Throwback Thursday: String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96, “American,” Antonin Dvorak

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On this day 227 years ago, George Washington was elected the first president of the United States of America.  About a century later, a man from Nelahozeves, a town in the Austrian Empire, wrote a piece of music about the country.  Clearly, the American experiment was somewhat of a success.

I don’t tend to like string quartets, but this is one of the loveliest and more fun pieces of classical music I came across last year.  The first movement’s first 12 notes will get stuck in your head for days.  The second movement (09:08) is a prime example of how to write a heartbreaking melody: keep it simple.  The third and fourth movements are cheerful and lively.  Whereas string quartets tend to make me feel claustrophobic, this string quartet feels like someone threw open all the windows on a spring afternoon.

 

 

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Worldly Wednesday: “Traveller,” Baaba Maal

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Oh man – when the song fully kicks in at 1:55, I just can’t help myself.  I wish I knew Pulaar so I could sing along.  Maal, who is a genius musician and composer from Senegal, writes some of my favorite west African music of all time.  This is one of my favorite tracks of his.  This is guaranteed to turn any day into a good one.

Maal worked on this album with Winston Marshall, of Mumford & Sons, and Johan Hugo, of The Very Best.  Appropriately, this is what Maal said is the main message of the album:  “Life is travel. You are born, you come to the world, and you are traveling until the end. You never know what you’re going to get. When you travel you see that the world is quite interesting—all the different faces, all the different cultures, all the different food, all the different types of music. But it’s all human beings, and it’s all connected.”

A sentiment to remember, surely.

Termagant Tuesday: “Jumpin’ At The Woodside,” Count Basie vs. Oscar Peterson

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Welp, last night was the Iowa Caucuses.  Or, as we say in our household, “Involuntary Nap Night.”  Honest to God – we had at least 10 browsers open full of different polling data, plus NPR on the radio.  We were on it.  Tracking.  …Until I fell asleep in the leather chair.  And by 11pm I couldn’t hit the refresh button any more so I went to sleep.

But today is a new day, Tune-Up Nation, and I for one want to see another kind of battle than the one between Clinton and Cruz, or Clinton and Sanders, or Trump and the collective knowledge of mankind.  So behold the glory of Count Basie and Oscar Peterson doubling up on that old swing classic, “Jumpin’ At The Woodside.”  They’ve got my vote.

Modernism Monday: “Din Daa Daa” The Roots

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The exceptionally funky band The Roots cover the exceptionally cool George Kranz.  This track is basically a vehicle to showcase Questlove’s amazing drumming and general rhythm skills.  But I love it for its spare modernism.  It reminds me a lot of what would happen if Bobby McFerrin and Laurie Anderson got together.  It’s an amazing and fun soundscape until 3:20 when the rest of the song drops.

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.

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.

Sacred Sunday: “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” The Fairfield Four

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One of the hardest things to reconcile is your own infinitesimal  insignificance in the grand scheme of the world with the pretty significant impact you can have on a group of people depending on how you choose to spend your time.  The flash-to-bang ratio of the thought process that goes from “Ooh that’s a nice sweater” to “Here, have $45” can also benefit someone else.

The water in Flint, Michigan, is now so contaminated with lead that, according to the EPA, it can be classified as toxic waste.  The water in Troy, Michigan, a town 45 minutes away, has lead levels of 1.1 parts per billion (ppb).  That’s pretty OK.  Flint’s water is up to at least 27 ppb; in some homes levels are as high as 5,000 ppb.  The highest discovered by a team from Virginia Tech was 13,000 ppb.  The water that pours out of fire hydrants and kitchen faucets is as brown as tea and smells to high heaven.  The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible.  Some children have started losing their hair.

Here is a link to Flint’s public schools: http://www.flintschools.org/  A pack of 35 water bottles on Amazon costs $20.  That’s a pretty cheap impulse buy.  This is where the impulse part of the brain kicks in: you know that there is a horrible happening to people in your country, and you realize that, if you were in their situation, how much you would want a bottle of water, and then it hits you that you can actually send that water yourself.  So I sent a school in Flint a box of water.

Doing something, just the simple act of standing up and showing up, is how any change happens.  As Dr. King said,”The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”