Monday, 9 May 2011

Soothe your Savage Breast

For your listening pleasure – or horror – I have slung together a few of my current favourite pieces of music, and courtesy of Grooveshark embedded them in the side bar. Better that than music that strikes up as soon as you load the page; utterly naff, if you ask me. It’s quite a mixed bag to my ears, although to some it might, I allow, sound like little more than a compilation of minor-mode wailing and funereal ululation. I'll be adding and subtracting songs as the fancy takes me.
We kick off with two excerpts from Philip Glass’s opera Akhnaten. Do not listen to these if you are prone to music-on-the-brain: I swear they have been on an unending loop in my head, night and day, since I bought the CD around this time last year. The Prelude, with its shifting rhythms, undulating arpeggios and sense of swift forward propulsion, produces the exhilarating sensation of rafting on a sparkling river. It's mesmerising and extraordinarily persistent: impossible to get out of one's head. Akhnaten’s Hymn to The Aten I find equally hypnotic in its Handelian beauty, and the choral setting of Psalm 104 in Hebrew that ends it, suggesting an influence of Akhnaten's religious views on Jewish monotheism, is pure bliss. I sometimes think of Akhnaten in the Next World, still heaping his thousand offering-tables with grub for the Sun Disc, having pigs tortured, working the malnourished poor literally to death and listening with satisfaction to his words being sung 3,500 years after he wrote them. How chuffed the megalomaniac whack-job must be that he still has quite a public, despite Horemheb’s assiduous efforts to obliterate all trace of the froot-loop's reign after Akhnaten, to general relief, slipped off the perch. (Or was he pushed?)
Countertenor Paul Esswood as Akhnaten, already required to wear a foil emergency blanket, exasperatedly asks the director if a geezer in a stripy body-sock striking attitudes behind him really helps all that much. Stuttgart National Opera premier, 1984.
Next we have Dumisani Maraire with the Kronos Quartet, performing ‘Kutambarara’, meaning ‘spreading’. I have no idea what it’s about but it has a beautiful spacious sound and is wonderfully uplifting to sagging spirits. There's Mari Boine singing the angry Vilges Suola ('white thief') which gave me my nom de bloggeur and then Jan Garbarek, with Evening Land, which incorporates two more Boine songs. Tavener’s Song for Athene is next. They sang this Diana’s coffin was borne out of out of Westminster Abbey, but I didn’t watch that, so the pellucid beauty of the piece has not been spoiled for me, even though this performance is not the one I wanted to include. Some more Kronos Quartet to follow, first with Azerbaijani father and daughter duo Alim and Fargana Qasimov, then with a marvellous performance of the raga Mishra Bhairavi. The Qasimovs are responsible for most of the minor-mode wailing on offer here, so if such music gets on your wick, skip them, but it will be your loss, I reckon. The riveting intensity of this performance of the Azeri song Getme, Getme (Don't Leave) can be seen as well as heard here. I find Fargana in particular rich and warm as a good single malt. This is the highest complement I can pay anyone, although as a Muslima, she might not be especially flattered. Bhairavi is a morning raga, appropriate between six and ten o'clock, apparently. Listen to it outside those hours at your own risk.

Fargana Qasimova
Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass then give us Prashanti, which features a Sanskrit prayer sung by Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam. He does a lot of vocals for Indian films. Possibly as well he doesn’t take leading roles, as it would cost a fortune to put that name in lights.
S.P. Balasubrahmanyam

What next? Bit of Azam Ali singing first in tongues and then in Ladino, followed by a sensuous performance by Hesperion XXI of the Ladino song Las Estrellas en los Cielos, beautifully played on the sarod. These Ladino pieces once proved very popular with a group of Saudi students, who borrowed my CDs to burn onto their laptops. Your teacher is a wine-bibbing atheist pouf, I thought, and he’s seducing you with Jewish music. If you only knew.
My musically and academically talented nephew (smart-arse) sent me two CDs of the Black Ox Orkestar, who perform in the other Jewish language of Yiddish, which in place of the vowels and open syllables of Ladino has a gentle, clanking, consonantal sound. Not that you’d know from this one song, as it has no words. Still, it clanks gently enough. There are three songs from Belgian lovelies Lais, and I was dead chuffed to find a couple of songs from the Greek album Sappho, sung by Aleka Kanellidou. This little gem of a CD is a collection of poems by Sappho rendered into Modern Greek and exquisitely set to music by Spyros Vlassopoulos, and now available nowhere.(Even here - they disappeared!)
I can't find any information about Vlassopoulos, and no other album by Kanellidou has ever appealed to me in the least. If anyone has Sappho and can burn it for me, though, they will make a middle-aged grump reasonably happy for a short time.

Azam Ali
We have Mari Boine again, singing 'Give me a Break' in the voice of a little girl. This is a song for anyone who has been trivialised or demonised just for being what they are, and at an early stage in their lives taken that mistreatment to heart as if it were their own fault. In Boine's case, a Sámi. In my case, a gay teen in the seventies. Fill in your own blank.
Mun hálidivččen ealliman
Mun hálidivččen eallit
De váldet dáid muittuid
Ja vuodjudehket meara bodnái
Vai mun in dárbbaš guoddit šat
Daid maid in galgga guoddit

I'd like to have my I own life
I want to be alive
So take these memories
And carry them to the bottom of the sea
So I need no longer carry
What is not mine to carry.
Mari Boine
Then for a big finish, the beautiful Mamak Khadem from the USA via Iran with Restless Yearning. It's cheery stuff:

The pain of loneliness is mine
The sorrow of disgrace is mine
Passion and lovesickness, all mine!
Restless my sleep, beyond words my grief
Alone I lie at night
In the embrace of your apparition.

Mamak Khadem


Akhnaten's Hymn to the Aten

Thou dost appear beautiful
On the horizon of heaven
Oh, living Aten
He who was the first to live
When thou hast risen on the Eastern Horizon
Thou hast filled every land with thy beauty
Thou art fair, great, dazzling,
High above every land
Thy rays encompass the land
To the very end of all thou hast made

All the beasts are satisfied with their pasture
Trees and plants are verdant
Birds fly from their nests, wings spread
Flocks skip with their feet
All that fly and alight
Live when thou hast arisen

How manifold is that which thou hast made
Thou sole God
There is no other like thee
Thou didst create the earth
According to thy will
Being alone, everything on earth
Which walks and flies on high

Thy rays nourish the fields
When thou dost rise
They live and thrive for thee
Thou makest the seasons to nourish
All thou hast made
The winter to cool
The heat that they may taste thee

There is no other that knows thee
Save thy son, Akhnaten
For thou hast made him skilled
In thy plans and thy might
Thou dost raise him up for thy son
Who comes forth from thyself

At the close of the Hymn, Akhnaten leaves the stage deserted, and the act ends with distant voices singing.

Text: Sung in Hebrew by Offstage Chorus (from Psalm 104, Hebrew Bible, Masoretic text)

Ma rab-bu ma-a-se-kha ha-shem
Ku-lam be-khokh-ma a-sita
Ma-le-a ha-a-rets kin-ya-ne-kha
O-te or ka-sal-ma
No-te sha-ma-yim ka-yi-ri-a

Ta-shet kho-shekh vi-hi lay-la
Bo tir-mis kol khay-to ya-ar

Oh Lord, how manifold are Thy works
In wisdom hast Thou made them all
The earth is full of Thy riches
Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment
Who stretchest out the Heavens like a curtain

Thou makest darkness and it is night

Wherin all the beasts of the forest do creep forth


Anonymous said...

How almost unreasonably generous of you. What did I do to be so rewarded? I have to confess that my music tastes are at best haphazard and at worse appalling, UNLESS I HAVE BEEN POINTED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. Thank you for being the next person to meet me floundering about on the road and saying, "Oi, you, this way!"

The Philip Glass Akhaten thing is going to haunt me forever now!

Vilges Suola said...

Glad you like it, but beware the brainworms!

Anonymous said...

You have added all the words and everything!
Just to re-iterate, if Blooger lets me - thank you for the now permanent brainworm and also for being one of the (very) few people who seem to be able to guide me, dithering about in the face of So Much Choice, to some things of real worth....

Vilges Suola said...

Thanks, and welcome! I hope the brainworm doesn't end up driving you bonkers.

Anonymous said...

Janet Suzman? Are you kidding me?! I wonder if she got paid more than me....?

Vilges Suola said...

I have no doubt that she got paid very considerably more than you. There are TEFL teachers who are just dying to break into waitressing.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

can olive trees be gay?

Vilges Suola said...

Hmm. That seems to be assuming gay = effeminate and lesbian = butch. I'm gay but I do have XY chromosomes and am very much attached to all the equipment that comes with them!


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