#AprilCountry – April 17th, “If Jesus Leads This Army”, Howard Haney

I came across Howard Haney rather randomly via Spotify – on “The Half Ain’t Never Been Told: Early American Religious Rural Music” album
From Hillbilly Music.com , here is a bio of Howard Haney, represented by exactly one song on Spotify:

Howard Earl Haney was born in Ironton, Ohio, the son of Arthur Haney and the former Ella Rolph.
Howard was an Apostolic Pentecostal Minister. He was Saved when he was 17 and stayed with the Church until he died in 1970 in Portsmouth, Ohio.
A relative of Howards recalls that he wrote five or six songs, including “Sunset Gates of Gold” and another being “Your Mother still Prays For You Jack”. He recorded those 2 songs as well as the following songs, “When Jesus Leads This Army”, “Keep on the Firing Line”, “The Dying Boy’s Message” and “Wandering Boy”.
The songs were also recorded several years later by the Carter Family.

There is something eerily modern about Haney’s voice, and I would be curious to hear more. Anyhow, with Easter approaching, here is “If Jesus Leads This Army”:

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Reflections on my top Spotify plays of 2018

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for! I wonder why Spotify do this with over three weeks of the year still to go? Perhaps it is so that is isn’t overwhelmed by Christmas songs. And I wonder does the “year” therefore comprise 11 months and a little under a week?

 

This year I expected (yes, I have been thinking about this) that the influence of my children’s use of our Spotify would become apparent. To a degree it has, with the Greatest Showman soundtrack featuring heavily. I thought I expected George Ezra’s Shotgun to be way ahead of everything else, but it wasn’t.  

The top two are both songs (or perhaps more properly recordings) which I have tended to use to endeavour to get my children (and myself at times) to sleep. Number 2 is a recording by Gordon Hempton, Ocean Dreams, nearly an hour of ocean sound. I have listened to it in full waking as well as as a sleep aid, and it is quite an aural trip:

The number one is Ekkehard Ehlers’  Plays John Cassavetes 2. Based on a recurring sample from the Beatles’ “Goodnight” Again it’s a wonderful listen for non-sleep related purposes also! Here is a video of it on a one hour loop, if you have spare time after Ocean Dreams:

Number 3 is “HImlico’s Map”, with Mick Lally speaking over Shaun Davey’s music. This is the opening of Davey’s “The Pilgrim”, and also the opening of a playlist I put together called, um, The Pilgrim.

 

Here’s an extract from The Pilgrim sleeve notes:

Himlico’s Map: Colum Cille Leaves Derry. Mick Lally, Narrator and Helen Davies, metal-string harp. Himlico was a Carthaginian who was sent during the 6th or 5th century B.C. to explore the coastline of Western Europe. Although his original report is lost it is thought to form a basis of a poem by Avienus, a 4th century A.D. official of the Roman Empire. An extract from this, one of the earliest written descriptions of the Celts, is followed by three of a number of verses ascribed to Colum Cille at the time of his departure from Derry in the 6th century A.D.

Here is “Himlico’s Map / Colum Cille Leaves Derry” on YouTube, with a fairly trippy visual accompaniment:

OK, I’m not going to go through each one like this… honest. I do think the playlist is a fairly accurate reflection of what I listen to, although I have been listening to quite a bit of fairly honest-to-goodness guitar-based rock lately which hasn’t made it to this (nor has much by way of country, and only a few electronica). I also listen to a fair bit of the Beatles, Sinatra and Dylan, but possibly too diffuse a range of tracks for one to make it. I also have some playlists which are basically multiple versions of the same song or piece – for instance this one of various interpretations of Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude . Quite a few of these versions feature in my annual top 100. That probably pushes the classical percentage, already pretty high, even higher.

Spotify also produce a playlist called “Tastebreakers” which is supposedly “a playlist of songs from genres and artists you don’t normally explore” Whatever about the artists bit, I can’t say that the genres are unfamiliar. A fair bit of jazz, a fair bit of country, a fair bit of soundtracks … it isn’t that far from my familiar furrows.

 

Let’s Get Sophisticated! #SophistiPop Old and New …. with Bryan Ferry, ABC, Michael Franks, Destroyer, Red Box, Aztec Camera, Marshall Crenshaw and the Style Council

“Sophisti-Pop” is a subgenre of pop that takes musical elements from jazz, MOR, synthpop and what could be best called easy listening, and mixes them with a more literary-than-visceral, slightly detached lyrical sensibility. And a lot of sax. Or at least that’s one attempt at a definition, although the songs I included on this playlist include plenty of outliers:

Sophti-Pop’s origins are obviously well before the 1980s. The Roxy Music of Avalon (1981)  and Oh Yeah (1980)  are the quintessential Sophisti-Pop band and the Bryan Ferry of Slave to Love (1985) the quintessential Sophisti-pop singer but in Ferry’s 1970 solo work especially we find pop as Sophisti as it comes.  Here is Smoke Gets in Your Eyes from 1974’s Another Time, Another Place (and the tux he is rocking on the cover it the quintessential Sophisti-pop look):

Actually maybe the quintessential sophist-pop look is Martin Fry’s gold tuxedo. Final use of the word “quintessential” in this post: for me, “Valentine’s Day” is the quintessential sophisti-pop song. It has a quality of being overwrought, stylised and more than a little tongue in cheek – while at the same time being totally sincerely heartbroken. Oh and “School For Scandal/Guess Who’s Enrolled” is the quinte- sorry, archetypal Sophisti-Pop couplet:

Reviewing my playlist there are quite a few entries I felt had to be included more for representativeness rather than great enthusiasm on my part (Level 42, Temper Trap) but also many neglected artists who would shy away from the Sophisti-Pop label. Red Box are best known for The Circle and the Square, a dominant album of my childhood (the pop hit “For America” being a gateway song to a small-s-and-unironic sophisticated album) but in recent years I discovered the even stronger follow up, Motive. And here is opening song Train.

Another recent discovery has been Michael Franks, definitely from the jazz end of the spectrum, setting a rueful template which Paddy McAloon amongst others have follow. Here’s When Sly Calls (Don’t Touch That Phone):

The playlist is called Sophisti-Pop Old And New, and to my mind this kind of music has aged quite well (better than it might have seemed during the grungey 90s?). New sophisti-pop tinged music is still being made.  Destroyer’s 2011 album Kaputt is highly Sophisti, especially the title track, but here is the more downtempo Chinatown:

Not a sax to be heard in Aztec Camera’s Spanish Horses, but it’s as Sophisti as they come:

I knew  Your’e My Favourite Waste of Time best in the rather stereotypically 80s Owen Paul cover, but here is the original by Marshall Crenshaw which has a more Sophisti sensibilty :

I could go on and on and on and on (in fact, I have already written and deleted “finally” about five times in this post) but the final finally is here – and I am desperately trying to avoid the q word but the Style Council’s “Shout to the Top” is, well, um, a really good example of Sophisti Pop:

The lost world of Enno Aare

(edit 22nd August 2018 – readers may also be interested in the careers of Ana Olgica and Amity Cadet)

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/aoifenichorcorain/playlist/74KqlNzk7NMTChonWbOC75

Continuing from my profiles of the work of Amity Cadet and Ana Olgica , I thought I would focus on another artist, once legendary, now only known by a fraction of their life’s work.
Unlike Amity Cadet, there exist some non-Spotify online traces of Aare’s existence, an interview in which he refutes the absurd and insulting thesis that he does not exist, that he is some kind of “fake artist.” Aare articulates a purist approach to a musical career in the age of streaming playlists:

So the excess trappings of the music industry are social media, websites, CDs, records, and live performances? You take a hard line on this.

EA: I see some of these guys at the farmer’s market selling CDs out of their cars, and I’m like, pfff, this guy is a sellout, a complete fraud. I knew this one guy in college who made a tape and spent, I don’t know, an hour designing a cover for it? With a band photograph and a logo? And he listed his email address on the back? Like, ooh, I’m so important I think people should email me. Man, I just shake my head. What a waste of energy.

CP: And so the only appropriate venue for music is a Spotify playlist?

EA: Basically. Yeah, when you get down to it. Put me on a playlist, and that’s all I need. That’s music in its purest form. I never even considered putting my music online anywhere, but these Spotify curators are just relentless in their pursuit of creating the best playlists. I was so stupid I didn’t even know you could “curate” music – I thought that was like an art thing. But when they told me my four songs could exist in a free-floating, context-less, non-corporeal environment for the benefit of people falling asleep with their earbuds in, I couldn’t say no. I told them, “This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is my moment. Sign me up.”

Unlike Amity Cadet, however, Enno Aare is represeneted on Spotify by not one, but four works. On YouTube we find three:

In my previous posts I showed how Amity Cadet and Ana Olgica were both profound, emblematic artists, whose presence on playlists entitled “Classical Chillout” and such may mask their visionary artistrry. A hint to the importance of Eeno Aare comes in the interview linked to above – the phrase “for the benefit of people falling asleep with their earbuds in.” For Eeno Aare was a psychonaut, a surfer of the extreme waves of human consciousness, whose surfboard was a piano, and whose Jaws was that most secret, most  private act, sleep. 

Enno Aare, born in Estonia in 1960, emigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel with his parents in 1975 . They were in Israel only a few months before relocated to Rochester, New York. There Aare’s parents took up roles in The University of Rochester’s Medical School; his mother as a clinical lecturer in anaesthetics, his father as an associate professor in physiology. The Aares both had an academic interest in sleep. They associated themselves with the radical sleep researcher Pietro Corriola. Corriola is one of those figures ignored by the internet , who were highly influential in their day.

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Corriola, born in Ravenna, was based in the Northeast Ohio Medical University   Here he devoted himself to whole-hearted opposition to the work of William C Dement and his creation, The American Sleep Disorders Association. Corriola was implacably opposed to Dement’s focus on REM and classifying sleep stages with electroencephalography.  Corriola was not opposed to the physical investigation of sleep per se. Indeed, he proudly identified himself as one of the “Moruzzi school of physiology”. , having trained under the Italian neurophysiologist who connected sleep and wakefulness to the reticular activating system

 

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Despite this, for Corriola,sleep was to be considered metaphysiocally as much as physiologically. Sleep was not to be considered some kind of pathological deviation from normality, but an arena in which the mind floated free of the tyranny of wakefulness. Corriola was horrified by the reductionist approach to dreams and dreaming. For him, the prevalence of sleep disorders was a mass revolt against the medicalisation of sleep.

The Aares enthusiastically took up this cause. In a series of pamphlets, papers, monographs, letters to journals and book chapters they argued for a metaphysical science of sleep which would move beyond a merely neuroscientific paradigm. Corriola, following years of intellectual isolation in the USA (although his ideas had a warmer reception in Europe) was delighted with this sudden upsurge in interest. AS the 1980s dawned, and Corriola’s career entered its twilight, it seemed his legacy was secure. On a April 23rd 1980, this changed.

That day’s edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle revealed that the Aare parents were not in fact doctors of either medicine or physiology. It was implied that their credentials were Soviet forgeries, and the possibility of KGB infiltration was left hanging unspoken

This was officially discounted, although questions were also asked about the rapidity of the Aare’s move from Israel to the USA. In any case, their careers at Rochester were over. Suddenly, 21 year old Enno, freshly graduated Eastman School of Music, was the provider for his parents. He played piano in hotel bars, in wine bars, in cocktail bars, in piano bars, in leather bars, in singles bars, in racetrack bars. He played piano in what non-bar venues he could find work in. He did some work as a session musician. He played on jingles and on children’s TV shows. He played weddings, funerals, Bar Mitzvahs and any other ceremony in which a pianist could conceivably be required.

The 1980s wore on. Enno Aare played piano every day of every week, with no break. He began to despise the world of music, the so called “industry” but also the so called “art.” He began to despise the egotism, the narcissism, the celebration of the self. He recalled his parents’ lofty, idealistic work on sleep – the entry into a purer world, one without the stifling, corroding influence of the ego.

He despised the studio, despised the production of physical recorded music. He dreamt of a way his music could be untethered from the apparatus of the logistics of the industry he despised. He also began working with his parents on ways of using music to ease the passage into the blissful world of sleep. His parents were now spending 20 to 23 hours asleep a day, waking only for some nutrition, hydration, and relief of bodily functions. In a few snatched moments he would show them his music, written in a notation of the family’s own devising, for their approval.

When, years later, the MP3 file ruptured the link between a piece of music and a definite, physical object, Aare took note. This was not quite his dream, as there still was a physical infrastructure required for the file, to be “downloaded” and “shared”, words which captured the inherent physical nature of the file. But it was a start.

It could not be said that Spotify is the complete realisation of Aare’s dream of a pure music untethered by any physical reality, lulling the listener into the world of sleep. For one thing, a physical instrument is still required, and physical apparatus still required to stream the song. It was, however, a significant advance. And, sadly, the day Spotify was launched in Sweden – 23rd April 2006, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle story which changed their lives for ever – Eeno Aare’s parents died in their sleep.

The end of the list

Every so often, I would come across a random track on Spotify that I wanted to bookmark, so to speak. I tended to add these to the end of a random playlist. Often these tracks would be quite different from the rest of the playlist. Anyway, a while back I put together a playlist made up of the tracks at the end of my playlists. This was supposed to include everything, including tracks added by my wife and children (a more dominant force as time has gone by), although I have been inconsistent about whether to add end-of-list tracks from other people’s Playlists I have followed.

Here is the first, from Sons of the Pioneers to Bryan Ferry:

A few months later I made another of tracks from lists created since the first – from Paolo Nutini (ahem) to Lisa Ekdahl (even more ahem)

And once more, from Philip Glass to Pink Floyd:

And again – from Leos Janacek to Taylor Swift:

And, the other day, from Blossom Dearie to Lost & Found Musical Studios:

What is the point of all this? I would like to say something deep and meaningful, but perhaps random juxtapositions rarely throw up that kind of meaning…