Throwback Thursday: “L’Elephant,” Camille Saint-Saëns


Elephants are the largest animal that can also manage to be completely adorable.  I once spent a very diverting 20 minutes watching a baby elephant play catch with its mother using a red ball the size of a washing machine.

Elephants are also deceptively intelligent animals despite their otherwise slow-moving, vaguely dopey appearance.  They remind me of certain humans I know, come to think of it.

In any event, Camille Saint-Saëns wrote a whole suite of pieces about different animals.  I have very happy memories of listening to this one as a little kid and giggling at the thought of watching elephants gracefully dancing to this melody.



Worldly Wednesday: “When I Grow Up,” Fever Ray


Oh, Fever Ray.  You’re so incredibly weird.  Is it because you’re Swedish?  Do I really care?  No, not really.  For other, darker songs, check out “Keep The Streets Empty For Me,” and “Seven.”

PS: Whoopsidaisie, I let the blog lie fallow for a week.  Sorry, Yankette Nation.

PPS: Hi, Karl.

Worldly Wednesday: “Election Song,” Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains



There are a lot of people who woke up this morning with a hangover after watching the midterm results last night.  So, today is a good day for your friendly neighborhood anarchist punk bank, Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains.  Fare forward, voyager.

I curse this world one second. Demand it buy me a sandwich in the next. Or else I’m bummin’ a cigarette. That will help me to forget how hungry I am. 

I can’t believe that bastard won this morning. It’s the kind of night for vodka and forties! And we’re mixing our drinks stiff tonight. Yeah, we’re mixing our drinks stiff tonight.

Today is the dawn of the draft. And tomorrow we’re shipped off to Iraq. Or else we’re cutting off a toe. Praying that we won’t have to go.

I can’t believe that bastard won this morning. It’s the kind of night for vodka and forties! Who’s ready for the war tonight? Who’s ready for the war tonight?

I’m running on caffeine. And nicotine and amphetamines. I hope more stimulants are on the way. Cause who doesn’t have a drug problem these days?

I can’t believe that bastard won this morning. It’s the kind of night for vodka and forties! And I’m sniffin’ those pills hard tonight! Yeah, I’m sniffin’ those pills hard tonight!

FRIEND WEEK! Salubrious Saturday: “Study #21 for Player Piano (“Canon X”),” Conlon Nancarrow. Submitted by Chris.


Yankette’s Reaction:

This piece is demented.  Absolutely, without question, demented.  And I love it.  It’s a great piece for the day after Halloween – it’s very spooky.  If I ever have an abode that I want to turn into a “haunted house” for neighborhood kids, this will be one thing I play on the hi-fi.  The left hand starts and you think, “Okay, a little a-tonal, but intriguing.”  And then the right hand kicks in and you think “what in the name of God is that.”  But you can’t stop listening!  All of a sudden the pace of the hands switches!  Why!  Why is it switching!  And then all you can do is cling to the octaves being played until that gets wiped out, and then…it stops.  …What.

Chris’s Justification:

Sometimes a piece of music is all about the idea behind its construction. This notion goes all the way back to the earliest notated music we know about, and the early repertory of vocal music is full of arcane structural devices not apparent to the listener. One example of this sort of thing is the canon – a piece of music based on the idea of strict imitation. In it’s simplest form, it’s a round: “Row, row, row your boat” is a canon. One voice sings the idea and it is repeated exactly by the second voice. But you could make that into a retrograde canon by doing the second voice in reverse: “boat your row, row, row.” Composers love ‘em: every third variation in Bach’s famous “Goldbergs” is a two-voice canon in which the second voice starts on progressively higher scale degrees.
So here is a canon in the hands of Conlon Nancarrow, the wildly eccentric composer for player piano. In this case, this canon for two voice is all about time. Both voices are based on the same 54-note melody, but at the start the treble voice plays that melody ten times faster than the bass. As the piece progresses the notes in the treble slow down while the notes in the bass speed up in exact proportion. The time values cross in the middle (the “X” of the title). The overall effect is astonishing. And it was all done by hand, using paper and pencil to plot out the formulae and a piano roll punching machine to manually create the roll.

So THAT'S what that was...

Termagant Tuesday: “Hawaii,” New York Ska Jazz Ensemble


Aloha, Tune Sharks!  Your intrepid blogger is in delightful Honolulu this week — for work.  (I know, right?)  What with the six hour time delay, I only now had a moment to send you a musical postcard.  I hope its weirdness will make up for my tardiness.


Throwback Thursday: “Le Chant De L’Oignon,” Anonymous French Person



The make-up, organizational structure, and even some of the names we employ in the U.S. Army derive from Napoleon’s Army.  So it’s always interesting to go back to Napoleon’s Army and learn something about how they did things.  Well.  One of the things they did was sing this song as they marched into battle.  I won’t rehash the history, which this video does an admirable job of telling, but I will say, I think this is just marvelous.  Screw the typical “I don’t know but I’ve been told” cadences that our soldiers run around post to.  I want them to sing The Onion Song.  I want Rangers to sing The Onion Song, I want Special Forces to sing The Onion Song, I want everyone to sing The Onion Song.  Getting them to sing it in French would be a bit of a stretch, and probably impolitic and a whole lot of other things, and, sure, it wouldn’t be the best tactical plan to sing this while, say, trying to locate and terminate Osama Bin Laden et al.  But the blood swooshes around the heart just a little bit quicker imagining our men and women in uniform singing this on parade, at the very least.

I’m spending the day at a phenomenally boring conference on an Army post.  I’ll be sure to bring it up to one of the Colonels there.  I’m sure it will be a big hit.  “Onion Song?  $%&^ing love the Onion Song!”  …Right.

Worldly Wednesday: “Dalla parte di Spessotto,” Vinicio Capossela


Vinicio Capossela is one weird dude.  He is – surprise! – strongly influenced by Tom Waits.  This is one of my favorite songs of his.  It sounds like a demented carnival, which is handy, since that is how life has been feeling as of late.  If you want a gorgeous, melodic song, check out “Ovunque Proteggi.”  Meantime, enjoy spending some time by the Spessotto (which, from what I have been able to figure, is a hotel outside Venice).

Massive apologies to all of my Italian readers for the horrific English translation.  I know zero Italian so I relied on Google Translate.

Siamo dalla parte di Spessotto, da appena nati dalla parte di sotto,
senza colletto, senza la scrima, senza il riguardo delle bambine.
Dalla parte di Spessotto il tè di ieri riscaldato alle otto,
i compiti fatti in cucina nella luce bassa della sera prima.
Dalla parte di Spessotto con la palla dentro il canotto,
col doppiofondo nella giacchetta, col grembiule senza il fiocco.
Timorati del domani, timorati dello sbocco,
siamo dalla parte di Spessotto.
Siamo la stirpe di Zoquastro, i perenni votati all’impiastro,
sulla stufa asciuga l’inchiostro dei fogli caduti nel fosso salmastro.
Dalla parte della colletta, dell’acqua riusata nella vascetta,
il telefono col lucchetto e per natale niente bicicletta.
Dalla parte di Spessotto e se non funziona vuol dire che è rotto,
dalla parte del porcavacca e se nn lo capisci allora lo spacchi.

L’oscurità come un gendarme già mi afferra l’anima,
attardàti qui in mezzo alla via,
non siamo per Davide, siamo per Golia.

Non per Davide e la sua scriva,
non per i primi anche alla dottrina,
con il tarlo dentro all’orecchio
laflanellusi (?) che ci mangia il letto,
con i peccati da regolare le penitenze da sistemare,
sei anni e sei già perduto
e quando t’interrogano rimani muto, muto.
Dalla parte di spessotto,
che non la dicono non chiara che non la dico non vera
che non la dico non sincera, tieniti i guai nei salvadanai,
se resti zitto mai mentirai.
Adamo nobile, Carmine equivoco,
Rocco Crocco e la banda Spessotto,
imboscati in fondo alla stiva,
negli ultimi banchi della fila,
abbagliati dalla balena, nella pancia della falena,
clandestini sopra alla schiena,
gettati al mare delle anime in pena,
evasi dal compito, evasi dall’ordine,
imbrandati sotto a un trastino,
a giocarcela a nascondino di soppiatto allo sguardo divino.

E il paradiso nostro è questo qua,
fuori dalla grazia, fuori dal giardino.
Va la notte che verrà non siamo più figli del ciel,
figli del ciel, figli del cielo,
ma di quei farabutti di Adamo e di Eva.

L’oscurità come un gendarme già mi afferra l’anima,
ha tardato qui in mezzo alla via, già mi prende e mi porta

Dalla parte di Spessotto, dalla parte finita di sotto,
ma siamo tutti finiti per terra, tutti a reggerci le budella,
gli ubriachi, brutti dannati, ma pure i sobri, belli fortunati.
E quando verrà il giorno che avrò il giudizio,
dirò da che parte è intricato il mio vizio,
per che pena pagherò il dazio, in che risma sono dall’inizio.

Da che giorno ho levato il mio canto
da che pietra dato fuoco al pianto
perchè cielo ho sparso il mio botto
non da Davide solo da Spessotto..

E il paradiso nostro è questo quà fino alla notte che verrà
non siamo più figli del ciel, figli del cielo non da Davide
solo da Spessotto.

We are on the side of Spessotto, from newborn from the below,
no collar, without parting, without seeing girls.
On the Spessotto, tea yesterday, heated at eight,
the tasks done in the kitchen in the low light of the evening before.
On the Spessotto with the ball inside the boat,
with a false bottom in the jacket, apron without the bow.
Fearing the future, fearing the outlet,
are on the side of Spessotto.
We are the descendants of Zoquastro, the perennial rated all’impiastro,
on the stove dries the ink of fallen leaves in the salty ditch.
On the side of the collection, water reused in vascetta,
the phone with the padlock and no bike for Christmas.
On the Spessotto if it does not mean that it is broken,
on the side of Porcavacca and if you get it then ….

The darkness like a gendarme already grabs my soul,
lingered here in the middle of the street,
we are not for David, Goliath is for us.

Not for David and his writing,
not for the first also to the doctrine,
with the worm inside the ear
laflanellusi [?] who eats the bed,
with the sins to adjust the penances to be fixed,
six years and six already lost
and when t’interrogano remain silent, mute.
On the Spessotto
that does not say not clear who does not say not true
that does not tell you not sincere, keep the piggy banks in trouble,
if you remain silent never lie to.
Adam Noble, Carmine misunderstanding,
Rocco Crocco and the gang Spessotto
ambush at the bottom of the hold,
in the last row of pews,
dazzled by the whale, in the belly of the moth,
illegal on the back,
thrown to the sea of souls in pain,
processed by the task, escaped from the order,
imbrandati under a trastino,
giocarcela to hide and sneak the divine sight.

And this is our paradise here,
out of the grace, out of the garden.
It should be a night that will be we are no longer children of the heaven,
sons of heaven, sons of heaven,
but of those scoundrels of Adam and Eve.

The darkness like a gendarme already grabs my soul,
has been slow here in the middle of the street, already takes me and brings me

From the part of Spessotto, from the finite below,
but we all ended up on the ground, all in reggerci guts,
drunks, damned ugly, but also the simple, beautiful lucky.
And when the day comes that I have the judgment,
tell which side is intricate my vice,
I will pay the penalty for that duty, in that stack are beginning.

From that day I raised my hand
from that stone set fire to tears
heaven because I have poured out
David not only Spessotto ..

And this is our paradise until the night that will be
we are no longer children of the heaven, the sons of heaven not by David
only Spessotto.