Category Archives: Past-the-bridge

Moby Octopad

I brought Yo La Tengoup Yo La Tengo a couple of times, skirmishly, I admit (previously on xsamplex). I discovered the band via the ‘regular musical path': As a fan of Sonic Youth I ended up listening to Yo La Tengo. I’m not sure why that is: Yo La Tengo’s music style comes closer to ‘easy listening music': edgy, experimental, yet, predictable and accessible. But fun, yes: the bandmembers are well-known for making fun (“You Can Have It All, Live”) of themselves (“Tom Courtenay”) and their ‘nerdy image’ (“Sugar Cube”). Maybe it’s because they are from New Jersey.

So: Initially, I was thinking of throwing in their song ‘You Can Have It All’ (see link above for live performance) but I decided to go for a sample from YLT’s 1997 album ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One': Moby Octopad (sample 30+second) is the second track on that album. For me, personally, it stands out because of the heavily pronounced bass and drum theme and the (band’s) typical multi-vocal melodic song style. Not brilliant, but definitely different and unique.

Tango Habanero (‘Youkali’)

Tango Habanero (or ‘Youkali’) is probably the most popular music piece of the (musical) play ‘Marie Galante’ (based on a novel written by Jacques Deval). There is too much to tell about ‘Marie Galante': first of all, the book was quite a hit and even attracted the eyes of a Hollywood studio which eventually adapted it for the American audience (and unfortunately, heavily changed the original storyline to include a happy end) [1934].

Because of the novel’s success, Weill was asked to compose the music for the upcoming play. Weill, short on time, eventually settled on combining newly composed tunes and earlier written pieces. To make things worse, the composer and Deval didn’t really get along very well. Weill wrote to his wife:

Deval is causing major headaches. He is absolutely the worst literary schwein I’ve ever met, and that’s saying a lot. [… H]e said he could concentrate on Marie galante 100%. So I call him today, and he says he is taking off in two weeks—for Hollywood! In other words, he has no intention of writing the play.

The play eventually premiered but closed within 2 weeks because of bad reviews. The music however survived, surprisingly: the song ‘J’attends un Navire’, for example, was adapted by the French resistance during the Second World War. And in 1946, the ‘Tango Habanero’ was set to words by Roger Fernay and transformed into the French song we now know as ‘Youkali’, to much acclaim, of course. Many critics agree that with the songs and music for ‘Marie galante’, Weill perfectly captured the French sentiment and identity.

So, ‘Youkali’ then (30+ second fragment), or rather, the ‘Tango Habenero’. The song itself has been sung by many sopranos and popular singers, most notably by Canadian soprano Teresa Stratas (perfect YouTube video), for the ‘September Songs’ project. The song is also part of Ute Lemper’s repertoire: Personally, I’m not a great fan of her voice and presentation though (but then, some people prefer modern versions of the song).

Update:
1. Excellent background on ‘Marie galante’.
2. I also see that the Roma Opera performed ‘Marie galante’ in 2007 (YouTube), starring soprano Chiara Muti (warning: Italian language ahead).

Noche de Jaranas

I read Silvestre Revueltasthat Alfons recently visited a performance of La Noche de Mayas, so hey, why not add the composer Revueltas to the ‘Past the bridge’ category. I have a couple of sound samples from the Mexican composer but the only ones I actually like are either ‘Sensemaya’ and the ‘Noche de Jaranas’, which is this entry’s sample pick (30+seconds ‘Noche de Jaranas’).

What can I say about this piece: it’s dynamic, up-tempo and, yes, unmistakably Mexican:

[De Jaranas] refers to a quick dance derived from the Spanish fandango. The meter alternates here between rapid 5/8 and 6/8 time, which the strings, sometimes reinforced by winds and percussion, spin out as a sparkling perpetual motion, against which brass instruments occasionally play heroic phrases—typical of the sort of “primary color” orchestration Revueltas favored. As in the first movement, the opening music returns at the end of this movement, which dies out in sudden quiet.

Revueltas was actually a trained classical violin player who eventually ended up in the middle of the Spanish Civil War: If I’m not wrong, during his stay in Spain, he dedicated many pieces to the Spanish poet Federico Lorca (something that’s amiss in the composer’s Wikipedia entry).

I was introduced to Jaranas in late 2000 and it appears that Revueltas music is slowly becoming more popular: I was (for example) extremely surprised (and pleased) to hear that his ‘Sensemaya’ was featured in the graphic novel movie ‘Sin City’. If you have that movie on the shelf, you can’t miss it: it’s played during the movie’s finale/climax.

Lied des Lotterieagenten

People Brecht and Weillwho are familiar with this blog, know that I like early 20th century classical music, particular the music from the early 20s to the 30s. In this time of turbulence (the socio-economical problems in the Thirties and the rise of fascism), the (former) Weimar Republic suddenly became the cultural center of Europe. Classical composers experimented with dissonants, foreign music styles (North/South American music styles like jazz, blues, tango) and some of their material even ended up being used during protests, demonstrations and that. In a country that moves to a confrontation between political parties and everybody in between and where the rule of law is slowly being dictated by one party, unlikely friendships are struck, most of them to protest the order of the day.

One of the most successful collaborations was the one between the poet Berthold Brecht1 and (Jewish) composer Kurt Weill: their ‘The Three Penny Opera’, an opera with a critical look at society and morals, heavily accented with jazz melodies and rhythms (‘un-german music’), became such a huge success that their works soon attracted the attention of the Nazis who eventually forbade the performance of many of their works.

In this precarious situation, Weill eventually turned to an old friend (Georg Kaiser) with who he writes a ‘less confrontational’ opera, ‘The Silverlake’. Although being presented as a ‘volks oper’ (people’s opera), so to appeal as to many people as possible, Nazi-party members and followers manage to cause riots during its performance. A couple of days after, the Reichstag fire breaks out and, well, the rest is history.

Which brings me to today’s ‘Past-The-Bridge’ posting with a sound fragment of the earlier mentioned opera ‘The Silverlake’: it’s a portion from the ‘Song of the Lottery agent’ (fragment 30+ seconds), in which a (lottery) salesman suddenly announces that the main character has won ‘the big money prize’ and begins his song in (surprise, surprise) tango style.

Time is Tight

Earlier Booker T and the MGsthis weekend I was reminded of Booker T and the MGs: most people know their ‘Green Onions’ hit-song but aren’t aware of other instrumentals they produced and created, like the catchy ‘Time Is Tight’ (sample 30+ seconds). ‘Time is Tight’ is one of those typical ‘who did this song again?’ songs and that mainly because of the recognizable theme/riff (by lead guitarist Steve Cropper) and the typical (classic?) Hammond organ sound (from the hands of Booker T. Jones).

Initially, Booker T and the MGs started out as backing musicians on the (famous) Stax/Volt records, playing for and with artists like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave (Watch for the band in this Sam & Dave video1). Brilliant musicians, clearly underrated and under-appreciated.

When I was working as a programmer on the Old Continent, a fellow programmer once asked me what I was listening to. When I passed on my MD-player, he listened in to this song and quickly returned the thing with a disgusted face, saying that this was ‘old people music’ because his parents were still listening to this crap. I think that was the first time someone called me an ‘old fart’ at age 28. On the plus side, I wouldn’t doubt that this young programmer eventually became a Stax/Volt connoisseur.

Update: Right in time for this

1 I should probably save Sam&Dave for another ‘Past The Bridge’ posting.

Twiggy vs. James Bond

So, I was Pizzicato Fivebrowsing through my music collection and found myself listening (and afterwards looking for) some Pizzicato Five (or rather ‘Les Pizzicato Five’) songs. You’re probably familiar with that song called Twiggy (30 second sample): you may have seen the absolutely hilarious (and serious apparently) video, or if you’re from a younger generation, you may have heard this song in the remake of ‘Charlie’s Angels’.

I’m not sure how I ran into the Pizzicato 5/P5 (I think early 1998, Alfons bought a P5 sampler with various songs, including the ‘Twiggy’ song and ‘Baby Love Child’). I know the context though: I had just discovered ‘Yo La Tengo’. Their records were released on Matador and it was that very same record company that launched the Pizzicato Five in the US and Europe.

Most of Pizzicato Five’s songs and videos can be found on Daily Motion and YouTube, of course. Daily Motion has a clip of the P5 doing ‘Baby Love Child’ acoustically while claiming that “This is the only song we can play”. Hilarious or brilliant, you pick.

So what is it that I like about the P5? Most songs sound heavily ‘programmed and sequenced’ and remind me a lot of the tunes created for older Japanese games: those cartridges that came with cassette tapes with the game’s music but then performed by hundreds of Yamaha FM synthesizers. Not to mention that mix of Japanese and broken English lyrics (take for example ‘Darlin of Discotheque’). Fun and absurd: Only in Japan.

1 P5 lyrics and translation (excellent translations actually)

Golden Brown

And Stranglers - Golden Brownthen I was humming The Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ out of the blue (sample, 30+ sec, or Daily Motion video).

If you’re not familiar with the song, in short, it’s the only hit I know that has a 6/8 time signature, which is one good reason to like the song. Actually, the instrumental adds another extra beat so once in while which makes this song the only (popular) song I know with a 13/8 time signature making it hard to grasp at times. I was in my early teens when I heard this song first: in a later part of my life this song (when played in an out-of-town club) frequently served as a reminder to get the last train back to my home city.

I’m (for the rest) not familiar with the rest of the band’s repertoire: Wikipedia calls the music of the band a mix of ‘intellectual absurd punk new wave’ and (briefly) mentions that the band players were classical/jazz music-trained. Additionally, the members had different opinions about musical directions, eventually leading to the (inevitable split) in the early 90s.

Luscious Jackson – Naked Eye

I keep Luscious Jacksonreminding myself to add a fragment of Luscious Jackson’s ‘Naked Eye’ to this category so, here it is (link goes to page with 30+ sec. something long something music file).

I’m not sure how Luscious Jackson’s CD ‘Fever In, Fever Out’ ended up in my CD rack. Maybe it was the slight combination of hiphop and popular music. Or (as always), maybe I was reading the liner notes before I decided to buy it: obviously there was a hand of the Beastie Boys in LJ’s music (and I even think there is at least one of them playing in the stylish ‘Naked Eye’ video clip). Or as BeastieMania says:

So from the very start, Luscious Jackson’s primary following were Beastie Boys fans looking for something else to get into.

Personally, the song reminds me of the day I dropped off the CD at a club whose DJ I knew: he actually liked it but mentioned (that after borrowing and playing it for a week in that club), the crowd (most of them goth/alternative music lovers) wasn’t ready for this mix of hip-hop and guitar music. Sabotage!

That said, at the height of Luscious Jackson’s popularity, the band was asked to make a commercial for Gap clothing (YouTube). Apparently, the band split up shortly after that, with all of the members continuing to release solowork. The good news is that the original band members decided to reunite and make a record together this year.

As a sidenote, the versions of ‘Naked Eye’ (videoclips and the several ‘single-edits’ you find on LJs MySpace page) are slightly different from the one that was originally released on the ‘Fever In Fever Out’ CD.

Fraction Too Much Friction

Back Tim Finnin 83 or 84, Tim “Split Enz” Finn’s had a hit with ‘Fraction Too Much Friction’ in Europe (or maybe it was only a hit in The Netherlands 1). I mention this song because out of the blue, the last couple of weeks, I have been humming this song’s melody too frequently (20+sec fragment).

So, what’s so special about this song (Finally now at YouTube)? Nothing really: except for that it has a catchy tune and it has this elaborate musical arrangement that includes saxophones and other horns. Quite different from the standard 80s hits. Oh, and if I remember correctly, Tim Finn’s voice was often compared with the voice of that other great 80s singer Stevie Wonder.

1 Browsing through those Historical (Dutch) Top 40 pages linked above, I think the youth of those days were exposed to (generally) rather obnoxious music. It makes no sense. Maybe the Eighties made no sense.

Keroncong Kemayoran

The week before we buried our dad, Alfons took it upon him to compile the music for the funeral, that is from beginning to end. I think I was asked about my preferences, but decided to leave most of the stuff to the ones who wanted to take part of this process of mourning. For the compilation, Alfons relied on my Dad’s iPod and picked out the music that Dad (literally) liked the most. One of them ended up to be the traditional Indonesian Keroncong Kemayoran (sample 40+seconds). I remember that many funeral attendees were surprised to hear the tunes of the Kemayoran during the lowering of the casket1.

That said, the web has pretty much nothing to tell about keroncong: there’s this (nifty) Google book about the ‘Music of Malaysia’, which (indeed) covers the chord progression of the typical Indonesian and Malaysian music styles. Or this (recently) uploaded video at YouTube featuring young Indonesian musicians2 playing the song during an Indonesian Night in Tempe, Arizona (the irony of the name of the city, if you’re familiar with the Malaysian language).

When I was a younger person, I didn’t understand my Dad’s mixed feeling towards the nation that gave birth to him, but chased him away ‘like a dog’ (as he frequently joked about). One can only assume that this particular Kroncong Kemayoran was the silver lining in his life: from the careless young kid hanging around with the native Indonesians, the Japanese occupation, to the Bersiap (the Indonesian independence fight).

Bitter, but sweet nonetheless.

1 I’m actually not sure if it was played during or after the lowering of the casket.
2 Courtesy of

Chaiyya, chaiyya

A couple Clive Owens and posseof weeks ago, we watched Spike Lee’s 4th movie, ‘Inside Man’. The movie was released earlier this year with reasonably good reviews. Albeit a heist movie, the movie features some of Spike Lee’s trademarks, like the tension and struggle of people from different parts of the NY society and how these tensions affect the main characters. All nice and well, this is a heist movie and it should come with amazing theme music.

It does, but unexpectedly, Spike Lee reached out to ‘Bollywood': when the movie starts, the song “Chaiyya, Chaiyya” (1 minute fragment, mp3) (from ‘Dil Se’) guides viewers through the streets of New York. I heard that initial reviewers were blown away: Inside Man literally has nothing to do with ‘Dil Se’. Apparently, Spike Lee liked the music so much, he thought it needed it be in there.

That said, a clip from ‘Dil Se’ featuring that song1 can be found on YouTube, and of course, it features the typical Bollywood elements: overzealous dancing and singing, but amazing scenery shot on top of a moving train. No safety harnasses either. Hey, even Michael Jackson can’t beat this!

Update: Someone uploaded the whole intro of the movie of ‘Inside Man’. Judge for yourself.
1 Wikipedia on ‘Chaiyya, chaiyya’

Le Boeuf sur le Toit

Yesterday, I came across this performance of Milhaud’s ‘Le Boeuf sur le Toit’ at Google Video. I actually ended up at Google via Daniella Thompson’s excellent Brazilian music blog (permalink to video)1.

I ran into her blog a couple of years ago while dissecting Milhaud’s ballet for an Everything2 entry (and Milhaud’s bio). Thompson’s sidenotes are essential in understanding ‘Le Boeuf': which musical pieces Milhaud borrowed and where they are exactly played in the piece. You may want to keep those two links handy while watching (and listening) that video mentioned above.

So, the main question is, was Milhaud a copycat or was he simply inspired by Brazilian music? To answer that question one should look into how copyrights laws (and particular the ones that cover music) have changed over the last century. Think of it this way: In modern times, Milhaud would have just been a mixer, using samples of other musical pieces with a recurring theme from his own hand.

1 02/01/09: The video has been taken down: you may have more luck if you look for the search terms ‘Milhaud Boeuf Bernstein’. That should give you a page with links of the same video but cut up in 3 or 4 pieces.

Le Tourbillon Mecanique

Early 2000, I joined Alfons to visit a concert of the Ebony Band, one of the leading modern music orchestras in the Netherlands. The main theme that night was typical ’30s avant-garde music from (rather unknown) Hungarian and Czech composers. The concert was well-attended (packed, one might say) and had some amazing (and often funny) moments: it was a showcase of exceptional music played by exceptional and obviously enthusiastic musicians.

We were surprised when the show ended with a commentary about the (then impending) crisis in public funding for professional musicians and orchestras, which would (or could) affect the Ebony Band too. At the same time, the Band celebrated its 10th anniversary and because of that, attendees were handed out a free copy of a CD filled with (the same) obscure music from relatively unknown composers.

Which brings us to (or at) today’s Past-The-Bridge sample: ‘Le Tourbillon Mecanique’ (30 some seconds, MP3) from Hungarian composer, Tibor Harsanyi (pronounced) as performed by the Ebony Band.