I used to always pleasantly associate the music of Mozart with hot summer weather --something about being genteel and relaxed, maybe in an aristocratic way. Think the summer holiday scene in Stephen Frear's Dangerous Liasons )complete with a cast of Close, Thurman, Malkovich, and Pfeiffer).
Samuel Barber's woodwind quintet Summer Music is the American proxy for this feeling. But times (and tastes) change. This week, I found comfort from this week's heat wave in the jazz of Miles Davis' Pharoah's Dance and Frank Lowe's In Trane's Name. There's something otherworldly and soothing about both, in a frantic, woodwind-ish kind of way.
And speaking of summer escape, I'm still immersed in my Radiohead listening project. The band is clearly talented if a bit disjointed and I haven't come to terms with Thom Yorke's voice and I still haven't heard Pablo Honey yet (the only version of Creep I own is the Edmund Welles bass clarinet rendition), Still, I'm surprised at the overall quality of the body of their work. Not a single dud song, so far.
First, their later music emphasized timbre over melody, which is part of the appeal for me. And on Kid A, Jonny Greenwood played the ondes martenot, famously used in the music of French composer Olivier Messiaen. A quote from the Alex Ross article on Radiohead is used in the book:
I heard the 'Turangalîla Symphony' when I was fifteen," Jonny [Greenwood] went on, "and I became round-the-bend obsessed with it. I wish I could have met him or shaken his hand.
Let me remember. Do I own three or or is it four CDs of Messiaen's symphony?
We're just obsessed by Bitches Brew or anything even vaguely like it. That's a record for the end of the world.
Back in my "thin" days, I was also captivated by the album (and am again).
As more inspiration, in this case with the string arrangements on Fake Plastic Trees, the producer of the album The Bends mentions Greenwood's awareness of Samuel Barber, although only the remnants of the string parts remain in the final recording. Yet the song captures a mood. Barber's Adagio for Strings aworks posts ad infinitum here.
I'm not yet far enough in the book where jazzman Charles Mingus' impact on Radiohead is presumably mentioned. But I'm starting to realize the pattern of how Radiohead effectively absorbs others' musical art for their own creative purposes. They don't have the virtuosity or "chops" of the jazz or classical originals but since Radiohead is "just" a band playing songs, that doesn't really matter.
Finally, even though I enjoy and respect classical musician Christopher O'Riley, his piano versions of Radiohead leave me flat. Maybe a bias for timbre is rock's greatest achievement?