I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. Apparently people from 93 different countries visited the website last year. If you want to receive a notification of my blog please register.
My first task of the 2013 will be to complete the recording of my acoustic guitar album Atlantic Canticles. I’ll be choosing probably 16 out of the 20 tracks I’ve written, so there’s likely to be a free download track.
On Saturday night the 2nd series of the Danish drama series Borgen started transmission on British TV. This reminded me how much I enjoyed the combination of music and graphics on the opening titles. I thought there might be something in the music to comment on from a composer’s point of view. The theme moves through the following chord progression: Cm-D/C-Gm/Bb-C/Bb-Ab-Eb/G-Bbsus4-Bb-Bbm-Abm-Db-Ebm-Cb/Eb-Db-Fm9-Csus4-Cm/maj7-Cm. That’s an approximate description because the rapid keyboard arpeggios add various harmonic colours to these chords every couple of beats. The progression is about 20 bars with mostly one chord to a bar except for Bb-Bbm and Ebm-Cb/Eb which are two beats per chord (a split bar).
The first thing to notice is the number of inversions or slash chords. These keep the progression moving forward and prevent it having the stability of root chords – which is fitting for the fluid world of politics it describes. The second point is the fine temporary key-change that comes into play for the Abm-Db-Ebm-Cb/Eb-Db section, where the Abm is a bit of a shock. The music here is moving into Eb minor or Gb from its home key of C minor which it quickly finds its way back to. The melody is initiated by a powerful motif of an octave leap from G up to G, down to D and then Eb, over a chord of C minor.
It’s not quite as impressive as the theme song of The Bridge, which I discussed last year, but good nonetheless.
A recent musical highlight has been the theme tune of the Scandinavian crime TV series The Bridge. Crime series / Scandinavian noir is not usually my thing, but The Bridge has been engrossing. However, long after I’ve forgotten the story I will recall the visual poetry of its opening sequence, starting with shots of the bridge that links Denmark and Sweden. It reminded me of the power of music to infuse visual imagery with a power it would not otherwise have, and how the very best theme tunes / songs to films create a magic which has a stronger hold on the imagination than the actual film’s story. I’ve always felt this was true of the early Bond films – the John Barry theme tune was always the best bit and the bit that transcends the chauvinism of the films. The Bridge is a case in point, though the creepy nature of the subject matter actually gives something to the music also.
The theme song is called ‘Hollow Talk’ by a Danish band Choir of Young Believers and was first released on their debut album This is for the white in your eyes (2008). Part of what hooks me about this song is the fact that initially it is difficult to make out what language it is sung in (it’s English but with a strong Danish accent and a deliberate blurring of the words). Language thus becomes something suggesting meaning rather than denoting it. (The Cocteau Twins did the same thing back in the late 1980s).
Musically the song is constructed from two sequences: D5-F-G-Bb/D with a piano D pedal note running through it. It is a good example of the power of a pedal note to create a hook. Later in the song when this is supplied a bass-line it becomes Dm-F-G-Bb(6). A second section goes Em-Dm-G-Dm/F, where the Em chord comes as something of a shock. The first couple of minutes are very quiet and ambient, with a cello supplying some mournful low phrases, and then the dynamic goes right up with a loud and forceful playing before sinking back down.
You can hear it on youtube where there is a studio version with a lyric supplied and also a live performance (featuring a turquiose Strat!) recorded in the U.S.
I’ve been busy recently with preparation work for the five summer school courses, so my musical work has been rather pushed to one side unfortunately.
I’ve posted before about Weinberg. I recently bought the Chandos SACD of his Symphony 20 and Cello Concerto. The latter is very good on first hearing; the latter will take some work.