Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, March 08, 2007

That's Right...Gang Up On Me Now...

And now I've been tagged by Hashim over in Bahrain! I'm sure some of you wonder why I even bother going along with these, but the answer is actually quite simple:

1. It's kind of fun,
2. These tags are all coming from good people,
3. Why not?

Okay. Anyway, the tag this time is to name my personal top ten music list. That is actually extremely difficult for me as my musical tastes are so broad (not to mention ever changing). Oh, well. I'll just pull ten names out of my pocket...ones that sound good.

My Personal Top 10 Music List
1. "Jacob's Ladder" by Rush - Rush's musical style has progressed a lot over the years, starting out very obviously rooted in Led Zeppelin and then going through several phases. "Jacob's Ladder", on the Permanent Waves album (1980) came out during their stadium rock period, but it was a long, convoluted, multi-movement work that was reminiscent of their late '70s art rock period. It has to be one of the dreamiest yet rockingest descriptions of a storm I've ever heard.

2. "Minstrel in the Gallery" by Jethro Tull - Tull is another group that has many, many faces. Generally speaking, I tend to prefer their lighter, more acoustic numbers to their rocking ones, but "Minstrel in the Gallery" is definitely an exception. It is a very driving number, at times almost hard rock, but it still has both the musical artistry and lyrical wit for which Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, and crew are famous. I especially like the theme: a minstrel playing at a party and, at the same time, performing a social commentary on the people attending it! The album version starts out with the minstrels being introduced to the hosts of the party, followed by a solo acoustic rendition of the first verse, followed by some intense instrumental work by the band before the actual song starts.

3. "Black Blade" by Blue Oyster Cult - This wildly artful and totally cool song is about Elric, the albino Melnibonean sorceror who is the "hero" of the Stormbringer series of novels. Incidentally, this song was produced by none other than the author of the Stormbringer books himself, Michael Moorcock!

4. "Water Shows the Hidden Heart" by Enya - It's really a toss-up as to which Enya song I like best. This tune, the last on the Amarantine album, is a very simple, heartfelt tune sung in the Loxian language (an alien tongue created by Enya's lyricist, Roma Ryan). I don't know why, but it has always affected me very deeply. When it comes up on my car navigation system's HDD player I tend to keep hitting the repeat button...

5. Soundtrack from LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring by Howard Shore/Enya - Okay! I found a way to cheat! The music to all three of the LOTR movies is AWESOME, but the first one has a special place in my heart (though I really like that tear-jerking Rohan theme violin solo in...ah, never mind). I especially like both the main theme song, "May It Be" (sung by Enya) and Arwen's theme, "Anorin" (also sung by Enya). Both of those tunes have brought tears to my eyes. My sister and I both envisioned (with anticipation of many tears flowing) the final movie ending with the gray ship sailing off into the sun accompanied by "May It Be", and it was actually a little disappointing when they used that Annie Lennox song instead.

6. "My Heart Will Go On" by James Horner - Alright, alright...I know. I can see a lot of you cringing. To tell you the truth, I don't really care about Celine Dion's version, and the movie doesn't have to be relevant here, either. I really liked James Horner's soundtracks for the second and third Star Trek movies, but I was a bit disappointed that his Titanic soundtrack was so clearly ripped off from Enya in so many places. This song, however, was not. Yes, it is rather syrupy, but it is also beautiful and has many possibilities. I've also had wonderful experiences performing it myself. I will never forget playing it as an Irish tinwhistle solo accompanied by a harp and a humming vocalist together with the Kashima Philharmonic. A few weeks ago I played it as an alto sax solo, accompanied by a piano, at a shopping mall, and I really went crazy and improvised all over it...my sound reverberating all over that mall like nothing I've ever done before! (After I was done a musician I've worked with a lot over the past 15 years came up to me wide-eyed and open-mouthed and said, "I never knew you could play like that!" Frankly, neither did I.)

7. "Logos" by Tangerine Dream - This is actually a long work consisting of several distinct movements, but on the CD it is a single track. It was first performed at the Dominion Theatre in London in 1982, where it was recorded to become the (wait for it...) Logos - Live album. It is probably the best album for introducing oneself to Tangerine Dream, being a good compromise between their earlier exploration and later refinement, and it is also an excellent example of the Froese/Franke/Schmoelling lineup.

8. "Oxygene" (all 6 parts) by Jean-Michele Jarre - When Jean-Michele Jarre put out his first self-produced/self-performed album, Oxygene, in 1976, electronic music was still a relatively undeveloped phenomenon. Certainly, Tangerine Dream had pioneered the concept of sequencer-based rhythm with the album Phaedra in 1973, and Walter/Wendy Carlos had put out the first solo synthesizer album, Switched-On Bach, as far back as 1968, but no solo artist had ever made anything quite like Jarre's spacey dreamscape. The entire work was recorded at his home using an 8-track analog tape deck, a modified electric organ, and a rack full of analog synths and drum machines that now seem laughably primitive. Still, the album has a timeless quality that makes it good "zoning out" music even today.

I might also add that, when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980, clips of it shown on TV were always accompanied by excerpts from Oxygene.

9. "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Modest Mussorgsky - I've always loved this grand classical work, perhaps the greatest tribute to friendship ever made. Mussorgsky's friend, the artist and architect Viktor Hartmann, had died at the tender age of 39. His works were being displayed in a special memorial exhibition, and Mussorgsky was so moved by it that he composed a ten-part piano work, each based on either one of the works or his procession through the exhibition and his changing emotions as he did so. The piece was later arranged for orchestra. I had the honor of performing it with the Kashima Philharmonic a couple of years ago. That was a headrush!

10. "1812 Overture" by Pyotr Tchaikovsky - (Hmm...what is it with all these Russian composers?) Any and all Americans should be well familiar with this tune, since it is (ironically) always used to celebrate American Independence Day! However, I have to wonder if most Americans are aware of what this tune is really about. It is meant to describe Napolean's devastating sweep across Russia only to be turned back at Moscow. It is a piece loaded with energy, patriotic pride, and pain, but that ending! Oh, man, that ending! Not just the grand spectacle of the music, the bells, and the cannonfire, but what they represent! Imagine if you will: Moscow has been burned to ashes because its own citizens put it to the torch. The people have destroyed their own homes, and all that is left of their beloved city is the blackened stone towers of the churches. But yet, in those towers the bells are ringing out, and people are dancing in the rubble-filled streets shouting with joy. They have nothing left; their homes, their livelihood, everything is gone. But they are happy, and their hearts are filled with pride, and with good reason! Napolean may have defeated the Russian army, but the Muscovites have personally stolen his hard-won victory right out from under his tight, little arse and sent the bastard packing! Ultimate sacrifice, ultimate victory...and the last laugh is the loudest one...in a glorious, major key!

Who cannot be moved by this?

Uh, oh...do I have to stop here? Can't I include a few...ah, forget it.

UPDATE: Speaking of forgetting, I forgot that I was supposed to tag somebody. Okay...I tag anyone that likes music that hasn't already done this tag yet.

10 Comments:

  • Wow I haven't listend to Oxygene in years... I'm gonna have to pick that up

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 2:12 AM  

  • I've lived a sheltered music life I can see that now. I haven't heard of most of your selection! The Tschaikovsky? Too noisy at the end. Moussorsky - yeah, I used to teach about that one. The song from Titanic - well, some tunes are mesmerizing even if.... I'll make up a list of mine sometime and post. Or perhaps I've done it before...
    w.

    By Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog, at 6:25 AM  

  • If I buy a CD of any particular group, it means they have really done something significant. If it wasn't for all the CD's and tapes that I got for birthdays and christmas, my collection would be very small indeed. Laura McKenna, Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maidon, and odd bits such as Gary Hoey's Ho Ho Hoey Christmas Albums 1 and 2. I don't include many favorite songs in my list, but at one time, Electric Eye by JP was one.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 9:29 AM  

  • hmmm sadly i dont recognize much of it..I recognized Enya's and the LOTR soundtrack..Enya used to be on my top singer's list..but then..i just stopped listening to her music..maybe i should start again :D

    By Blogger memo, at 10:54 AM  

  • Swinebread
    I had to do without Oxygene for years when I came to Japan (since it was back home on vinyl disk), and I finally gave in and bought the CD. It's a classic. Equinoxe is pretty good, too. The jury's still out on the much newer Oxygene 7-13, though; it's basically just melodies and cuts from the original stuck into a Eurobeat framework like one of those DJ remixes.

    Wendy
    Hey, one person's "noisy" is another person's "dramatic"! I'd love to see your list.

    Pa've
    I remember you used to like Kiss' "God of Thunder", too. What have you been listening to recently?

    Memo
    It's not really surprising that you're not familiar with a lot of those artists. It's a generation gap thing. ;-) Jethro Tull officially qualifies as "geezer rock" (they started in 1968), and both Rush and Blue Oyster Cult are not far behind (both started in the mid to late '70s). Tangerine Dream is a German group that started out doing avantgarde stuff in 1971, became the world's first all-keyboard band in 1973, pioneered a lot of the synthesizer technology and techniques that are standard today (but rarely get credit for it), went through a New Age phase and a fusion phase, and now they are considered club/house music. Jean-Michele Jarre is also a big, pioneering name in the electronic music field, and he is now also known as a club/house artist. As for the classical works I mentioned, well...get busy, girl!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 8:13 PM  

  • 1812 was the first music I ever bought when I was still a kid. It was a 45 rpm record and I got it through Quaker Oats company that used in the commercials for puffed rice.

    Mussorgsky is a favorite of mine too.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 8:41 PM  

  • Oh wow. I used to like T.D.'s Logos as well, We still have the LP of their live concert in Wembley Stadium.

    I also like LOTR, specially the tracks where Renee Fleming and Isabel Bayrakdarian(?) let loose. (The End of All Things and...Eventstar. I also like May it Be.)
    I bought the soundtrack before I even saw the films because I'd heard it on the radio.

    AND when I was little my mother had that J-M Jarre record. Then, years later that tune popped back into my head and I spent two years wondering where I'd heard it before. You know the bit, where it goes doo do-do-do do x2.

    Coincidentally, when Dad came to visit after New Years we exchanged music and I ripped that off him coz when I saw it I knew that's where I'd find it. Turns out he downloads more music online than I do...

    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:38 AM  

  • I got lots of the good old Jon and Vangelis stuff too...

    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:39 AM  

  • Well, I've heard most of this list, but I do need to point out that I don't really listen to Enya. I thought they were going to show the ship sailing into the west with a big-ass swell of strings dropping into a slow theme of "Concerning Hobbits" on solo penny whistle. I actually like "Into the West" though. I had to sell a lot of my C.D. while I was unemployed and now I'm having the fun of trying to replace them. It's kind of like searching for Atlantis.
    This is Phillipa Scratch, by the way. They made me change my password. Made a note of it. Lost the note. . . oh well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:30 AM  

  • What have I listened to recently? Not much as it is all in a box somewhere. What ever my siblings listen too.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 8:50 AM  

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