A mixtape compilation from composer Charlotte Botterill

Despite starting secondary school in the year 2000, my friends and I did actually make mixtapes for each other! At the end of each year we were told to keep our foreign language listening exercise tapes, so instead of throwing them away (because, let’s face it, we barely listened to them to do our homework, we weren’t going to listen to them for fun!), we turned them into mixtapes. I’d sit in my room, covering the top of the tape with layers of Sellotape in order to be able to record over year 8 French, and hand selecting some of my favourite new music discoveries to share with my friends.

I spent a lot of my time obsessing over my new music discoveries, researching the artists, their influences, and buying as much of their back catalogue as my pocket money allowed. I remember a friend’s parent once saying to me “But you have the Greatest Hits, all the best songs are on there.” I was so surprised by this statement because some of the most interesting songs, and some of my favourite songs, are album tracks.

This playlist is a nod to those teenage mixtapes. It features 10 songs, none of which were released as singles (or B sides), which I absolutely love. These songs and their albums had a huge impact on the way I thought about music and opened up my mind to new, endless possibilities.

Best listened to in order, with headphones, in a dimly lit room with your favourite drink.

Take My Breath Away – Queen

I find Freddie Mercury’s use of the sustain pedal and the backing vocals really atmospheric and beautifully crafted. The swirling vocals at the end are especially ethereal.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun – The Beatles

This song was on one of the “original” school mixtapes given to me by a friend who loved The Beatles and who is responsible for getting me into them too (thanks Diane)! I was struck by the bizarre lyrics, and that each section of the song is in a different rock ‘n’ roll style, including blues and a 50s doo-wop spoof.

Freedom Rider – Traffic

I love Traffic’s music because they mix together rock, folk and jazz to make really cool songs. This was the first time I’d heard a flute in a rock song, and the first time I’d heard jazz flute. I love the vocal panning and energy at the end, as if we are indeed on a wild ride.

Moonage Daydream – David Bowie

This opening chord progression (I III vi V) is so lifting, it’s a real favourite of mine. Exquisite arranging; the reverb-ladened guitar outro sits beautifully against the phased strings.

1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be) – Jimi Hendrix

I’ve always found this song very chilled but immensely interesting. The extensive use of studio effects (delay, extreme panning, reversed guitar, manipulation of microphone feedback), the inclusion of a flexatone, and the improvisatory nature of the middle section creates a really otherworldly sound.

My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion – The Flaming Lips

80s pop left me hating the majority of synth sounds, but The Flaming Lips showed me how beautiful they can now be. This song is a great example of their lush MIDI and synth orchestration. I really love the imitation birds flying around at the start.

Boys In The Band – The Libertines

The Libertines embody the spirit of punk but with some interesting chord voicing (one of the guitarists cites Django Reinhardt as an influence). I really like the rawness of their sound. It captures the energy of their live gigs and is a good antidote to some of the highly polished albums I listen to!

Pretty Green (feat. Santigold) – Mark Ronson

This reworking of The Jam’s Pretty Green is so cool. Turning the lyrics into something more akin to a playground chant and backing it with 60s and 70s influenced brassy, percussion heavy soul. The bass slides are awesome and the whole vibe just makes me want to dance.

He Can Only Hold Her – Amy Winehouse

Back To Black was the first pop album released in my teens which I actually liked. Amy’s vocals are obviously perfect, but Mark Ronson’s arrangements and studio production are what made me fall in love with this album. It has the vintage Motown sound, but at the same time it’s current and fresh. Mark Ronson is a musical genius!

Dream Brother – Jeff Buckley

Featuring a vibraphone and tablas alongside your typical band set up, this song is beautifully hypnotic, provocative, and emotionally honest. You can really hear the Indian music influence and I love pieces which blend different musical traditions so effortlessly.


Charlotte Botterill is a composer from St Albans, England. Her musical output is varied, reflecting her own eclectic taste. She enjoys exploring timbre and harmony, and her music is influenced by personal experiences and social observations.

Her debut album Isolation was released in December 2020 on Lis de la Mer records. In 2019 Charlotte won the grade 7 category of the Trinity College London Young Composers Competition, which resulted in her piece Soho being published in the 2021-2023 piano syllabus at grade 7. As an arranger, her work has been played on BBC Three Counties radio and on BBC Radio York. During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Charlotte’s music has been performed by concert pianists Francesca Hurst and Maria Marchant as part of their online concert series.


If you would like to submit a mixtape to The Cross-Eyed Pianist, please get in touch

A selection of piano music that touches your soul, beyond any other….


Andrew James Johnson is a Composer and Pianist from the UK renowned for his melodically inspired and elegantly crafted solo piano works. His music speaks directly to the heart, conveying a range of emotions from the first few bars. As the music flows from his fingertips, Andrew caresses the piano with his yearning phrases alongside a natural virtuosity that takes the listener on a transcendent musical journey.

andrewjamesjohnson.co.uk

 

 

 

A selection of piano music that touches your soul, beyond any other….


Andrew James Johnson is a Composer and Pianist from the UK renowned for his melodically inspired and elegantly crafted solo piano works. His music speaks directly to the heart, conveying a range of emotions from the first few bars. As the music flows from his fingertips, Andrew caresses the piano with his yearning phrases alongside a natural virtuosity that takes the listener on a transcendent musical journey.

andrewjamesjohnson.co.uk

 

 

 

Guest post by Adrian Ainsworth

We’re coming up to the first anniversary of a slightly unusual and unexpected musical event – or to be more accurate, ‘music business event’. On 17 November 2017, the record label ECM made virtually all of its catalogue available on streaming services for the first time.

For anyone unfamiliar, ECM is a Munich record label, founded almost 50 years ago – and still run – by producer extraordinaire Manfred Eicher. Initially the focus was on modern jazz music, but in the mid-eighties Eicher established the parallel ‘ECM New Series’ imprint to cover classical music.

It may be because the boss is a producer that ECM Is famed for exceptional recording quality and detail. It’s tempting to think that the New Series seemed at once boldly contemporary (featuring composers linked to minimalism, like Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich) and wilfully archaeological (the exquisite early choral recordings of Trio Mediaeval or the Hilliard Ensemble), because these ‘extremes’ of classical music particularly benefited from such finely-wrought clarity.

This wide variety means that while there isn’t an ‘ECM sound’ as such, there’s definitely an ECM aesthetic. As well as making the records sound gorgeous, the label’s sleeve design – even into the CD era – has a largely abstract austerity that totally fits its musical output: enigmatic yet welcoming, arty, classy, attractive, open to wide interpretation.

This strong identity is arguably what kept ECM away from streaming platforms for as long as possible: the physical object, played on the best equipment you can muster, is part of their ideal. However, the fact that Eicher and co have now given in means you can at least explore a remarkable range of beautifully documented music at great leisure (and little or no cost) – hopefully on a ‘try before you buy’ basis, as a shelfful or so of ECM releases is a truly joyful sight.

Perhaps treating all of its artists with the same sonic respect, whatever the genre, is the engine behind another distinctive feature of ECM’s output: inspired collaborations. Eicher seems to delight in bringing musicians on the label from both jazz and classical camps together, resulting in highly rewarding joint releases, without compromising the spirit of their individual recordings.

This is a key theme in my very personal ECM playlist. There’s a run of three tracks where Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek first plays with a group of Pakistani musicians, followed by a selection from his celebrated partnership with the Hilliard Ensemble – then we hear the Hilliards on their own performing a striking contemporary piece in contrast to their original ‘early music’ idiom.

Latterly, the Trio Mediaeval have recorded an album with trumpeter Arve Henriksen – a record that, while very different, seems to rejoice in a similar spirit, and a choice from this starts the whole playlist off. Bringing proceedings to a close is John Surman – another versatile saxophonist who can career from furious hard bop to drones/electronica and all points in between. However, his two albums with a string quartet are real jewels in ECM’s crown, as I hope ‘At Dusk’ proves.

Along the way, I’ve tried to bring in some of ECM’s most arresting characters. There’s Stephan Micus, who seems to learn and compose on a different array of instruments from all over the globe on each release, yet here foregrounds his own voice. Or Nik Bartsch, a Swiss pianist who describes his work as ‘ritual groove music’ (about four minutes into the playlist track, you’ll hear why). He records mainly with two bands, Ronin – who feature here – and Mobile, depending on the configuration of musicians the material needs. The distinctive, unhurried and wonderfully delicate piano of Marilyn Crispell, followed by the atmospheric vocalising from Susanne Abbuehl.

And much more… I could have carried on and on but thought I had better stop at 20 tracks (and 2 hours)! As you will find if you explore ECM further for yourself, I could have gone off at so many tangents: used Ralph Towner as a springboard to fellow guitarists John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny or Terje Ryphal; or followed Alexei Lubimov into the label’s roster of esteemed classical pianists (including Sir Andras Schiff). Keith Jarrett’s recordings alone must provide more than 100 hours of listening (some 90 recordings, including a few multi-disc sets).

I hope you enjoy this rather focused selection, then, and feel inspired to find ‘your ECM’ among the label’s near-limitless riches.

Adrian’s ECM playlist

 


Adrian Ainsworth writes for a living, but mostly about things like finance, tax and benefits. For light relief, then, he covers his obsessions – overwhelmingly music, but with sprinklings of photography and art – on the ‘Specs’ blog, which you can find at

Twitter: @adrian_specs

Adrian is a regular guest writer for The Cross-Eyed Pianist

 

This playlist contains a selection of recordings from up-and-coming colleagues of mine, really well known artists in the Classical world as well as some original compositions by some of the artists.  This playlist includes Fabiana and Paula Chavez, the Piano duo twin sisters from Argentina (currently studying at Trinity-Laban Conservatoire in London), who have overcome a major physical disability of blindness to record their album and I feature a couple of tracks from that. One of the highlights is British pianist Stephen Hough’s ‘Broken Branches’ Piano Sonata: I attended the world premiere performance of this work in 2011 at London’s Wigmore Hall.  Hope you enjoy it!


Daniel Roberts is a graduate of Leeds College of Music, where he studied with Helen Reid and Natalia Strelchenko. A former student of the later Peter Feuchtwanger, Daniel has performed around the UK, Europe, South America, and USA. He lives in Brazil.

danielrobertsmusic.com

Double-bassist and director of Classical Evolution, Heather Bird shares her mixtape of music which reminds her of childhood musical encounters, teenage hearthrobs, student music making, living and working in Spain and performing at the Proms for the first time…….

Brandenburgs – apparently when I was a baby my dad would put the headphones from his big wooden stereo on me and play this. I’d sit there for hours and yell the place down if they took the headphones off before the end of a phrase. Strange kid….My grandma bought me a penny whistle when I was 18 months and I worked out bits of 3 and 5 on it.

Dvorak- my mum’s favourite piece and she adored Du Pré. She died when I was 12 and was so supportive of my flute playing. She wanted me to take up the cello as well as the flute. Bass is an improvement on that I suppose! Still can’t listen to this without crying.

Mahler 2. Mum took me to see the Hallé playing this when I was 4. The bit where the flutes go mad in the last movement is the reason I took up the flute.

Save All Your Kisses For Me. I had the best grandma in the world. She was a school cook in Liverpool. I would phone her every day from when I was 6 and we would sing this down the phone to each other.

So What – first heard this when I was about 10 and completely fell in love. Would improvise over the kind of blue album for hours on my flute. Have lost count of how many copies of this album I’ve bought.

Lloyd Cole. My first love. Several ex-boyfriends bear a striking resemblance….

Sueños de autostop!! I lived near Cádiz for three years and played in a band with some Argentinian guys. They introduced me to this band Me Daras Mil Hijos which translates as “I’ll give you 1000 sons. Optimistic. This reminds me of me, my kid and my band driving down the Costa de la Luz to gigs in Sevilla and Granada singing along to this. Very happy time of my life and amazing musically to work with these incredible musicians.

Nielsen 5. I got put in Symphony Orchestra at the RNCM in my first week. We did Nielsen 5 and toured it to Denmark and Sweden. It was my first real taste of top class playing. I was thinking about leaving the RNCM for various reasons and this made me stay. I also accidentally offered the queen of Denmark a free pint of carlsberg accidentally in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen.

Stone Roses. This album was the theme tune to my late teens.
Took my son to see them a couple of years ago and he said that I was mum dancing. How time flies…..
Brahms. Played my first prom back after a break to be a parent with the OAE under Marin Alsop. It was stunning and working with her was an immense privilege. It was great to get back to that level after the parent break as you always wonder in the back of your mind if you will get to that point again. It was a wonderful gig and the OAE are definitely my favourite orchestra to work with. I felt very lucky that night.
 

 

To submit your Mixtape, click here