Wider

Or, how to confuse Spotify and YouTube’s algorithms (sorry, Molly!).

Well, a with a little extra time on my hands, I was able to complete Musicology Duck’s Listen Wider Challenge 2020 in only three months, much sooner than I expected. And two of the pieces I got to hear live (asterisks below).

The prompts:

A composition of 60 minutes or more in length by a woman or non-binary composer
*Kate Soper, Here Be Sirens (2014)
A country song released in the last 6 months
Ashley McBryde, “One Night Standards” (2019): I like this one a lot
A chamber piece for 7-12 players written since 1980
*George Lewis, Mnemosis (2012)
The cast recording of a musical featuring a queer character
Tim Acito and Alexander Dinelaris, Zanna, Don’t! (2003): “Fast” is a fun patter song
A miniature composition under 90 seconds long
Marc Shaiman and Scott Scott Wittman, “Twenty Seconds” (2020)
An opera with a libretto by an author of color
John Adams, June Jordan, I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995): I am an Adams fanboy, but this work is not successful. Tin-eared libretto, thin orchestration.
A track by a Native/First Nations/Indigenous hip-hop artist
Eekwol & T-Rhyme, “For Women By Women” (2018)
A work by a student composer
Tiara Tanka, “Bennu” (2015) for 3 flutes and cello: Tanka is a student in the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University
A work from a religious/spiritual tradition other than your own
“Allah Hoo Allah Hoo,” Al-Haaj Muhammad Owais Raza Qadri
A composition that won a major award in 2018 or 2019
Kendrick Lamar, DAMN. (2017): “FEEL.” has whiffs of Bob Dylan, Gil Scott-Heron
A classic rock album from the 1960s or 1970s you feel like you should have listened to in its entirety by now, but never have
Traffic, Traffic (1968): left me unsatisfied; its two big songs do better as covers. After Blind Faith, Blind Faith (1969), I realized that a little Steve Winwood goes a long way. So I enjoyed Eric Clapton playing the blues on Cream, Disraeli Gears (1967).
A piece by a composer from Central or South America
Roque Cordero, “Sonatina Rítmica” (date?) and “Soliloquio” No.6 (1992)
A campaign song for each of the opposing candidates in any election, current or historical
Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, “Happy Days Are Here Again” (1929) vs. “Thank God! We’ve Found the Man” (1940): FDR vs. Willkie
A composition written when the composer was older than age 80
Milton Babbitt, “A Gloss on ‘Round Midnight” (2002): which sent me down the rabbit hole of Emanuele Arciuli, ‘Round Midnight: Homage to Thelonious Monk (2011)
A piece notated using graphic notation
Hans-Christoph Steiner, “Solitude” (2004)
An instrumental work from before 1750 written by a woman
Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, Les pièces de clavessin, “Suite in D minor” (1687); and Elisabetta de Gambarini, Lessons for the Harpsichord, op. 2 (1748)
A piece specifically for children by a composer or songwriter who usually writes for adults
Imogen Heap, “The Happy Song” (2019)
A top hit from the year you were born—from a country other than your own
Peter Alexander, “Der Mond hält seine Wacht” (1956): wacky backing vocals. Also popular in Germany that year was “Sie heiß Mary Ann,” to the tune of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” but nothing to do with coal mining.
Two different tracks that sample the same song
Run-D.M.C., “Run’s House”; and LL Cool J, “The Boomin’ System”: I did not know about James Brown’s “The Funky Drummer.”
A song sung by two or more siblings
Fred and Adele Astaire, “Fascinating Rhythm” (1924)
The soundtrack for a film in a language other than English
Yann Tiersen, Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)
An art music composition (broadly defined) that received its premiere in an African country
Bongani Ndodana-Breen, Three Orchestral Songs on poems by Ingrid Jonker (2015)
A classical recording from an independent label
Aheym (2013) ANTI187296-2, Kronos Quartet plays music of Bryce Dessner
A record by a winning Eurovision Song Contest performer other than their competition song
Netta, “BEG” and “Nana Banana”
A protest song by a songwriter who identifies as LGBTQIA+
“We Stand United” (2016)
A song or piece written to memorialize victims of a natural disaster
Tom Rush, “Galveston Flood” (1966)
A song by an artist currently atop Billboard’s “Social 50” chart
BTS, “Black Swan” (2020)
A concerto for tuba, bassoon, or double bass
Johann Nepomuk Hummel, concerto in F for bassoon (ca. 1805), Mathis Kaspar Stier (bassoon)
A jazz album recorded since 2015
Ezra Weiss Big Band, We Limit Not the Truth of God (2019)
A song written by or from the perspective of an immigrant
Alexis Torres Machado, “For My Immigrants” (2016)

Mind you, I came by a couple of the recordings via the CD giveaway shelf at work.

Check back in December

I’m going to try Musicology Duck’s Listen Wider Challenge 2020:

Listen to:

  1. A composition of 60 minutes or more in length by a woman or non-binary composer
  2. A country song released in the last 6 months
  3. A chamber piece for 7-12 players written since 1980
  4. The cast recording of a musical featuring a queer character
  5. A miniature composition under 90 seconds long
  6. An opera with a libretto by an author of color
  7. A track by a Native/First Nations/Indigenous hip-hop artist
  8. A work by a student composer
  9. A work from a religious/spiritual tradition other than your own
  10. A composition that won a major award in 2018 or 2019
  11. A classic rock album from the 1960s or 1970s you feel like you should have listened to in its entirety by now, but never have
  12. A piece by a composer from Central or South America
  13. A campaign song for each of the opposing candidates in any election, current or historical
  14. A composition written when the composer was older than age 80
  15. A piece notated using graphic notation
  16. An instrumental work from before 1750 written by a woman
  17. A piece specifically for children by a composer or songwriter who usually writes for adults
  18. A top hit from the year you were born—from a country other than your own
  19. Two different tracks that sample the same song
  20. A song sung by two or more siblings
  21. The soundtrack for a film in a language other than English
  22. An art music composition (broadly defined) that received its premiere in an African country
  23. A classical recording from an independent label
  24. A record by a winning Eurovision Song Contest performer other than their competition song
  25. A protest song by a songwriter who identifies as LGBTQIA+
  26. A song or piece written to memorialize victims of a natural disaster
  27. A song by an artist currently atop Billboard’s “Social 50” chart
  28. A concerto for tuba, bassoon, or double bass
  29. A jazz album recorded since 2015
  30. A song written by or from the perspective of an immigrant

Some of these will be easier than others to find, among them #29, #11, and especially #19, if I count the Amen Break.

Angular

Cecil Taylor’s passing reminds me of my favorite passage from Craig Lucas, from scene 2 of Blue Window. It’s a good thing that I have a printed copy to refer to, because my recollection of the dialogue, from a production I saw 22 years ago, is faulty.

At a small gathering/party of friends, Tom has put a recording of Cecil Taylor on the sound system.

TOM. But I don’t know if you can hear it, but I mean, he’s literally rethinking what you can do with melody. He’s changing all the rules from the ground up.

* * *

TOM. Like a painter. He’s breaking it up, you know, and putting some parts of it in front of where they belong and he’s splitting up tonalities and colors, shapes —
ALICE. Splitting up did you say?
TOM. Splitting.
ALICE. No, I know, I was…
TOM. He’s literally challenging you to hear it, you know, rehear it. What is music?
GRIEVER. No, I know, but this isn’t like a famous melody? Or –?
TOM. Why not?
GRIEVER. I mean it isn’t like “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” backwards or something.
TOM. No…

For some reason I always want to remember that as “‘Mairzy Doats’ upside down and backwards.”

Clybourne Park: an update: 2

So we closed the show yesterday afternoon, and I’m pleased, overall, with the way it went. (There’s always something that you wish could have been better. Like I wish that I’d had a coach to help me fine-tune the brief bit of stage combat.)

Every so often I use music as a way to get into the world of a character. (My friend Lisa suggested this trick a long time ago.) Now, the little Bobby McFerrin riff that Roger used as transition music at the top of Act 2 was all I needed to help me find Tom Driscoll. But for the well-meaning, somewhat feckless, gentle parish priest Rev. Jim in Act 1, I needed a complete playlist. Some of this music I already had on hand, and some was newly-purchased. Here it is, Jim’s Jam, all songs pre-1959 as far as I can tell:

  • Perry Como, “Accentuate the Positive”
  • Lawrence Welk orchestra, “Bubbles in the Wine”
  • Patsy Cline, “Walkin’ after Midnight”
  • Glenn Miller orchestra, “(I’ve Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo”
  • Mel Tormé, “Moonlight in Vermont”
  • Lawrence Welk orchestra, “Beer Barrel Polka”
  • Perry Como, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You”
  • Mantovani orchestra, “Charmaine”
  • Patti Page, “Old Cape Cod”
  • Glenn Miller orchestra, “A String of Pearls”
  • Perry Como, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”
  • Lawrence Welk orchestra, “Village Tavern Polka”

Mantovani’s version of a 1926 waltz by Rapée and Pollack is most everyone’s idea of soul-evacuating elevator music. (I remember an ironic modern dance troupe performance from about 20 years ago, set on this song, that consisted of the entire company queueing up as if at the DMV.) But for Jim, the lush, pillowy arrangement is pure bliss, his idea of what God’s grace must feel like. Is that a zither in the mix in the last chords? Plus, you can do t’ai chi stretches to it.

Jim and Judy danced to Glenn Miller when they were courting.

The Lawrence Welk recordings, all from the pre-TV days, are astonishing. Joyful, energetic, inventive, not slick at all—nothing like the bland music I heard when I was a kid in my grandfather’s living room watching the TV show. I used to worry that I was turning into my mother. Now I should worry that I’m turning into her father.