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January 17, 2004

An extended year in review: music

For those of you who know me for a long time, you know that music has always had a big place in my creative works (until 1998...). Now, with less time, it remains my principal “cultural” activity. I spent many years in a city-wide music conservatory, studying solfege, rythm (I played percussions, xylophon and metalophon). After a few years, I started learning flute, and some years after, recorder. I only regret that I did not spend enough time developping my musical knowledge and doing exercices (and learning piano – I own however a YAMAHA PSR-410 electronic keyboard very useful to compose – or guitar). But I loved composing music in my spare time, that was very entertaining moments.
At this time I met many cool people who are now very good friends (for those I still see): Pierre-Jean who played (and still plays) guitar and composed (and still composes) music (and his brother Mathias who played violin, and who plays drums now), Mélanie who played piano and flute, Nathalie who played piano and cello (and who was singing with Oriane), Stéphane who played piano and composed (and who went to university to study musicology). I mainly composed music with Pierre-Jean, but we tried to do something with Stéphane. Pierre-Jean and I wrote a little title for two flutes and guitar which was interpreted by him, me and Mélanie (and played for an examination in 1996 in a very extended version by me and Pierre-Jean), Pierre-Jean who founded a band where Nathalie (and Oriane) sung, and where his brother played; well, I have now problems to watch all Pierre-Jean's musical activities...
As I said in a previous entry, I plan to record these creative works. There are SouvImage (15 minutes long, but there are two versions, cos I lost a big part of the songs after a disk crash, so I rewrote many parts of these creations, which sound quite different), a small musical background music project for a game, and some experiments for another dead project: Light versus Shadow. I will remix and record these scores as they sound at this time, with my old soundcards. There are very poorly composed scores, but I love them, there were my first notes put on a sheet. However we plan to go to studio with Pierre-Jean to record with real instruments the extended version of SouvImage: Part 1 (the original extended acoustic version with acoustic guitar, recorder and flute), and maybe another new metal version. ;-)
That conducts me to another point. When I was learning music, I listened only to Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, and Starinc (the “Synthetizer Greatest” series). I started listening to Queen in 1993, who was my very first real experience with rock. I worked for the 1996 baccalauréat listening to Dream Theater's A Change Of Seasons and The Prodigy's The fat of the land (including the insane and psycho track Breathe), but they were exceptions to my glam rock period.
Undoubtedly my musical influences are now so large that all I could actually write will be very different from what I wrote in these past times. And we have now new incredible tools like digi-sequencer software which we can write very impressive title at home with. Yes, I will restart to play flute and recorder, these are my primary front/lead instruments, but I want also to learn bass-guitar (I love YAMAHA's bass guitars, and take a look at YAMAHA's new MagicStomp muti-effets) to play and write metal music. I will see what it will produce. Maybe it could be very crapy, but it might be the start for some strange experiment.

Well, but that wasn't my purpose. I wanted to talk here about what I listened to this year! The major change/opportunity came from the buying of a DENON Micro Component System (D-M50 system with a DRR-M30 cassette deck). This system do nothing but the sound, only the sound. Tha's why we must buy audio system, isn't it?
I will start this list by the sequel of my likes.

I love motion picture soundtracks (well, scores in fact – good website here and very good here): John Williams naturally (take a look at this excellent website: John Williams Fan Network), but Elliot Goldenthal and Danny Elfman too (those two last being far darker), the poetic Joe Hisaishi, Howard Shore, Michael Kamen (passed away last year), Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Ennio Morricone, etc. I am trying to get as many John Williams soundtracks as I can, but sometimes I give other maestros their chance... This year:

  • Midway (1976) – Original motion picture score. Music composed by John Williams, music conducted by Rick Wentworth, performed by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (1998, Varèse Sarabande Film Classics)

  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – The 20th Anniversary (1982/2002) – Original motion picture soundtrack. Music composed and conducted by John Williams (2002, MCA Records)

  • The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973) – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Music Composed and conducted by John Williams, music from the unused score composed by Michel Legrand (2002, Film Score Silver Age Classics) [This pressing is limited to 3,000 copies]

  • The Fury (1978) – The Deluxe Edition (2CD). Music composed and conducted by John Williams, performed by The London Symphony Orchestra (2002, Varèse Sarabande) [Limited Collector's Edition of 3000 copies]

  • Home Alone 2 – Lost In New York (1992) – The Deluxe Edition (2CD). Music composed and conducted by John Williams (2002, Varèse Sarabande) [Limited Collector's Edition of 3000 copies]

  • The Indiana Jones Trilogy (1981, 1984, 1989). Music composed by John Williams, The City of Prague Philharmonie Orchestra & Chorus conducted by Nic Raine (2002, Silva Screen Records)

  • Minority Report (2002) – Original motion picture score. Music composed and conducted by John Williams (2002, DreamWorks Records);

  • Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets (2002) – Music from and inspired by the motion picture. Music composed by John Williams, music adapted and conducted by William Ross, performed by The London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices (2002, Warner Sunset / Atlantic Records) [with limited edition CD-ROM]

  • Catch me if you can (2002) – Music from the motion picture. Music composed and conducted by John Williams (2002, DreamWorks Records)

  • The Batman TrilogyBatman (Danny Elfman) . Batman Returns (Danny Elfman) . Batman Forever (Elliot Goldenthal). Music conducted by Joel McNeely, performed by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus (1997, Varèse Sarabande Records)

  • Ennio Morricone – Film Music – Music for Piano – Chamber Music – Symphonic Music (2002, Milan Music) [4 CD BOX + 28 Pages Booklet]

What to say? Midway sounds good, sometimes like The Patriot (military music lol). It strange to hear The Fury: John Williams in a horror movie; but we can found premisses of scores like Minority Report in this one (the soundtrack of Minority Report is A.I., only better, and the most important: without Lara Fabian! Well it's a bit rough...).
E.T. and the second opus of Harry Potter are pure John William's music. Home Alone 2 is joyful and you can found very beautiful christmas songs on the soundtrack. The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing is a really impressive western score. The Indiana Jones Trilogy is a must have (we are really waiting for the complete soundtracks release someday). Catch me if you can is sometimes a bit too jazzy for me, but I need to listen to it a bit more... The Batman Trilogy is another dark must have! Really. This soundtrack is very deep, dark and profound (Birth of a penguin or Selina Transforms for example, in Batman returns by Danny Elfman are so beautiful...). For Ennio Morricone: I listened to the discs only one or two times, I can say nothing for the moment.

Classical interlude. I bought «à la Fnac», mainly by Deutsche Grammophon or Decca Classics: Schuman – Piano Works interpreted by Wilhelm Kempf, Orf's Carmina Burana (Eugen Jochum), Mozart's Musique Maçonnique (István Kertész), Mozart's Requiem (Hervert bon Karajan), Haydn's Messe de Sainte Cecile (Jochum) with Mozart's Messe "Du couronnement" (Fricsay), Mozart's Grande Messe en ut mineur (Fricsay). All come from Deutsche Gramophon, except Mozart's Musique Maçonnique from Decca, but in the «100 classiques» collection where you can find title from Deutsche Grammophon (globalization: these two brands are owned by Universal Classics). Yes, I try to go on with my classical musical knowledge... I have to learn, a lot.

After that, I will do a little travel through France. I listen less and less to french music. Only one reason: french music is in a very bad creative state (we have hopefully bands like Matmatah). That's all. I buy a bit of music from french artists, but I do not listen to them very often, and sometimes it's more to ask me: what are them becoming? Among them we find Pascal Obispo: my father (and the rest of my familly, but he found the disc) offered me the live 98 (1998) for my last birthday; but Obispo is beginning to write always the same thing, so I am a bit afraid of what will come with the next double album... and the lyrics are going dumb and dumber. But the new comer is here: Calogero, a friend of Obispo. After his latest album (see this entry), I bought his first one, Au milieu des autres (2000). I like this guy and he his a bass player, so we can hear songs with good (melodic) bass lines.
In the set of those who are beginning to be less productive, we find Yann Tiersen. His last live performance, C'était ici (2002, édition limitée) was good, but his last creative work, 3 titres inédits au profit de la FIDH (2003) is really cheap, but really bad too (what the hell did he put this noisy electric guitar?).

I think it was the previous year, but I continue to buy
Queen's discography and solo projects. The latest purchases were Live at Wembley'86 (1992) and Live magic (1986). I was really very impressed by The Queen Symphony (2002) composed and conducted by Tolga Kashif, performed by The Royal Philarmonic Orchestra (London): this is not a classical interpretation of Queen's music, it's really a symphony built upon Queen's most known musical themes and patterns; I love the dark part in the first movement (Adagio misterioso – Allegro con brio – Maestoso – Misterioso – Allegro). Many people do not know that in the beginning, there was three singers in Queen: Freddy Mercury, Roger Taylor and Brian May. And I appreciate Roger Taylor's rock voice. I had all solo album from this guy, but not the second: Strange Frontier (1984, digital remaster 1996). I got it! Some people said Taylor is the new John Lennon, so it's sad he is not “in the move”: he is a complete instruments player (drums and percussions, guitar, bass guitar, keyboard) and his lyrics are very engaged.

Pierre-Jean, you can say I continue to listen to « rock à minettes », but yes, I bought two new albums from Bon Jovi. And no, Bon Jovi is not only for girls. They are far from their Hair-Metal period, but you can laugh at me on they Arena-Rock style, still present. It's good Pop-Metal with a bluesy side, sometimes sentimental, sure, but sometimes funny (Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars on the album Crush). So I bought Bounce (2002) with the very powerfull Undivided (post-september 11, 2001) and the semi-acoustic This left feels right (2003) with an incredible acoustic performance on the DVD in the limited edition: Richie Sambora is really a guitar player with an impressive feeling! I love also the new acoustic version of It's my life.

To make a link with the past, I bought In time 1988 - 2003 – The best of R.E.M. [special edition, with rarities and B-sides] (2003). I won't say anything, cos I listen to it only two times I think... But R.E.M. was (is?) a cool band.
For my birthday, my father found G – or Garbage (2003, re-release) from Garbage. I love this band, a brilliant Alternative-Dance/Pop-Rock formation, using an incredible sophistication in samples. I am really waiting their next album release.

What else? Brit-Pop. I am a big fan of britpop. Here in France we have almost nothing. And there, beyond the sea, they have britpop... How can it be possible? I got Hail to the Thief [Special edition] (2003) from Radiohead, always experimental... And Absolution [Limited Edition] (2003) from Muse, my favourite alternative pop-rock band in the world, or: when Rachmaninov music meets grunge rock; the DVD from the limited edition is, well, very strange, but it's a good place to watch how they have built this new album (it seems to have been very funny: for example the recording of the feet march at night, to create the Intro...).
I listen to Placebo for a moment in MP3, but never bought a CD (and I really do not like to listen to things I did not pay for, or only for boolegs or songs you can no more found). I got Sleeping With Ghosts [Special Edition] (2003) with “10 cover versions”: these covers are among the best performances from Placebo. I bought too the pack containing Placebo (1996) and Black Market Music (2000). I did not purchase Without you I'm nothing (1998) for the moment (my prefered album) wich contains the introductory song of the soundtrack from Sexe intentions (I love Les liaisons dangereuses du marquis de Sade).

This year I began to buy J-Pop in... Japan, starting with my favourite band, the french named L'Arc-en-Ciel. They released a best of in three parts (I talked about that story here): The Best of L'Arc-en-Ciel 1994-1998 (2003), The Best of L'Arc-en-Ciel 1998-2000 (2003), The Best of L'Arc-en-Ciel c/w (2003). Hyde is a unbelievable singer (and musician) and Testu an incredible bass player (bass players have nowadays very poor musical basis... so it's always a great pleasure to hear so melodic players). For the first two best-of, I was able to get the special edition with a DVD, so I had the opportunity to see the beautiful Hyde with a dress and compensated boots...

With the soundtracks from La Sirène Rouge, I discovered Rammstein (well, I knew them, having made eight years of german...). This industrial-metal band has lyrics (well, you are responsable of your interpretation of the meaning) and a powerful music. Moreover they are very strong to provide incredible live performances (see the gothic Live aus Berlin). I first purchased Mutter (2001), after Sehnsucht [Australian tour edition with Stripped from Depeche Mode and a bonus CD with one title from the first album and five live songs] (1997), and Herzeleid (1995). I love. that's all. Great music to code fast and be punchy all the day. So for the moment we have : France is dead, but U.K. and Germany have good performers... you will see later that Europe has other good creative bands.

But I really love ;-) Evanescence, with a first “debut” album Fallen (2003). Well. post-grunge, alternative-metal... okay. chamber-pop? yes, clear. goth-metal? sure. Songs formated for the radio. No need for radio-edit versions. But Evanescence, this is a voice and lyrics: Amy Lee.
I bought the first album and the two EP, Bring Me To Life and Going Under, waiting for the new ones (the two My Immortal EP) and the new album (but things have changed... more to come in another entry about the band).

I found in MP3: Evanescence EP (1998) (on the left), Whisper EP (1999) and Sound Asleep EP (1999), Origin (2000) (on the right) and all their first demos (Demos 1997-1998 and Demos 2001-2002). In fact this is not really a debut album as we can see...

Before finishing with what I am listening now, I will dive into the “Dream Theater galaxy”. I am becoming what we can called a die hard fan of DT... a Progressive-Metal band, but the more complexe Prog-Metal in the world... I began to buy the lives I didn't own: Live at the Marquee (1993), Once in a LIVEtime (1998) and the impressive three hours masterpiece Live Scenes From New-York (2001). After buying their latest album, Train of Thought (subtly Metallica inspired, whose shadow is flying over this dark album), I was CHOCKED (well, I was a bit prepared by their two precedent albums: Metropolis Part.2: Scenes From A Memory and Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence). Yes. Genius. WHO in the world can play THAT? John Petrucci is at his best, Mike «patator» Portnoy splashes his cymbals, John Myung pulses, James LaBrie modulates and Jordan Rudess... does his job (well, I prefer his perfomances on “sfam” and “6doit”), but what a job! This week I bought the EP from Scenes From A Memory, Through her eyes [Japan Import] (1999), known sometimes as Lives and remixes.

With Portnoy's side projects, I discovered Transatlantic, a progressive-rock band. I bought Live In Europe [Limited Edition – Double DVD & Double CD] (2003), a very cool show. You know, it sounds like a band of friends. I continuated with The Transatlantic Demos (2003) from Nearl Morse and Archive Series: SMPT:e As Mixed By Roine Stolt 1999 (2003) from Transatlantic. I got Neal Morse's Testimony [special edition, limited edition box set with a third CD] (2003) whose Portnoy did the drums. Another good choice was One Night in New York City by Yellow Matter Custard, a tribute band to the Beattles with Mike “Ringo” Portnoy and Neal Morse. I like Transatlantic, it's good ProgRock, and Neal Morse's demos are very cool to understand the creative process in this kind of bands (you know: it sounds like a “I take my digital recorder everywhere with me, who knows where the muses will talk to me?” And Mike Portnoy is a god. You will never hear drums the same way after seeing or listening to him. I was a big fan of Roger Taylor, a great rock drummer, but Portnoy is a god. The god of patators. He must have four feet and twelve hands... For the last album of Neal Morse: I listened to him only one time, and I think there wasn't enough good material for a triple album.

Portnoy also played drums on John Arch's A Twist of Fate (2003) but I listened to this mini album only one time... We have too Office of Strategic Influence [limited edition] (2003) by the supergroup OSI (with Mike Portnoy, always him, and the ex-Dream Theater Kevin Moore on keyboards and.... vocals). Pure Pink Floyd, a great flying moment.

If you love Dream Theater for their “how can they play that?” side, you will love the almost-DT band but supergroup Liquid Tension Experiment, with John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess and Tony Levin at Bass (very different style from Myung). There are two incredible-must-have-jazzy-rock albums: Liquid Tension Experiment (1998) and Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (1999).

On Jordan Rudess's side: the Rudess Morgenstein Project (1997) and Rudess Morgenstein Project – The Official Bootleg (?) by the Rudess/Morgentein Project. The keys of Dream Theater meets a great drummer. That's a bit for the big fans, but that is pleasant and virtuose music (the bootleg contains very cool live performances). I got also Listen (1993) and Feeding the Wheel (2001) but I did not have time to listen to these two discs.

For James LaBrie (on vocals), we have frameshift – unweaving the rainbow (2003) with lyrics based on ideas from the socio-biologist Richard Dawkins. And also his two solo projects, Mullmuzzler (1999) and Mullmuzzler 2 (2001) which show us again that he has got not only one the most complete metal voice, but a voice for all styles of music. Another must have is Leonardo – the absolute man – Original Cast Recording (2001), a ProgMetal opera about the life of Leonardo da Vinci from Trent Gardner (with his trombone lol... yes, metal music with a trombone)! Really A MUST HAVE, even for those who do not like metal (a kind of metal Tycoon, the english version of Starmania from Michel Berger). I love the duet This time, this way between Leonardo (James Labrie) and Mona Lisa (Lisa Bouchelle).

And I am now listening to Luca Turilli's King Of The Nordic Twilight (1999) and Prophet Of The Last Eclipse [Limited Edition] (2002), solo projects of the guitar player, composer and writer from Rhapsody (with Olaf Hayer to vocals). This guy is italian and live in France. When progressive-metal mixed with a bit of industrial metal (mainly speed/power metal) meets european classical musics crossed with fantasy metal! That is actually very impressive, maestro Turilli is a great artist, very complete. The melodic lines are entertwined e, you can hear big heavy metal guitars talking to pan flute, recorders, harpsichord, accordion, strings, brasses, etc. I am now a big fan of this kind of music mixing completely different instruments and styles. The limited edition of the second album comes with bonus tracks and a version of Demonheart sung by Andre Matos from Angra (and you know what: very cool!). Well, and this paragraph ends my rant about music in Europe: Italy produces good things!

That's ALL (I think). I listed only albums I own. I listen to other things (yep yep). I was also very short describing these albums, but I will make more complete and detailed reviews of them this year.

What can you expect from me this year? I will certainly continue to explore the Dream Theater galaxy (bootlegs, rarities, clinics and side projects). I plan to get all the album of L'Arc~En~Ciel, Rhapsody and Symphony X. I need to purchase the Japan albums from Muse (and I am waiting for the release of their second MAXI boxset).

And thanks to Russell Beattie, I discovered The Flaming Lisps, a very strange alternative/experimental-rock band; I will try to get a compilation and the two latest albums and some recent EP; take time to watch their website, it is very complete (discography for example), and you can listen to many tracks from the latest albums.

However I need to ingest all these influences, and it will take time. I have really many ideas, but you know; between what you think and what you can do, there is a gap... and music composition takes time...

The end of my musical digest, next time it will be about movies!

Posted by Jean-Philippe on January 17, 2004 39 Comments, 5079 TrackBacks

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