May 14, 2010

The Bones of All Men – Philip Pickett with Richard Thompson

A Joe Boyd conceived and produced rollick through early keyboard dances and pavanes. Based around late medieval - renaissance pieces on Ms Joshua’s carefree virginals, clavichord and dulce melos; Mr Pickett adds recorder, crumhorn and shawn; Mr Thompson provides trademark folk-rock lead, and the lot buoyed aloft by the thwack and strut of Messrs Pegg, Mattacks and Nicol   - aka the Fairport rhythm section. Ne'er a dull moment. Hugely enjoyable.

Oddi wrth y brawd


Welsh Connexion said...

Music of the middle ages was modal and did not employ minor or major keys. Neither (despite being written for voices rather than instrumentation) did it employ harmony. These are among the reasons why the dry as old bones scholarly fare available from more ‘serious’ purveyors is such hard work.

Thankfully Pickett goes for more of a mediaeval-lite approach and brings in Richard Thompson and chums to gamely rock things up a bit. Still not a lot of fun though.

There’s something of a daytime schools TV vibe about it. The kind of thing that the BBC would use in the late 60s/early 70s to soundtrack dull history programs. Budgets too meagre even to stretch to poorly costumed drama students. Just fruity narration over footage of ruined monasteries and such trying to avoid getting the ice cream van in shot

The curious would I feel be far better directed to take a journey to the mediaeval future with the likes of Circulus. They manage to get a groove on (of sorts) whilst at least reflecting something of the plain oddness of the period. This sounds far too much like a ‘project.’ Not my cup of mead I’m afraid.

Nevertheless, thanks as always to our weird bro’ for giving us a chance to hear it. After all, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

Y Brawd said...

Admittedly there is an air of Brian Blessed chicken leg over shoulder tossing about The Bones of All Men but it's such rollicking good fun.....

As for Circulus. Plain embarrassing. Get thee to Trembling Bells for something new being brought to the feast.

Thanks for your comments WC.

PS No harmony on middle ages is debatable. I'm nay expert but the sage of Wiki avers to organum (no sniggering at the back) -
"Around the end of the ninth century, singers in monasteries such as St. Gall in Switzerland began experimenting with adding another part to the chant, generally a voice in parallel motion, singing mostly in perfect fourths or fifths above the original tune (see interval). This development is called organum and represents the beginnings of harmony and, ultimately, of counterpoint"

I feel an early music post coming on.

Welsh Connexion said...

I certainly claim no expertise in this - I was only able to comment at all as a result of having recently stepped up the theory side of my guitar tuition - however reference to harmony was made off the cuff unaware that this would see us straying into considerations of the polyphonic (not quite the same thing)

I agree that there's something of the pantomime about Circulus - I only offered this steer in terms of evidencing that it's at least possible to have a bit of fun with this kind of fare - but you're right - they're not a serious proposition

I look forward to finding out what the Ensemble Unicorn have to offer - in the meantime I'll leave you with a quote from Frank Zappa that succinctly encapsulates the difficulty presented to the listener by any form of music that lacks a balance of consonance and dissonance:

'The creation and destruction of harmonic and 'statistical' tensions is essential to the maintenance of compositional drama. Any composition (or improvisation) which remains consistent and 'regular' throughout is, for me, equivalent to watching a movie with only 'good guys' in it, or eating cottage cheese."


PM Summer said...

Stumbled across your site while searching for the image I had posted elsewhere of cover of Pickett/Thompson's The Bones of All Men. What a delight on the 11th Day of Christmas! Much catching up to do.