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Musical Space

Musical Space: The Summer Solstice


Tuesday is the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day, and it’s been a big deal for music since the Stone Age. There must be something about the sun refusing to set that makes cultures want to dance, sing, and party. It’s the Midsummer that Shakespeare named a play after, also known as St. John’s Feast Day, and the Wiccan holiday of Litha. Druids gather at Stonehenge to sing at dawn; Norwegians sing around huge bonfires far into the sunlit night.  

The ancient observance of the summer solstice still lives in the form of music festivals. It started in France as the Fête de la Musique, or Music Day, also known as Make Music Day or World Music Day; there are now dozens all over the world. The biggest is Glastonbury in England, with over one hundred stages and well over 100,000 attendees; this year Radiohead, The Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran will headline. Tickets have been sold out for months. But tonight at 8:54 you can put on some uplifting music and hoist a glass of mead to the sun as it finally sets and know that you’re continuing a tradition started by your prehistoric ancestors.


Listening list:

Headliners at Glastonbury:

Seasick Steve, “Summertime Boy,” Sonic Soul Surfer (2015), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gq0PmDhkb4c  - headlined “acoustic” stage in 2008

The National, “Fake Empire,” Boxer (2007)
Love the 3 against 4 rhythm
Headlined “John Peel” stage in 2008

The XX, “I Dare You,” I See You (2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGBn9_aEtB8&index=13&list=PL_fuENnK6rz33NmcsZlcqmcpMufrVtVlPEnglish Indie-Electronica, a headlined the “Other” stage 2013.

Femi Kuti, “Beng, Beng, Beng,” Beng, Beng, Beng (1998) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKpTYLQ5K9w
Son of Fela Kuti, headlined “Jazzworld” stage in 2005
“On 15 May 2017 Femi Anikulapo Kuti broke the Guinness world record of a single note held on a sax in a method called Circular breathing. He set the records at 51 min 35 seconds”

Massive Attack, “Teardrop,” Mezzanine (1998) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKpTYLQ5K9w
Headlined “Other” stage 2015

Sigur Rós, Route 1 (2016) 
A slow-TV event where the band livestreamed a 24-hour road trip circumnavigating their native Iceland last year to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Headlined Glastonbury “John Peel” stage 2016.