Results for '5&1'



5&1, Part 25: Gazing Beyond the Stars

By Mark Meynell

Infinite space offers infinite inspiration. That’s because, in the immortal words of the late, great Douglas Adams, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” So, as with almost every other playlist in this series, the number of potential inclusions is vast. Inevitably, here lies arbitrariness and exclusion—but I will pursue both with abandon.

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5&1, Part 24: Haunted by the Clarinet

By Mark Meynell

No instrument exactly mimics the human voice, of course, but the clarinet comes close. A remarkably versatile instrument, it’s capable of producing rich, mellow tones as a result of its precisely turned wooden barrel. But within a hare’s breath, its sound can be transfigured into one of such piercing intensity that a single instrument can effortlessly cut through an entire orchestra, rising high above surrounding instruments in both tone and volume. This is because of the use of a single reed (a strip of vibrating cane attached to the mouthpiece—unlike the two reeds bound together on the oboe, the clarinet’s is fixed against the wood). The performer blows wind over the reed to make the sound, but it demands strong lungs managed by supreme breath control. That is simply to prevent it making ugly squeaks and screeches! To make it truly ‘sing’? Well, that requires incredible skill and experience.

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5&1, Part 23: The Calls of the Birds

By Mark Meynell

It is only natural that those of an artistic temperament will be drawn to the natural world. Forms of human creativity are almost bound to be captivated by aspects of divine creativity. Consider the landscapes of the Hudson River School (like those of Frederic Church or Thomas Cole); or the profound attention to nature’s exuberance in Vincent van Gogh or kaleidoscopic shifts in light in Claude Monet; or the human realities in the biblical story as captured by Rembrandt or Giotto. Then, when it comes to words, just a couple of minutes in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s company will awaken us to what we’re constantly surrounded by but too often overlook.

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5&1, Part 22: Over Hill, Over Dale (Shakespeare’s Comedies)

By Mark Meynell

So we come to our third foray into the Bard’s musical legacy, taking the categories used in the First Folio of his plays published just a few years after his death (1623).

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5&1, Part 21: Latin American Fiesta!

By Mark Meynell

How on earth do you pick six compositions to represent an entire continent? Answer: You don’t. Because you can’t. So perhaps this is the first of a few more Latin 5&1s to come. My knowledge of what is out there is patchy, to say the least, but here are a few gems I’ve picked up over the years, with a bit of a geographical spread thrown in.

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5&1, Part 20: It’s All About That Bass

By Mark Meynell

The great jazz bass player Charlie Haden once said this:

The bass, no matter what kind of music you’re playing, it just enhances the sound and makes everything sound more beautiful and full. When the bass stops, the bottom kind of drops out of everything.

—Charlie Haden
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5&1, Part 19: Rosy-Fingered Dawn (Heliophiles of the World Unite!)

By Mark Meynell

For years as an inveterate night-owl, the dawn has been one of those natural phenomena I mostly appreciate in the hypothetical rather than in experience. But as middle-age has set in, I have found myself waking earlier and unintentionally glimpsing its glories with greater frequency. It’s hard not to be moved, especially if, like the Psalmist’s watchmen, one has found oneself longing for the end of night (Ps 130:5-6). It never palls. No wonder then that composers have been stirred by the first flickers of the sun’s ‘rosy-fingered’ rays (to quote Homer) to capture the ineffable in the audible.

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5&1, Part 18: Home Thoughts from Abroad (Composers in Exile)

By Mark Meynell

It feels rather apt to be considering Exiles for this playlist, since I’m actually spending the week at the Rabbit Room mothership, North Wind Manor (or should that be motherburrow?). Robert Browning perfectly captured the nostalgia of homesickness with his sonnet, “Home Thoughts from Abroad,” as he finds himself wistfully imagining the exuberance of an English Spring from Italy (and within a few years of writing this, he would move there permanently with his new wife Elizabeth until her death in 1861).

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5&1, Part 17: “Who Wears the Hollow Crown?” (Shakespeare’s History Plays)

By Mark Meynell

The Bard was hardly the world’s first literary giant to dramatize or narrate great historical moments; far from it. But no one was more methodical and systematic about it; none could conceive of such a brilliant and sustained narrative arc as the old Staff-Shaker. It is no wonder, then, that the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) devised The Hollow Crown, a production on a vast scale of his English History plays taking in all the plays from Richard II to Richard III, via the Henriad (namely, Henry IV 1&2, Henry V, Henry VI 1&2). The idea was for character continuity, with those in more than one drama to be played by the same actors (where possible). A triumph of the British and U.S. stage (even features as background to a West Wing episode!). Perhaps inevitably, the concept was then also filmed for a Sam Mendes-led joint BBC/PBS production from 2012.

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5&1, Part 16: Lazy French Summers

By Mark Meynell

I obviously don’t know how it is where you are reading this, but here in southern England, having enjoyed a small run of deliciously warm and sunny spring days, we are again marooned in full grey-cloud immersion. Not a shirt-sleeve in sight anywhere. No wonder April (and by extension, May) was Eliot’s cruellest month. A little escapism every now and then is helpful, especially for those of us whose equilibrium gets seasonally affected.

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5&1, Part 15: “He Is Not Here” (A Choral Easter Season)

By Mark Meynell

As Andrew reminded us in a piece posted just recently, Easter Sunday is when it’s all just getting started. It’s no accident that the Easter season in the church calendar lasts for several weeks. So as we get back into the swing of another series of 5&1 posts, I feel no embarrassment in starting with the theme. This is because that Sunday morning in Palestine triggered the greatest revolution the world has ever known. And it’s not done yet…

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5&1, Part 14: “If Music Be The Food…?” (Shakespeare: Tragedies)

By Mark Meynell

Without warning, Twelfth Night opens with Duke Orsino’s appearance on stage. He’s not alone, of course, but accompanied by a grand retinue which includes ‘Musicians playing.’

If music be the food of love, play on.
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken and so die.

—Act 1, Scene 1

Orsino feels that the only way to be cured of his lovesick heart is to have too much music, in the same way that appetites are cured by eating too much!

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