Music

Song Composed In August

Tuesday, 20 August, 2019

Written in 1783 by Robert Burns and known as Song, composed in August. Dick Gaughan’s performance here is sublime.

Thus ev’ry kind their pleasure find,
The savage and the tender;
Some social join, and leagues combine,
Some solitary wander:
Avaunt, away! the cruel sway,
Tyrannic man’s dominion;
The sportsman’s joy, the murd’ring cry,
The flutt’ring, gory pinion!


The River Holds Its Breath

Saturday, 3 August, 2019

The River Holds Its Breath is the title of the new album from the outstanding Irish fiddle player Colm Mac Con Iomaire. His playing, say critics, is “exquisitely expressive.”


Clare music: pipes and concertina and jigs

Tuesday, 16 July, 2019

The concertina player Liam O’Connor and the uilleann piper Cian Talty live beside each other in Glendine, just outside Miltown Malbay, the unofficial capital of Irish traditional music. Liam’s mother is the well-known tin whistle player, Bríd O’ Donohue, and Cian’s grandfather was Martin Talty, a dear friend of the legendary West Clare piper, Willie Clancy. Nuff said. Scaoil amach an bobailín!


The sound of LA

Thursday, 4 July, 2019

He won an Oscar in 2002 for Best Original Score for Frida and for this clip, Gavin Heffernan used another soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal. It’s from the 1995 thriller, Heat. Very LA. Happy Fourth of July.


Kwela: Nelson Makoka and Solomon Sibiya

Tuesday, 25 June, 2019

Central to kwela music is an instrument known as the pennywhistle or tin whistle. Malawian immigrants to South Africa and Zimbabwe mixed their music with southern African sounds and thus was kwela born. Many of the best practitioners preferred the Hohner whistle, which was popular before the advent of the modern variety with its plastic mouthpiece. The Hohner whistle consisted of a straight metal tube with a metal plug that sealed off the end to make the mouthpiece. This allowed the instrument to be inserted deep into the mouth and led to the characteristic embouchure that produces the distinctive timbre of kwela. Take it away, Nelson!

Hohner Musikinstrumente GmbH & Co. KG is a German manufacturer of musical instruments, founded in 1857. The company is identified with harmonicas and it produces more than a million of them a year, but Hohner also makes accordions melodicas, kazoos, recorders, banjos, guitars and electric/electronic keyboards. It’s innovative keyboards such as the Cembalet, Basset and Clavinet and the ADAM Digital Synthesizer helped form the sound of modern music.


Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

Wednesday, 12 June, 2019

And it’s a story by Martin Scorsese that will be aired tonight on Netflix. According to the blurb, the film explores “the troubled spirit of America in 1975.” That was the same year, by the way, when Bruce Springsteen’s album Born to Run was released, Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft and Jaws set the standard for Hollywood blockbusters. It was creative, that “troubled” year.


Remembering Paddy Fahey

Saturday, 8 June, 2019

Just getting around now to paying tribute to the East Galway fiddle player and tune composer Paddy Fahey, who died aged 102 years on Friday, 31 May. Fahey didn’t give his compositions names, instead they are simply called “Paddy Fahey’s Jig No.1”, “Paddy Fahey’s Reel No.2”, “Paddy Fahey’s Hornpipe No.3” and so on. He never made a commercial recording, nor did he publish a book of his compositions, but Paddy Fahey’s music, with its beautiful yearning feel, lives on in the playing of Liz and Yvonne Kane.


Show of hands

Sunday, 26 May, 2019

Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Loves Me is a track from the album The Space Between by the pianist Chad Lawson. To get the sound he wanted, Lawson placed extra felt between the hammers and strings and then placed a microphone close to the hammers.


Israel’s Eurovision Song Contest won

Sunday, 19 May, 2019

The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence won last night’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv with his song Arcade, which topped the leader-board with 492 points in the public vote. Italy finished second with 465 points and Russia third with 369 points. Madonna also sang but most viewers regarded her performance as flat, musically and artistically. Iceland’s heavy metal act Hatari displayed Palestinian flags. Inevitably, this act of pubertal thickness was hailed and highlighted in the “popular” press.

Bob Dylan’s song Neighborhood Bully appeared on the album Infidels, which was released in October 1983. In the song, Dylan deployed sarcasm to defend Israel’s right to exist and the lyrics included references, some direct, some oblique, to history, near and far. The Six-Day War and Operation Opera, Israel’s bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981 are in there, as is the enslavement of the Israelites by the Romans. The shadows of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union loom as well.

Neighborhood Bully

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully


Born on 5 May 1919: Séamus Ennis

Sunday, 5 May, 2019

It was Liam O’Flynn who summed up the music of his friend and mentor Séamus Ennis best: “His taste was impeccable. He never aimed to impress by showing off; restraint and elegance were the hallmarks of his piping.”


The Gloaming: Meáchan Rudaí

Friday, 8 March, 2019

Traditional Irish music mixed with jazz, chamber, minimalist and elements of classical is what The Gloaming does for a living. Their third studio album, which has just been released, was recorded at Reservoir Studios in New York City. The opening track is Meáchan Rudaí (The Weight of Things) and the lyrics are from an Irish language poem by the late Liam Ó Muirthile. The English translation is by Gabriel Rosenstock.

Mo mheáchan i do bhaclainn sa phictiúr dínn beirt i Fitzgerald’s Park, agus mise in aois a trí. Ár meáchan araon. Ár gcómheáchan. Meáchan do hata anuas ar do gháirí. Mo mheáchan is tú dom iompar ar feadh naoi mí. Meáchan suí agus luí agus éirí. Do mheáchan féin nár ardaíos riamh ó thalamh ach chun tú a chur i dtalamh. Do mheáchan beo. Do mheáchan marbh. Meáchan na bhfocal ag éirí is ag titim eadrainn mar a bheadh sciatháin scuaine ealaí. Trom-mheáchan urnaí. Cleitemheáchan daidh-didil-dí. Meáchanlár fáinne fí na gcuimhní.

The weight of me in your arms. A photo of the two of us in Fitzgerald’s Park. Three years of age I was. The weight of the pair of us. Our weight together. The weight of your hat shading your laughter. My weight as you bore me for nine months. The weight of sitting, getting up, lying down. Your weight that I never lifted from the ground – before burying you in the ground. Your living weight. Your dead weight. The weight of words rising and falling between us, the wingbeat of swans. The heavy weight of prayers. The feather weight of lilting. The middle weight of memory, ancient spiral.