From the Car Stereo ... | The Open College of the Arts
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From the Car Stereo …

This is a post from the archive. Information contained within it may now be out of date.
This blog is the first by music tutor Andy Glover, to whom we extend a warm welcome…
Every few weeks I will be introducing  listening items which will be different from the usual fare served up by the BBC or the commercial radio stations. They will basically be what I am currently listening to myself at home or on the car stereo.
As musicians we are involved in the creative arts of all sorts. In music that means all genres and style,s from early medieval to contemporary; from RnR to Heavy Metal; from Ragtime to … [you get the idea!]
I find that my listening preferences change over time. This has helped me understand not only where I fit in the musical world, but also what has informed me as a composer, performer and writer.
I cannot stress enough the advantages of always searching out and listening to new pieces in every genre – not always in the classical field, not always in the Jazz, or World, or Rock/Pop, but the lesser known works upon which the classics of the styles stand. This journey broadens our appreciation.  Some new pieces jar with me – or even annoy – but I nearly always have a reaction and sometimes come across a gem that will remain with me for the rest of my life.
So first into the car’s CD player at the moment is a work I came across when I was an undergraduate in the early 1980’s, namely Symphony in G Minor by the British composer, E.J. Moeran, written in 1937. If you like Vaughan Williams and Holst you will adore this magnificent work. The highlight that I would recommend is the ‘seascape’ section two thirds of the way through the second movement. It abounds with vast nautical vistas that stir the inner soul in a way few other seascapes can do. This stands as one of the finest symphonic episodes in any British work, ranking alongside the ingenuity of sound painting and brilliance of the “Four Sea Interludes” by Benjamin Britten or the ‘seascape’ movement in Maxwell Davies’s ‘Symphony No.1’. It paints a picture in sound that bears the originality if its creator. The rest of the symphony is full of shining brilliance and emotion, with particularly fine orchestration (worth further study). The melodies are greatly influenced by English and Irish models, but are no slavish copy of them. This is no pastoral imitation of Vaughan Williams: Moeran was too great a composer to be a follower. Not only that, he was more a British Impressionist than a “cowpat pastoralist” as Ethyl Smyth so ignominiously dubbed the newer English Nationalist movement!
Speaking of Irish music we have all heard of The Chieftans but until recently their early recordings on the Gael Linn Records label were only available on some 12 cassettes and then very hard to obtain. Happily they are now released on CD and, of all of them, “Chieftans 4” is the album that stands out for me. Recorded in 1972 this album, if you never own another folk album ever, is the one to own.  It contains some of the finest Irish traditional tunes known in the repertoire from the ever popular and foot tapping ‘Drowsy Maggie’, used as an introduction for each member of the group, through the beautiful air ‘Carrickfergus’, to the atmospheric and plaintive march ‘Lord Mayo’, to the duelling ‘The Morning Dew’ – always a favourite with audiences when the group played live.  The tunes are carefully selected and arranged by the leader, Paddy Moloney. They show the skills of the individual players but also the group ethos where no-one is more important than anyone else. Great to have it back on the shelves.
So what is in your car stereo at the moment?  Is it taking you into less well charted territory?

Posted by author: Ash Ahmed
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5 thoughts on “From the Car Stereo …

  • John Grant’s ‘Queen of Denmark’ was replaced by Lionel Sainsbury’s ‘Cello Concerto’ which in turn was ousted by Amy MacDonald’s ‘This is the life’. The course of about 5 months as I listen to the radio on the increasingly rare occasion that I drive. Not sure what this says at all.

  • Thanks for the Moeran suggestion, it’s a fantastic work.
    Flicking through the current contents of the car CD cassette reveals a surprisingly eclectic mix: Ray Charles, 2 CDs by the Norwegian band Katzenjammer, Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, some Stravinsky (including the fantastic Symphony of Psalms) and Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo. I’m not entirely sure what this says about my character at all!?!

    • I have a part time / casual driving job and I find myself listening to Classic FM most of the time. I find easy to listen to whilst concentrating on the driving.
      But in my own car I have MP3 CDs of music by the Bands of her Majesty.s Royal Marines and also Salvation Army Music and other brass bands.Perhaps I’m an old fashioned listener!!

  • I take CDs for longer journeys but listen to ABC Classic FM (I am in Australia) when hopping about town. The long journeys usually include Mendelssohn 4, which is great for the open road; a G&S operetta to sing along to; a Rossini or Verdi opera also for the tunes and for the comedy (R) or drama (V); a piano, brass or woodwind concerto because you can hear them over the road noise; brass bands, like Malcolm; and some searing jazz – Keith Jarrett or Miles Davis. It all sounds very old-fashioned but it’s fun.

    • Hi Thank you for your reply. I was beginning to think that I was the only one that listens to brass bands. may I take the liberty of suggesting you try and listen to ‘Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral’ played by a brass band and have the volume up as high as you can stand for the conclusion of the piece. It sends shivers down my back.

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