What’s The Best World Cup England Football Song?

OK, I enjoy the world cup, and understand the off-side rule, but generally prefer playing football to watching it. But when my friend from Great British Chefs posted a query: What’s The Best World Cup England Football Song? World in Motion or Three Lions? – for many days now I’ve been thinking about it. So much so that my response simply does not fit into a social media reply… Mecca, here’s your answer.

“World in Motion” works brilliantly as a standalone pop song, but is it ‘catchy’?  

Harmonically, “World In Motion” is musically complex (apart from the ‘rap’) and there’s a lot going on in terms of chords, percussion and orchestration. It’s interesting, but also demands effort from the listener, meaning cognitively you have to think about where the song is going and pay attention to it. 

Melodically, “World In Motion” is quite gentle – there’s no descending melodies or musical ‘jumps’; it’s tuneful but stays in one place. Yes, the rap segment was distinctive and served to make the song very memorable – but not for musical reasons.  

“World In Motion” is also a little slow for singing along – most people sing football songs while excited, so their heart rate will be higher – faster tempo songs will come to mind more easily in a heightened state like this!

Apart from tempo, both songs have a lot in common – two choruses: ‘Love’s got the World in Motion / Let’s hear it for England’ and ‘Three Lions on a shirt / It’s Coming Home’,  both largely in major (happy) keys, and both are quite sparsely orchestrated. Both songs also do not require particularly good vocal skills.

And so, to catchiness –  have you heard anyone singing “World In Motion” in the street? Personally I haven’t, but “It’s Coming Home” is everywhere.

So what’s happening here? How are they different?

I think the answer lies in melody. Despite great orchestration and production of New Order’s “World in Motion”, the “Three Lions” musical phrases are much more likely to be sung in the wild. They are easier to remember, easier to sing along to and more physically pleasant to sing out loud.

I’ll tell you how this works: The descending tune of the “Three Lions on a shirt” call is followed by an upward response “Jules Rimet still gleaming”.  Wow, super catchy and melodically pleasant –  it’s a classic gospel song call and response: You know where it’s going, there’s a clear musical path that you only need to hear once to sing along, and you’re excited to hear it resolve. A great pop example of this is ‘Twist and Shout’

The second is the clincher “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming…” – what an anthem! There’s a built-in melodic jump – you can hear these in a lot of Abba songs (Winner Takes it All, Take a Chance on Me) and many existing football chants. There’s also repetition – this simple phrase is a natural ear-worm, there’s no effort involved in remembering this even after hearing it once.  Listening to this phrase takes low cognitive effort in contrast to “World In Motion”, plus there’s yet another embedded ‘call and response’ too. 

Finally ‘It’s Coming Home’  is a semi-unresolved melody. Getting to the end of the phrase, you want to sing it again. You can see this unresolved effect at work in notable examples like ‘Song 2’ by Blur, ‘My Shorrona’ and ‘Living on a Prayer’. Catchy? Absolutely. And now you know why my considered answer is “Three Lions”, musically the most suited football song for England’s World Cup 2018 journey.

Relaxing Music for Giving Birth

Available now for download on iTunes Amazon and CDBaby

I’ve been away from work and the internet for a while working on a massive project – building a baby! Having always been completely fascinated by music’s power to move us and change our perceptions, I thought there would be lots of music specifically for giving birth  – but nothing came up. Which was ironic, I thought, considering that for conceiving a baby there are any number of musical accompaniments available! So I created music especially for me and anyone else going through the intense experience of labour, birth and early parenthood. 

This album is very special to me – I wanted music that had calmness at its heart to support the incredible and inevitable journey from pregnancy to parent, but I think it’s also a very enjoyable listen if I just want to zone out and remember how to breathe.

Talking of which, this instrumental music complements all kinds of breathing rhythms during stages of labour and birth. I composed it while pregnant and only completed it half an hour before labour!

Originally I wasn’t going to release this music or talk publicly about my experience (it’s so personal!) but below I explain exactly why I chose to do so.

So yes, I had a baby – he is awesome. And for anyone interested in why I wrote such an album, I’ve shared my very personal story about conquering a lifelong phobia of giving birth below the track listing. If you’re not interested that’s fine too –  in any case it’s good to be back, baby! Normal streaming, tweeting and writing about music, inventions, technology and synaesthesia will soon resume.

Relaxing Music for Giving Birth Tracklist

 

 

TRACK 1: Incarnation. Labour, Birth and Calm
Over an hour long and can be repeated seamlessly throughout labour. will play on multiple devices and speakers without sounding out of tune or out of time. It also works as a continuous loop. I didn’t want music to get in the way of my breathing or the physiological process of giving birth – this was actually the hardest part, making sure it was musical and rhythmic while still leaving space for getting into the zone. I had this track on repeat throughout my labour.

Plus – Bonus Tracks for after the big day to give the new family a gentle soundtrack for those first utterly indescribable weeks….

TRACK 2: Serenity. Soundtrack to a Contented Baby

Serene piano sounds soothe and support a calm environment – contains a unique ‘white noise blanket’ – to soften any unexpected sudden sounds from outside that might startle a new baby. It seems to soothe my little one!

TRACK 3: Relaxation: Sleepy Parents, Sleepy Baby

Encouraging even breathing; aims to elongate any rare moments of calmness and sleep – not that you’ll get much sleep over the first months of parenthood! I found this really helped my little one settle. A sleepy soundtrack to chill out with the new arrival. For babies AND parents.

No apologies for massive wall of text below!

HOW THIS ALBUM WAS BORN

(NB don’t worry there are no scary bits. It contains music, a little tech and a deeply personal story behind the album)

Continue reading

Diving into Periscope – interactive streaming with a musical edge

I’ve recently started playing with an app called Periscope, giving interactive music concerts at my stage piano.

My ‘cast’ (if that’s what it’s called?) includes talks on music theory, breaking down similarities in familiar tunes and of course playing the odd request – like a classical version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ – or a mashup between Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and The Commodores’ ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’

It’s really fun – and my usecase seems to be a unique enough to get a mention in the Daily Telegraph‘s round up of the technology.

So, what do I get up to when I cast? you can find out on Mondays at 20:30 UK Time! At least, that’s the plan…

Essentially I’m talking about classical music theory using contemporary tunes – why is something catchy? What songs sound similar? What bits make a tune feel good? The session is mixed with live composition and conversation – content creation and audience interaction in real time.

Giving the audience access to the creative process and also a chance to communicate is pretty much exactly opposite to a traditional classical concert, where I’d be on a stage, far away from the listeners.

I believe it’s possible to demystify music without dissecting it, it’s so fun to explain what’s happening while playing some of the most memorable songs on the planet. I think this kind of informal direct broadcast is a great proving ground until I have my own big budget show where I have a huge grand piano and some notable musical guests to riff with.

Until then, viewers who make the effort to interact and contribute positively are going to shape how this cast evolves. How exciting! What works, what doesn’t, what do people want more of? I’m finding out every day. I’d hope to keep the audience interactivity if a big TV company wants to fund the huge grand piano and notable musical guests version.

For those of you reading this on Thursday 9th April 2015, there’s a replay available until 22:30 tonight, but you’ll need to download the app on an Apple device to watch at the moment. They say there’s an Android version coming. And, if you do visit, please ignore my faffing with the cables at the start, it definitely gets better.

At about 1AM this morning, I think I solved the problem of getting a decent audio feed in and listening at the same time, so Monday’s cast should have really rather good sound quality.

Oh and a final note from the technology presenter in me – streaming from mobiles has been available before – apps like Seesmic and Qik did this many years ago. But now data is cheaper, social media makes things more immediate, plus our connections are generally faster. This means the tech is ripe for mass adoption.

A notable alternative Meerkat has some big names endorsing it – Madonna released a video using this platform recently. I’ll let you know if I get a chance to try it out. And I’m sure there are other players in this area. In coming months we’ll get to see whether a single platform gains dominance, or if these apps can co-exist. It’ll inevitably play out over the next few months. Interesting interactive times!

In which I co-write a musical…

Date: Mon 23 March 2015:   Event: My first ever full-length musical !

TICKETS AVAILABLE!

I’m super-excited to call myself a London Theatre Impresario! A date, a venue, a show, tickets on sale!

Scary as I’m currently only about 70% of the way through writing every single note of the upcoming musical adventure that will be held in conjunction with the inimitable Hack Circus in exactly one month’s time.

We’ve written a story to go with some expert talks and some rather spiffing tunes as well even if I say so myself. Leila happens to be a genius librettist in my opinion and I’m hoping my tunes and orchestration will do those fantastic lyrics justice. She and I have hatched a musical monster of a night out… What a nerve-wracking but satisfying experience this is!

TERRIFYING REALITY:

  • I need to finish building the scores and orchestration
  • we need to finalise the order of songs and talks and audience interactive bits
  • I’ll have to learn and sing pretty much all the songs on the night
  • Leila and I have to pre-record some short bits of audio to give on-stage a break
  • I’m trying to build a home-made instrument that may or may not work on the night
  • Eek I need to do all the audio show control while performing (Ableton I’m looking at you)
    and;
  • people are actually buying tickets so it has to be good because we have a paying audience.

ONE NIGHT ONLY

Talking of which, if you’re in London that evening AND want to be the first to see this quite peculiar and creative take on the musical genre. From the HC site:

We will be travelling in a unique sound-powered tunnelling vessel, currently under development. Please bear in mind: we really don’t know what we will find. We need a strong healthy team. It might be worth getting down to the gym now if you can.

Bring a torch. This is very important. We are expecting it to be dark.

We will be guided on our journey by three experts: monster afictionado sci-fi author Chris Farnell, historian and volcano enthusiast Ralph Harrington and shark-mad comics legend Steve White – but who knows who (or what) else we might encounter?

From: Hack Circus

TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE!

OK, I’m intrigued, tell me more:

hackcircus.com/underworlds/ 

(link for mobile users: http://www.hackcircus.com/underworlds )

DID I MENTION TICKETS ARE ON SALE?

Yes!! I’m ready and can’t think of a better way to spend a Monday night!

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!

(link for mobile users: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hack-circus-underworlds-tickets-15756232315?aff=es2&rank=1 )

^^This link goes to the EventBrite Ticket Page if you’d like to buy a ticket or two.

**For some reason, none of my links work. Head over to hackcircus dot com forward slash underworlds. Oh the humanity…

The Sound of Stars

Music inspired by colour/art

An artist I know called Debbie Davies made a giant light-up interactive star for the Burning Man festival this year. I never got to see it in real life, but the pictures were enough to trigger the most amazing melody in me. I was so utterly happy to hear that she loved the composition. I can’t really explain why I wasn’t surprised.

Debbie, this is your star. I told you it was beautiful!

Photo credit  duncan.co

Music-Powered Spaceship

Last Sunday I took part in a very unconventional story/experiential theatre event run by a friend of mine. I live-composed the music. The event involved taking an audience on a fictional journey into space. Then (whilst in that context) they were given amazing lectures by real rocket scientists (Dr David McKeown), artists (Toby HarrisSinead McDonaldJeffrey Roe and more. The talks were diverse but relevant. Imagine hearing what space travel would feel like – as if you and the whole theatre was in fact in a spaceship – travelling through space. Kate Genevieve, a visual artist talked about the messages sent with the Voyager space probe. A man from SETI (Alan Penny) informed us of the best way to survive first contact in a suitably realist approach. There was more, but I’ll get to that nearer the end.

And I? I powered the spaceship with music.

It’s because of Leila Johnston – Hack Circus is her thing. She asked if I would like to create music to simulate ‘hypersleep’ during extended space travel, I went one step further and wrote the following email reply…

I have a great job of being the hyperspace engineer – the piano keyboard is in fact my console muwahaha

Leila responded with;

Oh I love that. Yes! Play us into hyperspace! What a lovely lovely idea.

This really captured my imagination, so much so that I appeared to send the following response:

Yes, the equations are quite complicated to most people. But hyperspace mathematics calculations actually have more in common with Bach fugues than physics, turns out those aren’t musical pieces but formulae all along. A fantastically complicated spatial equation can be surprisingly easy to solve musically which is why the keyboard is my usual preference for transport consoles. Bach was a hyperspace engineer from the future who got stuck in a time travel incident. Before he got transferred back to his timeline he enjoyed annotating his equations in musical form and confusing the natives.

Though the sustain pedal just puts the kettle on

I found this in my ‘sent’ items the next morning, and hurriedly dashed off an apology for sleep-emailing. Clearly I had really taken my role as Hyperspace Engineer to heart.

For some reason this didn’t put her off, and the event was quite literally a blast.

There were cabin crew. There were flashing lights. There was hazard tape. Dr Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiologist, played some amazing sounds from space that triggered my synaesthesia like you wouldn’t believe.

The sound of Saturn’s rings original, courtesy Cassini Radio & Plasma Wave Science team:
“…the sounds produced are exciting! You can listen to the sound of passing through the ring dust by clicking here. sound Listen ” (nb the ‘Listen’ link opens up a video file)

Wow! What magical unearthly sounds! What a weird recording! I had to share how wonderful it felt to absorb these strange vibrations! I attempted to convey my synaesthetic response to the sound of Saturn’s rings – what I hear when I hear them…  and this is the result.

 

For those interested, here’s the mission page. Off topic, I’m joyous to report that the Sun in our solar system plays a giant Major 7th.

Remote Controlling a Digger using Virtual Reality

It really did feel like I was ‘inside the machine’ even though the resolution was low!

I composed the music especially for this feature, there is something very pleasing about a digger in C.

Full story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28425844