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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Pop that's simply (good) music

Ah, if all pop were like this. Then I wouldn’t have to adjust myself, analyse, compromise and euphemise; I’d simply sit back and listen.

Paul Simon at Webster Hall, New York. Good stuff and this is perhaps why. Average age of musicians: fortyish with the star in his seventies. Wide range of instruments including tenor and soprano saxes, trumpet, a self-pumped organ, penny whistles, multitudinous percussion plus guitars in all shapes and sizes. Skills: manifest. Arrangements: complex, subtle and persuasive. Audience (limited to 1000): most, like me, there to listen.

The programme, as with all ageing poppers, a mix of old and new, the latter proving he can still write stuff I enjoy. But let’s look at a comparative oldie and a very old oldie.

Hearts and Bones dates back to 1983. The writing then was spare, the tone melancholy and the melody suited Simon’s  unresonating, slightly hoarse voice.

The arc of a love affair
Rainbows in the high desert air
Mountain passes slipping into stones
Hearts and bones

Here it fits larger forces: orchestral, more substantial, better textured. Perhaps a motet: a polyphonic choral composition used as an anthem in the Roman Catholic service.

Sounds of Silence is bedrock Simon, of course. He wrote it so may tweak it. But please, Paul, the tune is so good, don’t go overboard. He doesn’t, simply straightens out some melodic lines, add curlicues elsewhere. And then, between the end of one vocal line and the start of another adds a six or seven chord guitar lick that somehow summarises the whole tune. Magic!

NOTE: Simon’s voice once overlapped Garfunkel’s falsetto. Now age has turned him into a baritone. He adjusts, of  course. A great musician by any standards.

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