For day two, I’ve put myself together a selection of the birthday boys music. Composer, conductor, virtual chorus master and Wild Bill Hickok lookalike, Eric Whitacre is on the menu for today’s Music Diet. I’ve stashed this meal in a Spotify playlist, which I will share just as soon as Spotify send my my login.
An EW corker to start, and tonight I have better headphones. They are not noise cancelling, so, as my listening is being done as The Littles have their dinner three feet away, I am blessed with a certain extra ambience that perhaps the composer never intended.
This is The King’s Singers version – and it’s fabulous. It’s like the full verison, only paired down and paired down. Just a perfect harmonic skeleton. The words instantly make me think of food : Lux Aurumque. Light and gold. Why food? Back in my school days, we were blessed with a Latin teacher who taught us how to use the AND by adding it, Yoda-like, at the end of two nouns. “So…to say fish and CHIPS”, I can still hear him barking, “It would be Fish ChipsQUE.” Perfect. Latin for Yorkshire oiks. “And…fish chipsQUE, mushy peasQUE.”
My mouth is starting to water. Not good.
This version comes out so perfect sung by the King’s Singers …it’s like sushi and sorbet combined. Sushi sorbetQUE.
“The River Cam”
To vary the diet, I have a cello and strings work next. This features the LSO with Julian Lloyd Webber. And if I started with sorbet, I’ve now moved on to a deep brown, meaty work: rare and juicy. Meandering like…the Meander, itself. It’s as if this has unwritten words, too. Or am I over thinking EW? Perhaps it the old ‘the cello is closest to human voice’ thing.
The ‘river’ begins to burble…then it’s as if we’re in a different county. Maybe…a confluence? And then it’s gone on its way. Suddenly it stops and a brief solo cello moment shines in the limelight. Perfect brown cello tenths, spread with fifths in between. They make me think of Rachmaninov’s hands, despite this being a cello.Then there is a simply exquisite spell of Whitacre signature clusters, complete with perfect, lofty notes as if played by a moistened finger on the rim of a wine-glass notes. I think I’m smiling. Under my headphones. As my family look on, presuming madness.
Suddenly, we’re in middle of a HUGE romantic theme – where did that come from.
This work is a meal in itself. With two minutes of orchestral cake on the end. I swear I can even hear the crumbs.
“One of the 5 Hebrew Love Songs”
Another sorbet, served in a glassy piano intro. I quickly look up the words and it turns out to be about snow.
“What snow! Like little dreams. Falling from the sky.”
It’s a lovely, deceptively simple arrangement. I begin to reappraise the piano intro as perhaps snow itself. Or sorbet.
By of something completely different, an interval piece if you like, this.
I’ll be honest, I did hunt for Godzilla Eats Las Vegas – a fab, fun piece for orchestral wind band, complete with Elvis narrator. But it’s not on Spot. So, this early wind band piece takes its place. I dont know this one but it is immediately just as much fun. Scene painting, all the way – you cant mistake where you are. EW says he was captivated by wind band sounds from early on, and I know what he means, having had a couple of daughters go through orchestral wind bands.
Suddenly we are blown away with steam train whistles – possibly you could call it quite… Polar Expressy – only this work precedes the Polar Express score by a good nine years.
I’m concentrating now, instead of letting it wash over me. Trying to let myself get an idea of when ..
And all of a sudden it’s gone. It literally vanishes. Spooky!
I included this for two reasons. One, it was included as a poem in the Classic FM Christmas online Carol Service. Two, I love ee cummings, possibly as much as EW appears to. And three [“THREE… three reasons. I included this for THREE reasons] that I didn’t know it. Is it me or is EW employing some sort of aleatoric (chancy) techniques in his vocal clusters here? [By clusters, I mean simply the chords EW makes up which are full of lots of adjacent notes]/ The clustering sounds more scatter gun, but cant work out how he’s doing it.
And there are uncharacteristic seasonal interruptions, too. It makes me remember…we still have a crhistmas pudding on top of the fridge. Can we work that into the next meal? REAL meal, I mean.
This is not the chiller cabinet Whitacre we’ve come to know and love. Sounds like Whitacre MEETS…somebody. Something. But I cant work out who he’s met. Or what. Lovely, though.
Plum pudding substitute, perhaps. With…something else? Long woolly scarf?
A classic Whitacre, I think it’s fair to say. Here he is, all icy clusters again. It’s trademark – and feels like a sort of light therapy – as much of his choral music does. It’s as if it seems to shine into you. Feel I need UV protection. Exquisite. I simply sit back and nearly fall asleep. The littles have all gone up for their bath so there is no background burble of giggles and arguments through my headphones. Perfect.
This is almost…ALMOST… my main course and would see me safely through a week…but I have saved my best till last. But before it, a different kind of music.
“I thank you God for most this amazing day”
I’ve stuck in a recording of ee cummings, reading his own poetry from 1954. Did I mention I love ee cummings? (Well, he is the perfect Yorkshireman’s poet – “Eeeee, Cummings!” ] I have to admit, I didn’t expect it to be so declamatory. But lovely to hear. Have never heard him before. An intriguing precursor to…
“I thank you God for most this amazing day”
This is the EW I simply cant get over. Even now, after I’ve heard it so many times. It’s my favourite and had to be included. It’s perfect. Everything about it is perfect in my ears. Floating harmony, seemingly unsupported notes, without a safety net.
Then, some UNIQUE ‘suppressed notes” (how else to describe them?) From the girls. They seem to be sung, then sustained, but suppressed…..while the blokes weave around them.
This is chocolate. Melting, slightly steaming, divine, musical chocolate.
The upward forming clusters towards the end – musical stalagmite – are simple but delicious.
I’m beaming again.
Nutritional Value : 9/10
Smile factor : 10/10
Satisfaction factor : 10/10
Failure prediction factor : 1/10
Random Guest Statistic
Cups of tea left unconsumed during listening : 2
Wear shades while listening.