Sunday, December 30, 2012

Words to Leave Behind in 2013

So Lake Superior State University, which clearly has a superiority complex, has published its annual list of words that need to be banned from our collective vocabularies. Honestly, the list could and should be a lot longer, but that's not my problem. What is my problem is that some Twitter acquaintances (not sure I should call them friends anymore) began suggesting that someone such as I might want to do something creative with these words. From that point on, I'm not really responsible for my actions as I simply cannot resist this sort of challenge.

Here then, first of all, are the newly banned words/phrases:
  • Amazing
  • Baby Bump
  • Shared Sacrifice
  • Occupy
  • Blowback
  • Man Cave
  • The New Normal
  • Pet Parent
  • Win The Future
  • Trickeration
  • Ginormous
  • Thank You In Advance
And here is my Pavlovian response:
Hear this amazing sonnet, formal
poetic blowback ‘gainst the bleat
of words which think they’re the new normal,
which occupy our discourse street.
Must I take refuge in my man cave?
No, through shared sacrifice I can save
mankind and win the future now.
I’ll use these words and show us how
this trickeration’s so aberrant.
So drop this lingo, baby, bump
these words into the verbal dump.
For just as any wise pet parent
rebukes, I this ginormous stance
must take and thank you in advance. 
It is, of course, an Onegin stanza, following in the tradition of previous MM musings:
Happy New Year!

UPDATE: OK, I now see that this is last year's list. If you want to write a new sonnet, here's the freshly published 2013 list. The 2012 list is now archived here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Time is Here (?)

Wow, at the risk of sounding trite and old, Christmas has come up really fast this year. So, instead of my half-planned series of clever posts recapping favorite creations from Christmas Past, let's just toss them all into one fruitcake-syle post.

First, though, I must acknowledge a video that is new to me and that I'm very disappointed I didn't think to create myself: The Twelve Tones of Christmas.

It is of course an elaborate realization of a silly pun - which is enough to make me love it - but there's actually something quite charming about this arrangement. The ocarina + harpsichord scoring helps a lot; this sounds like the kind of thing that would be playing if Captain Kirk showed up on a planet ruled by some sort of eccentric aristocrat. It has cheered me many times this past week.

Of course, my own "Twelve Composers of Christmas" features an authentic 12-tone row for Day 12:

Here's the whole thing if you've somehow missed it:

If you're in a sentimental mood, you might enjoy this little multi-tracked "choir" featuring my then 6-year old daughter singing a Peanuts classic. (It was created for a little Christmas movie my sister made last year.)

I've already plugged the "Vertical Christmas Medley," which I actually discovered to be excellent white noise background while I graded exams yesterday. Click the pianist to see how many tunes you can pick out:
And speaking of mashups, we have:


...and, something I'd never bothered to post on the blog before because it's not very good, but whatever:

On a slightly more sentimental, but still rather silly note, here is a version of A Christmas Carol I "directed" back in 2000 featuring a wide array of adorable nieces and nephews and some cheesy synth cues on the soundtrack.

...and with that, I think the Christmas cupboard is now bare. God bless us, every one!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Holly and the Ives

Slow times here at MMmusing, and with a lot of exams, papers, and projects still to be graded, 2012 will likely end quietly here. However, I will continue the tradition of bringing back some old seasonal chestnuts.

Before I even had a blog, way back in Aught Five or so, I created a little online greeting card titled "Merry Christmas from the Ives Family" which effectively reduced Charles Ives to the idea of throwing a bunch of tunes together in chaotic simultaneity. By the time it debuted on my blog, I was just calling it "The Vertical Christmas Medley" - seven of the best-known seasonal tunes in glorious harmony. You can sample this feast (and try to pick out the individual tunes from the mire) by clicking on the hard-working pianist below:
So, there's that. But recently, Ives has surprised me with a couple of unexpected Christmas hints of his own, both surely unintentional. Some time last spring, a coaching student brought in a song I'd never run across before with the merry title, "Like a Sick Eagle." It begins like so, and as I began playing it and hearing it for the first time, a familiar tune caught my ear amidst the dissonant intro (there's a special sort of fun in being surprised by something one is playing!):

That's right, sing along with me: "Oh'the....wea''ful..." It is a very normal tonal pattern (sol-SOL-fa-mi-re-do-sol), albeit in a non-tonal context, so the connection to the 1945 Cahn/Styne song is surely just an accident, but it jumped right out at me last spring (when the weather was not at all frightful), and then again this fall when I re-opened the music, having completely forgotten everything I just suggested above, and immediately heard/felt the same thing. Musical déjà vu on multiple levels. You can hear the Ives for yourself here, although I suppose I've already prejudiced you to "hear what I hear":

But Santa Ives wasn't done with me yet. (It's worth noting that Ives has popped enough vernacular tunes into unexpected places that one starts to expect the unexpected.) Just a couple of weeks ago, the same singer handed me another Ives song. This time it took a little while in before the Christmas spirit took hold. Do you hear what I hear here at the 0:54 mark?

In this case, it's only the first four notes, but the addition of the syncopated fifth note (alas, a third too low) suggests 1950's Frosty, the Snowman. At least, that's the way I heard it in early December of 2012.

More and more, this kind of connection-making seems to be a big part of what listening to music is for me. I don't know, maybe I'm doing it wrong but, to quote a great lyricist, how can it be wrong when it feels so right?

In fact, although I penned most of this post last night, I just read the following celebration of connecting in a Jeremy Denk appreciation of the great Charles Rosen:
At the end of the corridor was the nerve center: a piano stacked with music, a desk stuffed with papers, a threadbare couch, and a book-covered coffee table. It was desperately unhip. But it was affecting and intense, the accumulation of things, of ideas, and Charles’s shuffle. You felt a kind of slow frenzy at his place—connections mounting upon connections, understanding upon understanding. Erosion in reverse.
One could argue (as I have before) that the musical experience is largely about connections, and though Rosen's specialty was connecting the dots of the past, there's no reason new, coincidental connections can't be just as meaningfully a part of that experience. I would guess even Rosen found meaning in a few connections that weren't really connections until he made them so.

More Christmas specials and kooky connections in the days ahead...