Vibist Mike Neumeyer fully re-imagines the Beatles’ short-story masterpiece “Norwegian Wood”

Milwaukeean Milke Neumeyer continues his pied-piper ability to captivate with his four-mallet mastery of both vibes and marimba which, set up at 90-degree angles around him (above), he controls and merges like a traffic cop turning street commotion into a magical mystery turn.

I subscribe to Neumeyer’s YouTube video output, and this is the fourth time I’ve felt compelled to comment on his work, which reveals a mastery of video techniques to enhance the single performer, typically with multiple and simultaneous screens.

Here, he smartly choses to interpret a masterwork of pop music imagination, John Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood,” from arguably the Beatles’ best album, Rubber Soul, released in December 1965.

What’s impressive and enchanting, is that Neumeyer essays the melody and chords with a fine sensitivity to the implied lyrics and their evocative storyline, of a rustic, one-night romance.

Yet, in the middle, he takes off on a sophisticated jazz improv on the tune, with the effortless abandon of “this bird” who flies at story’s end, yet with wings fully weighted with the smoky romantic nuances of the encounter. Aside from his deft sliding through the chord changes, Neumeyer’s solo seems to open small widows of discovery on the well-known song. It’s worth replaying to absorb the solo again.

Throughout, the sustained sonics of the mallet-struck instruments enhance the glowing aura of fantastical immersion, so the narrative self wonders if he’s even spent the night with the elusive bird, or was it all just a dream?

One might play the original song from Rubber Soul, either before or after this rendition, to refresh your sense of Lennon’s original small stroke of genius (and George Harrison’s exquisite sitar interlude*), all reminded of superbly by Neumeyer’s contrasting yet vivid musical setting. Still, as we revisit, we must sigh again, “this bird has flown.”

The evocative song has previously inspired a novel by the great Haruki Murakami, which in turn has inspired a film, which I have not seen, but very worthwhile, I’m sure.

IMDb

Here’s a You Tube of the original “Norwegian Wood” (all the more a miracle of miniature tale-telling, at a mere two minutes!):

____________

Mike Neumeyer builds a vibrating stairway to heaven, for “dad” and cancer research

Mike Neumeyer from his split-screen video, “How I Wish You Were Here.” Mikeneumeyermusic.com 

Mike Neumeyer has built a vibrating stairway to heaven. He continues to show why he’s one of Milwaukee’s most distinctive, ingenious and resourceful musicians. Where else are you gonna hear an enchanting, entrancing split-screen video of orchestrated marimba, vibraphone and percussion? Maybe somewhere, over the rainbow, but good look searching.

If you can feel the layers of counterpoint and melody that rise into radiant bursts and blossoms, you can dig this. It’s minimalist and meditative, yet richly layered. Your mind and spirit may dance, and you’ll emerge in a good mood, for donating to childhood cancer research (Mike’s cause here), or for whatever your day brings you.

Here’s how Mike describes the genesis of this virtuoso video:

” ‘How I Wish You Were Here’ was the first huge split-screen video I made. After Sharing Music with Linalab and Patricia Islas, when we all used some delay, I started playing marimba with the delay on it. An exact excerpt from “Marimba Maverick,”  the first portion of the groove easily came out of me.  1

“I kept adding layers as I looped the work, first some vibraphone, then djembe and it turned into this minimalist buildup to a meditative and relaxing track! I saw this as the beginning of a new era of composition and music making for me and I will show you the products of this adventure throughout year!”

If you’d like to make a cancer research donation, inspired by this music, here’s Mike’s Facebook link for the piece: “How I Wish You Were Here” donation link

For those not on Facebook, here’s a version of the piece which includes some vocals by Mike.

The sub-titled vocals reveal the more personal level of “How I Wish You Were Here,” for his father who is “playing radio in the sky.” I wish my father was down here to hear, too:

________

1 “Maverick Marimba” is the title tune of Neumeyer’s  album of all-original marimba music, from 2020.

For more information on the album and Neumeyer, visit:

Home

I reviewed his previous album, Cloud Nine, here Shepherd Express review and here:

Mike Neumeyer’s vibes may transport you