June 24, 2009

Haydee's Guzla

Posted in Music tagged at 8:41 pm by j128

Guzla In Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, the Count’s consort Haydee – a Greek princess, daughter of the noble Ali Pasha – plays an unusual instrument called the guzla.

In the Penguin Classics edition of Monte Cristo by Robin Buss, in the Notes the instrument is described as

“A Balkan musical instrument, like a violin with only one or two strings.” (pg. 1256)

After I read its said description, I was intrigued to learn more about it, and I was really surprised that there is hardly any information about it on the Internet…until I found out that the guzla is also known under different spellings. It is alternately spelled as gusla or gusle.

It is a relatively little-known instrument – or at least, in the West – in today’s world and from most sources it is described as a museum piece and quite rare; it has been compared to the Russian balalaika in appearance and it can be imperfectly reproduced in sounds by the cimbalom; it has many similarities to the rebab, which was widely played during the Ottoman Empire throughout Turkey.  

The instrument is not typically played on its own, rather it is accompanied by the player’s voice; called the guslar, when telling or singing epic stories or legends. The instrument consists of one or two strings made of horsehair with a bow made of horsetail pulled over the string(s) and a wooden sound box: often being made of maple as it is considered the best material covered with animal skin and a neck with a carved head, as illustrated in the image to the left. To play, the guslar supports it upright between the knees or legs and the long neck rests against the thigh, and the string(s) is/are plucked.

During the nineteenth-century, the East and its associated objects were seen as hallmarks of the region and were held highly with a certain degree of awe, as clearly evident in Viscount Albert’s fascination of the Orient.

The anime Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo replaces the guzla with a harp as Haydee’s instrument and she is highly skilled at playing it as she was the guzla in the original novel. The spelling of her name is also changed to Haidee.

Links

Guzla – Answers.com

Balalaika – Wikipedia definition

Cimbalom – Wikipedia definition

The Count of Monte Cristo – My review here on my blog, The World Is Quiet Here

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo – My review here on my blog, The World Is Quiet Here

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September 3, 2006

Björk

Posted in Music, Music Videos at 4:01 pm by j128

Bjork

Bjork performing "Oceania" at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece(a video of this live performance can be found below).

The Icelandic singer Björk is my favourite artist and makes my favourite music! She is very original, eccentric, and beautiful with her music and most of all she is constantly exploring new ideas with music.

Björk’s first album going solo after The Sugarcubes was Debut, released in 1993. Despite the title, it was far from her first debut (she did an album of covers when she was eleven*). Debut reached #61 on the Billboard 200. I love all the songs, the ones I like particularly are “Big Time Sensuality”, “There’s More to Life Than This”, “Come to Me”, and “One Day.”

Bjork

Debut (1993)

Debut track listing

  1. Human Behaviour
  2. Crying
  3. Venus as a Boy
  4. There’s More to Life Than This
  5. Like Someone in Love
  6. Big Time Sensuality
  7. One Day
  8. Aeroplane
  9. Come to Me
  10. Violently Happy
  11. Anchor Song
  12. Play Dead (only UK and Japan bonus track)
  13. Atlantic (only Japan bonus track)

The next album that came in 1995 was Post. Moving into more modern music with electronic beats, etc. Björk also became well-known in the US with the song “It’s Oh So Quiet”, a cover on the Betty Hutton song “Blow a Fuse.” Björk actually regrets that a cover became her most popular song. The song “Cover Me” was originally recorded in a bat-infested cave, but was redone in favour of the studio version. Björk says that “Possibly Maybe” was the first sad song she had written, and that she was ashamed of it. My favorite songs are “It’s Oh So Quiet”, “Hyber-Ballad”, “Isobel”, and “I Miss You.”

Post track listing

Bjork

Post (1995)

  1. Army of Me
  2. Hyber-Ballad
  3. The Modern Things
  4. It’s Oh So Quiet
  5. Enjoy
  6. You’ve Been Flirting Again
  7. Isobel
  8. Possibly Maybe
  9. I Miss You
  10. Cover Me
  11. Headphones
  12. I Go Humble (Japan bonus track)

In 1998 Björk released something new (after Telegram): Homogenic. Björk says during that time it was stressful and that time was the inspiration for Homogenic. Björk describes the cover that she (the figure on the cover) is a warrior, and she is hurt, but she fights with love. Also, Björk states she wasn’t aware that there is no such word as “homogenic”, she only discovered the fact after the album’s release. My favorite songs are “Unravel”, “Immature”, “Alarm Call”, “Pluto”, “All Is Full of Love”, and “Bachelorette.”

Bjork

Homogenic (1998)

Homogenic track listing

  1. Hunter
  2. Joga
  3. Unravel
  4. Bachelorette
  5. All Neon Like
  6. 5 Years
  7. Immature
  8. Alarm Call
  9. Pluto
  10. All Is Full of Love

Selmasongs (2000) came out as a soundtrack to the 2000 film Dancer in the Dark, which Björk also starred in as the protagonist, Selma. Some of the songs lyrics are slightly changed (possibly) so as not to spill crucial points in the movie, as the soundtrack came out before the movie, perhaps to make it appear as a single.

Bjork

Selmasongs (2000)

Selmasongs track listing

  1. Overture (instrumental)
  2. Cvalda (with Catherine Deneuve)
  3. I’ve Seen It All
  4. Scatterheart
  5. In the Musicals
  6. 107 Steps
  7. New World

2001 saw the release of Vespertine, a quiet and gentle, peaceful album with personal lyrical songs. The cover features Björk wearing her infamous swan dress. My favorite songs are “It’s Not Up to You”, “Frosti”, “Aurora”, and “Heirloom.”

Bjork

Vespertine (2001)

Vespertine track listing

  1. Hidden Place
  2. Cocoon
  3. It’s Not Up to You
  4. Undo
  5. Pagan Poetry
  6. Frosti (instrumental)
  7. Aurora
  8. An Echo, A Stain
  9. Sun In My Mouth
  10. Heirloom
  11. Harm of Will
  12. Unison
  13. Generous Palmstroke (Japan bonus track)

In fall 2005 Björk released another album, Medulla. It is beautiful and it is also experimental by means of using vocalization as the music. Of course, there are a few additional non-vocal instruments, but those are few. The majority of the album is vocal. Björk says that the idea for using vocalization was inspired because she wanted to try something new; something no one had ever done before. The song “Sonnets/Unrealities XI” is based on the poem by E.E. Cummings and the song Vokuro is a cover, originally by Jorunn Vidar. (The middle letter is actually not a ‘D’, it’s an Icelandic letter that is similar to the ‘D’. That’s the closest I could get!) My favourite songs are “Where Is the Line”, “Oll Birtan”, “Who Is It”, “Oceania”, “Mouth’s Cradle”, and “Triumph of a Heart.”

Bjork

Medulla (2005)

Medulla track listing

  1. Pleasure Is All Mine
  2. Show Me Forgiveness
  3. Vokuro
  4. Oll Birtan
  5. Who Is It
  6. Submarine
  7. Desired Constellation
  8. Oceania*
  9. Sonnets/Unrealities XI
  10. Ancestors
  11. Mouth’s Cradle
  12. Midvikudags
  13. Triumph of a Heart
  14. Komid (bonus track for Japan/iTune release) (the last letter is not a D, it’s the same as the Icelandic letter in that guy’s name up there)

*See below for the music video and a live version at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Most recently, in early 2007, Björk released an album entitled Volta. It is a mixture of pop and rock music with electronic, sometimes violent, beats. She toured Canada beginning in April 2007, for more information, check www.bjork.com for tour updates.

Bjork

Volta (2007)

Volta track listing

  1. Earth Intruders
  2. Wanderlust
  3. The Dull Flame of Desire
  4. Innocence
  5. I See Who You Are
  6. Vertebrae by Vertebrae
  7. Pneumonia
  8. Hope
  9. Declare Independence
  10. My Juvenile

Music Videos

This is just a sample of her creativity: the first one is the Oceania music video from her album Medulla and the second one is also Oceania, live at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Notes

Björk released an album of remixes in Iceland titled “Björk” when she was eleven.

One really good biography of Björk that I have read is Wow and Flutter by Mark Pytlik. It includes a glossary of Icelandic words and their pronunciations. It is from that book I learnt the true pronunciation of Björk’s name. (Byerk, as Björk pointed out it rhymes with ‘jerk.’)

Links

Lyrics – Offers lyrics for all of Björk’s albums, and lyrics for other music bands.

Lyrics for all of Björk’s albums, including the two albums that she did as a child, at LyricWiki

Björk.com– Björk’s official website. Offers lyrics for Björk’s solo albums, Björk merchandise including clothing, and other Björk-related news.