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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia.

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The first two novels of my trilogy, The Talismans, are not available as e-books at present, but I expect to get them back online shortly. However, I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

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The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. I hope to see my books back on Amazon under a new publisher in the near future.

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Cloak of Challiver

Mythic Resonance

Buy Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

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Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

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Places I've lived: Geelong,  Australia

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Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

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Places I've Lived - Sydney
Sydney Conservatorium - my old school

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Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

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Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
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Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

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Places I've Lived: Perth by Day
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Places I've lived: High View, WV

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Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

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Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

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Places I've Lived: Perth by Night
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Monday, 12 January 2009

Favoured Music

I'm late posting again because although I've known for a week what I intended the post to be about, I found when I sat down to write that I couldn't organise my material.

This "material" was a list of favourite pieces of music ranging from pops to classics. I started writing down all my best loved titles, but when I got to over thirty I realised I had an unmanageable mess. How could I classify a list that contains such diverse items as El Condor Pasa, Atom Heart Mother, Brahms's Violin Concerto in D and Fields of Gold? I stayed up until 2.00am on Monday morning, listening to extracts from my favourites in various arrangements, trying to sort them out into a top ten or even a top twenty and couldn't. In the end I gave up went to bed, disgruntled.

But the project has haunted my mind ever since, and although I'm no closer to sorting out that messy catalogue of musical favourites, I do know that my four top faves never change. The rest of the never-ending list varies according to my mood, but the top four remain the top four and have for years. Decades, even.

And what are these four super-faves? Why, they are Pachelbel's Canon in D; The Grand Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, the British folksong Greensleeves (in just about any version) and - wait for it - Unchained Melody.

I've always wondered why this song bore such a strange name, and the very comprehensive Wikipedia article cleared up the mystery. "Unchained" was the name of the film in which the melody first appeared in 1955. The music was by Alex North and the lyrics by Hy Zaret. It's been recorded hundreds of times, but never better, I think, than the original version by baritone Todd Duncan, which I fell in love with when I was twelve years old - because it's a damned good tune.

Tunes, dear friends, are what grab me. I love a good vocal melody that you can hum, whistle, extemporise on and generally muck about with and still have a perfectly good tune when you've finished. Short of being tone deaf and gravel-throated, you can't spoil a good tune. (Well, some jazz musos can, but they generally don't play music for the tune; in fact, some of them just can't wait to get rid of it.)

A good tune is a simple thing, made more beautiful, for sure, by harmony, rhythm or words - but it doesn't rely on these things to carry it along. Music that relies on anything but a good melody as its mainstay either bores or irritates me. Gimme the tune, man, just gimme the tune.

So you will not be surprised when I tell you that the Long List contains a lot of folk music, or pieces based on folk music such as Ralph Vaughan-Williams's Fantasia on Greensleeves and Variations on Dives and Lazarus. Medieval and early Baroque loom large, too: little gems such as Manfredina, which dates from the C14, or snatches of plainsong such as the evocative Hodie that Benjamin Britten grabbed for his Ceremony of Carols have truly lovely melodies, for all their simplicity. Religious music that grew out of this early tradition, such as the magnificent masses of Palestrina, are well up the list, too. Popular music that draws on the folk tradition fits in well here: things like Sting's fabulous Fields of Gold. (Sting plays a mean lute as well, as his recent album of John Dowland pieces demonstrates. Again, simple, sing-able tunes.)

Another place to look for good tunes is the theatre. Opera and ballet abound in them: so do musicals. When we think of Cats, do we think of the costumes and lighting and the acrobatics of the performers - or do we remember the grungy little grey cat standing in the lamplight singing "Memory"? "One Fine Day" pretty much sums up Madam Butterfly and "In the Depths of the Temple" does the same for The Pearl Fishers. Bizet, Verdi, Puccini - fine tunesmiths, all of them, as were the best ballet composers including Tchaikovsky himself, the melody king.

A lot of this music is, of course, hackneyed. It has been transposed, transcribed and transfigured until musical purists shudder to hear it - but Manfredina played on a mouth organ or mixed by midi still remains Manfredina. You just can't keep a good tune down.

13 comments:

Jo said...

I love Greensleeves too, wonderful tune. I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but I am not usually much into church music although having said that we bought The Priests recently. Arias generally appeal especially with a good singer (Pavarotti come back) Never heard Manfredina, will have to look out for it.

Satima Flavell said...

You can hear a midi version of Manfredina at
http://midiworld.com/earlymus.htm#a

It's under "Anonymous composers" and is called there "La Manfredina e La Rotta della Manfredina". There is a lovely flute version out on a CD called Chantal: Musik zum Entspannen, which my friend Elfriede sent for me some years ago. The group has a web site at www.chantal.de

Jo said...

I listened to Manfredina, it made me think of Elizabethan courtiers dancing a roundelay or something. Not one that I think I would include in my favourites though.

Satima Flavell said...

The midi doesn't do it justice, of course, and in modern versions the tune tends to be modified slightly in line with our tastes. If you get chance, listen to it in a proper instrumental version and I'm sure you'll like it more.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins said...

Satima --

Andrea Bocelli ... Elton John ... Robbie Williams ... do I continue or have you heard enough?

Marilyn

Jo said...

Andrea Bocelli, yes, Elton John, no. He performed just up the road a couple of months ago and everyone loved it. We wouldn't go near the place. Don't know Robbie Williams.

Satima Flavell said...

All good performers, but I'm more interested in the material than the performer. Bocelli generally sings better tunes than the other guys:-)

Imagine me said...

I find it impossible to list my top ten or twenty in music. My taste is so eclectic that a quick look at my CD and(I hesitate to mention it) vinyl collection has music ranging from Beethoven through Johnny Cash, Bach, Country and Western, folk music (from just about everywhere), Greek bouzoukia music, Holst, Rimsky Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Andean flutes, Scots pipe bands , rock (ancient and modern), rhythm and blues, opera and that's a tiny sample.
What they - and all those I haven't mentioned - have in common is a strong tune and something about them that touches me.
I find myself listening to different music at different times in my life. I spent much of the last week listening to the soundtrack of a seventies tv series - Rock Follies and its sequel, Follies of Seventy Seven - about the trials of an all girl band which happened to tap into my mood at the time.

Satima Flavell said...

Sounds similar to my collection, although I don't often play old pops because I haven't got my faves collected onto one CD or anything, which would be a smart move. I like a lot of Johnny Cash and also Roy Orbison, Mark Knoffler, Cyndi Lauper, Cleo Laine, Enya and other Irish sopranos - and that's not to mention The Ventures, Mike Oldfield, Abba...heck, where do you stop?:-)The world is not likely to run out of good tunes any time soon!

Juliet said...

What, no Nessun Dorma?

Satima Flavell said...

Of course Nessun Dorma's in there, Juliet, along with O Mio Babino Caro, Vesti la Giubba, Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix and just about all the arias and duets from "Carmen":-)

Basically, if you can hum it or whistle it and people will recognise it when you do, it's probably on my list!

CaroleMcDonnell said...

You wrote: "The Grand Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, the British folksong Greensleeves (in just about any version) and - wait for it - Unchained Melody."

Ah, woman! Can it be you're my other Australian white self?

Satima Flavell said...

Nah, you're my other American black self... (Ducks for cover!)

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