The Return of eLf ideas

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Someone I Used Not to Know but Now Know Well

(On an Obscure Artist known as Margo Guryan)
by aLfie vera mella

{dedicated to my friend and bandmate Christine Mazur, the one who introduced me to this obscure artist}

Born on September 30, 1937, in New York, United States, Margo Guryan is an American songwriter/artist whose style of Baroque Pop music resonates in the music of many contemporary Indie/Twee Pop bands like Club 8 and Camera Obscura.

Margo Guryan has three albums to her credit: the proper full-length studio album Take a Picture (1968); the compilation 25 Demos; and The Chopsticks Variations, her 14 variations of the Classical piece "The Celebrated Chop Waltz."

Guryan got to release only one proper studio album, Take a Picture (1968), which contains melodic, sunny, and poppy songs which in today's standards could easily be classified as Twee Pop—cutesy Indie Pop music often sung by female vocalists and whose song structures are simple but whose instrumentations are very melodically textured. The musicians credited in Guryan's album were John Hill (guitars), Kirk Hamilton (bass and flute), Phil Bodner (oboe), Paul Griffin (keyboards), and Buddy Saltzman (drums). Guryan has written also songs for and collaborated with many fellow artists whom included Cass Elliot, Glen Campbell, and Astrud Gilberto; but on her own as a performer, she released only one album, apparently because she didn't like the pressures and the compromises that involved in being a public performer especially when it came to touring.

Here's one notable song, "Someone I Know," off her only album for which Guryan used as a guide to write a background contrapuntal melody the 10th movement (popularly known as "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring") of Bach's cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben ('Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life'), BWV 147.

Guryan's "Someone I Know" incorporated a piece of Bach's music into its background very effectively.

Johann Sebastian Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," the 10th movement of his cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 (written in 1716)

This was one of the many songs Guryan wrote for other artists, "I Don't Intend to Spend Christmas Without You" (1967), which she wrote for the '60s-active French singer Claudine Longet.

This was a demo version of "I Don't Intend to Spend Christmas Without You," which was sung by Guryan herself; released by Oglio Records in 2001 as part of  25 Demos, a compilation of songs in demo format that Guryan wrote for other artists.

Guryan's Influence on Twee Pop
Having listened to the music of Guryan and being familiar with many bands whose music may be classified as Indie Pop or Twee Pop, I could say that Guryan's music resonates in the musical styles of many contemporary Indie Pop bands, especially those sung by female vocalists; the likes of the Scottish band Camera Obscura and the Swedish band Club 8 come to mind.

Here's a beautiful YouTube video which used as its background music the song "Shine like a New Pin" by Camera Obscura, from the Scottish Indie Pop band's debut album, Biggest Bluest Hi Fi (2001).

Here's "Spring Came, Rain Fell," my favorite song from the Swedish Indie Pop band Club 8, from their fourth album with the same title (2002)

Final Note
To this day, Guryan remains active in the music industry as a songwriter and lyricist, albeit not prolifically. So far, the only recently new personal material she released was the single "16 Words" with B-side "Yes I Am"(2007), which are both politically charged songs. Guryan's penchant for Baroque music is still apparent in the sound of these songs. 

In her new single released in 2007, "16 Words," Guryan's Baroque sound remains obvious.

In 2001, Oglio Records released 25 Demos, a compilation of Guryan's recorded demos of songs she wrote for other artists. Furthermore, in 2009, the same record label released the album The Chopsticks Variations, which showcased Guryan as a Classical pianist (She was Classically trained as a child, majoring in piano). The album features Guryan's 14 variations of the popular Classical piece "The Celebrated Chop Waltz" (better known as "Chopsticks"), originally written in 1877 by the British composer Euphemia Allen under the pseudonym Arthur de Lulli (Yes, Allen was a female). 

Here's a rendition of Allen's popular piece nicknamed "Chopsticks," whose actual title is "The Celebrated Chop Waltz" (1877).

Here's Guryan's Variation 1 (titled "Round") of the famous Classical piece "The Celebrated Chop Waltz," included in the album The Chopsticks Variations by Margo Guryan, released in 2009 by Oglio Records.


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