What a week. We’re back in lockdown and the familiar routines of working from home, sourdough-come-banana-bread baking and getting around to that neglected bit of DIY seem like second nature now.
Although we’re disappointed not to be on tour across Aotearoa right now, we’re taking stock and preparing to hit the road as soon as we can! But our rescheduling needs a soundtrack, right? Have a listen to what’s getting us through and lifting our moods at home.
Jacques Brel - “Les Bourgeois”
During lockdown, I have returned to listening to the many songs of Jacques Brel. His performances inspire me in so many ways! His songs communicate a meaningful message within the stories and his unapologetic expression and passion move me to the core every time.
Grazyna Bacewizc – Sonata for Violin (1958)
I’ve known of Polish female violinist, pianist and composer, Grazyna Bacewizc (1909-1969) for a while as I came across her Quartet for 4 Violins a while back, but recently I listened to one of her sonatas for violin and piano, which was colourful and exciting with a flavour all its own. She must have been quite a trailblazer, studying in Paris with famous composition teacher Nadia Boulanger and violinist Carl Flesch, then playing in the Polish Radio Orchestra and holding a professorship at the State Conservatoire of Music in Łódź. So I explored other pieces of hers and discovered this fantastic Sonata for Violin from 1958.
In the tradition of solo violin works it’s full of virtuoso technical demands but has a unique and intense voice, with heartfelt utterances, strong rhythms, and complex harmonies, portraying some serious emotions! Not for a light-hearted relaxing listen, but if you want some intensity, give it a go!
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Lana Del Rey – Lust for Life
I’m currently listening to the sounds of Lana Del Rey, whose spiritually uplifting, poetic ballad Get Free from the album Lust for Life has to be one of my all-time favs. It’s about hope, awakening and empowerment.
You’ll always find some epic David Bowie and Rolling Stones on my playlist. Classic tracks like Heroes, Starman, She’s a Rainbow, Ruby Tuesday. Recently I also stumbled across a great rendition of Crowded House’s Four Seasons in One Day, by Paul Kelly and Angus Stone – another lyrical ballad which totally captivated me.
If I want to feel uplifted, Bach’s my go-to guy. I’m doing some listening to Cantata 102, which has long been a favourite.
This music just takes me away - it doesn’t hide from the tough realities of life or the challenges of being human, but always offers a trust in the ultimate conquest of good over evil. It’s full of complexity but also emotionally direct. Some of the music is very bopping and rhythmic, and some passages just lift off from gravity and take you on and on until letting you down again. The third movement of this has the most amazing use of suspensions between the alto voice and the oboe, where the lines clash against each other until you almost can’t take it - the pain, the pleasure…. Then in the fourth movement the bass aria makes you want to dance along.
Additionally, if I think about the circumstances in which he was writing this immortal music, trying to run a choir school at the same time (boys running around loudly yelling on the other side of the wall from his study, for instance, or being in charge of the disciplining), a house full of children to support and parent, lining his own music paper, copying out all the parts, then rehearsing the group, performing it on Sunday morning, and doing it all again the following week, it’s an additional reminder to not complain!
Here’s one of my favourite interpretations from John Eliot Gardiner (on disc two).
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FKJ - Just Piano
Slick, sophisticated, laid-back, sultry. This album from FKJ (French Kiwi Juice) is the perfect soundtrack to melt away your lockdown blues.
Sufjan Stevens Invites You To: Come On Feel the ILLINOISE
I couldn’t resist including a couple of albums! Time and time again I come back to the music of Sufjan Stevens, who some how manages to seamlessly combine all kinds of genres – folk, minimalism, classical, jazz and indie pop – into a biographical musical journey.
His album Illinoise is raucous, joyful, dark and sentimental – a potent mix of feelings right now!
Maurice Ravel – Miroirs for piano (III. Une Barque sur L'Ocean)
In contrast, whenever I need a lift in mood I always turn to the beautiful music of Ravel, just the other day his colourful piece Miroirs for piano (particularly the third movement Une Barque sur L'Ocean) was a perfect escape from the lockdown slump.