Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sleigh Ride in a Fast Machine (The 12 Musings of Christmas #5)

This will be a quick post - a fast ride, if you will. We're entering the "Sleigh Ride" portion of these twelve days, so today's special is a 2010 Anderson/Adams combo. If you don't know John Adams' scintillating Short Ride in a Fast Machine, here's a short, fast video to get you up to speed:

Adams' piece has also taken on a life as a "music history survey" piece that shows up in a variety of textbook anthologies. Strangely, it's often presented as a rep for Minimalism, even though there's more variety and clear forward momentum here than is typical of such music - of course, the "short" quality is handy for those survey courses where the last fifty years are generally handled in something like half a class. Anyway, it's a delightful fanfare, full of vibrant orchestral color and sophisticated syncopations, and it actually works pretty well with Leroy Anderson's biggest hit. In fact, I only just learned tonight that Mr. Adams himself has viewed and posted about this mashup in a good-natured manner.

Of course, with attention comes notoriety, and I've noticed one YouTuber complaining "If the tempos were lined up this might actually make a good mashup. As it is, it just sounds a bit like a mess." Well, yeah. It's more a mildly elaborate realization of a pun than a fully realized musical concept. However, I think the way the the pulses phase in and out of each other is actually related to the kinds of metrical phasing characteristic of much Minimalist music. Yes, there are audio-manipulation tools that might make it possible to synchronize the beats more squarely, but audio layering provides some wonderful opportunities for phasing effects that would be extremely difficult to realize in real time. I enjoy trying to follow both tracks as they weave in and out from each other. As it is, with the Short Ride slowly coming to the fore as the mashup progresses, Adams' sharp accents do interact pretty effectively with horse and sleigh. Or so I choose to believe, even if scottallen1990 disagrees.

The 12 Musings of Christmas (so far...)
  1. Christmas Time is Here
  2. In Season
  3. Vertical Christmas Medley
  4. Trippin' with Chestnuts
  5. Sleigh Ride in a Fast Machine

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