I’d say it’s about time I dig into the archives of music released earlier than just the past few years. As soon as I made that decision, one specific artist popped into my head almost immediately: Herbie Hancock. And why not? He’s only one of the most influential musicians ever to exist in the jazz fusion world. I would bet money that a large majority of the artists that I’ve featured previously on the site were influenced either directly or indirectly in some form by Herbie Hancock. He was a man who extended his creative genius far beyond the world of jazz. He was a musical innovator that made breakthroughs in the use of electronic synthesizers and freeform improvisation. He combined stylistic elements of jazz, blues, funk, and modern classical music into a totally unique fusion of genres. The legacy which he has created will last for many long years to come and influence many new generations of musicians. Anyone who claims that Hancock was “before their time” deserves to be slapped senseless.
The album that I’m focusing on in particular today is one of his 1974 releases, Thrust. As the followup to his ’73 release Headhunters, Hancock was now firmly entrenched in the widely popular, highly competitive funk-jazz-fusion game of the era. But Herbie is never one to be outshined or assimilated into a much greater collection of mediocre artists. No, he has always been the one to push the limits past the point where anyone thought they could go. In order to accomplish such a gargantuan undertaking, he’s assembled a legendary cast of characters to accompany him. On bass guitar is his main man, Paul Jackson, who went on to play on nine of Hancock’s subsequent releases. Bernie Maupin, a master multireedist, takes care of all the lead woodwind parts. Aside from his work with Herbie, he is most well known for his performance on the seminal Miles Davis album Bitches Brew, his role as a bandleader, and his collaborations with the likes of Horace Silver and McCoy Tyner.
The indie scene in today’s music industry is as strong as ever. What originally began in the 1980s with the rejection of mainstream synthpop tendencies in favor of much rawer, grunge-influenced sound has metamorphosed into a unbelievably diverse collection of bearded, flannel-clad modern musicians. Of course, that’s a very simple way of describing it, but you get the idea. The point is that the concept of the highly independent artist who has total control of the creative side of their music. So now let’s dial our focus in quite a bit and shine the spotlight on a particular group from Great Britain named Clock Opera.
Although the band was first formed in 2009, they did not release their debut album, Ways to Forget, until 2012. Some would say that three years is a long time to prepare an album, but I would argue that there is no standard duration for such a feat. The one thing that can be said for certain is that the prolonged wait for the group’s debut was definitely worth it. After listening to the record many times and letting it sink in, its true potential shines through. Just as a fine wine matures with age, so too does Ways to Forget reap the benefits of its delayed release date.
Anyone who follows the progressive rock scene even a little bit will most likely have heard the names Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt. The former is most well known for his brainchild Porcupine Tree, while the latter is the frontman of the notable Swedish prog metal outfit Opeth. Both groups have released ten studio albums over a two-decade period. Both have achieved outstanding success and critical acclaim in their respective fields. Both frequently cross the line between intense heavy riffs and delicate melodic passages. Yet they are two very distinct musical identities. Thus, it came as somewhat of a surprise and much of a thrill when it was announced that Wilson and Åkerfeldt would be collaborating on a brand new musical project known as Storm Corrosion.
The eponymous first album released by the newly formed duo in 2012 was not necessarily what we might have expected, though. In an interview back in 2010, Wilson stated “…we have this kind of passion [for] very experimental, obscure records, almost orchestral in their scope. And we wanted to make a record like that for a long time. It’s a long way from metal and it’s a long way from anything that, I think, Mikael has ever done…it’s actually a long way from anything I’ve done…The one thing we didn’t want to do is get together and do a prog metal supergroup, which would have been so easy to do – and kind of expected, in a way.”
“Submotion Orchestra have rapidly built up a reputation as one of the most interesting and original projects emerging from the UK today. Drawing upon dubstep, soul, ambient electronica, jazz and dub, their unique music is at once delicate and heavy, spacious and dense, highly atmospheric but firmly rooted. Earth-shaking bass and drums combine with lush keyboard and trumpet textures to create the perfect bed for the fragile beauty of Ruby Wood’s vocals, and the celestial effects of sound designer Ruckspin.”
The paragraph above is an excerpt pulled from the bio posted on the group’s website. Let’s take a minute to reflect on those words. Dubstep, soul, ambient electronica, jazz and dub. Those of you that keep up with my posts on this site will know by now that I’m always a big fan of cross-genre mixtures. In that regard, Submotion Orchestra have certainly gone above and beyond with their newest album, entitled Fragments. It’s actually the ideal combination of styles – many opponents of the advent of popular electronic music will use the argument that it such genres sound too “robotic” or “repetitive.” If we posit for a moment that such a claim is true, then surely we could turn to jazz as a musical style on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. Just about everything about jazz is based around live improvisation and the interaction between players.
I’m certainly not the first one to hop on the Eric Whitacre bandwagon, and I definitely won’t be the last. He’s been heralded as the most successful classical composer of the modern era, and both of his albums (Light & Gold in 2010 and Water Night in 2012) have topped the charts within days of their release. On top of that, Light & Gold won the Grammy for Best Choral Performance in 2012. He is also the mastermind behind the innovative Virtual Choir series, combining the voices of thousands of YouTubers across the globe into a single, beautiful choir. Basically, this guy is a big deal. With that said, I’ve been touched by his music in the same way that millions of others have, and wanted to take the time to acknowledge such a tremendous accomplishment on Whitacre’s part. Light & Gold is one of the best collections of choral music that I’ve ever heard, and its large assortment of accolades was not awarded erroneously.
The album starts off in perhaps the best possible way: with the song “Lux Aurumque.” For those of you familiar with the three Virtual Choir projects that have been created thus far (with the fourth one, “Fly,” in production now), “Lux Aurumque” is easily recognizable as the one that started it all. Virtual Choir 1 was premiered back in March 2010, and probably contributed a great deal to the spread of Whitacre’s influence across the world. Not only was the piece beautifully arranged and performed, but it stood as a monument to the wonders that can be achieved through race-wide collaboration between humans from all cultures, locations, and backgrounds.
Album artwork for Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Today’s post is a groundbreaker for Audio Intimacy. The original score written for the 2011 film Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling, has officially become the first soundtrack album to be featured on the site. This summer, I am in Los Angeles interning with a composer for films and TV shows, so it seems only fitting that I expand the blog to include this particular brand of musical expression. Now that the floodgates have been opened, be on the lookout for more soundtracks to follow this one! With that said, let’s move on to the main event. The score for this movie was written by Cliff Martinez, former drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and current film composer who’s been tearing up the scene for several years now. What makes Drive unique is the sole use of electronic music in the soundtrack, capitalizing on the strengths for which Martinez has been gaining widespread influence throughout the film industry.
Film music has certainly come a long way since its formative years in the early 20th century, when cinemas would employ in-house pianists, organists, or even orchestras to play live music overtop the mechanical noise of the projector. It has evolved into a formidable job that fuses together evocative composition, collaboration with the movie’s production crew, and the highly refined skills of syncing audio cues to picture – choosing the exact frame at which to start and stop the music. Nowadays, just like in any other professional industry, we have developed technology to assist us in accomplishing such a massive undertaking. Electronic music, being a reflection of human society’s adaptation to the digital revolution, has inevitably started to blend with traditional approaches to film scoring, and it is the work of visionaries like Cliff Martinez that has paved the way towards this new period of musical innovation.