No sound makes a person happier than a jazz band from New Orleans. Not the laugher of little children, not the soothing thrumming sound an ATM makes when it dispenses your money, not the person you’ve had your eye on saying “I’ve loved you for ages,” nothing. Nada. The big donut. There is an absolute riot of fantastic Louisiana and other varieties of Dixieland jazz versions of Auld Lang Syne, and your Yankette struggled mightily over which one to pick. I almost went with The Kings of Dixieland, because, well, they’re The Kings, but this version is so much rowdier and it sounds like they’re just having a ball. So let’s join them (and their singing at 03:02), shall we? Pop the champagne, crank up the volume, grab your someone, and take a spin around the room. May you and yours have the very happiest of New Years, and may 2014 bring you everything you deserve. WHO DAT!
Oh, Monday. Poor, maligned Monday. It gets such a bad rap. No matter how much you adore your job, sometimes the sound of the word Monday just makes you want to say “sod it all” and hide in the bathtub. Especially difficult to stomach is the first Monday after Christmas. Helpfully, delightful Scottish singer Paolo Nutini has written a song that puts the whole “work” jag in quite the healthy context.
Additionally appropriate for this specific Monday is the song’s self-determination theme that makes it a good one to listen to in these last days of 2013. Remember those resolutions you made in 2012? Any remaining that you can (or want to) accomplish in the next two days? Anything about your life you’ll resolve to change in 2014? (Editor’s note: HOLY CRAP 2014. I feel so old. It was fourteen years ago I rang in the 2000’s with champagne floats. Never having a champagne float again has been a fantastically easy resolution to keep.)
This piece is my most meaningful musical discovery of 2013. Here’s how it happened.
Do you remember, back in September and early October, when it felt like everything was going wrong at once? If you live in D.C., as I do, you probably remember. Let’s catalogue everything that happened:
– The Navy Yard shooting
– The shooting/car chase around the Capitol
– The man who immolated himself on the National Mall
There were other awful things that happened in D.C. and around the world around that time, as well, and I remember talking about them but don’t remember what they were. I guess I blocked them out.
Also around this time, my work started to really pick up and I found myself staying later and later at the office. On late nights at work I like to listen to music to keep me going, and this night, filled as I was with a sort of existential dread, I looked for something soothing. I’ve listened to William Byrd all my life, so I found a recording of his sacred motets on YouTube, pressed play, and forged ahead.
My ears leaned towards the speakers when “Ne irascaris” started. It was different than the preceding track, and not just in tempo and melody and all the obvious things, but in tone. It wasn’t exactly soothing but it wasn’t exactly sad, and it sounded a little resigned but simultaneously still kept some hope alive. The music caused all the fear, anger, unease, and resentment – towards a whole lot of things – I had felt since the Navy Yard shooting to build in me until, once the music got to 06:10, I completely broke down.
“Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem has been made desolate.”
I had to look up the English translation the next morning and was startled yet completely unsurprised to discover what the words that brought me to tears actually meant. It felt spooky that I had, through total chance, found a piece that so completely resonated with feelings I’d not yet fully dealt with that it sparked a wonderful catharsis. It’s amazing what music can do.
Ne irascaris Domine satis,
et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostrae.
Ecce respice populus tuus omnes nos.
Civitas sancti tui facta est deserta.
Sion deserta facta est,
Jerusalem desolata est.
and remember our iniquity no more.
Behold, we are all your people.
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem has been made desolate.
It’s Saturday. By now, you’re probably back from wherever you spent the holidays, or your family has finally left your house. You’ve woken up, with great relief, in your own bed, in your own living quarters, with no one to deal with and no one’s agenda to fulfill but your own. Maybe you’ll go to a yoga class wearing one of those low-cut tank tops that make your grandmother sad! Maybe you’ll build that Lego set all wrong! Maybe you’ll finally unleash your inner Caligula and diligently plow your way through the food and booze leftovers in your underwear as your blissfully ignorant parents spend their drive home discussing how great it is to see you looking so put together! Whatever you decide, today is all yours, my friend. You do you. So here’s a song to celebrate your liberation from forced happiness over dippy presents (“A ‘festive’ red and green cheese grater! Wow!”) and ossified holiday traditions that no one really enjoys but everyone keeps up because, well, it’s the holidays.
I know, I know. This is way, way more blues-oriented. I mean, the whole chord progression, for a start. But I just can’t help myself – it’s just so very, very funky. Additionally, if you’re like me and you spent the Christmas break sticking to a strict diet of cheese, pâté, prosciutto, chocolate toffee crisps, and port, and now find yourself dreading putting on anything remotely resembling pants, you might need a little encouragement to leave the house. This song will add some sexy funk to the junk in your trunk.
In the spirit of Christmas, this blog’s very first post – helpfully on a Thursday – will fit the season. Feast your ears on Sweelink’s ecstatic “Hodie,” which is three and a half minutes of barely controlled (for a Baroque dude) excitement about the birth of Jesus. The best part of the piece is at 2:42 when the choir sounds like it’s splitting apart in competition to see who can produce a happier “Alleluia.” It’s an absolute delight to sing, and every time you realize that you’re involuntarily dancing.
Welcome to the Tune-Up! How very exciting to see you. You’re in good company: Tune-Up readership extends across five continents and more than 60 countries. Have a music suggestion? Drop me a line in a comment!
So, what is the Tune-Up? This blog serves to answer the infernal question, “What do I listen to now?!” It is organized by days of the week, thusly:
– Modernism Monday: Monday is the day for all music from 1900s era to today – so, Stravinsky to Shiny Toy Guns. All genres, all the time. A good way to start the week.
– Termagant Tuesday: Oh come on. It’s an awesome word. It needs to get out more. Tuesday is the day for all things jazz. (Editor’s note: I use “termagant” as the adjective synonymous with boisterous, noisy, and rebellious; it is not a reference to a mythical, shrewish woman. Though there are plenty of jazz songs about women, shrewish and otherwise. “Minnie the Moocher” will obviously be making an appearance of a Tuesday.)
– Worldly Wednesday: Wednesdays we zoom around the globe to showcase the coolest music from all sorts of places.
– Throwback Thursday: Thursday will showcase what we have all collectively been told to call “classical” music, which has been mischaracterized as boring. This blog and I follow Bernstein’s lead on the definition of classical, which is music that “has classical beauty; it sets up its rules and regulations of balance and form just as strictly as Bach did in his fugues; it was looking for perfection. That’s why it’s classical.” It’s also – in a word – awesome.
– Funk Friday: Sho’ nuff, and ’nuff said. Dance party not included. Your results may vary.
– Salubrious Saturday: Music intended to help you rationalize last night’s bad decisions, or gear you up for another round. Author’s whim dependent.
– Sacred Sunday: Reserved for the sacred works from all religions.
All songs will be offered as a YouTube video whenever possible. Also, nestled within each song will be “mood tags” that allow you to just choose a mood you’re in. Day of the week be damned. Let no man say I scorn the rebel.