Bleckmann (& Burhans) cover Kate Bush (video)

For those of you who’ve somehow missed the original:

It’s also been covered by Placebo (!)

For another side of Bleckmann’s controversial covers, here he is with Kneebody doing Ives:

And here he is covering Guilliame de Machaut:

And Hanns Eisler:

8 thoughts on “Bleckmann (& Burhans) cover Kate Bush (video)

  1. Very frustrating. But does remind me of how dynamic Kate Bush is as a vocalist and composer.

    Before I go further I want to be clear that I love the work that’s out there in the classical and “new music” world that embraces popular music. Rene Pape, Rene Fleming, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, as well as Diamanda Galas have all dug into, recorded and performed material as diverse as Rammstein to Son House. So I’m not critiquing the concept here, it’s the execution that bugs me. And the things that bother me aren’t isolated to Theo’s project.

    Why is he crooning this song? Do you think he’s really thought much about or is capable of phrasing to illuminate the turmoil that exists in these lyrics? Has he really read and understood what Kate wrote? “Is there so much hate for the ones we love?” Hello? “I’d make a deal with God, and get him to swap our places…” I get chills when I type these lyrics. But Theo’s delivery seems to have no investment in the complexity of the emotions Kate herself nails as a lyricist, composer, and vocalist.

    If you haven’t heard the original track, by the way, please check it out.

    The difference here is that you never put on a Kate Bush album for background music. Whereas this track seems to be designed for that purpose – music you can play that won’t offend anyone and sit nicely as aural wallpaper for a party or a gallery opening.

    But maybe that’s the point of the project? Why is Theo “covering” Kate Bush in the first place?

    I was also reminded of Tamar Kali who has covered Kate Bush and is a very powerful and dynamic performer. She – like Theo – has played Joe’s Pub, although I’m not sure if she’s ever been on New Sounds or no though. And I don’t think she’s really on the radar of most young musicians in NYC’s “new music” community.

    There’s so much a singer can do with a song. And there are many many ways to SING a song (and Theo’s take is I suppose just one way to do it…) But I’m just wondering if people are coming away from a track like this feeling good about what they’ve heard? What do we take away from this if anything?

  2. Not sure the commenter above listened to the end of the video. I found the payoff to be huge. Glad to find your blog, Dr. C!

  3. @Christian – No I’m not “kidding” you, come on man. It is possible your readers might not be aware of the original song. I think comparing the two is illuminating – surely Theo’s approach was informed to some degree by the original track?

    @Charles – Not to sound defensive, but to be clear, I definitely listened to the entire video. I’m glad you dug the arrangement – seriously. I know this type of singing and arranging appeals to some people. But not me. Theo’s not singing any differently towards the end of the song – the additional rhythm doesn’t shape his delivery at all. Another rhythm appears, but there’s no momentum or counterpunch to the ongoing texture.

    Just offering a little critiquing here but inevitably it can come across as judgmental.

  4. Chris,

    Hopefully some of the above inclusions will provide some context. I’m sorry that I didn’t find a video of Tamar Kali covering the song; I’d like to hear it!

    It’s fine by me if you don’t like Bleckmann’s Bush cover. I find it intriguing to hear that song afresh and, as you pointed out, ‘against type,’ with a bit of emotional distancing and coolness of delivery. But as you mentioned, we all have different things that appeal to us.

    Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting!

    @Charles I agree that the way the arrangement changes towards the end are nicely done indeed. Glad you’re reading and thank you for commenting as well!

  5. Well, first of all, thank you for posting several videos above. It’s always good to listen and think about what one is listening to.

    To my ears, Theo sings all of the above in pretty much the same way he sings Running Up That Hill. Even with an ensemble as dynamic (sorry, I like that word a lot…) as Kneebody, he doesn’t push his delivery to the edge of noise and – with that Ives song in particular – I think you could go there… (Rene Fleming described opera singing as a “controlled scream.”). I mean, he’s got the radio up on the mic, he’s pointing the listener to that edge. But he doesn’t go there. And the piece ends completely predictably. Which I think is what Theo and the audience wanted.

    With that in mind, it is clear from these videos that he has thought carefully about what he’s doing. And the way he sings contemporary literature appeals to a sect of listeners – especially in New York, where the music is “cool” and not offensive (Galas is controversial, Theo’s music isn’t…) I personally want to hear much more emotion and variety in and with the delivery.

    On technical question: Why is he singing the Eisler into a mic? The other instruments aren’t miced and that hall sounds incredibly resonant.

    I do not take singers for granted. I think they’re amazing, and I think they’re often misunderstood by composers and definitely by (ahem…) critics. And as a composer, I’ve been blessed to work with some incredible vocalists including Helga Davis, Sofia Koutsovitis, and the Rev. Vince Anderson. So I don’t want to give the impression that I think what Theo is doing is “easy” or of no value. I also want to put what I’ve said into “context” here. I respect singers so much, and there are so many I listen to over and over.

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