Monday, November 07, 2011

Music while you work

Here on the north coast of Scotland the sun has been shining from a cloudless sky for the last couple of days and we’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. At this time of year in this area, as the days get shorter and shorter, you take advantage of the sunshine while it lasts.  However you can’t see the sun from our somewhat gloomy, north-east facing kitchen, so while making lunch today, I decided to listen to some music to brighten things up.

Because of our peripatetic lifestyle, I’ve got into the habit of bringing with me to each location a random selection of CDs from our base in Wales.  This time my choice ranges from Mozart concertos to the Beatles, from Fauré’s Requiem to the soundtrack from the musical Chicago, from the Tallis Scholars singing Allegri’s Miserere to Tom Lehrer singing his wickedly satirical songs to an appreciative audience back in the 1960s. I chose the last-mentioned to accompany my vegetable-chopping and put the salad together in record time. J

Thinking about my eclectic (to put it mildly) musical tastes, I wondered whether they are a sign of broad-mindedness or simply woolly-mindedness, because I lack the application to refine and train them. Am I the only one with a truly ragbag collection of music or are there other musical magpies out there, and if so, what catches your fancy?

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  1. Hello Perpetua:
    We love your eclectic mix of tunes and feel sure that,having such a wide choice, there must be something suitable for every occasion. We rather like the idea of a pot-pourri of music, a lucky dip to go into and retrieve a long forgotten gem, perhaps. And, if your CDs are anything like ours, just one bar of the music and one is transported to times and places in cherished memories!Perfect.

  2. Hello Jane and Lance and thanks. Now why didn't I think of an evocative word like pot-pourri rather than the distinctly mundane ragbag? I know just what you man about the ability of music to transport us far away and long ago. I just need to hear the opening bars of the Beatles album Rubber Soul and I'm back in Oxford in 1966!

  3. Isn't it amazing how certain songs can take you right back to a certain time of your life? I happen to think that your eclectic tastes show your broad-mindedness. I have loved musical theatre music since childhood when I would listen to and sing and dance whole scores while doing the dishes. It took hours, but I had a good time. I also love classical music -- and sometimes that takes me back in time to ballet classes. The Beatles also take me back to college days at Northwestern, a special time of life. While folk songs, old rock and Doo Wap take me back to my 50s and 60s youth as well, these forms of music have a present day meaning, too, as Bob loves to play the guitar and sing these types of music and I love to listen!

  4. Oh, yes, we have all sorts here. I'm not a fan of The Beatles or musicals, but favourites include contemporary Scottish folk musicians like Julie Fowlis, Dougie Maclean and Old Blind Dogs; Nordic classical composers such as Grieg and Sibelius (both speak to the Scottish soul!); hormonal moon-gazing stuff like Kate Bush and Loreena McKennit; Jordi Savall's 'Diaspora Sephardi', a fabulous collection of Sephardic Jewish renaissance and baroque music from Spain (on the Harmonia Mundi label); Gilbert & Sullivan for karaoke in the car and, and, ooh, too much to bore you with. Something for every mood, though, up to and including Meatloaf's 'Bat out of hell'!

    My father-in-law adored Tom Lehrer and delighted in giving us renditions of his work from the piano after a good dinner. 'Poisoning Pigeons in the Park' was a particular favourite.

  5. Being a person of eclectic taste, your choice sounded good to me. As long as Mozart is in there somewhere, everything else can follow - though I DO NOT like Mahler and listening to Delius makes me feel nauseous. Music has always played a special part in my life and as you say, just a couple of notes and you can enter another world. Right now, I am hooked on Jamie Cullem - boy jazz genius - and Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs. But love Tom Lehrer too.
    So glad you've had some good weather at last too.

  6. Oh, so true, Kathy! I grew up with the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and Oklahoma was the first film I ever went to on my own at the age of 14. I properly discovered classical music later at college and hugely enjoyed singing in the college choir and others - Haydn masses, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and marvellous early polyphonic music like Byrd and Tallis.

    As for folk/protest music of the 60s - Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton were at the top of the list for me and the latter still is :-)

  7. DB, your musical tastes tell me that you belong to a younger generation, much closer to DS's than mine :-) I remember how often we heard Kate Bush being played when he was a teenager and a student. I also grew up with Gilbert and Sullivan, as my grammar school put on several of their works during my time there, though I ended up in the orchestra rather than singing the delicious words.

    I must admit to not knowing the Scottish folk musicians you mention, not the Sephardic Jewish music you mention, so thanks for the mention of the label to look out for.

    As for Tom Lehrer, our two grew up with his songs and I have wonderful memories of DD singing Rickety-Tickety-Tin with gruesome relish at the age of 8 and knowing all the verses!

  8. Can't resist adding a couple of 'tingle factor' pieces: 'Zadok the Priest' (well, and most Handel really, especially singing 'Messiah', which I am rehearsing again at the moment) and that wonderful recording of Hildegard of Bingen's music, 'A Feather on the Breath of God', sung by Emma Kirkby. And I'm with you on 16th C polyphony. Bliss.

  9. I totally agree about Mozart, Annie. No collection is complete without a good cross-section of his work. I can't get into Mahler either, though I can take Delius or leave him alone. Beethoven and Brahms and Bruckner have to be there too, though not all at the same time. I'm also partial to a bit of opera and have a much-played CD of Beniamino Gigli arias which goes everywhere with me.

    I've heard a lot about Jamie Cullem, but only actually heard him once, so that is someone to explore. Thanks.

  10. Hello again, DB. My ultimate 'tingle factor' piece is Allegri's Miserere, closely followed by the slow movement of Mozart's clarinet concerto, but there are a lot of other works which have the same effect on me according to my mood.

    At school I was never allowed to sing Messiah, but had to play in the orchestra (they were short of violinists, even as mediocre as I was) but I've made up for it since :-)

    I must look out for the Emma Kirkby recording you mention. I had a cassette of the Hildegarde, but it went missing and I've somehow never got around to replacing it.

    Lastly, do you know Rachmaninov's Vespers? Absolutely marvellous!

  11. Hi Perpetua
    My taste in music is at least as broad, woolly, eclectic or just plain weird as yours appears to be.
    I was so glad to hear you mention Tom Lehrer. I loved his records and had a huge collection in the late 60's.
    My all-time favourite was, "We'll all go together when we go".
    I haven't heard his name mentioned for at least 30 years.
    Many thanks.

  12. Hi, Ray, and thanks. It's reassuring to know I'm not alone in having a weird and wonderful breadth of musical taste.

    Tom Lehrer has been a great favourite with our whole family since DH and I married in 1968. It was then that I got to know the Lehrer songs he had (probably illegally) recorded during his student days from his friend's records onto an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Sadly those old tapes deteriorated over the years until they were unplayable, so it was great to find that the albums had been reissued on CD and we were able to listen to them again. They are all still available on Amazon if you're interested....:-)

  13. Good news about Lehrer being available again....
    Here too it's a ragbag...pot pourri sounds a bit too engaged for the contents of our music box.
    I,like lots of lawyers of my generation, love G and S, and Flanders and Swann can still make me laugh like a drain.
    I don't find music transports me back, though, whether it's Beethoven or Handel, or the Rolling Stones or Queen, or troubador music or Chilean poetry sung by a super soprano...all of which I heard at interesting points in my life.
    But little does transport me back, to be fair.

  14. I love your selection of music as it's quite similar to my own! Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert are my favorites and the operas of Verdi, Donizetti and Bernini (love that smaltzy romantic stuff!). Tom Lehrer is a great favorite -- The Wienersnitzel Waltz, I Hold Your Hand in Mine -- not to mention Poisoning Pigeons in the Park and Be Prepared!!I also love The Beatles and Rolling Stones and lots of folk music and I adore Leonard Cohen! A lot of today's music leaves me cold, but I do like some of Lady Gaga, Queen, and a few others...

  15. I thought so too, Fly. I nearly tore the postman's hand off when my order from Amazon arrived!

    It's a while since I heard much Flanders and Swann (they too were on the old reel-to-reel tapes and haven't been replaced) but a particular favourite was The Gasman Cometh.

    You sound like DH in not being transported back by music. He enjoys it, but in the present, whereas I can be soggily nostalgic at times....

  16. Hi, Broad. Your list of favourites chimes with me and it's good to have another member of the Bloggers' Tom Lehrer Appreciation Society. :-) Such intelligent, well-written, funny songs.

    I'm with you too in not being able to connect with most modern music, though with a 12year-old grandson who has just discovered Queen, I'm becoming reacquainted with the best of their output and firmly expect to be introduced to other artists as time goes on.....

  17. I just love the question, as I have been longing to talk about eclectic music tastes. I fine that my music taste is as broad as the music I have heard.
    Married to a singer (Classical tradition) I love all choral music, mother to 3 pop loving young adults I love Antony and the Johnsons and Elbow, Child of the 5Os I love South Pacific, Christian I love Hymns and Psalms(Ian White), and just me I like Wagner and Cesare Evora,AND ALL BACH-jazz to Gould .Love the question-long to be on Desert Island Discs or Private Passions.

  18. I am rag bag musically too. I play the banjo - terribly. I like jazz, folk, singer song writers, Eighties pop, soul , English Chamber music. Currently listening to King Arthur by Purcel - magic.

    Llyn Clewedog - I kayaked the river there once, when the dam released - fantastic trip into LLanidloes

  19. Yes, it's fun to think about, isn't it, Margaret? I'm with you on the choral music, though, as our children are much older, modern pop is an almost closed book to me. DH is very fond of South Pacific.

    I'm afraid I've never got into Wagner and my knowledge of Bach is patchy, but I love early jazz and enjoy the fact that the musical grandsons are given jazz to play by their instrumental teachers.

  20. Hi, Mark - yep, that's a real musical ragbag you have there :-) I tried to learn the acoustic guitar a long time ago, inspired by the singer-songwriters of the 60s folk tradition, but failed miserably.

    Soul - I didn't mention soul and should have as that's another area of music I enjoy.

    Your kayak trip down the River Clywedog sounds more like riding the rapids in the circumstances. It's quite a drop in a short way from the lake to the Severn in Llanidloes.

  21. I shall request all your CDs be put on an MP3 player and have it as my desert island luxury.

    I'd never be bored.


  22. I'm with the potpourri crowd. There are so many wonderful styles, genres, songs.... why limit yourself to one kind or another?

    Rachmaninov's Vespers is divine. I could listen to the nunc dimittis every day. Sacred choral music often sends chills up my spine, but I also love traditional Irish music and its relatives, dance music of all kinds from Motown to the B-52's, (it makes me want to both sing and dance!), the stuff of my teenage years (60's and 70's), and some jazz like Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck. Oh, so much music and so little time....

  23. Hello, SP, and welcome. You're right. Given a collection of music like mine you might be confused on your desert island, but never bored. With an MP3 player you could probably have all our choices and never run out.

  24. Welcome to the club, Penny. As a child I always preferred an assortment of sweets rather than a whole lot the same and it's just the same with music. It certainly looks like I'm not alone in that.

    So glad to find another lover of the Rachmaninov Vespers. Pure tingle-factor. As you say, more music than we could listen to in a lifetime.

  25. On top of the eclectic mixture of old and new treasures in my mind and in my iTunes, including more and more continually discovered classical, recollecting of classic rock from younger days, and now new ( to me) select pieces from the influence of my adult children's listening tastes, I will now save this page to explore the many fascinating suggestions.
    Late at night there is a whole world of musical tasting via YouTube or website sampling...

  26. Hello poetreehugger and welcome. Glad the suggestions so kindly offered by everyone have wetted your musical appetite. There is so much wonderful music out there and we all need help to explore it. Your point about online opportunities to discover and sample is a good example, thanks.

  27. Love most of your 'rag-bag':-) Quite a bit of it features in mine although I have to confess I don't know Tom Lehrer [I wan't born and raised in the UK]. However I'd have to add early music, especially Gregorian plainsong:- love the CD I have of the monks at Le Bec Hellouin; U2 as well as Nick Drake, Coldplay, Seth Lakeman, Bowie, Snow Patrol and the Levellers. Love classical as long as it's pre-1800. Not to keen on the 19th cent stuff and the only thing to send me running out of the room is opera. Never could get the hang of it. Antoinette

  28. Hello Antoinette. Glad you enjoyed my ragbag.

    I didn't know Tom Lehrer as I was growing up either, as he's American, a (now long-retired) professor of maths who wrote very witty, satirical songs as a sideline in the 1950s and 60s. I discovered him at college in the mid-60s.

    Glad to meet another lover of Gregorian chant. I've listened to and sung it for years and have several CDs. Do you know the Hildegard of Bingen work mentioned in an earlier comment? A must for any lover of early music.

  29. Love Hidegard von Bingen. Have a collection of early stuff--mostly compilations [I am a medievalist, so cna't really not ;-)].Can't sing a note myself.
    Must find out about Tom Lehrer not something my parents listened to while I grew up in the 60's/70's.

  30. Oops! Fancy telling a medievalist about Hildegarde of Bingen. Talk about teaching your grandmother to suck eggs.... :-) I'd be interested to hear any other suggestions you might have about early music, Antoinette.

  31. Dear Perpetua, I am so glad you commented on my posting yesterday! That led me to your blog and I know, just from reading your one on moving to the Scotland dwelling, that I'm going to enjoy you immensely.

    What a wonderful new gift in my life.

    Thank you for encouraging me to meander. I am intuitive and feel most comfortable doing that.

    It was a delight today to read the comments on your posing about music and then to read your responses. A true exchange.

    Like you, I grew up on Rogers and Hammerstein, but my mom sang a lot of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, and Ira Gershwin.

    After the convent I started listening and enjoying Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkle, and later John Denver and Mary O'Hara whose voice thrilled me.

    As to classical, I find that Bach speaks to me especially as I have a math background. Also Gregorian echoes in all my convent memories.

    Peace to you. I'm so glad you commented. Thank you.

  32. Hello, Dee, and welcome. Blogging is so enjoyable and satisfying in the way it enables one to meet a network of people all over the world.

    I don't remember hearing much Gershwin or Cole Porter until I was an adult, but my father was a great Al Jolson fan and when we were tiny he used to sing us to sleep with songs such as April Showers and When The Red, Red Robin...

    Joan Baez was an indelible part of my student days in the mid-1960s and very much my favourite from the ones you mention.

    As I said earlier, I'm afraid my knowledge of Bach's instrumental works is sketchier than I might like, though that may well change with all three grandsons now learning the piano and other instruments. Because of my love of choral music I'm much more familiar with the great choral works, especially the Mass in B minor.

  33. The Husband and I were cooking together yesterday evening, when he started to sing We'll All Go Together When we Go (was something close to burning? I forget now...) so I joined in. He made moves to start on Christmastime Is Here, By Golly, but I said it was too soon, only November, so he rattled off The Element Song instead.

    When we met, thirteen years ago, we duetted Poisoning Pigeons, there at the pub bar, when it transpired we both knew and loved Tom Lehrer. The reason I knew Lehere's songs was because I'd spent my part of my teenage summers holidaying with you and had heard them on those reel-to-reel tapes you describe above. I have never owned a copy of my own, so it goes to show that words and music learnt at an impressionable age stay with you for ever

    We'd listen to them while you and your DH taught me and another sister the rudiments of bridge. I have never played since, apart from a few games at university, but remembered enough to start practising with a computer programme and I now play on-line with others from all over the world. It's my new hobby that has taken over from writing my blog, hence my protracted silence on here.

    If I had some Leher on in the background I'd whoosh back forty years in a flash, I am sure.

  34. Hi, Baby Sis. Glad to know that the early brainwashing with the songs of Tom Lehrer was so effective :-) I'd forgotten they were a means of bringing you and The Husband together. Good work, Professor! I'm sure there must be some of them on YouTube, if you need a refresher course. Otherwise I'll get out the CDs next time we meet.

    So it's online bridge that's coming between you and the blog, is it? That explains a lot..... :-)

  35. Hi Perpetua,

    I'm with you regarding having an eclectic choice of music as you may have observed from my CD collection :-) This includes 'At the drop of a hat' & 'At the drop of another hat' with Flanders & Swann which has also been re-released on CD in recent years.

    To follow up your last comment to Baby Sis, my favourite Tom Lehrer song 'Pollution' certainly is on YouTube as you suggest some of his songs might be.

  36. Hi Ricky. Yes, I appreciated your wide selection of CDs during my first visit to Prague last year. Something for every mood.

    I'm glad to know Tom Lehrer does feature on YouTube, as his songs deserve not to be forgotten.


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