Music [heart] Art = album cover

An encounter with music album artist Storm Thorgerson and an attempt to live up to his high expectations.

Storm Thorgerson thinks it’s in the band’s interest that they get along with him since they want the best cover for their albums. He doesn’t make it exactly easy for them, as he is awkward (admitting it himself) grumpy and opinionated.  But music icons like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Muse wouldn’t choose someone else to give their albums the final visual polish. Storm Thorgerson albums have passed millions of music fans’ hands and made music-history.  When we visited Storm Thorgerson at his most recent exhibition at the Idea Generation gallery we had a close-up on how the brain behind Pink Floyd’s “Liquid Side of the Dark Moon” album cover works. The gallery promptly invited us to reproduce our own version of it – under the close surveillance of the artist, of course. We probably didn’t exactly soothe his nerves or his voice, as we couldn’t really get a grip on his paint-pouring technique. Even shouting at his assistant “Rachel, tell the young man, that he has to pour closer to the surface so it doesn’t splash” and observing us from different angles didn’t do the trick. Somehow we still managed to get a decent version of the cover and Thorgerson assured us that “This has to be repeated many times, before we choose the most interesting one”. “The Liquid Side of the dark” moon was compared to Storm Thorgerson’s other works a rather cheap production. All of his photos have been done for real, rather than being designed on the computer. Although looking at 700 antique-looking beds on a beach you might suspect otherwise. “It is difficult to do this, as they are also very heavy.” he told me. Storm Thorgerson made his first album cover n 1967 for Pink Floyd, whom he was a friend with. At this time there was no Photoshop and computer designed pictures, so there really was so other option as to make his psychedelic ideas into reality and then take photos.

 

What is the importance of an album cover in times of i-tunes and mp3? Is the album cover disappearing? Thorgerson doesn’t think so. “It is the picture that counts. It has to best illustrate or represent the music. We don’t know in what format or design it will appear as the record company decides on that, so that’s the only thing we can work with”.  Although the way we produce and publish images may change, it’s the idea that fascinates us forever and Storm Thorgerson has definitely done a good job at that.

His most recent exhibition at the Idea Gallery has shown 14 of his favourite covers in large print, which also went on sale. While visitors browse the gallery he is already working on variations of the album cover, ordering his assistants around -and being awkward, of course.

 

 

Minimalist music is more than repeating a few notes by Siavash

Guest Post by Siavash Saadlou:  Creative Writing Non-Fiction MA Student at City University London

A friend of mine recently told me about his view towards minimalist music, believing that it is nothing but playing the same notes over and over again. But there is more to minimalist music than meets the eye.

Minimalist music was introduced to the world of tunes as the biggest phenomenon of the 20th century. At the time, some considered it a blessing and some others regarded it as heresy, and yet minimalism found its way into becoming integrated with some fundamental music genres, most notably rock and pop.

  • The art of imagination

Minimalism has never been immune from harsh criticism. The British music critic Alan McDonald once described minimalist music as ‘sexless’ and ‘passionless’. But is that what minimalism is all about? The answer is a firm no.

The American author and composer David Cope believes that minimalist music has five certain characteristics including ‘silence’, ‘concept’, ‘brevity’, ‘continuity’, and ‘pattern’ (which braces repetition in itself). It also has to be said that you barely find dramatic shifts in contemporary minimalist music. Still, what differentiates minimalism from other genres of music is none of what you’ve read so far. The most important factor you need while listening to minimalist music is a great sense of imagination that roses from within. You can get your kicks out of listening to rock and pop music with the words and the concept being unbeknownst to you, but minimalist music is a horse of another color. In other words, you can listen to a song by someone like Lady Gaga and enjoy its beat and tempo, but there is no way you can enjoy listening to a piece of minimalist music without the cognizance of, what I would call, ‘ambiance’ of the work. Here below, I have shed light on minimalist music through three clear examples. I have to point out though that, at the end of the day, music is of course a matter of taste. As they say, different folks, different strokes!

·      Yann Tiersen – Déjà Loin

The multi-instrumentalist French artist Yann Tiersen, nicknamed as ‘new Chopin’, is indeed one of the best minimalist composers ever lived. He released C’etait ici in 2002, a live compilation album that includes his best tour performances throughout the year. Among the tracks, the song Déjà Loin is one of many which has a deep concept despite its simplicity. It starts with a mellow melody, a childish one, reflecting on a newly born child. The mellow start continues for a short while, just like the way life, for most people, is beautiful and pain-free in its initial stages. Then there is a shift in both beat and pace, a metaphor for the vicissitudes of life. Just like the raging beat of the song, life never gets any easier too. The continuation of the piece involves repetition, the part and parcel of minimalist music, but there are tiny sounds to be heard as well, reflecting on a ray of hope amid all the difficulties. Déjà Loin ends with a sudden and deep silence, a metaphor for death. It is a brilliantly composed piece of music by Yann Tiersen, only to testify to the truthfulness of what Michael Nyman once said, that ‘minimalist music often does not sound as simple as it looks’.

  • Øystein Sevåg – Based on a True Story

The Norwegian composer Øystein Sevåg is more of a contemporary classical composer, but with his 2005 album entitled Based on a True Story, he decided to chance his arm and produce some minimalist music. Based on a True Story is a piano-focused album that takes you through a journey of self-discovery started by Sevåg himself, exploring his personal life after he and his wife go their separate ways. The album requires a great sense of curiosity and imagination, as every track follows the Sevåg’s story in an amusing way. With Based on a True Story, Sevåg proved that it is possible to tell a brutally honest story, even a personal one, without using any words. Sevåg leaves the right of judgment to the listener, even when it comes to deciding about the points where there is a twist in the story.

  • Ludovico Einaudi – Oltremare

The Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi has always shied away from labeling his music, but he recently confessed to his love for minimalism, saying that he would prefer to be called a ‘minimalist’ than something else.

Einaudi’s 2007 album Divenire (means ‘to become’ in Italian) is his most critically acclaimed work that really captivates the soul with its enormous variety and marvelous simplicity. There are light tracks such as Monday and Ritormare where Einaudi proves how simplicity and beauty are not mutually exclusive in minimalist music. Then there are tracks like Primavera or Divenire where a touch of symphonic music is to be heard. The best piece of work in Divenire, in my opinion, is Oltremare (means ‘overseas’ in Italian). Oltremare is arguably Einaudi’s best piece of solo piano work, as one user comment for Oltremare on YouTube video uploading website reads, ‘I bet this song is on God’s iPod’.

Indeed Oltremare is a tune everyone would like to hear when attending an Einaudi concert. It starts with a soft melody that is perpetuated throughout the piece, one that finds its way into your mind and stays there forever. The repetition might make the piece sound boring, but the ending is dramatic and perfectly matches the whole melody.

Video

A few weeks ago I went to the Nova Jazz and Blues Nights in Wiesen. It’s a very small festival with a focus on Jazz Blues, Soul. (Amy Winehouse was to come but she actually died one day before she was supposed to perform. The concert had been cancelled weeks before anyway but it was still very shocking… )I hadn’t been to a festival before so this was the first time for me and I absolutely loved it! I’ll definitely go to (smaller) festivals in the future. After the festival I spend half a day to look for and download the songs and albums of the musicians and singers that performed (and that I liked).  This chanteuse is called Zaz and I think it was her first time performing in Austria. I’ve listened to her album a lot and it sort of keeps you going through the rainy days, so I wanted to recommend it to everyone, who likes french music…