Older posts from Jim's Blog 2009 are stored here for reference. See the Current Blog for more recent posts and to keep in touch with what's new on the music scene and on mfiles. You can also follow us on Twitter at Jimatmfiles to get notified immediately.
To tie in with our review of the book Scott Joplin and the Age of Ragtime by Ray Argyle, here is the overture for Joplin's opera Treemonisha in its original unorchestrated version for solo piano. The pianist in this video is Marco Fumo, and the music does indeed show a merging of ragtime with classical traditions.
A piece of mfiles classical music now accompanies a Dancing Gingerbread Cookie on this YouTube video. The video has been created by Sugarveil to promote their flexible icing, and the music is appropriately the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, a Christmas Ballet. Merry Christmas to all our users!
Geoffrey Gurrumul is a blind Australian singer with a unique voice. Though shy when it comes to interviews, he has been on tour across Europe and has an album on release. He appeared on French television programme Taratata where he sang a duet of "Every Breath You Take" with Sting as well as one of his own songs. You can see the programme at www.MyTaratata.com and the singer's own website at www.gurrumul.com has details about his music and tour dates.
Mark Isham has been especially generous to fans this Christmas. Following on from his preview of "The Bad Lieutenant" he has released a suite from his much-requested score for "Invincible". Both suites can be downloaded from the Mark Isham page and they are both about 20Mb.
A little bit late in the month, but here is an attractive musical Advent Calendar by composer Peter Buffett.
Bruce Broughton has been on our "to do" list of composers for a long time, so when Sean Wilson offered Young Sherlock Holmes as his 2nd review for mfiles, this was a perfect opportunity to ask him to provide a biog page for Bruce Broughton at the same time.
Ian Wallace (1919-2009) was an Opera singer who transitioned into popular entertainment. He helped to popularise Classical Music, and (with Dennis Norden and Frank Muir) was one of the resident paritipants in BBC Radio's "My Music". However he is best known for singing the humorous songs of Flanders and Swann particularly "The Hippopotamus Song" which had the chorus "Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud". Here is a musical Tribute to Ian Wallace on YouTube.
It's good to welcome back Glenn Jarrett. In a series of Christmas Carol arrangements for Guitar, Glenn has this year created this superb arrangement of The Wexford Carol. The Carol dates from Ireland in the 12th Century.
To encourage commuters to take the stairs instead of the escalator, Volkswagen replaced the existing staircase with a musical keyboard which played the notes when someone stood on them. As a result the stairs became very popular and 66% more people took the stairs - see the video. Unfortunately the musical stairs were only in place for a short time this year, and have now been dismantled.
For the second time Marc Shaiman will be Musical Director at the Oscars Ceremony. A great tunesmith (e.g. the Broadway musical "Hairspray") with a knack for writing musical pastiche (e.g. "City Slickers" and "South Park"), the composer himself has received oscar nominations for his film music but has not yet won the award.
An interesting documentary about John Williams' film music has appeared on youtube. The audio is poor at the very start but improves after this, so stick with it. The programme was made during the making of "The Empire Strikes Back" and includes clips from several films with comments from Lucas and Spielberg. The documentary is in 6 parts - start here with part 1 of Star Wars Music by John Williams and follow the links to related videos to see the other parts.
This fun video shows that a cockatoo has a sense of rhythm, matching the beat when the tempo changes. Researchers who examined such videos on youtube speculate that the sense of rhythm is linked to parts of the brain used to process and imiate sounds - a talent which many birds have.
Werner Herzog's movie "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (starring Nicholas Cage, Val Kilmer and Eva Mendes) is due to be released on 20th November in US theatres. As a preview for the film score, composer Mark Isham has put together this 8-minute suite. It sounds really distinctive.
It's good also to introduce a new reviewer to mfiles - Sean Wilson - who has written a review of the relatively-unknown soundtrack Restoration by James Newton Howard. I haven't come across the movie before, but the soundtrack sounds great and I've ordered it!
Today we have uploaded videos of the 1st Gnossienne and the 1st Gymnopedie by Erik Satie. Following a suggestion made on YouTube I've filmed these from above, though I'm not convinced that my fingering is the best example to follow.
It's good to hear Elmer Bernstein's music used effectively on the current McDonalds adverts on UK TV. This is the theme tune from the film "The Grifters" as used in the opening track "The City".
An interesting news report that an early example of instrumental music notation was found on decorative carved wooden heads in Stirling Castle. The notation provides a sequence of chords as a basis for the musicians to improvise to, and would most likely be played on harps, viols, fiddles and lutes. See the BBC website which includes an example of how the music might have sounded.
We've updated our Vic Mizzy biography page. As part of the research, we checked out videos on YouTube, and it is surprising just how much of the composer's music is available.
We are pleased yet again to publish a comprehensive article by Jeffrey Dane. This reviews a double album of music played on period pianos, and brings to life the history of Johannes Brahms and the instruments which he once played.
The real stars of the BBC's latest wildlife series called simply "Life" are the animals themselves and the amazing camera work which has captured some them. Yet no BBC wildlife series seems completed unless we hear the authoritative tones of David Attenborough and the engaging music of composer George Fenton.
I'm between holidays at the moment so some bigger gaps in the Blog updates this month. The latest addition to mfiles is this arrangement by Artur Akshelyan of Chopin's Prelude No.6 for Woodwind Quartet.
To review the historic recordings of Edvard Grieg and Percy Grainger I had to make do with the included CD, because I lack a Blu-ray player and don't have a surround sound system. It might be quite an experience to hear the illusion of sitting in the middle of an orchestra.
The unlikely pairing of comedian Bill Bailey with composer Anne Dudley started out in a show called "Comic Shindig" which was broadcast as part of Comic Relief in 2008. This evolved into "Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra" which proved so successful at the Royal Albert Hall that the show is now due to tour across the UK. Look out for it in a hall near you.
Marvin Hamlisch hasn't composed a film score for a number of years...until now. Director Steven Soderbergh persuaded him to score his comedy film "The Informant" which is now in theatres in the US.
We are pleased to announce that music Historian Jeffrey Dane has written an interesting article for mfiles about the composer Franz Waxman called simply Franz Waxman an overview of the composer and his life and work. The writer has promised more articles in future so stay tuned.
I watched Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain last week for the first time when it was on television. It is an unusual and compelling movie, and I must admit that Clint Mansell's music from the soundtrack was swirling around in my head for days afterwards. An excellent example of music serving the film perfectly.
Now that the main part of the website redesign is complete, I can spend more time on the content. Who better than Ryuichi Sakamoto to be the first composer to be added to the new look mfiles. It was good to listen again to some of his soundtracks, and explore some interesting content featuring the composer and his music on YouTube.
Welcome to the new look mfiles! I've been working on this redesign for too long, and at last it is ready to go public. Hopefully you will find it a little easier on the eye, but there's more changes under the covers. The layout and navigation is more flexible so that more can be added in future without stretching the menus to breaking point. There might be a few snags and errors during the settling in process. Please email to advise of any errors you find, and tell me what you think of the new look!
The Carl Davis Collection continues to grow. This is the composer's own record label of music composed and/or conducted by Davis. CDs released to date include the ballet "Alice in Wonderland" adapted from Tchaikovsky, and the soundtrack of the film "The Understudy". The label's web-site also announces that a re-release of his epic film score for "Napoleon" is also in preparation. See our Carl Davis page for more details and links.
I don't watch many TV dramas, but Sirens caught my eye (or rather my ear). The music seemed very much in a Classic Film Noir style and I "tuned in" while working away on the laptop. The composer was John Lunn and I must look out for more of his work, and consider adding him to the growing "to do" list for composers to be added to mfiles.
A number of bone and ivory flutes have been discovered in Germany, and dated at up to 35,000 years old. This is around the time that the earliest humans colonised the area and the number and variety of these flutes suggests that music was very much a part of their life before they settled in the region. The BBC Web-site lets you hear the sound of a reconstructed flute made from a vulture wing bone in the same way as some of the originals.
I re-watched "The Italian Job" and the 40th Anniversary DVD has lots of special features. Quincy Jones describes his inpirations for the film's unique and memorable music, and Michael Caine finally reveals that it really is his voice you hear singing on the soundtrack with "The Self-Preservation Society".
A number of press articles have reported on recent research which indicated that Mozart may have died (at the young age of 35) from complications arising from the bacterial infection called Strep Throat. See BBC News item.
I've now upgraded from Sibelius version 5 to version 6. This has a great new feature called "magnetic layout" which intelligently aligns and maintains the layout. The playback sounds have been greatly improved also. Perhaps these are good enough now to re-record some of the mp3 files on mfiles. Find out more about Sibelius 6 on www.sibelius.com.
I'm an admirer of Stephen Wolfram and enjoyed his "A New Kind of Science". It's good to see him turn to real world problems with the knowledge engine "Wolfram Alpha". This has some music examples, mostly of a technical nature, though there is a song search function.
There is a BBC Prom Concert on Sunday 16th August featuring Bollywood music. The new issue of Radio Times out today has an article covering this event and features an interview with lyricist Don Black, who discusses his collaboration with composer A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) on the Bollywood musical "Bombay Dreams".
The 30th Anniversary Tour of Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds stage show has now come to an end. Did you see it? Relive the experience at www.thewaroftheworlds.com. Two participants from the original recording are still involved, including Justin Hayward from the Moody Blues plus the 3D image and unmistakable voice of Richard Burton.
The mfiles website redesign has taken a back seat this week, since I have a couple of composing projects on the go. However I saw an fascinating news item: young chimpanzees who have never previously been exposed to music show a preference for consonant (or harmonic) music over dissonant music - something previously thought to be uniquely human.
A BBC news item introduced me to the new search engine "True Knowledge" which is currently in Beta. It looks as though the engine can understand certain simple questions and provide accurate answers. Among the example questions listed in the Movies section is the question: Who composed the music for Blade Runner?.
I watched the first half of 2001 recently together with the Alex North soundtrack. Some people think Kubrick was right to stay with his Temp Track of classical music, but I find the Alex North version really brings the first segment of the film to life. You can find some versions of this with a YouTube Search but beware - these have not been expertly synchronised with the film, perhaps because of editing which happened after the score was written.
I'm working on a NEW LOOK for the mfiles site. This should be ready to launch in September. It's intended to look more modern and be easier to navigate, while behind the scene there will be HTML code conforming better to the latest standards. Hopefully you will find the site easier to use, and I will find the site easier to maintain. Let me know what you think. firstname.lastname@example.org.
For current and recent new items, see Jim's Blog.