Here’s my most recent episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio. This one is comprised of entirely early Western vocal music (technically some of this is toeing the line into the Baroque period), almost completely a capella (I actually haven’t listened back to this to check, but I think there might be an instrumental drone or two in here), and mostly sacred, though I think at least one of these songs are non-devotional love songs. I’ve listed the composer as the artist, and then the performers in parentheses after the song title. In full transparency, I’m neither an expert on this stuff nor am I at all religious–I just really love this music, and I think it makes an ideal winter hibernation soundtrack. I hope you like it too. You can download an mp3 version here. Stay warm!
1. Hildegard von Bingen – O Lucidissima (Rosa Lamoreaux & Hesperus Ensemble)
2. Claudio Monteverdi – Ah Dolente Partita
(Emma Kirkby & The Consort of Musicke)
3. Pérotin – Plainchaint: Viderunt omnes fines terrae (Tonus Peregrinus)
4. Tomás Luis De Victoria – Kyrie (The Tallis Scholars)
5. Léonin – Viderunt Omnes, 2 Part Organum (Tonus Peregrinus)
6. Claudio Monteverdi – Donna, Nel Mo Ritorno (La Venexiana)
7. Unknown composer, 12th century Aquitanian monasteries –
Lux refulget (Sequentia)
8. Carlo Gesualdo – Sabbato Sancto, Responsorium 5 (The Hilliard Ensemble)
9. Walter Frye – O florens rosa (The Hilliard Ensemble)
10. Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Motet Nigra Sum (The Tallis Scholars)
11. Pérotin – Beata viscera (The Hilliard Ensemble)
12. Unknown composer, 13th century England – Conductus:
O Maria stella maris (Anonymous 4)
13. Léonin – Pentecost: Repleti sunt omnes (Red Byrd)
14.Thomas Tallis – Spem in alium (Motet for 40 Voices) (The Tallis Scholars)
The Coconuts were an offshoot project of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, the brainchild of August Darnell, a Bronx-born composer who’s an absolute genius with big band sounds, Latin jazz textures, and cuttingly clever lyrics. The Coconuts were initially the trio of backing singers in Kid Creole & The Coconuts, but went on to release two full-lengths on their own, with production from Darnell (who was married to Adriana Kaegi, member of The Coconuts and co-founder of the original Kid Creole lineup. Less relatedly, I just excitedly realized that Fonda Rae was at one point a member of the Kid Creole band).
Don’t Take My Coconuts is killer song writing, fully fledged arrangements, and charismatic vocals together in full force. To be clear, the ladies of The Coconuts (Kaegi, Cheryl Poirier, and Taryn Hagey) were creative powerhouses in their own right–their vocal delivery is razor sharp and manages to be seductive even while covering “If I Only Had a Brain” (this is my second Wizard of Oz-related post this week, so make of that what you will). They were incredibly strong performers, able to stay in impeccable character while flawlessly executing fairly complicated choreography in perfect unison. The video for “Did You Have To Love Me Like You Did?” is a showcase of amazing outfits, spot-on choreo, and some, uh, monkeys–it’s embed disabled, so it’s different from the video previewed below, but you can watch it in full here.
I still haven’t found any clear origin story for “Ticket To The Tropics” (no relation to the Gerard Joling song, as far as I can tell), which has a different melody but the same lyrics as the Cristina track of the same name. I can’t find detailed credits for either of the two songs, but given the overlap in sensibilities I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some personnel cross-pollination going on in there somewhere. Enjoy!
Honored to contribute a mix to Sanpo Disco, a very inspiring Melbourne-based mix series that I’ve been a fan of for a long time. This is meant to be a pushback against the most brutal New York winter in recent memory: tropical and Latin textures, pillowy synths, ocean waves, sunny Japanese garage pop, crickets. Yes, that’s John Martyn covering “Over The Rainbow,” and it’s just as weird-good as you’re hoping. You can download an mp3 version here. Cheers, and stay warm!
1. John Martyn – Over The Rainbow
2. Art of Noise – Crusoe (Ambient Version)
3. Pili Pili – Be In Two Minds
4. Yoshiaki Ochi – Ear Dreamin’
5. Unknown Cambodian Artist – Side B, Track 1 (Edit) (Sayonara Sound Productions 16)
6. Akira Ito – W・A・T・E・R
7. Sally Oldfield – Blue Water
8. The Coconuts – Did You Have To Love Me Like You Did?
9. Yuki Okazaki – アイドルを探せ
10. Grace Jones – The Crossing (Ooh The Action…) (Edit)
11. Ana Gabriel – Parece Que Fue Ayer (For C)
12. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Put Your Hands Up
13. Karin Krog – Hymn To Joy
14. Sven Grünberg – Temaga
15. Владимир Леви & Ким Брейтбург – Не Уходи, Дарящий
16. World Standard – 私の20世紀 (My 20th Century)
17. Piero Milesi & Daniel Bacalov – Camera 2 Parte
Saint Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 17 September 1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, poet, doctor, visionary, Christian mystic, and polymath. She founded the practice of scientific natural history in Germany, lived to the age of 81 at a time when the life expectancy was early 40s at best, and wrote the oldest surviving morality play (sometimes called the first musical drama). Despite having no formal musical training, she was responsible for some of the most hauntingly beautiful and enduring music to come out of medieval Catholicism. Her compositions broke many of the existing conventions of plainchant, using extremes of register, dramatic leaps of pitch, melismas and flourishes to express rhapsodic, overflowing emotion. Sublime delivery of this collection of her songs by UK ensemble Gothic Voices and soprano Emma Kirkby, globally renowned early music specialist. Perfect hurricane soundtrack music.
When I was in high school, a burned copy of this CD made the rounds among the “cool” choir kids. It was passed discreetly with knowing nods, intended for the ears only of those who would “get it.” This compilation is still one of my favorite choral works, but I think it speaks to a much wider range of people than a few self-aggrandizing choir dorks might have imagined. Performed by the venerated/veteran Hilliard Ensemble* (they mostly perform early music, but have also dabbled in Gavin Bryars and John Cage, and have collaborated a lot with Arvo Pärt), this is a collection of works written by the legendary Pérotin, who lived sometime in the late 12th and early 13th century and was responsible for some of the earliest polyphonic music of which we have written and attributed documentation. (Gregorian chant is earlier and is monophonic.) All that aside, this music is spacious, vibrant, and dovetailing. It doesn’t mind if you’re uninterested in Christianity or choral music or even the western tradition.
*If anyone’s going to be in London around Christmas, the Hilliard Ensemble’s last performance ever will be on December 20th at Wigmore Hall. They’ll be performing Pérotin’s “Viderunt Omnes,” one of the few existing examples of four-part organa, among others. It will be a seriously historical moment, so don’t miss it. Tickets here.