Posts

Requiem for my vinyl

Image
As I move deeper into retirement an impending move to a very nice but smaller property means I have reluctantly decided to part with my collection of 600 classical LPs and turntable. There are several reasons why this LP collection dating from the 1970s and 80s will be of particular interest. Regular readers will know my musical passions, and these are is reflected in the eclectic classical repertoire which has a particular focus on British music, and almost all the 600 discs are from 'quality' labels, DGG, Lyrita, Decca, Argo, Philips, EMI, Archiv, Hyperion, Conifer etc.  But what makes the collection unique is that every disc is in mint condition. All were bought by me and have never been out of my hands. I am fastidious about replay quality, so when buying noisy pressings were rejected until a flawless copy was provided. Typically the discs in the collection will have been played less than five times. They have only been played on the top-quality turntable seen above. All

There is no happiness for those who do not travel musically

Image
Bill Laswell's City of Light is an electro-Vedic journey to India's holy city of Benares .   The evocative booklet essay is by the anarchist writer and poet Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson), whose book Sacred drift: essays on the margins of Islam was featured here some years back. Music on the margins of Islam has also been a preoccupation of Bill Laswell for decades. His 1992 album   Apocalypse Across the Sky offered a refreshingly lucent take on the Master Musicians of Jajouka, in contrast to Brian Jones' celebrated chemically-blurred production .  Staying on those creatively inspired margins, Laswell's  Gnawa Night captures the spirit masters of sub-Saharan Africa in the same lucence.   In his booklet essay for City of Light, Hakim Bey quotes from Diana L. Eck 's definitive portrait of Varanasi, Banaras: City of Light , and the quote resonates with my recent post Music is the best way to travel . It comes from the ancient Indian collection of sacred h

Avoiding the 'East meets West' music trap

Image
A recent post about the highly recommended recording of John Mayer's Violin Concerto No. 2 and Jonathan Mayer's Sitar Concerto No. 2 leads me to sitarist Jonathan Mayer's out of genre activities. On the 2011 CD seen above  he plays sitar, pygmy sitar, electric sitar, tanpura, guitar-zither, piano, Fender Rhodes and keyboards, and is joined by the much-missed  Kenny Wheeler  on trumpet and flugelhorn, Bernard Wystraete  on flute and bass flute, Mitel Purohit  on tabla, and Andy Bratt  providing drum samples. As well as compositions by Jonathan and other members of the band there are three  Bach transcriptions ; possibly the first recordings of Bach played on the sitar.  In the booklet notes Jonathan Mayer sums up this CD perfectly ''Out of Genre' relieves the sitar of its comfort zone'. Composer, producer and tabla player Kuljit Bhamra contributes another thoughtful booklet note. This provides an valuable perspective on the prejudices that continue to dog

Click bait pays but it also stinks

Image
A comment worth republishing has been added by a reader to my recent post ' Classical music must face the facts - click bait pays '. This thread is not about knocking Norman Lebrecht. Because as I said in my earlier post, I grudgingly admire what he has achieved. It is about the wider problem of what is happening to classical journalism. Because if classical music wants to thrive, it needs the support of intelligent, independent journalism free from hidden commercial agendas and political prejudice . And that is precisely what is lacking today.  Back in 2016 I wrote a post titled ' Music blogging #itsover '. Well, if music blogging was over five years ago, it is dead in the water today; despite the spectacular 'success' of Slipped Disc . In that 2016 post I wrote "Music blogs are now just another part of a tacky global marketplace where people have principles, but are prepared to change them if the price is right. There is no place in the blogging commun

Word quickly spread that the old composer had lost it

Image
October 2021 brings the centenary of Sir Malcolm Arrnold's birth. But it is unlikely that the photo above* will appear in any of the fulsome tributes to this still sadly neglected composer . It shows Sir Malcolm towards the end of his life with Anthony Day. In 1984 Anthony was appointed by the Court of Protection as Sir Malcolm’s chauffeur-companion, and he fulfilled that role until the composer's death in 2006. Anthony Day, who died of cancer in 2019, is known because of his involvement in the long and bitter battle  over the inheritance of the Arnold Estate. However, the Malcolm Arnold Society offers a refreshingly balanced overview of his role, saying that "Anthony was responsible for the not-always-easy Malcolm... Anthony’s life was not without its controversies, but through his long administrations, the distressing infirmities of Malcolm’s old age were at least tempered by the recognition and many honours Malcolm received as the grand old man of British music"

Classical music must face the facts - click bait pays

Image
Above are the latest accounts for SlippedDisc Limited, which has Norman Lebrecht as a director*. These accounts show that the profit and loss account surplus** increased in fiscal 2020 to £203,719, an increase of 41% over the previous year***. To put that £203,719 trading surplus into context, the average salary for a Metropolitan Opera musician converted into sterling is £138,990 , that of BBC Radio 3 Controller Alan Davey is £182,000 , and Boris Johnson earns £161,401 . Let's be clear at this point: the filed accounts fully comply with the requirements of Companies House and are in the public domain , and Norman runs a legitimate business. This post is not being driven by malice or sour grapes. On An Overgrown Path has never had commercial aspirations: I was well rewarded during my career in the music industry and I am very fortunate to have adequate pension provisions. This post is driven, like so many on my blog, by context and facts.  Regular readers know that, to put it mi

Music is the best way to travel

Image
During the pandemic travel restrictions have, understandably, been a source of much frustration. But, puzzlingly, the music industry has done little to promote transcultural music as a viable substitute for travel. In fact, in art music monoculturalism has been replaced with monopluralism. A worrying development that finds expression in the mistaken belief that a spoonful of Mirga and Sheku helps  systemic prejudice go down. Thankfully there are exceptions to this myopia, although you have to dig deep below the preoccupations of our classical commentators to find them.  One of those notable exceptions is the new CD of Violin and Sitar Concertos from the father and son team of Jonathan and John Mayer. Born in Calcutta to an Anglo-Indian father and a Tamil mother in 1929, John Jiddhu Mayer was precociously talented and studied music from an early age. From seven he studied at the Calcutta School of Music and in 1952 came to London to study violin and composition at the Royal Academy