Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Computer Age and Low Tech Music






Computers have had a revolutionary effect on music. From track mixing to synthesising the sounds of assorted instruments, there is a lot that is possible that would not have been thinkable forty years ago. What I most appreciate is the possibility of restoring old recordings that would otherwise be lost due to deterioration. A sad example of this is when I went looking for recordings of Daoud Hosni, an Egyptian Karaite Jewish composer who lived from 1870 to 1937. He had a powerful influence on the Egypyian musical scene until his death in 1937. I was told that a lot of his old recordings are deteriorating for lack of proper care and that much of his work is in danger of being lost due to attrition. It is a pity that no one has attempted to preserve his old recordings. I wonder how many other composers and musicians from the early years of the 20th century will be lost to posterity because we failed to preserve their work with the means at our disposal. I was fortunate enough in my search on You Tube to find this link to a Daoud Hosni composition. Unfortunately, the recording is truncated. The postcards from the 1930's Damascus, however are priceless.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Jgu5cXbXLI

But I was shocked to find recordings of Daoud Hosni almost completely unavailable even on the internet. I hope someone out there will start preserving and rendering old recordings of Arab music into a more durable medium.

One of my pet peeves is the extent to which so much modern music is produced on computer. I miss the classic rock from the sixties and earlier that was done by bands playing on simple, "low tech" instruments. The music of The Animals comes to mind when my longing for "low tech music is most strong. My favourite from the 50's is "Peggy Sue" which reminds me of the time I was drunk in Prague back in the 1970s and ended up accidentally crashing a high school dance that looked like my mental image of the 1950's.

If I listen to more than five songs in a row in English, I tend to get claustrophobic. My mind always drifts to what people listen to in other parts of the world. Some of the best music in the French language is from Quebec. I feel an affinity with the Quebecois. The French look down on their French, just as the British look down on American English. I feel a certain measure of hemispheric solidarity whenever I encounter this annoying linguistic elitism.

One of my favourite songs fro the sixties is one that I discovered only recently. It is a song by Michel Polnareff. It is called "La poupée qui fait non." Its title translates approximately as The Doll That Said No." It sounds a lot like some of the bands that followed the trail blazed by the Beatles up until about 1965. One version I included which is of lower technical quality is by a 60's garage band from Quebec known as Les Sultans. The recording is a bit truncated . I also included a studio version with a slide show of some elaborately dressed dolls.

I am presenting the French lyrics and a rough translation below. I reworked the Google translation where it seemed a bit surreal.



C'est une poupée qui fait non, non, non, non
Toute la journée elle fait non, non, non, non
Elle est, elle est vraiment jolie
Que j'en rêve la nuit
C'est une poupée qui fait non, non, non, non
Toute la journée elle fait non, non, non, non
Personne ne lui a jamais appris
Qu'on pouvait dire oui[ Find more Lyrics on www.mp3lyrics.org/gpJ ]
Sans me regarder elle fait non, non, non, non
Pourtant je donnerais ma vie
Pour qu'elle dise oui
Pourtant je donnerais ma vie
Pour qu'elle dise oui
Mais c'est une poupée qui fait non, non, non, non
Toute la journée elle fait non, non, non, non
Personne ne lui a jamais appris
Qu'on pouvait dire oui
Oh, non, non, non, non
non, non, non, non
Ell' fait non, non, non, non



It is a doll that says " no, no, no, no"
All day it says no, no, no, no
She is, she is really pretty
What I dream about at night
It is a doll that says " no, no, no, no"
All day it says no, no, no, no
Nobody has ever learned
We could say yes
Without even listening, it says no, no, no, no

Without looking at me it says "no, no, no, no"
Yet I would give my life
For her to say yes
Yet I would give my life
For her to say yes
But it is a doll that says " no, no, no, no"
All day it says no, no, no, no
Nobody has ever learned
We could say yes
Oh, no, no, no, no
no, no, no, no
She says " no, no, no, no"


I don't know if the songwriter would agree with me, but the lyrics actually remind me of raising a teenager going through a rebellious stage. The lyrics almost remind me of one of those Chinese ink drawings that depicts a panda bear with about three lines and two blotches. In both the Chinese ink drawing and the Polnareff song, the simplicity itself moves one to look deeper.

Forty years ago, I never would have been able to seek out Chinese art, Arab music and French 60's music from a desk in my living room. As frustrated as I am with high tech music, as much as I long for simplicity, computers can take you there, if that is where you want to go. Like Google itself, it's all how you frame your search.




video


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTyHhHDnjB4





video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sxth_tQZ4sE&feature=related

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: