On Ravenchild, Maddy Prior teamed up again with keyboard player Nick Holland and multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley, whose arsenal included Uilleann pipes and low whistle, as she had on her previous album, Flesh & Blood. The centerpiece of the album was a six song suite dubbed "In the Company of Ravens" (also the title of the first song), a series of Prior originals concerning the carrion birds who give the word "ravenous" its meaning. This was sometimes gritty stuff, as Prior described the birds' eating habits, though their mating habits were far more inspiring. The album also contained a three song suite, "With Napoleon in Russia," tracing that famous historical defeat. Then there was "Rigs of the Time," a condemnation of contemporary media culture set to a traditional melody, and the album concluded with what Prior herself described as the eerie traditional song "Great Silkie of Sules Skerry." The music and Prior's singing could be haunting, but Ravenchild was an album of disquieting material, whether the subject was aviary, historical, or contemporary.
Though John Barry achieved popular recognition for the swinging, loungey, noir-ish soundtracks he composed for the James Bond films, he moved to the front rank of film composers with his score for 1966's BORN FREE. Stylistically, the music of BORN FREE is miles removed from Barry's Bond soundtracks, though the composer's fondness for brass fanfares, stirring strings, and lush, intricate charts with stunning dynamic range is still intact. On the whole, however, the music to BORN FREE has a playful, innocent quality, evoking the nature of the wild animals at the film's center. As the movie is set in Africa, Barry employs a range of African percussion instruments, and sections of flute music (which often seem to echo the sounds of birds or other creatures). The arrangements are expansive and sweeping, giving rise to the sensation of open plains, and Barry's recurring musical themes parallel the film's action (the track titles indicate plot events). The score is, for the most part, surprisingly subdued, with occasional bursts of energy (mirroring tumultuous events onscreen) and its stirring title theme the exceptions. Barry won an Academy Award for the score in 1966.
Tunisian oud master, vocalist, and composer Dhafer Youssef is globally renowned for his restless musicality. He has used his ancient instrument – five millennia and counting – to explore jazz, classical, and blues, in addition to the classical and folk musics of the Middle East, North Africa, and Mediterranean regions. The ephemeral Birds Requiem is his debut offering for Sony's resurrected Okeh imprint. The players on this date include his trio with pianist Kristjan Randalu and trumpeter Nils-Petter Molvaer, and the complete ensemble (which recorded primarily in Sweden) features clarinetist Hüsnu Senlendirici, bassist Phil Donkin, drummer Chander Sardjoe, and electric guitarist Eivind Aarset, which also provides various electronic treatments.
Joseph Kerman was a leading musicologist, music critic, and music educator from the 1950s to the 2000s. He reshaped our understanding and appreciation of Western classical music with his first book, Opera as Drama (1956), to his last, Opera and the Morbidity of Music (2008), including his studies on Bach, Beethoven, William Byrd, concertos, and more. He was a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, where he served two terms as chair of the Music Department. He wrote Listen together with his wife, Vivian Kerman.
Nilsson's two late-'60s/early-'70s soundtrack albums, Skidoo and The Point!, were released as a single-disc two-fer as part of RCA Camden's Nilsson reissue campaign. Of the two, The Point! holds up a bit better, since it was designed to stand on its own more than Skidoo, yet the two are an ideal pairing, showing Nilsson's silly humor, studio inventiveness, and pop songcraft if not at a peak, then at least in a highly distinctive, amusing setting…