Songs About Wind: a temporary guru writes…

What a week; I’m now feeling thoroughly wind-swept, buffeted by countless gusts of wonderful music. Was ‘Wind’ a particularly good topic, or is it just that I normally don’t have time (or make the time) to listen to more than a tiny fraction of the songs suggested? Certainly I feel distinctly humble about the limits of my musical knowledge; for the first few hundred comments, I knew the majority of the suggestions – the feeding frenzy does generally throw up most of the obvious numbers, especially when it’s a topic with a searchable keyword – but thereafter I was blown off into largely uncharted waters. One of my guiding principles, as I mentioned on the main thread, was that the A-list should be mainly or entirely music that was new to me, with the B-list used to accommodate stuff that I was thus ruling out. In the event, the only familiar elements in the A-list were a couple of artists whose music I’d heard before but not these particular songs (Esperanza Spalding, Gallon Drunk), and two standard songs in new versions (The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Wild is the Wind); even the B-list is largely made up of things that I’d never heard before this week.

And I can only imagine what other great stuff I’ve missed through my insistence on proper justifications; just a personal obsession which I hope didn’t annoy too many people too much, and in fact it made an almost impossible job a bit more manageable. Even so, I could happily have listed at least three times as many songs, and for my own sanity I’m resisting the urge to send messages to lots of people to explain why, despite its brilliance, I didn’t in the end pick their song. The idea for a write-up based loosely on the Beaufort Scale had come to me before I listened to anything, and wasn’t much help in narrowing down the choice, so long as I included a variety of different kinds of wind rather than just relentless storms. I wanted a variety of styles, of course – given the importance of the wind for rural life and seafaring, I could have filled the list many times over with folk and other traditional music – but also felt particularly drawn to songs that evoked the sound or the feel of the wind, and my one fear is that this may, despite all my conscious efforts, have given the list a more ‘samey’ feel than I wanted.

In the end, it always comes down to personal preferences – the ‘judgement of taste’, as Immanuel Kant put it (just in case anyone was disappointed by the limited amount of pretentiousness this week). In some cases, I knew a song had to be in the list the moment I heard it: Lord Beginner, Christian Kjellvander and Nina Persson, Skeletal Family. Others went onto the long-list, and I was then trying different combinations through most of Tuesday afternoon to produce what sounded to me like a well-balanced playlist. During which time, some songs wormed their way into my consciousness: Kauan’s Valveuni originally slipped in as a temporary substitute after Fuel bloody-mindedly refused to nominate Edward Vesala’s The Wind properly (the one track for which I’d have made an exception to my ‘only new stuff’ rule), but I’m now mildly obsessed with it; I was struck that a couple of former gurus said they needed a week or so’s break from listening to music after they’d done a stint, because I can’t wait to spend more time exploring the work of Kauan, and various others, at greater length.

It’s only an eleven-song A-list, as I honestly couldn’t decide which other track to include – the lead candidate by the end was Dorival Caymmi, nominated long after the deadline, and I’m not sure I want to take on the responsibility of setting such a precedent – and in any case the playlist seemed to work nicely as a whole already. I did briefly consider going completely retro and having a ten-song A-list and ten-song B-list; in this case, I did know which of the first eleven I’d drop as being the one with which I wasn’t absolutely and utterly in love, but it played its role in the sequence perfectly and so got to stay. Anyway, then I’d have had to drop some from the B-list, and that could have taken at least another day of vacillating.

Like other temporary gurus, I didn’t pay any attention to who had suggested what. Once I’d decided on my A-list, and checked the Marconium to make sure I hadn’t included already zedded, I did check who had suggested the final 11, and then spent some time wondering whether I should make changes – I mean, two double A-listers, one of whom got a double just last week? That is not how I would have planned it; if I’d organised the list around the identity of nominators, I’d have been aiming for as broad a spread as possible, and might have gone out of my way to avoid choosing the suggestions of certain people. It really was just about the music – but of course I’ve no way of proving that BeltwayBandit gets listed so often because he suggests so many fantastic songs in so many different styles, rather than because he’s Lord High Conspirator of the RR Illuminati. So it goes; time to head for my bunker with a week’s supply of beer to ride out the likely storm…

The one really major problem: one of the best songs on the list, Lord Beginner, isn’t on YouTube; it is on Spotify, but for everyone who’s in a part of the world where they don’t have Spotify, it’s also here:

Final thing: thank you all (and all the RR people who don’t come over here). This has been wonderful, easily as good as participating in the blog normally, and that’s entirely down to everyone else in a way that making one’s own suggestions isn’t.

16 thoughts on “Songs About Wind: a temporary guru writes…

  1. Not you AGAIN! Arf.

    Very interesting breakdown/write-up, Prof. I’m in awe of your achievement – and so glad I didn’t have such a mammoth week to contend with! Well done, sir.

  2. D’yunno, I’m enjoying these Spill threads post-A-list-reveal MORE than I am most of the columns themselves.

    Have to admit, ‘Hach, I did suspect the Wu Man & Kronos Quartet selection (my LEAST favourite of the four seasons tracks I posted) would appeal to you most.

  3. Excellent synopsis of your process, very interesting to read and now I’m off to RR to check your list. Sorry if my Spill comments distracted from your windy concentration, sounds like you really had your hands full.

    • I was curious if you ever touhght of changing the structure of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

  4. Well done for sticking with your convictions, it’s about the music. It’s nice to be the recommender of a listed song, but it’s not like making sure children get the same number of sweeties…. I like these reflections too, and mine definitely worked as a therapeutic debrief.

  5. The Lord Beginner cut was wonderful and it reminded me of when I was in Ja. during a hurricane, I’d always wanted to experience it and quite suddenly one came right out of the blue. It probably came ‘out of the blue’ because I was driving around in remote rural areas without radio or newspaper in a very small rental car. I had two Jamaican friends with me, one a rasta, as we drove through an area that was entirely banana plantations it started to pour down and the wind rose until it was was flattening the banana plants. As it got dark I started getting worried, I had no idea where we were and we hadn’t seen any townships for ages and we needed to eat and to find a place for the night. The road we were on started to rise, we were at the edge of the Blue mountains and suddenly we were in a canyon enclosed on both sides. Finally ahead I saw lights and when we reached them I saw it was a hotel, wonderful, we were safe! Except it was a luxury tourist resort and they charged $200 a night for a room, I’d never stayed in a place like that before but beggars can’t be choosers, I much preferred B&B’s. We took a single room with 3 beds!
    When I looked out of the room’s window I saw that there was a mountain stream immediately below. We ate and then went to bed as the storm raged, suddenly there was the loudest crack of thunder you’ve ever heard, it was so loud that it seemed to originate from the very room we were in, I’de never heard anything like it before. My rasta friend was flung out of bed and lay spreadeagled on the floor jabbering incoherently to Jah to spare his life, he was terrified! I was shaken.
    The next morning when I looked out of the window the stream had become a raging torrent and had risen several feet in the night but the sun was shining and the sky was blue so we ate breakfast and departed. I drove back down the canyon and suddenly we emerged into the flatlands, before us for as far as you could see in any direction was a lake! Every banana plantation was flattened and under water! I saw that our road disappeared into the lake but it emerged again about a half a mile away, I thought I’d try to very slowly drive towards it. As I did the water got deeper and deeper until it was up to my waist and yet the engine was still running! Finally it quit and we were in the middle of the lake, nothing else to do but get out and push, so we did. Out of nowhere several kids appeared and they thought shoving a car through a lake was a wonderful game and we finally were back on dry [ish] land. I opened the doors and water deluged out. I can’t explain how but when I turned the key the engine spluttered for a few seconds and then fired, water poured out of the exhaust pipe and within a few minutes we were off on our adventures again. I’d experienced my first hurricane.

  6. Having now seen Marconius’ analysis of the A- and B-listers, I’m quite horror-struck – either the playlist is much more ‘samey’ than I thought, so I’m attracted to multiple nominations from the same few people because they appeal to my particular tastes, or some people really are suggesting an astonishingly eclectic range of music. Amazed that I haven’t yet been denounced for favouritism and conspiracy – and I guess it’s pure coincidence that one of the songs I might well have junked if I’d been paying attention to the identity of the nominators just happens to come from our resident conspiracy theorist, who has been oddly silent on the subject so far.

    • Nothing samey about it, the Beaufort method means the playlist gathers pace as it goes – a good contrast to the traditional attention-grabbing first track / opening sentence of a novel method.

      I was starting to look forward to stardust’s weekly rant / grouch / theory, even though it’s us personally who have to stand in for his enemies on the cultural battlefield. So well-deserved as the A-listing was, I was almost disappointed to miss it this week !

  7. I didn’t realise I had been quite so successful in my nominations until Marconius’ post either, thanks, I think the 3 songs from me were different in sound and style and the list sounds very varied to me, so I shouldn’t worry about it. It’s a good one.

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