Genre of the Week: Smooth Operator by Sade

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This week’s Genre of the Week celebrates two milestones: The first is the 60th birthday of one of the most famous jazz musicians of all time, Sade. Born in Nigeria, she moved to England as a child, having been raised in Essex. Her jazz career began in the late 1970s and she would later form a music group by 1980. Since then, she has released six albums over the course of 35 years, counting three hiatuses. She resides in Glochestershire living a life as an “hour of fame” flower, reclusive but coming into the limelight when the time is ripe. A website with all the facts about the jazz singer can be cound here.

The second is the 35th anniversary of one of the most popular songs in the jazz music scene. “Smooth Operator” was released in 1984 and made it to the top 10 in several countries; number one in the US under adult contemporary. While the song represents a classic example of contemporary jazz that can be found on radio stations today, the lyrics deal with a “Slick-Jimmy”, who uses women for money, breaking many hearts. According to the wiki source:

“Smooth Operator” is about a fashionable, devious man who lives a jet-set lifestyle. He is popular with women and breaks many hearts. The lyrics “Coast to Coast/LA to Chicago/Western Male/Across the North and South to Key Largo/Love for sale” imply that he uses women to obtain his income. It is also clear that he does not hold sincere affection for these women, as Adu sings near the end, “his heart is cold.” The video to this song reinforces the message and the operator appears to be a professional criminal. In one scene, he displays a gun to an interested customer and in others, he appears to be a pimp. He succeeds in evading law enforcement, who have him under surveillance.

To get a better idea of what the song is about, here is the music video:

Even if Jackie Treehorn manages to get away in the scene, presenting some imorals, the music behind the song creates for a scene in a restaurant or bar where couples come to entertain themselves over drinks and the like.

While Sadie’s song is considered one of the Top 100 of all-time by many and henceforth a Genre of the Week award winner, there have been some variants that were released, all of which have a jazz music setting. The most popular are these two examples:

Smooth Operator by Mario Biondi, released in 2018. This one keeps the lyrics but changes the musical setting to feature a different type of jazz music worth listening to.

Smooth by Rob Thomas and Santana, released in 1999. This one seems to be similar in setting and lyrics as the original by Sade, yet they are not, rather they present “Slick Jimmy Jackie Treehorn” is a different interpretive manner. The song is supported by world-renowned guitarist Santana, who has a solo in this, similar to the saxophone solo in Sade’s version. Rob Thomas is lead singer of Matchbox 20.

 

And to close the Genre of the Week article, the Files would like to wish Sade a happy 60th birthday and a great career with one helluva smooth song that is 35 years old. Happy Birthday and congrats at the same time to a contemporary jazz great.

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Genre of the Week: The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

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There’s no place like home, both on Earth as in Heaven.  When desparation strikes, hope comes when one least expects it, even during the holidays. And in the case of this Genre of the Week, when one falls, hope lies with the next kin, one who is closest to the fallen.  Hans Christian Andersen wrote the Match Girl in 1845 while staying at the Gravenstein Castle near Sonderburg along the Flensburg Fjorde and the main theme of this short story was this symbol of hope in the face of desparation and in this case, death.

The story takes place during the holidays, towards New Year’s Eve. There, a young girl tries to sell matches to make money. She comes from a broken home and is afraid to return, fearing that her father would beat her. Shivering from cold and suffering from early onset of hypothermia, she seeks shelter in a pair of abandoned houses. There, she tries to warm up by using the matches, even though it was strictly forbidden. With each match, she sees a small light and a voice calling her name. When the flame goes out, she lights another match, and after a couple of them, the entire handful. She finds her grandmother, who had cared for her when she was little, her home, which was warm and filled with food, joy, laughter and love, and steps into that world as the flame goes out. The girl succumbs to hypothermia, but smiling because she is in a better place.

The story has been interpreted multiple times over the years by several countries. Even Walt Disney produced an animated film twice- in 1940 as part of the Fantasia series which was scrapped and as a standalone in 2006, which garnered several awards.  In Germany, there were two different films based on the story by Andersen. This one was produced by Joé in 2012:

and this film in 2013 by public TV stations RBB and ARD as part of the series “Sechs in einem Streich” (Six in one Stroke), which started in 2011 and has continued ever since. In this version, a girl (Inga) and a boy (Emil) are living in an orphanage which is run by a ruthless headmaster, who abuses children and is greedy. After coming away with only a couple Thaler, Inga gives the money to Emil and sends him to the orphanage, while Inga keeps the remaining matches and tries desperately to sell them with no avail. She seeks shelter in a home that she had lived with her parents before they died, lights the matches only to see her parents again and she eventually joins them while she perishes peacefully from the cold. The small Emil befriends the police guard named Emil, who takes pity on the kids and in the end, arrests the headmaster of the orphanage. Years later, the younger Emil takes over the orphanage and makes it great again, thanks to help from the community. The making of this latest film, which has garnered a pair of accolades already since its release is below:

The entire film can be seen here.

All of this happens at Christmas time, both as children as well as when Emil takes over the orphanage, years later.

There are many themes that can be taken away from the two film examples but it is best to allow the reader to watch them and get some impressions of his own. From the author’s point of view, the two stories follow closely to what Andersen wrote but with different situations, each one better than the other in terms of bringing hope home to those who need it.

If there is a list of stories and songs that relate to Christmas but not based on the Hallmark classics, then this one should be on the list of things to read (and filmwise, watch). It has all the elements in there that make the holiday seasons and even beyond a special one.  And hence, the Files’ first Genre of the Week for 2019.

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Schneekatastrophe 1978/79 In Pictures

Kieler Fjorde covered in ice in 1978. Photo taken by Stadtarchiv Kiel [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D
As we look at the 40th anniversary of the Great Blizzard that crippled northern Europe and brought both Germanys to a complete standstill, one factor that should not be left out is the role of photography. Prior to the storm, the only way to get a clear picture of the storm was from the ground. There is an advantage and a disadvantage to that. The advantage is one can get a close-up of the places that are snowed in. Whether it is a house that is covered with meter-high drifts, as seen in many examples in villages in Schleswig-Holstein, or getting a sniper view of an iced-in bay as seen in the picture above, taken by Georg Gasch, one can get an at-level view to see the damages up close. The disadvantage of such an approach is the problems of obstruction of view by unwanted objects and in this case, the cold weather. But furthermore, it misses the big picture, meaning one needs a good bird’s eye view in order to see how bad it really was.

Enter Kai Greiser.

Working for the Spiegel magazine based in Hamburg, Greiser was appointed to take the camera and film the scenes from this wild storm, which was tauted as the worst of all time when it happened in 1978/79. Together with the TV crew from German public television ZDF, Greiser took off in a helicopter and took a trip north to Schleswig-Holstein. His mission was to get a bird’s eye view of the snow disaster in the region. What he got in the end was more than what he had bargained for.  Because of him and his crew, he saved many lives of those who were stranded in cars drifted in meter deep snow. Because of him and his crew, he got the best picture for the front cover of Spiegel magazine (as seen in the first picture of the gallery), which later appeared in other books on the history of Schleswig-Holstein. Because of him and his crew, his photos, combined with the filming we got a round-look at what the great Blizzard left us from a bird’s eye view. We would have many more ariel photos, but Greiser pioneered it with a series on the great disaster.

There is a video with him narrating about his experience, which can be found here:

An article on his experience, albeit in German, can be found here. And the collection of the créme de la créme can be found here. The first picture in the gallery was the one that entered the cover page of Spiegel.

 

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Winter Genre: Der große Schnee (The Big Snow)

There are several literary pieces and documentaries that focus on aspects of the Great Storm of 1978/79, and the catastrophic winter that followed, which brought the northern half of West Germany and all of East Germany to a complete standstill. The majority of the pieces have focused on the hardest hit areas of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein- in particular, the areas of Kiel and Flensburg.

Der Große Schnee (in English: The Big Snow), written by Helmuth Sethe of the Husumer Nachrichten (Husum News, part of shz, Inc.) focuses on both the Great Storm that started right before the New Year, plus the winter that followed, which included the winter storm on 13 February- a month and a half later. All of them affecting Schleswig-Holstein, but with a focus on the North Sea coastal area (Dithmarschen and greater Husum), as well as the cities of Flensburg and Kiel and the surrounding areas. It was originally written after the winter storm in February that same year, but has been edited and republished multiple times, with the last edition having been released in 2011.

There are several photos and stories that were in connection with the great winter disaster and were graphic in detail- with reports of people and animals both freezing to death while being snowed in, collapsed roofs because of the thickness of the snow, capsized boats and people treading through icy waters along flooded streets of coastal cities. Yet there were some glaring facts that are worth mentioning about this storm according to the writer. Here are the top five worth mentioning:

  1. Power outages- Many towns and villages were without power because of downed power lines due to ice. But no area was as bad as the districts of Schleswig-Flensburg and Nordfriesland. There, as many as 111 villages were without electricity for days, many of them were cut off from the rest of the world. Many had to make due with cutting up wood and creating fireplaces to keep warm.
  2. Stranded vacationers- Many vacationers were returning from Scandanavia when they were greeted by barricades at the German/Danish borders in Krusau and Ellund. Reason: The storm forced an executive order by the West German and state governments to shut down all traffic (rail and vehicular) on the German side. Traffic jams of more than 10 kilometers on the Danish side, plus stranded drivers seeking shelter were the result.
  3. Field Landing- When the state prime minister Gerhard Stoltenberg was finally informed of the current weather situation in Schleswig-Holstein (he and his family were on vacation at that time), he did not realize how bad it was until his helicopter had to land in a nearby field and he had to go by truck and sleigh to visit the hard hit regions. Reason: The snow had drifted in at the airports and with drifts as high as 6 meters, it was impossible for any aircraft to land even.
  4. The Sleigh as Transportation- With no possibilities with the car, many people had to make do with sleds, sleighs and even skis. It was not a rarity to watch people cross-country ski in the countryside during this time as the snow was thick enough to warrant it. Sleds were not only used for downhill fun, but also for shopping. It was a site to watch people pull their groceries home on an open sled.
  5. Flensburg as Little Venice- The storms produced a series of high tides (up to four meters) which flooded much of the city center and Roter Strasse, as well as everything along the Fjorde. Many people had to use boats to get by. These tides left another mess though- erosion, especially along the areas near Wassersleben near the Bridge of Friendship at the border.

There are many more examples to mention in the book, yet these five came to mind when reading this book myself. There have been countless other winter storms afterwards that crippled the region and brought with it high snow drifts, ice and flooding, including the last big snow storm in Flensburg in early 2018. But none was as glaring and captivating as the one from 40 years ago, especially when reading the accounts written by the editor. The book did bring back some memories of snow storms that I dealt with as a child growing up in Minnesota and a snowstorm of similar proportions happened shortly after this one, which left a big drift of a meter to the door of our house on a lake. Yet for those who lived through this harsh winter in northern Germany of 40 years ago, this book will bring back some memories of how one survived one of the worst of all time. So read it, share your stories, ask others about it. You’ll be amazed at the stories they will share about this event.

You can also watch some of the documentaries that were from the last entry by clicking here.

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From the Attic: Blizzard 1978/79

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December 28th of 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the Blizzard that brought the World to a total standstill. It also marked the start of the Long Winter, whose combination of blizzards and high tides created havoc in both sides of Germany. Both of which have broken records and have remained in the top ten ever since.

On 28th December, 1978, a combination of a low pressure system from the Mediterranean Sea, which brought moisture and mild temperatures, and a high pressure system from Scandinavia, which featured frigid temperatures, collided over the Baltic Sea, unleashing what was considered at that time “The Blizzard of the Century!” Winds of up to 160 kph, combined with snow drifts of up to 7 meters (20 feet) and high tides that were half the height, literally brought everything to a standstill beginning on December 28th, 1978 and ending on January 3rd, 1979. An average of 70 centimeters of snow fell in most of the affected regions while 30 centimeters of thick ice were reported! The entire northern half of West Germany and all of East Germany were affected- from Flensburg and Hamburg to Brunswick and Cologne; Rostock and Neu Brandenburg to Leipzig and Erfurt. All were affected. The island of Rügen was cut off from the rest of the world for days until help arrived. Snow blocked transport of coal from the Lausitz region to the burning plants, thus bringing blackouts in electricity to wide areas in East Germany. And motorways were littered with stranded cars from Frankfurt/Main all the way to the Danish border near Flensburg and beyond.  Hundreds of people lost their lives in that storm.

This blizzard was just the beginning of the winter that crippled everything in Germany, for another round of snow and ice of similar proportions fell later on February 18/19, 1979. The total amount of snow that fell during the entire period was over 100 centimeters, double the amount the region receives per year.

And while the government was late in response to the New Year storms and have since improved on providing emergencies in cases like these (and the numbers have increased over the last 10 years), many documentaries have been produced to describe the events in detail from eyewitness accounts. Three of which have been dug out of the attic for you to have a look, to see how powerful the storm really was. It still ranks as one of the ten worst winter storms on record since 1949.  The first documentary looks at what happened in West Germany. The second is how the storm affected the eastern half. The third one looks at the storm from a photographer’s perspective, as he did a series of aerial photos of the regions of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg after the first storm hit the region. Both West German-states, combined with the coastal areas of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (and especially the islands of Usedom and Rügen) were the hardest hit regions by this New Year’s storm.

So sit back, have some hot cocoa and popcorn ready and be prepared to watch how 1979 entered both Germanys with a lot of ice and snow. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Documentary 1:

Documentary 2:

Documentary 3:

And to point out, the photos presented here were from the Winter storms that pummeled Europe and the US in 2010/11, which was half as bad as what happened here. Nevertheless, especially in the top picture, you can imagine the height and thickness of the snow drifts that left many land regions looking like those under water. Just to point this out. 🙂

 

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Christmas Genre: There is No Rose of Such Virtue

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Another Christmas favorite that is worth looking at for researching its history and for listening is one that is one of the oldest on record. It is also a piece that has been rewritten many times but varied in melodic form.

There is No Rose is an old musical piece that celebrates the birth of Christ but in a form of a resurrection of life. It was first presented in 1420, at the time when the Renaissance was starting to take its form; the population was regenerating after the era of the Bubonic Plague wiped out half the population on the European continent, and with that, the era of peace was upon the population. Furthermore, the Renaissance ushered in the age of modernity and the revival of philosophy, religion and even music. The Carol was reportedly written by Trinity College in Manchester as one of thirteen carols, less than a century before the great Reformation under Martin Luther. While we don’t know who wrote this nor what the motive behind the work is about, the words written were in Middle English, appearing in four verses as follows:

Lyrics:

There is no rose of sych vertu
As is the rose that bare Jesu,
Alleluia.For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in lytle space,
Res miranda.By that rose we may well see
That He is God in persons three,
Pares forma.
The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis Deo,
Gaudeamus.Leave we all this wearldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth,
Transeamus.Alleluia, res miranda,
Pares forma, gaudeamus,
Transeamus.

Several composers have tried to interpret the piece in their own melodic terms. One of the most well-known composers was Benjamin Britten, who in 1942 wrote the piece in F-major with a climax in A-major in Gloria in Excelsis Deo. This was part of the Ceremony of Carols series that was sung by the Children’s Choir. The piece is below:

Another composer, who based his work on Britten, John Joubert, modernized the piece in 1954, where in A-flat major, the work begins with the soprano and alto sections, backed up by the tenor and bass sections later on in the piece. The piece does produce an emotion where the person listening to it, has a feeling of attachment to Baby Jesus. The piece is below:

Like in the Joubert text, this next piece, composed by Joel Martinson, is an accapella piece that is widely used at Christmas concerts. Unlike the Joubert piece, the Martinson piece features a more modern but balanced form where each section plays a key role, especially when switching chords between E-major and C-flat major:

The Martinson piece is used mainly for chamber choirs and has somewhat of a silent ending to each section. However, when looking at the next version by Philip Stopford, written in G-minor, it presents a feeling of the rise of the new age, with the birth of Jesus, and the word spreads in echos for miles on end:

The soprano section in this piece represents the angel sending the most important message to the people of Jesus’ arrival. After using several previous works for the Christmas concerts, Dr. René Clausen produced his own version of There is No Rose in 2007, which featured a combination of voice and orchestra. Here the piece produces a balance in unison  between the two groups, while staying in major chord, starting with G-major:

But not all pieces necessarily have to be produced in chorus form. Some of the variants can include a soloist with background music throughout the entire piece. In the case like this example by the singer Sting, sometimes some pop music can bring a twist into this traditional piece:

One can go on forever looking at other musical variants of this piece, but one can conclude that no matter how the music is put together, the lyrics have remained the same and has had the same message just like over 600 years ago: To deliver the message of the birth of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. And His role would reshape the way we think of religion even to this day: To bring love to all, regardless of background and region.

So sit back and enjoy the pieces that are presented here and think about the role of Jesus in your lives and how he made a difference, especially as we celebrate his birthday, known today as Christmas. ❤ After all we have a lot to be thankful for because of Him. 🙂

FlFi Christmas 2018