Worldly Wednesday: “Smeorach Chlann Domhnaill,” Julie Fowlis

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Clan Donald (also known as MacDonald), hails from the western islands of Scotland, and counts Finlaggan Castle on Islay as its seat.  The clan dates back to the 12th century and became one of the most powerful of the Highland clans in Scotland.  In this folk song, the singer praises Scotland and calls it a land of “heroes and poets,” beautiful nature, and skilled warriors.  The singer ends with his hopes that Sir James MacDonald returns from fighting for the Stuarts at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

The Battle of Worcester was the last great battle during the English Civil Wars that pitted Oliver Cromwell and his 30,000-strong army against Charles the II’s 16,000 men, mostly made up of Scotsmen. Although handily defeated by Cromwell, Charles II took back the throne in 1660 and thus began what would become known as the Restoration.

 

Hooray learning!

Hooray learning!

 

 

 

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Termagant Tuesday: “Let’s Misbehave,” Irving Aaronson & His Commandeers

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Welp, we’re on Day Three of “Job?  What Job?” here in our nation’s capital.  The federal government is closed, the Senate punted votes, the House isn’t voting on anything, and we’re all still trapped inside.  Those of us who can get out rapidly discover there’s…really not all that much point, except going to a bar that’s open simply because it’s open.  Yes, it’s a little oppressive.  And now, perhaps, we can all understand why more babies are born in late summer and autumn than any other time of the year.

Sacred Sunday: “Wade In The Water,” The Staples Singers

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Sorry for leaving you stranded yesterday, Tune-Up Nation.  Chateau Yankette lost power.  It was very sad.  But we’re back up and running today, just in time to run outside and trudge through three-feet-high snow drifts just to finally get out of the damn house.  That said, the city is really beautiful in its snow blanket, and now that the sun is out, everything looks shiny and clean.  It’s also marvelously quieter than it usually is – no honking, no construction, no sirens.  It’s delightful.

 

 

Funk Friday: “Fresh Static Snow,” Porter Robinson

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IT’S SNOWING IT’S SNOWING IT’S SNOWING IT’S SNOWING IT’S SNOWING

The Feds shut down at noon today, which put everyone on the road and on the Metro at the same time, which went totally fine by the way thanks for asking (oh how it hurts to lie).  But now we are ensconced in our homes, or in the homes of our friends in my case, watching the rising snow drifts and the synchronous diminution of city activity.  So crank that bass up and let’s get down to business.

Throwback Thursday: “Northern Lights,” Ola Gjeilo

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Here in D.C., we sit in breathless, panicky expectation of a whammy of a snowstorm.  It’s been a while since we’ve gotten some serious snow, so we are all tremendously excited and choosing to express our excitement through stock-piling essentials like steamer clams, green tea mochi, and cheese doodles…and then forgetting things like toilet paper and granola.  But we got a little taste of the coming storm last night when thick, pebble-sized flakes of snow started drifting down after dark.  I shuffled home through the gentle snowfall and stood under a streetlamp for a minute.  The snow was beautiful.

Everything is quieter in snow.  Snow muffles sound – car wheels, human feet- and in so doing encourages us to keep silent.  Snow is the only weather event I can think of that makes no sound.  You can hear wind, rain, hail, sleet…but you can’t hear snow.  You’re one sense down, which naturally heightens all other senses to compensate.  And we can’t help but plug that gap with our own, very personal, feelings.  All of a sudden you want to relieve your childhood through sledding, or be a better neighbor through keeping an eye out for the homeless and getting them to shelters, or dive deep into spirituality and mysticism for which silently falling snow provides a natural backdrop.

But, there comes a point in every snowy day when you huddle for warmth and feel very much like the animal you truly are – an animal that is grateful for some shelter, and a moment of stillness in which to contemplate nature’s terrible, sacred beauty.  This is what Gjeilo’s staggeringly lovely choral piece was written to celebrate.

Pulchra es amica mea,
suavis et decora sicut Jerusalem,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata.
Averte oculos tuos a me
quia ipsi me avolare fecerunt.

Thou art beautiful, O my love,
sweet and comely as Jerusalem,
terrible as an army set in array.
Turn away thine eyes from me,
for they have made me flee away.

 

Worldly Wednesday: “Wondering, feat. CAPS,” Yotto

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In keeping with this week’s apparent (and accidental) Scandinavian theme, today we travel from Sweden to its erstwhile east wing, Finland.

Finland is a really neat country, a land of 5.5 million passionate and brooding people who all know how to tango.  This track, from Finland’s most exciting young electronic musician, Otto Yliperttula – aka, Yotto, is all about passionate and brooding.  Yotto specializes in deep house music and last spring joined the highly respectable house label, Anjunadeep.  Though he has arguably more popular tracks, this one is my favorite.  When the beat drops at 4:48, it’s like merging onto an empty Autobahn in an exquisitely sleek sports car. 

Termagant Tuesday: “Dear Old Stockholm,” Eddie Higgins Trio

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On this day in 1520, Sten Sture the Younger (you remember him), the regent of Sweden, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Bogesund and died on the ice of Lake Mälaren.  Sture’s big thing was independence from Denmark, which, while that’s clearly been taken care of by now, remains an amusing point of contention between these two countries.  Ikea (you remember Ikea), a Swedish company, has a puckish habit of naming their flooring after towns in Denmark.  “Oh ho ho!” you might say.  “How very puckish!”

Well, yeah, but if Burberry named their door mats “Boston,” “New York,” and “Philadelphia,” it might be a little annoying.  (Then again, Americans are narcissistic enough to think of it as a compliment, so IDK.)  Klaus Kjoller, of the University of Copenhagen, discovered that Ikea had named foot-wiping items after Danish towns, concluding this was an insult because, rationally, “Doormats and runners, as well as inexpensive wall-to-wall carpeting, are third-class, if not seventh-class, items when it comes to home furnishings.”  Burn!

Charlotte Lindgren, an Ikea spokesperson, responded by explaining that, even if this HAD been a thing Ikea had done intentionally, which it totally wasn’t so stop alleging it was, it’s a compliment!  “These critics appear to greatly underestimate the importance of floor coverings.  They are fundamental elements of furnishing. We draw worldwide attention to Danish place names with our products. That has to be a positive thing.”  Snap!

So, today, give thanks for Sten – for fighting for Sweden’s independence, and for insuring that one of the world’s largest, most confusing meatball-and-furniture companies can foment mild diplomatic spats with their rugs. Skål!