Archive for the Music Category

Stardust – Louis Armstrong

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on August 22, 2017 by telescoper

This wonderful recording of Hoagy Carmichael’s great song Stardust was made in 1931 by Louis Armstrong with his big band. After the heights that Armstrong reached in the 1920s, starting with King Oliver and then with the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, some jazz critics maintain that the 1930s were a comparative wilderness. Well, I think he sings and plays beautifully on this so if this is a wilderness just take me to it, and I’ll pitch my tent there anytime!


The Vale of Clwyd

Posted in Music with tags , , , on August 19, 2017 by telescoper

Why did nobody tell me that Beethoven wrote a collection of 26 Welsh Folk Songs? I had to rely on BBC Radio 3 to educate me about them!

Here’s one example, Number 19 in the published collection, arranged for soprano voice with piano, violin and cello accompaniment and  called The Vale of Clwyd .

Here is a picture taken across the Vale of Clwyd, taken by Jeff Buck.


Photo © Jeff Buck (cc-by-sa/2.0)



Posted in Music with tags , , on August 18, 2017 by telescoper

After yesterday’s terrible news, it seems apt to remember happier times.



Deep Time and Doggerland

Posted in Biographical, Music, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on July 24, 2017 by telescoper

One of the bonuses on offer during the BBC Proms season on Radio 3 is the opportunity to listen to the fascinating discussions recorded over the road from the Albert Hall at Imperial College and broadcast during the intervals under the title of Proms Extra. Last week (at Prom Number 4) there was a discussion with the title Deep Time, taking its theme from the UK premier of a fascinating composition of the same name by Sir Harrison Birtwistle.

The Proms Extra programme focussed on `Deep Time’ in the sense in which it is used in geological, i.e. time as inferred from rock strata and the fossil record. In the course of the discussion mention was made of Doggerland which is not, as you might imagine, a theme park devoted to outdoor sexual activities, but an area now submerged beneath the North Sea that connected Great Britain to continental Europe during and after the last glacial period. About 12,000 years ago at the start of the Holocene Era, it is thought that the area now covered by the North Sea looked something like this:

(Picture credit: this website). Obviously the cities marked on the map where not there at the time! Britain was connected to mainland at this time, although much of the land mass was under glaciers at the time. At the end of the last ice age the glaciers retreated, sea levels rose and the area once covered by Doggerland was submerged. It is thought that this happened around 8500 years ago. Great Britain has been separated from the continent by less than 10,000 years.

Doggerland gets its name from the Dogger Bank, a huge sandbank off the North-Eastern coast of England which is thought to be a glacial moraine left behind by the retreating ice sheet. The Dogger bank lies about 60 miles from the coast, and is about 60 miles wide by 100 miles long. The water is quite shallow – typically 20 metres deep and is a well-known fishing area. Its name derives from old Dutch fishing vessels called doggers who specialised in catching cod. Here’s a map (from here) showing the Dogger Bank:

When I was a teenager I had the opportunity, with a few friends from school, to go out from Newcastle in a trawler to the Dogger Bank. The skipper insisted that the Dogger Bank was, in places, so shallow that you could paddle around on it with your trousers rolled up. We all believed him, but he was clearly having us on!

The other thing I remember about that trip in a trawler – apart from the all-pervasive smell of fish – was that a bit of storm brewed up on the way home. All my school friends got sea-sick, but I didn’t. That was the first time I realised that I don’t suffer from seasickness. I can enjoy travelling on ships and boats without having to worry about it.

Dogger is of course also the name of one of the sea areas used in the Shipping Forecast: it is East of the coastal area Tyne, South of Forties, North of Humber and West of German Bight. Whenever I hear the shipping forecast on the radio, I always feel a bit of nostalgia when I hear the names of these areas read out.

Anyway, trawlers operating at the Dogger Bank frequently bring up bits of ancient animals (including mammoth and rhinoceros) as well as prehistoric human artefacts, showing that the area was at one time inhabited. I don’t think anybody knows exactly how long it took Doggerland to become submerged, but it may well have involved one or more catastrophic flooding events. If there were people living on Doggerland then,  they obviously had to migrate one way or the other..



Daniel Barenboim’s Proms Speech

Posted in Music, Politics with tags , , , on July 19, 2017 by telescoper

Daniel Barenboim made this wonderful speech at the BBC Proms at the weekend. It seems to have annoyed some people who get annoyed when someone expresses something that doesn’t fit in their own narrow minds, and does it with grace, eloquence and great dignity. I’m posting it here to annoy such people still further. It’s no more than they deserve.

And here is the encore that followed the speech – Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance  March No. 1 – in full. It’s a piece I usually hate. This was the first time in my whole life that I’ve actually enjoyed it.


Rondo alla Trad

Posted in Film, Jazz with tags , , , , on July 17, 2017 by telescoper

I think this will probably alienate serious jazz fans and serious classical music fans in equal measure, but I stumbled across this while searching for something else and couldn’t resit posting it here. It’s from the 1963 film Live it Up and it features Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen playing their arrangement of the famous Rondo alla Turca from the third movement Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 (K331). It’s not as far fetched as you might think to perform this with a band led by a trumpet player because Mozart’s composition deliberately imitated the music of the Janissary marching bands which were much in vogue in Austria in the latter part of the 18th Century.

Anyway, when I clicked on this I thought I was going to hate it, but you know what? I rather like it!

The Versatile Four

Posted in History, Jazz with tags , , , , , on July 14, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve posted a few examples of Jazz drummers recently, so I thought you might be interested in this, a rare recording of performance from the (pre-Jazz) Ragtime era that provides a good example of where  Jazz drumming came from. This track was recorded in London way back in 1916 and it’s remarkable for the clarity with which you can hear the drums, which in those days usually proved very difficult to capture.  The tune, Down Home Rag (written by Wilbur C. Sweatman) was a big hit at the time and remains in the traditional jazz repertoire to this day. It’s played by The Versatile Four an almost legendary ragtime band that I know very little about other than the personnel: Tony Tuck (banjo; born 1879 Virginia); Charles W. Mills (piano; born 1883 Illinois); Gus Haston (banjo, vocals; born 1880 Missouri); and  Charlie Johnson (drums; born 1885 Kentucky). I’m not sure who it is who blows the whistle, but it may well be the drummer.

Charlie Johnson’s playing of the drums may sound very old-fashioned and a bit staff to ears accustomed to the swinging style of the jazz era, and he no doubt used a very crude kit, but this recording shows what an absolutely superb musician he was. You can also clearly hear the influence of the sort of drum patterns used by military marching bands. As well being an interesting piece from the point of view of music history, the drummer suffuses this high-energy performance with a sense of knockabout fun that is guaranteed to bring a smile to even the most crabbed face!