Ane Brun and Fleshquartet, “The Opening”

Ane Brun and Fleshquartet, “The Opening”, “Wallander”, Season Three Closing Theme, 2012, Vocal Recorded by Conny Wall Gig Studio 

Born Ane Kvien Brunwoll in March of 1976 in Molde, Norway,  Ane Brun is a songwriter, guitarist, and a vocalist of Sami origin, the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the northern parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula of northwest Russia.

The daughter of jazz singer and pianist Johanne Brunwoll and lawyer Knut Brunwoll, Ane Brun studied music and law at the University of Bergen, and, during that time, began writing her own music compositions and lyrics. After playing a few minor shows, she recorded her first demos in Bergen in 1999. After settling in Stockholm in 2001, Brun focused all her energies on her musical career. 

Brun’s debut album, entitled “Spending Time with Morgan”, was recorded in 2002 in both Uppsala and Stockholm, Sweden. It was released in 2003 on the DetErMine label, a company founded by Brun and Ellekari Larsson, the pianist and vocalist of the Swedish band “The Tiny”. Following two years of European concert tours, Brun released her second album, entitled “Temporary Dive”, which was produced by Katherina Nuttall and released worldwide between 2005 and 2007. The album was well received with award nominations from all over Europe; and it was awarded the Spellemannpris, the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammies, for Best Female Artist. 

Ane Brun released her album “Duets” in November of 2005. This album contained duet collaborations with, among others, Canadian singer Ron Sexsmith; French musician and composer Teitur Lassen; Syd Matters, the French band of composer Jonathan Morali; and a collaboration with the band Madrugada on the single “Lift Me”, which earned Brun another Spellemannpris award. As of 2020, Brun has released a total of nine albums, of which two are gold albums, one platinum album, and two albums, “Duets” and “It All Starts with One”, which became platinum twice.

Ane Brun continues to tour and has appeared in  multiple stage arrangements from solo acoustic to a full band with string section. She currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden, where she writes, records and manages her own recording label, Balloon Ranger Recordings.

“The Opening” is a haunting and fitting theme song for the main character in the Swedish television series, “Wallander”, which stars actor Krister Henriksson in the title role. Adapted from author Henning Mankeil’s Kurt Wallander novels. the three-season series is set in Ystad, Skåne, near the southern tip of Sweden, The thirty-two episodes follow the life and cases of Detective Wallander, a man with few close friends and tentative relationships with colleagues, who towards the end of his career suffers memory loss and gradually succumbs to Alzhheimer’s disease. 

“The Opening is a song whose lyrics and melody were written by myself with the music and production handled by the Fleshquartet. I got the script for the very last Wallander film, and wrote these lyrics inspired by the main character. It’s about trying to move forward when you find yourself at a standstill. It’s an encouraging song about daring to take a step in any direction when you feel stuck. Sometimes it’s just a small step or a short conversation – or sometimes just a single word – that can set off the necessary process of change.”  —Ane Brun

Arcangelo Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli, Concerto in D Major Op. 6 No. 4, 1714, Performed by the Voices of Music Ensemble

Born on February 17, 1653 in Fusignano, Papal States, Italy, Arcangelo Corelli was a violinist and composer of the Italian Baroque era, whose  family were prosperous landowners, but not of the nobility. Known chiefly for his influence on the development of violin style and for his sonatas, Corelli’s “12 Concert Grossi “ established the contrast between a small group of soloists and the full orchestra as a popular compositional medium. 

Historical records of the poet Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni, founder of the celebrated Academy of Arcadians, state Arcangelo Corelli initially studied music under priests, first in the city of Faenza and then in Lugo, before he moved in 1666 to Bologna, a major center of musical culture. Plausible, but largely unconfirmed, historical accounts link his musical education with several master violinists, including Giovanni Benvenuti, Bartolomeo Laurenti, and Giovanni Battista Bassani. 

Although it is unclear exactly when Corelli arrived in Rome, it is known that he was actively engaged as a violinist in 1675. He played as one of the supporting violinists in three Lenten oratorios: one at the church of San Giovanni dei Florentini, one held on August 25th for a celebration at the church San Luigi dei Francesi, and one for the ordination ceremony of a noble Chigi family member held at the church Santi Domenico e Sisto. By February of 1675, Corelli was third violinist in the Chapel of San Luigi dei Francesi’s orchestra in Rome; by the following year Corelli was second violinist.

Corelli rapidly gain a reputation by playing in a number of ensembles sponsored by wealthy patrons at San Marcello al Corso, for whom he played in oratorios during the Lenten seasons from 1671 to 1679. In June of 1677, Corelli completed and sent his first composition “Sonata for Violin and Lute” to Count Fabrizio Laderchi, a noble in Faenza attached to the household of Prince Francesco Maria de Medici. Corelli’s “Twelve  Trio Sonatas (Two Violins and Cello, with Organ Basso Continuo), Opus 1”, dedicated to Queen Christina of Sweden, was published in 1681. 

From September 1687 to November 1690, Arcangelo Corelli was musical director at the Palazzo Pamphili, where he performed and conducted important musical events, Including conducting an orchestra of one hundred fifty strings for Queen Christina. A favorite of the great music patron Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, Corelli in 1690 entered into the Cardinal’s service where he performed in concerts at Ottoboni’s Palazzo della Cancelleria. Joining him at these concerts were the violinist Matteo Fornari, the cellist G. B. Lulier from Spain, and the harpsichordist Bernardo Pasquini, and other orchestral players.

Corelli had first met Matteo Fornari in 1682, and they soon developed an intimate relationship which lasted until Corelli’s death. Socially protected by Ottoboni and living discreetly among male friends, they devoted their time together to the pursuit of their music which included many performances played together. Their relationship became the inspiration for two compositions by their friend Giuseppe Valentini, who dedicated his trio sonatas to both Corelli and Fornari. During this period, Corelli quietly developed his best-known and most influential works, the orchestral “Concerti Grossi”, and also became one of the most renowned violin teachers, who taught such students as Gasparini, Castrucci, and Locatelli.

In 1702, Corelli went to Naples and performed a composition by the Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti, a performance which was probably performed  in the presence of its regent, King Philip IV.  In 1706, together with composer Bernardo Pasquini and Scarlatti, Corelli was received into the Pontifical Academy of Arcadia in Rome and conducted a concert for the occasion. By 1708 he withdrew from public view and began to revise his compositions. A contemporary of both Lully and Handel, Corelli died in Rome on the 8th of January in 1713. 

Arcangelo Corelli left his large art collection of paintings, all his instruments and music, and all future proceeds from it, to Matteo Fornari who readied Corelli’s unpublished “Op. 6 Concertos” for publication with Estienne Roger of Amsterdam. By special decree from the Pope, Corelli was buried next to Raphael in the section of the Pantheon in Rome that holds the remains of painters and architects.

Arcangelo Corelli’s “Concerto in D Major Op. 6”, was published in 1714 in Amsterdam and dramatically affected the style of the baroque concerto for the next generation of composers. The reception of this collection, considered one of the crown jewels of baroque instrumental music, owes a portion of its success to the music publishing boom which began around 1690. Corelli’s signature violin sonata set, “Opus 5”, also widely published, appeared in at least forty-two editions by 1800. 

Corelli’s concertos are written in an expanded trio sonata style, in which the two solo violins and cello form a small ensemble within the larger tutti framework, which is performed with all instruments together. The fourth concerto, played in the video linked above, is noteworthy for its suave and serene introduction, the gracefulness of the dance movement, the exceptionally well-balanced counterpoint and harmony, and the furious concluding coda which flows out of the second ending of the last movement.

Note: The video is from the Voices of Music Lamentations of Jeremiah concert held in April of 2014. Played with period instruments and practice,, there isn’t any conductor present at the performance. Kati Kyme and Elizabeth Blumenstock play solo baroque violins; Shirley Edith Hunt plays solo baroque cello; Gabrielle Wunsch and Maxine Nemerovski play ripieno baroque violins; Lisa Grodin plays baroque viola; Farley Pearce plays violone; Hanneke van Proosdij plays baroque organ; and David Tayler plays the archlute.

Constantine Cavafy

Constantine P Cavafy, “The City”, 1894, Alexandria, Egypt, Published 1910

Born in Alexandria, Egypt in April of 1863, Constantine Petrou Cavafy, upon the death of his father in 1870, moved with his family to Liverpool, England, where the eldest sons assumed control of the family’s import-export business. He spent most of his adolescence in England, developing in those seven years both a command of the language and a preference for the writings of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde.

After the older brothers mismanaged the family’s business, Cavafy’s mother moved the family back to Alexandria, living there until 1882 when the British bombarded the city. The family moved to safety in Constantinople where Cavafy remained with his mother until 1885. Although living in great poverty and discomfort during this period, he was writing his first poems, and had his first love affairs with other men.

After he reunited with his brothers back in Alexandria, Constantine Cavafy found work initially as a newspaper correspondent. He obtained a position in the late 1880s as an assistant at the Egyptian Stock Exchange, working there for a few years before clerking, at the age of twenty-nine, at the Ministry of Public Works. Cavafy stayed at the ministry for the next thirty years, eventually becoming the ministry’s assistant director. Much of his ambition during those years was devoted to writing poems and prose essays.

Constantine Cavafy lived with his mother until her death in 1899, and then with his unmarried brothers. For most of his mature years, he lived alone. Although his social circle was unusually small, Cavafy did maintain an influential twenty-year literary relationship with English fiction writer and essayist Edward Morgan Forster. Cavafy, himself, identified only two apparently brief love affairs. His one intimate, long-standing friendship was with Alexander Singopoulos, whom Cavafy designated as his heir and literary executor, ten years before his death from cancer in April of 1933.

During his lifetime, Constantine Cavafy was an obscure poet, publishing little of his work and living in seclusion. A short pamphlet collection of fourteen poems was printed in the early 1904, and reprinted a few years later with new verse. Cavafy’s poems were first published in book form ,without dates, before World War II and reprinted in 1949. The only evidence of his public recognition in Greece was his receiving, in 1926, the Order of the Phoenix from the Greek dictator Pangalos.

One third of Constantine Cavafy’s work was never printed in his lifetime. His lack of concern for publication might be due to the highly personal aspect of many of his poems. Cavafy was gay and wrote many sexually explicit poems, making no attempt to conceal anything. The erotic world he depicted was one of casual pickups and short-lived affairs, moments of pleasure not unhappy or spoiled by feelings of guilt.

An avid student of ancient civilizations and history, Cavafy wrote a great many of his poems treating life during the Greek and Roman empires. The style of his poems were not typical of the times; his language was flat and direct, whether he was talking about beauty, despair, eroticism, the past, or present anxieties. Among Cavafy’s most acclaimed poems are “Waiting for the Barbarians, “Ithaca” which stresses the importance of the journey over the destination, and “The Battle of Magnesia, emphasizing that decadence in a civilization leads to destruction.

Cavafy’s erotic poems have similar themes to those in his historical poems. The lovers work in dull offices, or for shopkeepers; they meet “On the Stairs”, “At the Theater”, “At the Cafe Door”, or in front of “The Windows of the Tobacco Shop”. They often are forced to beg and give their bodies for the worldly rewards. Cavafy’s erotic poems are his personal vision, one which explores the gratifications and the ramifications of the pursuit of pleasure.

Notes: “The City” zeroes in on the notion of human error and the places that remind us of the folly of our judgment. The speaker is addressing a friend, reiterating the friend’s declarations in the first stanza, and then offering the hard truths in the second stanza. The city triggers memory, keeps receipts, and preserves the details of personal tragedy and transgression, until the demons are exorcised. There will be no erasure of the past, expect the permanency of scars; but those are indicators of healing.

It is recorded that C. P Cavafy’s last motion before dying was to draw a circle on a sheet of blank paper, and then to place a period in the middle of it.

The video clip is from the Greek television series “Thus Spake the City- Episode Five, Alexandria” directed by Yannis Smaragdis.

Rhye, “Black Rain”

October 2020, From the Album “Home”, Release Date January 22, 2021

The video “Black Rain” by Rhye was directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and stars actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson. It was produced by Loma Vista Recordings and is distributed by Concord Music Group. Inspired by the tremendous 2020 wildfires in California, the spirit of the son is overcoming obstacles and uniting together to produce positive solutions.

Rhye is a contemporary R&B musical project, originally consisting of Canadian singer and electronic musician Mike Milosh and Danish instrumentalist Robin Hannibal, a Grammy Awards nominee known for being half of the musical duo Quadron. The band’s first album was the 2013 “Woman”, which was in the running for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. In 2017 after Hannibal left the project for Los Angeles, Milosh and the associated live band released the album “Blood” in 2018, which was largely written, produced and performed by Milosh.

English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, born in High Wycombe in 1990, is best known for his portrayal of the lead character in the 2010 movie “Kick-Ass” and for the role of Quicksilver in the 2015 “Avenger: Age of Ultron”. He has also appeared in the 2006 magic film “The Illusionist”, the 2009 John Lennon biographical film “Nowhere Boy”, and in Oliver Stone’s 2012 action thriller “Savages”. 

Ólafur Arnalds, “Woven Song”

Ólafur Arnalds, “Woven Song”, 2020, From the Album “Some Kind of Peace”

Born in Mosfellsbaer, Iceland, in November of 1986, Ólafur Arnalds is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. A former drummer, he mixes strings and piano with loops and beats to produce sounds from ambient and electronic to pop. He has produced five albums, multiple singles and extended plays, and soundtracks for films and drama seroes, such as the 2013 “Gimme Shelter:, the 2015 series “Broadchurch”, and the 2020 “Defending Jacob”

Ólafur Arnalds released his single “Woven Song” on September 24, 2020. The song is from his new album “Some Kind of Peace”, which was released on November 6th. The fractal shapes of the video effects were produced by director Thomas Vanz using an acrylic pouring process called “viscous fingering”. 

One of the influential musicians of modern times, Ólafur Arnalds has combined the electronic and classical worlds in his productions, often weaving pieces of his life into the songs. Collaborators on the new album include British musician Bonobo, Icelandic singer and instrumentalist JFDR, and German singer and songwriter Josin. 

“This album is about what it means to be alive, daring to be vulnerable and the importance of rituals. It is a personal album, my most personal to date, set against a background of a world thrown into chaos. I’ve poured all my love, dreams and fears into this album through a magical but difficult process, but the result is something that makes me immensely proud and happy to be doing what I do.” —Ólafur Arnalds

“Some Kind of Peace” is available in multiple mediums at: https://mkx.lnk.to/OASKOP

Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschfeld, “Different from the Others”, 1919,  Directed by Richard Oswald, Cinematography by Max Fassbender, Richard Oswald Film, Berlin

Video Soundtrack: “Meditation de Thais” by Joshua Bell

Born in May of 1868 in Kolberg, Prussia, Magnus Hirschfeld was a German physician and sexologist educated primarily in Germany, earning his doctoral degree in 1892. Observing the suicide rate of his gay patients, he became an outspoken advocate for sexual minorities. In May of 1897 Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, a campaign for social recognition of gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women, and against their legal persecution.

Under Herschfeld’s leadership, the Committee gathered over five thousand signatures on a petition to overturn Paragraph 175, the section of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality. It received little support in the Reichstag in 1898, made some progress later, until its demise with the Nazi Party took power. 

With the rise of the national socialist party in Germany, Magnus Hirschfeld was badly beaten by a group of võlkisch activists who attacked him on the streeet. In 1933, his Institute for the Research of Sexuality was sacked, the staff beaten, and its contents of books and documents burned on the street.  At the time of the book burning, Hirschfeld was on a world speaking tour. He never returned to Germany, eventually near the end of his life, settling in Nice, France. Magnus Hirschfeld died in Nice on May 14, 1935 and is buried in the Caucade Cemetery.  

Enacted in 1871, the German penal code’s Paragraph 175 sentenced thousands of accused German homosexual men to jail terms for “unnatural vice between men.” In 1919, director Richard Oswald and psychologist Dr.Magnus Hirschfeld created a film intended to expose the unjust Paragraph 175 and help liberate the “third sex” from legal persecution and public scorn. It was the first movie to portray homosexual characters beyond the usual innuendo and ridicule.

“Different from the Others” casts Conrad Veidt as Paul Korner, a gay concert pianist blackmailed by a closeted crook named Bollek. When Korner’s budding romance with Kurt Sivers, a handsome young music student, played by Fritz Schulz,  runs afoul of Bollek’s extortion, Korner goes to the German courts for protection. But the draconian Paragraph 175 makes criminals out of both accuser and accused, ultimately costing Korner his career, his freedom, and his life.

One of the first gay-themed films in the history of cinema, “Different from the Others” was banned at the time of its release, later burned by the Nazis and was believed lost for more than forty years. Using recently discovered film segments, still photos and censorship documents from different archives, Filmmuseum Muenchen has resurrected this truly groundbreaking silent film for DVD.

Image Insert: Magnus Hirschfeld, on the right, with his partner Tao Li, at the fourth conference of the World League for Sexual Reform in 1932. Tao Li’s father, Li Kam-tong, a wealthy Hong Kong business man, approved of his son’s relationship with Hirschfeld.

Film video reblogged with thanks to:  https://www.kinolorber.com/film/view/id/732

Kevin Desabrais

 

Kevin Desabrais, “The Ragged Man”, 2009, From the Album “Nothin’ But the Road”

The song”The Ragged Man”, written and sung by Kevin Desabrais, was released in September of 2009 on the album “Nothin But the Road” by the label Boy and The Bear Records. The album contains twelve songs that are available on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music. A great song by a talented artist.

Kevin Desabrais’s website is located at: https://kevindesabrais.com/home

Any information on this artist would be greatly appreciated.

 

Luka Šulic, “Csárdás”

Luka Šulic, “Csárdás”, June 2015, Composed by Vittorio Monti, Arranged by Valter Dešpalj, Accompanied by the Zagreb Soloists , Lisinski Concert Hall,Zagreb, Croatia

Italian composer and violinist Vittorio Monti was born in Naples and studied violin and composition at the Conservatorio di San Peitro a Majella. He received an assignment in 1900 as the conductor for the Lamoureux Orchestra in Paris, where he wrote several operettas and ballets. Monti wrote his composition “Csárdás”, based on a traditional Hungarian folk dance,  for violin, mandolin, or piano in 1904.

“Csárdás” is a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods and tonality.The work, containing arrangements for a number of solo instruments and an orchestra, is composed of seven different sections, each of a different tempo and occasional different key from the preceding one.

Born in Maribor, Slovenia in August of 1987, Luka Šulic is a Croatian-Slovenian cellist, a member of the cello group “2Cellos”, along with Stjepan Hauser. He began his musical education when he was five years old and became, at the age of fifteen, one of the youngest student to enter the Music Academy in Zagreb. There he studied for three years under Professor Valter Dešpalj, a cellist from the Juilliard School and Moscow Conservatory. Šulic continued his studies in Vienna with Reinhard Latzko and finished his master’s degree with Mats Lidstrom at London’s Royal Academy of Music in 2011.

Luka Šulic has given a number of solo and chamber music appearances in Europe, South America and Japan in major venues such as Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Vienna Musikverein and Konzerthauswon. He has won a series of top prizes at the prestigious international music competitions including first and special prize at the 2009 VII Lutosławski International Cello Competition in Warsaw, and first prize at the 2011 Royal Academy of Music Patron’s Award in Wigmore Hall.

Luka Šulic was awarded a Ribbon of an Order of Danica Hrvatska for a special contribution to the culture and promotion of Croatia in the world. His site with a listing of upcoming live performances can be found at: https://lukasulic.com

Ted Shawn

Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers, “Kinetic Molpai”, 1935, Jacob’s Pillow, Music Added to Video in 1985 by Jess Meeker and John Sauer

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in October of 1891, Ted Shawn was one of the first notable male pioneers of American modern dance. While attending the University of Denver, he contracted diphtheria at the age of nineteen, causing him temporary paralysis form the waist down. During his physical therapy in 1910, Shawn was introduced to the art of dance by Hazel Wallack, a former dancer with the Metropolitan Opera. He relocated to Los Angeles two years later, joining an exhibition ballroom dance troupe with dancer and choreographer Norma Gould as his partner. 

Ted Shawn moved to New York City in 1914 where he met Ruth St. Denis, a teacher and modern dance pioneer. They married in August of 1914, with St. Denis becoming a dance partner and a creative outlet for Shawn. Both artists, believing in dance as an art form integral to everyday life, combined their artistic vision and business knowledge to open the first Denishawn School in Los Angeles in 1915. Renowned for its influence on ballet and experimental dance, this school became the first dance academy in the United States to produce a professional dance company. 

Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Davis established an eclectic mix of dance techniques including a freeing of movement in the upper body and experimental ballet, often done without shoes. With the additions of North African, Spanish, and Amerindian influences to St. Denis’ eastern style, they broke with the established European tradition. Their choreography ushered in a new era of modern dance, drawing from these indigenous, ancient, and international dance traditions. 

In the early 1930s, due to marital problems and finances, Ted Shawn left to form an all-male dance company consisting of athletes he taught at Springfield College in Massachusetts. His mission was to fight for the acceptance of the American male dancer and to present a male perspective on the dance art form. On July 14, 1933, Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers had their premier performance at Shawn’s farm in Lee, Massachusetts. This event, known as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, would transform into the now existing dance school, retreat, and theater at the former farm.

Shawn produced many innovative and controversial choreographies with His Men Dancers, which included performances entitled “Ponca Indian Dance”, “Maori War Haka”, “Hopi Indian Eagle Dance” and “Kinetic Molpai”. Through these creative dance performances, Shawn showcased masculine and athletic movement which gained in popularity. The company toured more than 750 cities in the United States and Canada, and achieved international success in Havana, Cuba, and London. Their final show was a homecoming performance at Jacob’s Pillow on August 31, 1940, ending a seven year tour. 

During the years of the company,, Ted Shawn’s comradeship and interactions with the men in his troupe evolved into a love relationship with Barton Mumaw, one of the leading stars of the company, which lasted from 1931 to 1948. Shawn would later form a partnership with John Christian, the stage manager of the company, with whom he stayed from 1949 until his own death in January of 1972. Ted Shawn’s final appearance on stage was at the Ted Shawn Theater of Jacob’s Pillow in “Siddhas of the Upper Air”, where he reunited with Ruth St. Denis for their fiftieth anniversary. 

Ted Shawn was a Heritage Award recipient of the National Dance Association in 1965 and was inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Hall of Fame, located in Saratoga Springs, in 1987. His works, including his nine published books providing a foundation for modern dance, are now in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and in the archives of Jacob’s Pillow.

Many thanks to the Jacob’s Pillow site: https://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org

Sean Lìonadh

Sean Lìonadh, “Homophobia in 2018: Time for Love”, 2018

“Time for Love” is a short film written, directed and performed by Sean Lìonadh, It is taken from his written poem that explores homophobia in modern society, and also the concept of normality. It questions whether the pressures of convention turn us against one another, at the cost of love. This visually poem won a Royal Television Society Award in 2019, has acieved extensive viewing online, and has been translated into five languages.

Sean Lìonadh is a poet, writer, filmmaker and musician from Glasgow, Scotland. He worked with the Royal Opera House as the libretist on the modern opera”Honest Skin”. His band ‘Lìonadh’ creates dark pop music which explores the themes in his film. Sean Lìonadh is currently working with producers Alfredo Covelli and Ross McKenzie to develop his first feature film “Nostophobia”, exploring the adolescent intimacy and trauma through a gay relationship. His first book, a poetry collection entitled “Not Normal Anymore”, was published in 2019 by Speculative Books.

Sean Lìonadh has written and produced several films dealing with struggles and strengths in one’s life, including the 2017  short film for the BBC The Social series “Social Circles, “The handover” in 2018 dealing with the distance between parents, the 2018 “The Oppression of the Left”, dealing with the stigma of left-handedness, “Us and Them-Rhys’ Story” in 2019, and the 2019 “I Wonder if She Smiles”, the winner in 2020 of a John Byrne Award, Scotland’s online exhibition and competition.

Many thanks to http://irreverentpsychologist.blogspot.com

Armand Amar, “Maryam”

Armand Amar, “Maryam”, Featuring Hamza Shakour, From the Movie Soundtrack Album “Bab’ AzĀz”

Born to parents of French-Moroccan origins in 1953, Armand Amar was born in Jerusalem and spent his childhood in Morocco. Extra-European music, imbued with the sounds of instruments considered exotic at the time, fascinated him. A self-taught personality, he was constantly searching for physical experiences in the early years of his musical apprenticeship; in the following years, his searching became a commitment. He discovered the zarb and congas, learned to play the tablas, and studied  under masters of both traditional and classical music. 

Armand Amar’s discovery of dance in 1976 was a decisive moment in his life, brought on by an invitation from trained anthropologist and South African choreographer Peter Gross. In dance, Amar found a direct relationship to music, free improvisation, and the advantages of real, immediate exchanges. Amar soon became involved in two ventures: his involvement in Patrice Chéreau’s acting school and his teaching at the Conservatoire National Supérieur, both focusing on the relationship between music and dance. He has since worked with various choreographers including Francesca Lattuada, Russell Maliphant, Carolyn Carlsson, and Marie-Claude Pietragalla. 

Amar’s musical and spiritual influences show in his films scores: film director Costa-Gavras’s 2000 “Eye Witness” and 2009 “Eden is East”; Radu Mihaileanu’s 2009 “The Concert”, winner of the César for Best Soundtrack of the Year; the 2006 “Days of Glory” by Rachid Bouchareb; the 2008 “The Maiden and the Wolves” by Gilles Legrand; and many other notable films. In August of 2014, Armand Amar received the Amanda Award for Best Soundtrack of the Year for the music of Norwegian director Erik Poppe’s movie “A Thousand Times Goodnight”.   

In 1994 in partnership with his friends Alain Weber and Peter Gabriel, Amand Amar founded the record label Long Distance for traditional, classic, and world music, producing more than sixty titles. Amar’s own work is released through the labels of Long Distance, Naive, Universal, Sony, and Warner. In June of 2011, at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco, he created his first ‘oratorio mundi” entitled “Leyla and Majnun”, which consisted of forty singers and musicians from around the world.The performance played at Salle Pleyel, in Paris in April of 2014. 

Sergei Eisenstein

Sergei Eisenstein, “The General Line (The Old and the New)”, 1929, The “Cream Separator” Sequence, Co-directed by Grigori Aleksandrov, Cinematography by Eduard Tisse

Born in January of 1898 in Riga, Latvia, Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein was a film director, scriptwriter, film theorist, and a pioneer in the theory and development of montage. Using his technique of montage film editing, he portrayed the rapid developments of events on the screen, separating each scene into fragments and rearranging them into his preferred order.

Eisenstein studied engineering at the Petrograd Institute of Civil Engineering, leaving in 1918 to join the Red Army in the revolution. Still a member of the Red Army after the Bolshevik seizure of power, he took part in many theater productions and was eventually assigned to organizing productions and ensembles. In 1920 Eisenstein returned to Moscow and worked with the Proletkult Theater, becoming co-director and later the most noteworthy theater director in the USSR.

While still a theater director, Eisenstein wrote a manifesto, “Montage of Attractions,” for the literary journal “Lef”, rejecting the idea that dialogue is the dominant element in theater and claiming that all the elements function on equal terms, forming a fusion or montage that made the entire work. Montage in film, as Eisenstein understood it, means that a film should be constructed not in narrative fashion but from brief segments that serve to reinforce and counterpoint one another. The meaning of the film arises from the interplay of these elements, leading the audience into new recognitions.

In the spring of 1924, Eisenstein proposed that Proletkult undertake a series of films portraying the Russian revolutionary movements before 1917. Working with cameraman Eduard Tisse, a Latvian newsreel photographer who would go on to be the cameraman on all his films, he took on the making of “Strike”, the fifth film in the series. In 1925, Eisenstein made his second and probably his greatest film “Battleship Potemkin”, examining the  mutiny carried out by sailors of the Russian warship, Prince Potemkin, stationed in the Black Sea fleet near Odessa. 

Sergei Eisenstein’s film “The General Line”was an experiment in presenting the feeling of ecstasy in film. Directed by both Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov, the film, centering on a rural heroine instead of a group of characters, was a celebration of the collectivization of agriculture, a policy championed by Bolshevik Leon Trotsky.  Eisenstein used his montage method with great success in the filming of the milk coop, its sequence conceived as a enthralling spectacle of raptured faces and the triumphant introduction of new farm machinery. After Trotsky’s fall from grace, the film was quickly re-edited and released in 1929 as “The Old and the New”.

Eisenstein’s vision of Communism brought him into conflict with officials in the ruling regime of Stalin. Frequent attacks on Eisenstein and then subsequent rehabilitation would be a repeated pattern throughout his life. His popularity and influence in his own land thus waxed and waned with the success of his films and the passage of time. In 1930, Eisenstein was approached with offers from Paramount Studios for several films; however, because of his artistic approach and disagreements with scripts, the contract was declared void by mutual agreement. 

Eisenstein came back into prominence with the 1938 “Alexander Nevsky”, in which Eisenstein exchanged his montage style for one that focused and developed the individual characters to a greater extent. This was due to the rise of Socialist Realism in the arts which was becoming the cultural and artistic policy of the state. Well received, the film won Eisenstein the Order of Lenin and the Stalin Prize.  

Eisenstein’s 1944 “Ivan the Terrible, Part One”, a film presenting Ivan IV as a national hero, also won the approval of Stalin and a Stalin Prize. However, the sequel “Ivan the Terrible, Part Two, although finished in 1945, was criticized by the government and not released until 1958. All footage from the unfinished Part Three was confiscated by the state and mostly destroyed, with only a few scenes still existing.

Sergei Eisenstein suffered a heart attack in February of 1946, recovered, but died from a second heart attack in February of 1948, at the age of fifty. His body laid in state in the Hall of the Cinema Workers, was cremated two days later, and his ashes buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

Édith Piaf

Édith Piaf, “La Vie en Rose”, 1956 Film “Música de Siempre”

Édith Piaf was French singer, songwriter, cabaret performer, and film actress, noted as France’s chanteuse and one of the country’s most widely known international stars. Her autobiographical songs specialized in chanson and torch ballads about. love, loss and sorrow.

Born Édith Giovanna Gassion in 1915 in Belleville, Paris, Édith Piaf was the only child of Louis-Alphonse Gassion, a highly skilled street acrobat, and Annetta Giovanna Maillard, a cafe singer of Moroccan Berber descent. When her parents’ marriage failed, Édith Piaf  lived with her paternal grandmother, who ran a brothel. At the age of seven, she joined her father, participating with him in street performances, on a traveling circus caravan to Belgium and eventually France.

Renowned for her voice even at a young age, Piaf separated from her father and became a street singer in Paris and its vicinities. In 1935,  she was discovered by Louis Leplée, the owner of the successful nightspot “Le Gerny” located on Rue Pierre- Charron. Leplée starred Piaf as “La Môme Piaf” (The Little Sparrow)”, due to her small stature and nervous energy, and ran a major publicity campaign for her opening night. Piaf’s popularity, after the successful show, enabled her to record two albums in 1935.   

After the murder of Louis Leplée in spring of 1936, Piaf worked with French lyricist Raymond Asso, who became her lover and mentor. She also worked closely with songwriter and composer Marguerite Monnot, who as a female composer of popular music in the 1930s was a pioneer in her field. Piaf commissioned songs in the style of ‘chansons réaliste’, which dealt with the lives of the French poor and working class in a realistic and emotive manner.

Édith Piaf became one of the most famous performers in France. During World War II, she went to sing for the French prisoners in Germany and posed for pictures with them. When she returned to France, Piaf had made individual passports for the prisoners, using the pictures taken in Germany during her visit. She was instrumental in helping a number of prisoners to escape. It was during these war years that Piaf wrote “La Vie en Rose”, which is remembered as her signature song.

After the war years, with her fame spreading quickly, Piaf toured Europe, the United States, and South America. In 1950 in Paris, she gave Héctor Roberto Chavero, the central figure in Argentine folk music, an opportunity to share the stage and make his debut in France. Piaf also helped launch the career of Charles Aznavour, whose songwriting and distinctive tenor voice would span seventy years, making him one of France’s most popular performers. In 1962 she married singer and actor Théo Sarapo, birth name of Theophanis Lamboukas, who would sing with Piaf in some of her last engagements.

Bruno Coquatrix’s famous Paris Olympia opera hall is where Édith Piaf achieved lasting fame, giving a series of concerts at the hall, the most famous venue in Paris, between 1955 and 1962. Excerpts of these concerts were issued on record and CD, and have never been out of print. Piaf debuted her song “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien” at the 1961 concert in the opera hall, which she had promoted to financially save the venue. Her final recorded song was “L’Homme de Berlin”, in April of 1963.

Édith Piaf’s life, while containing fame and fortune, also had many tragedies. The love of her life, legendary French boxer Marcel Cerdan, died in a plane crash of an Air France flight in October of 1929, while traveling to meet her. In 1951, Piaf was severely injured in a car crash, breaking an arm and two ribs, the resulting trauma leading to difficulties with alcohol and morphine addictions. Two more near-fatal car crashes followed, worsening the situation. After a series of surgeries in 1959, Piaf’s health, seriously affected by her alcohol use and medications,  deteriorated further; by 1962,  her weight had dropped to 30 kg or 66 pounds. 

Édith Piaf died of an aneurysm due to liver failure at age forty-seven while residing at her villa in Plascassier on the Riviera, on October 10, 1963. She is buried at the family gravesite in  Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. The name inscribed at the foot of the tombstone is Famille Gassion-Piaf. Her name is engraved on the side as Madame Lamboukas dite Édith Piaf. 

Denied a funeral Mass by Cardinal Maurice Feltin because of her lifestyle, her funeral procession drew tens of thousands to the streets of Paris; the ceremony at the cemetery drew one hundred thousand fans, Fifty years after her death, the Roman Catholic Church recanted and gave Piaf a memorial Mass in the St. Jean-Baptiste Church in Belleville, Paris, the parish into which she was born.

Note: The video footage behind the song includes a travel film of her vacation in Mexico entitled “Édith Piaf Au Mexique, Film de Voyage”. It should be noted that Édith Piaf sings “La Vie en Rose” in Spanish in this color video footage. This is a rarity; there are no other known films of Pilaf singing in Spanish.

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi

The Divertissement Chamber Orchestra and Ilya Ioff, Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Storm”, From “Summer” of the “Four Seasons”

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was an Italian Baroque musical composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and priest. Born in March of 1678 in Venice, he is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, whose influence even during his lifetime was widespread across Europe. He composed many instrumental concertos for the violin and a variety of other instruments, as well as sacred choral works and more than forty operas.

Many of his compositions were written for the all-female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi, who had been ordained as a Catholic priest, was employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi received many commissions and had some success with expensive stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. His innovative compositions brightened the formal and rhythmic structure of the concerto with their harmonic contrasts and innovative themes. 

Between 1717 and 1718, Vivaldi was offered a prestigious new position as Maestro di Cappella of the court of Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, governor of Mantua, in the northwest of Italy. He moved there for three years and produced several operas, including the 1719 “Tito Manlio”, a three-act opera to celebrate the upcoming marriage of the governor. Vivaldi was in Milan in 1721, where he presented the pastoral drama “La Silviia”, of which nine arias have survived. He moved to Rome, where he introduced a new style for his operas, performing one of his operas for the new pope Benedict XIII before returning to Venice.

In 1725, Vivaldi composed the “Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons)”, a musical conception of four violin concertos with varied textures, each representing its respective season. Though three of the concertos are wholly original, the first, “Spring”, borrows motifs from a Sinfonia in the first act of Vivaldi’s contemporaneous opera “Il Giustino”. All of the concertos are associated with a sonnet, possibly written by Vivaldi, describing the scenes depicted in the music.

Each of Vivaldi’s four concertos is in three movements, with the slow movement positioned between two faster ones, all varying in tempos according to the season portrayed. At the time of “Four Seasons” composition,  the modern solo-form of the concerto, typically a solo instrument with an accompanying orchestra, had not yet been established. Vivaldi’s original arrangement for a solo violin with a string quartet and basso continuo evolved the form of the concerto, The “Four Seasons”, the best known of Vivaldi’s work, was published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concertos entitled “Il Cimento dell’ Armonia i dell’ Inventione” with a dedication to his patron Count Václav Morzin of Vrchilabí.

Note: The “Storm” is part of the “Summer” concerto of  Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, with its final movement evoking a thunderstorm. In the accompanying music video, the arrangement is played by The Divertissement Chamber Orchestra with a solo  by Ilya Ioff, violinist and professor at the St Petersburg State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire.

Marlene Dietrich, “Lili Marleen”

Marlene Dietrich, “Lili Marleen”, 1945, Decca Records

Marlene Dietrich was born on December 27th of 1901 in Berlin, Germany, with the given name Maria Magdalene Dietrich. Growing up, she studied French, English, and the violin at a private school, with the aspiration of becoming a professional violinist. Later in her teen years, Dietrich decided to explore acting, enrolling in Austrian-born theater director Max Reinhardt’s drama school, eventually acting in small parts on stage and in films. Because of her family’s disapproval of theater as a profession, she changed her name to Marlene Dietrich.

Dietrich married Rudolf Sieber in 1923 and, with his help, was able to get the small role of ‘Lucy’ in director Joe May’s 1923 “Tragedy of Love”. After the birth of their only child Maria in 1924, the marriage began to fail, leading to a separation but not a divorce. During this time, Paramount Studios signed to a contract director and filmmaker Josef von Sternberg, who already had produced a number of notable films. In 1929, Sternberg was sent to UFA, Paramount’s studio in Berlin, to direct the sound production of “The Blue Angel” based on Heinrich Mann’s book “Professor Unrat”.

Sternberg cast the little-known Marlene Dietrich in the female lead role of Lola Lola, the cabaret singer and dancer whose allure would attract and lead to the decline of Professor Unrat. With her sophisticated manner and sultry looks, Dietrich naturally fit into the role and became a star. The 1930 “Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel)”, the first talking picture in Germany, became a big hit, eventually making Dietrich an international star with its English language version in the United States.

In April of 1930, Marlene Dietrich moved to America. Working once again with Sternberg, she starred in the 1930 romantic-drama “Morocco” with actor Gary Cooper. The film received four Academy Award nominations; Dietrich was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, her one and only Academy Award nomination.She continued in her next films to play the femme-fatale roles, creating new more-masculine fashion trends for women and challenging accepted views of the female image.

Dietrich made several more films working with director Sternberg: the 1931 successful spy film “Dishonored”, “Shanghai Express” in 1932, “The Scarlet Empress” in 1934, and her personal favorite film “The Devil is a Woman”, a 1935 romance film set in Spain in which she played a cold-hearted temptress. A strong opponent of the Nazi government in Germany, she disassociated herself from the German film companies and became a US citizen in 1939, resulting in the banning of her films in Germany. During the war, Dietrich traveled extensively, entertaining the troops, selling war bonds, and recording anti-Nazi messages to broadcast in Germany. 

Following the war, Marlene Dietrich worked with director Billy Wilder on his 1948 film “A Foreign Affair” and the 1957 film “Witness for the Prosecution” with actor Tyrone Power, based on the book by Agatha Christie. She also played strong supporting roles in director Orson Welles’ famous 1958 film-noir “Touch of Evil” and in Stanley Kramer’s 1941 courtroom drama “Judgement at Nuremberg”. As her acting career faded, Dietrich began a successful singing career in the mid-1950s performing from Las Vegas to Paris, and finally singing in Germany in 1960, her first visit since the war.

Marlene Dietrich gave up performing in the middle of the 1970s, moving to Paris and living in near-seclusion. She did agree to provide some audio commentary for the documentary “Marlene”, filmed by Maximillian Schell in 1984; however, she would not appear on camera for the film. Marlene Dietrich, one of the most glamorous leading ladies of the 1930s and 1940s, died in her Paris home on May 6th of 1992 and was buried next to her mother in Berlin.

The song “LiLi Marleen” is a German love song that became popular during WWII throughout Europe and the Mediterranean among both Axis and Allied troops. Written in 1915 as a poem of three verses by Hans Leip, a school theacher, it was set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938 and recorded for the first time by Lale Andersen in 1939.  In 1944 the Morale Operations Branch of the US Office of Strategic Services initiated the Muzak Project. Marlene Dietrich recorded a number of songs in German for the project, including “Lili Marleen”, which became a massive success. This version of the song with Dietrich singing eventually became recorded as a single by Decca Records in 1944 and released in 1945.

Jai Peng Fang, 永远 “Forever”

Jai Peng Fang, “Forever” 永远

Jia Peng Fang was born in April of 1958 in Jiamusi, China. He is a virtuoso of the erhu, the Chinese violin. He has played in hundreds of live concerts throughout China and Japan, as well as recording for movies, television and radio. 

At an early age, in 1966 and under the influence of his older brother, Jai Peng Fang began to learn to play erhu. At the age of sixteen, his brother helped him go to Beijing to study the Erhu with the most experienced players. From 1974 to 1976, Fang stayed with his aunt and practiced with the erhu. After the Great Karasan Earthquake, he joined the Navy Song and Dance Band until, as part of the Cultural Revolution, he was forced to return to his native Jama as an agricultural worker. 

After the Cultural Revolution, upon the advice of a former teacher, Fang decided to enter a music school. In 1978 he studied and applied to Central Conservatory of Music. After being recommended by Zhou Yaozhen in 1979, he officially became the erhu player of the Central National Orchestra as a performer in the Folk section. After six years as a professional erhu player, Fang was appointed deputy director of the orchestra department.

In 1988, Jia Peng Fang moved to Japan and enrolled in the Master of Arts Degree Program in Music at the Tokyo University of Arts. Upon graduating with his masters degree, he was admitted as a member of the China Musicians Association and became director of the Erhu Chinese Society. Upon graduation he also started participating in the production of Katsuhisa Hattori’s albums and concerts and began large-scale professional performances.

Jia Peng Fang has performed in the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York, and in Carnegie Hall, playing with the Tokyo Pops Orchestra and New York Pops Orchestra. In 1997, Fang’s brilliant performances with his orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York solidified his position in the world of music.

One of Jai Peng Fang’s most beautiful and moving melodic songs, “Silent Moon”, contained in the 1999 album “River”, was used as a musical mat in a famous video tribute dedicated to the great martial arts master Yip Man, master of Bruce Lee. The video shows the Grandmaster’s abilities in his Wing Chun style, images taken a few weeks before he died.

Jimmy Scott

Jimmy Scott, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, 1986, From the Album “All the Way”

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in July of 1925, James Victor Scott was an American jazz vocalist known for his sensitivity on ballads and for his high countertenor voice. The high range of his singing voice was due to a rare genetic disease, the Kallmann syndrome, which prevented him from reaching classic puberty and limited his physical height. 

Given the nickname of “Little Jimmy Scott” by jazz musician and band leader Lionel Hampton, Scott achieved prominence as the lead singer in Hampton’s band when he recorded “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool” in December of 1949. This song became a top rhythm and blues hit in 1959. Scott sang the vocals on Charlie Parker’s adaption of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” in 1947; however, his vocals was credited to the female vocalist Chubby Newsom on the album.

Jimmy Scott signed in 1963 with Tangerine Records, a record label owned by Ray Charles and distributed by ABC-Paramount Records. Under that label, he recorded the album “Falling in Love is Wonderful”, with Ray Charles interplaying on the piano. This ranks as one of the best works of Scott’s career, showing his range of emotions and his hitting all the notes with perfection on such classics as “How Deep is the Ocean” and “Someone to Watch Over Me”.

By the late 1960s, Jimmy Scott’s career had faded; he returned to his native Cleveland and worked in several menial labor positions. It wasn’t until 1989 that he returned to music, sharing a late-night billing with singer and pianist Johnnie Ray at the famed New York’s Ballroom. Singing at the funeral of his friend, blues singer and songwriter Doc Pomus, gained him further recognition and an opportunity with Sire Records. 

Sire Records, an arm of the Warner Records group, released Jimmy Scott’s 1992 album “All the Way” which earned Scott a nomination for a Grammy Award. Between 1994 and 1998, Jimmy Scott released three albums: the 1994 “Dreams”, “Heaven” released in 1996, and an album of pop/ rock interpretations entitled “Holding Back the Years”. This last album earned an award for Best Jazz Album of 2000, and included covers of songs written by Prince, Lennon, Elvis Costello, and Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Jimmy Scott’s early recordings for Decca Records and Savoy Records were re-released as a box set in 1999. He signed with Milestone Records in 2000 and recorded four albums with guests such as Wynton Marsalis, Renne Rosnes, and Lewis Nash. His final recording took place at his home in May of 2014, a track written for him by Grégoire Maret titled “The 26th of May” which appears on Maret’s album “Wanted”.

Scott performed at the inaugurations of both President Eisenhower and William Clinton, singing “Why Was I Born”. He received the NEA Jazz Masters award in 2007, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Foundation of America in 2010. Jimmy Scott was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 2013. He died in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas on June 12, 2014 at the age of eighty-eight years. He is buried in Knollwood Cemetery in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

“As singers, we all deal in pain. We’re all trying to push the pain through the music and make it sound pretty. Jimmy Scott has more pain and prettiness in his voice than any singer anywhere”

– Ray Charles

 

 

Bombay Dub Orchestra

Bombay Dub Orchestra, “Amina” From the Album “3 Cities”, 2008

Bombay Dub Orchestra released its second album “3 Cities” in 2008. Both Gary Hughes and Andrew T. Mackay traveled to Mumbai and Chennai to record with the cities’ premier musicians and vocalists before returning to London to mix the album. “3 Cities” is where their cinematic soundscapes meet Indian Classical and electronica featuring a huge cast of over 75 musicians.