There’s a long and very fine tradition of animation matched to music and some of the best came out of that glorious period in the 1940s and 50s; its not really a coincidence that one artform which requires close attention to timing and rhythm would work so well with another. And back in the day when studios could afford the much more lush, detailed animation (unlike later eras where budget constraints mean much less flowing animation) and the studio would just happen to have an orchestra on staff too they made some of the finest, with one of Hollywood’s greatest ever stars (and a personal role model for me growing up), Mr Bugs Bunny being in not one but two of the best ever made, The Rabbit of Seville and What’s Opera, Doc?, probably both of which would be my earliest introduction to the world of classica music, not too mention a lifelong appreciation for the skill and imagination of animators.
I see that this fab remix of the late and much missed Carl Sagan’s word from Cosmos that has proved popular on YouTube is getting a release as a traditional 7 inch vinyl. Funnily enough a friend sent me some music tracks he came across recently, from Cosmos, which we both remembered watching; it was instant nostalgia for me. As a boy I adored the series; I was already fascinated by astronomy and the exploration of space and this fueled it, as well as introducing me for the first time to Sagan. Years later I’d admire him for speaking out for the importance of scientific research for the sake of research and not simply for commerce, for the value of knowledge over susperstition and the need to take care of our own remarkable world, so different from the other planets we were exploring – he even publicly berated Margaret Thatcher once when she was Prime Minister, scolding her for her lack of support for pure research and environmental awareness, telling her it was shocking that someone who actually had proper scientific training could be so foolish.
Apparently the B side of the single looks like the cover of the famous gold record disc which was placed in the Voyager spacecraft, so that long after they had completed their mission of exploration (which they did so magnificently) and headed out of our solar system and into the deep, cold depths of interstellar space, should they by some remote chance be found by another civilisation they could play them and hear sounds from Planet Earth – greetings in many languages, poetry and snatches of music, which Sagan helped oversee. Carl’s been gone a while now, sadly, but that gold disc is now travelling still, further than any man made object in the entire history of the world has ever travelled, waiting for the day when someone – something,perhaps – finds it and plays it. (via Third Man Records)
And while we’re at it, here’s a short video, the Pale Blue Dot, by Carl. As the aging Voyager reached towards the edge of our solar system he argued for NASA to turn it to face back towards us – no easy task when the vast distance meant even radio signal commands travelling at the speed of light would take some time to reach the craft, then longer for returns, assuming it even worked. But he argued and they did it and the result was ‘the family portrait’, a view of the worlds of our solar system as no-one else in the history of our species had ever seen it, a shot taken from the edge of what we know from a little machine about to cross that boundary, a parting gift from one of the great missions of exploration. And in that picture a tiny dot, a blue dot taking up even less than one pixel. That dot being the Earth. Everything we’ve ever known, every person who has ever loved and lived, every cat, every dog, every Triceratops, every dolphin, every fern, every bush, every fish, every work of art, all contained inside that tiny, tiny dot… Sagan had that wonderful gift of enthusiasm and the ability to communicate the sense of wonder to all, a great spokesman for science.
A couple of buskers on the Royal Mile doing the rock thing but with ukuleles instead of electric guitar, but doing the full guitar heroes movements; as I listened to them rocking out on their ukes I realised they were giving big licks to Queens of the Stone Age! First time I’ve heard QOTSA on ukuleles – I had to shoot a brief vid clip so I could share the sound as well as grabbing a photo:
And since its Bastille Day, another French-themed post, methinks, this is a pop video from Emily Loizeau who I’ve been getting into recently, most of her tracks are in French, with a handful in English, most enjoyable.
Rather like this video track of a French pop track by Emilie Simon, found by following a suggested link on YouTube while looking at some Dave McKean animations (on which note, we’ve got a major Dave McKean interview in the works for the Forbidden Planet blog in the near future to look forward to):
One of my favourite musicians, Scottish virtuoso and solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie, will be at the Edinburgh Filmhouse for a return visit to coincide with a screening of the documentary about her, Touch the Sound. For Evelyn the title is highly approriate – she started to lose her hearing when she was a young girl and yet still continued to learn music, attend music college after leaving school then blaze an internationally successful career as a solo percussionist, a role in music that’s all but unheard of. She feels the music, the vibrations of the instruments, the feel of the material and she creates an astonishingly diverse musical world from this very physical method of listening and playing (she’s very physical on stage, I’ve seen her live several times and she’s a dynamo) from classical to folk to jazz to improv music played right on the street.
I saw this documentary a few years back at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and it was an incredible experience, touching, moving, inspiring, as music (or any real art) should be. Afterwards, in front of a sold out audience Evelyn came on with the director for a Q&A session (always one of the pleasures of Film Fest screenings, that often some of those involved will be there for a talk before or after the movie). Then one of the simplest of instruments was produced, a snare drum. The lights went back down in the cinema except for an uplighter shining up through the clear skin of the snare to Evelyn standing over it and this amazing woman improvised an incredible musical set using just a pair of sticks and a snare drum. Watching and listening to her it strikes you that sometimes some people were just born to do something, regardless of obstacles placed in their way, such as deafness; her music is inside and no lack of hearing can touch that. The screening is on Tuesday at 6 with Evelyn on hand, if you haven’t seen it I encourage you to experience it.
Via Boing Boing a link to a great Billie Holiday rendition of the haunting Strange Fruit. First time I ever heard this song was back in the early 80s, being covered on a Souixsie and the Banshees album and back then I was too young to realise it has been around for decades. I’ve heard it by different artists numerous times (not uncommon in some films and documentaries dealing with the Deep South of the USA and racial prejudice) but I think this version by the great Ms Holiday is the best: