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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Sting wins with lute 'pop songs'
Rock singer Sting has made a big impact in the charts with an album of 16th century lute music.
Songs From The Labyrinth - with tunes by King James I's favourite musician John Dowland - topped the classical chart and made 24 on the main rundown.
Sting collaborated with Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamazov to make the album as authentic as possible.
"For me they are pop songs. Beautiful melodies, fantastic lyrics, great accompaniments," said Sting.
He added: "I feel that my job as a pop artist is to develop as a musician, and to bring into my sphere elements that aren't necessarily pop, more complex intervals, complex time signatures."
He follows a trend of pop and rock musicians such as Sir Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello who have turned to classical music.
A spokesman for classical record label Deustche Grammophon, which released Sting's album, said: "We're absolutely delighted.
"Sting is taking an interesting area of repertoire and popularising it."
Things that have interested me
There is thy Sting
James Fenton on new tunes from an old lute
Saturday October 14, 2006
Sting's new album, Songs from the Labyrinth, consists almost entirely of music by John Dowland. It has caused a deal of outrage among contributors to Radio 3's unpleasant message board. Nevertheless, the match is not so surprising: Sting is a most distinguished popular singer-songwriter; Dowland (1563-1626) has in recent years become a very popular composer. Dowland's Lachrimae, a collection of dance music - pavans, galliards and almands - is, according to one expert, "probably the most recorded and performed collection of instrumental music before the Water Music or the Brandenburg Concertos." Dowland represents his age for us, as Handel and Bach represent theirs.
But this rise to fame happened rather recently, essentially in the past 50 years. The counter-tenor voice, the copies of period instruments such as the viol, the art of the lutenist - everything had to be revived and to a great extent reinvented before we could hear Dowland as he sounds today when sung by, say, Andreas Scholl. By the time of the Restoration, the composer's work had been forgotten in England, and it continued forgotten or devalued in subsequent centuries. Most of the lute music was not published until 1974. The complete songs had been edited only 50 years earlier. Lachrimae awaits a proper edition. (All this, according to Peter Holman's handy Cambridge Music Handbook to Dowland.)
What this means is that there is no authentic style, no historical style, for singing this repertoire. Look back a full century from now and the tradition just peters out. It is not like the tradition of reading and enjoying Elizabethan verse, which can be traced back without difficulty to Keats and beyond. Nor is it like the tradition of performing Shakespeare, which, allowing for its regular and radical transformations, is almost continuous. It is instead a long-broken tradition, a lost art revived. And it would be ridiculous to suppose that the last word has been said, or sung, on the subject, or the last insight achieved.
This much should be common ground. In interviews, Sting was careful to emphasise the historical dimension to vocal style. Dowland's lute songs are designed for singers and musicians sitting around a table. The layout of the text allows for this, as the helpful booklet in the CD illustrates. This is not the context, or the idiom, for a Brünnhilde. Sting conceded that his own voice was untrained. But, he said, he could sing in tune, and he knew how to sing a song - that is, he knew how to put over a song so that it would communicate its emotion and its meaning.
Nothing that the voice does on the resulting disc is unintended or beyond the singer's limitations. You may not like a particular effect - you may, quite simply, not like this voice at all - but everything proceeds from the original proposition: that a popular (albeit unusual) vocal style could be applied directly to this material. Looking on my shelves for something to compare it with, I found Andreas Scholl's A Musicall Banquet, a recording of Dowland's son's collection of English and European songs. The lutenist is the same Edin Karamazov who accompanies Sting, and really the two albums have a great deal in common. Could you say that Scholl is idiomatic where Sting is not? I don't think so. Both styles seem to share that quality of having been invented for the purpose. Sting's style was invented by Sting. Scholl's style is a version of something invented by Alfred Deller.
These Dowland songs, by the way, are common property, as much as any folk song or traditional melody. Their lyrics, usually anonymous (but surely often by Dowland), belong to that great age when poet and songwriter had not yet parted company. The language is essentially modern English, and it is not hard to find a line in a Dowland song which, taken out of context, could have been written yesterday. "I'll cut the string that makes the hammer strike." Or lines which, though identifiably archaic, are made out of elements that are in common usage: "Cold love is like to words written on sand, / Or to bubbles which on the water swim." This is typically Elizabethan: "Come away, come sweet love, The golden morning breaks. / All the earth, all the air, Of love and pleasure speaks." It is typically Elizabethan, but, unlike the lute, we do not have to learn it, to reconstruct its meaning or its sounds.
This is our living tradition of song. When Sting began making his recordings he was apparently unclear as to whether they would make an album or end up simply as a private amusement. What made the difference for him was coming across Dowland's letter to Sir Robert Cecil, written in Nuremberg in 1595, setting out his grievances and protesting his loyalty to the Queen. Short extracts from this letter are interspersed with the songs, and given in the booklet in their original spelling.
It is strange that the prose of Dowland's letter should have been the clincher, for Elizabethan prose is usually harder to understand than the simple verse of song. What brought the project together was the sense that Dowland could be presented in profile, as the alienated singer-songwriter, wandering from court to court in his melancholy exile.
No doubt it is this dark side to Dowland that made the album feasible for Deutsche Grammaphon, making the match of performer to his material more comprehensible than if the composers had been, say, Campion or Morley.
In the darkness let me dwell,
The ground shall Sorrow be;
The roof Despair to bar
All cheerful light from me.
The walls of marble black
That moisten'd still shall weep;
My music hellish jarring sounds
To banish friendly sleep.
Any poet, any songwriter, can return to this extraordinary material with pleasure. It offers an example of an ideal. The poets who want still to split poetry from song lyric ("Poetry mistrusts language: song cosies up to it" - George Szirtes) should think again. Our greatest songwriters knew no such division.
Nor is this great repertoire anybody's "turf". It is our common ground. That is the great joy of it, and why this album is so welcome.
Sting makes lute popular again
Monday October 16, 2006
After dabbling with world music and fighting to save the Brazilian rainforest, former Police frontman Sting has found a new outlet for his energies. The 55-year-old's album of Elizabethan lute music has gone straight to number one in the classical album charts - and number 24 in the pop chart.
Yesterday Sting said the album, Songs from the Labyrinth, was in part inspired by the work of 16th century composer John Dowland. The singer decided to record an album of Dowland's songs after receiving a lute as a gift from Dominic Miller, the Argentinian classical guitarist.
He said: "I became fascinated with it, and immersed myself in the lute and lute music. Then we met this guy Edin Karamazov, who is a Bosnian lute player, and we started discussing Dowland, and the idea came up of recording some songs of his for an album."
The man who first found fame in the 1970s with hits like Roxanne and Every Breath You Take said there was a link between modern pop and Dowland's work. "For me they are pop songs, beautiful melodies, fantastic lyrics, great accompaniments," said Sting. "I feel that my job as a pop artist is to develop as a musician, and to bring into my sphere more complex intervals, complex time signatures."
The album was a collaboration with Karamazov, and yesterday a spokesman for Deutsche Grammophon, which released Songs from the Labyrinth, said: "Sting is taking an interesting area of repertoire and popularising it." The album was fuelling a "lute renaissance".
Musicians such as Sir Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello have also moved between pop and rock and classical music. In 1996 McCartney was commissioned by EMI Records to compose an orchestral work, and Costello tested the waters of classical music in 1993 with a collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet on The Juliet Letters. A mini-opera by The Who will also form part of the BBC's Electric Proms, a spin-off from the classical music event.
Sting plucks lute composer from obscurity
By Martin Hodgson
Published: 16 October 2006
It has taken him about 400 years, but the Elizabethan composer John Dowland has finally achieved a number one hit, with the help of a 21st-century superstar.
An album of Dowland's Elizabethan lute music, which has been taken up by Sting, has gone straight to the top of the classical album chart, leaving the likes of Bach and Beethoven effortlessly in its wake.
For good measure, Songs from the Labyrinth also entered the pop album chart at a respectable number 24, rubbing soldiers with releases by Razorlight and Scissor Sisters. Dowland may not be the best-known early music composer, but Sting has been a fan for more than 25 years, describing his muse as the earliest known example of the "alienated singer-songwriter". The former Police frontman said Dowland's compositions "are pop songs and I relate to them in that way; beautiful melodies, fantastic lyrics and great accompaniments". Song titles such as "Flow my tears" and "Weep you no more, Sad fountains" suggest an early exponent of the kind of angst and melancholy found in such classic Police tracks as "Can't stand Losing You".
Explaining his journey back in time, Sting said: "I feel that my job as a pop artist is to develop as a musician, and to bring into my sphere elements that aren't necessarily pop, more complex intervals, complex time signatures." In making an album of early music, he follows in the footsteps of Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello who have also recorded classical works.
Sting was first encouraged to record the collection of Dowland's music by a friend, the French classical pianist Katia Labeque, and he is accompanied on the album by the Bosnian lute virtuoso Edin Karamazov. The move into classical music marks his latest incarnation in a 30-year career in music. After turning his back on his first career as a school teacher, Sting became an icon of the New Wave with the Police. Early classics such as "Message in a Bottle" and Don't Stand so Close to me" stormed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. When the Police broke up, Sting re-invented himself as a jazz-tinged singer songwriter with a string of solo albums. A growing interest in the Elizabethan world was hinted at in his second album Nothing Like the Sun which took its title from Shakespeare's Sonnet number 130.
The latest album has had a mixed critical reception. One reviewer complained that the music was ruined with "a bewildering garnish of special effects, multi-tracking, and misguided arrangements," and concluded that the collection is "both much better and much worse than could be imagined,"
But whatever the critical reception, a number one spot is certain to ensure an explosion of interest in Dowland, about whose personal life little is so far known, although his Lachrimae - a collection of pavans, galliards and other dance music - has become one of the most recorded collections of the early instrumental music repertoire.
Born in 1563, Dowland converted to Catholicism in his teens and was unable to find work in the court of the staunchly Protestant Elizabeth I. After travelling through Italy for several years, he landed a post at the court of Christian IV of Denmark. He returned to England after Elizabeth's death and eventually secured work with James I.
Perhaps anticipating objection from classical music purists, Sting has sought to present Dowland's work as the pop music of its time.
"I'm not a trained singer for this repertoire, but I'm hoping that I can bring some freshness to these songs that perhaps a more experienced singer wouldn't give," he said
A spokesman for classical record label Deustche Grammophon, which released Sting's album, said it hoped the album would raise the profile of Dowland's work.
Sting: Songs from the Labyrinth
Former Rep. Gerry Studds dies at 69
By Bryan Marquard, Boston Globe Staff | October 14, 2006
Gerry E. Studds, who championed environmental, maritime, and fisheries issues during 24 years in the US House and lent an eloquent voice to health and human rights matters, died early Saturday.
First elected in 1972, Mr. Studds entered politics as part of a generation emboldened by its opposition to the Vietnam War and turned his focus in Congress to issues close to the hearts of his constituents. A Democrat, Mr. Studds had been re-elected five times when in 1983 he became the first member of Congress to openly acknowledge he was gay.
Subsequently he became the first openly gay candidate elected to Congress and was re-elected five more times before announcing in October 1995 that he would not seek a 13th term representing the 10th Congressional District, which includes New Bedford, the South Shore, Cape Cod, and the Islands.
He publicly disclosed his sexual orientation after a former congressional page, then 27, said in 1983 that he and the congressman had a sexual relationship a decade earlier, when the page was 17. The House censured Mr. Studds for sexual misconduct.
Mr. Studds, 69, had been hospitalized after falling while walking his dog several days ago. He died in Boston Medical Center of complications from vascular disease, according to his husband, Dean T. Hara.
"Gerry's leadership changed Massachusetts forever and we'll never forget him," US Senator Edward M. Kennedy said in a statement. "His work on behalf of our fishing industry and the protection of our waters has guided the fishing industry into the future and ensured that generations to come will have the opportunity to love and learn from the sea. ... Gerry's work in Congress can still be seen in the towns and cities he fought for, in the constituents who became friends, and on the waters he worked tirelessly to protect."
The censure of Mr. Studds and his relationship with a page was revisited in recent weeks when it was revealed that US Representative Mark Foley, a Republican of Florida, had exchanged sexually explicit e-mail and instant messages with a young male congressional page.
As the Foley scandal unfolded and he abruptly resigned from the House, Republicans in Washington accused Democrats of hypocrisy, saying they had not spoken out in 1983 when Mr. Studds was censured. At the time, he called it "a serious error," but refused to resign.
Saturday morning, before news broke that Mr. Studds had died, former House speaker Newt Gingrich invoked his name at a breakfast in Springfield, Va., for Republican candidates.
During 12 terms in the House, Mr. Studds pushed for more funding of AIDS research and worked to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians in the military. In his waning days in Congress, he spoke out on the House floor against the Defense of Marriage Act.
"I have served in this House for 24 years," Mr. Studds said in July 1996. "I have been elected 12 times, the last six times as an openly gay man, and for the last six years I have been in a relationship as loving, caring, as committed, as nurtured and celebrated and sustained by our extended families as any member of this House."
Mr. Studds and Hara married in 2004, a week after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts.
"Since Gerry's retirement, we have set up our home in Boston, traveled the globe, and, of course, raised our dog, Bonnie," Hara said in a statement Saturday. Mr. Studds was walking their dog when he fell.
"It was a private life and a well-deserved quiet life after Gerry's distinguished career in Congress," Hara said.
US Representative William D. Delahunt, who now represents the 10th district, said that "even now, his legacy is alive and well in the halls of Congress."
"His influence was bipartisan in nature," Delahunt said. "He was sought of for his views, because the depth of his knowledge about the oceans and fisheries was profound."
Among his lasting accomplishments was the Atlantic Striped Bass
Conservation Act of 1984, which Mr. Studds drafted and sponsored. The legislation required the Atlantic Coast states to implement conservation measures under the guidelines of a multi-state commission.
Known for his agile mind and sharp sense of humor, Mr. Studds once quipped to Delahunt that "his pivotal role in the revival of the striped bass was not in legislating a recovering plan, but in his inability to catch any," Delahunt said in a statement.
Mr. Studds also was a key force behind the Marine Mammal Protection Act and sponsored legislation to create the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. In recognition of his work, Congress designated as the Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary a large ocean area between Cape Ann and Cape Cod.
Born on Long Island in Mineola, N.Y., Mr. Studds graduated from Yale University with a bachelor's in 1959 and a master's in 1961. He worked in the State Department and in the White House when John F. Kennedy was president, and was an aide to a US senator before leaving Washington to become a teacher at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire.
Mr. Studds worked with the presidential campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy when he upset President Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, and was a delegate to the Democratic Convention that year in Chicago.
Living in Cohasset, he first ran for the 10th district seat in 1970 and nearly upset Hastings Keith, the Republican incumbent. For the rematch, he learned Portuguese, the language of many voters in the district, and became fluent in ocean and fisheries issues that affected many constituents.
Mr. Studds won in 1972, as Richard Nixon was posting a landslide victory for president. A dozen years later, in the aftermath of the censure over his relationship with the page, he again handily won, this time as President Ronald Regan coasted to reelection.
Though he was a liberal Democrat, Mr. Studds forged friendships with conservative Republicans, notably Don Young of Alaska, who sponsored an amendment to name the marine sanctuary after his friend.
As an eloquent speaker, Mr. Studds once even drew praise from Helen Chenoweth, then an outspoken conservative Republican from Idaho who was also known for bouffant hair. She died in a car accident earlier this month.
One day after Mr. Studds spoke, "she came off the floor afterward and said, 'I wish I had your mind,' " said a former aide to Mr. Studds. "He looked at her and said, 'I wish I had your hair.' "
Announcing his retirement on Martha's Vineyard on Oct. 28, 1995, Mr. Studds said, "It is time for me to chart a new course. ... You understand things like tides, and seasons, and the natural rhythm of things, and so you will understand that it is time for me and Dean and my family to move on to other challenges."
In addition to Hara, Mr. Studds leaves his brother, Colin, of Cohasset, and his sister, Gaynor Steward, of Buffalo.
The family plans to hold a memorial service next month.
After leaving Congress, Mr. Studds moved to Boston and led a life out of the spotlight. He was more likely to be seen walking his dog in the South End than at political events.
"He was a very formal and reserved guy," US Representative Barney Frank said yesterday. "When he retired, he retired. One of the ironies of his life was that he was one of the most private people I've ever met who was in that kind of public position."
In 1987, Frank became the second member of Congress to publicly acknowledge he was gay. By being the first, Mr. Studds "clearly gave some other people the courage to do that," Frank said. "It probably had a bigger impact on younger people who said, 'You know what, I guess I can think about a political career after all.' "
US Representative James McGovern said Saturday that he and his wife, Lisa, "are deeply saddened to hear of the death of our friend Gerry Studds."
"He was a champion for human rights, particularly in Latin America," McGovern said, "a passionate environmentalist, and a champion for fishermen in New England and across the country."
Gerry Studds -- first openly gay congressman
- New York Times
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress and a demanding advocate for New England fishermen and for gay rights, died early Saturday at Boston University Medical Center, his husband said.
The cause was a vascular illness that led him to collapse while walking his dog Oct. 3 in Boston. Mr. Studds was 69.
From 1973 to 1997, Mr. Studds represented the Massachusetts district where he grew up, covering Cape Cod and the barnacled old fishing towns near the coast. He was the first Democrat to win the district in 50 years, and over the course of 12 terms, he sponsored several laws that helped protect local fisheries and create national parks along the Massachusetts shore.
A former foreign service officer with degrees from Yale, he was also a leading critic of President Ronald Reagan's clandestine support of the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. He staunchly opposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, which Studds once described as "the Edsel of the 1980s" -- overpriced and oversold.
His homosexuality was revealed through scandal. In 1983, he was censured by the House of Representatives for having had an affair 10 years earlier with a 17-year-old congressional page. For Mr. Studds, formal and dignified, a model of old New England reserve, the discovery sparked intense anguish, friends said.
Once outed, however, Mr. Studds refused to buckle to conservative pressure to resign. "All members of Congress are in need of humbling experiences from time to time," he said at the time.
But he never apologized. He defended the relationship as consensual and condemned the investigation, saying it had invaded his privacy.
He went on to win re-election in 1984, surprising both supporters and opponents. Mr. Studds also seemed emboldened by his re-election, demanding more money for AIDS research and treatment.
And in addition to speaking on the House floor on behalf of same-sex marriage, he set an example. In 2004, he and his longtime partner, Dean Hara, became one of the first couples to marry under a Massachusetts law allowing same-sex marriage.
Mr. Studds' past had recently resurfaced. In the final two weeks of his life, the two-decade-old controversy surrounding him became an issue in the 2006 midterm election campaign as a new congressional page scandal unfolded.
Though his name had barely been mentioned in Washington since he retired, the resignation late last month of Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., revived interest in Mr. Studds' dalliance with a teenage page in 1983.
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