Music for a relaxing Christmas…

woman in red shirt reading book

I am doing a digital detox over Christmas and trying to go off social media and the internet. I did it last year and it worked quite well. I was actually able to read some books. Remember them? I called into the library the other day to get a pile of books for junior and me. You can borrow double over the Christmas period. The librarian said that library use has been declining over the past few years as more …

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The Nicholas Brothers and Cab Calloway Jumpin’ Jive…

jazz, singer, to sing

For those of you looking for a break from the ever bleaker news cycle, I came across this excellent video. It is a restored and colourised dance segment from the 1943 film Stormy Weather. Cab Calloway and his band perform an absolutely swinging version of Jumpin’ Jive while the Nicholas Brothers perform a spectacular tap dance routine. Do give it a watch, it will put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. Amazingly the Nicholas Brothers …

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Changing the record…

vinyl, plate, vinyl record

When blue snowflakes start fallin’… I was driving home for Christmas when I heard it on the car radio, you know the form: baltic, lonely, missing someone all set to the dulcet tones of Elvis. We hear all the sad songs on the radio at this time of year just to reinforce that it’s a time when loved ones gather together and to make you feel even more alone, especially if you’re not at that party. It’s enough to make …

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“There are no checkpoints in the orchestra, there are no passport controls….”

violin, music, fiddle

Just to keep things light this week, this is the first of two musical features I want to highlight. They’re both about an hour and fifteen minutes long and both take as their subject a figure from music who’s been extraordinary. Today it is Daniel Barenboim. The programme went out on BBC Four but n the UK it is still available on BBC iPlayer. It’s cribbed from previous materials edited to give full of human insight into Barenboim’s approach to …

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“Get Back” – a musical and human revelation…

Since it was announced that there was going to be an eight-hour movie of the Beatles January 1969 recording sessions, I have deliberately avoided all previews or post release reviews, to give myself the chance to watch it. I’m glad I did as it was an incredible experience and one I could never have imagined. It sounds strange to say this about the Beatles, but ultimately the music is of secondary importance here.  There are wonderful moments, such as Paul …

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They say variety is the spice of life, but has anybody told commercial radio executives?

There is a conventional wisdom in commercial radio that you should play what the listeners like, and lots of it.  This sounds eminently sensible. The problem is that this conventional wisdom is taken to extremes, specifically that what listeners apparently like is the same songs over and over again. A spot of background. Every commercial radio station has a playlist.  Songs that station management want to be played several times a day to promote, combined with a computer that would …

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Thank you for the music…

guitar, guitarist, music

‘Where words fail, music speaks.’ Hans Christian Anderson You don’t have to be good at it. You don’t have to learn how to perform it. You don’t even need to understand the complexities involved in its creation and ultimate delivery. But boy do you need it in your life when times are challenging, wonderful, hopeless, confusing or any other emotion you’d care to throw at it. Music. Defined as ‘the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in …

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The Jazz Musicians’ Jazz Musicians’ Jazz Musicians’ Panel-Game Chairman

For some reason or other, many of us on this side of the Irish Sea tend to prefer our heroes being low-key, understated, and with a blow-dried sense of humour.  Such was the case with a great English gentleman born exactly a century ago.  Humphrey Lyttelton may not sound like the name of someone you’d expect to have a cape and superhuman strength, but he certainly managed to inspire and lighten up the lives of millions in a long and …

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I’m a Rock Star… Get me Out of Here!

Stuck away in my garage are piles of vinyl LPs, singles and cassette tapes. The evidence of a lifelong interest in pop music. Some interesting stuff survives: Telstar by the Tornados with more crackles on it than what was originally put there in the studio. Sgt Pepper, mono LP. Worth a few quid if it wasn’t for all those scratches on it. I’ve always loved pop music but it’s not just the music, it’s everything that goes with it. The …

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ESRC Virtual Festival – Music Creators’ Earnings in the Streaming Age…

Music makes a significant contribution to the UK economy and to the perception of the UK globally. As of 2019, UK music contributes £5.2 billion to the UK economy and is the world’s second biggest market. But what is the music business without creators? Music creators are vital to the future of our cultural experience and the cultural economy, and so it is important to understand how they are financially rewarded, and the extent to which it is possible to …

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#CargoOfBricks: From library assistant in Oldpark to Smash Hits boss in four years…

Talking to a retired nationalist politician recently he recounted how important it was for him to get out of Belfast in the early days of the troubles to UCD and a Dublin in which society and its operants (arts, commerce, science) outsized the politics of the day. #CargoOfBricks and Brian’s In Conversation podcast series draw from a wider circle of sources share insights and stories that perhaps can have a fresh bearing on our lives in-the-round, not always through the …

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Did you hear the one about The Pope, the Lambeg and the ukulele?

I’m always a wee bit wary of Twelfths that don’t happen until the Thirteenth. Especially so this year, as it’s a Twelfth with no marching. And what’s a Dara Lá Déag (Twelfth) without a bit of a march… Edenderry will be empty, as will venues around the Province, vacant fields echoing to the sound of birds instead of brattling drums. Flutes and fifes will not be stilled, but their shrill beauty will be curtailed by Covid’s shackles. Normally on the …

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John Prine, US folk and country songwriter, dies aged 73 due to Covid-19 complications…

I have no idea if the name John Prine resonates with many out there is Slugger Land. But it did with the Boss Over here on E Street, we are crushed by the loss of John Prine. John and I were "New Dylans" together in the early 70s and he was never anything but the lovliest guy in the world. A true national treasure and a songwriter for the ages. We send our love and prayers to his family. — …

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Musicking for peacebuilding

Musicking for peacebuilding Sounding Conflict: From Resistance to Reconciliation by Allan LEONARD 28 November 2019 The state-of-the-art acoustic facility, the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queen’s University Belfast, was a most appropriate meeting place for a two-day symposium that explored the roles of music, from activist resistance to a hopeful tool for reconciliation from conflict. The event was organised by the Mitchell Institute for Global Peace at Queen’s University. Professor Fiona Magowan welcomed several dozen delegates, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor David …

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‘Long on material for jeremiads like this’: John Andrew Fredrick’s ‘The King of Good Intentions II’: Book Review

A fresh novel about the travails of a struggling musician on L.A.’s indie-rock fringe, this sequel to The King of Good Intentions continues the story of John and his jangle-pop band, The Weird Sisters. Likely at least semi-autobiographical, narrated after all by John with frequent asides to us, this takes up the tale on the 5th of April, 1994, the day Kurt Cobain died. While only Raleigh, the new drummer, feels bereft by this news as the band ends its …

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Eurovision 2014: “I felt like tonight Europe showed that we are a community of respect and tolerance…”

Well, perhaps…  A bearded Austrian man in a dress, Conchita Wurst, won the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 in Copenhagen on Saturday night with “Rise Like a Phoenix” – the title quote was his line from the winner’s press conference.  The 25-year-old singer also told reporters in Vienna On the theme of tolerance, Wurst told reporters in the Austrian capital: “This will remain an issue for a long time and I fear I won’t see the end of it in my lifetime. It …

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Lou Reed 1942-2013

Just a quick post to mark the death of founding member of The Velvet Underground, inspiration for 10,000 bands – see Brian Eno quote – singer, songwriter and general rock legend, Lou Reed, who has died of an unspecified “liver-related ailment”.  He had a liver transplant in May this year after suffering liver failure. At the Guardian’s Music Blog Michael Hann does a great job of listing “Five rock themes we owe to his work“.  And, separately, Sean O’Hagan collates “Six …

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Gotye: Autonomous artist meets autonomous audience…

What a great way to demonstrate what’s happening in this new digital world. It’s a Wired talk by Gotye (he’s Belgian Australian, so its not pronounced the way you’d think). It’s peppered with great music inspired by his own internet hit Somebody That I Used to Know: What got to him first of all was the way it inspired so many (over 350) covers and parodies: And this guy was an internet star in his own right, before doing his …

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