Friday, July 11, 2014

Music According to Benedict Nº 5 – James Rhodes' "Clair de lune" by Claude Debussy

Do you really love music?

I mean, REALLY love music? I'm not asking you to tell me. It's not a formal inquiry - I promise. I'm asking you to be honest - with you. You have your ear candy music - the stuff that makes you sing or dance or remember a moment at a special place, or with a special someone. When you hear those first few notes of a song that takes you back - THAT'S the good stuff: the REALLY good stuff. It's the music you'll hum long after your hearing is gone. (Keep that in mind when Eminem or Justin Bieber land in your memory banks.)

Why do I bring this up? Well, I think it's safe to say Benedict Cumberbatch's appeal lies not only in his appearance, voice and talent, but also his image of intelligence, wit and sophistication (and not just in the acting and voiceover work he chooses). Whether or not fans agree with his self-deprecating comparisons to an otter or cartoon character - or a lineage suggesting inbreeding to result in looks best suited for costume drama, his range of interests engages us to read more, listen more - and learn more.  BE MORE.

One such interest he shares is an appreciation of a diverse musical library. Recently, a Q&A session with fans (and a mic on his iPhone set on shuffle) revealed an eclectic mix of musical selections, ranging from the sentimentally ridiculous "Puff the Magic Dragon" to Top 40 favorite Daft Punk's "Doin' it Right" - as well  his longtime favorites: Icelandic group Sigur Rós - and the work of friend and fellow Harrovian alum, pianist James Rhodes.



Just give me a minute, okay?

Rhodes wants you to LOVE the range of emotions that you feel in all sorts of music: rap, hip-hop, Top 40, adult contemporary - all of it (and INCLUDE classical music to the mix.) Granted, I don't know that you'll find him appearing in a music video while nude riding a wrecking ball or wearing pants that appear to have a built-in mini-skirt/diaper (unless he gives really fantastic parties with extremely exclusive guest lists.)

A quick check of iTunes showed that (as of this writing - April 2014) none of Rhodes' albums have had customer reviews. Zero. Zip. Nada. (Seems if a bloke wanted to help a friend out, he'd at least post a pseudo-anonymous review - but maybe it's not best boarding school behaviour.)

I kid - as only an American public high school graduate can.

Let's see if fans change that. (Psst. This means you.)

Note: The album Benedict refers to in his interview, Bullets & Lullabies, is not currently listed on iTunes - and there's no telling why. I'm guessing it's about money. (Imagine.) We'll discuss iTunes options here.

From his first release in 2009, Razor Blades, Little Pills, and Big Pianos to 2010's  Now Would All Freudians Please Stand Aside and the most current album, Jimmy: James Rhodes Live in Brighton -  all digital downloads are priced at $9.99 USD, while singles from Razor Blades and live album are 99 cents USD each.  The live album has explicit content due to Rhodes' 'colorful' commentary - which tells me this is NOT your grandparents' classical music.  We don't need Benedict's bank account or boarding school education to listen and like music. People may discriminate, but music doesn't. If you love what you hear, you listen to it. You don't have to be at a concert hall. Enjoy it in the car, on  your commute - and on your computer. It's easily accessible IF you'll take the time to take the music back. It's yours just as much as costumed consumers in concert venues.

Cumberbatch regularly sings the praises of Rhodes, and the first I saw of this was in the Two Paddocks' post of Benedict's current Top 10 Tunes. He specifically mentioned Rhodes' version of "Clair de Lune" by Debussy as "best" and, although he'd like to learn the tune:
 "I will be quite content to listen to my inspiring friend Mr. James Rhodes playing it. PS--though nowadays a tea totaller he is pure rock and roll and you should have his playlist soon. He's more than a little inspiring."
You want rock & roll? Have you read his self-penned profile on his website? Yes, it's him, a "concert pianist. Classical shit." His journey to the concert hall isn't a typical tale, and he states clearly what he - and his website - are about:
"And I think it's appropriate, important even, to dispel the myth of the autistic/fragile/shrouded-in-his-own-genius/tux-wearing/idiot savant as pianist.   Also, I want this site to be a place for those of us who love music, want to know more about it, and don’t want to be smothered by the inherent stuffiness that surrounds the world of classical music."
(The expletive-laden commentaries on the live album make sense now, don't they?)

Whether a fan of classic or modern music, this particular selection of Benedict's is a lovely choice, like visiting with an old friend or daydreaming on a rainy day.  Enjoy "Clair de Lune"  composed by Claude DeBussy in 1890, and originally entitled "Promenade Sentimentale" - from work of the same name by French poet Paul Verlaine. (You don't need to know all that, but a little knowledge never hurt, did it?)

This second song, Bach's "French Suite No 5: Gigue" is a performance Rhodes uploaded to SoundCloud and shared on Twitter just a few days ago, and I loved it. He performs such diverse pieces - and they can suit your mood just as well as songs you download daily from your favorite artists.  You can click on each selection to get Rhoden's mini-summary of the composer, the piece - or his own sentence structure:

Bonus: Soundcloud also gives you the chance to share the love of a certain song or two (or 10) - before you commit to buy - as well as rate the song or comment on it. The best part is sharing what you think of the music. The variety in Benedict's music library reflects who he is, just as a shuffle on our smartphone reflects each of us.

If you need a little video inspiration as to the mutual admiration James and Benedict share, look no further. Here, James interviewed Benedict for Piano Night ((during which Benedict attempts the intro to "Claire de Lune"):

Take a moment to tune in, turn on - and drop any preconceived notions about what a concert pianist is - and what classical music is about. It's the music of us.

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