Saturday, 21 March 2009

John Dowland - Lachrimae, or Seven Teares

1-7. Lachrimae, in seven parts
8. M. Henry Noell his Galiard
9. The Earle of Essex Galiard
10. M. George Whitehead his Almand
11. M. Iohn Langtons Pauan
12. M. Giles Hoby his Galiard
13. The King of Denmarks Galiard
14. Sir Henry Vmptons Funerall
15. M. Bucton his Galiard
16. Mistresse Nichols Almand
17. Semper Dowland Semper Dolens
18. M. Thomas Collier his Galiard with two trebles
19. Captaine Piper his Galiard
20. Sir Iohn Souch his Galiard
21. M. Nicho Gryffith his Galiard

"Melancholy was all the rage in Elizabethan England, and John Dowland was the most stylish composer of his time. "Semper Dowland, semper dolens" was his motto, and much of his music is indeed exquisitely dolorous. Although he was a talented singer, Dowland mainly followed a dual career as a composer and lutenist. He was the period's most renowned and significant composer of lute solos, and especially ayres (also called lute songs), and a gifted writer of consort music.

Dowland managed to respect tradition while absorbing the trends he encountered on the Continent. Dominating Dowland's output is a form called the lute song or ayre. It was peculiar to English music, and was systematized somewhat by the 1597 publication of Dowland's First Booke of Songes or Ayers. These early songs are simple strophic settings, often in dance forms, with an almost complete absence of chromaticism. Continental influences come to the fore in such later songs as In Darkness Let Me Dwell (1610) and Lasso Vita Mia (1612), full of declamation, chromaticism, and dissonance. 

Dowland also wrote a significant amount of instrumental music, much of it for solo lute and some for consort. There are some ninety works for solo lute; many are dances, often with highly embellished variations. Even here the Continental influence shows; his chromatic fantasies are far more intense than the lute music of any other English (or, for that matter, Continental) composer of the time. Among the consort works, Dowland's Lachrimae, or Seven Teares (1604), became one of the most celebrated compositions of the late Renaissance."
-James Reel @

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

James Carr - You Got My Mind Messed Up

  1. "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man" – 2:40
  2. "Love Attack" – 2:54
  3. "Coming Back to Me Baby" – 1:59
  4. "I Don't Want to Be Hurt Anymore" – 2:24
  5. "That's What I Want to Know"  – 1:56
  6. "These Ain't Raindrops" – 2:35
  7. "The Dark End of the Street" – 2:34
  8. "I'm Going for Myself" – 2:25
  9. "Lovable Girl" – 2:24
  10. "Forgetting You" – 2:54
  11. "She's Better Than You" – 2:22
  12. "You've Got My Mind Messed Up" – 2:25


"If ever there was a soul singer who rivaled Otis Redding's raw, deep emotional sensuality, it was James Carr, and the proof is in the pudding with You Got My Mind Messed Up. Carr was one of the last country-soul singers to approach any chart given to him as if it was a gift from God. Carr was Redding's rival in every respect if for no other reason than the release of this, his debut album recorded in 1966. The 12 songs here, many of them covered by other artists, are all soul classics merely by their having been sung and recorded by Carr. Among them is the smash "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man," "Coming Back to Me Baby," a handful of tracks by O.B. McLinton, including "Forgetting You" and the title track, and the Chips Moman/Dan Penn hit "Dark End of the Street." And while it's true that few have ever done bad versions of the song because of the phenomenal writing, there is only one definitive version, and that one belongs to Carr. In his version he sings from the territory of a heart that is already broken but enslaved both to his regret and his desire. This is a love so pure it can only have been illicit. When he gets to the beginning of the second verse, and intones "I know time is gonna take its toll," he's already at the end of his rope; he knows that desire that burns like this can only bring about ruin and disaster, and it is precisely since it cannot be avoided that his repentance is perhaps accepted by the powers that would try him and judge him. He holds the arrangement at bay, and unlike some versions, Carr keeps his composure, making it a true song of regret, remorse, and a love so forbidden yet so faithful that it is worth risking not only disgrace and destruction for, but also hell itself. As the guitar cascades down the fretboard staccato, he can see the dark end of the street and holds it as close to his heart as a sacred and secret memory. By the album's end with the title track, listeners hear the totality of the force of Memphis soul. With Steve Cropper's guitar filling the space in the background, Carr offers a chilling portrait of what would happen to him in the future. Again pleading with the beloved in a tone reminiscent of a church-singer hell, he's in the church of love. He pleads, admonishes, begs, and finally confirms that the end of this love is his insanity, which was a chilling prophecy given what happened to Carr some years later. This is one of theMemphis soul records of the mid-'60s, full of rough-hewn grace, passion, tenderness, and danger. A masterpiece."
- Thom Jurek @

Giacinto Scelsi - Quattro Pezzi; Anahit; Uaxuctum

Quatro Pezzi per Orchestra Ciascuno su una nota sola (1959)
1. I
2. II
3. III
4. IV

5. Anahit (1965; violin, orchestra)

Uaxuctum (1966; choir & orchestra)
6. I
7. II
8. III
9. IV
10. V

Performers: Carmen Fournier (violin), Jadwiga Jakubiak (soprano), Irena Urbanska (soprano), Josef Dwojak (tenor), Krzysztof Szafran (tenor), Tristan Murail (ondes Martenot); Orchestre et choeur de la Radio-Télévision de Cracovie; Jürg Wyttenbach (direction).


"Scelsi's most famous work is the Quattro Pezzi su una nota sola (1959) for chamber orchestra of twenty-six musicians. Unusually for Scelsi's orchestral music, this composition was performed shortly after it was written: in Paris under Maurice Leroux on December 4th, 1961. It gave the composer some amount of recognition at the time, and is now known as one of the most pioneering works of the 20th Century: each piece sticks rigorously to a single note, the succession being: F, B, Ab, A. As is normal in Scelsi's orchestral music, the instruments are concentrated in the low registers and include percussion: alto flute, oboe, english horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoon, four horns, saxophone, three trumpets, two trombones, bass tuba, musical saw, timpani, bongos, tumba, suspended cymbal, small and large tamtam, two violas, two cellos, double bass. The four movements use slightly different forces, and only the last combines all twenty-six musicians. The pieces each elaborate their single notes by means of variations in tessitura (unisons and octave doublings), dynamics and timbre, as well as introducing microtonal fluctuations and the occasional harmonic shadow; climaxes appear in these various domains at different times, all formally derived from the golden ratio. This is Scelsi's premier revolutionary work, springing out of the ether in an act of pure intuition. There is no sense of monotony as one might expect from the verbal description of the piece, or as one finds in Glass' or other "minimal" music; there is no real predictability in the music: it is spontaneous invention within a formal constraint which quickly disappears in the face of the power of the sound. The rhythm of the Quattro Pezzi is both subtle and powerful: already Scelsi is modeling the presentation on the act of breathing which is so important in yoga, and which is to become ever more crucial in his Fourth Period. There is an eternal quality about the music which at times flows and at others halts in a suspended glimpse of cosmic motion, it goes beyond itself and within itself, producing a heightened sense of existence emerging from beyond. This is derived from the infra- chromatic nature of the piece, which as in all of Scelsi's mature music, draws much of its musical direction from the complexities inherent within each individual sound, both as regards duration / decay / resonance and timbre / inflection / dynamics. The brief first movement presents the melodic material -- and it is indeed melodic, due to shading, rhythm and instrumental timbre -- in an eruption of incredible power; one could not imagine a more effective introduction to this piece or to Scelsi's mature music in general. After the high drama of the second movement, the third (omitting percussion) has an ethereal quality about it which hangs beyond time in the slowly decaying sound of its final moments. The fourth movement has an extreme finality, with cadences punctuated by percussive outbursts, as if to say: I am sound.

In 1965, the year following Xnoybis for solo violin, Scelsi wrote his Violin Concerto, Anahit. The scoring of the orchestra is: two flutes, bass flute, english horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, two horns, trumpet, tenor saxophone, two trombones, two violas, two cellos, and two double basses. The solo violin is re-tuned to G-G-B-D, increasing the concentration required of the soloist considerably, and again notated string by string. Unusually for Scelsi, this work was also performed the year after it was written: in Athens with Devy Erlih (the same man who had premiered Xnoybis in 1964) as soloist in 1966. The subtitle is "Lyric Poem dedicated to Venus" and Anahit is the ancient Egyptian name for Venus, as well as being the name of the main female deity in ancient Asia Minor. The form of the work is reminiscent of the ternary architecture of Hymnos, though Anahit is in three distinct sections which are built on the golden section rather than linear symmetry. The work is thirteen minutes in length, the middle section being an extended cadenza for the solo violin centered at the golden section (i.e. the eight minute mark). In the two framing sections, the violin continues to operate in microtones and is supported harmonically by the orchestra. The first movement is predominately in G minor with the leading tone F# playing an important role; it starts slowly with the violin working out an ascending line, cadences in an orchestral interlude dominated by the brass at the golden section of this movement (i.e. just under the five minute mark), continues the preceding development, and then ends in another more subdued orchestral interlude just before the cadenza (beginning at the seven minute mark). After the beautifully ethereal microtonal cadenza, the second movement is predominately in G major reaching to high F# and dominated throughout by the solo violin; this movement builds a sort of pulsating wave which recapitulates the previous material and fades away as the violin reaches high G. Anahit is a beautiful, lyrical work and provides an interesting glimpse of Scelsi's use of the concerto format, with the soloist given over entirely to intense microtonal development and supported in harmony by the orchestral accompaniment.

In 1966, Scelsi wrote his most complex, dramatic and incredible work: the choral and orchestral masterpiece, Uaxuctum. This extraordinary piece is in five movements, totaling approximately twenty minutes. In addition to the large chorus, written at an astonishingly difficult technical level, the work is scored for: four vocal soloists (two sopranos, two tenors, electronically amplified), ondes Martenot solo, vibraphone, sistrum, Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, bass tuba, double bass tuba, six double basses, timpani and seven other percussionists (playing on such instruments as the rubbed two-hundred liter can, a large aluminum hemisphere, and a two-meter high sheet of metal). The chorus is written in ten and twelve parts, incorporating all variety of microtonal manipulations, as well as breathing and other guttural and nasal sounds. This piece is certainly Scelsi's most difficult to perform, and was not premiered until October 12th, 1987 by the Cologne Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra. Uaxuctum is subtitled: "The legend of the Maya city, destroyed by themselves for religious reasons" and corresponds to an actual Maya city in Peten, Guatemala which flourished during the first millennium AD; in addition, the Mexican state of Oaxaca comes from the same ancient meso-american root. This is an intensely dramatic work, and the most bizarre in Scelsi's output. It depicts the end of an ancient civilization -- residing in Central America, but with mythical roots extending back to Egypt and beyond -- it is the last flowering of a mystical and mythological culture which was slowly destroyed by our modern world. In this case, Scelsi says, the Mayans made a conscious decision to end the city themselves. Uaxuctum incorporates harmonic elements throughout, and is extremely difficult to come to terms with. The first movement, the longest of the five, is a grand overture; it begins in quiet contemplation, only to be interrupted by the violent mystical revelation of the chorus propelling this story into the present from the distant past, and then sinking back into meditative tones with a presentiment of the upcoming adventure. In the wild and dramatic second movement, we enter the world of the Mayans, complete with mysticism in all aspects of life; it is an incredible and violent tour-de-force of orchestral writing. The short third movement opens with an atmosphere of foreboding, building into a realization of things to come, and reaching a decision. After a few seconds of silence, the city of Uaxuctum is quickly destroyed and abandoned. The fourth movement is dominated by the chorus throughout, and presents the wisdom gained by the Mayans as they gradually fade into oblivion. The fifth movement returns to the opening mood, and gives a dim recollection of the preceding events which have now been told, in abstract form, to our time and civilization. There really are no proper words to describe this amazing piece, which presents Scelsi at his most daring and innovative. It is a world all to itself, and a warning."
-Todd M. McComb, 1992