techno beat, the video is very very enjoyable. It goes well with Crown and Coke, Grey Goose and Cranberry, or Vodka Punch at New Orleans club which shall remain nameless. A close second to this is the same song sung by Petula in German -- funky 60's lyrics in German but with a Brittish accent. The word "downtown" is never translated. Picture driving a yellow VW classic beetle listening to a cassette recording of the German "Downtown". Groovy.

Tell us your favorite Canadian musician.

I've never thought about that. Do Terrence and Philip count? But I don't think they're musicians...

Watching the snow fall can be very peaceful. Name a song that brings you peace.

That reminds me right away of the aria from "Messiah", How Beautiful Are The Feet Of Them. It's rather peaceful, but wickedly difficult to sing well. My most favorite artsong, though is Samuel Barber's "Sure On This Shining Night". I love it! It's fantastic to accompany a good singer on this. Another pick is the Faure "Apres un Reve", yet another, Henri Duparc's "Chancon Triste" (great fun for the accompanist!), another: Vaughan-Williams' "Silent Noon". And then who can forget Schumann's "Mondnacht" from the Liederkreis -- the words are delicious: "es war als haeett' der Himmel die Erde still gekuesst" ("It was as if heaven quietly kissed the earth"). Organwise, I pick Max Reger's Benedictus as the one. As the runner up from organ lit, I pick the reed solo from Cesar Franck's Organ Chorale #3 in A minor. Third place is the opening section of Franck's Chorale #1, and Fourth place organ winner is also Franck: The Prelude from Prelude Fugue and Variation.

1 comment:

Lyn F. said...

Ah yes, Après un Rêve. I do recall that one. It's achingly beautiful if sung well. I still remember when I was working on this. My voice teacher kept telling me I needed to pretend I was singing this through a tube. I was never able to do it justice as a singer though. Wish I could. Oh yeah, talk about covers - IIRC, Yo-Yo Ma had recorded this one, taking that beautiful melody with the cello.

I also agree with your picks of the Franck pieces. Simply wonderful.