A Song A Day: May 8th – A Chinese on Sunday!

7 05 2011

Very late posting today, it’s been a busy day, so much so that I can’t believe it’s nearly 10pm! Time is short, I’m still here though. I promise! Thanks to Seycen also for giving me the blogging equivalent of the tapping the wrist for time gesture…

I watched a documentary on the Chinese pianist Lang Lang the other day and he played a beautiful rendition of the chinese piece, ‘Colourful Clouds Chasing The Moon’ – Sadly, I couldn’t find the exact performance, but I’ve tracked down the original piece. I’m seriously considering saving up and buying a pipa instrument to learn next.

I should have more time in the next few days to blog properly also!

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A Song A Day – March 24th – Beauty Song (from another life)

24 03 2011

So there I was, listening to a load of film soundtracks on spotify, when todays song came on. It’s from what is possibly my all time favourite film. I’m actually writing this from the past (the main bulk of todays post comes from a post on my old forgotten blog, but it’s apt today) but it gives a good insight into how I came to fall in love with this wonderfully engaging piece of cinema.

Those of you who have seen Zhang Yimou’s wuxia masterpice House of Flying Daggers will know what a full frontal cinematic attack it is. In a good way. Mind boggling visuals coupled with a great narrative puts this film as one of my all time favourites. I remember the first time that I watched this film. I’d watched two films before it, Naked Gun 33 1/3 and Vantage Point. House of Flying Daggers was rounding off an impromptu movie night. I’d actually picked the film up on an impulsive spur whilst in the local branch of HMV. I’m currently attempting to learn Mandarin and being able to combine a film with a learning experience seemed a good excuse to plough through a bag of popcorn with a pint of the fizzy stuff whilst relaxing in my easy chair! I wandered down to the martial arts section to see what was on offer. I figured the martial arts film might be in eastern languages, and if I could find one or two in Mandarin Chinese then I’m quids in.House of Flying Daggers OST Cover

It was always one of those ‘films-I-want-to-see-but-just-haven’t-done-so-yet’ so I saw it on the shelf, it ticked the boxes so I paid up and headed home. I came to put it on. Plugged in headphones, got comfy (popcorn and beer had already gone missing) so it was just me, the film and a darkened room. That’s not such a bad thing!

I had no idea just how breath-taking (and I use that term literally) the film would be. From the opening credits, I had a feeling it was going to be good… But, THIS good? Scoring 89 on Metacritic and ‘universal acclaim’ I can see why! I’d not seen anything like it.

Now, someone like me who has studied film for a fair few years now, will often watch a film a little bit differently from the average cinema-goer. One thing I always pick up on are the technical sides of it. It struck me that the soundstage in this film was quite remarkable. The sound was crisp, clear and was audibly detailed. Naturally, the soundtrack followed suit.

Shigeru Umebayashi’s soundtrack is really good. The tracks evoke a range of feelings such as urgency (The Echo Game) beauty (Beauty Song (Jia Ren Qi)) and even just straight up heart tugging (Lovers) – The final track (Until the End) is also an emotional piece, those of you who know the ending will no doubt be seeing that in your minds upon hearing this track. I don’t know about yourselves, but I didn’t see it coming or ending like that.

This is also a wonderfully evocative score and captures the heart and soul of the film as well as its ancient chinese location. Traditional chinese instruments such as the pipa and erhu are used to great effect throughout and there is a range of moods and tempos across the tracks. Just like any good soundtrack should have. If you’re not overly used to the chinese sound, it may take a few listens to get your head around. If you are one of those people, then I advise you to at least have a go. You will not be disappointed.

The specific piece I’m going to feature today comes from a scene rather early on in the film, where we first come across Zhang Ziyi. I also learnt how to read erhu notation, converted into the regular notes, plotted it on a guitar tab, and learnt it on the guitar. That was a fun evening! This song is called ‘The Beauty Song’ and is an arrangement of an old chinese poem. I’ve provided the english translation below the video.

Excuse the slighty blurry picture quality – youtube restrictions meant dailymotion was the source today. The bloke singing along is Andy Lau (a famous cantonese/chinese film star/singer — and in this film at this time, the guy is slightly tipsy, which explains his singing, the version without him was bound by embedding restrictions)

An extraordinary beauty in the North…

The most beautiful being of the world

From her first glance the city bows before her

From her second glance the empire falls into ruins

But there aren’t such an empire or a city

what we can laud more than this beauty

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A Jasmine Flower for you this Sunday

20 03 2011

It’s sunday once again which means it’s a day to relax, take it steady, drink that extra cup of tea you promised yourself in bed and think about tucking into a nice sunday roast. Seeing as it’s a day of ease I think the music should follow this.

I was torn between posting this, and a jazz song by Miles Davis which is essential Sunday music in my opinion. But I decided to go for Jasmine Flower, which is a piece of traditional Chinese folk music. I nearly posted this song in January originally but kept opting for other choices in the end.

I discovered this piece of music whilst I was browsing for some chinese guitar tabs. I found a song called jasmine, called it up, and started playing the tab with no real structure or form, playing in what they call free time. I had a musical life-changing concert when I saw Tommy Emmanuel and it made me look at and hear music in a different way. No doubt his version of Michelle by The Beatles sub-consciously inspired my guitar musings that day.

Irregardless of how I play it, the piece of music is simplygorgeous. It has a quintessential Chinese sound which I fell in love with. I remember showing Milky the way I play it, and she said it was all wrong, but it was my way of playing it. Her words were ‘not sound correct, but in just a different ‘tone”

I should point out here that Milky is sat beside me at the moment and as such helped me pick out the performance of Jasmine below. I thankyou for your help my darling!!

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A Song A Day: Feb 14th – Monday Mornings, Valatines and Giveaway Draw!

14 02 2011

It’s Monday! My favourite day of the week. That may shock a few, but I always like that feeling of a new week bringing new goodnees and that. I have a good week planned. I’m spending time with Milky, I’ve got some potentially exciting job prospects on the table also! I’ve been invited to the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre to take a look around backstage in a meet and greet session. I’m very much looking forward to it – It could be a fabulous opportunity for me. I became interested in Video and Film via an initial interest in LX for the stage and some of the skills translate across. Fingers crossed!

I’m also going to be stepping things up on this blog. I’ve got a neat idea and want to see if it’ll work – More to follow naturally! Before I get onto the songs, I need to attend to the matter of who won The War Of The Worlds CD in my recent giveaway competition.

Thankyou to everyone who visited my blog and subsequently followed me on twitter and the link. It’s great to have your support. As for the giveaway, there are 112 entrants in the draw. They’ve been numbered as the comments came in. I used the random number generator over at random.org to pick out a number between 1 and 112 inclusive. As you can see from the image the winner was entrant number 66!   That means the winner of the giveaway and soon to be receiving a brand new copy of Jeff Waynes Musical Version of War Of The Worlds is…. lazyboyblue – congratulations to you. I’ll be making contact shortly to arrange posting. Well done! There will be more giveaways in the future if I have my way!

 

Now, that’s sorted… onto today’s posting. It’s valatines day in the UK so I can’t realistically post anything else besides a message to my wonderful girlfriend Milky. It’s fast approaching one year that we’ve been together now and I’ve loved every moment. I still find it hard to believe that even though we were born thousands of miles apart our paths crossed like they do. I’m very grateful for every moment you give to me. From the bottom of my heart, I love you and here’s to a wonderfully prosperous future together! 我爱你我的漂亮! – You know my ventures into Chinese contemporary music are limited, but everytime I hear this song I think of you. This one goes out to you.

The Song is in Chinese, but English subtitles are in the video!

On an unrelated random note also, I’m writing out a post about a love song, yet I’m actually listening to some heavy metal as I write – such are my spotify playlists!

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A Song A Day: January 9th – ‘ Music Is An International Language’

9 01 2011

I feel as though it would be a crime not to post this. Since meeting my wonderful girlfriend (who I know reads this blog!) I’ve discovered some of the most wonderful music that I’ve ever heard, but I would of been unlikely to seek out before. As well as some of the contemporary offerings from the Chinese music scene, I’ve fallen in love with the traditional music of the country. Todays post is a blend of the two.

GuilnThe twelve girls band are a wonderful group of musicians who not only play more traditional pieces, but they cover contemporary music and music from western culture, all of which are played on traditional chinese instruments (pipa, erhu etc)

The first time I heard this piece was a short while ago and it’s had regular rotation on my ipod ever since. I saw a quote on a youtube video which said that ‘Music is the international language of the world’ – I feel as though that may be non more true then with this performance.

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