Posts Tagged ‘music’

Busk For Socialism

November 26, 2013

open mic2

Bjork and Attenborough

July 30, 2013

I have always admired Bjork as a vocalist and as a musician.

Last week’s documentary on Channel 4 changed my view.

She is a genius. Let me try to do justice to the Biophilia project.

Bjork was frustrated with the academic approach of her musical tutors, and influenced by her 40-minute long childhood walk to school, singing as she passed through the dramatic landscape of Iceland, she has decided to come up with a completely radical and revolutionary way of teaching music, and of how we communicate with each other as a species. Instead of the daunting jargon and paraphernalia surrounding music – musical notation, the intricacies of learning a complex instrument, the Western canon; Bjork wanted something intuitive and natural. Finding inspiration in nature, Biophilia (meaning “lover of life”), is an attempt to re-connect the human species with the original roots of music – a drum beat around a campfire, a bone flute, the human voice.

David Attenborough, evidently a true Bjork fan, eloquently makes the point about our vocal range having evolutionary usefulness to humanity, and compares this with the great song of the gibbon – the whooping and wailing of our primate cousins as they find a mate.

But Biophilia is so much more than even this seemingly massive task. Bjork described her project as presenting “Nature on stage like a rock star”. Biophilia seeks to reconnect us with mathematics, echoing the fractal geometry of crystals and galaxies; connecting with us on the level of neurones; the movement of tectonic plates; the moon’s circuit around the Earth. These are basic and common knowledge, which makes music making instinctive once again. Bjork is connecting biology, physics, music and chemistry at a fundamental level.

These ideas have been translated into an epic 3-year tour across the globe, programmed into Android apps, and translated into priceless, custom-built instruments such as the Sharpsicord and gravity pendulum and is accompanied by an all-female choir, some of whom have been singing together since the age of six, with months and months of rehearsals. The sounds soar over the crackle of a Tesla coil, the belching of lava. Bjork whirls magnificently around in a DNA dress.

So what? You may ask – it is just a CD. Yet the neurologist Oliver Sacks, explained the deep emotional connection we have with music – it lights up the brain like no other activity, and can revive even people whose brains have become dormant with dementia, if a suitably evocative melody is played. Art makes us human.

Bjork has described Bophilia as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think she is being overly modest – this has huge potential to transform the creativity of the human race as a whole, and has already been taken up enthusiastically by Iceland, who have made it a compulsory part of their school curriculum.

Biophilia is a truly mindblowing experiment, which has the potential to bring about a cultural renaissance and link people across the globe, in the realisation, as George Orwell put it – “We are on a life-raft sailing through space”. The one thing we all share is nature, and we had better look after it.

For that, we need to be grateful to Bjork’s inspirational idea.

Of course, there is always the possibility that music will continue to be usurped by big business, ground down to the karaoke of the X-factor, reduced to catchy phrases and meaningless soundbites. Biophilia shows what can be done, if our human potential can be fully realised.

The struggle is joy

May 25, 2011

I got a lovely CD single in the post all the way from Portugal. It is the vibrant Portuguese Eurovision entry – the struggle is joy. Sadly, it didn’t make it to the final in Dusseldorf, but I think it was a hugely refreshing change from the usual bland, Eurovision entries.

The song is a celebration of the 1976 Carnation revolution, which overthrew the ultra right-wing dictatorial regime in Portugal. It speaks of the young and the old coming together in struggle to win a better society and is hugely relevant, given the debt crisis across Europe at the moment.

A Luta E Alegria – The struggle is joy

Often you feel hopeless,
Often you distrust.
Often you worry,
Often you despair.

It’s no use to pull the belt ever tighter,
It’s no use to moan about life,
It’s no use to feel sad and down,
It’s no use getting angry to help you go on.

By day or by night – the struggle is joy
The masses march on, they are shouting in the streets.

Bring us bread, bring us cheese, bring us wine!
Young and old, fight together
Bring us bread, bring us cheese, bring us wine!
Young and old, fight together
Let’s celebrate and sing against oppression.

Many are those that say “Be careful”,
Many are those that wish to shut you up.
Many are those who make you uncertain,
Many are those who would sell the air we breathe.

La luta continua!

In Greece and Ireland, the party I belong to, the CWI (Committee for a Workers’ International) has put forward the idea that we should right off debts owed by the government. We can’t trust the IMF bailouts, as they inevitably come with a slash and burn approach to public services.

The only answer is for mass movements of ordinary people to take action to defend jobs and services, to fight back against austerity cuts and unite in strikes and in a political voice for ordinary people. In a small way, the Socialist Party is beginning to do this in Britain through TUSC – but we need this to grow rapidly if we are to defeat the Con-dem cuts.

Killing in the Name Of for Number One.

December 18, 2009

Tomorrow is the last day we can download Rage Against the Machine’s 1992 anthem Killing in the Name of . . . to stop Cowell spoiling Christmas with yet another karaoke track.

And there is also a sudden cold snap, with travel disruption across much of the country. I am an atheist myself, but could this be God’s vengeance on Cowell?

From the Gospel according to St Morter:
And the LORD listeneth to Radio 5 Live and heard the mighty track Killing in the Name Of. A man by the name of Cowell had angered God by releasing yet another idiotic single and He was full of vengeance. In words of thunder, He spake: “Lo, that tw** Cowell is not spoiling my holiday again this year by spreading his karaoke rubbish. Let it snow on Great Britain, so that it will freeze the brass monkeys off anyone stupid enough to go out and buy his tripe. And on the seventh day He downloaded the track and He Rocked!

Great news – the campaign demolished X-factor by 50,000 sales. Let’s hope now that people start to think about the lyrics and genuinely rage against the machine!