Termagant Tuesday: “Bistro Fada,” Stephane Wrembel


The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, the breeze smells like new growth instead of mud and road salt – ah, je me languis d’être à Paris!  (Not like that’s anything new, of course.  Hi there, Sidney Bechet!)  Here is a delightful gypsy jazz track from Stephane Wrembel used in the movie “Midnight in Paris.”  Wrembel is a modern French jazz guitarist for whom Django Reinhardt has clearly been a strong influence.


Modernism Monday: “Coyote,” Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma


I have a cold.  I can’t believe this.  I never get sick, and I’m starting the week with a cold.  Obnoxious to the max.  For some reason, this album always makes me feel better when I’m sick and is just generally great for all times, so I recommend buying the entire thing pronto.  Can you imagine a cooler duo than Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma?  Exactly.  You can’t.  It’s not possible.  Now excuse me while I blow my nose for the 700th time.

Sacred Sunday: “Miserere Nostri,” Thomas Tallis


Thomas Tallis, you magnificent bastard.  This piece is actually a canon, called a “six in two.”  This means it uses six voices to produce a double canon.  This means that the top two voices are playing off each other while the bottom voices are doing their own thing.  You can track in the score how the second soprano follows the first soprano’s lead.  It’s one of my favorite Tallis pieces – which is saying something, since I carry a serious torch for the guy.  I love how it slowly builds to the two-minute mark, plus the interplay of the soprano lines between 2:46 and 2:56.  But the most ingenious part of the piece is how it ends on a question, by which I mean the chord doesn’t resolve back to the tonic (or starting chord of the piece); it ends on the fifth.  Miserere nostri – Have mercy on us, Lord.  It’s a request.  That the piece ends without resolution leaves space for that request to be answered.  It just brings tears to my eyes every time.

Salubrious Saturday: “Old Friend,” Alexander


This song feels like an appropriate one with which to conclude Ukraine Week on The Daily Tune-Up.  We will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, but please keep an eye trained on Ukraine.  Equally important: if you are fortunate enough to live in a country where you have freedoms of speech and assembly, exercise that right every day.  Vote.  Organize.  Protest.  Speak out.  Educate yourself.  Be an active citizen.  We insult those who don’t have these rights when we take them for granted.

Mr. Magoo, he took off with Betty,
And I’m on the porch carrying wood.
My heart is confetti.
I’m having a party,
I’m feeling good.

You say you’re comin’ to crush my skull,
To bash in my face, and shatter my frown,
To mingle my blood in with the ground,
All this as the sun was setting down.

Old friend, trying to hunt me down again
Old friend this is your exit, you’re no, no no friend

Who is this man, who’s afraid of death?
Who fears it so that death’s all he brings?
I s’pose he wage war till nothing is left,
With a mouth full of teeth and nothing to sing.

Well he put his hands around my neck,
And I s’pose I let him from natural respect.
As he frothed at the mouth, I twinkled my eye,
And gave him this vision just before I died.

He saw his lines drawn in the sand,
Upon a land of beauty and wind,
And he in the distance dragging a flag pole
Across a desert that never will end.

Old friend, trying to hunt me down again
Old friend this is your exit, you’re no no no friend

Funk Friday: “Summer Rain,” BoomBox”


BoomBox is a fun band formed by a couple of friend from Kyiv in 2004.  When I was in Ukraine a few years ago I saw their posters everywhere I went and I’m glad I took the hint.  Their songs are really solid and run the musical gamut from synth-heavy funk to mellow instrumental.  This song is one of my favorites by them.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s Interim Prime Minister, rejected Crimea’s vote to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.  Here are some interesting Russian and Ukrainian perspectives on Crimea.  And finally, it doesn’t look like the U.S. has much leverage over Russia – or, Putin wants to make the world believe that.

My memory doesn’t sting anymore, my thoughts don’t strike on my hands
I accompany you to other shores, shores
You are a migratory bird, you look for happiness on the way
You come to say goodbye and leave again, leave again.

The summer rain, the summer rain started early today
The summer rain, the summer rain washes my soul’s wound
It mourns together with me by the blind window.

The summer rain, the summer rain whispers to me softly and simply
That you’ll comme, you’ll come, you’ll come, but it’ll too late
Untimeliness is the eternal drama, where he and she are.

I’ll soon stop dreaming of you at all, but then
I’ll have a new dream about our cold house
You ‘ll understand with time that one doesn’t look for love out of love
But you listen for now and you won’t bring yourself back, you won’t.

Throwback Thursday: “Do Not Cast Me Off,” Maksym Berezovsky


Maksym Berezovky (1745 –1777) was a major Ukrainian composer active around the time of Mozart (1756-1791), and one of the first Ukrainian composers to be recognized throughout Europe.  This piece is an a capella choral concerto set to the words of Psalm 71.  There is so much going on in this piece – not least of which are the tempo changes throughout that increase the urgency of the words being sung.  What gets me even more than that are the moments when the entire comes together in one voice like at 1:05.  It really makes you sit up and take notice.

Diplomatic talks in Paris stalled in the face of Western demands Russia pull back its forces, and the Russian foreign minister’s refusal to recognize his Ukrainian counterpart.  And, in an interesting demonstration of how divided Ukraine is, thousands of pro-Russia and pro-Ukrainian activists tussled over whose flag would fly atop the administrative headquarters of Donetsk.

Map of the location of Ukraine's forces from IISS, as of 5 March

Map of the location of Ukraine’s forces from IISS, as of 5 March

1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.

5 For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
7 I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.

9 Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue him and seize him,
for no one will rescue him.”
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
come quickly, God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
and comfort me once more.

22 I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you—
I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion.

Worldly Wednesday: “Wonderlust King,” Gogol Bordello


This is my all-time favorite Gogol Bordello song.  There are others they wrote with lyrics that are more apropos to the current crisis, but I just can’t get enough of the energy of this one.  It sounds so fantastically, bravely defiant.

Gogol Bordello was formed in 1999 in New York City by Eugene Hütz.  “Gogol” references Ukrainian writer Nikolai Gogol who purportedly “smuggled” Ukrainian culture into Russia in the mid 19th century.

U.S. military troops are relatively close to Ukraine, and the U.S. government has pledged money and technical support.  Russia is using equipment placed in Crimea to block the cell phones of Ukrainian politicians.  Meanwhile, over at The Atlantic, there is a great piece that posits whether conflicts like this are going to be more common in a post-“war on terror” world.

Finally: hello to my readers in Georgia!  Welcome to my blog!  მოკითხვა ჩემს მკითხველს საქართველოში! მოგესალმებით ჩემს ბლოგზე!

Back in the day, as we learned,
A man was not considered to be
Considered to be fully grown
Has he not gone beyond the hills
Has he not crossed the seven seas
Yeah, seven seas at least!

Now all them jokers kept around
Just like the scarecrows in hometown
Yeah, scarecrows in hometown
From screen to screen they’re travelin’
But I’m a wonderlust king

I stay on the run
Let me out
Let me be gone
In the world’s beat up road sign
I saw new history of time…
New history of time!!!

Through Siberian woods
Breaking up their neck
Chinese moving in, building discotheques
Trans-Siberian sex toys and whatnot
Yeah, and why not?
Well at least it’s something different
From what they got in every other airport

Я не еврей, но кое-что похоже
Соврать не даст ни Юра, ни Сережа!
Simple because I’m not a total gadjo
Да я шут, я трюкач, ну так что же?

I traveled the world
Looking for understanding
Of the times that we live in
Hunting and gathering first hand information
Challenging definitions of sin

I traveled the world
Looking for lovers
Of the ultimate beauty
But never settled in
I am a Wonderlust King!

I stay on the run
Let me out
Let me be gone
In the world’s beat up road sign
I saw new history of time…
New history of time!!!

And presidents
And billionaires
And generals
They’ll never know
They’ll never know
What I have owned!
What I have owned…
I am a Wonderlust King!

Termagant Tuesday: “Roses on the Platform,” Yulia Pashkovska


Man, I wish I had Yulia Pashkovska’s voice.  Her tone is so full and warm without being overwhelming.  Pashkovska was a major Ukrainian jazz singer in the 1960s.  I can’t find much on her, at least in English, so if you have any background on her, *please* share; I’m dying to learn more.

Speaking of more, here’s what’s happening in Ukraine now.  Ukrainian soldiers have rejected Russian demands that they pledge allegiance to the Kremlin, gold and oil prices rose as a reaction to the crisis, and the U.S. has suspended trade and investment talks with Russia.

Location of Russian troops and weaponry, as of Monday, 3 March

Location of Russian troops and weaponry, as of Monday, 3 March

Modernism Monday: “War Again,” Balkan Beat Box


This week, The Daily Tune-Up will be devoted to events unfolding in Ukraine.  I find this all so deeply troubling and what do I do when I find something troubling?  I use music to help me sort it out. This song encapsulates my mood about this entire thing.  Balkan Beat Box is, obviously, not from Ukraine, but rather comprised of musicians from the U.S. and Israel who lean on Balkan, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern sounds.  The lyrics talk about the awful cycle of war that can only end if enough people choose that it should end.

Here is a good overview article on what’s happening in Ukraine right now, the background of the conflict, and another on what the U.S. could do about it with the assets it has in the region (if I chose to go the military route).

Here we are like we’re going to get war again
Coming hard, come and get a gun, join the gang
With the bang bang and the same song we sang
Coming over and over again

It’s picking up now, getting more like a game
And it feels real like we learn to fake the fame
And there’s never more then one truth
But you can always tell your better half

Always tell your better half of the story
It goes well with the better side of your face you show on TV
Give me a good reason why I shouldn’t start a revolution
What’s in the constitution? Is this illusion that we bought?
You cut the wings and then you say fly
You say the hero is the one that died
But the true hero is the one who doesn’t live a lie and understands
That there’s an end out of the cycle
Who’s the master? Who’s the disciple?
You can do what you can, but will you do it again?
So what’s the plan?
Looks like we are going to get war again

Here we are like we’re going to get war again
Coming hard, come and get a gun, join the gang
With the bang bang and the same song we sang
Coming over and over again

It’s picking up now, getting more like a game
And it feels real like we learn to fake the fame
And there’s never more then one truth
But you can always tell your better half

Look out
Going to get war again, going to get wrong again
Gone again, with the same song again, on again
Can’t be born again, who’s gone again?
Who’s going to gain out of this war again?
Hooligan in a tie rule again
Soon again you will see it all begin again
Sink again, and that will make you think again

And when they call you go
When they are wrong you know
And u will follow, and you will swallow
Again like long ago and the bomb will blow
So sit back relax and enjoy the show
‘Cause you are as cold as snow and I am here below
I’m going to speak out, scream out
Here we go, got the fresh flow
So before it’s over
Then you are going to find a different kind of war to start again

Going to get war again

Sacred Sunday: “Let Tyrants Shake Their Iron Rod”


There is a big protest right now at the White House on climate change. I am painfully and gratefully aware that, in my country, I have the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech. In my country, were I to join the protest, the police would protect me – not shoot me. This hymn is from my country’s revolution that was fought to create and enshrine these rights in law. I am filled with thoughts of Ukraine today.