Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Your Daily Dose of Christmas (and Tone Poem Tuesday!)

It's pretty clear that in this series I've stretched the definition of "Tone Poem" to "Any orchestral work that isn't actually a symphony", and hey, I can do that because it's my blog. So here's an orchestral suite of extracts from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Christmas Eve. This music has nothing at all to do with any traditional Christmas music that we've all come to know, but hearing something new is always good, right? Rimsky-Korsakov's operas are almost completely unknown in the West today, which is a shame. They all deal -- like Christmas Eve -- with Russian folk stories and legends, which tend to be likewise less than well-known in our land.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Your Daily Dose of Christmas!

I saw this song mentioned yesterday on a list of "Christmas songs that aren't actually about Christmas". The notion regarding "We Need a Little Christmas" is that the song, from the Broadway show Mame, actually takes place at a time when it's nowhere near Christmastime, and the song is kind of a desperate grasping-at-straws search for superficial happiness by a heroine who is down in the dumps for whatever reason. (Aside from this song, I'm completely unfamiliar with the show.) I suppose I get the point of the article, but it really does always strike me as unfortunate that so many people are so militant about relegating the good cheer of Christmas -- or what should be the good cheer of Christmas -- to the confines of one specific time period on the calendar, with some people being very rigid about how the good cheer is parceled out (starting on the day after Thanksgiving and coming down on December 26).

Since we always seem so intent on packing Christmas and all its joy into as tight and concise a package as possible, this song seems to be pretty indicative of our approach.

(Side note: It's a shame that my main impression of Angela Lansbury is from Murder She Wrote, which wasn't awful but...well, looking back, I think she got to phone it in a lot on that show.)

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

I'd never heard this sad and melancholy song before today, when someone mentioned it in a Facebook thread. The term "Hard candy Christmas" refers to a Christmas in which money is so tight that all the stockings can be filled with is cheap hard candy. There is always a sadness to this season, isn't there? We should always try to remember that.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

You don't really hear "Good King Wenceslas" a whole lot, do you? It's one of those Christmas songs that you have to look for if you want to hear it. It's an interesting song, full of details that I suppose aren't nearly as familiar now as they once were. Modern audiences likely have little idea what the Feast of Stephen is (admission: I had to look it up myself), and I likewise didn't know until I looked it up that Wenceslas was a real historical figure in Czech history. Wenceslas is clearly a Latin-sounding name, but what I didn't know is that it's a Latinized version of the Czech name Vaclav. The things you learn!

Anyhow, I've always had a bit of fondness for "Good King Wenceslas", with its archaic-sounding lyrics and its melody that traces all the way back to the 13th century. It's one of those carols that is part of the very, very long Christmas tradition.

Here are the Irish Rovers with "Good King Wenceslas".

Friday, December 02, 2016

Bad Joke Friday

I might have used this already...I forgot I had saved it. But it's still funny.

Your Daily Dose of Christmas!

Just about every musical artist or act that sticks around for any length of time has some sort of Christmas recording out there somewhere, even if it's a performance or two from a variety show or something. Every year for this feature I try to think up some now-obscure acts that aren't well remembered at all beyond their likely singular hit and then I see if they did any Christmas stuff. This usually turns up an interesting little gem or two, like this: the Starland Vocal Band, performing "The First Noel".

Funny thing: the person who posted this to YouTube apologizes for the little "nik" sound that is heard a bit at the beginning of the song. He doesn't seem to know what that sound is...but those of us who grew up with vinyl records know, don't we!

And if you find yourself wondering, "Who the hell is the 'Starland Vocal Band', anyway?!" Well, here you go.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Your Daily Dose of Christmas!

Time for the annual daily bit of Christmas music and/or video ephemera! As always, some of these will be familiar, and some will be less so. We start with a bit of the familiar, because both of these musical talents, brought together nearly 40 years ago in one of the most oddly wonderful collaborations ever, are both now gone.

Here are Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

And as a bonus, here are Will Farrell and John C. Reilly re-enacting the sketch, almost exactly as written. (Except for the very ending.)

Something for Thursday

Some film music today! John Barry is a composer whose work is...well, I don't want to say it all sounds the same, because it doesn't, but his sound is unique and unmistakable. He gets about as close to "It all sounds the same" as you can get without actually "all sounding the same".

Here is a suite from one of his finer scores, Out of Africa.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tone Poem Tuesday

It's not a tone poem.

It's also not a piece that I even like.

I've never liked this piece.

I didn't like it when I played it in college. I didn't like it when Torvill and Dean skated to it. And I didn't like it this past weekend when I listened to it five times.

But still...well. I don't know. I'll say this: the performance here is one of the few that doesn't have me clocking out at around the eight minute mark, and the video itself is amazing, with some of the best camera work I've ever seen in a classical music concert video. (Don't ask my why Gergiev is using what appears to be a toothpick instead of a baton to conduct.)

The work is a ballet, not a tone poem. I know. And it's the same damned melody, over and over again, for fifteen minutes. I know. And I've never once felt the slightest hint of why so many consider this work the height of eroticism in classical music. But...well. I don't know.

Here's Ravel and Bolero.