Tv blabs, movie blabs, book blabs. Lots of blab, but no flab.

Sunday, June 26

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

I love the random discovery of an interesting show on TV. Having no idea what it's about, but being enthralled enough to stick around and find out. When I flicked past SBS a couple of Saturday's ago and came across what appeared to be a biopic.

Using a combination of archival footage, a 'present day' story line using an actor playing the central figure in his twilight years, and random people bursting into song and turning scenes into musical numbers. The interesting combination of these elements revealed an interesting insight into the life of Harold Arlen.

Now, I can nearly guarantee that name means little to you. I admit to having never heard it before, but his music stands as some of the most influential of the twentieth century. Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen featured the most famous of Arlen's tunes being performed by well known singers to surprisingly talented actors.

See if you recognise any of these titles:
  • Stormy Weather sung by the still amazing Debbie Harry.
  • I've Got the World on a String performed skilfully by Hawskley Workman.
  • Come Rain or Come Shine by the very surprisingly dulcet tones of Sandra Bernhard.
  • Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive performed in a hilarious asylum scene by Eric Mingus.
Sadly the songs I liked the least were performed by Rufus Wainwright (sorry Lisa): I Wonder What Became of Me and It's Only A Paper Moon. I just wanted him to open his mouth! It's something that annoys me. It's not a singing 'style' if no one can understand a single word your uttering. I love his version of Hallelujah, so I have no idea what he was thinking when recording these tunes.

And the most famous of Arlen's songs:

Over the Rainbow performed by the ancient Jimmy Scott is simply stunning and possibly most bitter-sweet interpretation I've heard.

The format of this film was a great way to be introduced into a life I had no idea existed and a talent under appreciated by today's music. I would certainly add the soundtrack for this film to my collection if I came across it.

2 viewers interjected with:

Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Ah, I love all those show tune type writers, Tin Pan Alley, whatever you call them. Glorious stuff. It's actually worth tracing through some of the stuff on these people because it's amazing how well known many of the tracks are but not the writers/musicians who created them.

And, no I won't shoot you for criticising Rufus. He does have a very particular style of vocal delivery that sometimes works (and sometimes doesn't).

27/6/05 11:26 pm

Blogger Casyn said...

Another reference I had to research! :-)

Thankfully there was an abundance of info. It's amazing how much we take for granted in the multitude of media we are bombarded with every day.

Classical pieces being cheapened by constant use under car ads; Layered, meaningful songs being misused by TV shows and films who are too lazy to create their own dramatic intensity.

Being introduced to the source of the material is the way to best appreciate it.

Am glad you took my criticism well Lisa. :-)

28/6/05 12:43 am


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