Tag Archives: Sweden

[89] Luciano Berio – Sinfonia for Eight Voices and Orchestra

19 Dec

This is a weird and wonderful ride, energetic and mysterious, by design complex to the point of opacity.

Gotesburgs Symphonika and London Voices conducted by Peter Eotvos

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and London Voices conducted by Peter Eotvos

The designation Classical becomes very difficult when dealing with modern music, and this 1968 work could be a poster child for the phenomenon.  The orchestration is traditional enough, but the use of eight jazz vocalists speaking snippets of text in such a way as to be never fully understood is something else entirely.

It is this “something else” that makes Sinfonia worthy of a listen.  Imagine expanding on the final coda moment of The Beatles’ album, Sgt. Pepper, into an thirty minute event and you are on your way to understanding what is going on here.

The vocals are urgent and immediate – at times angry, at times contemplative but always incomplete.  They sketch a series of moods rather than telling a concrete story, leaving the details to the listener, guided by the ebbing and flowing of the orchestra.

It is thought-provoking and unique, compelling and surprisingly accessible.  I imagine it would be quite a spectacle to watch in person, but that imaginative aspect is one of the things that make it so enjoyable to listen to.

Perhaps actually seeing the performers would take away some of the magic I experience as I explore these sounds, as I attempt not to completely decipher the (for want of a more accurate word) lyrics.

Both orchestra and vocalists are clearly enjoying themselves throughout here and I find it hard not to get caught up in that joy.  The themes might be tense and hectic – a reflection of the turbulent late 1960s of its composition as well as the uncertain early 2000s of this recording – but the result is a confident exploration of the human condition in the modern world.

It is difficult to be unmoved by a piece that attempts such an undertaking, much less one that succeeds to the extent that Berio does here.

Next Week:  Hector Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 89 = 10%)
Heard before blogging? No. (12 of 89 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (72 of 89 = 81%)

[1] Thank You For The Music? ABBA – Gold.

12 Apr

“I’m a Rocker / I’m a Roller too.”

So said Phil Lynott right around the time I was born, and that sounds about right to me.  Of course I’m not *just* a rock ‘n’ roller, but I think it is fair to say that Europop Discoer doesn’t make the Top 20.

Which brings me to ABBA – Gold.

Gold: Greatest Hits (ABBA album)

Gold: Greatest Hits (ABBA album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thin Lizzy doesn’t make the list, but it starts with ABBA?

When I found 1kRTHBYD, I was dreaming of nights rediscovering Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, of afternoons finally polishing up my education in jazz and blues of all flavors, and of mornings listening to old favorites with new ears.

None of which applies to ABBA.

It’s not that I *dislike* ABBA.  I’ve bopped along to “Waterloo” often enough (although I believe I first discovered the song as a 1986 cover by Doctor and the Medics).  I’ve laughed out loud as Gerry Dieffenbach used Ulveaus and Anderson as a Piano Bar punchline while belting out a truly wonderful rendition of “Dancing Queen”.  I’ve even sung “Super Trouper” karaoke . . .

But it is absolutely *not* what I had in mind when thinking of the 1,000 as a “best” or “most important” list.  I wonder if it is fate or design that has Tom Moon list them first in the book.  It has to have come up in discussion as an argument against alphabetizing the list . . .

All of which is what is going through my mind as I sit, building up the courage to start my 2 decades long journey of musical discovery.  An hour or a week listening to music I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Seems like the whole point of the excercise in hindsight.

Starting with ABBA?

Maybe Steven Tyler was right.  “Just press play . . .”

Let’s give them their due as trailblazers.  Without ABBA, it is doubtful we have such ESL acts as A-ha and Roxette, who I enjoy in a fun, throwaway pop way.  Which is, I guess the way I’ve always heard ABBA – in passing, on the radio.  What happens when I listen with a musician’s ear, view with a scholar’s eye?  I close my eyes and try to do just that.

But it turns out that it is just impossible not to sing along!  Even if the lyrics are often essentially meaningless – a case for the universality of the language of music? – you know you remember every word.

And there’s more.  When actually paying attention, the a capella harmonies that open “Take A Chance”, for example,  are . . . genius?  That is the word I land on when a band like Queen produce a similar effect.

These melodies are simple, sweeping and ludicrously infectious, the harmonies tight and sweet.  If the lyrics are  for the most part trite they are also beyond catchy.

The biggest complaint I find is that there’s no heat, no passion captured in the delivery – it’s all so clean and safe.  Which is probably one reason for the huge sales and massive following, yet I wonder whether these well crafted songs could soar with a more accomplished delivery.  Has anyone “good” ever covered “Super Trouper”?  What would Paige and Dickson have done with “Money”?

But still, an unexpected smile splits my face each time “The Winner Takes It All” kicks up a gear.  And the nostalgic sense memory that comes with the sax riffs in “Waterloo” has a power that I feel bodily.  There are reasons that these thoroughly 70s  singles still resonate, that this collection of Greatest Hits still sells.

Speaking of “Waterloo” – the Eurovision Song Contest winner that started it all for ABBA – I’ve always been a fan of saxophone in pop / rock music – it adds a certain flair and fun whether it’s a blistering solo (RIP Clarence Clemons) or, as in this debut hit that closes the first of 1,000 recordings, merely a brush of color here and there.  There should be more sax in modern mainstream music . . .

Thank You for the Music

Thank You for the Music (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



“So I say thank you for the music /
The songs I’m singing /
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing /
Who could live without it /
I ask in all honesty what would life be /
Without a song or a dance what are we?”



It’s not Sondheim, but I am happy to admit there are worse sentiments, and worse ways to spend my listening time.

Owned before blogging?  No  (0/1, 0%)
Heard before blogging?  Yes (1/1, 100%)
Recommend? A surprised Yes  (1/1, 100%)

I like statistics, so will be tracking a few of them as I make my way through the list.  If there is something else you might be interested in tracking along the way, please let me know, and I’ll see about adding it.


podcasts for the musically obsessed


Days in the life


My rants, outbursts and musings.

Every number one

Journey through all the songs that topped the charts

musicophilesblog - From Keith Jarrett to Johannes Brahms

Writing About and Reviewing Classical Music and Jazz

Leaves of Logan

Rants, reviews, rambles and a whole lot of books

Punk Rock Reviews

Reviewing Music

Team Distraction

Dicemasters Strategy

Good Music Speaks

A music blog written by Rich Brown

Kenza Moller

writing | editing | marketing

The Delinquent Diplomat

The Diplomacy Player's Blog Of Choice

Sampling Station

Tasty tunes, laughs, TV + film

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

%d bloggers like this: