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 Posted:   Aug 28, 2010 - 11:50 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

I couldn't find a thread devoted to this, so I'm starting one.

This is one of the cheap CDs that arrived in the mail today.

First time I've heard this - the fourth movement is on now. Great stuff, right up my alley.

 
 Posted:   Aug 28, 2010 - 11:57 AM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Glad you are finding this one enjoyable. Although I am a big fan of Alex North, AFRICA reminds me mostly of an orchestra warming up for a performance, with nothing in the way of an identifiable theme or motif to latch onto. I'm interested to know what there is about it that impresses you.

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 28, 2010 - 12:13 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

I tend to like dissonant stuff with lots of orchestral color. I also like exotica, so this fits the bill in this regard. Tracks 5 through whatever are more melodic than the symphony, granted, at least on one play. Parts of the symphony reminded me of Planet of the Apes.

 
 Posted:   Aug 28, 2010 - 12:25 PM   
 By:   Michael_McMahan   (Member)

Yeah, Africa's a typically great North score. I can never get enough of this style of writing. It's dissonant, aggressive and beautiful all at the same time.

 
 Posted:   Aug 28, 2010 - 1:23 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

I couldn't find a thread devoted to this, so I'm starting one.

This is one of the cheap CDs that arrived in the mail today.

First time I've heard this - the fourth movement is on now. Great stuff, right up my alley.


Alex North's "Africa" was mentioned several times by me in other North-related threads, but I'm thrilled that it will have its own thread. Not only is "Africa" one of my very favorite Norths - its perhaps the greatest example of how a soundtrack can stand with integrity as an album of absolute music.
I have owned (and still own) the 1967 MGM LP of "Africa" for about 20 years now, and I've gotten its Prometheus CD re-issue as soon as it was released.

Glad that OnyaBirri has just discovered (belatedly) this superb work and appreciates it... smile

 
 Posted:   Aug 28, 2010 - 3:59 PM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

Glad you are finding this one enjoyable. Although I am a big fan of Alex North, AFRICA reminds me mostly of an orchestra warming up for a performance, with nothing in the way of an identifiable theme or motif to latch onto. I'm interested to know what there is about it that impresses you.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Speaking for myself, when I listen to a musical composition, I subordinate my personality [my preferences, my dislikes, my ID (if you will)] to the nature of the work and the intentions of the artist who created it. I do not approach an aural piece with expectation of noticeable melody or easily recognizable motifs. Admittedly, one needs to possess the time and the will and the patience to "hear out" a composer's effort until it's finished in order to assess its intention, execution, and its values. If melody is part of the fabric, that's great; however, if customary lyricism is absent, this should not imply that artist's intended expression is of little or no value.

So... saying it is a matter of perspective...one can ask oneself: Am I listening to music to satisfy myself and my particular limits? Or do I expand my own comfort levels to absorb complex/abstract compositions which "go beyond" and challenge the more familiar frames of reference?

INTENTION

The television documentary "Africa" encompassed all nations possible across the African continent, as well as depicting Africa's past along with its contemporary times. This was the 'intention' of the production crew from the start, and Alex North's task saw him face an "embarrassment of riches" - according to executive producer James Fleming's lengthy and informed liner notes. "How marvelous - and perplexing - for a composer to be able to choose, for example, between the virile attack and stout tone sounded by a Hausa chief a thousand years ago on a hollowed-out elephant tusk, and the vastly more flexible tone of a modern French horn. The musical language of the 'primitive' African tribesman is often sold short as being little more than a 'beat'. This is as unfair as it is inaccurate. In truth, this gross oversimplification is demeaning to some of the world's most sophisticated musicians."

EXECUTION

Alex North's symphony to a new continent is a musical portrait which chronologically depicts Africa's existence from the earliest uncounted centuries, through subsequent centuries 'spent' in passionate despair, all recounted up to the present via North's 20th-century prism of polytonality featuring wailing strings, keening brass, plus an 11-member battery of percussion (tympani, boo-bam, log drum, lou-jous, steel drums, & tom toms). North's achievement here is similar in spirit to much of the concert music of Andre Jolivet, a French composer dedicated to restoring music's original ancient sense as the magical and incantatory expression of the religiosity of human communities. Jolivet's status as a most sophisticated primitivist, conducting advanced experiments with rhythm and sonority, might very well apply to Alex North and his music during the 1960s, especially "Africa". This North symphony, plus his Africa Suite, demonstrates why North's extraordinarily complex instrumental compositions and sophisticated rhythmic cross-patterns required his long-time orchestrator - Henry Brant - to share conducting duties during the recording sessions. These aspects of 'execution' turned out to be most crucial; during the recordings with the Graunke Symphony Orchestra in Germany, Alex North met his future spouse Annemarie.

VALUE

Mexican composer Carlos Chavez had his "Sinfonia India" - North had his "Africa". This is 'value' aplenty. Nonetheless, North's "Africa" seems to function as a litmus test amongst film score aficionados and soundtrack collectors, dividing responses into 'love it' or 'hate it' camps depending on one's tolerance for atonal dissonance above and beyond the typical TV and cinematic standards. Consider this: North completed his "Africa" score by February of 1967, recorded it in April '67, and the "Africa" program was broadcast in September 1967. When Jerry Goldsmith composed and conducted his score for "Planet Of The Apes" at the end of 1967, couldn't he have heard North's "Africa" masterpiece a month or 2 prior, and, perhaps, be influenced enough by it to 'go ape' for the Franklin Schaffner movie? I'm inclined to think that Alex North's adventuresome, advanced, and prestigious music had helped in some way to foster a climate into which other composers felt compelled to let loose and make more wild music for the late '60s and into the 1970s...

...how's that for 'value'?

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 29, 2010 - 6:03 AM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

The LP presentation sure looked awkward - 3 movements on side 1; the 4th movement on side 2, with a reduced version of the suite. Works much better as a CD.

 
 Posted:   Aug 29, 2010 - 6:36 AM   
 By:   Ag^Janus   (Member)

You can hear a movement (the opening?) from AFRICA on the 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY recorded for Varese Sarabande, conducted by Goldsmith.

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 29, 2010 - 7:39 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

That's right, ajhfsm. When I got the Goldsmith recording of 2001 and heard that kind of showbizzy razzmattazz music for the intermission (supposedly) I thought "Hmm, what's that got to do with a cerebral SF movie?". Then when I learned that it was a mistake and that it was actually from AFRICA, I thought "Hmm, what's that got to do with Africa?"

 
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