Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Two Great Musical Collaborations. . .

I spent most of the weekend knitting, alternating between two projects that I was pretty excited about.  And then on Sunday night, unhappy with the look of , and frustrated with the number of mistakes I'd made with the other, I "frogged" them both.  When I first heard this term, I thought it was the knitting community being polite instead of using another "f" expletive, as in "I really F*&;%#*ed this up!" but no, it refers to tearing apart your work, i.e. "rip it, rip it".  Sigh.   If nothing else, knitting is teaching me lots of patience.

The other thing it allows me to do is take the time to really listen closely to CDs. While I  love my iPod, I have rarely bought music from iTunes, always preferring to browse among the ever-shrinking aisles of actual CDs and loading them on afterwards. I like to look at the album artwork, stumble unexpectedly over something that looks interesting, and when I do buy a CD, I like reading the physical booklet with the lyrics and liner notes. I rarely know what I'll end up taking home and that's half the fun.  And that's how I recently acquired these two really enjoyable collaborations.

I have a previous Stacey Kent CD titled Raconte-Moi which I discovered in a listening booth in a classical music shop in Oakville,  and I really liked how clear she sang in French. So I already was a fan of her voice and light jazz style. Breakfast on the Morning Tram quite frankly enticed me with the song titles; it seemed to be a romantic album all about travelling.  So imagine my immense delight on opening the accompanying booklet to discover that the lyricist on four of the songs is none other than Kazuo Ishiguro!  Now I shouldn't be too surprised that he has a musical yen - his last collection of short stories, Nocturnes, were all centered around a musical theme.  And in his lyrics, he continues to tell stories. "The Ice Hotel" is about a couple who reject the tropics for their holiday in favour of an ice hotel because they really need to talk about their relationship.  "I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again" is about a woman yearning for the joys of travel but knowing that if she does, it will only lead to painful memories.  "Breakfast on the Morning Tram" is an almost surreal song about a city tram that serves a full buffet breakfast and cures a broken heart as well.  And  in "So Romantic", a woman regretfully remembers how she and her previous lover would disagree on what was really romantic. The music, by Jim Tomlinson, is reminiscent of those great songs from the 1920s or 30s. Ironically, he did not write the lyrics to the song "Never Let Me Go", which I like to think has been included because Stacey Kent has a wicked sense of humour.   It's a really lovely album - wistful, playful, joyful - and I hope Ishiguro continues with this second career.

And then there is Hush, a terrific pairing of Bobby McFerrin with Yo-Yo Ma as the two cover a lot of different musical styles from classical to lullaby to even a hoedown.  Their rendition of "Ave Maria" is incredible - hearing McFerrin's soaring voice is really akin to listening to something very special and almost sacred.

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