Wednesday, 20 August 2014

My vinyl fetish

I have grown to adore vinyl. I have grown to love its raw, full sound. It especially suits classical music. It feels so compressed when digitised. I inherited about forty or so classical records from my deceased Anglo-Chilean grand-uncle. My collection has grown considerably since. I scour charity shops for bargains.

I wrote a theatrical sketch recently called 'My Vinyl Fetish.' In the sketch, five surrogates of mine, and a woman (named 'Pussy'...) listen to seven of my records and discuss them. One of my fantasies is to stay up til the early hours of the morning, drink wine and listen to records with a group of people.

Below I will select a few corkers and offer brief comments. I didn't select any of the seven vinyls I wrote about in my sketch...

The collection, as seen from a distance...

This is an edition of Captain Beefheart's debut album Safe as Milk. It is retitled 'Dropout Boogie,' apparently because British distributors thought it'd more marketable/user-friendly as such.

Coltrane's Love Supreme. It is not at all controversial to say that this is quite likely the greatest jazz album ever made. It is a reissue. As such, it's digitised and it's not analogue.

Lovely packaging. These are recordings of Jelly Roll Morton at his prime (late 20s). New-Orleans/swing-inflected jazz is such a joy to listen to.

Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy. I believe that this edition is from the 60s! Sound-bites of verbal nonsense interspersed with Zappa's orchestra music.

This is a selection of Bach organ music. My lord, it sure is a treat to listen to this. It includes several of Bach's masterful toccatas and fugues.

Bach music for harpsichord, performed by George Malcolm. It includes 'Concerto in F major,' which is a particular favourite. 

Bach's violin concertos. Part of the canon and with good reason, too. I could have the second movement of the first concerto on repeat for hours.

I have all of Bartok's string quartets vinyl, performed by The Fine Arts Quartet. They're the cream of Bartok's music (and the cream of quartet repertoire, too). They're all exhilarating to hear and they chart the development of Bartok's career as a whole. My favourite is the 4th.

Bartok's 2nd and 3rd piano concertos. The piano parts are devilishly intricate. The pianist effectively must grow extra fingers to play them.

Beethoven's chamber music is so rich. Quite likely superior to the symphonies. These are sonatas for cello and piano.

Ach, just realised that I broke my own rules! I wrote about the 15th quartet in the sketch My Vinyl Fetish! This includes the 14th and 15th quartets. The former is one single movement, the latter a brilliantly crafted piece in A minor.

Blood and guts! This vinyl includes music by Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. I must say that I have never taken to much of Schoenberg's stuff - his disciples' music I find more interesting. Webern's concise, muted and atonal miniatures are fascinating stuff. This is classed under 'B,' 'Berg' (generally because I have more vinyls by Berg than the other 2).

These are pieces for orchestra by Elliott Carter and Aaron Copland, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein did much to promote American serious music. I love Carter's piece - a scintillating atonal feast.

These are madrigals by Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo. A composer who anticipated the development of chromaticism by more than two centuries. He was an unpleasant character - I wrote a short story about him called 'Desperate Lives.' This is an issue from the 50s promoted by Aldous Huxley! (He wrote about listening to Gesualdo whilst taking mescalin in The Doors of Perception...) To think that I bought this for 49 p!

These are several works for piano, in different genres, by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. They are performed by Arthur Rubinstein. These pieces are delightful.

These are two choral pieces for orchestra by the contemporary German composer - Muses of Sicily and Moralities. It comes with Henze's own liner notes. This was a real find.

This is one of Liszt's literary programmatic pieces. It is based on Dante's Inferno. A real innovator as to what a symphony could do. (Like Beethoven in his day, he was regarded as a bit of a noise maker...)

Messiaen's colossal Turangalilla Symphony. There are lovely tone colours here. Messiaen includes several unusual instruments, including a theremin and a keyboard he himself built.

Debussy's and Ravel's string quartets performed by Julliard. I believe that this is an authoritative recording. I much prefer Ravel's chamber music to Debussy's (the converse is true for their orchestral music). 

Scarlatti's music for harpsichord. Baroque music at its best.

Schubert's string quartets are an emotional powerhouse. I have an awful lot of Schubert on vinyl - more than any other composer, I believe - but this is top of the pile. Schubert really broke the mould of the staid classicist forms - he pretty much wrote music just as he saw fit.

Sibelius' 4th symphony. I love the ominous first movement and the resolution of the motifs in the 3rd and 4th movements. It builds up and up and then whittles down.

Ah, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring! If some one you know is convinced that classical music is purple music for blue haired ladies, play him or her this! Classical music is wild and young! It's all the more apparent here.

These are a few pieces by Toru Takemitsu. Wonderful composer. Some of these pieces are more influenced by Oriental music, others draw more Western music.

This vinyl includes some of Edgard Varese's most important pieces. His is a truly exhilarating, oblique soundworld. Just imagine hearing Ionisation in the 20s!

Hugo Wolf was one of the greatest songwriters. Beautiful pieces. This lieder is drawn from Spanish poets - Lorca et. al.

I have quite a few vinyls which are anthologies of early music - Renaissance, early baroque. This is from Spanish medieval times, played in the - highly unusual - original instrumentation.

This is an antology of modern British piano music. I can't remember any of the composers, but certainly none of them are house-hold names. Some of the pieces here are fairly accessible, others are very harsh on the ear. They're all highly exciting, though.


Ryan Brothwell said...

Wow-you're vinyl collection has exploded since I last saw it! I recently got a record player in May-looks like I have some catching up to do! Managed to get your hands on Trout Mask Replica or some Van yet?

Simon King said...

Trout Mask Replica was the first vinyl I ever owned, I believe. It was a Christmas present in 2008. I bought Van's Astral Weeks new online after trawling through a succession of vinyl shops proved fruitless. I also have his record Enlightenment, having bought in a store in lieu of Astral Weeks. I would have posted both those records on here had I not written about them in my sketch!

Michael J. Brooks said...

Really interesting piece Simon, has given me lots to go away and explore.

I wonder whether you've ventured into listening to Aphex Twin at all? I think you'd probably get a lot out of his expansive back catalogue of electronic music. This is a recent Quietus article/playlist that I think serves as a very worthy introduction to the curious.

Simon King said...

Thanks very much, Michael. I shall look into it. Never fully got into electronic music.

Ryan Brothwell said...

I second Michael's comment. You should check out Selected Ambient Works 85-92 as a nice introduction. Lovely mood and textures.

Michael J. Brooks said...

Yeah, agree with Ryan. I was a fan right after hearing the first track from that album Xtal. An album that really reveals itself to you after repeated listens, as does SAW 2, which is the finest ambient album since Brian Eno's early work.