sun 07/06/2020

New Music Features

Interview: Eric Whitacre, Virtual Choirmaster

Adam Sweeting Eric Whitacre: From electropop to choral music for the cyberspace era

McDonald's (the hamburger people) are rarely acknowledged for their contributions to the arts, but without them we may never have witnessed the meteoric rise of composer Eric Whitacre. When he was 14, he heard a casting call on the radio for a McDonald's TV ad, persuaded his mother to drive him into Reno, Nevada to join the throng of hopeful teenagers, and ended up making a brief appearance in the "McDonald’s Great Year" commercial.

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Interview: Muse - Paranoid, Glam and Supermassive

Peter Culshaw

Maybe I hadn’t been paying enough attention. It was only at last year’s Children in Need concert, broadcast on prime time which featured the great and the good of British pop that it finally sunk in just how huge Muse have become – they were there appearing with Sir Paul McCartney, Take That, Leona Lewis and Paolo Nutini. Weren’t Muse the alternative Radiohead-lite band from Devon who sing politically loaded and enjoyably paranoid lyrics against the system and all it stands for?

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Extract: Sam Bleakley's Surfing Brilliant Corners

Sam Bleakley Surfer dude rides the waves

Sam Bleakley’s first book, Surfing Brilliant Corners, charts a decade of "extreme surf travel" with renowned photographer John Callahan. He is a jazz fanatic and surfer from Sennen, West Cornwall and a multiple European and British Longboard surfing champion. Surfing, Jazz, Geography and Ecology mix as he journeys to the likes of Mauritania, locked in political strife, where “landmines litter access to some of the best waves on the planet"; and Haiti, which "captures my heart and...

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Interview: Alim Qasimov, Mugam Maestro

Peter Culshaw Alim Qasimov: Sublime, transcendent

With his sublime renditions of Azerbaijan's classical music, Alim Qasimov is one of the world's great performers. On the eve of the singer's appearance at the Barbican’s Transcender Weekend of spiritual trance music, where he is performing this Sunday, theartsdesk recalls a trip to the old Soviet state to drink vodka, play chess and find out about this extraordinary singer.

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The Seckerson Tapes: Director Des McAnuff

Edward Seckerson Des McAnuff, whose Broadway shows have garnered a staggering 18 Tony Awards

In the 1960s Des McAnuff played guitar and wrote songs to meet girls. Subsequently life became a little more complicated for the multi-talented writer/ director. His long-standing commitment to the Shakespeare Festival Theatre at the other Stratford - in Ontario, Canada - has won him many plaudits and he is now director emeritus of the La Jolla Playhouse in California where so many important projects have germinated, including his Tony Award-winning production of The Who's Tommy...

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theartsdesk in Borneo: The Rainforest World Music Festival

Iris Brooks Mount Santubong, Borneo: 'an island where you can discover exquisite cloth and finely crafted baskets along with a first-class world music festival'

The group Pingasan’k “calls for good spirits”. The name refers to “a bucket to put rice in, tied with the bark of a tree”. Regardless of rice or spirits, this band touched my heart. The gentle, haunting sounds come from the bamboo tube zithers (pratuon’k) made from giant mountain bamboo, which is only cut down when they see the moon. “We do not want our instrument to smell sweet or our insects will bite it,” explains leader Arthur Kanying.

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The Musical Pygmies of the Central African Republic

Peter Culshaw Aka Pygmies: 'a peaceable and creative people caught in the middle of endless conflicts'

As there's something of a forest theme this weekend on theartsdesk, with the Royal Opera House's If-A-Tree festival curated by Joanna McGregor with Scanner, and a report from this year's Borneo Rainforest World Music...

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Omar Souleyman, New World Music Sensation?

mark Kidel Omar Souleyman: New Sensation?

The world music scene is hungry for new sensations - and Omar Souleyman, about to hit London and the Shambhala Festival, well deserves to be one of them. In the early 1980s the hunger for the exotic focused on anything that came from the parallel universes untouched by the pressures of commercialisation: polyphonic pygmy singing from Central Africa, ecstatic Sufi soul doctors from Pakistan, drone-drenched bagpipe players from Bulgaria or heart-invading praise singers from Mali. Souleyman is...

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The Seckerson Tapes: Kerry Ellis Interview

Edward Seckerson Kerry Ellis: a musical-theatre-diva-cum-rock-chick

Kerry Ellis amassed a legion of adoring fans when she went "green" playing Elphaba in Stephen Schwartz's smash-hit musical both in London and on Broadway. But her pre-eminence as a musical-theatre-diva-cum-rock-chick was secured earlier still when Brian May, the celebrated lead guitarist of Queen, asked her to play Meat in the Queen/ Ben Elton show We Will Rock You. May quickly recognised a symbiosis between them and their CD single Wicked in Rock sprung a rip-roaring...

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Serge Gainsbourg vs The Anglo-Saxons

Kieron Tyler

The arrival of Gainsbourg: Vie Héroique in British cinemas this week – under its Anglo-Saxon title Gainsbourg – assumes that distributors think there’s an audience. Even so, Gainsbourg hardly has the appeal of a Johnny Cash biopic. Or even an Ike Turner biopic.

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