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Archive for November, 2013

Music to Read By

Posted on: November 28th, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

Well, music lover, it’s the end of the month and as November concludes so, too, will many novels. Or manuscripts, to be more accurate.

Yes, that’s right: November is National Novel Writing Month – or “NaNoWriMo” to those in the know – a period during which aspiring writers (and established ones, for that matter) attempt to circumnavigate procrastination, put pen to pad and pound out some 50,000 words, all in 30 short days. It’s quite the feat, really. So to salute those who have tried, this week we thought we’d take a look at some of the songs that great literature has inspired.

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RADIOHEAD – “2 + 2 = 5”

This song, the third and final single from Radiohead’s 2003 release Hail to the Thief, owes its title, of course, to George Orwell’s dystopian 1949 novel, 1984. It refers to the practice of “doublethink,” in which the novel’s characters replace their own conscience and beliefs with those of Big Brother, the dogmatic authoritarian party that rules the perpetually at-war nation of Airstrip One. The music video above gives you a basic idea of the theme – yet, strangely, seems to draw its imagery from Orwell’s other classic tome, Animal Farm.

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JEFFERSON AIRPLANE – “WHITE RABBIT”

Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has inspired everything from movies to artwork to fashion, but perhaps nothing better known than Jefferson Airplane’s ode to everything psychedelic and surreal. “White Rabbit” comes from the band’s 1967 sophomore release, Surrealistic Pillow, and continues to blow minds all these decades later.

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LEONARD COHEN – “THE STRANGER SONG”

In this song, Leonard Cohen, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame’s 1991 inductee, references Nelson Algren’s Chicago-based masterpiece The Man With the Golden Arm, a book about a morphine-addicted card dealer. As Cohen sings: “O you’ve seen that man before / His golden arm dispatching cards / But now it’s rusted from the elbows to the finger.” The track comes from Cohen’s 1967 debut album The Songs of Leonard Cohen.

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CRASH TEST DUMMIES – “AFTERNOONS AND COFFEESPOONS”

Ah yes, it’s the sound of Canada in the 1990s. This song comes from the JUNO Award–winning Crash Test Dummies and can be found on their 1993 sophomore album God Shuffled His Feet. The song’s title and lyrics are based on a poem by T.S. Eliot, titled The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, a dramatic interior monologue described as epitomizing the “frustration and impotence of the modern individual” and “modern disillusionment.” But for me it just conjures up memories of ripped jeans and plaid flannel.

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RUSH – “2112”

Released in 1976, “2112” is the side-long title track of Rush’s fourth studio album. It is comprised of seven sections: “Overture,” “The Temples of Syrinx,” “Discovery,” “Presentation,” “Oracle: The Dream,” “Soliloquy” and “Grand Finale.” It is loosely based on the novella Anthem, published in 1938 by renowned American libertarian philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905-1982). The song basically describes a dystopian, pseudo-Stalinist future in which all things – even technological innovation – are centrally planned, the result being that mankind has plunged back into a second sort of Dark Age. Heavy stuff – but that didn’t stop “Overture” and “The Temples of Syrinx” from being released as a single.

This Week in Music History: November 25 to December 1

Posted on: November 26th, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By Adam Bunch

Timothy Leary’s Millbrook Commune (left); Toronto Police shut down the Last Pogo at the Horseshoe Tavern (right)

MAYNARD FERGUSON DROPS ACID

In the early 1960s, Montreal’s Maynard Ferguson was one of the most famous trumpet players in the world. Soon, as one of the very first musicians to ever drop acid, he would also be one of the most stoned.

Ferguson was friends with Timothy Leary, a Harvard University professor who was doing research into the possibility of using psychedelic drugs as a way to expand consciousness. Leary believed that, with professional psychiatric guidance, drug trips could be used as a way of improving the lives of his patients – for instance, to treat alcoholism or reform convicted criminals. He would become most famous for his use of LSD, but his earliest experiments focused on magic mushrooms. In fact, Leary wouldn’t drop acid for the first time until 1962.

Maynard Ferguson was there when he did. In fact, Ferguson tried it first. Another Harvard professor showed up one night with some LSD-laced cake in a mayonnaise jar. Ferguson and his wife tried it and enjoyed it so much that Leary – who wasn’t convinced at first – joined in. It was a landmark in the history of drugs, sparking one of the most famous periods of psychedelic experimentation ever, and Ferguson was there for much of it.

In fact, during this week in 1963, Ferguson and his wife had just moved their entire family, with four kids, to live at Leary’s commune in New York State. Their daughter Lisa would later describe life there as “a fairy tale epic. I suddenly had this huge playground of forests and lakes and fields of sunflowers and corn. All the structures had been built to resemble Bavarian fairytale castles, exactly like the ones you had seen in all your favourite bedtime stories. There were waterfalls and deer roamed the property.”

Residents and visitors to the commune included some of the most famous musicians, writers and artists of their time: Allen Ginsberg, Charles Mingus, William S. Burroughs, Ornette Coleman and Aldous Huxley, among others. Ferguson would even end up making an appearance in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test after Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters showed up with the author Tom Wolfe in tow.

The three years that Ferguson spent living at the commune became a turning point in his career. His experiences there helped to inspire a year spent living in India. When he came back, he helped to pioneer a new genre of music fusing jazz with psychedelic rock. It became one more stage in a career that spanned all the way from the swing music of the 1930s to his death in 2006. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1997.

MAYNARD FERGUSON PLAYS “BIRDLAND”

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THE DEATH OF PUNK IN TORONTO

It was billed as “the last punk rock concert in Toronto.” During this week in 1978, the Last Pogo was held at one of the city’s oldest and most respected music venues, the Horseshoe Tavern on Queen Street West. On the bill were some of the best bands from the punk scene that had been pogoing and spitting and bleeding their way through the city’s downtown music venues over the previous few years: The Viletones, Teenage Head, The Scenics, The Ugly and more.

When a riot broke out and the cops shut the whole thing down, the show became something of a Toronto legend – a quarter of a century later, it’s still a famous story – and filmmaker Colin Brunton was there to capture it all on film. Earlier this year, he released a brand new documentary – The Last Pogo Jumps Again – telling the story of that punk scene and the bands that helped to make Toronto one of the most exciting music hubs on the planet.

While that original punk scene might be long dead, the city now has a new generation of bands taking up the mantle of loud and raucous rock: from Fucked Up to Metz to PUP.

TRAILER FOR THE LAST POGO JUMPS AGAIN

THE VILETONES PLAY THE LAST POGO

The Winners Circle: The Canadian Folk Music Awards

Posted on: November 21st, 2013 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

The winners of the Canadian Folk Music Awards (CFMAs) were announced last week at a gala event held in Calgary. CBC’s Shelagh Rogers hosted the gala, along with musician Benoit Bourque, and awards were presented in 19 categories.

It seems as though Ontario artists made out most handily, with seven artists from the province taking home nine of the awards. British Columbia and Nova Scotia were close on Ontario’s heels, though, with four artists from each province bringing four awards back. Quebec and Nunavut artists brought home one award each.

So who were the big winners? There were many, but here are a couple who happened to catch our eye.

Raucous instrumentalists Jaron Freeman-Fox and The Opposite of Everything led the pack of winners, receiving the award for Instrumental Group of the Year, as well as the Pushing the Boundaries award. The Toronto-based group, appropriately described as “Tom Waits playing the fiddle, backed up by the Mahavishnu Orchestra,” features Charles James, Dan Stadnicki, John Williams and Robbie Grunwald, and is helmed by Jaron Freeman-Fox on his five-string violin. The song below comes from the group’s self-titled release from 2013, performed live at Toronto’s Lula Lounge.

Jaron Freeman-Fox and The Opposite of Everything – “The Rabid Rabbi”

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In competition against Prince Rupert, BC’s Kristi Lane Sinclair, Toronto’s Diem Lafortune and Winnipeg’s Vince Fontaine of Indian City and Don Amero, Nancy Mike from The Jerry Cans walked away with the prize for Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year for Nunavuttitut. Her band describes their mixture of throat singing, country and reggae as “sharing a glimpse of life in Nunavut while challenging misrepresentation of the Great White North.”

The Jerry Cans – “Mamaqtuq”

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Mo Kenney is a singer-songwriter based out of Waverly, Nova Scotia. As of last week, she can also call herself the CFMAs’ New/Emerging Artist of the Year. She received the honour for her self-titled 2012 debut, which was produced by fellow Canadian (and rock hero to many) Joel Plaskett. The song below, which comes from that album, won her the 2013 SOCAN Songwriting Prize for the best song by an independent Canadian musician.

Mo Kenney – “Sucker”

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Lynn Miles is one of Canada’s most accomplished singer-songwriters. With 12 albums to her credit, she is already the winner of multiple CFMAs. Last week she took home one more, Solo Artist of the Year, for her album Downpour. Released earlier this year, Downpour has been described as “a remarkable collection of music celebrating our fragile, flawed and beautiful world.”

Lynn Miles – “More”

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There are so many other talented musicians who took home awards. For the sake of time and space, we’ll end here with Nova Scotia fiddler Chrissy Crowley, who was crowned the CFMAs’ Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year. Described by The Guardian as “a spellbindingly precocious talent,” she has a firm foundation in the traditional music of Cape Breton and is now bringing her music worldwide with performances in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as in Ireland, Holland, France, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The track below comes from her latest eponymous release, which came out this year.

Chrissy Crowley – “Last Night’s Fun”

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Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners!

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