I recently asked about arranging for status as a Visiting Scholar to the Music Department of Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo. That’s my undergraduate alma mater in the city where I now live again. They just agreed to that, which will give me such Faculty/Staff/Grad library privileges as term-long book loans, access to scholarly publications and media through inter-library loans, and internet access in an office/carrel-type setting. The scenario will definitely help me work more efficiently on my current book project: Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion. So, thanks to Grebel music chair Laura Gray and librarian Laureen Harder-Gissing!
Around the same time, Gabriel made an orchestra-accompanied cover version of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” for an obscure film of war-related footage and news headlines and clips from war movies combined with new versions of Beatles’ songs, called All This and World War II. The film and soundtrack double-album also include recordings by the Bee Gees, Leo Sayer, Tina Turner, Elton John, Frankie Valli, Rod Stewart, the London Symphony Orchestra, and numerous others, as released in November of 1976. Gabriel’s version of that Beatles’ song was thus his first solo release, and it is fairly charming, although he occasionally sounds rather like Kermit the Frog. He later worked on a number of film scores and film songs from 1984 to 2008 and then revisited the idea of orchestra-accompanied cover versions much more extensively on his 2010 album Scratch My Back. In a related project, the 2013 response-album And I’ll Scratch Yours includes other artists’ stylistically-distinctive cover versions of some of Gabriel’s songs.
- YouTube: Peter Gabriel’s cover version of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”
- YouTube: All This and World War II (an excerpt of Gabriel appears at about 4:00)
My conference paper on early Genesis is now available: Classical Styles & Sources in Early Progressive Rock by Genesis, 1969-72. I derived it from the first two chapters of my forthcoming book, Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion.
Here’s another excellent review of Experiencing Rush. I don’t agree with the reviewer that Rush “wanted to play essentially power pop.” However, he usually writes about death metal, so I suppose I can understand why the band’s music might seem that way to him! Otherwise, he really does completely get what I was trying to do.
- “Unlike most rock writers, he focuses on the output from the band rather than the discussion or buzz surrounding it … .”
- “… intelligently look[s] into the music as a series of patterns and avoid[s] a deep immersion in music theory. As a result, Bowman compares abstract patterns found in the music to what they symbolize in life … .”
- “… Bowman stands heads above the other writers on this topic.”
- “… shows us what rock journalism could be — some of us would say should be — by digging into this band in the only way that honors their efforts, which is to take them seriously as people by investigating their art for what it attempts to express as a communication between artist and fans.”
- “… avoid[s] academic-ese and also rock journalist ideo-jive, and instead look[s] at this band with an intelligent common-sense approach by picking apart each song to see what makes it work, both as a communications device and as an experience to enjoy. With the force of Rush fans behind him, hopefully Bowman can convince more of the music world to join him in this approach, which like the scientific method for materials should be the de facto standard for music.”
Mark Greif’s “What’s Wrong with Public Intellectuals?” gets at the issues that are also keeping the supposedly quite new area of “public musicology” about forty to eighty years behind the times: http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-Wrong-With-Public/189921/
“A large pool of disgruntled free-thinking people who are not actually starving, gathered in many local physical centers, whose vocation leads them to amass an enormous quantity of knowledge and skill in disputation, and who possess 24-hour access to research libraries, might be the most publicly argumentative the world has known.”
That might actually work if the 83% of PhDs who never land permanent, full-time academic positions actually had 24-hour access to research libraries. I certainly have no such access myself, and neither does most of that “large pool.” Also, my attempt at a collaborative website for public music history & culture, OurMus.Net, did not succeed for reasons similar to the difficulty Greif and his colleagues at n+1 had in soliciting useful public writing from early-career academics. Most such people simply don’t know how to write for anyone other than themselves. That has got to change.
A positive, substantial review of Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion (and my colleague Gregg Akkerman’s Experiencing Led Zeppelin) appeared in the Cleveland Music Examiner on February 11. See: http://www.examiner.com/review/listener-s-companion-series-to-help-fans-experience-led-zeppelin-rush-anew.
Excerpts: “While Bowman’s Rush reader need not be versed in theory, it nonetheless helps to keep one’s thinking cap on for his fascinating forage into what is arguably the world’s foremost intellectual rock band. … [T]he real success of the series is in the way the books rekindle readers’ interest in the subject matter by shedding light on the musical minutiae that might’ve escaped one’s attention till now. We knew these artists were good, but perhaps we couldn’t articulate precisely why. These authors effectively take reader / listeners undercover to view the musicians working all those levers behind the curtain. And it’s in their study and scholarly elucidation of all this musical sorcery that we arrive at a more profound understanding of (and appreciation for) the wizards responsible.”
At the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey, I just presented “The Untapped Doctoral Majority of Potential Public Musicologists” at a conference about the Past, Present, and Future of #PublicMusicology. The paper went fine, and a number of people thanked me for being honest about my experiences and thoughts re musicology and my attempts at doing public music history & culture independently.
From other presentations and discussions, I also have some new ideas about things I can try in order to proceed, such as arranging for visiting scholar (though unpaid) status at a university, looking into more-mainstream presses as venues for my future books, and submitting things to a just-launched web-based forum for short articles (The Avid Listener; there is some money for them) meant for students and others.
I saw people I knew in earlier periods (up to fifteen years ago, in one case), met a number of people I knew of but hadn’t met before, and got to know some others for the first time.
I just submitted a five-page writing sample for “Experiencing Peter Gabriel: A Listener’s Companion.” I really wanted to give them something from his lengthy solo career (e.g., “Games without Frontiers” or “Come Talk to Me”), but the editor at the press was pretty keen on the complex, long, early Genesis song: “The Musical Box” (1971). So, that (from what will be Chapter 1) is what I gave them!
I used live videos on YouTube to help me practise “forensic musicology” to figure out who played what on that song. Actually, though, some significant parts of the song were composed (1969-71) by two guitarists (Anthony Phillips and Mick Barnard) who were not in the band at the same time and were no longer in it when the album was recorded (as were none of the band’s early drummers, either)! Other parts were written when the band briefly had no guitarist and instead used Tony Banks’ electric piano through fuzz effects, whereas the final version of the song has three guitarists (different from the first two!): Mike Rutherford starting on 12-string acoustic but also playing an electric bass pedal unit part of the time (before switching to electric bass), Steve Hackett on electric (initially pedally/pseudo-steel, but later very heavy), and Banks sometimes temporarily moonlighting on a 12-string acoustic rhythm instead of playing his usual keyboards. I also tracked down the related instrumental piece called “Manipulation” that was done as a demo for part of the score for a never-aired, 1969 television documentary, but not released until appearing as part of a boxed set in 2008. Oh yes, and lead singer Peter Gabriel plays a lot of flute and tambourine, and drummer/backup-singer Phil Collins has a lot of hair!