Category Archives: Music

Peculiar muzak: 5

A lush, ostinato-less “Every Breath You Take,” in the lobby of Navy Federal Credit Union, Reston branch.

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Peculiar muzak: 4

Portishead, “Sour Times,” in the Unique thrift store in Merrifield.

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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.

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How does it feel

To sweeten a Blue Saturday, Orkestra Obsolete plays New Order’s “Blue Monday” using only instruments and technology available in the 1930s. and @tcarmody

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Craig Havighurst has proposed a new umbrella term for that thing that most people call classical music, that my friends in college (particularly in the School of Music) encouraged me to call art music or serious music, and that I have also heard described as Western concert hall music. Havighust likes the term composed music, and he makes some good points.

Composed Music’s primary virtue is its blunt veracity. It is what it says it is: works by a singular mind, fixed and promulgated in written form. …it emphasizes the actual creator of the music, giving credit where it’s due in an era when the general public has been conditioned to associate works with performers.

And lest we forget,

The awkwardness of there being a Classical Period in Classical Music becomes moot.

In a follow-up, he points out that he intends the term to include jazz and third stream compositions as well, written by artists as diverse as Brubeck and Zappa.

Of course, we can always go with the dichotomy associated with Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington:

There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.


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That sound you hear is my head exploding

Chris Ware, Ira Glass, Nico Muhly, and John Kuramoto, d.b.a. “Phoobis,” create an animated cover for this week’s issue of The New Yorker. Guest-starring a former Secretary of State.

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Chromatic elegance

Five songs to mark the centenary of Billy Strayhorn.

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The best part is when he stops for gas

This showed up on VH-1 this morning. It’s easily the dullest, lamest video that the 80s has to offer.

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Shouting through the storm

John Adams chats with Renee Montagne about his works, old and new.

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He had me at the mbira

If your cellphone rings in the middle of a John Cage concert, Paolo Angeli knows what to do with it: he’ll fine some way to wedge it into his baritone guitar.

A musicologist’s wet dream.

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Feel the buzz

Great radio of the week: finding the best fit in musical instruments for Port Huron fifth-graders, as Kyle Norris of Michigan Radio reports.

The button on the end, added by an NPR director, will bring tears to your eyes.

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On the teevee

CBS This Morning finally ran its feature about Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson’s Tiny Desk Concerts. They were there to film on a couple-three occasions many weeks ago, including February’s awesome Mucca Pazza show. Apparently the producers felt that my colleagues made for more interesting audience shots than me, but you can see my chin and my wristwatch starting at 3:59.

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So, picking up some vibration in the air or other, I recently watched Keep On Keepin’ On (2014), Alan Hicks’s documentary about the relationship between veteran jazz trumpeter Clark Terry and the young pianist Justin Kauflin. The film was thin in the areas I was curious about, namely Terry’s career in the 1940s and onward—his departure from the Duke Ellington orchestra gets only an offhand mention, for instance—but it does a good job of telling the story it wants to tell. Terry was an influence on so many players, and he continued to nurture talents like Kauflin’s into his 90s. His body ravaged by diabetes, Terry kept on teaching.

My familiarity with Terry’s work is rather limited, but he was a gateway drug for me, like Dave Brubeck. I have a vinyl recording of Terry performing live with the Ohio State University Jazz Ensemble; this would be early 1970s, as I bought it after then band played a high school assembly for us. His work with the horn impressed me less than his vocal work, especially his signature piece “Mumbles,” an encore bit of rhythmic whimsy.

Anyway, it came as a slight shock to learn that Terry had died just this past week, as Reuters reports. Another one gone, but we have his recordings (more than 900 of them!) and his students.

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I hate it when Mom and Dad fight

An oldie but a goodie:

Language Log

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Baker Street

Sideman Raphael Ravenscroft, who earned a little sliver of immortality with an eight-bar riff, has joined Gerry Rafferty.

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