29 December 2010

A ride on Dad's back to the whistling of 'Colonel Bogey'

(Howdy, pals!)

(Yee-hah! Faster, faster!)

Love is a many-splendored thing, and so, I believe, is watching a child grow up day by day.

This notion struck me when I was listening to 'Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing', a song which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for its debut in a 1955 romantic-drama film of the same title.

I used to drum to soothe my son when he, as a three-month-old baby, could only lie on the sofa and listen to it quietly rather than respond to it exuberantly.

After we had our first gramophone at home, I don't play the frame drum for him as often as I did, but instead I play gramophone records.

As a ten-months-old one who stands firm on his feet and has already taken his first three steps, he can now ride on my back while listening to 'Colonel Bogey March', a famous tune composed in 1914 and made known to more audiences in the world through the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Riding on Dad's back to the whistling of this march has now become a routine pre-bed exercise. I have no idea how long it would last before my son gets bored with the song, but at the moment it's his favourite.

(The record of 'Colonel Borgey March' I have recently purchased from eBay, a very unusual version pressed by Makolit in Israel under license from Fonit Italia, performed by Nino Impallomeni, whom I could hardly find any information about, and his orchestra. As this performance is very much different to the one in the film, I will convert it to a digital format to share with my readers next year.)

24 December 2010

Glocalised postmodern 'Jingle Bells'

(A fantabulous and thought-evoking version of a festive song created by two Indians, Nupur Bhargava and Amartya Rahut)

At a symposium in Portugal in 1996, Prof Philip Tagg, when presenting a paper on otherness and its problems in the study of popular music, commented that the term postmodern
had been adopted as a defeatist intellectual strategy by the kind of colleague who seems more set on wearing trendy conceptual garb on the catwalk of cultural studies (including musicology) than in shedding light on the mediation of ideologies in the modern mass media.
And he found otherness equally tricky.

I would like to add one more equally, if not worse, awkward term on the list—globalisation, together with its upgraded version glocalisation.

Having read tonnes of publications criticising such academic conceptual terms and in an effort to make life simple, I usually joke with my students by offering them some rules on how to apply these jargons to things around them.

Judging from your life experience,
  1. In the circumstances where things, which should not be present at the same time, are sharply juxtaposed, it is postmodernism;

  2. In the circumstances where things, which originally belong to the West (actually West Europe and North America only), are relocated in the East (wherever Near East, Middle East or Far East), it is globalisation;

  3. In the circumstances where things in case 2 are not only relocated but also twisted to accommodate Eastern tastes, it is glocalisation.
Therefore, this Punjabi-style 'Jingle Bell' is a good example of postmodernism and glocalisation.

This YouTube clip has been around for more than one year. On this particular day, Christmas Eve, it is really appropriate to share it with readers of my weblog.

20 December 2010

The glory (???) of the human voice

(Madame Jenkins's LP, RCA Red Seal, LM-2597)

As requested by Hongyi, an old friend, here we have a 'hauntingly beautiful' masterpiece, an essential recording made by Florence Foster Jenkins, a would-be American soprano who made her name by showing complete absence of any sense of pitch and rhythm and thus singing ability.

Listen to 'Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen' (Hell's vengeance boils in my heart), an aria, which is better knows as The Queen of the Night Aria, from Mozart's opera Die Zauberflöte (The magic flute).

See, it is absolutely a demonstration of Madame Jenkins' s great passion for singing but complete deficiency of aptitude for engaging in this demanding activity. I particularly revere the piano accompanist Cosmé McMoon, who had exhibited great musicality, as well as tolerance, by offering such a vital instrumental background for the singing.

However, this recording is unique and, I believe, has an immensely uplifting effect. I actually came to know 'The Queen of the Night Aria' through this hauntingly beautiful version and therefore had it imprinted so deeply on my mind that for a long while the normal rendition by, for example, Kiri Te Kanawa would sound abnormal to me.

16 December 2010

The everlasting tango 'La Cumparsita'

(Listen to 'La Cumparsita', the most recognisable tango, by Orquesta Típica Francisco Canaro, 1933)

Tango, particularly the Argentine tango rather than the international standard ballroom one, has recently been very popular in Taiwan. In addition to dance, enthusiasts adore the strong rhythmic pulsation and engaging melodic lines filled with a nostalgic sentiment delivered by the bandoneón in music. They discern musical and choreographic differences between Argentine and ballroom tango; they hold the former in high esteem and deem it authentic.

However, most people may not realise that both the two metropolises on Río de la Plata Buenos Aires and Montevideo, capitals of Argentina and Uruguay respectively, contributed a lot to the development of the dance and music, although the former somehow, in the end, dominated the scene and became known to the world as 'city of tango'.

'La Cumparsita', the most recognisable tango piece, if not any less than 'Por Una Cabeza', and thus almost synonymous with tango, was actually an instrumental work written by the Uruguayan composer and journalist Gerardo Matos Rodríguez in 1917. In the 1920s, 'La Cumparsita' arrived in Paris, from which it spread to the world to become a synonym for tango.

In 1997, eighty years after its birth, it was made Himno Cultural Y Popular ('cultural and popular anthem') of Uruguay by law.

The audio clip here is from a gramophone record I have recently won from eBay, recorded in 1933 by Francisco Canaro with his Orquesta Típica (a tango orchestra consisting of a string, a bandoneón and a rhythmic sections), who in 1925 arrived in Paris where tango was the new fashion and met the composer there.