Friday, March 12, 2010

No Trouble, No Trouble

Thanks to "Soul Music" on Radio 4, I am not going to moan about the BBC for a whole year. They can continue to spend my licence fee money on utter garbage like Graham Norton, Total Wipeout and four-hour amateur dance phone-in shows for every one of those twelve months and they won't hear a peep out of me.

"Soul Music" has a simple premise - that there are pieces of music that have had a huge impact on the lives of a sufficiently interesting range of people. It is currently into its 9th series, and it's amazing to me that they've taken this long to get round to "Dido's Lament" by Purcell.

It's a song of very few notes that has an effect similar to pepper spray on anyone with a soul. Or maybe just me. Anyway, there have been amazing recordings over the years, from Janet Baker to Hayley Westenra and I would have loved just to listen to all of the performances back-to-back. Instead, the programme looked a little deeper.

Firstly it tried to explain note by note just how Purcell managed to ratchet up the emotion. Pretty elementary stuff for any musician I'm sure, but quite a revelation for a civilian like me.

Then, as well as covering the more famous recordings, it spent some time looking at some of the more unorthodox attempts. Alison Moyet didn't quite do it justice in a smoky jazz style, but mostly they looked at Jeff Buckley's performance at the 1995 Meltdown Festival.

I love Jeff Buckley's work and this is one of the best songs of all time. You might expect the combination of the two could not possibly live up to my expectations.

Ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The cellist at the recording was interviewed and he described how Jeff Buckley arrived with the lyrics written out on paper, with the high notes written high up and the low notes low down. He obviously thought to himself "typical blooming rock star" ... right up to the moment when he started to sing.

Jeff Buckley's voice is a freakish four octave-wide gift from the gods. It's crammed full of raw emotion and undiluted musicality. He took that song from fifteen generations ago that has been performed by thousands of the best singers of all time and made you think about it in a new light. It certainly blew away the cellist who said that the performance made him realise he knew nothing about music. He knew the theory, he could play the notes, but he just wasn't anywhere near to Jeff Buckley in terms of feeling it.

I've said enough - Jeff Buckley's recording is on YouTube and the episode of "Soul Music" is still available on the BBC website for a few days only.


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