The Music behind the 2012 Olympics
We all know that the Olympics is primarily about Sport and watching the world’s most powerful athletes performing at their peak. However Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremony on Friday night proved that there is going to be more to this Olympics than the perfection of the human form; it will be about the perfection of the human mind as well. The reason for this is simple: it is being hosted by Britain; and whilst we may not excel in all sports, we have excelled in culture and history for the previous few centuries. At the centre of this British culture is our music and from Elgar to Elbow, it seems like British Music is going to provide the ideal soundtrack to these Olympics.
Friday’s opening ceremony was the best demonstration that could have been given for British music – all the great music of the last fifty years and beyond was exhibited. The ceremony executed the perfect balance of classical with Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ being complemented by a stirring rendition of the hymn ‘Jerusalem’, whilst ‘Chariots of Fire’ featured an appearance from Rowan Atkinson, which successfully kept those who would be less interested in classical music entertained. One section of the ceremony featured a montage of the last fifty years of contemporary music, which featured the finest Britain has offered through the likes of The Kinks and Pet Shop Boys. The ceremony also featured a great deal of live music ranging from the inevitable (Paul McCartney) to the surprising (Emeli Sandé) to the brilliant (Arctic Monkeys) and the heart warming (East London’s local hero Dizzee Rascal).
The most notable thing about the opening ceremony was the overwhelming choice of dance music to soundtrack the event. We were already aware that Underworld had been commissioned by Danny Boyle to soundtrack the event. However, the dance music went much further than this; this was made clear from the moment that music from F**k Buttons opened the event. Added to this was the live appearance of Mike Oldfield to perform his new age classic ‘Tubular Bells’. When the progressive dance music was played; it was generally to play second fiddle to the remarkable choreography of Danny Boyle’s show. However whilst it might not have been the first thing that people would have noticed, all the music complemented the visual events perfectly. One of the musical highlights of the ceremony was when Team GB eventually emerged and ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie rained down on the home competitors from the sound system. Put simply Danny Boyle clearly has exceptional taste in music and this all helped to create an Opening Ceremony that will live long in the memory.
There is plenty of music evident elsewhere at the London Olympics as well. One of the main success stories of the time since the last Olympics are Mancunian band Elbow. Their song ‘One Day Like This’ was used for part of the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. From here this unknown band only really loved by critics went on to win the Mercury Prize and from there ascend into the nation’s hearts as the good guys of music; they now have their own brand of beer, have recently headlined Latitude Festival, and will play Nottingham’s very own 10,000 capacity Capital FM Arena later this year for the second time. It is thus only fitting that Elbow have been chosen four years on by the BBC to soundtrack their coverage and they have created the epically orchestral ‘First Steps’ for the occasion.
Elsewhere there will be surprises for those who attend the cycling when they hear The Chemical Brothers‘ ‘Theme for Velodrome’, which will proceed all of the cycling events. The piece will seemingly compete with Kraftwerk’s ‘Tour de France’ for the best cycling based electronic music piece of the modern era, and The Chemical Brothers certainly come out of the song with their integrity still intact. Similarly there is a treat for Table Tennis fans as Hot Chip have been commissioned to create a piece especially for the Table Tennis matches. Unfortunately there weren’t any versions of this available online at this time, so that is another bonus for anyone attending the Table Tennis. All of this is occurring alongside several gigs in Hyde Park during the games featuring the likes of Blur and New Order.
Finally though one of the most memorable pieces and the one that all competitors at the 2012 games will hope to hear is Muse‘s ‘Survival’, which will be played in the period before all medal ceremonies. Muse being Muse have created an appropriately epic piece, which veers dramatically between rock and classical and should hopefully soundtrack the games perfectly. Whilst I’m aware that the Olympics is all about the sport – I will greatly appreciate the great sport on offer – I am also very excited about the music that will accompany these historic games. Britain proved with the opening ceremony that it can provide perfect music for the right occasions and with the artists mentioned above being involved, these are going to be a very exciting Olympics musically as well as competitively.
…Liam has been listening to Blur – Under the Westway…