Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Glenn Miller

Friday 1st of November 2007

"Timetravel and timewindows"

I came across a Glen Miller recording in the library yesterday. It was a box set with two discs. It was called “The Lost Recordings.”

I thought that if I were to put together all the Glenn Miller recordings I’ve held in my hands through my life it would cover most of what is out there. Thus I found the title a bit pretentious. I picked it up and started reading the list of content. It was mostly stuff I had seen before and assumed that it wasn’t a lot of alternate takes available neither. But I borrowed it with me home to check it out.

I was running errands around the city today and had not eaten enough. Something that had given me a slight headache and I needed some nice soft music with the food.

Dude, sorry the interruption, but someone is sending up fireworks again! It seems to be fireworks in the sky here every day now. I wonder were they bought it! I’d love to get some! Maybe I could hold a party at the rooftop gardens and make a memorable ending…

Anyway. I read in the cover that the executive producer had come across some never before released recordings and that they were of high quality. I put in the first disc and started to flip through the booklet.

The first couple of songs were just old classics and well known recordings, I got restless and took the disk out. Then I flipped the page in the booklet and my heart almost stopped. I had never seen the orchestra and their bandleader like this before! So close up, in action, so real! Not the usual arranged pictures but huge bandscores on his note stand, Miller conducting, and a young Dinah Shore singing by his side. This was with the military band so Major Miller and the band were all in full uniform. The room was packed!

I put disc two in the player and flipped another page. One more time I held my breath. A huge string section at the Major’s right side! Strings! Maybe there’s more to this disc than I assumed. And yes, it was.

The lost recordings indeed. Silkysmooth sound. High quality recordings like the producer wrote. I have often thought of how wonderful it would be if we had him around longer and could get better recordings, after the tape recorder really started shaping up the sound after the war. But this is good! Clear and crisp! Better than any recording I have heard before. And two more things:

#1 I have never heard strings used this extensively in any Miller recordings before.
#2 I have never heard any Miller arrangements that to this extent uses orchestral dynamics. Orchestral is really the word! This is more orchestral than Big Band at times.

It is suddenly so near!
And here’s a thing to all of you youngsters that have said that I’ve been listening to “grandparent-music” for the last 15 years:
Most of those grandparents are gone now, though more of them were around 15 years ago. What am I listening to then? –Dead men’s music? –Corpse-Swing? There is a page in the booklet with a young horn section. Some of them may be the age I’m now. One of the front guys could well have been Justin Timberlake’s buddy. –If he had come out of the picture and been the same age today as he was then.
This is music produced by young people, for young people! If we loose that perspective we loose what binds us to history and the sounds in my living room becomes antiquated curios to relate to either in a dry intellectual manner or by laughing of it as irrelevant and maybe funny. Do you think it is?
Then try this test:
Would you discard Wolfgang Mozart for being out of date, irrelevant, non-influential and maybe something to laugh of in the present age?

If yes, read no further!

I sat on the kitchen bench reading a book but this wonderful music caught my full attention from time to time. It was like someone had opened a window. I remember how it was like walking around in the huge hall under the music school I went to in my early teens. If someone had opened a window in their practice room you could hear a nice blend of jazz saxophone solos, classical sopranos and piano sonatas down in the hall. It would put a smile on my face. It would reveal music, activity, passion, dreams and beauty. And I was lucky to get a short glimpse into it, and even be a part of it. So I was sitting in the kitchen and someone opened a window in Autumn 1944 and I was lucky that it flowed into my apartment. The book I was reading encouraged to seek the sages, the wise old men. –In old writings or in person, and humorously, but seriously it was written: “Hang out with the wise, living or dead!” I thought “Haha,” I’m doing it right now! The dead and wise in music are here already.

I think the recordings were meant for radio broadcasting and Miller and a lady is narrating it for us. For some reason it is partly in German so it seems a bit like an attempt of breaking through the propaganda-barrier and radio control of Vermacht.
Then it came. I know his straight forwardness in his opposing Hitler in Music, and I love this comment that came:
“Love of freedom and love of care free life are two vital American characteristics. And I hope the time will soon be here when we’ll completely wipe out all nazi gangsters, so that not only the people of Europe, but also the Germans may enjoy home, life and happiness. The allies will see to that.”
I was sitting on the kitchen bench and had to put down my book. I clapped my hands and shouted “Yeah!” “Preach it brother!” He didn’t address me in 2007, he did in ’44, and where his voice came from the war was still not over. You simply can’t respond today. It was really exciting! The voice of a man long gone, suddenly highly alive, with a voice revealing a steadfast hope in a free Europe. –Soon!

He never got to see it him self. We lost him and his plane over the British Canal before the war was over. It was such an unnecessary death. It has grieved me many a time. But then again he stays forever young in our memories. Kinda’ like the James Dean of Big Band Jazz. And though he sadly never got to see the end of the madness he was fighting, he never got to see the decline of Swing Jazz neither. It keeps him even younger in our minds.

I held my hand over his picture and prayed thanks for all that he has meant to music and to us who has been blessed by the sound of his thoughts that came to action. –Came to sound through his orchestras.

The record came to and end and after a few words in German he concludes with an “Auf vider sehn!” I was waiting for the last tune but it never came and I understood that his words were the final track. I laughed! “Haha, you bastard!” Slipping through my fingers once again! We never found your plane or learned how it disappeared. You just vanished! I can see the blink in your eye as you tell me “till next time!” before you’re gone yet one more time. Someone closed the window in 1944 and my living room turned silent. I’m back, and Major Miller is gone once more.

Auf vider sehn indeed! At our first encounter mom was wheeling me around in a pram in a Norwegian shopping centre. It was about the same time as I ran into a guy called Sinatra. I’m looking forward to our next meeting, but where you’ll show up then I have no idea!

In fond memory and deep appreciation of
Glenn Miller 1904-1944


Anonymous said...

I loved reading this. I hadn't heard of Glen Miller until I read your blog post about him. Your descriptions of his music make me want to listen to some!

It also brought back memories of when I used to play for Bradford Youth Orchestra.



Harald said...

Thanks! Yeah, I love his music! I kind of grew up with it :-)