It’s not often that you will find a song which will take your breath away. I discovered this one last year, and many listens later it hasn’t lost the tender beauty or the power it held over me the first time I heard it.
Unbelievingly, I first discovered Xǐ huan [喜欢] ‘Like’ as a free download. It’s by Zhāng Xuán [张悬], most commonly known as Deserts Xuan or Chang, a Taiwanese singer who is thought to be one of the leading voices of contemporary alternative Chinese music. It’s from her second album, released in 2007 and entitled, Qīn ài de…wǒ huán bù zhī dào [親愛的…我還不知道], ‘Dear…I Don’t Know Yet’.
A long-time independent musician and composer, Chang began writing songs barely into her teens. She was performing her own music on stage by the age of 16 and at 19, she had written over 100 pieces of music. She chose the stage name ‘Deserts’ because it was “mysterious and suggests something hanging in limbo”; like her personality.
I found something truly awe-inspiring today.
Lux Aurumque was a project started by American award-winning composer Eric Whitacre using the Youtube social network. Inspired by a video of a young girl singing one of his pieces uploaded to the Youtube site, Whitacre had the idea to put together a unique performance of his choral piece Lux Aurumque, featuring Youtube users as the choir.
Uploading videos of himself conducting the piece with instructions, music and sheet music for the many different singing parts also published, Whitacre invited Youtube users to record videos of themselves singing the piece. These parts were then fused together to create the final piece of music, which was then itself posted on Youtube.
Be aware: the result might just move you to tears.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that in the 1990s a giggling teenage girl in possession of a Spice Girls CD must be in want of brick-red hair dye.
Come on – own up, all you ladies aged between 22 and 30. I have no doubt that you’re looking at the above picture and recalling to mind the embarrassing things you did; when you pulled your hair up into bunches and danced around your living room, chewing bubblegum and wishing you had a pair of pink platform boots to gatecrash parties in.
Maybe you begged your mum to let you get your tongue pierced, or stole her handbag and perfected your pout in the bathroom mirror. Or perhaps, like me, you lived in tracksuits, practised high kicks and memorised those oh-so-cool screechingly-high harmonies. You knew all the moves.
This year’s Folk Awards were on last night and I, like a total idiot, missed them – what can I say, thank God for iplayer! Though I guess Julie Fowlis’s tweet from Sunday should’ve given me a clue (oops).
I’m a relatively new lover of folk music; the draw for me is the depth of musical skill that every artist on the scene seems to possess (approximately 50x the average Brit award winner?). I have a tendency too to find and stick to the artists I like the sound of (Bob Fox, anyone?) and so the Folk Awards are a great way to find new artists to listen to.
But first of all – first of all – I just want to say YESSS!!!!! Nancy Kerr and James Fagan took the award for best duo! I’m more than a little biased, admittedly, since Nancy is a fellow north-easterner and the cover for their latest album Twice Reflected Sun was designed by my awesomely talented friend Lizzy.
I just gave in to temptation; I bought an album which I have had my eyes upon ever since first I heard it a year ago, courtesy of a rather excellent post from The Basement Rug in March 2010. It was the so-good-it’s-euphoric Hadestown, written by American folk artist Anaïs Mitchell. It cost me £7.49 and was worth. Every. Single. Penny.
And then some.
Why We Build the Wall (featuring Greg Brown)
Hadestown is a folk opera; a 2010 collaboration between Mitchell and several other obscenely talented musicians, such as the renowned Ani DiFranco. As the title might suggest, the story is a reworking of the classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, whom he brings back from the underworld only to lose her again, tragically, at the gates of hell.
So, I’m back at the gym (after quite a few more months off than I really should have taken). I am definitely the last person for whom you’d use the term ‘gym bunny’. I’m not stick thin (that’s why I’m there) and posers make me giggle.
I won’t bore you with tales of depleted energy and inevitable aches in muscles I didn’t even knew I had following my recent return to heavy exercise. After all, my resolution this year is to be more positive, right? So instead, I want to share one of my secret weapons, my most important survival tip for the gym.
If you’re not a fan of Japanese anime, you may be tempted to believe that the genre is completely devoid of real beauty and depth. I’d like to share a little secret with you.
Ailes Grises ‘Grey Wings’
Kou Otani is one of Japan’s most underrated composers in the west. When you think of Japanese composers you might recall to mind Joe Hisashi, who wrote the scores for classics such as Studio Ghibli’s Oscar winning Spirited Away. Perhaps you might be familiar with Yoko Kanno, who has composed soundtracks for Cowboy Bebop, Vision of Escaflowne and others too numerous to mention.
In my opinion, Kou Otani beats them all.
How musical are you?
This week BBC Lab UK launched a new online experiment which will tell you just what level of musical talent you really have. The experiment also aims to disprove public perceptions about musical ability by encouraging everyone in the country to take part.
An interview about the experiment was published to the BBC website today, with a discussion between Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawney and Dr. Lauren Stewart, senior lecturer in Psychology at Goldsmiths College at the University of London.
Don’t you just love it when you accidentally stumble upon an amazingly beautiful song?
Holy Island is a track from the 2007 album Traces of Silver released by New Zealand legend Andrew White; a totally underrated artist in my opinion. Despite having worked with artists such as Karen Matheson of Cappercaille and Michael McGoldrick of the Afro Celt Sound System, White remains mostly unknown in the country in which he was born.
I first came across Andrew White’s music during a random search on youtube and bought this album on the strength of the first song I heard, the magical title track Traces of Silver. He has an arresting voice and wonderfully tender style of guitar playing, and there’s a refreshing sense of honesty and raw beauty in his lyrics, too.
Today, rather than opinions or politics I would like to share a song.
The song, ‘Pi Dul Gi Ya, Nop I Nar A Ra’ (비둘기야 높이 날아라) or ‘White Dove, Fly High’ was written in North Korea in the 1990s by native songwriter Sin Un Ho (신운호) and composer Ri Jong Oh (리종오). It was chosen for the American band Casting Crowns to sing when they were invited to North Korea in 2007 to perform in the annual Spring Friendship Art Festival in the capital city of Pyongyang. They returned two years later to perform again, this time recording the song for their upcoming album (listen above).