Favorite / best / any harpsichord songs?
March 6, 2007 10:00 PM   Subscribe

I was recently introduced to two songs featuring the harpsichord, and I really liked them a lot. And it got me thinking: is there a lot of this kind of music out there? They're not classical (I think), but they're definitely enjoyable.

The two songs I'm referring to are Love is Blue, recorded by Paul Mauriat, and Golden Brown, by The Stranglers.
And yes, I have seen this wikipedia page, but are there lots of other songs out there?

And, actually, I don't want to limit this to exclusively non-classical music; if there's a classical piece with the harpsichord that you love, list it!
posted by cybertaur1 to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Joanna Newsom's Ys was one of last year's most critically acclaimed albums. (See Pitchfork's review here, more at metacritic.)

(Full confession: I think this album is drastically overrated, but if you're looking for a contemporary take on harpsichords...)
posted by cosmic osmo at 10:34 PM on March 6, 2007

The best harpsichord work I've ever heard is Die Kunst der Fugue by J.S. Bach. Bach's ability to compose complex fugues was truly almost completely unique (See Godel, Escher, Bach for more on how mindbending he really was). Also, the pace on these pieces is astonishing. I recall, when I was young, referring to it as heavy metal harpsichord.
posted by MasterShake at 10:44 PM on March 6, 2007

Hmm, yes, they do mention The Divine Comedy on that page, but I think specifically of the song "Death of a Supernaturalist."

Elvis Costello's "You Little Fool" makes ample use of harpsichord on what may be one of his best and most underrated pop songs.

Others will doubtless come along with better and more relevant examples; that's just my $0.02.
posted by mykescipark at 11:18 PM on March 6, 2007

I wouldn't call Ys a contemporary take on the harpsichord so much as a contemporary take on the harp? Can't really place any harpsichord on the album, though I haven't listened to it much recently. She does use the harpsichord exclusively on "Peach Plum Pear" off her first big album, The Milk-eyed Mender. Love it!
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:29 PM on March 6, 2007

You might want to look at the work of Stan Freeman. He played (a somewhat jazzier than your examples') harpsichord on Rosemary Clooney's "Come On-a My House" and "Mambo Italiano," as well as other popular tunes.
posted by Opposite George at 12:17 AM on March 7, 2007

"Giles Farnaby's Dream" by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. I can't find any downloads but it's in this episode from New York public radio.
posted by pantsrobot at 12:21 AM on March 7, 2007

There are a few songs by The Doors that use a harpsichord. In particular 'Love Me Two Times'.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 1:24 AM on March 7, 2007

Theme & Epilogue off Arovane's Tides album.
posted by juv3nal at 1:25 AM on March 7, 2007

wemayfreeze: you're totally right. it's late here, and i've mixed up harp and harpsichord.

(that said, cybertaur1--the song wemayfreeze suggests does, in fact, feature the instrument you're looking for.)
posted by cosmic osmo at 1:41 AM on March 7, 2007

In Tori Amos's 'Boys For Pele' she breaks a harpsichord (detunes it and the like, makes it sound all haunting and dissonant) and uses it through out the entire album. i happen to really enjoy the sound.
posted by nadawi at 2:44 AM on March 7, 2007

MasterShake's suggestion is a good one, although if you want to hear some harpsichord pyrotechnics I'd also suggest the first movement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. It's about 11:30 long, of which fully three minutes and twenty seconds is an extended harpsichord cadenza that always reminds me of a live-album-style electric guitar solo.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:41 AM on March 7, 2007

There's a Beastie Boys song off of "Hello Nasty" that uses a harpsichord loop. I forget the name, but I'm pretty sure it's track 2.
posted by norm at 7:43 AM on March 7, 2007

Seconding Tori Amos' "Boys for Pele." Not as accessible as the songs you posted but really, really good.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:56 AM on March 7, 2007

Massive Attack occasionally uses a harpsichord loop for texture, most famously in Teardrop (a very condensed version of which you will recognise as the House theme.)
posted by Rhomboid at 8:26 AM on March 7, 2007

The regular version of "The Box" by Orbital has some harpsichord.
There's also a really wonderful harpsichord section (not in the regular version) in the extended version. Unfortunately it's only on the much more rare first release of "In Sides" and possibly the EP.
posted by nekton at 9:10 AM on March 7, 2007

Tori Amos also uses the harpsichord in the song "Blood Roses." In classical music, the suites of Francois Couperin are beautiful, as are the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti, and this disc of Bach works is wonderful.
posted by bassjump at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2007

some of my favorite harpsichord comes from the album "fold your hands" by belle & sebastian.
posted by fac21 at 10:17 AM on March 7, 2007

thirding Boys for Pele here, though no one has mentioned "Caught A Lite Sneeze" yet, which is my favorite track and has a pretty heavy harpsichord sound to it.
posted by hue at 2:00 PM on March 7, 2007

Even though it's technically "classical" music (sort of), Ligeti's "Hungarian Rock" is a totally rad piece for harpsichord that has a lot of rhythmic drive.
posted by speicus at 3:28 PM on March 7, 2007

Actually there is a recording I like better here.
posted by speicus at 3:33 PM on March 7, 2007

"Little Sister" by Rufus Wainwright.
posted by tepidmonkey at 8:08 PM on March 7, 2007

This list might be helpful.
posted by epimorph at 10:35 PM on March 7, 2007

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