Wednesday, 10 May 2017
Professor Scott Scores a Euro-Hit
with speaker Professor Derek Scott of Leeds University
Thursday, 20th April saw the return of Professor Derek Scott of Leeds University to Todmorden U3A. Last year we were treated to Orientalism in music; this time we were nearer home, looking at that very peculiar Occidental phenomenon, The Eurovision Song Contest.
Kiev - 13 May
The contest’s final will take place this year on May 13th in Kiev. Professor Scott opened with some musings on whether Brexit will affect voting patterns, and whether Russia, whose entry has been refused by Ukraine, will make a fuss. 'It’s so unpolitical' he said with jocular irony.
Indeed, this was a jocular talk, but, as one would expect from a professor of critical musicology, one that was underlain with some serious analysis and questioning. How often does a country’s indigenous music influence its entry? Has a European style developed? What are the key ingredients that are likely to ensure success?
National styles not represented
Professor Scott thought that national styles were not significantly represented. Swiss singers do not yodel. In 1972, Luxembourg won with a French song sung by a Greek, and in 1978 they were represented by a Spanish duo singing in French. Many entries now are in English.
Perhaps this international blending is what Eurovision is all about. After all, the EU’s adopted motto is ‘Unity in Diversity’. However, in 1990 the Italian entry, ‘Insieme’, though sung in Italian, had a chorus of ‘Unite, unite Europe!’ sung in English at a time when the UK was agitating about the upcoming Maastricht Treaty!
But what are the characteristics of euro-pop? ‘Easy Listening’ is the predominant style – an urban entertainment representing ‘freshly-minted traditionalism’.
Popular songs are likely to fall into one of four categories.
Enjoy life songs
‘Enjoy Life’, featuring songs like ‘Congratulations’, ‘J’Aime la Vie’ or Germany’s 1987 entry ‘Let the Sun into Your Heart’. These songs invariably have a strong 2 or 4 beat rhythm.
Public space songs
Then there is the oddly named ‘Public Spaces for Leisuretime Pleasure’ category. Professor Scott mentioned such classics as ‘Cinéma’, the Swiss 1980 entry placed 4th, or Germany’s magnificent ‘Theater’ that was placed 2nd the same year.
Hint of fairground songs
There is a particular European fondness for songs that hint of the fairground containing musical devices that suggest mechanical movement. ‘Puppet on a String’ and ‘Boom Bang-a-Bang’ are obvious examples, and that lesser known German entry in 1962, ‘Zwei Kleine Italiener’.
Quasi sacred songs
Category 3 might be described as ‘Quasi-Sacred, with Secular and Light Political Overtones’ such as Katrina and the Waves’ winning number ‘Love Shine a Light’. The use of the tambourine and the gospel descanter are also popular elements in such songs.
And finally, the tremendous world of ‘Visceral Onomatopoeia’ which must include refrains ‘free from linguistic restraint’ such as ‘boum bang-a-boum’, its variation ‘boom-bang-a-bang ‘,‘ding a dong’, and perhaps the mother of them all ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ Finland’s bizarre 2006 winner.
Less notable was Spain’s ‘La La La’ which won in 1968 when Cliff Richard was pipped by General Franco’s bribed juries. (Remember, ‘It’s so unpolitical’!) Though the phenomenon of countries voting for each other can perhaps be explained by expat populations, which is why, for example, Germany often supports Turkey so strongly.
Repetition and catchy tunes
What else do composers of Eurowinners need to look out for? The obvious one is the AABA structure: catchy tune, repeat it, have a variation, then repeat it again. If that can include a key shift upwards to reinforce the emotional sincerity of the song, all well and good.
A happy tone, a party mood, a major key, a solo and a duet, a 2 or 4 beat rhythm, a tempo that is fast but not too fast, and a catchy refrain are other things to include.
To illustrate this, Professor Scott had written us his own Eurovision entry. With lyrics that probably categorised it as ‘Quasi-Sacred’, and illustrating ‘Unity in Diversity’, we listened enthusiastically to ‘Be Nice to Nice People (Be Rude to Rude People)’. Surely, we were thinking, this would have had a better chance than Jemini or Joe and Jake?
Ernie Rogan thanked Professor Scott for his illuminating and entertaining talk describing him as ‘an upmarket Terry Wogan’. Certainly, the 130 members attending enjoyed an afternoon full of Woganesque humour and intelligibly presented academic analysis. Perfect!
The Coffee Club
Our monthly Groups’ Showcase starred The Coffee Club convened by Jean Pearson.
Jean spoke about it as the brainchild of Ahmed Commis, and emphasised its value as an informal opportunity for a meeting of minds. Conversation is about learning and friendship, and embraces the international, the national and the parochial. The club’s strength is perhaps that it has no formal agenda, so every meeting is a surprise.
Meetings take place in the upper room of the Polished Knob opposite Todmorden Market on, usually, the first Monday of the month at 11.00.
Todmorden U3A’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, 18th May in the Central Methodist Church in Todmorden at 1.45 which will feature the return of Bernard Lockett whose subject will be ‘The Social and Political Satire of Gilbert and Sullivan’.
Many thanks to Anthony Peter for this report
Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb
HebWeb News: Old Flames and Steamy Memories. With speaker Granville Dobson (9 April 2017)
HebWeb News: Titus Salt – Philanthropic Paternalist or Capitalist Villain? With speaker Maria Glot (2 March 2017)
HebWeb News: Shaking Hitler's Hand (by proxy) - with speaker Alun Pugh (12 Feb 2017)
HebWeb News: Masterclass on Gilbert and Sullivan at U3A Todmorden - with speaker Bernard Lockett (28 Oct 2016)
HebWeb News: Moses Holden, Autodidact of Preston - with speaker Steve Halliwell (7 Oct 2016)
HebWeb News: Volunteering in Palestine and Guatemala - with speaker David Gilman (9 Aug 2016)
HebWeb News: Snow, Permafrost, Insects, Iron - with speaker Dr Frank Nicholson (7 July 2016)
HebWeb News:Stranger in a Strange Land - with speaker Gill Russell (7 May 2016)
HebWeb News:Life with polio and a career as a TV and Radio presenter. with speaker Jane Shepherd (12 June 2016)
HebWeb News:Small in a Tall Person's World with speakers Hamish Willis and Penny Dean OBE (31 March 2016)
HebWeb News:In the Footsteps of Norbert Carteret (22 February 2016)
HebWeb News:Gallivanting on Public Transport - a Bus Pass from Berwick to Land's End (30 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Magna Carta - A (Mostly) Light-hearted look at 800 Years of History (1 September 2015)
HebWeb News: Summat a' Nowt - talk by Steve Murty (28 April 2015)
HebWeb News: My Convict Ancestors (12 April 2015)
HebWeb News: Aquaponics Lab - A Radical Solution (16 January 2015)
HebWeb News: British Professional Cycling – Tykes and Le Tour de France (11 December 2014)
HebWeb News: Life in La Serenissima, Venice - Kathryn Ogden (9 July 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: The Machine that Changed the World (25 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Music and the Deaf (12 February 2014)
HebWeb News: University of the Third Age: Psychology and You - Part Two David Groves made a welcome return as a speaker at the October Todmorden U3A (26 October 2013)
HebWeb News: Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, A Short History was recounted by Ray Riches to the University of the Third Age. (28 Aug 2013)
HebWeb News: John Sheard, retired land agent to the Duke of Devonshire, gave his third talk to members of the U3A, this time on Sir Joseph Paxton, Knighted Gardener (26 July 2013)
HebWeb News: Off Stage Choices: Andrew Rawlinson recounts his theatre experience from Tod Operatic to General Manager of a leading Theatre Group. (18 July 2013)
HebWeb News: The Story of the Hebden Bridge Calendar (April 2013)
HebWeb News: Changing Times in the Press (March 2013)
HebWeb News: Cancer from Both Sides (Nov 2012)
HebWeb News: Steve Halliwell outlined the history of the Woodland Trust (Sept 2012)
HebWeb News: Ray Riches talks on Walking the Pacific Crest Trail (Aug 2012)
HebWeb News: Pitch and Pythagoras - Pulse and Prison (July 2012)
HebWeb News - Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords (May 2012)
HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)
HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)
HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)
HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail
HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey
HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant
HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance
HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century