I have been very impressed by Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot by the Taliban and who is now a firm advocate for education, especially for girls. She has more guts than almost anyone else I can think of and thoroughly deserves the Nobel Peace Prize that she recently received. The Taliban, like the Islamic State are an evil bunch of no-good murderers. Their barbarity - beheading people, shooting unarmed people, especially children, raping women and enslaving them has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam or any other religion. Thank God for the bravery of people like Malala. This is what she said in the acceptance speech for her Nobel Peace Prize:
"Why is it that countries which we call strong are so powerful in creating wars but are so weak in bringing peace? Why is it that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard?"
To write a piece about her, which I call "Malala", I have listened to some Northern Pakistan music. There is an unusual instrument in that region which is an Alghoza,which is a double-flute, played downwards like pan pipes. One of the flutes sounds a drone while the other one plays the melody and improvises on it. Listen to it here I was expecting to hear an Indian/Middle Eastern scale but it sounded more like an Aeolian scale. So in the piece, I have two flutes playing a low drone (two of them are needed to get a continuous sound without pauses for breathing) while an alto-flute plays the tune. After the first theme is played, the whole thing goes into double tempo with trumpets lead - a far cry from the rural Pakistan conjured up by the start of the piece. This is to show that what she has to say applies to the whole world. There are solos for bass clarinet and alto-flute. Here is part of the tune:
The horrific shooting of children in a school in Northern Pakistan shows there is no limit to which evil depraved people will not stoop for their own ends. The Taliban should never be forgiven for this deed. I was also shocked like many other people at the image of the refugee boy of 4 years of age who was found dead floating in the sea. So many other refugees have also drowned but it is this picture which illustrates the lack of empathy and lack of humanity that currently exists. For God's sake, they may come from another country but they are all human beings. I have written an arrangement of an old tune of mine called On the Death of a Child which might be appropriate. This is how it sounds on synth: . In the global village, the death of a child anywhere in the world from an attrocity like this, from hunger, in a warzone or for any other reason is a loss to us all. That child could have turned out to be another Gandhi, another Mandela, another Shakespeare, another Mozart, etc.
I don't know how it happened, but I am a member(?) of Google Plus. Seeing a list of people I could invite into my circle, I chose the Dalai Lama and by accident ticked the box saying he was a friend.
I am very glad that he is now a member of the circle. His messages are full of wisdom. Here is one message:
Harmony among our different religious traditions is essential for world peace. Genuine harmony should be founded on mutual respect. And respect should be based on a recognition that all the world's major religious traditions are similar in having the potential to help human beings live at peace with themselves, with each other and with the environment.
I love this photo of him.
So my next number is called "My Friend, the Dalai Lama".
One of the features of Tibetan music is what is known as "Singing Bowls", as opposed to certain Western pop music which could be described as "Singing Bowels". Listen to some Singing Bowls here There is some information about them under the clip. Another feature of more secular Tibetan and Chinese music is that they are largely based on short pentatonic scales. Women singers seem to be very high-pitched, unlike the voices of macho Western girl singers. I love this Tibetan song.
As the Dalai Lama is a man of the people and not a recluse, I have come up with a tune based largely on 4 notes, with an additional note in the middle section, rather like an Asian pop song. As for the singing bowls, I have tried to represent this with a low tone followed by higher tones that have vibrato (the overtones). Solos again for alto-flute and trombone. Here is part the tune:
I am fascinated by Australian aboriginal mythology and music. What I really need is a didgeridoo in the band, but that's asking a lot for one of my sax players to double on. The didgeridoo is a wonderful instrument which takes a long time to master. Here is a video which shows how to play it.
In Aboriginal mythology, the rainbow serpent plays a major role. Here is some more information about it
The music I've written for this is called "In Search of the Rainbow Serpent."
Without having a didgeridoo, I have had to find a sound to represent it. On my synth I have a sound which may suggest it (but is very different really, I know.) I use this sound in conjunction with the bass clarinet and bass trombone and the rest of the brass in plungers. Solos are for tenor sax and trombone.
Some years ago, I wrote a book on jazz improvisation, realised there were many other much better books about it and decided not to try and publish it but to use various topics as tutorials on my website instead. I get over 4,000 downloads a month. Along with the original plans for a book, I wrote certain tunes as part of the course, all of which are now also on my website. To indicate that the harmonic minor scale could be played on the harmonies of one tune, I gave it the title, Harem Monique (say it quickly). This also indicated that it had a Middle Eastern flavour. I have made this tune into a big band arrangement for this suite, with a bit of a nod towards belly dancing, but not by members of the band. Odd that so many Islamic countries are so much against women showing their beauty. Mind you in the West the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction and sex is used to sell everything. Maybe I should add some strippers to my band! Anyway, I hope this tune conjures up a lady called Monique doing a belly dance in a harem. Here is the tune:
for videos of belly dancing, take a look at this website
To evoke an oriental sound I have used unison alto flute, clarinet and 2 trumpets with harmon mutes.
I have been plagued by a silly little tune of no value and no interest - it may not even be original but something I've picked up in my brain. So I had to do an arrangement of it to lay the ghost and allow me to move on. At first I just state the tune - alto solo and piano and then repeat it with the saxes plus one trumpet. I then bring in the rest of the band and gradually set to work destroying it by changing the twee harmonies into something more sinister, more discordant. I have given it the title: "What have I done to my song!" but with a line through the word "song" and the word "World" used instead. Symbolically (OK, some of you will say this is a load of old symbollocks) the title now means "What have I done to my world!" implying that I am as much to blame for the various problems as anyone else is.
I am fascinated by the talking drum (dundun) of the Yoruba in Nigeria. The drums, which are based on the rhythms and intonation of speech patterns in the Youruba language, can relay messages over long distances. This might be a useful tool for the struggle against the Boko Haram terrorist group in northern Nigeria. So I have called the tune Kuro Nibi yi - meaning Go Away! I'm sure this alone will not do much, but sending messages about the whereabouts of the terrorists could come in handy.
For this piece, I have put the bass player on bongos to add to the drum sounds. There is a sparse bass part, but I have given it to a tuba to play. The tune is very basic, followed by a gutsy baritone solo and then the horns in their various sections become one big talking drum. That is the theory at least.. Here is the end of the piece
Here is a great video I found which features African drumming and the rhythms of everyday life in Africa. I love it.
Whenever I think I might have stumbled upon a new thing to "jazz-up", I find there are loads of other people who have done it before. Well, it's worth doing again. My next piece is a jazz polka. The idea came to me, when thinking what could I do to represent Germany in my suite, that I should try a polka, although I have read that the Germans actually dance a Schottissche rather than a polka. Never mind too late now to change it and they are very similar. The title I have given it is Eine Kleine Merkel-musik for two reasons. One is that the word Polka also means a Polish woman and Angela Merkel's mother, Herlind, was born in Gdansk, Poland. The other reason is that whatever you might think of her (and I do not agree with everythins she says or stands for), she is still a formidable woman of great skill and integrity who makes European male politiciaqns look like pygmies (no slur on real pygmies). Just to reinforce the title, I have quoted a few bars from Eine Kleine Nacht-Musik at the end with more modern harmonies. I'm sure Mozart would have forgiven me. I hope the band plays these few bars looking very serious and rather aloof. Sorry, but classical musicians do take themselves very seriously. Now in that one paragraph I have offended just about everyone - time to stop it. Here is the tune: , and here is a video of some German music which has a number of attractions.
For those of you who like big band playing at its best, Germany is the place. My favourite is the fabulous WDR band.
I have to follow a German piece with a Greek piece. I find it highly ironic that one of the city states which made Ancient Greece so memorable and which played a big part in defeating Persia in the Greco-Perisan was which lasted from 499-440bc was Sparta. Spartan now means austere. So Greece has rebelled against having to follow austere economic cicumstances to help pay off its debts. I thought of calling the tune:Disheartened Spartans, but chose another title: Acropolis Now! This ons has solos from the first flute player in my band and from the second trombone player. There are a a lot of changes of tempo in this piece. hope I can cope with conducting the thing.
Here is some genuine Greek music.
I believe strongly in international cooperation as all nations depend upon one another, despite the belief among certain countries that somehow they are superior to others. They are not! All nations, big and small, form only a part of our planet. The world faces the biggest danger it has done for millions of years now with global warming, which is already having an impact. So all countries, and all of their inhabitants must play a part in reducing this danger. It has already gone too far to prevent some of the effects which it has caused - powerful storms, draught, rising sea levels, etc. Throwing money at the problem isn't (in itself) a solution. What is needed is action to cut down on carbon emissions...by everyone. Sorry about the preaching, but this affects everyone - including jazz musicians. The piece of music I've written on this theme is called Together We Can .
I had always thought that the primary purpose of politicians is to help keep the peace. Apparantly many of them prefer war. President Assad of Syria has a lot of blood on his hands, as has his friend, Vladimir Putin. So has George W Bush and Tony Blair. Let's not forget that destruction and death perpetrated by an armed state is on a much larger scale than that caused by terrorists, such as Islamic State, for instance, which is neither Islamic nor what you could call a State. It's just a bunch of pathetic psychopaths. One of the problems caused by certain governments and terrorists alike is that millions of people flee their own land and become refugees. Here is a piece I wrote about this.
I have now written a big band version of this. Here is an extract.
I did not want to leave out Ireland or rather Eire. My tune about Ireland is called O'Dear (which is what an Irishman calls his wife). Here is part of the tune:
I have been very impressed by Riverdance - such precision! Here is a clip that knocked me out. It's just stunning - be sure to watch it to the end.
I am horrified and disgusted by what Islamic State is doing. Obviously the killing, particularly beheading is the most barbaric thing which takes the world back into medieval days or earlier. But what they have done to destroy antiquities is also deplorable. It shows how arrogant they are to feel they can destroy history. Maybe the pricelsss monuments can be smashed to pieces in places like Nineveh and Palmyra but there is no way they can undo history itself. In years to come they will be forgotten, except as a footnote on how evil the human race can be. The misguided youths or both sexes who have gone to ISIS-controlled territory to join them have no symhpathy from me. I hope they never return back "home". So venting my anger in music, I have written a piece called Nineveh. For more information about the city, click here . What they have done since then is destroy an historic temple and some tombs in Palmyra.
I used to think that nuclear war was the most urgent thing to guard against. Then along came the threat of global warming. Along with that I now feel that the threat posed to all nations by Islamic State and the other terrorist group who have a similar agenda must be urgently tackled by all governments. Warfare and terrorist attrocities in Iraq and Syria may seem a long way away from some countries but it will not stay that way for long. Unless IS is somehow defeated the same things that are happening there could happen elsewhere. We must stop them before it is too late. The problem is that they cannot be negotiated with like other traditional enemies. A way must be found then to stop them before they destroy us and all of the world's heritage.
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