Saturday, October 10, 2009


Brilliant poppy hit from Julian Cope, Try try try (1995).

Of course, the guy is as mad as a hatter.

Now for some Wagner, more precisely Siegfried's Funeral March. Although for the accompanying video I did not choose this televised orchestra performance conducted by Klaus Tennstedt, but rather the final scenes of the 1981 movie Excalibur.

That is, you'll first have to endure a little gore when King Arthur's son, Mordred, impales his father and the latter subsequently buries the sword Excalibur in his son's chest... but at about 1.30 minutes into the clip, the March begins. Say what you will, I think it's breathtaking (you may need a few listens though).

I have always liked both Excalibur's visual elements AND its soundtrack. Though almost forgotten now - the film dates from 1981, and people's memories seem to stretch back barely five years these days - for film connoisseurs (not that I count myself one, far from) Excalibur firmly remains on its pedestal as a groundbreaking adventure/fantasy monument of the eighties. Cinematography and costumes are exquisite, winning it a nomination for a 1982 cinematography Academy Award (which it however lost to Reds - bad choice!) and a Palme d'Or (the real thing, not just a nomination) at the Cannes Film Festival of that year. The director, John Boorman, is perhaps best known for Deliverance, but as for me, I will always feel, well, dare I say indebted (?)... for his classy adaptation of Arthurian legends. Excalibur often strikes to me like a rapid succession of artsy photographs. Btw, brilliant acting too - Nigel Terry had the role of his life as King Arthur, which he played both as a young man and as an aged monarch.

Boorman's choice for the then unknown South African composer Trevor Jones was also spot on. Jones, whose career was effectively launched by Boorman's film, produced a soundtrack rife with Orff and Wagner as well as original compositions, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. From Orff he took 'O Fortuna' from his Carmina Burana cantate, and from Wagner, the Siegfried, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal themes.


P.S.: a cantate is simply a composition containing vocals and an instrumental accompaniment, often containing more than one movement.

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