Month: August 2015

12: A Cappella

I love a cappella music. Multiple voices coming together and flowing together in beautiful harmonies, with no musical instruments to “distract”. A cappella always sounds magical and mysterious, taking me to it’s special universe of sounds, echos and flavors.

A cappella music comes in many styles and sounds. Here I will present a (very) few examples that I came across over the years. You are welcome to add your contributions in this installment of This Reminds Me.

We start with… Lady Gaga. Yes, to me it was a surprise that of all artists, Lady Gaga will do an a cappella. I was used to her high-power, super bombastic productions of cellophane-wrapped shallow pop. But then I came across this a cappella variation of her song Born This Way:

And I actually liked it. IMHO, in this simple, down-to-earth version, Lady Gaga is much more real, authentic and believable.

Talking about Lady Gaga and cellophane-wrapped shallow pop, it turns out there is an a cappella cover of one of Lady Gaga’s… well cellophane-wrapped shallow pop hits. On The Rocks – an all-male a cappella group from the University of Oregon – brings us this little improvised musical joke – an a cappella version of Bad Romance.

I love it! Just a bunch of talented young people, not taking life too seriously and having fun. Not the highest quality production but I have a big smile on my face whenever I watch the clip. Common u’all, loosen up! Not everything has to be perfect. As long as we are having fun…

The next example actually combines a fascinating mix of a cappella with instrumental music and of old and new – Gregorian Chanting and electronic music. The Enigma project, lead by Michael Cretu introduced this new amazing and enchanting style. When I first heard MCMXC a.D., it was a WOW moment for me. OK, no more words. Just listen, find those Gregorian nuggets and get lost in the music.

There are tons of more examples of a cappella but I will stop here with my last example – a true hidden gem. A cappella usually implies multiple voices from multiple signers without instruments. Here we have multiple voices from one singer. Israeli singer Hani Livne created this beautiful album called Vocaliza.

She overdubbed multiple tracks for each song, singing various roles – lead, bass, back, second, even instruments. Most songs are without any instruments. What a beautiful and special album. I have a blast every time I hear it and marvel at both the beauty and high quality of the production and Hani’s beautiful clear voice.

So here we are. Do you like a cappella? Any cool pieces you love?

11: My Friend Uri Rosenberg

I recently visited with my very good old friend Uri Rosenberg. Uri and I go back together all the way to first grade. Kept in touch all these years.

Uri has all sorts of hobbies and he does very well at them. He takes his stuff very seriously and it shows. He loves literature – recently finished his M.Sc. – nice job Uri! He also has a blog about Israeli history, based on old documents that he digs up from… I don’t know where.

Uri has been an avid amateur photographer for many years. The word “amateur” does him disservice because he does a beautiful job and IMHO is as good as a pro, but I use the word to indicate that he does this for the fun and love of the activity, not for the money. He never made a business out of it and intentionally so. A true artist. His work was presented several times in galleries and won prizes. Here are some examples of his work.

A few years ago, Uri started expanding into video. He does the whole production: filming, recording, directing, editing, etc. Here is a collection of his work.

Well, this blog is about music, so this brings me to the music in Uri’s videos. Uri is very particular about the music he uses in his videos and I love his choices (at least most of them). So go ahead and view the clips. The videos are very beautiful, and if you are Israeli or Jewish with love for that country and culture you will have a real treat. View the clips and pay special attention to the music and how it fits and flows with the visuals. And note the very exacting level of scrutiny Uri puts in his work. He is a perfectionist 🙂

In future posts, I will say some more specific things about some of these clips. Right now, I want to point out a little gem: Atai’s Garden is a beautiful documentary about nature and a wonderful man and if you watch it patiently, you will find a lovely musical surprise at the end.

Thank you Uri. Continue the great job and share with us.

10: The World

As you probably know by now, I was born and grew up in Israel. Naturally, a great part of my musical “baggage” is Israeli music, which is mostly in Hebrew. Israel was always more open to world music than the US, so we were exposed to music from around the world. I will sometimes write about non-English music and this category – The World – will be the home for these posts.

9: I Saw Them Playing There

I always thought the Beatles were the greatest pop/rock band ever. I still think so. Yes, today much of their work sounds naive and sort of silly/childish. But back then they were by far the trail blazers. They didn’t just bring a new style of singing. They defined a whole new culture. Only people, who grew up with the Beatles, can understand and appreciate their groundbreaking work. And I’m not even talking about their commercial success, still unrivaled to this day.

I am generally not a big fan of covers of great originals. If the original performance was good, any cover just “kills the fun” for me. No wonder then that I am even less excited about covers of Beatles songs. How dare somebody imitate the Fab Four? But as time goes by, here and there I encounter a nice surprise – a cover of a Beatles song that I actually like. Here is one I “discovered” just a few days ago.

I was watching A Musicares Tribute to Paul McCartney. One of the songs there really made me jump up and dance, more even than the Beatles’ original performance. Neil Young and Crazy Horse doing I Saw Her Standing There.

I am generally not a big fan of Neil Young either. I just don’t like his high-pitched and nosy voice. But here it worked great. The band just felt down to earth, unpretentious, having fun. Felt more like a bunch of people in a bar just standing up and having some improvised fun. The performance wasn’t the cleanest and highest quality but they produced a great sound and rhythm. You just have to get up and dance. Good job guys.