Music: June 2010 Archives

See Further Festival

2010 is the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society. We've had a special series of In Our Time earlier in the year, the president of the Society, Martin Rees has given the Reith Lectures, and there've been numerous talks and lectures.

Over the weekend, the Royal Society's annual summer exhibition moved to the Southbank Centre where it has became the See Further Festival. All around the South Bank and Royal Festival Hall, were exhibits of what British scientists are currently doing. Various research labs and companies were present with live demonstrations explaining the practical applications of what they're doing.

Amongst many things I saw over the weekend were a new holographic method being developed for finding landmines, what we can learn from how insects navigate, and the development of an incredible new magnifying lens. And they're just a handful of the exhibits. On Friday, I saw Material World's Quentein Cooper interviewing someone about volcanoes, and reporters from a variety of international media talking to the scientists involved. Elsewhere, a little girl was being CT scanned by a large pink Siemens magnetom. And Festo had an Air Penguin that was very gracefully flying through the enclosed Royal Festival Hall's atrium and was as elegant a flying machine that I've ever seen.

Air Penguin

Outside the BBC's Bang Goes The Theory roadshow seemed popular, with Dr Yan in attendence.

The exhibition is open to next weekend, and if you're near London, is well worth a visit.

The reason that I reached the exhibition so early is that on Friday the "Premiere" of 2001: A Space Odyssey with live orchestral accompaniament was taking place. I first saw this film in one of its re-releases (they still used to do things like that in the late seventies) with my dad and brother at the Barnet Odeon. It is one of the few times I'd experienced an intermission in a film. Indeed, so unusual was such a thing, that I remember wondering whether the projectionist hadn't just introduced it on the cinema manager's orders so that he could sell more Kia Ora and popcorn. But it left an indelible memory - not least as 9 year old tried to understand "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite".

To my young mind, it opened with a tediously long sequence involving apes - "The Dawn of Man". But I remember watching and being mesmerised nonetheless. The moment that one of the apes throws a bone skywards and it becomes a spaceship heading towards an orbiting space station, accompanied by the Blue Danube, is one of cinema's most glorious moments. The piece is roughly 11 minutes long, and Douglas Trumball's effects, still stand up perfectly fine today. I guess that working with Arthur C Clarke for verisimilitude, Kubrick's ceaseless quest for excellence meant that he did as good a job in 1968 as anyone could do today.

For this production, Warner Bros had gone back to the film's audio master and separated the music cues from the dialogue and sound effects so that the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices could be added in live. While music is vital to 2001, it's actually used relatively sparingly; think of those scenes where all you can hear is Keir Dullea's breathing within his spacesuit. Conductor André de Ridder had a timecode alongside him to ensure that the cues were all met in timely manner.

Kubrick's widow, Christiane, introduced the evening's event, and noted that Stanley would have been shocked for his wife to have been speaking in public (when she sat down near me, and I realised that I was surrounded by friends and family, I must admit to being quite thrilled). Famously reclusive, it seems uncertain whether he would have attended at all. He might not have been completely taken with the projection. While the picture - I suspect an HD version - was pin-sharp, and perfect technically, he might have been a little annoyed that the orchestra needed any light to work beneath the screen.

Yet, all said and done, it was a wonderful experience, and was given a standing ovation at the end.

It's a long time since I properly watched the film. Although I have an early version of it on DVD, it's not great. So it was interesting to note some of the things Kubrick and Clarke got right about their film. While Pan Am may not have survived, the commercialisation of everything else seems right (the space station is basically a Hilton). Meals on board are "microwaved". On board Discovery One, the two pilots are seen using devices that are staggeringly similar to iPads! (The chap in front of me also noticed this, and was so excited that he had to tell both the person to his left, and right). A news broadcast comes from BBC 12. Sadly Kubrick wouldn't have known that BBC Executive would be reigning in their channels rather than expanding them from the current main 4 TV services.

Anyway - it's unclear if and when this event might be seen again. But I do feel a need to return to Clarke's novel.

Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra

I'm beginning to lose count of the number of times I've seen Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra playing their big band jazz, but it doesn't really matter, as it's a joy to see them every single time they're in the country.

This time around it's an especially good treat as they're actually in residency at the Barbican for a few days playing a series of concerts and events not just for ticket payers, but for school kids, youth orchestras and the local community in general.

When I arrived at the Barbican a youth jazz orchestra was playing to a rapt crowd in the Barbican's foyer, and it just got better from there.

We had the traditional three rows of a by now very familiar group of musicians playing pieces from the early swing era of the 1930s, including pieces from Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton amongst others. Marsalis, as ever, introduces each piece and generally seemed to have a really good time enjoying guest appearances from Elaine Delmar and Christian Garrick.

A chap near me who I'd initially thought was an official photographer given his DSLR and position, turned out to be something of a dancer, and just couldn't help himself at one point!

A wonderful evening.

Incidentally, the performance was being recorded on video for archival purposes, but also, we were told for CBS News' 60 Minutes for broadcast later in the year. I counted at least three video cameras recording the concert including one that was positioned three seats along for me. Although we don't get 60 Minutes in the UK, I'll try to keep an eye out for the programme's broadcast.

Marsalis himself is playing at least a couple more concerts including one I'm really looking forward to going to at the Hackney Empire on Sunday night. But anyone in London should definitely try to get along to Victoria Park on Saturday where there are some free open air concerts.

As a side note to those who come here for radio and media bits and pieces, it's worth pointing out that jazz as a music form has just about completely been handed over to the BBC. Although Jazz FM still exists on some DAB multiplexes as well as Sky and the internet, the last major commercial stations to play jazz - Smooth FM (once itself Jazz FM) - is currently trying to persuade Ofcom that even the minimal amount of jazz it does still broadcast is too much.

Not Completely My Own Composition

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Over the weekend I read a really good piece in the new issue of Word magazine written by Eamonn Forde that detailed some of the more famed musical “squabbles” when it’s discovered that an artist has “ripped off” another artist, usually by sampling them without permission. The most recent example mentioned in the piece was a supposed Eddy Grant sample to be found in the recent Gorillaz single Stylo.

Other examples include Enya who was famously sampled by The Fugees, and of course The Verve’s use of a Rolling Stones piece.

But the article was mostly about the compensation that artists can and do demand, with the preference being for song writing credits as opposed to a lump sum.

I was thinking again about this when I was reading today about the story behind the new Shakira song that’s been adopted by FIFA as the official anthem of World Cup in South Africa. As this piece explains – along with a whole series of other similar tales – the song is “derived” from a Cameroonian song popular in the army, but recorded in the 80s by a band made up of military members. It was enormously popular. Indeed, as this piece explains, it’s been used a lot in both Africa and Latin America.

Now I may be late to the game here (I had no idea until last night that 1. James Corden has recorded a World Cup song and 2. it’s reached number one. I should say in my defence that it was simply a case of not reaching the remote control fast enough after last night’s game between Germany and Australia) but this was all news to me.

Anyway, it’s all well and good hearing about these, but something nobody’s yet explained to me is this:

Why do artists continue to do it?

With the internet, iTunes, YouTube, sites like whosampled.com, and anybody being just an email away from spilling the beans, you simply can’t get away with sampling or re-recording someone else’s work without being caught. Did Shakira’s people really think nobody in Cameroon would notice? The song’s been very popular across the whole continent by all accounts.

To be honest, the Eddy Grant question is a little more interesting as to my non-musicologist’s ears, it’s the same four or five notes in both songs and not a direct sample as such. I’m not sure where a song is unique or is just a collection of different notes. But nonetheless, if I was Gorillaz, I’d still expect Eddy Grant to ask the question. He’s not a musical “nobody”.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Music category from June 2010.

Music: February 2010 is the previous archive.

Music: September 2010 is the next archive.

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