27 June 2011

Two exemplars of French songs

(Listen to 'La Vie En Rose' by Édith Piaf from a 78s pressed in England in 1950, four years after its initial release in France in 1946.)

Excluding the so-called 'Western classical' works such as the famous habañera ‘L'amour est un oiseau rebelle’ from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen or Gabriel Fauré’s famous choral piece ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’, I cannot name more than two French songs with full and correct titles. The only two are the national anthem ‘La Marseillaise’ and Édith Piaf’s signature song ‘La Vie En Rose’.

I've been asking students and friends to give me two French song titles that they are familiar with and so far these two have been the unanimous responses.

I came to know ‘La Marseillaise’ through the all-time classic black-and-white Casablanca on TV on a Sunday afternoon in my childhood, in the 1980s.

There was a scene in which the house band of a nightclub played the French national anthem with the crowd singing along in response to a group of German officers' German patriotic hymn. My father told me that was 'Masai qu' (馬賽曲 'the song of Marseille' in Mandarin).

I came across 'La Vie En Rose' much later. Although the tune is not obscure and, despite its ranking as an foreign oldie, never obsolete in Taiwan, I only learnt that the original singer is Édith Piaf during my undergraduate period in the mid 1990s.

I had for thousands of times heard but always dismissed the tune, whether sung by Piaf herself or played as an instrumental piece, until one day when I found myself bombarded with it relentlessly at a record shop for half an hour. Finally I enquired who was singing what. Hence, 'La Vie En Rose' became the second French song I have seriously known.

I've just won an auction for a 78s record of 'La Vie En Rose' but have yet to find out 'La Marseillaise'. For now, while enjoying the former with surface noise from the record, could you, dear readers, name two French songs for me?

24 June 2011

MetLife's advert song from the 1920s

(An advert song of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, with lyrics written by the vice-president, sung by the Peerless Quartet, c.1920s)

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, or MetLife for short, is 'a leading global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs, serving 90 million customers in over 60 countries' as claimed on the official website.

I acquired a record some time ago, captioned with 'Persoanl Record Specially Made for The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company', on one side of which is 'The Metropolitan' sung by the Peerless Quartette.

This male quartet is regarded as the most commercially successful vocal group of the acoustic recording era, the time before the introduction of the microphone when musicians had to play into a giant cone.

As this group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003, it's not too difficult to find out some biographical information. However, I was really foiled when trying to explore when the record was issued, to what extent MetLife was involved in the production, as well as what the song is about.

I visited MetLife's official website and contact them at various email addresses, but was only dismissed. I suppose they might be interested in it for this song is part of MetLife's corporation history. The lyrics were written by Dr. Lee K Frankel, the vice-president of MetLife.

However, this leading global provider of insurance and blah, blah, blah didn't even have the courtesy to informed me that the enquiry had been received.

Well, fine, as I am not a client nor was I asking for a quote, I deserve it, but the song isn't bad at all.

18 June 2011

'Zara' reads 'Thara', you lazy news presenters.

(Image cited from The Internationalist)

Zara, a Spanish clothing brand owned by the Inditex group, has confirmed that it will start its first Taiwanese store in November 2011. Taiwan's first Zara will be located in Taipei 101 Mall.

Good news. As this Spanish high street brand offers a range of affordable and fashionable clothing for both men and women, and kids as well, Fanne and I are very much looking forward to its launch day.

However, I'm peeved off and fed up with the endless wrong pronunciataion made by those news presenters on TV. Zara is a Spanish brand and its initial consonant sounds 'TH' as in 'THink' rather than 'Z' as in 'Zero'. It reads THara ([ˈθaɾa] in IPA).

In my opinion, jounralists and presenters should make sure names of foreign origins are uttered correctly becuase they bear the responsibility to educate the general public. While a man on the street may read a foreign name wrongly, I don't think a news presenter is allowed to do so.

Can you news reporters or anchors do some homework before going on air? Would you think it's proper to prononce 'J' in the Spanish name José the same way you do in 'Joke'?

11 June 2011

One more attempt at dance music with Ronne's voice

(Listen to this new track I made, mixed with my son's voice )

The only thing I know to appreciate electronic dance music (EDM) is still nodding my head and shaking my body to the beat of head-bangking music. I suppose I manage to do it quite well. However, I would rather stay at home to undertake this head-torso-limbs-quaking activity than go to a night club where I have to shout and squeak when making conversations with others.

Having not made any bid on eBay for quite a while, I have no more antique sounds from 78s records to share with the readers of my weblog. Therefore, I had scarcely decided to make one more tentative dance track this afternoon when I found some audio clips in the laptop, recorded half a year ago when my son started learning to speak.

It took me the whole afternoon to input note by note to create the framework first and then to prepare midi files, to edit audio samplings and to mix down the track. It all paid off when I saw Ronne shaking his body to the pulsating beat of the track.

PS. The female voice at the beginning of the track is singing the catchphrase from 'The evening bell at Mt. Nangping' (南屏晚鐘 Nangping wanzhong), a Mandarin oldie I often sing to lull my son to sleep.