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Weedon’s Wanderings: 9th May 2019

SOUNDS CHEESY? IT’S TRUE!

If, like me, you listen to the radio throughout the night you may have come across the phenomenon of ‘dreamt reality’, where a news story works its way into your sleeping fantasy world. It amazes me how an item on the radio can hi-jack a dream I’m already having and join seamlessly into the tale in real time. It can have the odd effect of making me feel clairvoyant when I hear the next edition of the news after waking, and say “Wow, I dreamt that!”

Sometimes my dreams are so outlandish that I realise on waking that they can’t be reality. I had just such a dream last night. I dreamt that a team of scientists in Switzerland have been playing music to maturing Emmental cheeses. They found classics, rock and pop caused changes in the cheeses - and the changes were radically different. Then I woke up - and found it was true. Apparently Mozart’s Magic Flute produces a soft mild cheese with a close texture, whilst hip-hop produces a much stronger flavour with bigger holes. If you don’t believe me, click here.

Of course, music is nothing more or less than a series of vibrations in the air. When these vibrations reach our ear drums and rattle them, the shaking is ‘read’ by nerves and impulses are directed to the brain; the brain brilliantly converts them back into sound for our enjoyment (or otherwise). 

Vibration can be used for other purposes. It’s an important tool in dispelling the bubbles from poured concrete. On that basis, it seems reasonable that certain vibrations (higher frequency ones like Mozart) will help dispel bubbles from Emmental. Conversely, heavy bass such as you hear in rock and hip-hop may actually make bubbles form. That would explain the texture differences. But what about the flavour?

Apparently, bacteria are part of the story in cheese maturation. I can only guess that cheese with more holes in (and thus more air) gives bacteria an aerobic environment and they do their maturation job with more vim and vigour. Or maybe the action of those air bubbles on the cheese makes it mature. Who knows? Certainly not me. But it suggests music has powers that we’ve so far only dreamt of...

 

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Weedon’s Wanderings: 29th April 2019

Kit Kat ad

THE VALUE OF HAVING A BREAK

D’you remember that ad? Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. And to my mind, having a break is good policy.

Golf fans will probably have been amazed by the recent come-back of Tiger Woods, winning the Masters Tournament after a fallow patch of several years. Admittedly, he had been out of action with a bad back, but his flair on his return seemed even greater than before his injury.

Meanwhile, we’re being told to forget gruelling long exercise routines. These days, the fitness buzz-word is HIIT - high intensity interval training. The idea is that we go at our given exercise (cycling, press-ups or whatever) hell-for-leather for 30 seconds, then take it slowly for 4 or 5 minutes before another burst. The benefits, they insist, are immense. 

I’m a great fan of having a break. I’ve applied it in my musical life in both small and large ways. I’ve just started tickling the ivories again after exactly a year off. And although I can feel my fingers have stiffened up, a bit of daily practise is bringing them back to life. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a year or more off, and each time I’ve found my playing technique really benefitted. I forget the bad physical habits and soon get back the good ones. No doubt, as I get even longer in the tooth, it will be unwise to take quite such lengthy breaks, mind. 

On a smaller scale, I have always advocated that practices be short and very concentrated, with lengthy gaps in between. My ideal is five or six 5-minute practices a day. There is no doubt that progress occurs between sessions, as the brain processes the information inputted each time. And for those practices I focus on very short passages of music - a bar, or even a couple of notes - which were giving trouble.  There’s no point practising something that’s going well anyway. That’s like polishing silver which is already shiny. No, I work on the blemishes so that they no longer stand out from the rest. 

ENTERING THE 21ST CENTURY

I’ve finally grasped the nettle and got my recordings accepted on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer and many other providers.  You can hear Moonlight Sonata and Reverie so far, with many more to come. Following on from that, I am having my arrangements and compositions published by Sheetmusicplus.  I’ll tell you when they’re up for you to download. 

And now, I think it’s time to have a break...

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Weedon’s Wanderings: 18th April 2019

The Cavaille-Col at Notre-Dame, Paris

Holding our breath in hope...

Hearing news of the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame rates as one of those ‘never to be forgotten’ moments for me, and many other organists I expect. In addition to the shock of seeing such a huge, iconic and ancient building going up in flames there was the sick-to-the-stomach fear for the organ it housed. The glorious Cavaille-Col is the stuff of organists’ dreams. Something about the awakening of its enormous lungs when it’s switched on, the background thrum of its circulation, and then the unique beauty of its singing voice. It seemed impossible that it would live through an inferno and flooding such as we witnessed. And yet it also seemed impossible that it would die so horribly and we’d never hear it alive again.

Aristide Cavaillé-Col (1811-1899) single-handedly changed the future of organ music through his highly individual instruments. At a time when pipe organs were thought to have had their day, he built huge pipe orchestras and then used them to entice young musicians to play and write for them. We can thank him for inspiring so many composers: Charles Camille Saint-Saens, César Franck, Louis Vierne and Charles-Marie Widor to name just a few. And, in a sort of ‘apostolic succession’, we have each of them to thank for the next generation of organ players and composers: Widor, for example, taught Albert Schweitzer and Marcel Duprés

Almost miraculously, it seems, the organ in Notre-Dame has survived, protected from flame and water by the one surviving part of the roof. It will doubtless be a little poorly after the experience, but as long as the building can be stabilised then work on its restoration can begin. What better way to celebrate that than to listen to Olivier Latry playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue on this wondrous instrument here!

There is a sumptuous Cavaille-Col in Manchester Town Hall, although that edifice is closed till 2024 for restoration. But enjoy a tour of the building and organ in the capable hands of Jonathan Scott here

Other interesting videos here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=G36AJPpo4lo

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DYHMHyOtBdI

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6ldgsWt6fzI

 

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Weedon’s Wanderings 8th April 2019

Morris Men

MAINLY MORRIS

We just happened upon a fascinating documentary about Morris Dancers on BBC iPlayer this week. You can view it here. Who would have thought such turmoil raged behind this gentle rural art-form?

This programme took me back to 1984, when I was loitering aimlessly in Bristol Docks and caught sight of some Morris Men practising their traditional dances.  I sidled a little closer: too close. The next thing I knew, I was pulled into the middle of the group where a smiling chap in a smock and battered hat hit me jovially on the head with a pig’s bladder. Ah, the shenanigans of youth!

You may well be wondering what this has to do with the price of onions. To bring it firmly back to music, I was so impressed by my Bristol experience that I wrote a piece about it (entitled Morris Dance - what else?). 35 years later, I have finally published it on Score Exchange. It marks the start of a new chapter for me, having retired from touring. I aim to type-set my fairly vast portfolio of compositions and arrangements, and offer them as downloadable sheet music. Morris Dance is now available for keyboard, organ, folk ensemble, piano solo and piano duet, each with an accompanying MP3 to listen to. Please feel free to pop along and have a look here, click on the audio file player just above the music, and let me know what you think. 

 

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Weedon’s Wanderings: 3rd December 2018

Winter in the Forest

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN

On the strike of midnight on the 30th November the Christmas music starts on the radio, and Classic FM in particular will now be thrumming with carols until the 7th January 2019. It starts in the shops a deal earlier, of course. It’s like spotting the first cuckoo of spring, isn’t it, only easier. A friend saw her first Christmas display in a supermarket this September. I can well believe it: I played at a music festival in Devon one particularly sweltering September and was greeted on arrival by a sweating Santa. The whole place was thick with tinsel, balloons and baubles, the menu was - Yule have guessed - and the three days I stayed were dubbed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve.

I suppose this is all very jolly for complete Christmas fanatics, even if it bears little resemblance to the event it was originally meant to commemorate. But if you prefer to hear seasonal music of a different sort, then I’ve picked out a few lesser known pieces for your delectation.  So settle back in your seat by a crackling log fire, cocoa in hand, and click on each of these for some December music...

First of all, a very lovely number from the 1997 Disney movie “Anastasia” called Once Upon a December. A little waif has been brought in to impersonate the missing princess Anastasia - but what the evil-doers don’t realise is that she is Anastasia!

Now for a bit of snowy music. Debussy hit the winter jackpot twice, once with this slightly ominous ‘Footprints in the Snow’ and also with Snowflakes are Dancing. Originally a piano solo, it’s been given an exciting twist by the late great Japanese synthesiser virtuoso, Tomita

George Winston is a name which is new to me. Maybe (as he’s a multi-million selling pianist) I’ve led a sheltered life, here in the Forest? I’m rather taken with his album. ‘December’, complete with its snowy forest scenes, which you can hear/see in its entirety hereVery relaxing!

Are you now thinking “It’s all just too relaxing”? If so, here’s a couple of tracks to liven things up and get you on your dancing feet.  The first is that well-known song by Earth Wind and Fire, entitled of course ‘December’. Then last, and most recent, a number by Taylor Swift called ‘Back to December’.  And with that I’d better get back to work...

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