All posts filed under: Strange Music

The Backstory for Blackbird

There seems to be some debate on the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s iconic song Blackbird, but I think it’s better to let him speak for himself. Here is McCartney’s full quote as it appeared in Many Years from Now, by Barry Miles: I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: “Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith; there is hope.” As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place, so rather than saying, “Black woman living in Little Rock” and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.’ Many Years from Now, by Barry Miles

Here Comes the Sun

Whew, what a week. It felt good to wake up today and exhale a deep breath after such a tumultuous week. This quick video has everything you need to recover, sunny yellow flowers, a smiling golden retriever, and a kalimba, the cutest instrument you’ve never heard of.

Pas de Deux

For my birthday last year I braved watching Jordan Peele‘s Us in theaters, and it more than lived up to the hype. I laughed, I squirmed, I was on the edge of my seat until the very end. One of the strengths of the movie is the way Peele uses music throughout the film. From familiar songs to the original score by Michael Abels, music added a rich layer to the action on screen. During one climatic scene at the end of the movie, the piece Pas De Deux pairs delicate violin plucks and trills with bass tones and booming guitar riffs to set the tone for a tense fight scene.

Mickey’s House of Horrors

Only in a Disney movie would the biggest fright in a horror movie be providing music for a skeleton dance party, and that’s exactly the position Mickey Mouse finds himself in Disney’s first horror themed cartoon. The cartoon had some difficulty getting passed censors, but was released in early December of 1929. My favorite part is the skeleton who plays himself like a xylophone and winces every time he hits his own head.

The Apprehension Engine

If you ever wondered how some of the hair raising sounds in your favorite horror movie are made, they may have been created with this instrument. The Apprehension Engine was created by film composer Mark Korven and musician Tony Duggan-Smith in order to create all of the spooky sounds they wanted to hear in movies without relying on a limited pool of digital samples. Listening to the instrument in person is described as being especially unsettling. Brad Wheeler with the Globe and Mail noted during a demonstration by Kroven that “As Korven manipulates the thing, the room’s temperature drops about 10 degrees and the composer’s tiny dog retreats to an upstairs closet.” If you were interested in owning one of these nightmare sound machines, the base cost is a mere 10,000.00. Not in your Halloween budget? Then enjoy some of the videos below, and check out some of the movies this instrument has been featured in, like The Witch and Cube.

Casting a Spell with Screaming Jay Hawkins

When Screaming Jay Hawkins originally wrote I Put a Spell on You, he originally envisioned it as a ballad. After recording it as such, the original version wasn’t released, and Hawkins wound up in a studio a year later to re-record the song for Columbia records. This time, his producer showed up with fried chicken and beer, and at the end of the night, the wild, unhinged version we know today had been recorded. Despite being banned from the radio, the new recording sold over a million copies. The success of the song prompted him to take on a more wild persona, rising out of a coffin with a cape on, surrounded by smoke, for his performances. Snakes on stage and tusks in his nose were added later, completing what is considered one of the first shock rock performances.

A Tiny Trip to Hadestown

Broadway may have gone dark this year, but you can still find other ways to enjoy musical theater. This NPR Tiny Desk concert featuring the Broadway cast of Hadestown was filmed right before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the concert series. Even in this condensed version, you can see why this retelling of the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice won 8 Tony Awards in 2019.

Classical Remix

I love watching videos by 2Cellos anytime I need a pick me up. The Croatian duo is known for reworking pop songs and theme songs into classical music, and have a talent for keeping each piece fresh and entertaining without the benefit of lyrics. Plus they always look like they are having a blast.