Archive for the Music Category

Midwinter Graces, Tori Amos

Posted in Christmas, Music with tags , , , on December 18, 2013 by mysearchformagic

Well here we are again, that most magical time of the year approaching fast. I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel more Christmassy than some lovely seasonal music. This time last year I was getting excited about Kate Bush’s December Will Be Magic Again. This year I have just got hold of a copy of a Christmas CD by another one of my favourite ladies, Tori Amos.

Midwinter Graces, Tori Amos

Midwinter Graces, Tori Amos

Midwinter Graces is a beautiful album, a typical mixture of delicate, intricate harmonies and powerful, magical lyrics. Tori sings songs old and new, bringing her own unique style to some traditional Christmas classics and totally reworking some old favourites, as well as adding a few of her own compositions for good measure. Even the hardest-hearted Christmas humbug would struggle not to feel festive after a listen to it. The unmistakably Renaissance sounds of Coventry Carol make it my favourite, and there enough sleighbells on this CD to melt even the hardest, most cynical of hearts.

Check out one of the songs, Winter’s Carol, accompanied by a rather magical video here.


The Orphan Choir, Sophie Hannah

Posted in Books, Ghosts, Music with tags , , , , on May 28, 2013 by mysearchformagic

Like a lot of today’s parents, Susannah struggles with the stresses and strains of a modern life. To make things worse, her achingly hip and annoyingly arrogant next-door neighbour has a habit of playing loud rock music late into the night. Her son is a worry too, but not in the fact that he gets under her feet. In fact, quite the opposite; Susannah’s only child Joseph has been sent away to choir school thanks to his incredible vocal talents, and she misses him terribly. Her complaints about that noisy neighbour seem to have a positive effect, but then she begins to hear the distinctive sound of children singing at the strangest moments. The man next door denies all knowledge, and choral music is certainly not his style, but the singing becomes more and more persistent. Her husband Stuart tries to be understanding, but clearly thinks she is losing her marbles. So is the haunting music real, or just in her increasingly confused mind? Is it perhaps even something more supernaturally sinister?
Susannah’s dramatic attempts to regain control of both her son and her senses lead inevitably towards an unsettling, and ultimately tragic, conclusion.

The Orphan Choir. Sophie Hannah

The Orphan Choir. Sophie Hannah

The Orphan Choir is the third Hammer novel that I have read in recent months. It is more subtle than either Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate or Helen Dunmore’s The Greatcoat, and a bit of a slow burner. It’s the kind of book that plays with your mind, blurring the boundaries between reality and imagination, leaving the reader just as confused as to what is really happening as the troubled protagonist. What at first may appear to be middle-class paranoia eventually turns out to be something quite different – this is a Hammer novel after all. Only in the final few pages does the horrible truth come to light, and although it may be predictable, the terrible denouement is none the less shocking because of it. Don’t expect big frights from The Orphan Choir, but give it a bit of time and you will be transfixed by this achingly sad tale of unfulfilled love, soul-destroying loneliness and terrible, heartbreaking loss.

December Will Be Magic Again, Kate Bush

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on December 20, 2012 by mysearchformagic

You’ve probably heard of Kate Bush, but even if you know her work quite well it’s likely you won’t have heard of her rather obscure 1980 single December Will Be Magic Again.

The cover for December Will Magic Again, Kate Bush

The cover for December Will Magic Again, Kate Bush

A classic piece of unconventional, unique and slightly loopy Kate Bush, the song was released on 18th November 1980, and limped to an unimpressive 29 in the charts. No video was ever made for it, and it didn’t appear on any of Bush albums (except of course her 1990 anthology This Woman’s Work, which includes just about everything she ever recorded).

The only place you can easily get hold of it online is here, where you can watch Bush’s performance of the song on her 1979 TV Christmas special. With its jingling bells, swooping vocals and references to Saint Nick and Bing Crosby, its all wonderfully Christmassy, if a little bonkers.

Here’s to a truly magical Christmas!

You might come out of the water every time singing, Kaffe Matthews

Posted in Art, Edinburgh, Music with tags , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2012 by mysearchformagic

It’s hard to know how to describe Kaffe Matthews’ You might come out of the water every time singing. It’s not really music as most people would recognise it. It’s not art in any traditional sense. At a push you might decide to label it an installation. But whatever you want to call it, You might come out of the water every time singing is spine-tinglingly magical.

I came across it at the exhibition Galápagos, which is currently being held at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery. All of the works in the show have been created during a series of month-long artists’ residencies on this fascinating group of islands, with each artist using the funded position to produce works of art which present various different views of the place. Given the impression that most of us have of the Galápagos as weird, wild and wonderful, I was expecting plenty of magic. In fact, many of the art works on show reveal a different side to the islands, focusing on the little-known human residents rather than the well documented flora and fauna.

Under the water off the Galápagos Islands, an image taken by Kaffe Matthews

If Kaffe Matthew’s contribution sounds more predictable, dealing as it does with the animal inhabitants of the islands, then the end result is far from it. You might come out of the water every time singing is one of those experiences that appears rather complicated on paper, with the Fruitmarket’s press release describing it as a work ‘made using Galápagos hammerhead shark routes to play digital oscillators variably mixed with processings and underwater recordings in the gallery’. The description may be complex, what you will find if you visit the exhibition is much more simple.

Kaffe Matthews, You might come out of the water every time singing

While this photograph gives you an idea of the layout of the small space which houses You might come out of the water every time singing, it doesn’t give an indication of the magical aspects of the work. On entering the room, an invigilator informed me that the best way to appreciate the work was to remove my shoes and lie down on the large platform in the centre of the room. Finding myself alone in the space, surrounded by the odd, otherworldly computer-generated sounds which were emanating from various loudspeakers, it took me a while to build up the courage to climb up onto the strange wooden structure. It was only when I did that I noticed the subtle vibrations which were pulsing through it. Lying there in this shadowy room, with the uncanny noises and gentle vibrations moving through my body, I was transported from a dark gallery on a dreary, drizzly afternoon in Edinburgh to somewhere altogether more magical – the murky azure depths of the ocean.

A Hammerhead shark in an image taken by Kaffe Matthews

I won’t pretend to understand the complicated explanations which the artist gives for how the sounds she utilises in You might come out of the water every time singing were created using the data charting the movement of the sharks around the Galápagos islands. But in the end, understanding it is not necessary to enjoying this visceral, strange and intriguing experience. You might come out of the water every time singing is something rare; a spellbinding work of art that can stimulate your mind and touch your spirit. Matthews herself describes it as ‘architectural music to feel through your body as well as your ears’. As someone constantly searching for magic, I was left slightly baffled, but more than a little impressed.

Galápagos is at the Fruitmarket Gallery until 13 January 2013.