Winter is coming… to Sydney Uni

Studying for the physicians exams in Fisher Library a few weeks ago, I was delighted to hear the Game of Thrones theme being played on the University of Sydney Carillon (pronounced /kəˈrɪljən/). Honorary carillonist Isaac Wong was the one responsible, as seen in the clip below. Hearing it in person amongst the neogothic grandeur of the Quadrangle is quite epic.

 

A distant sadness

In addition to All Along the Watchtower and Battlestar Sonatica, another one of my favourite tracks from the Battlestar Galactica: Season Three soundtrack is the haunting piece A Distant Sadness, as heard at the start of Occupation. The lyrics are in Armenian and have multiple levels of meaning, according to composer Bear McCreary – I’ll have to take his word on that. The CD booklet only provides the lyrics in Armenian script with an English translation, so I thought I’d try my hand at romanising the lyrics according to ISO 9985.

A Distant Sadness
Music & lyrics: Bear McCreary
Vocals: Raya Yarbrough

Հեռու եւ ծանօթ տխրություն մը մեզ կը կանչէ
Heṙow ew çanòt’ txrowt’yown më mez kë kančē

Քամիով բերուած՝ այրուող աւազի նման
K’amiov berowaç, ayrowoġ awazi nman

Եղբայրներ եւ Քոյրեր՝ որ հեռւում էք՝ դուք կը տոկաք
Eġbayrnr ew Koyrer, or heṙwowm ēk’ dowk kë tokak

Անելանելի վիծակի մէջ՝ մեր իսկ հողին վրայ։
Anelaneli viçaki mēǰ, mer isk hoġin vray.

Յիշողութիւն մը փորագրուած հոգու եւ մորթի մէջ
Yišoġowt’in më p’oragrowaç hogow ew mort’i mēǰ

Կը թողնէ սպի մը որ երբեք չի բուժուիր
Kë t’oġnē spi më or erbek’ či bowžowir

Մեր ընտանիքը ամուր է՝ բայց ցիրուցան
Mer ëntanik’ë amowr ē, bayc’ c’irowc’an

Աստղերու եւ դաշտերու տարածութեան մէջ։
Astġerow ew dašterow taraçowt’ean mēǰ.

Մենք ձեզ չի պիտի լքենք
Menk’ jez či piti lk’enk’

Մենք ձեզ չի պիտի մոռնանք
Menk’ jez či piti moṙnank’

Մենք ձեզ համար պիտի վերադառնանք։
Menk’ jez hamar piti veradaṙnank’.

(Note: I’ve probably wrongly transcribed and/or transliterated a few characters, given my unfamiliarity with Armenian, but my romanisation does seem consistent with Raya Yarbrough’s vocals).

Battlestar Sonatica

The song All Along the Watchtower is a recurring theme in the final two seasons of Battlestar Galactica – my BSG-watching friends and I absolutely love the Bear McCreary arrangement of the song performed by Bt4 (Brendan McCreary) as heard in the season 3 finale Crossroads, part II. Bear McCreary is an award-winning composer who arranged the BSG score, and his blog (Bear’s Battlestar Galactica Blog) gives a fascinating insight into the creative and production processes for music in television/film.

Battlestar Sonatica sheet music
Battlestar Sonatica for Solo Piano, Yamaha LU-201C piano

Another one of my favourite pieces from BSG is the piano theme Battlestar Sonatica, first heard in the season 3 episode Torn. McCreary was asked by BSG producer Ron Moore to compose an ‘unsettlingly familiar’ classical piano piece to complement Baltar’s experiences aboard the Cylon Basestar. Battlestar Sonatica is a piano sonata in B flat minor inspired by Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 (’Moonlight’ Sonata, Op. 27 No. 2).

It turns out that the Battlestar Sonatica sheet music is available for purchase, and last week I finally received my copy in the mail. Now whilst mine isn’t autographed by McCreary, it’s one of the new edition saddle-stitched booklets on matte coated stock. The score corresponds exactly with the soundtrack and is thus a little technically difficult for a lapsed piano player like myself (I had difficulty sight reading it, in part because of the B flat minor scale), but in absolute terms is not a particularly difficult piece. Useless trivia: it’s the first piece I’ve played in a long time with double accidentals (in this case double flats).

Oh, and it turns out that I’d correctly inferred how McCreary came up with the coordinates for Earth in Daybreak, part II using a motif from All Along the Watchtower. Simple but effective!

Four chords

A little while ago I saw a live performance by Sydney comedy band Axis of Awesome, perhaps best known for their satirical “Election Rap Battle 07″ and “Election Song 2: It’s Time To Go For Growth” music video clips during the 2007 Australian election campaign.

Some of my friends were particularly amazed by the song “Four Chords”, which proposes that most contemporary pop songs are based on the same four chords, demonstrating the point using a 35-song medley:

James Blunt – You’re Beautiful / Richard Marx – Right Here Waiting / Alicia Keys – No One / Mika – Happy Ending / Amiel – Lovesong / Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love / Alex Lloyd – Amazing / The Calling – Wherever You Will Go / Bush – Glycerine / Thirsty Merc – 20 Good Reasons / Lighthouse Family – High / Red Hot Chili Peppers – Soul To Squeeze / Bic Runga – Stay / Ben Lee – Cigarettes Will Kill You / Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved / U2 – With Or Without You / Crowded House – Fall At Your Feet / Kasey Chambers – Not Pretty Enough / The Beatles – Let It Be / Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge / Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror / Elton John – Can You Feel The Love Tonight / Men At Work – Down Under / Waltzing Matilda / Kasey Chambers – Not Pretty Enough [repeat] / A-Ha – Take On Me / Eagle Eye Cherry – Save Tonight / Toto – Africa / The Offspring – Self-Esteem / Blink-182 – Dammit / OneRepublic – Apologize / Tim Minchin – Canvas Bags / Natalie Imbruglia – Torn / Axis of Awesome – Bird Plane / Missy Higgins – Scar

Indeed, four-chord progressions are commonly used in music writing and “Four Chords” seems to demonstrate a I–V–vi–IV progression (E–B/D#–C#m7–A/C#) by transposing the medley songs to E. I suspect that the successful harmonics of chord progressions can be explained by thinking of them as a series of cadences, e.g. the strong I–V imperfect cadence and IV–I plagal cadence in this particular progression.

Overall, regardless of your appreciation of music theory, Axis of Awesome have produced a well-executed and entertaining piece.

Bleeding love

English singer/songwriter Leona Lewis’ song “Bleeding Love” contains the lines:

“But I don’t care what you say, I’m in love with you / They try to pull me away but they don’t know the truth / My heart’s crippled by the vein that I keep on closing…”

It got me thinking… Perhaps she knows more about cardiology than she realises:

  1. Occlusion of major vein, e.g. SVC/IVC (”…the vein that I keep on closing…”)
  2. Decreased venous return
  3. Decreased cardiac output
  4. Decreased myocardial perfusion
  5. Myocardial ischaemia/infarction
  6. Cardiac failure (”My heart’s crippled…”)

Okay, so the literal reading of the text is a bit tenuous and I skipped a few things in the mechanism, but QED!