I picked up my cello again recently after a couple of years in which I have been too busy to practice. So it seemed a good time to post again some of my cello photos. There are few musical instruments that are as beguiling to the ear. There are also few that are as bewitching to the eye. And, as I have observed before, these photos may be a better tribute to the cello than my playing ever will be.
Bob Dylan’s forthcoming album, Shadows in the Night, will consist of cover versions of Sinatra songs. Which should be… interesting. But what of cover versions of Dylan’s own songs? Dylan has, of course, an incomparable back catalogue, and few modern songsmiths have been so covered by others. Dylan himself remains the best interpreter of his work: most cover versions are either too reverential or fail to capture the essence of the original. There have, however, been some outstanding reworkings of […]
Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of Our Time is one of the great twentieth century musical reflections on war and suffering, exploring similar kinds of themes to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time and György Ligeti’s Requiem. Into the score Tippett wove five traditional spirituals – Steal Away, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve See, Go Down Moses, O By and By and Deep River. So here, at the end of a week in which there has […]
In October 1985, four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front seized a cruise liner, the Achille Lauro, in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Egypt. Holding the passengers and crew hostage, the hijackers demanded the release of 50 Palestinians then held in Israeli prisons. They failed to achieve their demands. But, in a vicious and seemingly inexplicable act, the hijackers murdered Leon Klinghoffer, a retired, wheelchair-bound Jewish-American businessman, shooting him in the forehead and chest, then forcing the ship’s barber […]
Categories: Culture & Books, Free Speech • Tags: anti-semitism, free speech, islam, israel, john adams, music, nakba, opera, palestine, salman rushdie, terrorism, the death of klinghoffer, the satanic verses
I was recently a guest on Richard Holloway’s Sunday Morning programme, talking about my life and work and choosing three of my favourite musical tracks. It was like Desert Island Discs, but with more talk and less music. And since that’s the closest I will probably ever get to Desert Island Discs, I thought I might as well choose my own favourite eight tracks. Choosing three tracks for the Richard Holloway show was impossibly difficult, choosing eight has been barely […]
Last month, on the 75th anniversary of the founding of Blue Note, I whittled down the Blue Note catalogue to just eight albums that I would take to a desert island. Blue Note is the most iconic of jazz labels; yet, as I wrote last month, ‘if I were to compile a list of my favourite jazz recordings, not that many would probably be from Blue Note.’ So here are the non-Blue Note jazz albums to take to a desert […]
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of Blue Note Records, the most iconic and influential of jazz labels, not just for its incomparable music but also for its group-breaking album covers. To mark that anniversary, Blue Note is re-releasing on vinyl 100 of its greatest albums (it was going to be 75 to coincide with the anniversary, but they found it impossible to squeeze their favourites down that […]
The devil has the best tunes? Perhaps. But the music of angels can be damn fine too. So, here is a Christmas soundtrack splicing some of my favourite gospel tracks with songs in which the devil pops up (most of which derive, of course, from the blues/gospel tradition). For the music of the angels I could easily have created a whole soundtrack simply of Mahalia Jackson songs, but I have restricted myself to just two, which open and close the […]
There are few musical instruments that can bewitch quite like a cello. I have been learning to play it, on and off, for almost a decade. Over the past year, as I have been finishing a book, it has been more off than on. Now, with the book safely tucked in bed, I can pick up a bow again. So, it seems a good time to put together a selection of my favourite cello pieces. It is in three parts. […]
So, those who despise Margaret Thatcher for her vindictiveness and spitefulness want to celebrate her death by propelling into the charts a song about the death of a witch. Those who laud Thatcher for her supposed love of freedom want to ban that song. And the BBC settles on a cackhanded ‘compromise’ by censorsing the song while pretending it is doing no such thing. Nothing, perhaps, could better express the inanity of contemporary politics than the crass, puerile controversy around […]
Last month, in The Weary Blues, I set out my 20 favourite blues tracks, mainly from the Mississippi Delta and Chicago, the two traditional homes of the blues. Over the past half century the blues have travelled well beyond their origins and become anything but traditional. So here is a brief attempt to trace that journey. As ever, this is a personal, eclectic, even eccentric collection. There are 20 tracks split into three groups. The first group comprise singers whose […]
. I have lately been re-reading a lot of Langston Hughes, one of the great figures of the Harlem Renaissance. I had forgotten how much I liked his poem ‘The Weary Blues': . Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, I heard a Negro play. Down on Lenox Avenue the other night By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light He did a lazy sway. . . . He did a lazy […]
Last month I posted my collection of favourite songs about New York. Now it’s London’s turn. Like the previous list, this one is personal, eclectic, even eccentric. Some great tracks (from Madness, Bowie, T Rex, the Jam, Blur, Ian Dury, etc) are missing – I had room only for 20. Despite the title of the post (and the image) London Calling is not on the list. I don’t much like it. (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais is, on the other hand, […]
On the anniversary of 9/11, here is a playlist of my 20 favourite songs about New York. Given that no city can boast as great a back catalogue, there are many tracks that I have been forced to leave out – Public Enemy’s ‘A Letter to the New York Post‘, for instance, the Ramones’ ’53rd and 3rd’, Ben E King’s ‘Spanish Harlem’, Billie Holiday’s ‘Autumn in New York City’, to mention but four – and there will be many more […]
In the week in which three members of Pussy Riot were imprisoned at the end of what was effectively a show trial in Moscow, it is worth flagging up this album of music by artists who have been banned, censored or imprisoned in their homeland. It is produced by the Norwegian artist Deeyah and Freemuse, an organization campaigning for freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide.