Not all modern music is rubbish!

I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that all new music is bad because it clearly isn’t. But Freddy (7) has discovered the worst examples of modern music that requires little more creativity and talent than turning on a laptop. I asked his Alexa to play The Beatles for him, but that didn’t last long, he was back to his awful music before I’d left the room. At least I tried.

Glastonbury 2022

I’ve enjoyed catching up with all the performances at Glastonbury 2022 on BBC iPlayer since the music festival.

Of the 90 individual sets I’ve watched 38 in full (often while doing something else or in the background) but all the others have been dipped into, some for only a few minutes if I didn’t like it or it didn’t grab my attention.

Watched in full:
Angélique Kidjo
Burna Boy
Diana Ross
Four Tet
George Ezra
Herbie Hancock
Jack White
Jarvis Cocker
Jessie Ware
Joy Crookes
Kacey Musgraves
Kendrick Lamar
Lianne La Havas
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Nubya Garcia
Olivia Rodrigo
Paul McCartney
Pet Shop Boys
Primal Scream
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
Rufus Wainwright
Sam Fender
Sleaford Mods
Snarky Puppy
St. Vincent
The Avalances
The Jesus and Mary Chain
Wet Leg
Wolf Alice

Didn’t watch in full:
AJ Tracey
Amyl and the Sniffers
Arlo Parks
Big Thief
Billie Eilish
black midi
Caroline Polachek
Cate Le Bon
Confidence Man
Courtney Barnett
Crowded House
Declan McKenna
Dry Cleaning
Easy Life
First Aid Kit
girl in red
Glass Animals
Greentea Peng
Holly Humberstone
Jamie T
Leon Bridges
Little Dragon
Little Simz
Megan Thee Stallion
Nightmares on Wax
Pa Salieu
Phoebe Bridgers
Róisín Murphy
Saint Etienne
Sampa The Great
Self Esteem
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
Skunk Anansie
Years & Years
Yves Tumor

Photo Credit: Glastonbury Tor: View of an iconic landmark by Eugene Birchall is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

When Paul met John (1957)

On this day (6 July 1957) Paul McCartney and John Lennon met for the first time at The Woolton Church Parish Fete where The Quarrymen were appearing. As they were setting up for their evening performance, McCartney, eager to impress Lennon, picked up a guitar and played Twenty Flight Rock (Eddie Cochran) and Be-Bop-A-Lula (Gene Vincent). Lennon was impressed, and even more so when McCartney showed him and Eric Griffiths how to tune their guitars, something they’d been paying someone else to do for them. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday Night Confessional

The Sunday headline act closing Glastonbury 2022 was the rapper Kenrick Lamar, and it was a hard-hitting, confessional, and introspective performance. My preference for the evening was the Pet Shop Boys on The Other Stage, but I’ll catch up with Lamar later (even though I do struggle to appreciate rap).

He wore a crown of thorns throughout his Glastonbury headline set with blood pouring down his face during the final song, two very powerful Christians symbols of servanthood, sacrifice, and salvation. This was an immensely powerful theatrical performance unlike anything the festival has ever witnessed.

Throughout the show, he addressed themes of guilt, greed, loyalty, power, ambition and prejudice, shouldering the audience’s problems by examining his own, with dancers reflecting his internal and external struggles. He also addressed issues within society along with his own flaws, juxtaposed with his faith in Christ.

Lamar believes that “imperfection is beautiful”, and that in our rush to judgment, we often lose sight of others’ humanity.

In some ways, Lamar’s thorny and introspective songs made him a brave choice to headline Glastonbury’s main stage. But in the event he rose to the challenge, delivering a visceral and compelling set that will be talked about for weeks. Source

Seeing snippets of his performance and reading about it, the following Bible verses came to mind: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10

There is so much to think about in both his performance and this Bible reading. We are all beautiful in our imperfection, we can all reflect on our lives, and we can all be better human beings. For me, my Christian faith plays a huge part in being the best I can be.

Note: For the first time since my retirement in July 2020 I failed to publish a Sunday devotional on the day itself. So, this is a Sunday devotional on a Monday, but it gave me the opportunity to share something topical. I’m OK with that.

Grace (Jeff Buckley)

A Sunday devotional with a difference today, as it coincides with the anniversary of the death of singer Jeff Buckley in 1997 (25 years ago in 2022).

On this day (29 May 1997) Jeff Buckley died in a tragic swimming accident in the Mississippi River. He’s remembered for his classic 1994 album Grace that includes the definitive cover version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

It’s not a Christian album, although it does have Christian elements and references, including a song entitled Grace and a carol. Having said that, many would describe it as spiritual in a general sense, and I want to focus on the song Hallelujah.

As a Christian, it saddens me when I see expressions of Christianity that are unloving, uncaring, judgemental, and strident. Having said that, I don’t claim to be perfect, and I identify with the brokenness in Hallelujah. To me it represents the imperfect human world in which my faith must be effective if it’s to be authentic.

Hallelujah is full of biblical references and has a depth of meaning. It’s about death and life, sorrow and triumph, earthliness and transcendence, as well a brokenness that still has the strength to cry hallelujah, even though sometimes a broken hallelujah.

All human life is here and it can speak to us in times of doubt and struggle.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14

OK Computer (Radiohead)

OK Computer (released on 21 May 1997) is an album by Radiohead that still inspires and takes my breath away. It’s a masterpiece, arguably the most significant album of the 1990s.

OK Computer has received widespread critical acclaim and has been cited by listeners, critics, and musicians as one of the greatest albums of all time. You could describe it as Radiohead’s Sgt. Pepper, released 30 years preciously in May 1967.

It’s their third studio album, and one in which they distanced themselves from their previous work, laying the groundwork for future, more experimental albums.

The album’s lyrics depict a world fraught with rampant consumerism, social alienation, emotional isolation and political malaise; in this capacity, OK Computer has been said to have prescient insight into the mood of 21st-century life. Source

If you’re not familiar with this influential album, do yourself a big favour and give it a listen today.

The Antikythera Mechanism (1902)

On this day (17 May) in 1902, a small piece of bronze caught the eye of archaeologist Valerios Stais.. He was examining artefacts from a wrecked Roman cargo ship off the island of Antikythera in Greece.

It looked like a small wheel or cog, in fact he had just discovered what has come to be known as the Antikythera Mechanism, the world’s first analogical computer.

This extraordinary two-thousand-year-old computer system was used by the ancient Greeks as an astronomical calculator, able to chart the planets and make predictions. The extraordinary device is believed to have been made on the island of Rhodes around 150 BC, and classical literature of the time does allude to mechanisms similar to this one, meaning this was unlikely to be the only one of its kind. Well over a hundred years after its discovery, the Antikythera mechanism is still being extensively researched, in an attempt to fully unlock an ancient piece of human ingenuity. Source

The Antikythera Mechanism is also a 2020 album by my friend Jack Hertz.

Kind of Blue (Miles Davis)

For International Jazz Day I give you this classic album.

Kind of Blue (1959) is the top jazz album on most ‘best-of’ lists and is cited as jazz’s biggest-seller. The Miles Davis classic has reached the kind of mainstream popularity that sees it included in the record collections of non-jazz fans as their token jazz record. But its legendary status is very much warranted: Kind of Blue is surely some of the greatest, most atmospheric and influential music every recorded.

Davis was a relentless innovator who refused to stand still: his music would change drastically over the following years, taking in freer forms and jazz fusion, but Kind of Blue, for many, remains his definitive artistic statement and certainly a great starting point when it comes to jazz for beginners. Source

RIP Sir Harrison Birtwistle

The death (18 April 2022) has been announced of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, one of my musical heroes. I’ve always admired composers and musicians who push the boundaries of what is acceptable and possible, who are uncompromising in their musical output. In the realm of rock music, you have The Fall and Radiohead for example, in orchestral music you have Harrison Birtwistle.

My favourite memory, apart from the music obviously, is when I attended a premiere of one of his pieces at the Royal Festival Hall (London) in the 1970s. The orchestra were dressed in their formal attire, Birtwistle came onto the stage to acknowledge the applause in a scruffy t-shirt, jeans, and trainers. A composer who moved from the edge to the centre of the musical establishment.