Throwback Thursday: “The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave): Overture,” Felix Mendelssohn


Felix Mendelssohn, you magnificent bastard.  (I read your book!  …Wait.  (“Patton?”  Anyone?  Ok I’ll stop.))  Mendelssohn wrote this in 1830.  Let’s see what else was happening around that time, shall we?

  • The first railroad station in the United States opened (in Baltimore)
  • The Republic of Ecuador became a country
  • “Mary Had A Little Lamb” was published
  • Revolution broke out in Paris in opposition to the rule of Charles X
  • Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey (yes, like the tea), became Prime Minister of Great Britain
  • Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia recognized the new country of Belgium
  • Hector Berlioz premieres his “Symphony Fantastique”

And Mendelssohn wrote this gorgeous symphony, inspired by a trip he took to Scotland.

Mendelssohn was German and one of the early Romantic composers.  He definitely crams a lot of feeling into nine minutes.  I love the swelling major to minor at 4:28.  Gives me tingles every time.  Although I do deeply resent that he wrote this piece when he was 21.  Show-off.


Worldly Wednesday: “Csiki, Csiki,” BraAgas


Clearly my soul is wandering around the planet without permission because, while I started the week being homesick for New England, now I find myself longing to be back in Prague.  Fortunately, the wonderful female group BraAgas has me covered.  This saucy little minx of a song is from their 2009 album, “Tapas,” which won the Anděl Award, the Czech version of a Grammy.  In addition to world music, BraAgas is also proficient in medieval music – one of their members plays the shawm, which, I mean, if there is a more direct way to my heart, I haven’t found it yet.

Lyrics (which I’m pretty sure are in Romani) below.

Adjatok egy szalmaszálat,
Égessem el a világot!
Adjatok egy szalmaszálat,
Hadd fújjam fel ezt a házat!
Lábam termett a táncra,
Szemem a kacsintásra.
Ha táncolok, szikrát szórok,
A világra fittyet hányok!

Aj Csiki-Csiki, aj ke te merav,
Aj Csiki-Csiki, aj ke te merav,
Aj Csiki-Csiki, aj ke te merav,
Me zhanav me ka zhivav

Vesz ő nékem selyemruhát,
Gyöngyöt, láncot, piros szoknyát,
Reám költi a vagyonát,
Lopja-lopja édesanyját,
Bolondítom, hevítem,
Kiáltozza a nevem,
Csiki-Csiki, így hív engem.
Megöllek én, szép szerelmem!

Aj Csiki-Csiki, aj ke te merav,
Aj Csiki-Csiki, aj ke te merav,
Aj Csiki-Csiki, aj ke te merav,
Me zhanav me ka zhivav

Lábam termett a táncra,
Szemem a kacsintásra.
Ha táncolok, szikrát szórok,
A világra fittyet hányok!
Bolondítom, hevítem,
Kiáltozza a nevem,
Csiki-Csiki, így hív engem,
Megöllek én szép szerelmem!

Aj Chiki-Chiki, aj ke te merav,
Aj Chiki-Chiki-Chiki, aj ke te merav,
Aj Chiki-Chiki, aj ke te merav,
Me zhanav me ka zhivav

Give me a piece of straw to set the world on fire
give me a piece of straw to blow up this house

My feet were made for dancing
my eyes were made for winking
when i dance I spread sparkles all around
and don’t give a damn about the world

Ai,Tchiki-Tchiki, i should die
Ai,Tchiki-Tchiki, i should die
Ai,Tchiki-Tchiki, i should die
I know I’m going to live

Ai,Tchiki-Tchiki, he dies for me
Ai,Tchiki-Tchiki, this is how he calls me
Ai,Tchiki-Tchiki, this is how he calls me,
With me, he go where I want

He will buy me a dress of silk, necklace of pearls, red skirt,
he’ll spend his fortune on me
he will steal his mother again and again
and I make him crazy, I set him on fire

He only shouts my name
tchiki tchiki – that’s what he calls me
I will kill you my beautiful love !

Termagant Tuesday: “Dixieland Kickoff!” Pee Wee Hunt


Ok, so it’s possible – if you get your news from such godless rags as the National Inquirer or the London Review of Books – that you might have heard that I like college fight songs.  A lot.  And Dixieland jazz.  A whole lot.  So you can imagine that, when I found out that some enterprising jazz genius who shares one of my longest-held nicknames in life made an entire album of Dixieland jazz versions of college fight songs, I was a little excited.

Me, a little excited.

Me, a little excited.

I know, I know, it isn’t football season, but I mean come on.  What puts you in a happier mood than a jazzified version of a song celebrating a game that most closely approximates the culturally acceptable physical mauling of a human being in combat?  I know.  Nothing.  Nothing puts you in a happier mood.

Here are the fight songs in order:

  • Illinois Loyalty
  • Written by T. H. Guild
  • 0:00
  • Notre Dame Victory March [Note to Dad: You’re welcome.]
  • Written by John F. Shea, Rev. Michael J. Shea
  • 2:37
  • As The Backs Go Tearing By
  • Written by C. W. Blaisdell, Charles J. Roberts
  • 5:28
  • The Victors
  • Arranged by Bill Stegmeyer
  • 7:34
  • The U. Of M. Rouser
  • Arranged by Bill Stegmeyer
  • 10:12
  • Across The Field
  • Written by William A. Dougherty, Jr.
  • 12:22
  • Down The Field
  • Written by C. W. O’Conner, Stanleigh P. Friedman
  • 14:31
  • Iowa Corn Song
  • Written by Riley, Botsford, Hamilton, Lockard
  • 17:05
  • Fight On For U.S.C.
  • Written by Glen Grant, Milo Sweet
  • 19:12
  • Our Director
  • Arranged by Bill Stegmeyer
  • 21:50
  • The Princeton Cannon Song
  • Written by A. H. Osborn, J. F. Hewitt
  • 24:42
  • On Wisconsin
  • Written by Carl Beck, W. T. Purdy
  • 27:53

Modernism Monday: “April Rain,” Harvey Reid


I’m feeling homesick for New England today, and whenever I’m homesick, I usually turn to one guy: Harvey Reid.  Harvey Reid is an American folk artist and incredibly talented musician.  I grew up on his album “Of Wind and Water” and play it whenever I want to remember what home feels like.  This beautiful track especially conjures up memories of where I’m from.  Once on the train home to visit my family, I made a list of the things that define what that means:

  • Iron rail track nails
  • Hot weeds
  • Frozen mud
  • Sail cloth
  • Tiny fish bones
  • Sweet corn
  • Rambling stone walls
  • Chickadees
  • Pavement undulating with tree roots
  • Low tide seaweed
  • Splinters
  • Bare white churches
  • Bare white birch trees

I’m also from cold April rain.

Sacred Sunday: “Man Comes Around,” Johnny Cash


A bit of a break from our regularly scheduled polyphony, I grant you that, but the subject matter (from the book of Revelation) and the purveyor (Saint Johnny) are no less sacred. I love the rolling rhythm of this one, and the depth of the other instruments augmenting the jangly guitar.

Salubrious Saturday: “Ghostwriter,” RJD2


I’m going to go out on a limb here with you good readers and suggest a hypothetical.  Press play on that video and come with me for a mental walk.

Your week was, shall we say, lame.  You didn’t get a whole ton of stuff done at work a) because your boss gave you weird tasks with non-deadline deadlines, and b) people kept stopping by your office every ten minutes to talk.  Because of the non-deadline deadlines (or NDDs), and the convivial bonhomie of your colleagues’ interruptions, you were in a good enough mood that you didn’t really fire up the ol’ engine but coasted in neutral, taking advantage of a rare bit of calm.  You got to work at a reasonable time, you left at a reasonable time.  It was all very…reasonable.

What did you do with your free time?  Well, in this rare moment of calm (or RMOC), you decided to indulge in your favorite suite of activities: a blended purée of Buzzfeed personality quizzes, reading a few more chapters of the six-pound historical fiction novel you (for some reason) decided to buy at one point, more Buzzfeed personality quizzes, an amusing animal meme or two that you dutifully posted to a friend’s Facebook page, looking at colors to paint your bedroom, and puttering around the kitchen considering why you have so many cookbooks when really all you eat is butternut squash ravioli and BabyBel cheese rounds.

Did you see friends?  Yeah, more or less, when you weren’t looking at photos of cats with melon rinds on their heads.  Did you exercise?  Well, you took the stairs and walked a lot.

So, to summarize: you worked an average amount, accomplished average tasks in an average way, and did average things in your average amount of free time.

And now, it’s Saturday, and what’s your overwhelming feeling?  “Aw the hell with this – average is the enemy of awesome.  I need to do something.”  And that, my friend, is what Saturday was made for.

If you pressed play when you started reading this then right…about……now those horns at 1:30 should have kicked in.  So kick yourself in the ass and get outside.  I’ll meet you there.

Funk Friday: “Joyful Noise,” Breakestra


Funk Friday in spring?  With the funkiest band this side of California?  Yes please.

I’m sending this groove-tastic track to all of you Tune-Up fans from around the world.  Did you know you represent five continents?  You all tune in from 18 different countries – from Brazil to Germany to Singapore and back again.  That’s amazing.  I am so happy, grateful, and excited to share music with you all.  So crank it up!  Let’s have ourselves an international dance party!  Make a joyful noise and groove on, Tune-Up fans.  Groove on.

Throwback Thursday: “String Quintet in C, D. 956: II. Adagio,” Franz Schubert


Ever get that feeling that the universe is up to something?  Like there is something going on and you don’t know what, but something is definitely up?  That’s how this week has felt to me and I’ve needed music constantly.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I never go anywhere without my headphones.  I literally never leave the house without those happy little wires running from my ears to my iPhone.  This week, the second movement of Schubert’s extraordinary string quintet has been on heavy rotation.

This piece is a prime example of why I just adore classical music.  It seeks out and absorbs your emotions like rice absorbs the water around salt crystals.  As rice expands in water, so too does music like this grow as it finds and absorb your thoughts and feelings, and in the end, you can see its real shape.  It helps you look inwards and check in with yourself – “oh, so that’s what’s going on.”  When you hear this piece, how do you feel?  What do you think about?  Where does your mind go?  Pay attention to whatever comes back to you; you may or may not be surprised.  For me, this piece magnifies both happiness and sadness, which is why I have been listening to it so much this week.  It calms me down the way sharing a burden with a worldly friend can be calming.  I have to be very careful listening to this piece, among others, when I’m in a certain kind of mood – otherwise it becomes too sodden and it takes on that mood’s shape permanently.

Your results may vary, of course.  But I hope it enhances and magnifies good things when you hear it.

Worldly Wednesday: “Sounds Like Gun (Kepei),” Bobby


This awesome song, by an artist named Bobby, is from Sierra Leone, where hails another incredible human being: 15-year-old Kelvin Doe.  Kelvin is an inventor, a total autodidact, whose mental agility and curiosity are jaw-dropping.  Thanks to the work of a man named David Sengeh, a PhD student at MIT, kids like Kelvin in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and South Africa are getting mentored to develop their skills – all with an eye towards helping young minds around the world find solutions to their country’s problems.  People, Tune-Up fans – people are our biggest resource.

Kelvin’s story is here.  It’s ten minutes.  It’s worth it.  And if you want to know more about Sengeh’s campaign, go here.


Termagant Tuesday: “Ghost of Stephen Foster,” Squirrel Nut Zippers


Sorrysorrysorrysorry, Tune-Up Fans, I know I’m a little late.  Have a zippy Zippers track.  This is probably my favorite Zippers song because it just so very, very weird and unsettling and just sort of, “…what?”  I mean, “Camptown ladies never sang all the doo-dah day, no no no.”  Well, sure…I mean…yes?  They didn’t?   Wait.  That doesn’t make sense.  I’m so confused.  And yet…I’m dancing!  Whee!