Friday, June 25, 2010

album 47: chaos (herbert grönemeyer)

herbert grönemeyer has been in my musical life since 1990. he entered it via the album "luxus", which didn't make it into the top 50. "chaos" was the first new album released after listening to grönemeyer, and it was a big hit with me. the german pop/rock artist and his band use music to underline fantastic lyrics, and he is never afraid to try something new. his ballads are just great, and two of them are my favorite songs on this album: "land unter" and "kein verlust". but i also have grown to really love listening to "morgenrot", and since i bought the album, "chaos" and "grönland" have been personal hits.
the themes of the album are diverse. "land unter" is romantic, and might have something to do with his recent marriage to the mother of his two children. "kein verlust" talks about loss of trust in a friendship, "chaos" is a critique of society, while "grönland" has a very interesting lyric, comparing the two unified germanys to a married couple with severe problems of relationship. "morgenrot" has a somewhat typical "i'd do anything for you" grönemeyer-lyric, but he is unique in writing great poetry that can be sung; of course non-germans will find the language very strange und maybe even non-musical, but it sounds quite natural to german speakers.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

album 48: so (peter gabriel)

the first time peter gabriel really caught my attention was in 1993. "so" was my second pg album, and it instantly became a favorite, initially even surpassing my passion for "us", my first pg album. this was mainly due to really strong tracks, like the opener "red rain", a typical peter gabriel song with lots of passion, rythm and sound. but my two favorite tracks on the album are also two of my all-time favorites from peter gabriel and in general: "in your eyes", with a great special participation of sengalese yossou 'n dour, who was discovered by pg; and, most of all, the fantastic "mercy street", just a great overall track.
"don't give up" and "sledgehammer" were the big hits when the album was initially released in 1986. it was produced by daniel lanois, who has also worked with u2. "so" was a big success everywhere, mostly in the uk (reached number one spot) and the us (reached number 2 on billboard). "sledgehammer" was number one on billboard, and number 4 in the uk; the second biggest hit out of the album was "big time", largely due to its innovative video (a mark in pg's career and a reasons for sledgehammer's success). i like all songs on the album, but only see three really strong ones.
peter gabriel has never been as successful as in times of the "so" album (nominated for four grammy awards, including album of the year), but he is constantly a great musician, with love for art and production values.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

album 49: so much 2 say (take 6)

take 6's second album was released in 1990, so we gonçalves kids got to knowing and loving it at the same time or even a tad earlier than the debut release. it is a true classic, with a much higher production value than its precessor (and mervyn warren the main producer), but a little less quality, all in all. still, i like this album a little better, mostly because of the song "come unto me", which is probably me all-time take 6 favorite. they've had some really good songs after that, but never any really great albums: this was the last great collection, and it even had a hit: "I L-O-V-E U" reached #19 in the hot r&b/hip-hop charts, and the album peaked at #2 in the contemporary jazz albums, and a respectable #72 in the billboard charts; another grammy came their way, and it was deserved: some great "traditional" a capella with "something within me", the mind-blowing opening title track, incredible arrangements as in "time after time", great production in "sunday's on the way". i do not like the last track, the first instrumental one for take 6. but it is an overall great album, confirming the incredible vocal versatility and quality of the sextet, and the high musical and spiritual value from the debut album, which was, indeed, a tough act to follow.
as mentioned above, take 6 has, since then, released another nine studio albums, each one a little worse than the one before. some memorable tracks have come out of those, though, and i would like to mention them: "o come all ye faithful" from "he is christmas"; "biggest part of me" from "join the band" (which is a pretty damn good album); "Jesus makes me happy" from "brothers"; and "a few more miles" from "so cool".

album 50: take 6 (take 6)

it happened in a classroom in gymnasium oedeme, my highschool in lüneburg, germany. 8th grade, fall of 1990. my music teacher detlef schult, who was also the leader of the high school big band, was introducing that year's curriculum for his classes: a full year of jazz!
he chose an a capella group to talk about pentatonics, and played a negro-spiritual called "mary", a typical call-response song, where the soloist would "call" mostly using the pentatonic notes. i was impressed, really impressed. little did i know that the chosen group was take 6, a sextet coming out of the adventist church, which is my religious denomination.
their debut album, containing the song "mary", has been a huge hit with me and my brothers since those times, a solid 20 years now. it is an exceptional album with not one "weaker" track on it. the crowd favorites are normally "get away, jordan" and "david and goliath", but my personal favorites are "milky white way" and "He never sleeps". at the time, the album already was revolutionary, and it won alvin chea, cedrick dent, david thomas, mervyn warren, mark kibble and claude mcnight iii (brian's brother) three grammy award nominations (with two wins), including being nominated for "best new artist", a platinum disc (best-selling take 6 album to date), and a whole lot of respect in the music industry.
most of all, it is musically of the highest quality, 100% a capella, and spiritually strong. great album, to say the least!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

class of 2010 - the "original" speech

yes, it was my first time. yes, i was very nervous, and emotional. and yes, everyone noticed it, i'm glad my students are forgiving and warm.
for you, and for whoever would like to read it, this is what i actually wrote down and was supposed to me my speech on that June 28 evening:

"i hope you all are having a good evening. this is an important audience, because each and every one of you has been vital to the success of this class; as a parent, teacher, administrator, sibling, friend. this class owes a lot to you.

i now ask for your permission to address them.

first of all, i would like to thank you, the class of 2010, for the honor of being able to have this last little class. a public one, which takes me three years back.

after two years as a guidance counselor in a brazilian private school, i was looking for a job in the international school world, hoping to teach mathematics. like most of you, i’ve loved math all my life, and after completing my degree in education, i started my studies in math. i’d never heard of chapel before, it was my cousin who gave me the hint. in april of 2007, mr feitosa told me that a few months earlier, chapel school had been looking for a math teacher. i wrote the school the very next day, and was immediately invited to an interview. i still remember the seemingly endless walk from the reception to mr ciallelo’s office. a strange world that has become home to me.

i felt the interview went ok, and a “test class” was the next step in the process. after my first contact with miss may, it became clear the audience that time would be these good-looking people, but in 9th grade. “this is generally a good class”, she told me. and finally, in the beginning of may, i had a chance to see for myself.

so there i was, about to teach a rather public class. mr ciallelo, ms colgrove, my good friend mr murphy, and ms may where there. less public than today, but maybe even more pressure. i remember talking to anders boman before class. and i know that quite of few of you sitting here were there too. you probably don’t remember it, but i sure do! i remember silvia and jayme. and i remember that the class was about n-gons.

the class didn’t go too well. i was more nervous than i anticipated, it was my first math class ever, and i wasn’t really used to speaking english at the time. in the interview after the class, i was told that a decision would be made by the end of may – and that if they didn’t call me, i should call in to find out.

can you imagine my disappointment? i was quite mad at myself, because i felt i had failed under pressure.

and sure enough, i didn’t get a call at the end of may. instead, i called – and was surprised by the information that they were still interviewing and that they would call me with a final answer a few days later. which meant that somehow i was still in the running.

i was very surprised when mr ciallelo offered me the job. and it only made sense that the schedule i received soon thereafter featured one class heavily – the one sitting in front of me.

and how lucky i have been! this might sound over the top, i am aware of that. but it is the honest truth: i never knew how wonderful teaching could be before i taught this class. don’t get me wrong: i’ve always enjoyed teaching and i’ve had a few memorable classes in the past, but this was something different, something else. students who hated physics studying it over night to do well in a test; of course, the grade seemed to be a big motivator, but there was certainly quite a bit more to it. at times, they actually seemed interested! and, very important for an effective classroom, they had a great sense of humor. some of their invented expressions were incorporated into my own vocabulary, and although no one seems to say “mythical”, “jebondy” or “jebonai” any more, i have a few friends outside of school who still do.

but over the course of that first year, when some students had to put up with me in two classes (physics and math), i understood more about why this class was different. they accepted people. they respected. they included. and they did it because they believed it to be right.

three years have passed. i’ve seen less of you as a whole class, although poor arthur has had me as a teacher in a record 5,5 classes. i’ve seen you fight for academic success. numbers and statistics don’t lie – this class has been a success story for our school and for us, teachers. you have mastered some tough ib classes and are headed for some pretty interesting college experiences. and all the hard work will pay off immediately. in your math-related courses, i guarantee you at least one full semester of pure review.

but today is no time to talk about math or physics. neither is it necessarily a time to talk about the future, the world’s challenges and what you guys can do about both of these things. i guess as we live longer, we notice that more things seem to be out of our control than we might desire. you have shown what can be done with great determination, a sense of union and a nice dose of humor. but it should also be clear to you that total control of your life’s destiny is and will always be unreachable; and it might not even be worth reaching.

there are things you can control. like happiness, for example. i know that this is quite a statement to make, since we generally have difficulties even defining what happiness is. i mean, is it a feeling, is it a state of mind, is it even tangible – can it be scientifically proven? are there parameters that tell us when we reach maximum or minimum local happiness? do we just derive the function of happiness and equal it to zero? and if there is a function of happiness, what would the independent variable be?

i want to make point tonight, a quite obvious one, almost cliché. i agree that there is more than one variable to happiness, but i want to focus on the most basic – the love variable.

i firmly believe that it is impossible to be happy if you haven’t learned to love. the curriculum of love is the most difficult around, believe me. it’s tougher than ib, and if you don’t take some time to learn it and practice it, happiness will not be easy to come by. not the exhilarant happiness of a moment, but the constant one. the one that is still there when you’re disappointed, suffer setbacks or are tired and sad.

previous knowledge in the subject of love is diverse, because it depends so much on past individual experience. but some things generally don’t have to be learned: how to love or hate yourself, sometimes almost simultaneously. how to fall in love, and even how to fall out of it. and how to despise or hate, which are some weird, but not uncommon forms of love. you might agree that some of these might provoke the exact opposite of happiness – which is not sadness, but fear. it is fear that leads to hatred, or despair, or loneliness, or depression, or indifference. if that is the case, then there must be some kind of connection between happiness and love. f(x) and x, if you will. (i can’t help myself.) because the cubic function comes to mind – you know which one i mean? as x goes to infinite positive, the sky is the limit for f(x) – but the reverse is also true.

how do we make the x tend to positive infinite? in other words, how can we actually learn to love? is there a right way to love? there is. and i’d like to close these considerations with three steps you can take towards the infinite:

first: step down of your own pedestal. as you know, i am a firm believer in God. therefore, it should be quite easy for me to put myself in my place, shouldn’t it? but my ego makes it difficult to follow this first step. true humility is a noble goal, and it is definitely worth pursuing. but i know from own experience that the closer i get to being truly humble, the happier i am.

second: know and appreciate yourself. it’s tough to sometimes look at ourselves and see the many shortcomings. this is why we sometimes avoid to look, and react allergic to those who we think or know are seeing these shortcomings. once again, this is fear showing its ugly face. don’t be afraid to look at yourself, come to terms with whom you are, and be okay with it. is that easy? not at all! but i can assure you, it is a way to happiness, because it is essential in the love curriculum.

third: as the good ol’ book puts it, “love thy neighbor”. and when i say “love”, i don’t mean like. to like is more specific, it has to do with affinity; you know when you just get along with someone, and you just don’t get along with that other someone? but to love, this is more essential, broader. it’s a genuine respect for the other, for his or her story, feelings, dreams. it’s independent of weaknesses and free of judgment; it is not conditional.

these steps are connected and support each other. it’s actually like a triangle: learning to love others in a genuine way really helps you to be okay with yourself, and puts our own ego-trip into perspective. learning to love ourselves really helps us appreciate and respect others, once again making us capable of seeing the big picture. and recognizing that i am not more important than anyone else who is trying to live a happy life on this planet really makes us move into the direction of loving others – which always finds a way of reflecting back to us. but the first step is more important, since without humility, self-love will be our natural tendency, and unhappiness will follow, sooner or later.

this is my one advice for this special moment: please remember to constantly take time to reflect on the curriculum of love, and on the things that really matter. the studying, the career, the work, maybe the future family, the ideals – this is all extremely important. but without the love, it seems somewhat meaningless – because love is a key ingredient in all of these things, we can’t really run away from it. grow in that curriculum, one that has no limits to it. work on the x-axis, and the dependent variable happiness will react.

the true reason this class is so special to me is that i’ve grown in all three steps of this special curriculum because of you. you have taught me lessons of love, and it is not difficult to say that you have my unconditional love. please, continue to grow in love, and radiate this truth to others the same way you have radiated it to your parents, your teachers, your colleagues and to me.

my cycle at this beloved school started with you, and it is ending with you. this public class is over. may you, the class of 2010, be remembered and known as the class that learned to love, and the world will certainly be a happier place for it.

congratulations, you all deserve love and happiness – today and tomorrow!"

Sunday, June 6, 2010

series - top 50 albums of all time

music is a very personal thing. i've been listening to it with mind and heart since 1986, i would say. and after almost 25 years of listening to it, and making some of it my own life soundtrack, i will countdown a very personal analysis of the top 50 albums in these years. in some of them, it will only be about the music; in others, also about what memories that music brings forth, and what emotions it awakens.
i'm looking forward to this little journey and will start it with albums that have not made the top 50, but have historical significance to me:
herbert grönemeyer is quite a big name to me, and it all started with the album "4630 bochum", ranked only 88th. it was my intro to grönemeyer's music and great lyrics, and it remembers me of one of my all-time best summers, the summer of 1990 at the eisenberg camp. "flugzeuge im bauch" was just the favorite song, i used to really enjoy all of them. which is not the case any more...
"first circle" was an early favorite in my pat metheny musical journey, around 1997. it is still one of my favorite all-time songs, and "if i could" is another old favorite, but it was not enough for the album "first circle" to be in the top 50, landing only in 80th.
"picture book" was part of my around 2-year obsession with simply red. my favorite song by that band, "holding back the years", is still one of my all-time favorites. but the album has too many weak tracks and landed in 79th.
right above it, "hymns" by steve green is found. this was the album i most listened to in the year 1994, and it was a really big album them. arrangements are still great now, but i've lost the love for this album.
right above that one, "ganz behutsam fängt es an" was one of my very early musical influences. it reminds me of my neighbour kiki, mostly "frei wie der adler im wind". the song "vater, ich danke Dir dafür" is still a favorite.
in 74th, luxus. this was my favorite herbert grönemeyer album until last year, and it is full of nostalgy, since it marked the years of 1990 and 1991. it fell out of the top 50 for being just not good enough musically, although "marie" will always be an all-time favorite.
in 72nd, "escolhi acreditar" was always considered the best tom de vida album, mostly in terms of production. but the album is too short to take away the weight of the not-as-good tracks, and is now only third place out of the four tom de vida albums.
"le voyage" still is a classic, from sandi patty. some really outstanding singing and piano/orchestra work, still a reference, but only 71st in the ranking.
69th place is occupied by a keith garret trio "the cure", one of the first jazz albums i ever really heard. very big influence in my taste for piano interpretation.
one of two sting solo album out of the top 50, "the dream of the blue turtle", his solo debut, landed on 65th, lacking real personal favorites.
"letter from home" was an early pat metheny group favorite, but is now one of the few out of the top 50. still a very good album, with the great title track to end it.
in 2001, i remember thinking of this album as a revolution in brazilian christian music, mostly in terms of production, and "o melhor lugar do mundo" has some pretty good songs, too - but not enough to be in the top 50, it was only 63rd.
"the new young messiah" was a big hit in my time at boarding school iasp, and interesting enough, it was that album that introduced me to the actual händel's messiah. great trio by larnelle, steve and michael, helping the album to finish 59th.
"beyond the missouri sky" is a masterpiece by guitar giant pat metheny and base guitar player charlie haden, and the album has a high musical level throughout. it's almost a shame that i didn't really ever get too warm with most of the songs - 58th.
"...nothing like the sun" has many good songs, but not enough really great ones to be in the top 50. "they dance alone" is still a favorite in sting's repertoire, though.
michael jackson's "bad" was an early favorite for me, "liberian girl" was my favorite song and remembered me of jana deutsch, for some strange reason. now, "man in the mirror" is not only my favorite track on the album, but also my favorite mj song. the album is 56th.
"my utmost for His highest" was long considered by me to be an almost ideal christian contemporary album, and it's songs are very strong until today. not enough to make the album top 50, it ended up in 55th.
"pictures at an exhibition" was the first album i ever bought, and i still really love it, as a grand work of art. but only few tracks really made it to the all-time favorites status.
simply red's "stars" was the album i most listened to for at least two years. i still think it has mostly really great songs, but the problem is that none of them is still a favorite for me. 52nd place, right in front of "pictures".
tonex is out of the top 50. 51st with o2, 75th with pronounced toe-nay. some really good stuff, some if it inspiring, but just that little bit lacking the real "star" quality.