Message With History And Performance

In this article I look at how a message with history combined with a powerful musical performance really packs a punch. This is the fourth in a short series of articles on aspects of music.

Message With History And Performance

My previous articles in this series have built up a picture.


In my first article in the series, I look at how music can have a powerful social message behind the lyrics and I used some tracks by Hozier as an example.


Electro Swing music, and Parov Stelar in particular, is used in my second article to show how vintage music could be combined with modern to good effect. A bit like using public domain photographs and working on them to colorize them or create new art from the original.


In my third article, I look at the raw power of a live performance, using a video by Asaf Avidan to show just how much of an impact a live performance can have on the watcher. Even on video!

What A Combination!

Now imagine if we combine all of the above. Take a social message, add a sample of something historical and factor in a powerful live performance. Wouldn’t that be great?

Well guess what? It is! And here is a great example, a video showing Paolo Nutini in a live performance of his great track Iron Sky. Great lyrics, Charlie Chaplin and more.



A real message with history and performance in combination. The need to rise above our delusions and the mass confusion within our society to overcome hate. Given all the more power by the clear expression of the song by the artist feeling the emotion of the lyrics during his performance. And what a great use for an extract from an old black and white film The Great Dictator.

The Raw Power Of A Live Performance

In the third of a series of articles on aspects of music, I look at the raw power of a live performance. Previous articles have looked at messages within music and combining old with new music genres.

The Raw Power Of A Live Performance

When I was young and lived in the UK I went to a lot of rock and pop concerts. I remember sitting with tears streaming down my face at a Stevie Wonder concert. I ‘boo-ed’ with the best of them when the band Sparks left the stage with their concert finished after only 35 minutes.

I danced in the aisles to Chic, Status Quo and Mud. I sat enchanted through Clannad.

These days I live up a mountain in Central Italy so music concerts are not so easily available throughout the year without travelling a distance. I do go to some during the Umbria Jazz and Trasimeno Blues festivals. For example, I had a fabulous night in Perugia a few years ago, at an open air Santana concert with fireworks being let off in the background and bats flying overhead!

The Advent Of Music Videos

I remember when music videos first became popular and we started to see them regularly on television. I realize that shows my age but, hey, who cares? Who can forget the epic Adam Ant video Prince Charming starring, among others, Diana Dors? Pure theater of course. And we used to do that walk down the club floor.

Over time these videos have become more and more sophisticated, almost to the point of being miniature feature films. Many tug at your emotions and dazzle your senses. But however stirring they are, they lack something – the raw power of a live performance.

Or do they?

Life Performance on Video

The raw power of a live performance was brought home to me recently of all things by a chance viewing of a video by Asaf Avidan.

Who is Asaf Avidan?

I have a YouTube Channel and I have one playlist of music that has caught my attention, a mix of old and new favourites. That means that YouTube regularly suggests music to me. One day the suggestion was Asaf Avidan.

Asaf is an Israeli singer songwriter who has released three studio albums in his solo career. He was formerly in a group called Asaf Avidan & The Mojos.

I had never heard of Asaf before and to be honest the first track I listened to did not immediately endear me to his style and voice.

Powerful Experience

But then I watched this video. It starts innocently enough and I found myself really interested in how Asaf built up the layers of the music using the instruments and recording equipment he had available. But then it turned into something else – I couldn’t take my eyes off the man. Watch this video and I think you will see what I mean.



Phew! I need a rest after that. Actually there was a point where I thought someone should take his blood pressure and make him lay down in a darkened room.  You can’t accuse him of not giving it his all and it was compelling viewing. The raw power of a life performance captured on video.

Combining Old With New In Electro Swing

In the second of my short series of articles on aspects of music, I look at combining old with new music in Electro Swing. In my first article in the series, I looked at the deep messages underlying the music of Hozier. However, the aim of Electro Swing is to have fun, aimed firmly at the dance floor.

Combining Old With New

As an artist I enjoy seeing work by other artists. Some of my artist colleagues work with old public domain photographs, colorizing them to give them a fresh perspective. Others take public domain photographs and rework them into something new.

In a similar way, Electro Swing utilizes utlizes 1920s and 30s music tracks or film dialogue extracts and translates them into modern dance tracks.

What Is Electro Swing?

Electro Swing is a musical genre that gets your foot tapping! It is a wonderful combination of vintage swing or jazz music with house, hip hop and electronic dance music. Dance floor focused (or just bopping around the kitchen while cooking), electro swing retains the excitement of older live recordings.

Artists tend to bring a combination of skills to their music, including music mixing DJ-style. There are several popular artists in this category of music including Caravan Palace and Dime Cat. I am using Parov Stelar as my example in this article because his music is my personal favorite of the genre.

Combining Old And New In Electro Swing

Booty Swing

There are many examples of Parov Stelar’s work I could pick, but one particular favorite is ‘Booty Swing’. Here, Parov takes a piano sample from Fats Waller and other samples from Lil’ Hardin Armstrong’s Orchestra. Listen and I bet you can’t keep still (audio track only).


Now you start to get the idea? Stimulating and foot tapping.

If you like the sound of this music genre YouTube is your friend in discovering more. Start with Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace and enjoy!


Hozier Puts A Message Behind The Lyrics

Hozier (full name  Andrew Hozier-Byrne) is an Irish musician, singer and songwriter who pus a message behind the lyrics of many of his songs. I hadn’t heard of him until last year, but he released his first album ‘Hozier’ in September 2014 following a successful EP in 2013 which included the hit ‘Take Me To The Church’.

Message Behind The Lyrics

I really appreciate well-written music lyrics and Hozier is the master of his craft.  Much of his song writing includes social messages which I will focus on in this article.

For example, Hozier has said that ‘Take Me To The Church’ was inspired by violent crimes against gay men in Russia. Another song ‘Cherry Wine’ aimed to raise awareness of domestic violence issues. And there is more!

Recognizing The Power of Protest

In 2018 Hozier released an EP called ‘Nina Cried Power’ which was the first time I had heard of him. I remember just sitting, open mouthed, listening to the title track and I found it rang around my head for hours afterwards.

‘Nina Cried Power’ is the title track of the EP and the message behind the lyrics is the power of protest. It includes tributes to Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, BB King and Curtis Mayfield. Hozier is joined on the track by the fabulous Mavis Staples. Mavis is an American rhythm and blues gospel singer (which really comes across in the track) an actress and civil rights activist.

Watch the official video for the song and see if you get goosebumps like I did.


Love As An Act Of Defiance

My current favorite track from Hozier is ‘Be’ from his 2019 release ‘Wasteland, Baby!’. Wow this track really hits home with its warnings of impending doom, rising sea levels, treatment of immigrants and more.

The message behind the lyrics is that Hozier asks his lover to keep loving him in spite of all the hatred and destruction swirling around, using love as an act of defiance!

This line from the song really hit home for me with its karmic message:

When the man who gives the order

Is born next time around on the boats sent back

Powerful stuff! Listen to it and you will see what I mean (audio only).


Is A Message Behind The Lyrics Compulsory For Good Music?

The short answer to this is of course No! But when you combine lyrics like poetry with a social message, with a great voice and good music then I am a happy bunny!

Marketing Art on Facebook

Facebook has taken a bit of a bashing lately but I have always found it the best social media for marketing art. I use a Fan Page and like that it keeps things separate from my personal Facebook page.A Fan Page offers a number of great tools, some of which you can embed in your own website or blog. There is so much more to it than posting  a picture with a grand announcement that something is for sale. That is only part of the story when marketing art.

And, like so many things, Facebook can be so much more fun when you play with it and explore the possibilities.

My Google Analytics tell me I am right to keep plugging away marketing art on Facebook. In terms of visits to my various websites, the majority of clicks come from Facebook. This isn’t all from my Fan Page, I also post to Facebook groups. I am aware of a number of sales that have come via Facebook too, particularly in my local area.

More to the point, Facebook interactions are so much more enjoyable than those on other SM. You can actually have a whole conversation with someone!

I wrote a blog about marketing art on Facebook and more recently produced this video which summarizes the key things I have found useful. Let me know in the comments if you find it helpful in marketing art.

Visit my art website to keep up to date with my art work and see the various outlets where you can purchase my work:

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Computer Programmer Turned Website Designer

Graham Irwin is a computer programmer turned website designer. Born in Barnet in Hertfordshire, UK he now lives in Italy. I first interviewed him for Systems Engineer Day several years ago. As so much has happened in the field of web design I wanted to see if any of his views had changed since then.

A Career As A Computer Programmer

Graham, I believe you started off your career as a computer programmer? What made you interested in computer programming as a career?

Graham: “At further education college, I had a maths lecturer who was interested in teaching, what was then a very new subject, computer science. We had access to Hatfield Polytechnic’s (now the University of Hertfordshire’s) computer facilities. I found it was something I enjoyed and was good at.”

Since graduating from university what types of jobs have you held?

Graham: “My first job was programming cash dispensers. Again, these were quite rare beasts, and the ATM (as they were then known) handed out just 10 crisp one pound notes. My job was working on the firm’s earlier model which was used by one of the UK’s top 4 banks. The later models were mainly sold in America.

My second job was programming seismology applications. My employer, a seismic consultancy, used to drill exploratory wells for oil companies, and the software I maintained was used to analyse the data that came back from these wells.

Then I moved to Pye Records as Head of Programming Services.  My job was looking after the company’s ordering and stock-control systems. After that I joined a software house and spent most of my 4 years there was as project leader, and later project manager, for the development of an accounting system for one of the top City (of London) firms of solicitors.

Later, I joined a City management consultancy firm where for most of the time I advised solicitors on their IT systems. When I was made redundant I set up my own business doing much the same sort of work but, with a greatly reduced daily rate, I was able to help much smaller firms. I also set up with a colleague a software business and wrote an accounting system for the really small firms of solicitors. This business is still going, although my partner retired long ago.”

Most Interesting Job

Looking back, what was the most interesting job you had and why?

Graham: “Probably the most interesting thing that happened was at the seismic consultancy. At 4 o’clock one afternoon, my boss appeared while I was typing some punched cards. “Have you got a passport?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied, puzzled. “How do you fancy a trip to the Irish Sea?” Thinking he was joking, I said, “Sure. When?” He then said he wanted me to go as assistant to the Survey Manager to an oil rig in the Irish Sea as there was no one else available and that we were flying from Biggin Hill at 8 o’clock the next morning!”

Website Designer

When did you first start designing websites and why?

Graham: “At one point, just for the heck of it, I thought I would rewrite my accounting system user manual as a web document. This got me interested in web design and I offered to design a website for a charity I was involved with. My first websites were a bit grim by today’s standards. However, my first real client came to me as a result of that first website, and I have developed and redeveloped several sites for that client since then.”

What types of websites have you designed?

“I have developed 8 or 9 charity or community group websites, 4 parish council sites, 3 for lawyers one including a ‘quoter’ for conveyancing fees, and several for individuals and small businesses. One of my favourites, because it is so popular and includes a number of fun features, is an online tarot readings site. Another is for a bed and breakfast facility which includes a diary and guestbook.

Another site has a database of videos and user registrations. Other features I have created or used include payment systems, blogs, photo galleries, databases, news tickers, animations, multi-lingual content, random photos or quotes, and search engines.”

Changes In Website Design Over The Years

What changes have you seen over the years in relation to web design?

Graham: “There has been software to aid the development of websites for as long as long as I have been designing, but the software has become more sophisticated to the extent that non-professionals can develop their own websites. The development of content management systems has also made an impact on design, and more recently the need to develop ‘responsive’ sites which can be viewed on any device from a mobile phone through a tablet to a desktop computer.”

Biggest Mistakes In Website Design

What are the biggest mistakes people make with designing websites?

Graham: “I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is to focus on search engine optimisation rather than content and human visitors. Conversely, when using do-it-yourself systems, the mistake is paying no attention to search engine optimisation. One of the problems I have encountered more than once is a client who had a volunteer develop their website. Whilst it may sound like a good deal, if the volunteer moves or simply loses interest, what happens then? If you’re paying someone, you maintain their interest!”

So What Makes A Good Website?

Finally, what makes a good website in your view?

Graham: “The most important thing in my view is that a website contains appropriate information for its target audience, and that it is easy to use and to navigate. Too many large images can make a site slow to download and give search engines nothing to index.”

You can find out more about Graham’s website designs at his website.