Sunday, 16 May 2010

Musical miscellany

Maria Kalaniemi: Arctic Paradise. More on this below.

A regular glance at Sydney Padua's 2D Goggles finds a new story under way in her beautifully drawn steampunk comic The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: Lovelace and Babbage Vs The Organist! (part 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5) pits Babbage against his nemesis - street musicians - and Lovelace against the inner demons of her poetic ancestry. The erudite commentary brings to light a wealth of connections in the early 19th century scientific and social circuit: in this case, that the English concertina was one of a number of musical inventions by the physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone.

In that territory of instrument - the more complex free-bass accordion - I continue to be delighted and amazed by Finnish accordion virtuosity; a number of classically-trained exponents are creating exciting folk / classical / jazz / ethnic fusion. Check out Pauliina Lerche (for example Tulikatriili on accordion, and her vocal/instrumental work in general, such as Tanssi poika and Vot I Kaalina); Johanna Juhola (for example, Painajainen Leikkikentll); and Maria Kalaniemi (my current favourites are the reflective Arctic Paradise and Taklax I, whose folk-classical fusion reminds me a lot of Methera) . Accordion aside, exploring associated YouTube links has led me to Ulla Pirttijarvi, a Sámi musician whose work combines the traditional Sámi "yoik" form with modern arrangements (for instance, Northern Silk); and Gjallarhorn, a band from the Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnian region of Finland, who fuse "the folk music of Finland with a global range of influences and instrumentation including the didgeridoo and Australian wood flute" (for instance, O-Vals and Eldgjald). Oh, talking of Finnish music, I find - mutters curses - that I missed a Värttinä concert in Exeter three years ago, when they were in the UK following the West End premiere of The Lord of the Rings stage production, for which they co-composed the music.

Markku Lepistö Company: Concerto Diatonique

Addition upgraded from comment: Alan.98 (who is Alan Brignull) recommends the addition of Markku Lepistö to the list. Definitely!

Continuing the theme of instrumental virtuosity, I just ran into Seeing Ear Theatre's audio adaptation of Jack Vance's 1961 short SF story The Moon Moth. (also in the anthology The Moon Moth and Other Stories). In the scene-setting introduction (not in the print story), a drunken man attempts to force his attentions on a young woman. He is stopped and, despite protesting that he is a Consular Representative, is executed on the spot: not for the attempted assault, but for misjudging the woman's 'strakh' - social prestige level, as denoted by her mask. This is typical of Sirene, a planet with a highly xenophobic mask-wearing culture where all interactions depend on level of strakh (an unwritten scale of social prestige) and furthermore must be conducted in song accompanied by bizarre instruments whose choice again depends on relative strakh levels (for instance, the hymerkin - "a clapping, slapping, clattering device of wood and stone" - is used primarily to talk to slaves, and would be a deadly insult in other contexts).

The Moon Moth
(plot spoiler, if you want, here) is a social satire and murder mystery telling of the misadventures of Edwer Thissell, the replacement Consular Representative, who has to catch a murderer despite his own inexperience in Sirenese culture. I think the Seeing Ear Theatre version could do with a bit more musicality in the dialogue and accompaniments, which don't fully convey the virtuosity and complexity of Sirenese music, but it's not a bad effort overall. Here it is: part 1 / part 2.

- Ray

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all these new names to follow up … can I add my favourite Markku Lepistö to the list?