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One of the drawbacks of maintaining a decades-long commitment to the promotion of such a broad and constantly-evolving musical idiom as ambient, is the need to ration one’s listening time; the sheer volume of new ambient that’s being produced in the world today precludes the possibility of any one person ever maintaining encyclopedic, up-to-the-minute knowledge of it all.
Consequently, I’ve tended to comprehensively explore the creative output of a number of key artists on a cyclic basis, periodically expanding the list of artists as I go. However, the sequential nature of this approach means that I can easily remain almost completely ignorant of the work of many other artists – even major ones – for years at a stretch.
And then, one day, I’ll stumble across something which grabs me by the throat and beats me about the head repeatedly with its sheer unadulterated, vibrant, radiant, pulsating wonderfulness.
Something which screams “go out and buy every album this person ever produced right now and spend the next three weeks immersing yourself in their brilliance, you ignorant dolt!”
Something like this:
Truly great art by a truly great artist. The lyrics “a great love cut her life” are both prophetic and acutely poignant in light of Ofra Haza‘s tragic death of AIDS-related complications in 2000, at the age of only 42 – a consequence of contracting the HIV virus from her “great love” – husband, Doron Ashkenazi.
Thankfully we can still delight in her prodigious musical legacy…
The following video – evidently a clip from the obscure 1970 film Sex Power by French director Henri Chapier – manages to combine female near-nudity, erotic choreography, a group of black men, a gigantic, leering strangely inflexible cobra and a soundtrack by Vangelis into one seriously Freudian extravaganza. Words fail me:
…and in the interests of gender equality, here’s a rather catchy little number from Turkey’s gift to the world of pop music, the seriously swivel-hipped Tarkan…
…and in an attempt to give this post a veneer of cultural respectability, here’s a traditional interpretation of the same piece of classical Ottoman music…
Over the past few weeks my YouTube wanderings have led me in some interesting new directions, as well as reacquainting me with some long-forgotten classics. In this post I’m focusing on the music of two ancient, but little-known (to Western audiences) Christian traditions of north Africa.
First up is music from the orthodox Christian tradition of Ethiopia. These beautifully hypnotic hymns are part of the liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and are just a couple of the many dozens of similar examples that have now found their way onto the Web. In my opinion this is one little-known ancient musical tradition which definitely deserves a fuller examination:
The Ethiopian Orthodox church has a 1000+ year relationship with another ancient Christian tradition of the Near East – the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, founded in 451 CE, which has 11,000,000 adherents in Egypt, and is led by Pope Shenouda III.
Those who caught last week’s show (UT #702) will have heard me play several Coptic liturgical chants from a recording by the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe. Here’s a gorgeous Coptic hymn to the Virgin Mary:
I’m pleased to announce that commencing in May, Ultima Thule will be heard coast-to-coast across Australia’s community FM radio network.
The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia – the country’s peak body representing community radio and television – recently offered us a late night spot on its Community Radio Network – a shared programming service distributed via satellite to over 180 stations across the nation.
As a consequence, UT will become the first ambient music show to be heard across the length and breadth of the continent in nearly two decades.
UT will be heard immediately on the 50 stations who already rebroadcast CRN programming live via satellite, while other stations in the network have the option of picking up the show by recording the satellite transmission for later broadcast.
So, if you wish to hear UT on your local community station, be sure to contact them and let them know that there’s an audience out there for ambient music – as well as a ready source of quality ambient music programming to satisfy that audience thanks to UT and the CBAA.
As we approach Sunday-week’s 700th broadcast of UT, I thought it might be a good time to answer a question that many people have asked me over the years: how did you first become interested in ambient music?
Well… a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there lived a 16 year-old schoolboy named George. One Thursday “activities day” afternoon, George was listening to the radio while painting a mural on the wall of the art room at De La Salle College, the school he was attending in the southern Sydney suburb of Kingsgrove.
Suddenly George’s attention was seized by the sounds of an extaordinary piece of music, the likes of which he’d never heard before, emanating from the speaker and swirling around the room; music that consisted of a wash of gorgeous synthesiser sounds above which floated the strange, nonsensical words of an ethereal female vocalist. George was entranced.
Then, 3 minutes later, the song finished, and he soon forgot all about it.
Returning from a trip to town on the hot, overcast Saturday afternoon immediately preceding the beginning of semester, one of George’s newfound friends pulled an audio cassette out of the glovebox of his car, inserted it into the cassette deck and hit the play button.
Suddenly the vehicle was filled with – you guessed it – a wash of gorgeous synthesiser sounds above which floated an ethereal female vocal.
George quickly discovered that his friend not only knew the name of the artists responsible – but owned a huge collection of recordings by them – and other similar artists as well. It was the beginning of an infatuation with electronic, ambient and related atmospheric music that continues unabated nearly a quarter of a century later.
So what was the piece of music that started it all? See (and hear) for yourself…
Coming up this week on UT 699 is the Australian radio premiere (yes, another one!) of the newly-released extended 3-CD soundtrack to Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner, by the lord of the symphonic ambient cosmos – Vangelis Papathanassiou – who coincidentally celebrate his 65th birthday this month. Here’s a tiny sample of what’s in store…
…and as if that wasn’t enough to get you quivering with delight, Nev will also be serving up a selection of pieces from the Vangelis soundtrack to the new historic epic about the life of another famous child of the Hellenes – Domenicos Theotokopoulos – known to history as El Greco. The film promises enough heaving bosoms, evil inquisitors, passionate artistic histrionics and fabulous Baroque dancing to satisfy just about anyone with a pulse…
I’ve long been fascinated to hear how different artists interpret the same piece of music, and stumbled across these two examples of a track called God is God in my recent travels around YouTube.
This one’s by Laibach, a Slovenian experimental industrial music and performance art group that’s been around since 1980…
…and this is a very different version from Juno Reactor (aka Ben Watkins and friends), who among other things was responsible for the soundtrack to The Matrix – possibly the most pompous, over-rated science fiction film of all time. It features the voice of Natacha Atlas along with footage borrowed from The Color of Pomegranates, the extraordinary, gorgeously surreal 1968 film by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov…