I can do what I have to do, mostly, but not what I want to do. Hello, Humanity, the supreme social race.

Causes: the usual Fear of Failure or Embarrassment, but also executive dysfunction (or is it malfunction?), and the Dread Cloud Of Not Knowing How Stuff Is Done, and day-to-day overwhelm. The Daily Stress would be my newspaper if I ever started one, and then a mag entitled OverWhelm Monthly.

What do I want to do? The fact that even this isn’t clear doesn’t help. Not because I don’t know what to do, but because choosing is torture. I could do so many things, even if I only stuck my hand into the lucky dip box of musical activities.

I read Austin Kleon’s newsletter (you should too) and a while back (an uncertain number of weeks past) he wrote about writing short blogs: no need to wait to write chunky five-thousand-worders, but think it, write it, and post it. Simples. That and ‘crappy first drafts’ draw me closer to posting this awkward collection of lines on the internet for other people to read.

Upon the receipt of critisicm (always a tricky word) I will remember that someone’s reaction to anything I create is their reaction. I might choose to listen in case it affects me productively or positively. Or perhaps I won’t leave any room for comments. “anon1543” will have to call me to deliver his hate mail. At least in this medium it is reasonable not to reply immediately… I think I need a physical ‘comments’ board to carry around with me, allowing words to sink in so that when I finally produce a response two weeks later I can (within the rules of the interaction) return it by return.

I’m going out for a walk now, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.

[Editor: he was right, but stopped he was… by himself]

Release Radar Reviews

Release Radar Review #1 Part 2

We’re back with the second part of my first Release Radar Review! This automatically generated Spotify playlist throws together some weird sequences of music. Then I listen to it and attach meaning that isn’t there. Let’s dive straight into this Release Radar Review: Part 2 with some Beethoven… or is it?

Beethoven String Quartet no. 14

Apparently I need to listen to more Beethoven String quartets, because at first I thought this was a clever pisstake. IMSLP tells me that his lordship did indeed write the notes, but the four in Quatuor Ébène play them like it’s their last chance and they’re running out of time. Impeccable ensemble and spirit – fantastic!


Following an ending that wasn’t an ending, Richter stamps his way onto the stage. It may be the piano or the acoustic, but the piano does sound out of tune at first. Just a moment…

I said a moment there, but it took me half an hour to scroll to the bottom of the track list of this ‘album’. Etudes-Tableaux, Rach 1 & 2, Songs, Preludes, Prokofiev concertos, Sonatas, Visions Fugitives. And barrels more. Who has put out this diabolically long album? Profil Hänssler, apparently. The fuller title is Profil Edition Günter Hässler. No, I don’t know them either. What a wonderful resource, though: all those Richter recordings! He is a towering legend.


A wrench to this next song: from highly virtuosic performance to a simple but no less emotional song. A Boy and a Girl, by Whitacre. When I was still new to Whitacre, I would listen repeatedly to his choral works, revelling in the sweet, sweet chords stacked into the sky. With this one in particular, I drenched myself in the beautiful sorrow of the progression of the story; the inevitability of death after love, and the beauty of togetherness in silence.

Brighter Dawn (from Clemency film)

Aha! One of those harmonic transitions that really works! The Whitacre above ends in a G major 9 chord, and this one starts with an F major 7th. The muted strings or pads at the beginning of this track match the voices of Voces8 well too.

Laura Mvula, I love your voice! I was lucky to meet Laura when she was speaking at my graduation in Birmingham. I was also lucky to work with her husband, Themba Mvula, a superb baritone, and her brother, James Douglas, a superb cellist, while studying at Birmingham Conservatoire. I accompanied both of them in one concert (there was a lot of music to play in that one!) and, if memory serves, Laura sang Beyoncé’s Halo. (I didn’t accompany her though.)

If you haven’t heard Laura’s music, I insist that you take a break from this smorgasbord and go and check out her album Sing to the Moon.


From the sublime to the ridiculous – Bumbumbum?! I can’t even bring myself to listen past the first 10 seconds, after the previous track. In fact, I’m not even going to share the link. So there.

Schubert – Symphonie no. 3

…And back to the sublime! You’re playing with me, Spotify, you really are! LSO continues its album art theme of ‘ice the cake, then draw a cocktail stick through it’. Alternatively, ‘pour some sour cream into my soup then…..’. 

Excuse me, I seem to have got distracted from the music. Look, I am in my third hour of listening to and writing about this playlist. Roger Schumann is a composer. Of music. Happy? Good.

I can’t tell what is in the background of this album art. A Monarch butterfly on speed? A clarinettist projectile vomiting? 

Oh look, a new track!

One of the top search results for ‘Antonioni music’ is a journal entry in ‘The New Soundtrack’ entitled “The Soundscape in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Cinema”. I shall be reading that when I get the chance. Meanwhile, let’s talk about Francesco Antonioni who I have just realised is the composer of this track. 

‘Lights, after the Thaw: III, Liebeslied – Andante’ is an intensely interesting piece that I am currently struggling to categorise or relate. I shall have to come back to this one later.


Yes, Brahms, nemesis of pianists, especially those accompanists whose instrumentalists are disorganised and give them (us) the music too late: i.e., less than a year before the performance.

Whie I certainly know the name Raphael Wallfisch, John York is less familiar. But they have recorded a lot of the piano & cello repertoire together, apparently, so shame on me.

(Later I realised these are not the cello sonatas, but other works by Brahms arranged for cello!)

Call and response

The Byrd responses! By the choir of St. John’s, Cambridge. This choir (used in the same sense as ‘this river’) recorded possibly my favourite choral album, chock full of the best of English choral music. Still sounding good!

La Mer

When I want company in my melancholy, my go to artist is Olafur Arnalds. It’s the sort of music you feel while commuting through London at 1am while half-awake. Oceans is slightly different from Arnalds’ usual style – a more driving beat here. ‘Fateful’ chord progressions, slightly reminiscent of Max Richter.

The Ocean

Very appropriately, some of Debussy’s ocean now. Which is where we will leave this review. Otherwise I will never finish this.

Release Radar Review Part 2 – Coda

My original intention for this review was to pick out the most interesting tracks from my Release Radar. This could mean discovering a new artist, or a new release of an artist I already follow, or an interesting transition between songs. This time, however, I got distracted by the idea of trying to write something about each song in the time it took the song to play. I wasn’t always successful, but it was an enjoyable process, even if it was a lengthy one. 

If you missed Part 1, you can find that here, and you can find all my Release Radar Reviews here. I hope you enjoyed listening to this playlist that Spotify automatically hacked together for me. You can check out the full playlist below. Let me know if I helped you discover a new artist or track!

Full playlist below, or open in Spotify here.

Release Radar Reviews

Release Radar Review #1

Have you ever listened to Spotify’s Release Radar playlist? This algorithm-generated playlist can cause problems when your listening habits vary as widely as mine! In this first Release Radar Review, I check out what Spotify has generated from my listening habits, and listen out for interesting transitions between songs.

What Kinda Music – Tom Misch, Yussef Dayes

What Kinda Music? Yes, I want to know the answer to that too. I have never heard of Tom Misch, but he seems quite big.

This is an edgy chill track, or a chill edgy one: I can’t decide which. The drum being gradually tuned up at the beginning is a nice touch of humour. The drums are pretty prominent. The echoey vocals are reminiscent of Olafur Arnalds, especially with the strings at the end.

Bad Kids to the Back

Snarky Puppy were at the Royal Albert Hall?! Why did nobody tell me!? They did a show there back in July 2019, and you can buy the live album here. I don’t know if the Snark will be releasing more of their set (this is the only song from the gig on Spotify), but I shall be buying this musical nirvana. There’s the expected funk, which is fantastic. Two barnstorming solos – a Hammond solo that had the flavour of Cory Henry – what a legend! – and then Larnell Lewis fires a machine gun at his drums. Or something.


Next – the opening of Bach’s Matthew Passion. I am sad to say I have never sang either of the Passions. This is presumably not because there has been a dramatic drop in frequency of performance since my birth.

I only started singing solo Messiah gigs in the last couple of years, so I will have to keep my ears peeled for Passions to sing.

Rachmaninov – The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Now, this sounds nice – an unknown choral piece by the… wait, this suddenly sounds very familiar, but usually orchestral…

Well, I wasn’t expecting a choral version of Rach’s second piano concerto. It works quite well. 

Side note: for ages I thought ‘Harry Christophers’ was the name of a group: “Would you puh-lease welcome….. THEEeeeEEE HARRYYYYY CHRISTOPHEEERRRS!!”. 

Kinna Grannis

Next, a lovely acoustic number from Kina Grannis, whose beautiful clear voice is so pleasant to listen to.

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Thomas Bartlett

Ooh, more of these guys! More weird folky goodness! Sounds like two expert musicians found a warehouse, stuck a microphone in it and mucked around for a while. I can imagine them just doing this sort of thing for hours and a passerby happened to walk past and recorded this on their phone.

Your Love

This one started and I thought immediately of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox. It was fun when I first discovered this great concept done so well, but lately I don’t know the originals Still great style! And what a voice that Cortnie Frazier has!

Baby Jazz Shark

Oh, European Jazz Trio, what happened to you? Your Japanesque album of 2018 became one of my favourite jazz albums, and now this?

I’m joking, really – this is a great piece of jazz, just with a fun little hook.

Childhood/ Land of the Young

I must admit, I don’t know what’s going on here. It’s attractive, and definitely has a sense of style, even if it’s impossible to label.

A. R. Rahman 

Aha, another A. R. Rahman song. I must have binged on his music in the past. The Oracle starts very melancholy, then the mood lifts with a cheerful melody and orchestral instruments, all with a tonic pedal. I think I’ll have a Gin & Tonic Pedal. 99 Songs is a new film scored and produced (two very different skills!) by Rahman.

Berlioz – Cellini

And then Bombast Berlioz (but only in comparison). His opera Benvenuto Cellini is not one I know at all, and this overture is an enjoyable introduction. Cellini was a famous goldsmith and sculptor, I learn from a quick google, and lived from 1500 to 1571 in Florence. Of course he lived in Firenze, birthplace of Il Rinascimento Italiano! I look forward to seeing the full work at some point.


As if Chopin’s études needed more notes. I have long desired to play ‘Mr. God’s’ Bach cello suite transcriptions (“very freely transcribed and adapted for piano”), but I would prefer to learn the original Chopin works before tackling these amazing monsters. The original cello suites would be a great thing to learn too, but as that would be on my fourth instrument, and the Gods in Olympus recently turned down my second application to add more hours to the day, achieving that goal may be decades hence.

To be continued…

When I started working on this Release Radar Review, I meant only to write about the pieces which interested me. Then I found myself writing about every single piece, a process which took a little while!

Here is the full playlist: