Monday, May 30, 2011

The Alphabet by Anna Leybourne

Next in the series of adult-friendly videos for children is this video of the English Alphabet by Anna Leybourne. This video was created as part of an Animation project work.

Some of these videos work as good kitchen timer alternatives*

 (*recommended on experience only)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mandelmorph Numbers

Perhaps the most interesting and irritating thing about watching videos with kids is how much they insist on repetition. Until every sound and every visual has been utterly enjoyed and absorbed, the child will persist. What a remarkable quality, or combination of qualities, that is. Curiosity and Perseverance.

Among the many videos of nursery rhymes that we view on a daily basis, I toss in some other ones that catch my fancy. One of our mutual favourites is the video below called Mandelmorph numbers:

This video has grown on me so much that I can conjure it easily in complete silence!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tere Liye....

I am totally smitten by this Atif Aslam tune ever since I heard it a few months back. At the outset, it might not catch you as a great song; in many ways it has typical cheesy lyrics, not particularly extraordinary music but I can’t get over the second stanza  - it’s perfection. 

It’s almost built by the interlude before for a lovely high pitched rendition of the female singer (  bheegi bheegi raatoen mein…) which again gets repeated later ( bikri tere …). Lovely mixture of perfect vocals and beats.  In my listening history this is one of the songs dominated by great female vocals (Male vocals are distinct but has become somewhat signature Atif Aslam). May be good Asian music sounds like this in 20th century?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Glenn Gould

Glenn Gould
photo sourced from Roger Ebert's review of
32 Short Films About Glenn Gould
Unusual Pianist - Pianist par excellence - Special Chair - Favourite Rug - Solitary Genius - Changed Classical Music Forever - Twentieth Century's Best Pianist - Sudden Death - Eccentric Life

When one tries to look up details on Glenn Gould one often finds a combination of the keywords above. When one reads the lives of several geniuses it starts to seem like 'eccentric' is the equivalent of 'normal' in geniusspeak.

So who was Glenn Gould? Some people have tried to explore this question through books and movies:

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould

The Music Itself: Glenn Gould's Contrapuntal Vision *

Glenn Gould at the Metropolitan Museum *

In the Chair * (Review of Peter Ostwald's Glenn Gould: The Ecstasy and the Tragedy of Genius)

Glenn Gould, the Virtuoso as Intellectual *
There isn't much point here in going over the characteristics that made Gould the extraordinary eccentric that he was: the low bench, his humming, gesticulating, untoward grimacing and conducting as he played, the strange liberties he took with composers like Mozart whom he disliked, and indeed, the odd choice of repertory that would include the Bach that he made uniquely his, plus composers like Bizet, Wagner, Sibelius, Webern, and Richard Strauss, who were not widely known for using the keyboard as their medium. But there is no way of denying that from the moment Gould's recording of the Goldberg Variations appeared, a genuinely new phase in the history of virtuosity began: he lifted the sheer mastery of playing before the public to an elevation, or call it a side-road or deviation, of an unprecedented kind. What made his appearance a more pronouncedly original event was that he had no known precedents in the history of music.

Statue of Glenn Gould
photo sourced from Wikipedia

Glenn Gould shot to fame in America (he was Canadian) with his rendering of Bach's Goldberg Variations in 1955. He recorded the Variations again in 1981.

As a listener, it is amazing if you can remember the exact moment when you first heard an artist play and knew that you would become a fan of his for life. Lorrie Moore captures one such moment in her book A Gate at the Stairs when the protagonist Tassie Keltjin listens to Gould the first time:

She put a CD in the car player. "Bach's first French suite. Do you know it?" 
After some clicking and static, it began, stately and sad. "I think so," I said, not sure at all. My friends had already begun to lie, to bluff a sophistication they felt that at the end of the ten second bluff they would authentically possess. But I was not only less inclined this way but less skilled. "Maybe not, though," I added. Then, "Wait, it's ringing a bell." 
"Oh it's the most beautiful thing," she said. "Especially with this pianist." It was someone humming along with the light dirge of the Bach. Later I would own every loopy Glenn Gould recording available, but there in the car with Sarah was the first time I'd ever heard him play. The piece was like an elegant interrogation made of tangled yarn, a query from a well-dressed man in a casket, not yet dead. It proceeded slowly, like a careful equation, and then not: if x = y, if major = minor, if death equals part of life and life part of death, then what is the sum of the infinite notes of this one phrase? It asked, answered, reasked, its moody asking a refinement of reluctance or dislike. I had never heard a melody quite like it.

Let the music speak for itself.

Bach's Goldberg Variations

Edward Said: Music at the Limits

Glenn Gould at Grooveshark

I am a relatively new listener of Gould's work. I came to them through Edward Said's writing. Gould's rendering is so alive that I dare not describe and therefore thereby flatten them into words on a page. Also I am still soaking them and it is hard to isolate liking at this point.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Coral Atoll

Utterly sublime piece of music. Communication.

A Song to Remember

When I look back now I am not sure of the exact moment that changed an ordinary campus musical evening to one that changed my perception of listening. I do not even know if it was just a moment or if a series of moments in the years prior set me up for that evening. The engineering college I went to had a good music band and often there were evening performances to attend. There were many songs sung, plenty of popular numbers that had us jumping and the band was forever practising for upcoming shows. On some evenings new singers were introduced once the crowd was sufficiently enthused. For the new singers the margin of error was very narrow and the crowd offered its verdict (boo or woo hoo) moments after the voice was heard. 

I like to think that when R came on stage that evening he walked confidently and commanded respect. Instead, R, gangly, wearing a long shirt over his trousers, stooped and diffident, seemed to labour his way to the microphone. There was a preparatory silence from the crowd, tinged with the unease that would soon erupt into booing. Then he picked up the microphone, the background music started playing and he sang in that haunting clear voice the song that we had heard a hundred times already. Yet we had never heard this song. I remember feeling the nature of the silence change - impatient to stunned to expectant to ecstatic. The song stretched itself out in time and it seemed to me that everyone was in love with R. There was just him the voice and us the ears. How did the song end? Did unease creep back into the silence or did one reflexive applause snap us out of our reverie? I don't know. Suddenly there was the thunderous applause, the crowd on its feet and clapping for a long time. Then R bowed, slowly the stoop and the diffidence seemed to return, and walked away. There were other songs that followed but memory had had its fill. On our way back to the hostel many of us cheered when R walked past and there was a respectful appreciation in the way we spoke about his song. I only remember speaking about his song. 

I never knew R personally. Though he regularly sang for the college band after that evening and though he sang well, my friends and I never felt the same magic. What was it that happened to transform a famous song (S P Balasubrahmanyam and Ilaiyaraaja had created this song in 1979 for the movie Pagalil Oru Iravu and since then loyal listeners had turned it into a classic number) into R's song? I like to think he loved the song and he sang it sincerely and the crowd couldn't help but respond. When I look back now I understand what people mean when they say life shines through.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gaallo Thelinattunde

I remember hearing it somewhere earlier this year, may be when I was visiting India . It hid somewhere at the back of my mind until I happened to hear it again  accidentally during a visit to a friend's this week. I love the tonic progression and harmony of the song, like waves - crests and falls esp. in the second stanza - very smooth.  Haven't heard of Devi Sri Prasad but this song reminds me a a lot of early Rahman especially Roja, Muthu etc. Haven't watched the song yet, but will do now.