The Ghoulish Week that Was in Edinburgh

Last week was an exhilarating and alarming week in Edinburgh.  Most of the politicos and journos were over in Glasgow for the Scottish Labour Party conference for the second half of it.  This exodus of supposed leftists and vigilant political commentators seems to have left the place unguarded for a number of deleterious developments in Auld Reekie’s cultural life.

No less than three Edinburgh institutions now look set to fall by the wayside in the wake of the bankruptcy of the charity Edinburgh University Settlement.  The charity’s demise has resulted in the forced sale of the premises of The Forest Cafe (pictured), The Roxy Art House and the GRV.  These are surely three venues that will be sorely missed.

The Forest, on Bristo Place, looks set to run for a few more weeks due to a mandatory notice period in their lease, so now’s the time to drop in.  Over the years Forest has provided a multi-function space which houses a café, whole-foods restaurant, venue and the TotalKunst gallery.  I must admit I was never a regular, but it did warm the heart that they were there in the background, staffed only with volunteers, providing free shows, art, and cheap, healthy food.  If you feel strongly about this you should get on to their website, where they’ve launched an earnest campaign to raise a daunting £500K.  If you’re not sure, drop in and have a look at what they do.  This may be your last chance.

The GRV on Guthrie Street was a good old fashioned ‘dive’ in the trendiest sense of the word, and was by no means as idealistic or as well organised as Forest.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this place ended up being opened again along similar lines under different ownership, as I really can’t see many options for the site.  The Roxy, on the other hand, was a fantastic organisation which put on great events in the spirit of supporting new arts and providing cheap nights out.  Sadly, the Roxy’s doors were closed abruptly and permanently last week and there’s no chance of a last hurrah.

On the plus side, I had the pleasure on Halloween night of attending the Wee Folk club, downstairs in the Royal Oak, where Duncan Drever played a wonderful hour and a half of quality music for an audience which seemed to consist of female German students, two old men, and me.  Duncan’s brother is the well-known Scottish folk musician Kris Drever, but Kris shouldn’t rest on his laurels: Duncan is a great up-and-coming act and you can hear a couple of his songs here.

Donate to help the Forest survive here.

Disturbing Musical Tastes

Music — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — comelybankingcrisis @ 9:39 am

Recently, the Comely Banking Crisis featured a post which, despite amounting to a selfless endeavour to share some quite extraordinary musical experiences, quite frankly fell flat.  The problem?  The music was far too obscure.  And weird.  And the taste, slightly disturbing.

And I’m afraid this issue runs beyond the blog and into one’s personal Facebook activity also.  Recently I tearfully shared knowledge of the death of the great Ronnie James Dio, a man who performed with both Rainbow and Black Sabbath – a truely lovely man with the voice of an angel (a heavy metal angel, obviously) – and got not so much as a ‘like’, lol, OMFG, or any such acknowledgement of shared grief.  The man is credited with popularizing the ‘devil horns’ sign!  The problem?  Dispite Dio’s dinosaur stature in a particular sub-genre, too obscure again!

So if you’re unfortunate enough not to know his work, give him a try.  He’s dead now so we should all do the decent thing and try to make him more famous than he was while alive.  I’m sure the current atmosphere of fondness for classic rock and metal stemming from underlying mockery à la Spinal Tap will help nay-sayers appreciate this 1977 clip of Dio with Rainbow performing Kill the King in Munich.  This is the stuff metal legends are made of:

On another dodgy musical front, this is Eurovision weekend!  Where will you be?  I know where I’ll be: at home, with friends, taking in the ENTIRE broadcast and attending my own glitzy after party.  Love the Euro!  Love the Eurovision!  Because that is what’s wrong with Europe and the Euro at the moment: not enough Euro-love!

Disturbing musical tastes indeed.

Give us a change Nick!

Wow!  So the Guardian is in total, enthusiastic editorial support of the Liberal Democrats and on Friday told us that they would vote that way if only newspapers had a vote.  A little conceited, if you ask me, as surely newspapers account for thousands of votes, but I know what they mean.  Just a bit of artistic license to tell us how they’re officially set for next Thursday’s general election.  Well, the Comely Banking Crisis has received voting papers, and along these lines, I thought I’d write a brief, open letter to the Lib Dem’s great and mighty leader, the one and only Nick Clegg:

Dear Nick Clegg,

This week is election week.  I’m sure you’re very busy running around the country scraping up those last few votes you can beg, borrow or steal – and let’s face it, out of our first three UK ‘presidential’ candidates ever, you’re the one who needs to do the most work.

However, I hope that in the midst of the final tumultuous week on the campaign trail, somewhere between rallying exhausted supporters and eventually having your photo taken at the polling booth on the big day, you might find a minute or two to contemplate the following (Bad Religion songs are, in fact, very short and so eminently suitable for the listening to during a quick breather on the campaign bus):

Yours, etc,

The Comely Banking Crisis

Supergrass officially split but is it really the end?

The Bad News

Oh dear, well first of all it’s absolutely official: we got the sad news on Monday that Oxford rockers Supergrass have finally decided to call it a day after 17 years and six studio albums.  And we have two official reasons to contend with: a “17-year itch” and – hey presto! -“musical differences”.   But I’m told by an insider that it’s “all good”: the breakup was amicable and the members of the band will no doubt continue with their musical careers in different directions. 

The Memories

You’ll have difficulty finding anyone of a certain age who doesn’t have some fond memory of the band and their cheeky, kick-arse sound.  I for one associate their earlier Caught by the Fuzz/Alright stuff from the I Should Coco album with teenage angst (that’s not their fault!) and developments in songs like Richard III, Late in  the Day, and Moving, like many others, with my university years.  I had the pleasure of seeing them play three times, the last of which was in the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh (oh, double grief!) in March 2008.  It’s a testament to the band’s enduring quality and appeal that this gig rocked and so did Diamond Hoo Ha, their final allbum which they were plugging at the time.  

And let’s not forget about their interesting foray into the world of the folksy, bluesy, string and melodic whatever-you-call-it music in Road to Rouen.  While many saw this as an unexpectedly somber album which reflected a difficult period in the band’s career and personal lives, you can’t help respecting their ability to change and experiment, nor can you deny that their cheeky, edgy sound breaks through on this record and complements its contemplative edge.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Is this really the end?  First things first, let’s focus on the immediate future, which promises a brief farewell tour, with the band playing gigs in Glasgow, London, Manchester and finally Paris on the 11th June.  I’ll tell you now: I’m in the market for a Glasgow ticket, but what a fantastic reason to go to Paris! 

And further ahead? Well, for two reasons I’m very optimistic that we’ll see some of the old magic before too long.  Firstly, judging by what the band have been doing image-wise (i.e. fecking around with alternative identities like Diamond Hoo Ha Men and The Hot Rats), it’s clear that some of the boys’ creative juices are flowing strongly and they’re evidently poised to develop new ideas, and indeed have already been toying with them.  Secondly, I look to the Coombes brothers, three of whom were on the line-up on the last tour.  You might call it quits on the band, but family is family!  Have a listen to Charlie Coombes and the New Breed for a taste of this.

My bets?  I’d look out for more from the likes of the Hot Rats, but I suspect there’ll be considerably more still.

Some Variations on a Musical Theme

Ever since I first watched it as a teenager, I’ve been a huge fan of Tous les Matins du Monde.  The 1991 film is a dramatisation of the relationship between the French baroque composer Marin Marias (played by the late Guillaume Depardieu and in some scenes by his father Gerard) and his teacher the mysterious Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe (Jean-Pierre Marielle).   

The plot of the film is framed with a lot of sadness.  Sainte Colombe, the master, is sad due to the loss of his wife; Marais is sad because his voice is breaking and he can no longer sing in a boys’ choir.  Marais pesters Sainte-Colombe for viol lessons and the latter capitulates only because he is touched by Marais’s sadness.  But Marais is a brat and disrespects Sainte-Columbe’s philosophy (and daughters) and makes him angry and sad.  But ultimately Marais is sad as a result of his shallowness and misdeeds.  And that’s pretty much it!!   

I would forgive anyone who has seen this film and thought it morose, depressing, and short on dialioge.  Indeed it is all of the above!  But I like to get past that and enjoy the music, and I find that taking some time to consider and appreciate the soundtrack brings one back into the film’s compelling story, whose central character is surely the music itself.   

Or perhaps the music forms two characters: one paralleling the sad, regretful and puritalical Sainte-Colombe (this character dominates), and the other the amitious future court composer Marais.  Very little is known of the real Sainte-Colombe and this adds intrigue to the experience of seeing him re-enacted as the reluctant teacher and widower.   

One of the most popular scenes from the film, however, includes music composed by neither Marais nor Sainte-Colombe.  The young upstart Marais visits Sainte-Colombe to audition to be his student and is asked to improvise on Folies d’Espagne (The Follies of Spain), and the hauntingly beautiful result is as follows.   

Here Depardieu is miming over the great contemporary Catalan viol player Jordi Savall, whose adaptation and performance of much of the music for the film are highlights.  I’ve always enjoyed this scene and the piece is variously called La Folia/Follia, Les Folies, or Folies d’Espagne.   

One of the oldest known European musical themes, Follies‘ composer is not known and it is thought to originate from Iberia in the late 15th century.  More than 150 composers have incorporated it into their music in some way or other, but many baroque composers have focused on composing variations of the theme itself rather than simply incorporating it into something else.   

Sound good?  Here’s a version of the theme arranged by Marin Marais’s other teacher (not dealt with in the film), the also-great, Florenese baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully.   

This version is fairly conservative, but it’s relative simplicity leaves the theme free to be enjoyed on its own terms.  For something quite different, have a listen to Antonio Vivaldi‘s later, punchier, and considerably more expressive variation.   

There are plenty of other versions available to listen to on youtube, but I shouldn’t push it.  If you’ve been so kind as to listen to the three posted here, I suspected you’ve had enough of it by now!   

Tous les Matins du Monde won seven César awards in 1992 including Best Music Written for a Film for Jordi Savall’s arrangements and was nominated for a Golden Globe the folllowing year.  Tragically, Guillaume Depardieu died of pneumonia in October 2008 aged 37.

Bowie and the Wolf

Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — comelybankingcrisis @ 11:11 am

This Easter, why not let Bowie narrate Prokofiev?

If you’ve ever thought that your Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without listening to the glorious Bowie/Crosby version of Little Drummer Boy (you saddo!) then maybe you’d like to join me in applying a lesser-known Bowie classic to the coming weekend.

Maybe you’ll find yourself wanting for something to do over Easter or are feeling like me you could just do with putting some child-like magic back into an old holiday.  Well, look no further than this wonderful experience.  In this 1978 recording, Bowie narrates Sergei Prokofiev’s classic Peter and the Wolf.  If you can get past the surreality, I think he does a fantastic job.

I swear, it is glorious!

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