This Week I Have Been Mostly Listening To…

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

The ‘Challenge Alex’ experiment continues. Moving on with the idea of me being introduced to ‘new stuff’ in regards to music, this weeks suggestion comes from Ben, who, from my limited experience, does not fall into the same listening category as other students. He has a taste for the old-fashioned; he likes Edith Piaf, for example! (Shh, don’t tell him I told you!)So I am hoping he has something different to offer. This week I have been mostly listening to…

Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (AKA, Rory Graham)

N.B: this is NOT a review – it’s simply an experiment in expanding my listening tastes.

What I listened to –

1. Human. Great voice; a softer feeling Joe Cocker. Clapping and a tambourine keep the beat as ‘the Bone Man’ begs us to not ‘put the blame on me’. Background vocals provide harmony and the continuous ‘yell’ in the background – which, oddly, was not too irritating.

What does it sound like to me? It’s pop, but with a difference, influenced by Blues, Rock and Gospel I think.

Did I like it? Yes, I did.

2. Skin – Beginning a cappella, we get to hear the full power of this man’s voice. A very warm, deep Blues sound. When the music begins, it almost ruins it for me, the verse I didn’t like, but the chorus is strong and thrums away; instruments, vocals and lyrics creating a lovely, pulsing rhythm.

What does it sound like to me? Pop, with a Blues influence.

Did I like it? Yes, but not as much as the first one.

3.Lay My Body DownPiano led intro, and then that voice. A plea to not weep for him when he’s gone, as Graham imagines his death. The piano, voice, drums etc. roll around each other in perfect harmony

What does it sound like to me? Again, it sounds like Gospel influence Pop.

Did I like it? It was okay.

4. Life in Her Yet – A slightly, lighter, upbeat intro, but the lyrics are still quite tragic.I can imagine this being used in a Western movie, the heroine has had a tough life; a hard-bitten woman with the desert ingrained on her face and a rifle always to hand.

What does it sound like to me? Country and Western influenced Blues Pop!

Did I like it? Kind of.

5. Grace – Vocals with a simple piano accompaniment; later joined by a bass, guitar, choir; each ‘instrument’ coming in layer upon layer until it builds to join in the chorus – then back to solo voice and piano. Not so much a romantic love song, but a song about eternal love, humanity.

What does it sound like to me? Oddly, it doesn’t feel completely like a modern song. There is something from the past lingering here that I just can’t put my finger on.

Did I like it? I think so; I enjoy the sentiment in the lyrics.

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Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Human

6.Bitter EndAs he questions whether a relationship has come to the bitter end, we get swells of Gospel-like choir following his solo voice and lone piano. Like that it ends with the question on a high note and stops dead.

What does it sound like to me? A half-empty 80’s bar, smoky pop/soul. Reminds me a little bit of late Sade

Did I like it? Not sure.

7. Hard Came The RainExtremely deep throated intro! A little guitar riff that reminded me of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Fear the Reaper’ – hard chorus with passion and vitality; nice gravelly texture to Graham’s voice. Feels ‘real'(whatever that means!)

What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock/soft Metal with a C & W influence.

Did I like it? Yes. Best so far.

8. Hell Yeah ft. Vince Staples – rap intro and interspersed throughout. Hell yeah, usually used as definite acknowledgement to a comment, here Graham uses it to say we are all going to Hell – yeah! Quite a short number compared to the previous, at just under 4 minutes, it has an abrupt ending; possibly the abrupt ending some of us deserve! The drums have that tripping hip-hop edge to them giving a very vaguely militaristic feel.

What does it sound like to me? Soul meets Hip Hop.

Did I like it? I think so, I don’t normally like Hip-Hop, but the treatment given here works for me.

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Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Wolves

9. Guilty what I would describe as a ‘typical’ rock/pop sound; with undertones of rap. Nothing outstanding here.

What does it sound like to me? Soft Rock, Pop.

Did I like it? Not really. A little dull in comparison to, say, Hard Came The Rain.

10. No Mother A black gospel, soulful intro. Graham’s Blues tinged voice goes full on ‘Mississippi man’. The regular beat and metallic clangs, I feel, are meant to inspire in us a memory of black slaves working themselves to death on building the railroads. Here we are listening to the voice of a parent who wants to see the child that they have been denied access to.

What does it sound like to me? Particularly the intro and the ending, make me think of poor black people in the bad old days of the American South. Blues Pop.

Did I like it? No. It is too derivative for my liking.

To round-up – I will definitely be giving Rag ‘n’ Bone Man another listening to. Though I can’t assign a definitive style to his music, I just feel that it is something that I would not, under normal circumstances, bother listening to; but I will. However, that being said, I did find myself thinking, you’re a white man,from East Sussex; why are you singing like a black man? Am I even allowed to say that? There is a particular sound that we equate to peoples of the world, and Blues, Jazz, Soul and Gospel tend to belong to Black Americans. Writers are told to write ‘what you know’, and I can’t help but be suspicious of someone who takes on another cultural style wholesale.

So, maybe this is the challenge for me! The music in itself was not challenging, but its delivery and cultural context were. Maybe I just need to be less narrow-minded when it comes to what people sound like; regardless. Were my middle-aged-lady sensibilities offended? Not at all. I would like to see how Rag ‘n’ Bone Man progresses over the next 10 years or so; he’s relatively new on the music scene; I believe, so plenty of time to comfortably grow into his own creative skin – I’m betting he will be great in his later years.

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Soulful Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

Addendum: After initially writing up this post, I watched the video for Hard Came The Rain, made by Nick Rutter. He makes a story about the violent end of a relationship between a female impersonator and his ex-lover; quite powerful imagery that provides a decent narrative to the song. I still like this song best of the ten I spent time listening to, now I realise that it is quite different from the other nine, Graham doesn’t sound like he is trying too hard, it sounds like his voice – not borrowed from a late, great Blues singer.

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Inglish, It’s An Odd One

I know I mis-spelt the word in the heading! Irritating? Confusing? Not as much as the following will be…

I guess you have to be born in Britain to fully understand the peculiarities of our language. Most of the time you don’t have to explain what you mean – like belonging to a gang that has it’s own idiosyncratic lingo, the English have words, phrases and grammar that does not always make sense to a foreigner. Add to that, the odd dialectic words that are peculiar to geographic areas; that you don’t find anywhere else in the UK, and you have a potential minefield.

  • Stuff we say – but don’t mean:

“How are you?” Mostly, the English don’t want to know how you are, this is simply another way to say ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’. You’ll come across this in a place of work where people are hurrying past each other – “How’re you?” or “You alright?” (depending on location), is answered with “Fine. You?” then move on.

“That’s quite good.” Usually translates as, “That’s rubbish!” We’re just being polite. Don’t take it personally. An English person would actually recognise this as being quite a barbed comment, if said with the right tone!

With respect.” Probably said at work or in middle of a heated debate. This usually means, “You’re an idiot! I’m being patient with you. And I don’t agree with anything you’ve said!”

When invited out for a social event, or to visit your home, you might suggest getting together sometime. An English person will most likely say, “That’d be nice.” What he or she is thinking is, “Oh no, please don’t invite me out. I can’t think of anything I would less like to do.”

“It’s fine.” Watch this one. You have most likely offended. It actually translates as, “Are you a f***ing idiot!”

If an English person says “Thank you” in a determined way, or “Your welcome” it is most likely in response to another person being rude – i.e. not holding a door open, or not making eye contact when giving change. They are pointing out your rudeness.

“I beg your pardon?” If it sounds like a question, we’re not asking for your pardon, we’re miffed at something you said or did. It means, “Explain yourself, you disgusting creature!”

  • Words that mean more than one thing – reading and speaking are two/too different things:

Vowels sound different depending on the job of the word, stress placed on beginning or end of a word makes it a different noun.

The farm was used to produce produce.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

I did not object to the new object.

The psychologist had to subject the subject to a test.

  • Britain still has a class system; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are lucky, or unlucky depending on your point of view, you might mix with all four! Yes, despite what some would like to believe, Britain is a multi-layered society and we all know our place!

    Upper class are the posh peeps; ‘old money’, though many these days have little cash as their stately homes have sucked it all up. They don’t usually have a job.

Middle class (and within this are the upper and lower middle), these are the aspirational, moneyed, living in comfort. Managers in private companies, government employees and teachers fit n here.

Working class (within this are also two levels; according to pay, benefits, lifestyle) are what it sounds like, workers in lower paid jobs; industry (little of that left), shop-workers, teaching assistants, nurses and carers.

Trying to say the correct version of a word in a given social situation can even trip up the English!

Toilet, Lavatory, Loo – or Bog?

Bicycle, Bike, Cycle?

Lunch or Dinner?

Pudding, Sweet, Dessert – or Afters?

Sick, Ill, Poorly, Unwell – or Under The Weather?

Pardon, Sorry, What?

Napkin or Serviette?

Front Room, Lounge, Living Room?

Settee, Sofa, Couch?

Pants, Undies, Knickers?

  • Names that will fry your noodle:

Place-names as well as family names in Britain can be complicated. If you mispronounce a place-name the locals might have a laugh at your expense, but it reveals that you are ‘not one of us’. If you mispronounce a family name (especially those complicated upper-class ones), then you a revealing that ‘You really are NOT one of us’ (ugh!)

Name                              Not like this                                 Say this

Aldeburgh                   Alda-berg                                       Olbra

Beaulieu                      Bow-lee-oo                                     Bewlee

Beauchamp                 Bow-champ                                   Beecham

Cholmondeley            Chol-mon-delly                             Chumley

Dalziel                          Dalzee-el                                        Deeyell

Farquhar                      Far-que-har                                  Farkwa

Gloucester                    Glaow -cester                              Glosta

Mainwaring                 Main-wearing                             Mannering

Norwich                        Nor-witch                                    Norritch

By the way, American English is another thing altogether, just don’t talk about it with a Brit!!!! 

And another thing to fry your noodle about English, I have  attempted to stick to English and it’s dialects. Scots, Welsh and Irish have their own idiosyncrasies, but they do speak English. You may have noticed me flipping between the words English and British; I refer to myself as British as I am a mix of Irish, English and Scottish, I am not just English – except on a form when there is not option for Anglo-Irish. There has been a decades long debate about English or British, and because one of the opinions-that I agree with- is that the REAL British are the Welsh, who were pushed west by the Anglo invaders, then I cannot, by my own argument, be British!!!

English – it is what you make it! Good Luck!

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“Nice hat.” (Not!)

An Exercise To Develop Character Outlines

I am currently studying ‘An Introduction to Screen-writing‘( University of East Anglia) with FutureLearn – an online digital education platform. For me, being able to continue to learn and develop is as important as eating and bathing. This course is FREE! Many of the courses are free and are well designed, presented and are engaging.

Prior to this week, we have been learning about the Five Fingered Pitch and then extending into Ten fingers, or, Two Hand Pitch. I had an idea for a story which I thought might work well on the screen, so I pitched that. So today, we have been asked to do an exercise in developing character outlines. It is part of the the process of character development. We are to ‘create an outline for a character from a film that you’ve recently seen or use it as an opportunity to develop a character of your own.

I’m choosing to stick with my own story, in the hope that this exercise will help me to develop Reg – who currently doesn’t even have a surname!

  • List the character’s major actions. Start from the end and work backwards. (Don’t analyse how or why; just create a list of actions.)

    Saves his neighbourhood. Scares the drug dealers half to death. Accepts help. Falls into despondency. Discovers son has drugs. Asks new neighbours to be more respectful.

  • Analyse the list to reveal the character’s wants and needs. Is the character aware of what they want?

    Reg wants things to be like they used to be, he wants his family safe, and a quiet life. Reg feels impotent, he initially pleads for peace but is disregarded, in Reg’s eyes, his son has been tainted by the badness of the world. Finally realising that others feel the same, Reg is persuaded to join forces, under the ‘guidance’ of an archetypal mentor. They set about scaring off the dealers and thugs. Reg is aware of what he wants – a peaceful life – but the invading force (new neighbours) paralyse him.

  • Describe how the character thinks and look at his or her basic psychology. Intelligent? Intellectually engaged? Cognitive Biases? Impulsive? Cautious?

    Reg is a thoughtful considerate father and husband. His wife thinks he’s ‘too vanilla’. He is rare amongst his peers in that he has a college education. He listens to reggae, classical and jazz music. He reads history books and sporting fiction. He learnt to play the piano and violin at school, but parents could never afford instruments of their own. Wanted to be a jazz musician, but ended up working at the local steel yard. He enjoys the simple things in life; a pint with his pals at the weekend, a game of pool, football in the park with 10 and 12 year old kids on Saturday, sex on Sunday. Reg is quite philosophical about where his life is in comparison to original plans.

  • Describe the character’s superficial affect. How might a casual acquaintance describe them?

    A nice guy.

  • List any important physical characteristics

    None. Just your average dad.

This is just an outline, so stick to that format and make lists; avoid long prose descriptions.

So this is my character outline for Reg, aka; Reginald, Reggie, or Barnsey (because he looks like a young John Barnes; footballer).

The working title for the story/script is ‘Regilante’!!

This is something I have never done before in my story writing; plan the character, and this course is helping me look at writing in quite a different way. I have also stepped out of my comfort zone – writing from a male POV and a Black Comedy – I have never written comedy before and do not know if I am even up to the task!

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly Listening To…

Key West

A month ago, I wrote about listening to Imagine Dragons. If you remember, I had invited some ‘young people’ to challenge me, to suggest music; bands, solo artists,etc, for me to listen to (shock, challenge, and make my music neurons wake up!) (I forgot to mention the age group of these young ‘uns – 18 to 21 years). To carry on with the idea of me- middle aged woman, being introduced to ‘new stuff’ in regards to music, I have been listening to Patrick’s suggestion –

Key West.

N.B: this is NOT a review – it’s simply an experiment in expanding my listening tastes.

What I listened to
1.This is Heartbreak– A slow, romance song with steady drum beat and gentle vocals. “Over and over again I can’t take it”, just about sums it up for me.

What does it sound like to me? ‘Soft’ Pop.

Did I like it? No.

2All My Mistakes Another romance, more upbeat with a cheeky little tambourine in the chorus. Has a kind of summer feel to it and I can definitely see the ‘young one’s’ dancing to it at a party. Me? I’d have to have a few G&T’s first!

What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock

Did I like it? If I’m being generous, it was okay. Kind of…

3.Carousel Another love song!! Gak!! A little upbeat, nice drum rhythm and clapping. Didn’t make me want to dance though – or ride a carousel!

What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock

Did I like it? No.

4. Stuck On ReplayAnother song about love, this time unrequited, sort of. A typical pop melody and rhythm that reminded me of so many other ‘love songs’ of the 90s. Even the lead singers voice has a very generic quality to it; ‘croaky pain’, check. ‘whispery pain’, check. ‘high-note sorrow’, check.

What does it sound like to me? Pop

Did I like it? No

5.This SummerDid that intro sound like All My Mistakes??? Slightly heavier beat (though still rather soft) – oh! I can go ‘Fuck yourself’!! Seems like he’s got over the girl/girls in previous 4 songs, and it makes a positive difference. It ends on a discordant note on guitar and piano – which I thought might bode well for future stuff…

What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock

Did I like it? Almost. Not quite.

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Key West look as thrilled as I did listening to their music

6.Electric Love The opening has potential, a minimalist feel with a slappy bass. But guess what? It’s ANOTHER love song!!! There is a bit of a western feel with the rhythm, like being on a train, which keeps the song feeling more ‘alive’ than others. But it gets quite repetitive after 2 minutes in.

What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock

Did I like it? Not really.

7.Messages From God Sounds like another love song to me. Blah, blah, blah.

What does it sound like to me? Pop

Did I like it? No.

8.Feels So Cruel Aarrgghh!!

What does it sound like to me? Pop

Did I like it? No

9.The Message Borrr-ing!

What does it sound like to me? Soft Pop

Did I like it? No

10.The Little Things – A stronger vocal opening than previously heard. Picks up into a bouncy little number after intro. Nice guitar and bass. A little experimentation at the end with some ambient sounds.

What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock

Did I like it? It was okay.

 
To round-up – I won’t be listening to Key West again. The name suggests a link to America, though they are, I discovered, a Dublin band. I had never heard of them before, despite the fact that they have been on the scene since 2012. The sound is too processed, too audience friendly – middle of the road for my liking.

Was I challenged? No. Were my middle-aged-lady sensibilities offended? Not at all.

By track 4 I definitely felt ‘Stuck on Replay’! I had determined to listen to 10 songs and to give them an even break, but boys, I’ve heard it all before. It’s so hum-drum, pedestrian with little creativity that I can see.

The point of this exercise was to have music that would challenge me, something new, something exciting, perhaps weird or a little ‘arty’. Key West is, for me, none of those things. The challenge was sticking with it long enough to form and write and opinion.

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Key West had me yawning at my key board

 

The Banshee Visits M N Bernard Books

Wailing Banshee

Melanie Bernard, of MN Bernard Books, invited readers/writers/followers to submit a piece about a ‘spooky’ being/creature for her month long, Hallo-WE-en! edition.

You can read my ‘essay’ here –

https://mnbernardbooks.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/banshee/

 

Angel Food Day! !

*Facetious Alert!*

This morning I made a discovery; today it is a special day for many people. It is a ‘National Day’ in one country…

Why do we have national days? I suppose it is so that we do not forget to celebrate something ‘special’. I get things like Saints Days, or Bastille Day, or Breast Cancer Awareness Day, or Child Poverty Day, or This Is Going To Have A Positive Impact On Many Lives Day, but…

NATIONAL ANGEL FOOD CAKE DAY ?!!!! Really?

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Angel Food Cake

I shit you not! In America, today, 10th October, it is National Angel Food Cake Day.                                 

I imagine that, unless you are a chef or cook, if you are not American, then you don’t know what Angel food cake, or Angel cake is. My extensive research (!) has led me to discover that it is a type of sponge cake originally from North America that first became popular in the United States in the late 19th century. It is name because of its airy lightness that was said to be the “food of the angels”; aaahh…

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Angel Food??

But why do they have this as a ‘National Day’? I cannot find anyone who knows (though I haven’t asked a lot of people as I’m bone idle).

What’s it all about? Does a cake need it’s very own day? What about Battenberg Cake Day, or Foamy Banana Sweet Day?

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Chocolatey Angel Food Cake

 

I wondered if hundreds of father’s and mothers across America woke this morning and thought, “I just gotta make me some Angel Food Cake, cos you know it’s worth a special celebration.”

 

Personally, this is the type of Angel I want in the morning….

 

 

Blade Runner: 2049

Film Review Blade Runner 2049
K and Joi

I just got back from the cinema having watched, in awe, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to the 1982 original.

It is 2 hours 43 minutes long, which is great for viewers like me who want to be immersed in another persons creation. And speaking of creations, what are these ‘new’ Blade Runners and Replicants like? What does it mean to be human? What is it that makes you human; a soul? Why is it important to know these things – or is it?

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Blade Runner: 2049, retains the Noir elements of the original

I cannot do the film justice. If you’re interested in reading a good review before you go to see it – and I do recommend you go and see it, especially if you were/are a fan of the original by Ridley Scott – read this review by Mark Kermode (my go-to guy for film critiques) –

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/08/blade-runner-2049-review-a-future-classic

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Muted colours, rain and massive advertising in Blade Runner: 2049, allowing the audience to ‘feel’ a connection to the original

I came away feeling nostalgic, melancholic, and delighted. A hard thing to do in today’s world of pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap movies. Blade Runner: 2049 is beautifully made, it’s visuals, auditory and story-line are in keeping with the original, and if Philip K Dick had been around to appreciate the first adaptation of his story, ‘Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?’, I am sure he would give this one his thumbs up too.

Much of the film is visually bleak, the weather, the landscapes, the city, but it is a very human film I feel, about the nature of love and being. I believe this will be a classic of the future.

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Ryan Gosling as K, following in the footsteps of Deckard

I will let you into a little secret – I almost cried…