Lucio Dalla (4 March 1943 – 1 March 2012) was an Italian singer-songwriter, musician and actor. He debuted at the Cantagiro music festival in 1965, and released over 40 albums in his lifetime. His song Caruso (1986) was dedicated to Italian opera tenor Enrico Caruso, and echoes some of the events in Caruso’s life, including his success in America and his death in Naples. It tells of a man (a romanticised version of Caruso) who meets a young woman just before his death and falls in love with her. In the song, he is declaring his love for her, looking into her eyes, while knowing his end is near. The version below is sung by the great Luciano Pavarotti.
Kats-Chernin: Unsent Love Letters
Elena Kats-Chernin (1957-) is a Soviet-born Australian composer and pianist, and in this piece, she evokes Erik Satie‘s melodies to produce a melancholy composition of her own on the theme of unsent love letters since, after Satie’s death, a stack of unsent love letters was found in his apartment in Paris. The composition is part of Kats-Chernin’s album Meditations on Erik Satie (2017), and she is also best known for scoring the ballet Wild Swans (2003).
Frank Churchill: “Someday My Prince Will Come” (from Snow White)
Frank Churchill (20 October 1901 – 14 May 1942) was an American composer known for his years’ long partnership with Walt Disney. He provided scores for Disney’s animations Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, Bambi, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (posthumously) and Peter Pan (posthumously and not included), not to mention scoring many uncredited short animations. Churchill’s song Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? for animation The Three Little Pigs achieved an unexpected commercial success.
Churchill’s Someday My Prince Will Come is a beautiful, catchy tune full of hope and longing for a better future. It has many melancholic, “heart-breaking” notes, but the overall impression is one of endless reverie, of a desire that tomorrow brings a better day. Churchill’s contribution, including his musical pieces Heigh Ho and Whistle While You Work, helped make The Snow White the world’s first great animation.
Frank Churchill was an immensely talented musician, but also a sensitive soul. He took his own life on 14 May 1942 at the age of just 40. Though at the time of his death he was involved in a dispute with Disney over his Bambi pieces, the cause was most probably depression after the deaths of Churchill’s two closest friends. However, his music lives on, still uplifting and touching millions around the globe.
Camille Saint-Saëns: Samson and Delilah (Bacchanale)
in 1877, French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (Danse Macabre) wrote opera Samson and Delilah to a French libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire and based on a biblical tale. Bacchanale is a musical piece from that opera where Delilah leads a provocative dance to taunt Samson.
Philip Glass: Mad Rush
“The activity of the artist is about transcending the ordinary world. The world of appearances” (Philip Glass).
My previous music post highlighted American composer Philip Glass, and I am now sharing his beautiful, minimalistic composition Mad Rush. This piece was first written by Glass in 1978 for an organ of the cathedral of St. John the Divine (New York) for the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s first public address in the US in 1979. It has since been re-recorded and titled Mad Rush (which can now be viewed as encapsulating our frantic modern lifestyles). I love the way this piece intertwines the themes of peace and chaos – the meditative and the sublime. Philip Glass said that that these two contrasting themes represent “the play of the wrathful and peaceful deities in Tibetan Buddhism“.
Philip Glass: The Hours
American composer Philip Glass (31 January 1937-), known for his minimalism and “repetitive structures” in music, is 85 years old today and I am taking this opportunity to share one of his greatest work – a film score to Stephen Daldry’s film The Hours .
Fryderyk Chopin: Waltz in A Minor
I am wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year! Let 2022 bring only happiness to all of us. To say goodbye to 2021, I have chosen this piece of elegant simplicity by Fryderyk Chopin (Nocturne Op. 9 No.2). Though quite melancholy, it is not without tender touches of hope.
Top 5 Anti-War/Protest Songs of the 1980s and 1990s (Part II)
I. “Zombie” (1994) by The Cranberries
This song was written as a response to the then ongoing violence knowing as the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. In particular, the song commemorates the victims of the Warrington bombing that happened in 1993 when two children aged 3 and 12 (Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry) were tragically killed and 54 others were injured. The song, written by Dolores O’Riordan (1971 – 2018), talks about the personal devastation caused by the terrorist attacks, criticising how desensitised the public and media have become to them and calling for sympathy.Continue reading “Top 5 Anti-War/Protest Songs of the 1980s and 1990s (Part II)”
Top 5 Anti-War/Protest Songs of the 1980s and 1990s (Part I)
This week is Remembrance Day in the UK when people will honour members of armed forces who participated in wars and died. Some will wear red poppies to honour the event, but I also read that some will wear white poppies, which stand for three things: (i) remembrance for all victims of war; (ii) a commitment to peace and; (iii) a challenge to attempts to glamorise or celebrate war. I like this interpretation much more so I have compiled a list of protest and anti-war songs released in the 1980s and 1990s. There were hundreds of good anti-war and protest songs released in these two decades and below are simply my personal selections in no particular order. Though some songs reflect certain historical events, all of them feel timeless (unfortunately history likes to repeat itself) and some that focus on racism and police violence, for example, sound more topical now than ever.
I. “Wind of Change” (1991) by Scorpions
“Wind of Change” is one of the world’s most famous songs, talking about the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a significant event for many people that signalled the end of the Cold War. There is much hope in the lyrics that future will be brighter for all and people will live in friendship, freedom and openness: “Did you ever think/That we could be so close, like brothers…The future’s in the air/Can feel it everywhere/Blowing with the wind of change”. It was a personal song for the members of the band too since they come from West Germany. The band says that “the glory night” in the song actually refers to their performance at the Moscow Music Peace Festival in August 1989.Continue reading “Top 5 Anti-War/Protest Songs of the 1980s and 1990s (Part I)”
Richard Wagner: Tristan and Isolde (Prelude)
Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was a German composer known for many of his pieces that paved the path to modern music, including The Ring of the Nibelung. Tristan and Isolde is an opera in three acts by the composer which is largely based on the twelfth-century romance by Gottfried von Strassburg. Below is the haunting prelude from the opera that was also used in many famous films, including Lars von Trier’s sublime Melancholia (2011).
National Day of Spain: Isaac Albéniz’s Cantos de España
Today, 12 October, is Spain’s National Day and I am sharing Isaac Albéniz‘s Cantos de España (or Chants d’Espagne). Isaac Albéniz (1860 – 1909) was an influential Spanish virtuoso pianist and composer and some of his best-known compositions incorporate Spanish folk music.
Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Andante)
Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich was born on this day (25 September) 115 years ago, in 1906 (died in 1975), so I am sharing this part from his Piano Concerto No. 2, composed and performed for the first time in 1957. It is a very touching piece of understated beauty.
Remembering 9/11: Terence Blanchard’s Score
Today (11th September 2021) marks 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks which took the lives of 2.977 people (see also this article on people who died from cancer which was directly related to the tragedy). Given this important date, I thought I would pay tribute to all those who suffered and/or died in this tragedy, as well as to all those who fought bravely to save people in the aftermath, by sharing this powerful soundtrack composed by Terence Blanchard for Spike Lee’s film 25th Hour (2002). I consider this film, based on a book by David Benioff, to be the most significant 9/11 feature film. While it does not speak of the tragedy directly, it conveys movingly the 9/11 atmosphere just after the attacks and somehow manages to show collective and individual trauma caused by the tragedy, albeit indirectly and somewhat symbolically. The film contains resonating messages on loss, grief, isolation, confusion, anxiety, missed opportunities and responsibility.
Erik Satie: Le Piccadilly
I thought I would share today this lovely tune Le Piccadilly by one of my favourite French composers, Erik Satie (1866–1925) (Gnossienne No.1, Je te veux). It is a ragtime march written by Satie before his fame and at the height of the ragtime popularity. Happy Friday!
Carlos Gardel: Por una Cabeza
Carlos Gardel (11 December 1890 – 24 June 1935) was a French-Argentine singer, songwriter and composer. Born in Toulouse, France, he was celebrated throughout Latin America and became known for his melancholy ballads and classic tango songs. Often referred to as “The King of Tango”, he created hundreds of recordings and one of his songs titled Por una Cabeza was featured in such films as Scent of a Woman  and Schindler’s List . The lyrics were written by Alfredo Le Pera, and Gardel himself sang to his own piece in a film Tango Bar . “Por una Cabeza” is a gambling jargon signifying a horse winning a race narrowly and, in this case, probably also refers to the possibility of losing a beloved woman. The mood of the song is said to be “passionate and vivid”, and the composition is often praised for its contrasting use of minor and major chords.
The video below shows the piano performance by Stanislav Stanchev who plays his own arrangement. Carlos Gardel tragically died in an airplane crash in 1935. He was 44.
I don’t think I shared a jazz piece before, so I thought I would share this composition sung by Ella Fitzgerald to brighten everyone’s Monday. Skylark  was composed by Hoagy Carmichael (Georgia on My Mind ) with lyrics by Johnny Mercer (Moon River ).
Ludwig van Beethoven: 250 Years – Sonata “Pathetique”
17 December 2020 marks 250 years since the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (he was baptised on 17 December 1770, but his real date of birth was probably 16 December 1770). Considered by many to be the greatest composer who has ever lived, Beethoven composed some of the world-famous classical music compositions, from Piano Sonata No. 14 (“Moonlight Sonata”) to “Emperor Concerto”. I would like take this opportunity to share one of his masterpieces – the beginning of “Sonata Pathetique”, No. 8. My favourite performance of this piece is by Vladimir Ashkenazy at the University of Essex in Colchester in 1972.
Joe Hisaishi: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) & Spirited Away (2001)
Joe Hisaishi (6 December 1950-) is a Japanese composer probably best known for his music collaborations with director Hayao Miyazaki on various Studio Ghibli films. Yesterday he turned 70 years old and I think it is a perfect time to share a couple of his best-known compositions for animations: Merry-Go-Round of Life from Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and The Name of Life from Spirited Away (2001).Continue reading “Joe Hisaishi: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) & Spirited Away (2001)”
Yann Tiersen: Comptine d’un autre été
After Yann Tiersen’s Rue des Cascades, I feel like sharing this quieter but no less beautiful composition by the French composer. Comptine d’un autre été forms part of the score for film Amelie , and the piano arrangement/performance below is by Rousseau.
James Horner: Braveheart
American composer James Horner (1953 – 2015) would have been 67 today (he tragically died in a plane crash in 2015), so, by way of tribute, I thought I would share this beautiful musical composition of his for film Braveheart , performed on the piano by Patrik Pietschmann.
Yann Tiersen: Rue des Cascades
Yann Tiersen (1970-) is a French musician and composer that likes to experiment with different instruments when creating his music. He is most famous for his soundtrack to film Amélie . Below I am sharing his composition Rue des Cascades (the instrumental version).
Erik Satie: Je te veux
Erik Satie (1866 – 1925) was a French composer known for his Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes compositions, among other late 19th century experimental music (he was “a precursor of minimalism, repetitive music and the Theatre of the Absurd”). This week it will be 154 years since the composer’s birth, and I would like to share his uplifting Je te veux composition to brighten everyone’s Wednesday.
Alan Silvestri: Forrest Gump
My readers probably know by now that I love film music. In October 2019, I “celebrated” the 70th birthday of film composer Gabriel Yared (The English Patient , Betty Blue ), so now I want to highlight that today Alan Silvestri, an American film composer known for his collaborations with director Robert Zemeckis, is 70 years old too. Given this, I think it is perfect time to share one of this composer’s greatest scores for the film Forrest Gump  that starred Tom Hanks.
25 Music Hits from the 1980s
This will be an unusual post for me, but since I have heard of the death of Marie Fredriksson (1958 – 2019), once lead singer in Swedish band Roxette, I thought I would also pay tribute on my blog to the music (and love ballads) of the 1980s by compiling a list of memorable songs from that decade. In the 1980s, Roxette had a hit song – “The Look”  and it is also the band behind song “It Must Have Been Love” , featured in a film Pretty Woman . Even though I do not listen to the 1980s music much anymore, I recognise that that decade produced some of the greatest hits ever, especially in pop music, and, in my humble opinion, no music could compare to the instantly recognisable beat of the 1980s. This was also the decade that produced the best love songs, whose quality (and cheesiness!) is unmatched to this day. In no particular order (trying to feature different genres without repeating artists):
I. Pet Shop Boys – “West End Girls” 
II. A-Ha – “Take On Me”  Continue reading “25 Music Hits from the 1980s”
Gabriel Yared: The English Patient
My favourite film composer Gabriel Yared (1949-) is 70 years old today, and I am taking this opportunity to pay tribute by sharing his musical masterpiece below. Born in Beirut, Yared gained his law degree before switching to music composition while studying in France. Apart from The English Patient, Gabriel Yared is also known as a composer for such films as Betty Blue, Camille Claudel, The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain.
Neil Sedaka (1939-), an American singer, composer and producer, is 80 years old today. He is a writer or co-writer of more than 500 songs, and was also a popular singer with some serious hits under his belt. In 1972, Sedaka co-wrote with Phil Cody beautiful song Solitaire, and it was later famously performed by The Carpenters. The audio below is the performance by Mark Lanegan, an alternative rock artist who I consider to be much underrated (see the greatest cover of the song Man in the Long Black Coat). Lanegan’s album Imitations  is composed of song covers that he heard when growing up at his parents’ home.
Elvis Presley would have been 84 years old today (he was born on 8 January 1935), and I am sharing one of the songs which pays tribute to the King – Black Velvet , written by Canadian songwriters Christopher Ward and David Tyson, and performed by Alannah Myles.
Stephen Flaherty: Once Upon a December
The musical piece below is a piano version of song Once Upon a December from the 1997 animation Anastasia. It was composed by Stephen Flaherty (1960-) and nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. I hope my readers had a very Merry Christmas, and I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year!
Francis Cabrel: Je l’aime a mourir
Francis Cabrel (1953-), French singer and songwriter, turns 65 years old today, and I thought I would share one of his popular songs – Je l’aime a mourir (I Love Her to Death), released in 1979.
Erik Satie: Gnossienne No.1
Erik Satie (1866 – 1925) was a French composer working largely in his own impressionist musical style that emphasised minimalism and experimented with form, rhythm, and chordal structure. His piece Gnossienne No. 1 is an uncanny musical work of profound mystery and subtle beauty, capturing the unfathomable and the enigmatic. All of Satie’s Gnossienne compositions were influenced by mysticism and esoterica, and Gnossienne No. 1 also featured in some notable films, including in John Curran’s The Painted Veil (2006).
Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat
Canadian songwriter, musician and poet Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016) would have been 84 today, and to pay tribute, I thought I would share one of his most personal and emotional songs – Famous Blue Raincoat, released in 1971. Cohen also known for writing divine Hallelujah, and check out also his songs A Thousand Kisses Deep and Waiting for the Miracle.
Fryderyk Chopin: Nocturne Op.9 No.2
Frédéric (or Fryderyk) Chopin (1810 – 1849) was a celebrated Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic period. His piece Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 is one of his most popular compositions, which he composed when he was around twenty years old. It is a very melodic piece that uses repetitions, and, together with two other nocturnes in the series, was dedicated to Belgian concert pianist Marie Pleyel. See also my review of the biography of Chopin by Alan Walker – Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times.
Camille Saint-Saëns: Danse Macabre
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921) was a French composer known for a wide range of Romantic-era musical work, including The Second Piano Concerto (1868), and The Carnival of the Animals (1886). Danse Macabre, which premiered in 1875, is a poem for orchestra, primarily based on play Danza macàbra by Camillo Antona-Travers. It is a vivid, transportive and unforgettable musical piece which evokes Death appearing at midnight on Halloween, calling the dead from their graves to join his “dance of skeletons” while he plays the fiddle.