Category Archives: Music

‘Solveig’s Song’ with Sissel

I am, if you’ll pardon me, a little moody this evening (alert the media!). So I’ll post another song.

I shared a piece from Grieg’s Peer Gynt not long ago. Here’s one more, but it features none other than the Divine Sissel (who is wearing the Bergen bunad — the city folk costume). In the play, Solveig is Peer’s faithful and neglected girlfriend, whom he treats badly, as is his wont. She sings of patiently waiting for him. This is one the standard classic songs in Norway. Amundsen and his men had it on a recording to listen to on their way to the South Pole, I believe.

‘Victor’s Song’

Yeah, I’m dry today. So I’m going to post another song from “Local Hero.” I’m gonna make you like this movie whether you want to or not.

“Victor” is a Russian trawler fisherman who drops in on the Scottish fishing village from time to time. He is an unabashed capitalist (this is before the Cold War ended). When he comes to a ceilidh, he always does this song, a favorite with his Scottish friends.

So we’ve got a Russian singing a country-western song to Scots. Fits right in with the whole film.

‘Mist Covered Mountains’

Today James Lileks, blogging from England, posted a musical piece from the 1983 movie “Local Hero.” Which happens to be one of my favorites.

So I’ll just post a “Local Hero” selection of my own. The movie, a light treatment of cultural miscommunication between an American oil man and the population of a Scottish fishing village, is full of magic. But the most magical part (for me) is the ceilidh, the musical party and dance held in the village hall. I could have posted the wonderful country-western song sung by a Russian fisherman, but the real peak of the night is this waltz, “Mist Covered Mountains.”

You may notice a brief appearance by Peter Capaldi, who would go on to become a Time Lord, but not before Time had had its way with him, good and hard.

‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’

They played a recording of this classic Grieg piece from “Peer Gynt” at the convention today. I thought I’d post it here, in the version I prefer, with the chorus included. The singers are frequently omitted from performances, and in my opinion, once you hear the singers, the impression lingers.

I’d always understood the singers to be singing, “Satan!” But it’s actually “Slagt ham!” which means, “Kill him.” The Underground Folk go on to explain that Peer has deceived the Mountain King’s daughter, and to list all the acts of violence they plan to inflict on him, in revenge.

‘The Happy Wanderer’

First of all, thanks for all the prayers and support I’ve received after my announcement of losing my job – both here and on Facebook.

Second, I’ve been rather preoccupied, so all I have to post tonight is another happy European song from the 1950s. This one stretches my parameters a little, since it’s not an instrumental. But it’s European and happy, and I’ve always liked it. Memorized it long ago (three verses of it), without much effort.

The song has an interesting story. The music was written by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller shortly after World War II. He had a sister, Edith, who was the conductor of a small children’s choir, the Obernkirchen Children’s Choir, in northern Germany. She adapted a poem by Florenz Friedrich Sigismund (1788-1857) to the music and taught it to the choir. In 1953, they performed it at an international music festival, and it was recorded by the BBC. It became an immediate sensation, and spent a very long time on the UK Singles Chart. Meanwhile it swept the world. The fact that many of the children in the choir were war orphans added a piquancy to the story and (no doubt) helped to build some bridges between old enemies.

The German version uses the chorus, “Falleri, fallera,” but several translations soften the phrase to “Valderi, valdera.”

If you like to hike, consider memorizing it. It’s a great song to sing while walking. I used to do it myself, when I was younger and lighter on my feet.

‘The Poor People of Paris’

Spent most of my day on the road today, having to attend a meeting in Fergus Falls, Minn. So I’ll just post another cheerful European pop song similar to the one I posted yesterday — so that the young folks may know the glories of the past.

This one came rather earlier than the other. This version by Les Baxter and his orchestra came out in 1956. The original song, called, “La Goualante du Pauvre Jean de Paris” (The Ballad of Poor Jean of Paris) was first recorded by Edith Piaf. In 1954 it was translated by Jack Lawrence, who misunderstood the name “Jean” as “gens,” which means “people.” Thus the English title became “The Poor People of Paris.” Doesn’t matter much, since all the popular versions in English-speaking countries have been instrumentals.

I like it. Always have.

Enjoy your weekend!

‘Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt”

Due to a lack of anything to write worth reading, I thought I’d look for music to post. My memories flowed back to 1965 (I would have sworn it was earlier) and a certain kind of music that used to exist back in those days. Cheerful instrumental pop, generally emerging from Europe. One of my favorites was “A Walk in the Black Forest,” done by Horst Jankowski.

Wikipedia doesn’t tell much about Jankowski’s life, aside from professional stuff. But he would have grown up during World War II. Perhaps he knew starvation in the aftermath. So he produced happy music. A good response, in my opinion.

Maybe we need to have some bad times in this country, to produce some happy art.

‘Samarkand’

What a useless post this is going to be.

I’m going to criticize a song you’ve almost certainly never heard. And when you watch the video, below, you won’t understand it, because it’s in Danish.

But I thought of it last night, during one of my ever-popular sieges of insomnia. I hadn’t heard it since I stopped playing my vinyl albums, back in the ‘90s. So I checked out the video. And the more I thought about it, the more it annoyed me. Because I think it’s a really pretty and sweet piece. But also wrongheaded and soul-killing.

The singer is Birgitta Grimstad, as well-known Danish folk singer. This number, adapted from a modern Swedish popular song, was a big hit for her in that country. What it describes, in brief, is how the singer wakes up on a beautiful morning to find herself alone in her bed. And she immediately understands that “it happened, what we talked about.” Her lover has moved on – he’s searching, metaphorically, for “Samarkand,” which apparently symbolizes some transcendent dream that won’t let him settle down.

Except that’s not exactly it. She says, “…and another will be what I can never be.” In other words, her lover is looking for a new – presumably better – lover. She is sad about it, and cries. But she’s very accepting and hopes he finds what he’s looking for “if you ever find your way to Samarkand.”

There it is, the ethic of the 1970s. “Love” means sex, and sex is temporary. Nobody is obligated to stay in a relationship if some better prospect shows up. I first heard this song on the “Prairie Home Companion” program, and I remember Garrison Keillor praising its “sweet reasonableness.” Well, from what we’ve now learned about Keillor, it’s no surprise he’d consider the song reasonable. The perfect lover is one who lets you go without complaining, when you get offered an upgrade.

So here I am again, railing against sins I never got the opportunity to commit. But I’ll say this – I suspect that a lot of the anger we see in radical feminism today springs from women who were expected to play this kind of submissive game back during the Sexual Revolution years.

The Good, the Bad, and the Danish

I don’t think I’ve shared this yet. Apparently the Danish National Symphony did a series of concerts earlier this year, performing the music of Ennio Morricone, who wrote all those great scores for Sergio Leone (and others).

This might seem like artistic slumming, but it isn’t. First of all, Ennio Morricone is in a class by himself. And it’s been suggested by people who know a lot more than I do that the only really good classical music being written today is being written for films.

Anyway, I think this is beyond great.

Trevin Wax Salutes Andrew Peterson

Trevin Wax offers this album-by-album guide to the work of Andrew Peterson.

Andrew’s work resonates with me for several reasons.

  • First, Andrew expresses a childlike wonder toward this world and our place in it, waking us up and seizing our imaginations until we see—truly see—the wonders of existence. I gravitate toward music and books that lead me in the way of wonder.

  • Second, Andrew’s albums are steeped in biblical allusions and Scriptural imagery—all of which grow more powerful the more you study Scripture and the more you put his songs on “repeat.” There’s a richness to his lyrics that rewards the contemplative listener.

  • Third, Andrew’s songs bear the mark of authenticity, giving voice to a faith that is firm in its grasp of the truth and yet honest in its experience of doubt or suffering. The result is a compelling portrait of Christianity in all of its messy glory.

I enjoy this music too and have long wished Peterson great success. His music is marvelous. I’ve tried to burrow this song in my head since buying the album a couple years ago.

‘Les Bicyclettes de Belsize’

When spring comes, I generally think of this song. It came out about the time I graduated from high school, and followed me into college, performed by various artists. But this is the original version, from the short film of the same name, “Les Bicyclettes de Belsize.”

The film (which I’ve never actually seen) is about a young man in London who falls in love, in rather improbable fashion, with a fashion model. Why is the title in French? I have no idea.

Can’t Make a Living Writing Songs

You can’t be a songwriter without having a spare job,” [Andre] Lindal, 41, tells [Pacific Standard magazine], sounding downhearted as he rummages around his Los Angeles home—a home that Lindal can only afford thanks to his other jobs on the marketing and management side of the music industry. “It’s awesome to be working with great people. But it stinks that you’re not going to be able to get paid for what you do. You can only be a fan for so long.”

Lindal had a #3 song performed by Justin Bieber in 2013 with 34 million plays on YouTube, four million more on Pandora. Those YouTube plays earned him $218 due to regulations established in 1941. Songwriters used be able to draw on sheet music, album, and download sales, but streaming services are outside of those schemes. (via Prufrock News)