Sunday, 20 April 2014
ELDER MUSIC: Triskaidekaphilia
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Or Triskaidekaphobia, take your pick.
I'm always amused by the number of buildings in the United States that lack a 13th floor (although the sensible Empire State Building is an exception I know of). Do the owners think that they'll get attacked by the boogie man or some such?
Thirteen is a rather ordinary number but it does have some interest. It's a prime for a start, one of an infinite number of those and there's an elegant proof of that statement that I won't bore you with today.
It's also one of a prime pair, sharing that with eleven. That is two primes separated by two. There is a conjecture that there is an infinite number of prime pairs as well but that hasn't been proved yet.
I'm not investigating it; I'm writing these music columns instead. Besides, maths research is a young person's game. Thirteen is also a part of the Fibonacci series. I'd better stop here before you all fall asleep.
It's not all 13 today because for the first time I did this the wrong way round. Normally, I collect the music and then write about it. This time I started writing, assuming I'd have enough to play, and found only four "thirteen" tracks and one of those I rejected as not good enough to include.
Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and a bit of a mathematician herself, suggested I use prime numbers. After all, I'd already been rabbiting on about them. So it shall be.
The first two thirteen songs I'm including probably came out about the same time, but they couldn't be more different. Leading off we have CHUCK BERRY.
Chuck's song sounds quite atypical of his usual style. It's as if it came from the Caribbean islands or a sea cruise around them or some such. It is Thirteen Question Method.
Next up is JULIE LONDON.
Julie is always welcome around these parts. This is from an album she recorded with a song for each month of the year, plus an extra one - this one in fact, The Thirteenth Month.
This is a much later thirteen song but by someone who was performing around the same time as Chuck and Julie and that person is JOHNNY CASH.
The song is from one of the series of albums Johnny made towards the end of his life with producer Rick Rubin. When all the other record companies had gone on to other glitzier, trivial stuff, Rick contacted Johnny and suggested he record him, usually with the simplest of backing.
Those of us who like good music can only applaud this. Even at the very end when Johnny's voice is gone, there's still power and dignity present. Johnny's song is just called Thirteen.
Well, that's put paid to thirteen - now on to the other primes.
Here are a couple of seventeen songs, followed by a nineteen. Those two are another example of paired primes. First up is MARTY ROBBINS.
Marty's song was from fairly early in his career when he was trying to appeal to the teenagers. The song is She Was Only Seventeen.
The second seventeen is by THE CRYSTALS.
The song, What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen, was taken from their first album and their second album. After the success of the song, He's a Rebel, the Crystals' producer, the notorious Phil Spector, put out the same album again with that song and another in place of two on the original.
The song today wasn't the best song The Crystals ever did but it was far from the worst – that would be He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).
At least the age is increasing, up to nineteen now with MUDDY WATERS.
The song, She's Nineteen Years Old came from 1958 when Muddy ruled the roost when it came to Chicago blues.
Seven and eleven are often associated together; I assume it's the influence of crap shooting. The next two songs have both seven and eleven in their titles so you get two for the price of one (or four for the price of two, technically).
It's been said (by the A.M. certainly) that all guitar music of the twentieth century comes from CHARLIE CHRISTIAN.
I like to throw T-Bone Walker in the mix as well. On the track, Seven Come Eleven, you have the added bonus of Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton and Fletcher Henderson.
The tune has a nice loose feel, not usually associated with anything to do with Benny.
Here's something quite different from the rest of music today. I give you AKI TAKASE.
Aki is a Japanese jazz pianist and composer. These days she lives in Berlin with her German husband but tours all over the place. Here is Seven Eleven, a bit of reversion to big band sound. Well, sort of.
Now some seven on its own. There are lots of seven songs and I've selected two of them. The first is by GEORGIA GIBBS.
Seven Lonely Days has been recorded by many people, probably the pick of them is the one by Patsy Cline. However, Georgia's version isn't too far behind and that's the one I've included.
CHARLES BROWN first made a name for himself musically in Los Angeles where a smoother style of blues singing was in vogue influenced, no doubt, by Nat King Cole.
Charles was probably the smoothest of the lot and a fine pianist as well, very similar to Nat in fact. His seven song is Seven Long Days.
Finally an eleventh song and it's about eleven.
JESSE WINCHESTER hasn't included the song Eleven Roses on any of his albums.
He sang it here in Victoria when he visited some time ago. Parts of his appearances were recorded and released as a CD for 50 very lucky people. I was one of them and I'd like to share it with you.
We've just heard that Jesse died last week.