Category Archives: Music

Uruku Tumi Gushiku

This piece is from the album “Jin Jin / Firefly” by Takashi Hirayasu and Bob Brozman. It always makes me smile. It is also good to listen to when you need to get up and deal with a task you have been putting off for a while.

If vegetables be the food of music

I had bought lots of vegetables to make minestrone tonight but then I came across this video:

So now I have got my tools out and am making my own orchestra. One can always cook the vegetables afterwards (and maybe the soup will taste better after you have played some Haydn or Mozart – that’s just an idea. I am not sure who the tastiest musicians are yet). Read more…

Handelitis and The-sun-is-shining Road

210px-Giovanni_Carestini Every now and then I have an attack of musical fever and have to listen to a piece of music a hundred and thirty-seven times in a row. Examples of past episodes are Dylan singing Blind Willie McTell, Carlos Gardel singing Milonga Sentimental, Tupelo Honey sung by Cassandra Wilson as well as Uri Caine and Paolo Fresu performing Si dolce è il tormento.

Sometimes I get a more serious case and I want to listen to everything a peformer ever played or sung or a composer ever wrote. The most recent occurrence was an attack of Handelitis. Hepatitis has various forms: A, B and C. So does Handelitis and I came down with Handelitis O, because I specifically felt a compulsion to attempt to listen to every Opera he had ever written. Read more…

Wee Klinks 3

Wee klinks It’s raining today where I live and it rained so much yesterday that when you ask someone for the time water pours out of their sleeve when they look at their watch. There are glum expressions all around me, but I am actually fond of rain. I think the reason must be my childhood memories from South-East Asia. The way the earth suddenly surrendered up its smells, but even more than that the sound of the rain falling on the bamboo umbrellas everybody had. Being under your own umbrella and listening to the rain beating down was like having your own wonderful sky-drum.

Because of this I was very much attracted to this set of pictures on Flickr all about umbrellas. If you are not lucky enough to have rain falling where you are today, you can always watch the pictures to the accompaniment of this soundtrackLotsumbrellas

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Eyes in the City – Kurt Tucholsky

augen-in-der-groszstadtIn Edgar Reitz’s Second Heimat there is a scene where one of the main characters, Clarissa (Salome Kammer), is singing a song at the piano inside a villa which is full of people milling around. I kept on going back to the scene to watch it again and finally found that the text was a poem by Kurt Tucholsky. The song should be on the Heimat Soundtrack CD but now you can hear it because it has been posted on Youtube.

Here is a translation of this beautiful poem into English, followed by the German original. I have taken the translation from this page, which will lead you to lots more information about Tucholsky.

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The Whole Country Dances – The North Korean Music Scene

KJuvMusic(This article was first posted in February 2008. I think it is time for people to be reminded of North Korean music. doesn’t seem to provide songs any longer, which is a great pity, but there is a good selection here. In particular, I would recommend Heroic Workers’ Factory, which has an English translation. It is a song you can try out at work yourselves. See if increases your output.) 

I was leafing through the Rough Guide to World Music one day, looking up countries I had visited in order to find out which melodies I had missed and remembered (but how could one forget) that one of the countries I have been to is North Korea. The book has a box on the musical scene in North Korea with a list of titles including the following:


Song of Bean Paste
My Country Full of Happiness
We Shall Hold Bayonets More Firmly
Our Life Is Precisely A Song
Song of Snipers
The Joy Of Bumper Harvest Overflows Amidst The Song of Mechanisation
Farming In This Year Is Great Bumper Crop
My Country Is Nice To Live In
Music Of Mass Rhythmic Gymnastics
I Like Both Morning And Evening
The Shoes My Brother Gave Me Fit Me Tight
The World Envies Us

These titles brought back many of the feelings one had while one was in North Korea. I was going to leave it at that, but I wanted to find a clearer picture for the cover of  Korean Juvenile Music (reproduced above) and in this search I stumbled across an excellent site which proclaimed

Herzlich willkommen auf

and which has a substantial collection of North Korean CD’s for sale. You can even listen to some of the tracks in their Pochonboentirety. My favourite is My Country is the Best. We’ve Taken Grenades in Our Hands (also in the Korean Juvenile Music series) is excellent too, Glory to General Kim Jong Il is obviously excellent as well even though the Bavarian influence is a little strong for my tastes. But the real discovery was the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble who play with unequalled confidence and flair. If I had a record company I would not hesitate to sign them up. I think there is definitely a niche market which would go overboard for them. In fact, I have a feeling they would be particularly good at the Superbowl – the style is very similar. I watched a number of their videos, I think I counted eight keyboard players but there may be more. Here is an example of their multi-layered approach:

Someone has implied that the Mansudae Art Troupe are even better, but I can’t say I have been convinced, even though that is only on the strength of one track.

As I said, Herzlich willkommen auf allows you to listen to a number of tracks in their entirety. It is a pity therefore that some of the more intriguing titles have no audio clip associated with them. I would really have liked to have heard O Persimmon Trees at a Coastal Guard Outpost. In any case, I have decided to put down here some of what I feel are the most memorable titles. I have found that arranging them in pairs conjures up a pretty accurate picture of the atmosphere one perceives in North Korea.

We Shall Live Forever to Defend Our Seas
Taehongdan Potato Good for Longevity

Oh, What Is a Party Member?
He Doesn’t Know Maybe

Fresh and Green Edible Aster on Mt. Ryongak
It Will Radiate with the General Sunshine

I Am a Blossom of the Fatherly General
I Also Raise Chickens.

We Are Honourable Infantrymen
Coming to Remove Weeds from the Sky

We’ve Taken Grenades in Our Hands
What Has Happened to the Thaebaeksan Hospital?

Let’s Sing of Paternal Affection
My Youngest Daughter, Pok Sun, Became a AA-machine gunner

Sea of Potato Blossoms in Taehongdan
Pleasant Snack Time

Nightingales Sing in Our Factory Compound
Song of Blood Transfusion

My Mind Remains Unchanged
I Like Rifle

and to end a couple of threesomes

Triple Rainbows
I Always See Them
Deep in Thought, the Nurse Ponders

Our Satellite Sings
Song of Automation Full of Happiness
The Whole Country Dances

Yes, now I remember

Wee Klinks 2

Weeklinks2 copy
When things don’t work properly one classic strategy is to continue doing the same thing and call it by a different name. Having trouble with the Global Strategy ? Launch the World-Wide Initiative. Is the Post Office falling apart ? Forget about repairing the roof, just call it a Data Communications Hub. This was the reaction I was instinctiveIy primed to adopt when I discovered that fifteen days had gone by from Wee Klinks 1 without any sequel. Perhaps I could rename it New Klinks and avoid any suggestion than something would happen once a week. Or else, since I defined the meaning of Klink last time, couldn’t I re-define week to mean some arbitrary extent of time ? In the end I decided to take another classic approach, make use of a brilliant  mystifying slogan like Wee Klinks – once a week (some weeks) which is what the series will be officially known as – at least until we need some further obfuscation.

This week (or whatever time period it really is) we start with the legendary Egyptian singer, Oum Kalthoum.

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Improvisation on improvisation in desperation

After a few months of amazed bewilderment, I have finally worked out how to represent the way the recent Republican Vice-Presidential nominee’s thought processes and verbiage generation function. Think of a car at speed trying to negotiate a twisting track covered with thick ice. That’s it.

This was brought home to me by the following video which features a piano accompaniment which hangs onto the tail of her slithering progress as she explains (perhaps there is need here for a word which is the
opposite of explains: – “implains” perhaps or “expalins”) the pros and cons and perhapses and whoopihooes of the bail-out of the financial industry. You can hear clearly illustrated the wheel-slipping, tyre-skidding and tail-spinning going on.

The accompaniment is performed and I suppose devised by the very talented pianist Henry Hey. I have appended a transcript of the lyrics so that you can sing along.


Intro (Couric)

…allow them to spend more and put more into the economy instead of helping these

big financial institutions that played a,

a role in creating this mess.


That’s why I say I, like

every American I’m speaking with, were ill

about this position that we have been

put in where it is the tax-payers looking to bail out.


what the bail-out does is

help those

who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed

to help shore up our economy…um…

helping the

it’s got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy and

putting it back on the right track

so health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to

accompany tax reductions and tax relief

for Americans.
And trade –

we’ve got to see trade as opportunity and not as
a, a competitive, um, scary thing,
but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today,

we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity.

All those things under the umbrella of

job creation –

this bail-out is a part of


Music for eating peaches to (and papayas and mangosteens as well)

mangosteenUnfortunately, I know next to nothing about Vietnam and even less about Vietnamese music, but I have been wanting to share my appreciation of Huong Thanh ever since I heard her cd Mangustao. In it she blends Vietnamese music with jazz in a way which
joins hands surprisingly. There is a lilt in her singing which reminds me of some of the creatures which you see in an aquarium which suddenly flick their tails to move along unexpectedly or else makes me think that the line of music is walking along a plank or springboard which suddenly bounces back up when you reach the end of it. Here is a sample of her singing (From “Fragile Beauty”, another beautiful record.)

And here is her web page (not easy to navigate, you have to click on that little rectangle in the middle to open up the menu) which plays another piece of music. As I listened to this second piece of music I went to get myself a peach and sat down to peel and eat it. After a while I realised that I was cutting and eating with special attention and enjoyment. I had always known there was music for marching and there is music I put on which makes cleaning easier and there is music which helps to wind down and clear your mind and music to give you drive, but I had never realised there was music for eating fruit. It put me in mind of the Vietnamese film the scent of the Green Papaya where cutting fruit and vegetables always seems to be an ecstatic experience. I was so caught up by the peach and the sound that I didn’t realise that the music was a
loop which went round and round in circles. Luckily it was a peach and not a water melon and it only took me ten minutes to finish it and come out of my dream.

Tossing salt peanuts into the air for free – Steve Coleman

In these times, people are  busy inventing ways to sell things or bits of themselves nobody should 6a00e5502c099d883400e553b0f6c48834-800wineed to want and half the economy seems to be driven by packaged zilch. I recently saw that there is a company selling bottled water in the United States which freely admits on the label that it is Texan municipal water (and think of how many there are that don’t own up to where theirs comes from). Then there was the guy who sold his life on E-bay. I have a clear vision of a world a few years down the line where we are all going to be paid to wear T-shirts which advertise brands (although I suppose it is an improvement on us gleefully paying money for the privilege of wearing T-shirts which advertise brands). We will also find it normal to earn money by slipping slogans and catchphrases  into our conversations and naming our children after household products.

So you think you must have a case of fulminating dyslexia when you come across someone like a brilliant musician like Steve Coleman who writes :   Why should everything always cost something?  For me music is organized sound that can be used as sonic symbols to communicate ideas.  Since my main goal is the communication of these ideas to the people, then why not provide this music for free and thereby facilitating the distribution of this music to the people. […] My reasons for providing free music comes from my belief that musical ideas should not be owned by anyone.  I believe that ideas should be free for anyone to use (but not to necessarily sell to others or make others pay for the use of these ideas).”

Yes, he is giving his music away. You can download several of his recordings from his website here. I recommend Def Trance Beat, which I actually bought in a shop after having heard him perform in a park on a hot summer’s night a few years ago. You can read more about his thoughts on making his music freely available here. And if you want to hear what he sounds like without going anywhere yet, here he is playing Salt Peanuts.

Steve Coleman and Five Elements – Salt Peanuts