4 June 2006

Musical journeys : Lamento delle Allesandrino

I've been thinking about my journey through music a lot lately. It was probably sparked on friday at my birthday lunch at work where someone started talking about music, a subject I don't go into too often. Let me explain why I don't too often talk about what I would love to talk the most about.

I love baroque music. No, I don't just love it; I adore it! Live it! bath in it! If you don't know what that means straight off the top, then you're part of my reasons for not talking much about it; it's one of those things that not a lot of folks really know much about. "Classical music, right?" Um, no. Not at all. Not by a long shot.

Some times I review the odd baroque concert or rare CD I've come across. I don't write about these things because I think my readers care, but because I'm passionately in love with it. In fact, I''m pretty sure that most of my readers can't tell a Ninfa from a Ninja on a good day, nor give me recomendations to the best recording of any of Galuppi's motets, Bencini's vespers (Did he compose in Roman, Venetian, French or Austrian style? Answers after the break) or Monteverdi's secular works. (And if you could, I'd love to hear from you!) And what do you know of Cavalli, and what was the Monteverdian influences on him and Heinrich Sch├╝tz? I'm not telling you this to insult nor show off my elitism. In fact, I hate snobs, especially within "classical" music. Which is why I don't often talk about my love of this music, because the danger of sounding like one is huge!

There are four sure ways to hold a conversation in a social setting; the weather, TV, sports, and music. I love the weather on a scientific level (how it works, for example) but hate that idle chit-chat that means absolutely nothing to most non-farmers of the world. TV? That thing in the living room that a lot of people waste their time on? No thanks, don't watch it. Sports? Umm. No. No way; hate the thing. (Well, I love a fun game of soccer down at work every wednesday, but as soon as there is money involved the fun goes out) That leaves music, which isn't pop, rock, blues, jazz, acid, techno, classical, dance, metal, folk or any other musical style known to most people. (You can tell I'm fun at parties, right? In fact I've developed special skills in faking social settings, but that's another post some other time)

So how did I come to this point? Well, I have known to have listened to David Bowie (Let's dance album) and Thompson Twins (most albums) in those early teen years before I developed a brain. But then I started to get a grip on a few items that stuck. And here's some highlights of my musical journey ;

Through my father and also my best friend I bumped into Al Jarreau who took me to soul and jazz, and a lot of my jazz roots I found through this, such as Yellowjackets, Miles Davies, Weather Report and Chet Baker. I also found some Quincy Jones, Brothers Johnson and Rufus with or without Chaka Kahn. Oh, and Stevie Wonder, of course, from his 'Hotter than July' days and earlier. That was all great soulful, funky, jazzy stuff.

At the end of high-school I worked with Bernard Jones, a professor of metaphysics at Leiden University at the time and a great inspiration to me, who introduced me to Eric Satie who became probably one of the most important influences in my life (and Satie is quite non-mainstream, even within classical terms). (He was also the one who got me hooked on Frank Herbert!, but that's a different litterary journey) I remember walking into the classical section of a music shop downtown Oslo asking for Satie compilations, saying it was my first step into classical music, in which the guy behind the counter was truly baffled; wouldn't I like some music a bit easier on the ear, and not so crazy/abstract/quirky? At roughly the same time a really good friend of mine took me to see my first operas (Janacek's "Janufa" amongst other Verdi stuff) which certainly sparked an interest which is still burning today.

Another very important musical path was my introduction to Jan Garbarek by a collegue of my mum. It was an amazing revelation to me; The Legend of the Seven Dreams blasted my world, and I still play it a couple of times a week! The opening track became my life's theme music. Just before I left for Australia I saw Garbarek at the park and wanted to say thanks, but didn't strengthen up to it. I should perhaps mention Bendik Hofseth in the same breath (norwegian saxophonist and composer), although he came into my life a little later. (In fact, Bendik I met and even played with on a number of occasions)

After long time filled with mostly jazz, norwegian folk music and contemporary music, I slowly drifted towards music not so endrenched in noises and more towards tonality and minimalism (again, thanks to Bendik Hofseth and Garbarek here on the jazz side of things). But I also stumbled upon 'Book of Days' by Meredith Monk. I didn't see the ECM connection (same record label as Garbarek) until much later, but I was truly mesmarized at the link between the contemporary and the truly basic / classical. It opened my eyes to more vocal music when the voice does more than just project lyrical song.

A few years went by, and I moved in with my best friend Magnus, who's a complete JS Bach nutter! If it wasn't Bach, it wasn't worth his time of day. I didn't mind Bach, but hadn't really gone seriously down the "classical" path at this stage. And then one day ... everything changed!

In our sparse living room we had a sparse shelf with a sparse set of CD's. (My CD collection at this stage were tucked away in storage elsewhere) It was all Bach, except for one. And this one, this little exception to the Bach fanaticism was Monteverdi. Magnus is a damn smart boy, and we often ended up in talking about music. We obviously came from two different angles, and as friends do we decided to meet half-way. I took some of his Bach CD's and the Monteverdi one, and he listened to some of my more rare contemporary stuff (plus the Meredith Monk one, I think). Yeah, sure, Bach was good, technically it was brilliant, no complaints. But then.

Monteverdi. Remember my epiphany with Garbarek? Sometimes you hit upon music that was written for your heart, music that talks your language and explains everything that you've ever pondered. It felt like here was a composer who knew of my coming 300 years away, and planned for me to hear it; the longing tones, the underlying dissatisfaction with humanity, harmonics that shook my spine ... everything just clicked.

This was about 7 years ago now, and it set me off on a totally new and different path than before. I've discarded most of my old CD collection (apart from a few select favourites) and started a new one. In Monteverdi I found the baroque era of music and many incredible people within. I'm not sure why basso continuo excites me so, or why the trio sonata makes my spine tingle, nor do I understand why some Vesper music give me all the religion I'd ever need or why monodic styles are so great. There are so much about this music I don't understand, and perhaps that's part of the answer; I can never ever hope to grasp the technical nor emotional scope of the era, and as such as an everlasting source of emotion and sorrow and tranquility and beauty.

I'm not a musical snob. I'm in love. And I'm sorry if I bore people with this topic. And yes, you guessed right; Bencini was a composer of the Roman style.

3 comments:

  1. Doesn't sound snobbish at all to me. I wish I could track the development of my music interests and tastes as clearly. Apart from J.S. and maybe Handel I am pretty much ignorant when it comes to the Baroque...

    I listen to a complete mishmash ranging from the usual Mozart and Beethoven works through to REM through to Malaysian keroncong (Malaysian/Indonesian music that is said to have roots in Portuguese fado music)...

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  2. I've had a number of stints with various folk music, most notable Norwegian but also Balinese and Australian Aboriginal music (and no, not the touristy cross-over stuff they shov in your face; the real thing :)

    I realised through writing that piece that there was a lot of stuff of importance that didn't make it to that post. One day I'll perhaps let you know all about my jazz-fusion years...

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  3. for me Bendik Hofseth is, such as Garbarek, an important musician. So with pleasure find these few words about him there
    regards from Poland

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