Funeral Music Playlist

February 8, 2013

Maybe I’m weird but I worry about what music is going to be played at my funeral. I don’t want some really boring organ music playing in the background while I am being eulogized. This playlist is not my personal funeral playlist but it may give you something to think about when planning for the inevitable.

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Atmosphere/ Joy Division

“Atmosphere” is another one of those prime Joy Division songs, like “Transmission” or “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” where Martin Hannett’s production becomes so essential to the end result that it couldn’t have been heard otherwise. Bernard Sumner’s low keyboard start and Peter Hook’s minimal, calm bass make a perfect counterpoint to the sheer, sudden power of Stephen Morris’s sudden drum parts — if anything, percussion is the heart of the song, the echo and near-tribal roll of the beats suggesting a futuristic ritual. Ian Curtis’s performance is another one of his best — one of his most controlled and calm, his deep moan suggesting both a will to continue and a sheer mournfulness. The killer touch, without question, has to be the sudden, shimmering keyboard sparkle Sumner adds after each verse, produced to sound like rays of light from the heavens, a beautiful contrast of light against the heavy rhythmic doom down below. It’s little surprise John Peel chose this song as the one to play on the air after announcing Curtis’s death — there’s a feeling of a requiem here, an awesome musical farewell.-allmusic.com

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In my room/ Beach Boys

This sensitive pop gem was one of the first Beach Boys tracks to completely break out of the surf-and-drag mold. Indeed, the lyrics for “In My Room” tackle a subject that any teenager can relate to: the feelings of safety and comfort that can be found while relaxing in the sanctuary of one’s bedroom. The melody that supports these thoughts has a lullaby quality to it, building its verse on ascending note patterns that rise higher with each stanza before the melody resolves itself with the comforting descending notes of the chorus. The Beach Boys recording brings this sense of musical ebb and flow to life in a vivid fashion thanks to an inventive Brian Wilson vocal arrangement that starts with a solo vocal at the beginning of each verse and adds on voices with each line to create a grand harmony by the time each chorus arrives. The instrumental portion of the recording achieves a similarly hypnotic effect via a backing track that layers its circular guitar riffs with the gentle strum of a harp and a steady drum beat that anchors the song. -allmusic.com

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Into my arms/ Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

“Into My Arms” is one of Nick Cave’s signature-style dark piano ballads, a love theme at the core of the lyrics, cloaked in spiritual and religious language and imagery. Accompanied only by himself on piano and Martyn P. Casey on bass, Cave plays a simple piano melody that stays rolling, barely shifting throughout except to build toward the refrain, “Into my arms, O Lord.” Questioning his own belief in God and the angels while respecting the object of his desire’s affection for them, the singer makes the sort of plaintive plea to the gods he doesn’t believe in that differences aside, love may conquer all and keep the pair together. Capturing in voice, melody, and lyric the doubts, faith, fears, and hopes that love can inspire among the faithless, he returns to the idea that truth, strength, and love are values worth striving for. This is Cave’s strength in song.-allmusic.com

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Soul meets body/ Death Cab for Cutie

For your consideration: a wildly successful indie rock band with a legion of followers on an equally successful, highly credible independent label makes the jump to major-label powerhouse Atlantic, leading to much chagrin and speculation among its fans as they awaited with bated breath for what would happen to the group. The album winds its way from one ballad to the next, with brief stopovers at moderately up-tempo numbers to help break things up a bit. And it’s this sense of resignation that either makes or breaks the album, depending on which Death Cab for Cutie is your favorite: the melancholic, hopeless romantic or the one who wears its heart on its sleeve with unbridled energy and passion.-allmusic.com

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So Long Goodbye/ Sum 41

Sporting a similar-sounding but not as politically potent title in Underclass Hero, Sum 41’s fifth studio album extends upon its predecessor Chuck’s deliberate attempt at getting serious and relevant, containing just enough garbled commentary and political platitudes to not only give the impression that the bandmembers are saying something beyond their beloved clichés, but to give the impression that they’re telling a story, creating an anthem for the “underclass hero,” the slacker who can’t be labeled as an underachiever because he never attempts to achieve. – allmusic.com

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At My Funeral/ Crash Test Dummies

Like an improbable kiddie cereal made with bran, this Canadian group gives you sprightly Irish jigs and earthy-crunchy folk music, all rolled into one addictively sweet confection—and it’s even good for you. Led by vocalist Brad Roberts’s laconic growl, this Dummies debut hops easily from the upbeat to the somber. The lyrics often sound as if they were written by the same people who see Elvis at fast-food joints. The ballad “Superman’s Songs,” for instance, is a wonderfully goofball discussion of why Superman makes a better superhero than Tarzan. While the Dummies’ mix of the silly and the sentimental, both musically and lyrically, may not suit everybody’s taste, The Ghosts That Haunt Me is one record that never gets soggy. (Arista)

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Hallelujah/ Leonard Cohen

Despite the over-saturation of “Hallelujah,” the song’s recent chart-topping success on both sides of the ocean has given Cohen some sweet revenge. “There were certain ironic and amusing sidebars, because the record that it came from which was called Various Positions — a record Sony wouldn’t put out,” Cohen told the Guardian. “They didn’t think it was good enough… So there was a mild sense of revenge that arose in my heart.” Cohen can’t complain about the extra royalties either, especially considering he was forced to tour after a lengthy hiatus because his former manager made off with most of his assets. Meanwhile, we’re still surprised that Leonard Cohen is sitting around reading reviews of the superhero flick Watchmen.- rollingstone.com

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Time to Say Goodbye/ Andrea Bocelli

Sarah Brightman, who enjoyed a European hit with “Time to Say Goodbye,” her duet with Andrea Bocelli,  constructed an album beginning with that recording and continuing in kind. The characteristics of the hit — a lush, melodramatic, mock-operatic arrangement complete with a crescendo out of Ravel’s “Bolero” and soaring voices singing in English and Italian — are repeated here, whether the material is drawn from Puccini, the Gipsy Kings, or Queen. Part of PBS’ long-running Great Performances program, Concerto: One Night in Central Park features legendary Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli’s 2011 free concert on Central Park’s Great Lawn. With Bocelli backed by the New York Philharmonic  conducted by longtime musical director Alan Gilbert, the 17-track collection is also being made available in a deluxe edition that includes a DVD of the evening.-allmusic.com

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All Things Must Pass/ George Harrison

“All Things Must Pass” was the title song of George Harrison’s 1970 number one debut album. Like several of the songs on that record, it has a slow, almost dirge-like air, though it is executed with a stateliness that avoids lugubriousness. And, like several songs on that record, it was actually written before the Beatles had broken up. A tentative, perhaps even feeble, pass through the song was attempted by the Beatles during their troubled Let It Be sessions in early 1969; one of those takes was issued on Anthology 3. Part of the problem the Beatles had in getting to grips with the song, perhaps, was that Harrison (and the other Beatles) were beginning to write compositions that were more well-suited for them as solo vehicles than as Beatles arrangements. When it was recorded for his solo album, the song benefited from Phil Spector’s orchestral productions, with subtle interjections of brass interacting with Harrison’s high slide guitar. “All Things Must Pass” has a pleasant, though not stunning, melody and a an air of calm resignation, as well as the kind of hymnal chorus that was found in numerous Harrison works of the period. The lyrics might be a reflection of Harrison’s Indian religious beliefs, but actually there is no specific mention or allusion to Indian religion. It is a simple but direct statement on the impermanence of both good and bad times, and, in fact, in tone is not far removed from the messages of faith and reassurance found in the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” “All Things Must Pass” is more passive and resigned than “Let It Be,” however. It’s the kind of song that fits the mood in November, when the trees are getting stripped bare of their leaves, the days are getting shorter and colder, and you have to resign yourself to knowing it’s going to be tougher and tougher in those regards for months, also knowing that those hardships will pass away come springtime.-allmusic.com

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True Faith/ New Order

A tremendous single for New Order – a brilliant standalone effort and the triumphant conclusion of the peerless singles collection Substance – “True Faith” deservedly hit the charts in America, the UK and elsewhere, a marvelous valediction for a band with a core that had stuck to its guns for ten straight years. “True Faith” resisted being conventional for all that it was poppy, catchy, a radio-friendly song with its own unexpected edge. Bernard Sumner’s lyric hints at a strange desperation at play, sung with an unsure, nervous emotion (“I guess there’s just no way of knowing…I used to think that the day would never come/That my life would depend on the morning sun”). It’s the dramatic electronic drum start (memorably if cryptically matched in the heavily-screen video by mimes), Peter Hook’s strong bass line over deeper synth bass, Gillian Gilbert’s strong but not bombastic orchestral swells and keyboard chimes and more that really make everything connect, each verse building into the strong chorus with a sense of sudden anticipation.-allmusic.com

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Tribute to Ravi Shankar Playlist

December 12, 2012

Indian sitarist and composer Ravi Shankar died yesterday at the age of 92. He helped bring the music of India into the mainstream with collaborations with rock stars like George Harrison to classical musicians like Philip Glass. He are some of the recordings made by Shankar that are available to MCLS library patrons. For more Ravi Shankar at the library visit http://artsdivision.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/the-music-of-indian-sitar-master-ravi-shankar/

 

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Bangla Dhun/ The Concert for Bangladesh

Hands down, this epochal concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden — first issued on three LPs in a handsome orange-colored box — was the crowning event of George Harrison’s public life, a gesture of great goodwill that captured the moment in history and, not incidentally, produced some rousing music as a permanent legacy. Having been moved by his friend Ravi Shankar’s appeal to help the homeless Bengali refugees of the 1971 India-Pakistan war, Harrison leaped into action, organizing on short notice what became a bellwether for the spectacular rock & roll benefits of the 1980s and beyond. Though overlooked at the time by impatient rock fans eager to hear the hits, Shankar’s opening raga, “Bangla Dhun,” is a masterwork on its own terms; the sitar virtuoso is in dazzling form even by his standards and, in retrospect, Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, and Alla Rakha amount to an Indian supergroup themselves.-allmusic.com

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Concerto for Sitar & Orchestra: Morning Love/ Shankar & Previn

Melody is the essence of Indian music-there is no harmony as Western ears would expect-here the instruments of the symphony orchestra are used individually or in unison to develop, imitate and discuss the thematic ideas expounded by the sitar. The rhythm of Indian music is immensely complex and subtle, being organized in cycles ranging from 3 to 108 beats and, one would imagine, almost impossible for a large band of musicians untrained in Indian music to follow. But Shankar has written the music out in such a way that a marvelous freedom of rhythm is achieved. In Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra the ear hears only the continuous undulating melody, the complex, almost hypnotic rhythms which have entranced so many lovers of Indian music, with the added instrumental color of a Western symphony orchestra.-Susan Regan

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Swara-Kakali/ Ravi Shankar

With over 90 albums to his credit, the task for those who wish to investigate the recordings of India’s master musician Ravi Shankar can be a daunting one. Therefore, the Legacy/BMG Essential Ravi Shankar fills a welcome place in his catalog and serves as a starting point for the novitiate. There are 20 cuts on these two discs that range over most of the sitarist and composer’s shelf, from his early Angel recordings where he played mostly Indian classical music, to his later recordings for Private Music, to his lone Columbia album, The Sounds Of India, in 1968. Along the way,  Shankar is featured in many settings, from solo to performances with large ensembles of traditional Indian musicians, to his collaborations with violinist Yehudi Menuhin from the gorgeous West Meets East recording, to his recording with George Harrison, to his work with Philip Glass and numerous other musicians on Passages. Through it all, Shankar is consistently in the classical framework, whether he is improvising on ragas or performing other compositions. The sound here has been completely remastered and the liner essay by Hank Bordowitz is both informative and compelling factually. This is the real intro to Shankar that has been needed for such a long time on CD.-allmusic.com

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Geetaa/ Ravi Shankar

Mantrum: Chant of India is a very smooth and delicate recording of sacred Sanskrit and Vedic prayers. George Harrison produced this set for Ravi Shankar. In the liner notes, Shankar states his intention to preserve the intense spirituality of the chants and to give them universal appeal. Shankar’s style and diversity allow him to open doors that are closed to other musicians. The instrumental accompaniment adds depth and soul to this recording. Shankar’s compositional and sound-design styles add atmosphere. Harrison’s deft touch allows the music to develop and maintain its own integrity. Among records of this nature, this one is special. It will appeal to fans of Nawang Khechog, Jonathan Goldman and Sheila Chandra. -allmusic.com

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Raga Patdeep/Gat Sitarkhani Taal

With a recent focus on Indian music taking a foothold on the Rough Guide series, it was only fitting that the grand ambassador of Hindusthani music would get a retrospective of his own. Taking a somewhat surprising turn here, the compilers have stuck with a number of relative rarities highlighting periods of  Ravi’s career, but not highlighting the more noteworthy performances and collaborations. The album opens with “Kathakali Katthak,” a 1989 composition for a theater troupe. Moving on, “Transmigration” hails from the British film Voila, and a rendition of “Mishra Piloo” pairs Shankar with his premier tabla compatriot, Alla Rakha, for an extended, ponderous work. Two dhuns hold the middle of the album, with “Dun Man Pasand” paying tribute to the city of Paris and “Devgiri Bilawal” allows some of Ravi’s trademark high-speed runs. “Reflection” comes from the film Transmigration Macabre, and somewhat obviously has a reflective atmosphere, with somewhat unusual rhythmic structures filling out the mood but keeping the whole a bit off-center. “Raga Patdeep” is mixed with a high-speed gat in “Sitarkhani Taal” for another of the signature displays of virtuosity that help to display why Shankar is an undisputed master of the instrument.-allmusic.com

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Ragas in Minor Scale/ Philip Glass, Ravi Shankar

A collaboration between an avant-garde modern classical composer and a traditional Indian/Hindi composer/performer seems as unlikely as ice hockey on the River Styx. However, Passages is a collaboration between Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar and it works quite well. Shankar’s smooth style fits nicely with Glass’ dissonant orchestrations. There is a great deal of technical data involved here. Both of these artists have long taken intellectual approaches to music. Thus, the liner notes are a bit heavy-handed. The music is brilliant. The symphony dominates the soundscapes, but Shankar’s atmospheres are integral to the success of this project. This CD will appeal to fans of John Cage, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich.-allmusic.com

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Raga Hansadhwani/ Ravi Shankar

Rare and Glorious draws from the archives of Saregama, Ravi Shankar’s longtime Indian record label, to compile a two-CD set of eight ragas with a total running time of 135 minutes; the tracks range across Shankar’s career, with the earliest one, “Raga Hansadhwani,” having been first released in 1962, and the most recent one, “Raga Shudh Kalyan,” in 1988. Five of the tracks run 19 minutes or more in length, allowing Shankar time to explore the themes and gradually develop the dynamics of a complete raga. The sitar player was already over 40 when the first of these recordings was made, so he is heard as a mature musician practicing his art in full flower. This kind of music is not really susceptible to a “greatest-hits” selection, but many of these tracks are notable not only for the accomplished playing but also for their return to availability on this release, since they previously only appeared on long out of print LPs. Thus, the album justifies the words of its title, containing music that is both “glorious” and “rare.”-allmusic.com

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Dadra/ Ravi Shankar

One of the early works of art created for the West by the Grandfather of World Music. This album stands as an early attempt to teach the curious western listener about the complexity and beauty of Indian music. Composer Alan Hovhaness provides some rather thorough liner notes describing the systems involved in Indian classical music (with the focus clearly on Hindustani forms), and goes into some detail on the finer points of the four ragas performed (Maru-Bihag, Bhimpalasi, Sindhi-Bhairavi, and Pancham-se-Gara, which is played during the piece titled “Dadra,” actually a tala). Throughout the album, short lessons in the forms and techniques are given by Shankar himself before the various pieces are performed. For sheer musicality, something like The Genius of Ravi Shankar might be a better choice for a look at the earlier years, but for a historical document of both Shankar’s amazing abilities, as well as his love of spreading the word for his music and teaching others, this album is perhaps better. For collectors, both albums would be wonderful additions to the collection, as early examples of World Music making its way into the non-native markets quite successfully. Give this one a number of listens for the music itself, and maybe a spare just for the history in it.-allmusic.com