Category Archives: 1970’s

Heino Eller (1887-1970) and Lepo Sumera (1950-2000): Two Influential 20th-Century Estonian Composers Whose Contemporary Classical Music Spanned from World War I to the “Singing Revolution” of the 1990s.

Heino Eller (1887-1970) and Lepo Sumera (1950–2000) were both influential Estonian composers and music composition teachers. Following his graduation in 1920 from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, Heino Eller taught music theory and composition in Estonia for the next 50 years.

The list of Eller’s students who are well-regarded composers in Estonia and internationally is lengthy and Eller’s musical legacy lives on through them.

Lepo Sumera is one of those students who, in Eller’s last years, studied with the legendary Estonian composer in Tallinn. Other notable Estonian composers who studied with Eller, starting in Tartu, are Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Olav Roots (1910–1974), Karl Leichter (1902–1987), and Alfred Karindi (1901–1969). Eller’s students also included religious/minimalist music composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1985) and classical/film music composer Jaan Rääts (1932-2020), among others.

Heino Eller (center) in a group portrait with his students from The Tartu Higher Music School of composition in the 1930’s. Left to right: Estonian composers Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Olav Roots (1910–1974), Eller, Karl Leichter (1902–1987) and Alfred Karindi (1901–1969). Photo: Public Domain, author unknown.

Lepo Sumera (1950-2000), Estonian composer, student of Heino Eller, and Minister of Culture during Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” between 1988 and 1992. Sumera is shown in his official government capacity in 1991. Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” signaled Estonia’s second revolution of independence from the Soviet Union in the twentieth century (the first was in 1920) which helped end the Cold War following World War Two. Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0.

From 1920 to 1940, Heino Eller, born in Tartu, Estonia, taught music theory and composition at Tartu Higher School for Music (today known as the Heino Eller Music School). During World War II, Eller’s wife, pianist Anna Kremer (1887-1942), was executed by the Nazis in a concentration camp because of her Jewish ethnicity.

After the war and following the Soviet occupation, Eller taught at Estonia’s Tallinn Conservatory until his death in 1970. It was at Tallinn State Conservatory (today the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre) that Lepo Sumera studied with Heino Eller. Following Eller’s death, Sumera graduated from Tallinn Conservatory having studied with Estonian composer Heino Jürisalu (1930-1991).

Eller: Romanticism, Modernism and Folk Songs.

Eller’s early music (before 1940) is characterized by a broad romanticism which takes in impressionism, expressionism and modernism. His melodies and orchestrations are lyrical and refined by way of varying modernist modes of polyphony. Eller’s orchestral, ensemble and piano works often utilize the melodies and/or structures of Estonian folk songs.

Charles Coleman’s arrangement of Heino Eller’s Three Pieces for Flute and Piano (or string orchestra) was created in 2005. In three movements: 1. In the Valley 2. On the River and 3. In the Meadow, the performance of “In the Meadow” features soloist Maarika Järvi on flute. She performs with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by the flutist’s brother, Kristjan Järvi. (2:06 minutes).

Three Pieces, flute and piano was composed in 1952. Whereas Eller’s music had been generally lyrical-romantic, influenced by Chopin, Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, Eller’s musical idiom changed after World War II.

Eller’s music turned simpler and relied increasingly on folk melodies. By the early 1950’s his orchestral works with an illustrative idiom such as Flight of the Eagle (1950) and Singing Fields (1951) reflected official Soviet cultural policy to which Estonia, in Eller’s lifetime after 1940, was incorporated. It wasn’t until the end of the 1950’s, however, that Eller’s symphonic arrangements grew structurally denser.

Lepo Sumera: introduced electro-acoustic trends to Estonian music

As a student of Heino Eller, Lepo Sumera shared with the legendary composer a keen attention to compositional detail as well as being a key figure in his generation to introduce international contemporary music ideas and trends to the country.

In his 50 restive and creative years the late-20th century Estonian composer and teacher, Lepo Sumera, wrote six symphonies, the bedrock of his musical corpus. Sumera regularly collaborated with theatrical figures, film directors, choreographers, and artists to create over 70 film scores and music for the stage.

From 1988 to 1992, during the days of Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” which helped to end the Cold War, Lepo Sumera was his country’s Minister of Culture. It was not easy for the new government minister as his own house was subject to restitution to its rightful owners following the end of a half century of Soviet occupation.

Lepo Sumera was known by his students as a kind and thoughtful man. The professor and composer thought it nothing to bend down in the middle of a discussion on musical composition to tie the untied laces of a child’s shoe of one of his students. Whereas Sumera’s themes, especially in his symphonies, tackle quintessential issues of humanity—life, death, love, torment, and so on, in music that is multi-layered, dramatic and richly colored—his other and shorter works frequently offer a weightless, shimmering quality that lend to the music a sense of timelessness.

Performance at the 2019 Pärnu Music Festival of Lepo Sumera’s waltz from the animated 1986 color short film Kevadine kärbes (“Spring Fly.”). Arranged by Mihkel Kerem, Sumera’s music is characteristically playful and humorous but expressively direct. It is performed by the Estonian Festival Orchestra founded by Paavo Järvi in 2011. (7:39 minutes).

Heino Eller, Estonian stamp, 125th anniversary of Eller’s birth (2012).

Sketch portrait of Lepo Sumera, 2018, by Khanzhin Ivan. CC BY-SA 4.0.

SOURCES: https://www.emic.ee/?sisu=heliloojad&mid=58&id=11&lang=eng&action=view&method=biograafia

https://estonianworld.com/culture/lepo-sumera-a-restless-creative-mind-and-an-extraordinary-human-being/

https://www.masterstudies.com/universities/Estonia/Estonian-Academy-Of-Music-And-Theatre/

SUPERTRAMP: From Musician-Poets to Rock Stardom, the First Six Albums of the English prog-rock band, 1970-1979.

Roger Hodgson, co-founder of Supertramp, in 1979.

Rick Davies, Supertramp cofounder, in 1979.

Supertramp’s July 1970 debut album simply dubbed Supertramp, wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1977. That sort of distribution shortfall was not unusual in that decade. For an enterprising American traveler in the 1970’s, such a distribution shortfall could add to the purpose of any trip to London where to a Europe-only released record could be purchased and carried carefully home.

The music on the album Supertramp was composed by Supertramp co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson. The lyrics were written by guitarist Richard Palmer-James mainly because no one else in the band wanted to write any.

The debut album received positive reviews, though Supertramp’s musical innovations so quickly ahead that the first album’s ten songs were dropped from their promotional live mega-tours.

Indelibly Stamped, Supertramp’s second album in 1971, was a major change for the band to the rock sound. This was followed by the group’s multi-platinum albums, Crime of the Century in 1974 and Breakfast in America in 1979.

Supertramp never returned to its first days’ output as musician-poets. Thoughlater hit songs such as Dreamer and Give A Little Bit were written in this early period, which dd to the debut album’s appeal as other of  Supertramp’s first songs definitely make for worthwhile listening.

Bankrolled by a Dutch millionaire, Supertramp’s first music was recognized by critics at the time as an admixture of melodic poetry and progressive pop. This would apply to Aubade/I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey, their debut album’s third track.

Along with Arc, Crucible, and other bands, the song was featured as part of a rare soundtrack for a 1971 UK docufilm called  Extremes. The film was directed by 19-year-old Tony Klinger and 21-year-old Mike Lytton and displayed the adventures and pursuits of young people of that era (it can be rediscovered in a 2017 DVD release).

Despite this creativity and critical success, the album Supertramp was a commercial flop. Its follow-up, new rock sound album Indelibly Stamped in 1971, was also a commercial flop. Crisis? What Crisis?

Supertramp, 1971. Roger Hodgson, Frank Farrell, Rick Davies, Kevin Currie, Dave Winthrop

Notwithstanding the discography of a full-fledged English prog-rock group in the rearview mirror, critics over the decades have not grown kinder towards Supertramp’s debut album. Though acknowledging its almost 50 minutes of enjoyable melodies—especially Surely, the lead track, as well as Words Unspoken, Nothing to Show and the 12-minute Try Again—today’s critics, potential upward revisionists, mostly dismiss these initial songs. The mainly constructive criticism observes that Supertramp‘s musical and lyrical effort remains too loosely conceived and, according to a review in AllMusic, wanders “pretentiously.” Meandering instrumentally among pretty patches of subtle melody is, of course, not all bad but, Supertramp’s first songs indulge themselves the pleasure of music making as a new group and forego the necessary compositional rigor to make a more powerful statement sooner.

Following these commercial disasters—and before fame—Supertramp broke up. Co-founders Davies and Hodgson recruited new band-mates. Bassist Frank Farrell and drummer Kevin Currie were replaced with pub rockers John Helliwell on saxophone, Dougie Thompson on bass, and drummer Bob “C.” Benberg. The third album, Crime of The Century, preceded by a massive millionaire-bankrolled promotional campaign, soared to no.1 in the UK —and sowed seeds of a following in the U.S.

Supertramp’s breakthrough hit single in the U.S. was Bloody Well Right in 1975. Written by Supertramp co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson and sung by Davies (who performs its opening keyboard bars), the song appeared on the newly reconstituted English prog-rock band’s third album, Crime of the Century, released in mid-September 1974. The song features impressive guitar work by Hodgson and by saxman and new recruit John Helliwell.

Bloody Well Right was not Supertramp’s odds-on, or even favored, hit song from the album. That would have been Hodgson’s Dreamer, written when he was 19 years old, on side A. But Dreamer only charted in Canada.

As Crime of the Century went Gold in the U.S. (Diamond in Canada and Platinum in France), listeners in the United States flipped Supertramp’s single and preferred side B.

Bloody Well Right, on side B, climbed to no. 35 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. A Supertramp classic, it remains a staple “on the radio” and in the band’s live shows. In 1975, with singles from Crime of The Century charting, the bank-rolled group toured the U.S. and filled arenas by giving away most of the tickets.

Crime of the Century was the third studio album by Supertramp and recorded between February and June 1974. Released on September 16, 1974, it was Supertramp’s first Gold record in the U.S. The album produced Supertramp’s breakthrough Top 40 hit single in the U.S., Bloody Well Right. Written by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, band members believed that with this album Supertramp had entered into one of its most creatively original periods.

Crisis? What Crisis? is the fourth album by the English progressive-rock band. Recorded in the summer of 1975 in London and Los Angeles, it was released on November 29, 1975. Hastily assembled from second-hand discards of Crime of the Century to capitalize quickly on that album’s recent success, Rolling Stone magazine panned the music on the album, and Supertramp came to believe the project was a low point in their career.

The following album, Even in the Quitest Moments…, released in April 1977, produced another song that Hodgson wrote at 19 years old. Give A Little Bit became a Top 20 hit in the U.S. and Canada and reached no. 29 in the UK. This fifth album repeated virtually Crime of the Century‘s certification achievements. In this period, the band permanently relocated to Los Angeles.

Even in the Quietest Moments… was the fifth studio album by Supertramp. Recorded between November 1976 and January 1977, it was released on April 10, 1977. It became the second Gold record for Supertramp in the U.S. The album produced Give A Little Bit, a Top 20 single in the U.S. and Canada. It was one of the hit songs written by Supertramp cofounder Roger Hodgson when he was 19 years old.

Rock-star success for Supertramp was achieved in 1979 with Breakfast in America. Recorded from May to December 1978, Supertramp’s sixth album was released on March 29, 1979. It became the no.1 LP around the world and, in the U.S., went 4x Platinum, selling over 4 million copies.

Supertramp’s Breakfast in America produced the Top 10 hit, The Logical Song. Written by Roger Hodgson, it became Supertramp’s biggest hit.

SOURCES:
The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Third Edition, edited by Holly George Warren and Patricia Romanowski, New York: A Rolling Stone Press Book, 2001.

https://www.glotime.tv/extremes-classic-1971-supertramp-film-released-dvd/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/supertramp-mw0000191983

PHOTO CREDITS:

Roger Hodgson in 1979– “File:Supertramp – Roger Hodgson (1979).png” by Ueli Frey is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Rick Davies in 1979–“File:Supertramp – Rick Davies (1979).png” by Ueli Frey is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Supertramp 1971–This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. 21stCenturyGreenstuff at English Wikipedia

Crime of the Century album cover–“Supertramp – Crime of the Century” by vinylmeister is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

ticket stub–“Supertramp with Chris de Burgh – July 9, 1977 – Kitchener” by Ken Schafer is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Crisis? What Crisis? album cover–“SUPERTRAMP : Crisis? What Crisis?” by vinylmeister is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Even in the Quietest Moments album cover (backside)—“Backside Supertramp – Even In The Quietest Moments…” by Piano Piano! is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Breakfast in America album cover–“Vintage Vinyl LP Record Album – Breakfast In America Vinyl LP By Supertramp, Catalog Number SP-3708, Rock, A&M Records, 1979” by France1978 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Crime of the century top hats—“Supertramp – Crime of the Century” by vinylmeister is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Inner City Blues and Two More Hit Singles from the 1971 Album, What’s Going On, of Marvin Gaye (1939-1984).

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)—often abbreviated to Inner City Blues—is a song by Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) who released it as the third and final single from his 1971 album, What’s Going On.

The 32-year-old Gaye, who had his first hit song in 1962, had entered into a new and distinct stage of his musical career by the early 1970’s. Like Stevie Wonder, Gaye was one of the Motown artists to first gain complete control over his records. What’s Going On is one of Soul’s and Rhythm and Blues’ first “concept” albums and is considered by many to be not just one of the great albums of all time (though it is that) but the greatest.

The lyrics of Inner City Blues, written by Marvin Gaye and James Nyx and recorded in Detroit, Michigan, depict the conditions of America’s inner-city ghettos and the attitudes of those who live there. Relentlessly bleak economic conditions of these cities’ slums—”Crime is increasing, trigger happy policing, panic is spreading, God knows where we’re heading”— perpetrate denizens’ lives. In a prosperous period in U.S. history such is offset by endless war, spiraling inflation, and an economy geared for permanently and grossly augmenting “haves” and “have nots.”

In Marvin Gaye’s mellifluous tenor voice which had a tremendous three-octave range, the singer relates soulfully and passionately—the multi-track background vocals were also sung by Gaye—his conclusion about “The way they do my life” which makes him “wanna holler and throw up my hands.” The writers’ conclusion about inner-city ghetto conditions in the United States, a rich country that ceaselessly spends its money on “rockets, moon shots,” is that insofar as the ghetto resident: “This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’, No, no baby, this ain’t livin’.”

In a career that exemplified the maturation of romantic black pop of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s—Gaye had his first hit at 23 years old and died one day before his 45th birthday after he was shot to death by his father following a violent verbal altercation in 1984— his music developed into a palatably popular artistic form that openly explored contemporary society and all manner of politics, including sexual.

In Inner City Blues the talented singer relates his harrowing subject matter and that which it implies by way of a sophisticated and mellow funk style. Detroit-based session musicians, particularly Eddie “Bongo” Brown and Bob Babbitt on bass, who were part of The Funk Brothers that performed on most Motown recordings of the period—added to the record’s sound.

What’s Going On produced three hit singles. All top ten chart bestsellers addressed diverse issues affecting a complicated time—including the war in Vietnam (What’s Going On, #2, 1971), the global biophysical environment (Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), #4, 1971) and civil rights and justice (Inner City Blues (Makes Me Want to Holler), #9, 1971).

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Music and Lyrics: Marvin Gaye and James Nyx

Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have nots
Money, we make it
‘Fore we see it you take it

Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life

This ain’t livin’, this ain’t livin’
No, no baby, this ain’t livin’
No, no, no
Inflation no chance

To increase finance
Bills pile up sky high
Send that boy off to die
Oh, Make me wanna holler

The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Hang ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs

Natural fact is
I can’t pay my taxes
Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands

Yeah, it makes me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Crime is increasing
Trigger happy policing

Panic is spreading
God knows where we’re heading
Oh, make me wanna holler
They don’t understand

Mother, mother
Everybody thinks we’re wrong
Who are they to judge us
Simply cause we wear our hair long