Now Streaming… The Musical Treasure Trove of ECM

When the news broke a few days ago that ECM, the illustrious and proudly independent Munich-based music label founded by Manfred Eicher in 1969, was making its remarkable back catalogue available to major streaming services, a film critic friend sent me a piece in the New York Times which singled out 21 ‘essential’ ECM albums. Knowing … Continue reading Now Streaming… The Musical Treasure Trove of ECM

Anouar Brahem: back with another musical jewel

I first became properly aware of the musical genius of Anouar Brahem back in 1998, and like most revelations it was accidental. I had, as it happened, already heard the Tunisian playing his oud – a North African lute-like instrument – first, unconsciously, on the soundtrack he composed for Moufida Tlatli’s 1994 film The Silences … Continue reading Anouar Brahem: back with another musical jewel

The Sound of Distant Memories: Valentin Silvestrov

Of the many fascinating composers who began their careers under the artistically reactionary regime of the Soviet Union and later found fame in the West – besides the obvious example of Arvo Pärt, I’m thinking of figures like Sofia Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli, Tigran Mansurian, Alfred Schnittke and Galina Ustvolskaya – one of the most distinctive … Continue reading The Sound of Distant Memories: Valentin Silvestrov

Turning Tarkovsky into music: Nuit blanche

A confession: while I recognise the cinematic importance of the late Andrei Tarkovsky – his influence on certain filmmakers, and the high regard in which his work is widely held – I myself have never been a great admirer of his films. I like Ivan’s Childhood and Andrei Roublev well enough, but I have always … Continue reading Turning Tarkovsky into music: Nuit blanche

From The Colour of Pomegranates to the Armenian genocide: some notes on Tigran Mansurian

If you’ve ever seen Sergei Paradjanov’s remarkable and unforgettably odd film, you will probably recognise the striking tableau above as one from Sayat Nova, released in the West as The Colour of Pomegranates. However much I admire the movie for its bold originality and painterly beauty, I must confess that its radical, highly allusive style … Continue reading From The Colour of Pomegranates to the Armenian genocide: some notes on Tigran Mansurian

Following in Hildegarde and Lili’s hallowed footsteps: today’s wonderful women composers

In just a few minutes, as this is about to go  online, it will be International Women’s Day, and while I appreciate that some may consider it presumptuous for a male to offer a few recommendations pertaining to female excellence, I hope there won’t be too many objections to this particular celebration of women’s genius. Only this week I … Continue reading Following in Hildegarde and Lili’s hallowed footsteps: today’s wonderful women composers

Craig Taborn: a keyboards virtuoso and composer to look out for

Ever since Manfred Eicher launched ECM almost half a century ago with the Mal Waldon Trio’s ‘Free at Last’ , the label has been notable for its sterling support of great jazz pianists.  Among its first 20 releases were albums by Paul Bley, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett;  these day you can find such distinguished … Continue reading Craig Taborn: a keyboards virtuoso and composer to look out for

Music for a while… Two recent discoveries

Every now and again, a new piece of music comes along that seems to have an unusually timeless quality. For me at least, it’s often something that combines elements which are distinctly modern with others which are centuries old. I suppose the most obvious examples that spring to mind are certain works by Arvo Pärt … Continue reading Music for a while… Two recent discoveries

Norwegian good: the Nils Økland Band in London

While I may have reservations about the sheer size of the London Jazz Festival, I long ago stopped asking myself whether this or that act can really be described as ‘jazz’. What matters for the individual in the audience, after all, is whether he or she enjoys the music, and the organisers’ highly inclusive approach … Continue reading Norwegian good: the Nils Økland Band in London

Great old movie, great new music by Garth Knox

    It’s fitting, I suppose, that for my first-ever blog I should write about what was my highlight of the recent BFI London Film Festival – fitting not so much because of my professional involvement with the Festival, but because the highlight in question featured a combination of film and music, two of the … Continue reading Great old movie, great new music by Garth Knox