by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Arvo Pärt - "Psalom," performed by the Quatuor Franz Joseph. I realize that two classical pieces in one week is rather unusual in this hip-pop-and-go mp3blog world, but we here at Said the Gramophone say: fuck that, let's rock! And by "rock", I mean listen to moving, ghostly music by a contemporary Estonian composer. While StG readers continue to send me terrific songs (hooray! please continue!), I've gotta admit that much of the past few days has been spent listening to a new, Canadian recording of Pärt works. My dad picked it up and it's really, really wonderful - "Psalom," "Fratres," "Es Sang Vor Langen Jahren," two versions of "Summa" (strings and choir), and the centerpiece, "Stabat Mater." The performances - by the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal (cond. Christopher Jackson), Quatuor Franz Joseph, and countertenor Daniel Taylor, - are exceptional. It's all so beautiful, and yet aches so hard.

Even if you're not one to seek out classical music, do download "Psalom" and tell me what you think. The cello line grows and shifts, meeting the other strings at every step, their dark feet leaving fiery impressions. Long silences, yearning reaches; then, with the bass, the sound of an unmoved acknowledgement. Something hears you but says nothing in reply: the monolithic, (re/un)assuring presence of the old testament god. Beautiful. Terrible. Blind eyes trying to see through the fog. [buy]

I recently but two and two together and realized that since Pärt's from Tallinn, and I'll be visiting Tallinn in November, there might be something related for me to check out... Anyone know?

The New Year - "Disease". I know I'm way behind the ball on this one, but this track from The End is Near retains everything I like from the Kadanes' old band, Bedhead. It stumbles sort of sleepily along, filled with that summer immobility: "106 degrees. The air was hot water, there was no motion in the trees." And then in comes that other guitar, doing chordal things I don't understand for a minute, but the result is that it feels like the skylight's pulled open, that there's suddenly cool air flowing in. Then lurch, we're back in that hot slow place, but then this time when things change the whole place breaks apart, wind flowing everywhere - it's in our hair, the creases in our clothes, the wrinkles of our smiles. Electric guitars surge up, a sound to fill your head; it's a beautiful noise, gentle and strong. "And dis-ease / has found us again." Everything's chiming and ringing and me I don't want to sit down. (Ooh, music video.) [buy]

Posted by Sean at July 8, 2004 2:01 AM

I'm getting a 404 on both your links.

Posted by tuwa at July 8, 2004 5:10 AM

ditto, file-sharing bud

Posted by david at July 8, 2004 6:55 AM

that's so weird. i sweat they were on the server last night. oh well - uploading again.

Posted by Sean at July 8, 2004 10:03 AM

i think a bunch of the ecm releases were recorded at an orthodox church in talinn. might be worth a looksee [fp]

Posted by t rae at July 8, 2004 10:22 AM

The New Year 'Disease'... isn't that a hangover, one where you keep yourself very, very still until you have to move (that damn bladder doncha know) and the light outside is steel grey, but still it pierces your sad sore eyes. I see the section where the electric guitar comes in as when the hangover begins to pass, but still there is that odd New Year's day melancholy under it all.

Posted by *sixeyes at July 8, 2004 10:40 AM

'Tabula Rasa' by Part. His best recording. In particular the 'Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten' piece. Beautiful and dramatic.

Posted by KuntaKinte at July 8, 2004 11:28 AM

In Your Pocket do great guides, including one for Tallinn. When I was there several years ago (and the website looked rather less professional) you could pick up their free printed guide in loads of places in town and it really was invaluable. It seemed much more like it had been written by real people, rather than the usual guidebooks.

Posted by Phil Gyford at July 8, 2004 1:49 PM

Well, as far as i've gone with classical thusfar is Haimovitz's take on Bach's cello suites and the warped hybrid that are Godspeed's apocalyptic hymns. I've heard of Part and really want to expand my palate, but I think the above has conditioned me to more rapidly moving stuff. I was eager to find out where Psalom was going next, and it didn't seem to get there in just 4 minutes.

That said, it's still a lovely piece.

Posted by chris at July 8, 2004 1:58 PM

The Part is ok, but like Chris I expected it to go somewhere it didn't seem arrive. I wonder if this is one of the few cases where a tune just doesn't work out of context ... I could see listening to the CD while writing, maybe on repeat.

Posted by Tuwa at July 8, 2004 7:29 PM

Thanks for the suggestion, Phil. Those look perfect.

KuntaKinte, I hear what you're saying, but to be honest I've found "Tabula Rasa" to be pretty mundane, listening to it in the past. (I don't have a copy on hand, so I reserve the right to retract my statements. :) ) It's much more conventional than the things on this CD - more romantic, less stark. Closer to Gorecki, I guess, than the understated strangeness of "Psalom."

Chris and Tuwa, thanks very much for your comments. First off, "Psalom" is a one-off piece, so there's no real context to speak of, apart from getting yourself into the right head for listening.

The strings in the piece are certainly denied real motion - something cuts them off and they turn back. To me, there's something exceptionally sad about it, and very powerful. I do want something else to 'happen,' but it doesn't (in fact, it explicitly denies you more of a change than that brief, awesome bass note). The frustration gives way to a serene resignation, a hopeful sorrow.

Er. Ok, I admit that that probably won't help! Sorry! :) I always try to listen to classical music (and jazz, for that matter) LOUD. Your mind isn't as filling in the gaps as with pop music (it's less predictable), and I find that louder almost always = better.

Does anyone mind if I continue to post things like this every once in a while?

Posted by Sean at July 8, 2004 7:37 PM

It's your party and you can do what you want. The next classical piece you post could just be a life altering experience for someone. If you subscribe to chaos theory you could be having enormous effect as your wings are flapping more than most of ours (I guess I should say more than mine.

Posted by annette at July 8, 2004 8:54 PM

I don't mind at all. I'm happy to hear music I wouldn't otherwise be exposed to, else I wouldn't be visiting mp3blogs. :-) (All I get is ClearChannel etc. here, and it's the same old shit all day, every day, like a soap opera).

... If it's any consolation, I hated both Abbey Road and Remain in Light when I first heard them. So maybe I just haven't yet grokked the Part tune.

Posted by tuwa at July 8, 2004 9:40 PM


By all means, continue to post the classical (klassical? nu-classical?) stuff. Mp3bloggers seem to forget that it's just as much -- if not more -- about the persona that comes across in the writing than the music which they introduce. The more complex and surprising your musical taste, the more interesting the blog becomes.

I think that the popular mp3 blogs (here, Fluxblog, Tofu Hut) would still be popular if they were less frequently updated, because their curators seem to be really interesting people. The songs are ways for your readers to get to know y'all better, in addition to being about the artists.

Posted by esque at July 9, 2004 7:35 AM

i loved the strings and the pauses. it felt like it had a lot of depth. what other "classical" stuff can you reccommend for me?

Posted by amy at July 9, 2004 5:17 PM

Great to see some Arvo...this isn't my favourite thing of his but his stuff is easily as rock as the likes of Godspeed, Explosions in the Sky and so on...and the 2 mp3 blogs you've recently highlighted are excellent finds...

Posted by loki at July 10, 2004 3:21 AM

I love both classical and rock music. I guess the fact that I'm able to be passionate about both proves the universality of music ... we only have to look at the deeper links. Having said that, I still haven't spotted the connection between Radiohead's Climbing Up The Wall and Gorecki's music (Thom Yorke claimed that CUTW is inspired by listening to Gorecki's music). Anyone any clue? ^_^

Posted by Tzu-En Yeow at July 10, 2004 11:36 AM

Hey Tzu-En :) I also read some time ago about how Radiohead was influenced by classical music. I think that one of the Greenwood brother said in an interview that some song arrangements in OK Computer were also influenced by the Mendelssohn piano work. There's for example a piece, "Venetian Gondola Song" which share a strange similarity with the song "Exit Music". However there are also some claimed influences that i found hard to see, Like Messiaen or Debussy (in "Sail to the Moon"). I never heard a Gorecki's piece. Um.. i suppose inspiration can be a strange animal sometime. :)

Posted by Aurélien at July 11, 2004 4:39 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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Back to the World
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