Music

My cherished iPod Classic

This is what I'd save from a fire.

I can play nearly anything on command through my phone or Kindle Fire HD. But they don't mean as much to me as my carefully organized iPod collection. They never could.

This one is only a few months old, actually. The older one was starting, just starting, to not hold a charge for as long when Apple discontinued it. I emptied my piggy bank for another one.

I can plug it into many devices in or outside our house, because I like my music everywhere; that is, I like the option of it everywhere. I also take great pleasure in silence, of course. But there's a stereo system I put together from thrift store purchases—except for the speakers. There's a dock in the kitchen, a portable unit with an mp3 cord for gardening or hanging out on the porch, two sound bars, and of course, the car stereo.

It never needs wifi, and it doesn't even need electricity, except to charge every few days. Currently, it has about 6000 songs on it, about half of which have very high bit rates, and it will hold 9000 more if I want it to. It also serves as a backup hard drive for photos and other files.

Every device we buy these days has more and more functionality. But this device does only one thing, and it does that thing very, very well. It just works. As I grow older, this becomes more important to me than ever. I'm surrounded by a lifetime of possessions already; what do I need with a media player that also toasts bread and takes my temperature?

The Kindle is super because even though I love my books, there is only room for so many of those along the walls of a house, but many times that amount accessible to me online. Recently, I bought all seven Outlander volumes for $2.99. They take up no space, and if the Kindle died, I could still read them online some other way. A few years ago, many people I know were railing about the Amazon Cloud and lack of ownership. But in a very short period of time, all those same people have watched movies online, listened to music online, and have swiftly given up the notion of physical ownership of media, because they are always seeking more and more of it, like children looking out over fields and fields of candy.

I do those things, too, and am able, like others, to broaden my horizons because of it, but if life online ended, I wouldn't miss it much. I'd watch and listen to and read what I already own, having made an effort over the years to collect only what matters to me most. The best candy, rather than the biggest bag of it.

I'm changing the playlist names today. I do that every eight or nine months or so, but the basic themes of them remain mostly the same. I can then choose a mood or a genre or an album and just let it play; no ads, no interruptions, no fuss.

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Deconstructing Baby It's Cold Outside, correctly

(edited to reflect an updated lyric.) Could you write this song now instead of the 40s (50s, 60s, 70s?) No, not with the same cheeky sense of fun. (Which is why, I suppose, people like me cling so fervently to the nice parts of the past.) And of course that might not be a bad thing in our world in which people must be suspicious of each other at all times, but it doesn’t make the meaning of it as it was created in the past no good now. Judging the hundreds of people who've recorded this song as if they've got no sense until you come along and straighten them out is just foolish.

 

This has upset me so much because it means much more than just getting it technically wrong. It means all of our recent past is subject to revision, to the point where everything I knew growing up is now “for all intensive purposes” to someone who doesn't see it in perspective.

We are better at a lot of stuff than they were 80 years ago when this song was written, yet that doesn’t mean they didn’t know how life worked. We can do Earth and universal goodwill and women getting great jobs in a way they didn’t do just then. But to take what they made and enjoyed and interpret it as something different now is doing them a disservice. You can never understand any history if you look at it only through your own current view. History revisionists are all on the wrong sides of things; don’t be one of them.

 

People who have no solid view of history, perspective, context, or songwriting style are interpreting this song as he says/she says, and also don’t even know how people used to talk before the 90s. But it isn’t like that. Each pair of lines works together.

(I really can't stay) But, baby, it's cold outside
(I've got to go away) But, baby, it's cold outside
(This evening has been) Been hoping that you'd drop in
(So very nice) I'll hold your hands they're just like ice

This verse means she went to the man’s apartment and has been having a good time. Now it’s both a little late and getting on toward clutch time. You probably don’t remember life before Britney and Justin were briefly a couple, but back when our parents (your grandparents) were young, and he’d just gotten back from his tour in Germany or Korea, they were celebrating the free world like you didn’t know they knew how.

(My mother will start to worry) Beautiful, what's your hurry
(My father will be pacing the floor) Listen to the fireplace roar
(So really I'd better scurry) Beautiful, please don't hurry
(Well, maybe just half a drink more) Put some records on while I pour

 

Look at what’s been going on. They’ve been sitting here talking in front of the fireplace. You might not remember that, either, unless you live in a cool old building, but apartments had fireplaces if they were big enough and in the north. She sat and watched while he made one, or maybe she made the first round of drinks, only her round was a little weak, because it’s maybe 1949, and she’s a girl like that. Why would she sit and watch him build a fire? Is she stupid and doesn’t know he’s setting a comfortable scene? No, people born before you knew the score. They just liked to pretend they didn’t. So now he’s freshened her drink, and she has put on a record. It was probably a ten inch long-playing record; twelve-inchers ended up taking over, but not just yet. Know how I can say that? Because I know stuff about before now that I didn’t get from a CBS crime procedural marathon or a Tumblr page. All these details add up to a more complete picture than the one you've got in your head.

(The neighbors might think) Baby, it's bad out there
(Say what's in this drink) No cabs to be had out there
(I wish I knew how) Your eyes are like starlight now
(To break this spell) I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell

Are you thinking she’s been sitting there in front of the fire with her second drink but has a woolen toque on her head like she’s about to fight with the storm? No. It’s a cute hat perched on her head to match her outfit. Her coat might have had a big hood that fit over it, or it might have been super impractical in order to look nice. (You might have wondered why hoods on women’s coats were and sometimes are still gigantic. It was to accommodate hairstyles and hats.) And all she notices about the drink is that the bourbon to soda ratio is narrower than hers was. It was a running joke before it got ruined by a few creepers. Not just women to men, but any old body takes a drink and says, “Wow, what’d you put in here? Everything?” That kind of thing. Maybe she set it down, maybe she kept sipping. We don’t know, but we also know the next line wasn’t “Shh, I demand you toss it back.” But did you think she never had a drink before? That’s no good, either. This isn’t the watered-wine and rataffia era, after all.

 

(I ought to say no, no, no, sir) Mind if I move in closer
(At least I'm gonna say that I tried) What's the sense of hurting my pride
(I really can't stay) Baby, don't hold out
[Both] Baby, it's cold outside

Her hat is now off. Know how I know? Because she isn’t saying no. She’s saying “she ought to.” People say ought to about things they really don’t want to do. “I really ought to get on that, clean that up, make that call, get to bed.” They’re trying to talk themselves into doing something when they would rather not just now, thanks. It’s a way of appearing diligent without having to be so, like if you see your neighbor is coming over and you haven’t cleaned yet, so you set the vacuum cleaner in the hallway. At the same time, she’s feeling him out. Will he give her a good reason to not have to say no?

Know how I know that? Because it’s basic human nature, and I’ve lived long enough and seen enough to know that. She’s going to say she tried? Not really, but if she did, nobody would be screaming at her that he took advantage of her. They’re gonna shake their heads a little, grinning, and saying things like, “Sister, what are you up to?”

And then both of them sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” together, because they are in this together. She doesn’t want to go out there yet, but is keeping up a pretense because she’s supposed to, and so he’ll know they can carry on, but maybe not all the way. It’s code, which people have always used, only it’s a little different in each era.

 

(I simply must go) Baby, it's cold outside
(The answer is no) Baby, it's cold outside
(The welcome has been) How lucky that you dropped in
(So nice and warm) Look out the window at the storm

Now here she says no, but it’s the kind of no he understands, not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s set a boundary. He was going too fast. But does she get up? No. She’s pressed up against him, that’s why, still performing her ought tos. She doesn’t stand up so he’ll stop kissing her, and he hasn’t pinned her down so she can’t move, because they are singing this thing together. Remember, this was written by a married couple, who performed it at a party for their friends. Their friends laughed because they understood it like you don’t. They knew the score.

(My sister will be suspicious) Gosh your lips look delicious
(My brother will be there at the door) Waves upon a tropical shore
(My maiden aunt's mind is vicious) Gosh your lips are delicious
(But maybe just a cigarette more) Never such a blizzard before

This is the verse that tells you the truth you don’t wish to know. He moves in for a kiss. She’s murmuring at this point, as their faces meet, and then when they do kiss, she decides maybe she can hang around a little longer, timing it with however long it takes to smoke an unfiltered cigarette. The cigarette was important, even though it seems really grosstastic now. She can sit up and he’ll light one, but at the same time, she can let him know that kiss was so good, she’ll be around for a few more. It’s another piece of cultural code. And the sister, the brother, the aunt? Now she’s just making up stuff. It isn’t a firmer defense, it’s a weaker one, but she is required to make it in this game.

(I got to get home) But, baby, you'd freeze out there
(Say lend me a comb) It's up to your knees out there
(You've really been grand) I thrill when you touch my hand
(But don't you see) How can you do this thing to me

Do you borrow a comb from a man who creeps you out? And she put her hand on his when she asked. Why is she touching him and asking to put something in her hair that he has had in his hair? Because she likes him, that’s why, not because rohypnol is taking over .

She knows he knows she’s into him, and he also knows she’s not taking him too seriously, and so he’ll ask again, because she’s not offended, she’s just going by the rules she’s set for herself, which are more about pacing than anything else. She’s indicating to him that she’s got people looking out for her, but at the same time, is making her own choice about what position she is taking with him on the couch.

 

(There's bound to be talk tomorrow) Think of my life long sorrow
(At least there will be plenty implied) If you caught pneumonia and died
(I really can't stay) Get over that old doubt
[Both] Baby, it's cold
[Both] Baby, it's cold outside (Sung together again)

That was the truth about 1949 or so, and is sometimes still the truth now. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You draw your own line, but everyone else reads it according to their own, though sometimes they’re hypocrites about it, making their own decisions while judging others for making the same one.

You know how “they” say everyone thinks they’re an above-average driver? It is a truth not universally acknowledged that people think everyone else but them is dumber and needs life explained to them. The internet has made this worse. You Google a thing and learn a few talking points, and it never crosses your mind that the person you’re explaining it all to has maybe actually read whole books on the subject or has first-hand experience at it. Your insular confirmation bias bubble leads you to believe you’re the one who uncovered the truth, only actually, not only has it been there a lot longer than you knew, you have only a few pieces of the picture in the frame, and not the whole thing. Sometimes you don't even understand the frame, like when I first saw Impressionist paintings in a museum, and wondered why they were in big ornate gilded things, until someone explained to me that those frames were correct for the period, even though they didn't match the new painting style. That taught me something.

 

People take old texts like the Bible, and they translate them into modern languages. But they can’t make direct one-to-one translations without knowing what the writers meant by certain words (and phrases, since a word could mean something different when used with another,) because they aren’t what they mean now. Shakespeare is the same way. People who study the language of Shakespeare must decode it according to how he used words and how they’d be taken then, not how they wish for them to be taken now. We put on a play with Shakespeare’s intent, by understanding the context in which he wrote. We don't say, "Sorry, Hamlet doesn't get to mean that anymore; we changed what his words meant."

We can play with it a little, though, without ruining it.

 


31 Music Fest Round-Up

I had what I thought was a great idea to share at Google Plus, posting a song each day that matches the characteristics on this list. But it was pretty much a bust, though a friend who did it got some neat responses from a couple of her friends. Still, I had fun doing it and thought I'd post the whole thing here, for archival purposes or something. With about half the posts, I wrote some reflections on the song, but I won't share much of that here; it'll be long enough as it is. It gave me inspiration for this year's NaNoWriMo effort, though. I've put in YouTube links in case someone wants to hear any of the songs.

1. A song that seems written about you: "Windy," by The Association
2. A song that felt like your theme during senior year in high school: "Fascination" by Human League
3.  A good song from the year you were born: "I Want Candy" by The Strangeloves
*4. An album or song you own in at least three formats: Songs for Swingin' Lovers by Frank Sinatra: "Old Devil Moon"
5. A song that scared you as a child: "I'm Not in Love" by 10CC
6. A good theme from a TV show you watched as a child: "The Jeffersons"
7. The band that reminds you most of one or both of your parents: Steely Dan: "Peg"
*8. Your victory song: "I'm Free" by Soup Dragons
9. A lovemaking song: "Corcovado" by Cannonball Adderley
10. A great song for driving on the highway: "Planetary (GO!)" by My Chemical Romance
11. A good song to listen to first thing in the morning: "I Believe in You" by Frank Sinatra
12. A song that reminds you of your first crush: "Are Friends Electric?" by Gary Numan
*13. A song that reminds you of your first boyfriend or girlfriend: "Lost in Love" by Air Supply
14. A song you love by a band you don't like: "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrisette
15. A song that can remain stuck in your head for hours or days at a time: "Burning Pile" by Mother Mother
16. A favorite song of one of your parents: "Heaven Must Have Sent You" by Bonnie Pointer
17. A song you would sing if you were lead singer in a band: "Miss Halfway" by Anya Marina
18. A song you loved when you were 13 (do you still?): "Took the Last Train" by David Gates
19. A song you love in a genre you don't usually like: "Toxic" by Brittany Spears
20. A movie soundtrack you love: The World's End: "The Only One I Know" by The Charlatans
*21. A song they'd play at your funeral: "That Certain Party" by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis
22. A song you dislike by a band you love: "Clean" by Depeche Mode
23. The song that depresses you most: "The Winner Takes it All" by Abba
24. A song that makes you nostalgic for childhood: "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells
25. A song you once loved that now irritates you: "Lady" by Little River Band
26. A song you disliked as a child that you now enjoy: "That's Life" by Frank Sinatra
27. A song with great music and bad lyrics: "The Reflex" by Duran Duran
28. The last song you sang along to: "Don't Rain on My Parade" by Bobby Darin
29. A novelty song you love: "Eh Cumpari" by Julius LaRosa
30. A foreign language song you love: "Águas de Março" by Elis Regina and Tom Jobim
31. Your walk-up song: "Why Can't I Be You?" by The Cure

*4: Songs for Swingin' Lovers by Frank Sinatra, from 1956. Some people say it's his second best album after In the Wee Small Hours. Others agree with me that not only is it his best album, it is probably the best or one of the best albums ever made.

*8: There was this slice of time when music looked like it might be infinitely cool, even if we only ever saw it late at night on Letterman and 120 Minutes. This is a very cool live performance.

*13: Prior to husband with musical taste which perfectly synthesizes with my own, I had a habit of boyfriends and other husband-having of young men with shockingly prosaic musical taste. I'm not saying bad, I'm just calling it prosaic. This was a favorite of my first boyfriend, who turned 15 shortly after we met. He was a romantical sap, and I bet he either still is, or is reminiscing his way back there right now in middle age.

*21: I was all set to name "All the Same to Me" by Anya Marina, but that's from my end of things. Hopefully, they'd come up with something in a sense of lighthearted memory, instead, like this.


Day 12: a song that reminds you of your first crush.

For my #31musicfest project. You can see the first 11 if you are in my Extended Circles at Google Plus.

But for this, I have a little tale, and thus have added it to my blog. Contrary to what a few lofty little boys thought earlier on, I didn't have my first real crush on a boy until 9th grade. Before that, it was all singers, classic movie stars, and baseball players.

I was still so awkward. But trying. Many things began to change the summer I turned 15, things that would affect me for the rest of my life, but while I was still 14, I was the girl in the movie before the one special boy notices her, out of their usual setting, and they hit it off and all is magic. Except maybe he's shallow at first, and pretends at school that they don't know each other, that they never held hands while watching crawdads scutter around the creek under the railroad bridge. Ugh. But what could you expect from him? He was all symmetrical, and had that to live up to. Her teeth stuck out a mile, and she probably had a pimple on her big nose, which had grown in advance of the rest of her face.

Where was I? Yes, 9th grade. Lee's Summit High School, 1979-80. French class. A boy called Bob. We talked a lot, sometimes when we weren't supposed to. He seemed supremely confident to me, smart, funny, and a little goofy. He did not look like the boys girls were supposed to have crushes on, at least according to those boys themselves. Hah. Anyway. Our school was enormous, and the French class was in the upper class section, so it was a long walk to and from it every day. I remember for a time we walked together, and I remember how that felt, like something new I didn't have a name for. There probably isn't a good name for that.

In June, after school was out, I went to Montreal and spent five weeks with my brother, often wandering the city all day on my own while he and his then-wife were at their jobs. When I came back home, I was a different person, rather more myself than I'd been in awhile. Mom and I ran into his sister working at Winstead's on the Plaza, and Mom asked about her brother, and it turned out he'd moved away with his parents, to Arizona or something. So that was that.

This song comes to mind when I think about these things. More accurately, when I hear this song, I start thinking about these things, that boy. I think he'd get it.

 


Finding the ladder: reflections on 80s music and me

Last night on Google Plus, some people were discussing 80s love songs they like. Most of them were from the stations I didn't enjoy, but I was familiar with many. But one person said the love songs then were all cheesy power ballads.

I understand that was a thing. I was there. In fact, musically, I was there in a way only a person born right in the middle of a decade can be; at ages 15-24. Those formative "becoming independent and finding your own way" years were the entire decade of the 1980s for me. 

However, I can name all the power ballads I'd have been familiar with back then on one hand and have a couple fingers leftover. If that's all you thought you could hear without slipping back into time, you were not trying at all. I barely tried to not hear them and had no trouble with it.

The point of this isn't whether you thought Whitesnake poorly defined love songs of that era, which they did not at all, because the 80s began before 1987, the point is that people won't give up working really hard at being narrow of thought and action. And smug about their narrowness, a lot of the time.

You miss so much good stuff that way! And you miss it if you too readily define it as something you are certain belongs in a group of things you disdain, and you miss it if you stay locked onto one channel because everyone around you is and you don't want them to judge you.

Music, listening to and loving music, should never ever be about what other people will say about you, and it is not best heard from a lofty position of superiority, or from the one channel they played in the shake shop after school. Or what MTV was during the Tiffany years. I knew that in 1980 when I was 15, and worked so hard to find more, but it was not until 1989 when I was 24, that some of my now-favorite artists of all time were fully revealed to me, by someone who had grown up with a better college radio station than me. It was a decade of searching, for me.

I still had plenty else to choose from besides the MTV rotation, largely because I didn't even have cable TV yet. When I did get it, I found the best videos were on BET. I told someone at work and she was all, "but isn't that the black TV station?"

Well, yes, however, you weren't required to submit a DNA test in order to watch it. And also, they didn't only play "black videos." I saw "Genius of Love" on there first. For one example. And also, what? It was the beginning of the Benetton era, if you were paying attention.

We have the internet now, and we get to look around so easily and see more stuff than we ever imagined existed. But plenty of it, most of it, was already there. If you sum up an entire era by what you remember during two or three years of it, you are, to me, like the person who just asks for 7s over and over again while playing "Go Fish." Be better. I'm certain you can be.

I went to the record store and book store and listened to what they were playing. I watched late night talk and entertainment shows that introduced new bands, and listened to what older people found to listen to. And because I grew up listening to old music, I knew there had to be more to new music. I was really worried classical music would go away, however, John Williams brought it back to the forefront and now I know that there are people who always have to be creating music in their heads and will always challenge themselves to incorporate sounds in new ways, try new and old things with instruments, and find other like-minded people to do this with. When people look back on this period of time, they'll have a dozen American composers to call the orchestral influences of the day, post-Bernstein, Copland, Gershwin, and there are certainly more in other places, as well.

Back to love songs. I thought I didn't like love songs before I was a teenager, and thought I didn't like many then, but now I know that I'm just not really very fond of a few certain sounds that seem useful only for lament. And I like my lament prepared other ways.

When I named the 80s love songs I liked last night, mostly what I thought of were songs about making love. It makes sense, in a way, as 15-24 are visceral years for most human beings.

Looking back, this list defines my 1980s pretty much in a large nutshell, although as I said, I was always seeking out other channels of sound. Sorry that it's Buzzfeed. There are a few love songs on it I could have named last night instead of my R&B list. (And thus, here's a secondary faster-to-load list to more fully round out my personal 80s "pop" experience, though it leaves out "Wishing Well" and "Stay With Me Tonight.") But to name a favorite I'd be willing to claim now, I'd compare it to how I feel now when I hear Frank Sinatra sing "Witchcraft." Okay, such a thing is not possible. Still, back then, it'd have been "Ain't Nobody," by Chaka Khan. Tell me this isn't a great song.

 

But I also remember how I felt when I heard (the slightly cheesy now) "Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins, and how I felt when the person I loved turned out not to like it at all. Which should have been a warning, however, let's not digress.

This. Years later, this is the one. For me, this is a love song. 

Only, it was me. I saw the whole of the moon. At least, I always tried to.


Me, my brother, (and Dennis Wilson)

Yesterday the intro of this song came to mind and it took all night and this morning to remember which one it was.

I knew it was on my double album compilation by the Beach Boys, Spirit of America. I remember getting it in summer, 1975, from the Columbia Record House music club. That summer was very different for us; well, that season, my timing is fuzzy. It was the first time my dad moved out, and there were just three of us in the house, my mom, my second brother, and me. I was ten and he was sixteen. I don't remember much of him in that period of time beyond his surly attitude toward me. That summer, though, he was nicer to me than usual. The three of us spent a lot of extra time together. I have written down bits of it over the years, however, I was too disconnected from people early in life to have as many memories as I'd like. That's a tale for another time.

I bet he asked Mom to join the Columbia Record Club and she made him let me have some of the albums. But it's just possible we conjured the idea together, that year and no other. Only he thought I just wanted whatever he wanted, to annoy him or because I had no mind of my own, something like that, when in actuality, we just heard and recognized the same stuff. He got there first, and I took leftovers. And anything I listened to because he'd played it first, well, that was a compliment, even if he didn't know it then.

That subscription, however well or poorly it went, and I cannot speak at all to that, was my launch into record collecting. I had a fairly large collection by 1987, when most of it was stolen. But we won't discuss that. When we chose our eleven records for a penny, my brother got six and I got five. He got Wings: Venus and Mars Rock Show. I got Wings at the Speed of Sound. He got The Beach Boys: Endless Summer. I got The Beach Boys: Spirit of America. It's no wonder I seemed annoying to him. And I remember him telling me his Wings and Beach Boys albums were better than mine. They probably were, but I've always just adjusted to what I get to have, and so I liked mine best. I also chose two Captain and Tennille albums, and right now I don't remember the fifth one. I'm sure it was silly.

My brother introduced me to some great music over the years, as did my older brother and my parents. When I was a young teenager, he gave me Natalie Cole's Inseparable for one of my birthdays. Remarkably, it's one I still have, and I still enjoy it. When I was eighteen, he gave me five reggae albums, and I listened to them endlessly for the whole summer and beyond. But those were stolen later on.

Quite a lot of my record collection, in addition to albums and singles I chose myself in good taste and bad, were leftovers from the rest of my family. I still thank them in my heart pretty much continuously for the variety they taught me to enjoy, from my earliest memories. They didn't give me Frank Sinatra or opera, but I'm certain they led me to them both.

I wrote two more paragraphs here, only to realize they deserve a separate space.

My brother definitely gave me the Beach Boys, and I was just mad for them for many years. These days I hardly ever listen to them, except a few select songs, yet I'm always happy when I do.

I hadn't heard this song in many, many years, but it is the first track on the now-unofficial collection I had, Spirit of America. Carl plays so cool, but watch Dennis wail on the drums. Also, I guess they had to clock in under two minutes, because it's definitely played faster than the recording.

 

I had such a thing for Dennis. Oh, hush. You surely know something about me by now, even if you didn't then.

 


Every little thing the Reflex does

God (or Bob, if you prefer, but I'm closely related to one of those,) help me when this song pops into my head, which it does with magnificently awful regularity. It's like a stand-in, when nothing else is going on in there. I don't hate "The Reflex" or anything; prefer post-2004 Duran Duran, but we can all make our peace with the loudest part of the mid-80s if we just set our minds to it.

And this is the sort of thing which denotes why I'll never have a huge blog following. With that, too, I have made peace.

I've been enjoying my Typepad home again quite a lot since I cleaned out the closets here. It feels fresh and welcoming again. I added a new page you can look at, but won't be sharing links from it often; it's just big pictures I take or arrange to capture a thought or a moment. Visual haiku. I tend to use the supplementary pages in seasons or spells, so right now I aim to have at least a weekly update on the garden one. You could look at it this way: this page is the main area where I offer your coffee or a cocktail, because I always have a room in my house just for that purpose, even though I never have any real live friends to put in it. I have the albums in here, and some interesting books and old magazines to look at. Sometimes we talk about what's going on in the world right now.

But then once in awhile we go back to the living room to watch an old movie, or I feed you (because I really like feeding people) while fussing a bit in the kitchen. Now and then we head straight for the deck to watch the light glint across the pool or pick some cherry tomatoes or flowers.

And that's this blog with its four side pages, linked at the top.

I have the house to myself all afternoon, and if I hadn't been fairly useless the past couple of days, I'd add tiny flowers to this canvas I painted years ago in a fit of black anger. I have never since that time bought black paint, because if you don't have it, you can't use it, can you? And it's better to mix the right dark, anyway. However, the main floor is starting to sulk from lack of attention, and the chicken in the refrigerator won't fry itself, so all that comes first. And therefore, I'm determined to listen to some good music while attending to it all, so that "The Reflex" is banished from the old thinking pan for a few days, at least.

Last weekend, I saw La Cenerentola, again alone because of timing, and it was wonderful and so disappointing. Here is a screenshot of how one of the interviews looked; I found it online. Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 7.24.31 PMThat's Deborah Voigt speaking with the stars, Joyce DiDinato and Juan Diego Flórez. This was Ms DiDinato's final performance in the role, for which she is well-known. And she was beautiful to hear. He was excellent. However, this is how we saw the entire thing at Milford 16:

MilfordviewIt was just awful to watch; the entire performance rendered so, and nothing the technician could do would fix it. We were in a different theater than usual, and somehow that must have been the key to the trouble. But they didn't offer a partial refund or discount or anything to me and the half dozen elderly in the audience. And it's too bad, because if they had, I'd have returned on Wednesday to see it again and see who else was in the audience...

And for some reason, this is now the song floating through my head, and I can now go make peace with all the rest of the day.  


Friday Five: Waters of March

I am sprinkling my top five favorite recordings of "Waters of March" into this blather. Because I hate when I want to try a new recipe and the blogger has to wax on for eighteen paragraphs about the rain and a shopping cart and fond memories of her first job before telling me how to make the cookies. You may now take 20 minutes for good music!

 
5. If you don't love this, you don't possess a soul, and I am sorry for you.

A couple days ago, my son walked in and asked me my favorite song. I went into brain-panic and could not remember the name of a single song from any time ever, except for "Mahna-Mahna." Which, you know, I actually like a lot. However, I cannot say it is my favorite song.

I'm so terrible with favorites. It's not that I have no discretion, but I don't have all that much maybe, just take joy in so many things and if you choose one thing, you're excluding the others, like sleeping with Raggedy Ann and worrying all night that Ted the Bear feels left out. And…let's move on.
 
4. The music for this starts after 46 seconds of exposition. It's different than the others, but I love David Byrne in the special way...

"Waters of March" popped into my head, and I decided, okay, that's the one. I could listen to it infinitely, and I could listen to it if I never got to hear other stuff as well. Not to say I would ever wish this to happen. But if it did.

And naturally, the boy has to reply, "Everyone in the world has recorded that song, which one?"

I protested, because he did not ask my favorite recording, did he? (No, he did not.)

It turns out I had only two digital recordings of it, and that wasn't any good for being able to share my five favorite versions, so I went shopping. But I knew a couple of my favorites would be available only on video, because of how they are. And then I ended up thinking they should all be from video, so it doesn't look like I'm giving away someone else's music...*
 
3. Rosa Passos has the lovely elegant musical instrument voice Brazilians seem to come by so often. And this is a cool performance.

Here is the thing about "Waters of March." It can't be too fast like crashing down a mountain in a panicked sports car with the wrong person sitting next to you. It can't be too slow and painfully earnest like the singer emptied a bottle of Jack into his gullet after learning his lover died in a car accident while cheating on him. It has to tumble over rocks in a creek, instead, like conversation after a glass of wine with a newly discovered and fully available love.

And it can't sound like a calculated recitation because that isn't charming at all. I tend to prefer the versions that have both Portuguese and English, but it isn't required.  
2. I'm not fully satisfied sharing this because Stevie Wonder talks for over a minute before it starts. But seeing Daniel sing his grandfather's song live is better than watching ducks on a pond set to his recording.

I could go into the somewhat interesting history of the composition, but you can just read the Wikipedia entry for that.

When you get into a song in this way, it is a very cool path to learning about artists you never heard before. And anybody who can pull off a decent "Waters of March" will get a good looking over by me.
 
1. I just think this is perfect.

*One more thing, though. I found this yesterday and the idea tickled me. A medley of two stream-of-consciousness songs, well, why not? But actually, it is very, very good; three sections that each stand on their own. Now I will want to hear more by Zoe Gilby.

Zoe Gilby - Windmills of Your Mind/Waters of March

  Twelvestories


Night at the opera

The Met Live in HD streaming performance of Così fan tutte had its encore Wednesday night, and all the cool kids were there. The cool kids were: a couple sitting in the row in front of me who were old enough that they probably call themselves old, and a man sitting several rows behind me who was...five-ten years older than me. Well, and me. I was wearing light grey ankle cropped pants with a sleeveless drape top in white, red, and black print, and my black two piece flat shoes.

That was it. There are usually a couple dozen people who attend the live stream on Saturday afternoon, but I was unable to do so. And clearly that isn't the cool crowd.

As I was attending this one alone, I left home early enough to get a snack and settle in before the lights went down. One of the pleasures of being me is that I am always on time without ever being in a hurry. But I should have prepared better for the snack. My choices were the movie theater nachos, hot dogs, pizza or popcorn, or Wendy's, or Target. Normally I'd have chosen something from Target, however, protein was calling my name, and I went into Wendy's for a spicy chicken sandwich.

I'm glad I went inside to order it instead of using the drive-thru. First, if you say no lettuce or mayo, keep the tomato, add onion and pickle, without looking someone directly in the eyes, you don't have any idea what you might get. But second, the people in front of me. Two women and a man. The older woman was fumbling through her order, trying to remember what she likes and how it comes, and the man was coaxing her along. It was interesting to watch. She was tall, with grey hair, and a firm but gentle countenance. The other woman was short and had dyed black hair, and was wearing a considerable amount of makeup; the snowbird variety. The man was...every man around age 70. Pleasant. After I ordered, we were all waiting together, and the older woman took a french fry off the partially assembled tray. He told her, "You just stole that woman's french fries. Those are hers." And then he had to repeat himself so she heard.

She was so astonished, I had to tell her they weren't mine, because I didn't order french fries. Then I apologized to him for ruining the joke. Chuckles all around. They were chuckles because it was a group thing; combined age of the four of us outstripping everyone in the building. But I brought the average down more than I realized, as the tiny woman told me, "Can you believe it? She's going to be 80 soon." Well, I couldn't believe it if I hadn't heard her try to order. She hardly looked 70, and that's not just me getting older. The nearly 80 year-old said, "Well, she's nearly 69." They were all happy about this, so I said, "I think you both look terrific." The younger one said, "She sure does; she doesn't look 80."

And then they took their trays as the man said something about eating there every Wednesday. And okay, these two women looked the same age, but they both looked about 65. So that was nice.

The self-serve kiosks at the theater were not working! Nor was anyone at the ticket sales area. Tickets were being sold by the manager at customer service. Benefit of this was that he knew to hand me the printed program notes, and pointed out I saved a couple dollars by coming to the encore. I sat in the first full row of the main section of seats, with the small old couple in the forward row where there's room for wheelchairs and things. Renee Fleming did the introductions, and that's good; I like her hosting best. Just as the lights went down, the other man came in and sat near the back.

The duets and sextets were basically perfect, and also as we watched Levine direct the overture, it was easy to see how much he loves it and knows it. And I really liked the set design; it was simple but not too stark, no long fussy interruptions, and the singers interacted with it all organically, which sometimes added to the comedy, but wasn't distracting. It felt young and light, which I appreciated. It was not what you'd call perfect overall, just good to listen to, and very entertaining. The arias in Così are mostly simple to follow, yet quite engaging. Mozarty. Also, I am now a fan of the enchanting Danielle de Niese. I hope to see her in something again soon.

During the second act, the old couple moved down to the back row of the front section of seats. I felt adrift at first, but I didn't take it personally. However, the man several rows back, whose appearance I did not notice as tall and sharp with a good profile, suddenly began enjoying himself immensely. He laughed aloud at least a dozen times, at actual funny moments, so that wasn't annoying, plus, he had a very pleasurable laugh to hear. At one point he left for a minute, and when he returned, I did not notice the shirt he was wearing as he passed by.

At the end, the old couple stood to leave before the bows, and he waved, first to me, so I waved in return, and then he waved to the man in the back. This delighted me. I had the sudden sense that we really had all been watching it together somehow, one of those energy in the air things you get, like at an extra innings baseball game.  So then the two of us were in the theater together, watching the curtain calls like we were watching for Robert Downey Jr. to dig into his chicken shawarma.

And so naturally, I called a kid on the phone the moment I stood up, and had a conversation with him all the way to the car, in front of the tall man with the pleasant laugh who got into a four door Acura in the row across from me. He might have had very nice grey hair, cut just as I like hair to be cut on a man, but I didn't notice.


Maya, Louis and the CSO (and Artie Shaw)

Last night I went to the first of four Cincinnati Symphony concerts for which I have tickets this season. It is the inaugural weekend for the new director of the symphony, Louis Langrée. When I bought the tickets several weeks ago, I called the ticket office directly and had someone lead me through the purchase and help me select seats. I could have paid more and sat lower or closer, but by choosing the gallery, I had a good combination of view and value, and it sounds great once people stop whispering and start letting the music take hold. So I'll be in the 3rd or 4th row of section Q this season, and that suits me just fine.

Don't you like knowing there are still a few places you can call without fear of tedium, long hold times, and short-tempered or nonsensical people at the other end? It always seems like such a toss of the dice, and I'm not much of a gambler.

If you haven't attended a performance at the Music Hall, or not recently, you should know that it is a thing well worth doing. It's safe and well-lit, and there are people everywhere who seem happy to help you enjoy the experience. As I recall from last season, the coat check situation could be improved, but I'll see how that goes later this month.

I had the GPS on my phone lead me right to the parking garage entrance, because I don't spend enough time in that area to remember one way navigation, especially after dark. When I got in, Dr. Maya Angelou was already on stage speaking, and I was immediately captivated by her voice, cadence of speech, and personality. She was wearing a lovely long white dress and sat in a wheelchair discussing her life and what she believes people can and ought to do for themselves. She's had a remarkable life; broad and rich and worthy of honor and emulation.

Oh, and then the orchestra began to filter in, taking their seats and warming up. This always thrills me, and makes me wish to be a part of it, because there is nothing like orchestral music that is surrounding you as you contribute to it. It isn't just the sound; there's energy and a sort of electricity that infuses you. At the same time, the auditorium seats were filling rapidly. Naturally, I was in front of a man who did not know how to keep still or tuck his feet beneath him, and his wife was a whisperer. Well, this happens. To me, a lot. Anyway.

After the concertmaster arrived, the brass section stood up and played a fanfare for the new director! It was very cool. And when he walked on stage, all stood and applauded his arrival. I felt it was odd at first, yet somehow fitting, that the first piece of music began with the amazing talent of eighth blackbird, an unusual and impressive group of musicians who played Jennifer Higdon's On A Wire. The orchestra joined in after a few minutes, and at one point, nearly every musician on stage was making a percussive sound with their instruments. It was fantastic.

The first time I heard a Jennifer Higdon piece, I wasn't sure I'd like it, because I'm never able to be pulled into what has been a too-long atonal trend in contemporary orchestral compositions. However, she uses a great deal of inventive technique that builds into what feels like an astonishing cohesiveness. Really, I'm hardly anything like an expert, but I think she's got real genius. I'm always leaning forward to take in more. She's going to be looked back on as an influence, and how great is it to be a tiny part of that? I mean, I think we haven't yet heard the best of what she can do; we're just building up to it.

Next up was Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait. (Read lots about it here.) I love Copland. I'll write about why sometime. Three screens were lowered to show old photographs while the music played; images of battlefields, slaves, Abraham Lincoln, slave trade announcements, and civil rights demonstrations. Dr. Angelou was brought on stage and helped into a seat which allowed her to speak from a semi-standing position. She had changed into a gorgeous black evening gown. The music plays for quite awhile before the recitation of quotes from Lincoln, and about Lincoln and his life are spoken. She made it thrilling. One thing Copland did that I always admire when it's used well is to repeat the opening lines poetically. And it suits her particular oratory style perfectly. When the piece was finished, there was thunderous applause. I have been to some great symphonic concerts and some truly memorable rock concerts, but never have I wanted to stand with a crowd and applaud like it would somehow become some solid and lasting thing to give and to carry away. You know, manifesting it into being.

After the intermission, Langrée set Beethoven's Fifth Symphony off like a rocket. At first I thought it was going to gallop too frenetically for me, even in Beethoven terms, but then I realized that it wasn't galloping, it was rolling. I hadn't heard it played quite like this before, and I began to enjoy it. The Fifth is by no means a favorite of mine, but we played the final movement in high school (I've been trying to figure that out for awhile, I don't know,) and I do love that. It still marches through my head frequently. What I liked about last night's performance was that near the end of the scherzo, the third movement, there was this sense of almost running out of breath, and then the fourth took off again like the first. It was palpable. It's…well, it's sensual. There could be a metaphor in it. It wasn't a deep performance, but it was pleasurable.

The final ovations were enthusiastic and sincere, and I liked that. It was a great night and it's going to be a great season.

Okay, I wanted to share that on the trip to the Music Hall, which is 18 miles for me, I was listening to this goofy 90s playlist I made recently. Just as I hit downtown, Kid Rock's "Bawitaba" began. I found this hilarious for some reason. On the way home, I thought Beethoven in my head would be enough, but it took a billion minutes to get past the casino and back to 471-south, and by then I wanted external sound. Classical isn't really good in my car, and who knows what would turn up next on that playlist? The Spice Girls? So I turned on Artie Shaw, and that was a good decision. He was a gigantically egotistical ass, but he was a real musician. 

 


Windmills in my head

Last night I watched The Thomas Crown Affair, and so this is the song wedged in my forepan at the moment.

 

I've decided it's time I learned all the lyrics, because I only kind of singalong know them.

That's probably because this is how it is usually present in my head.

 

Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel

Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning
Running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Rolling silently in space

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone

Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Like the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple
Rolling silently in space

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly?
Was it something that you said?

Lovers walk along the shore
Leave their footprints in the sand
Is the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand?

Pictures hanging in a hallway
In the fragment of this song
Half-remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong?

When you knew that it was over
You were suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel

As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind


A hot dog at the opera

Let me tell you about my evening. Last night's evening. We went to the encore streaming performance of Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera. This year I plan to see all ten operas they stream. It's always a Saturday matinee performance that is usually reshown the following Wednesday. I like matinee concerts and shows, personally. I can't quite say why, but I tend to get more out of them.

It had a wonderful cast, and, I think, was better than the opening night reviews it received, either because one or two little issues were worked out or because I am a cheap opera date and tend to overlook some of the details a reviewer notices. I do agree on one flaw, which I'll mention later. But first, getting into the theater to watch was a bit strange.

Side note: I was taught to spell it "theater" for movies and "theatre" for live performances. And of course, we were at a movie theater.

I enjoy going to Fathom Event showings at the movies. Last year they showed a few Hitchcock films in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies. There's nothing like that scheduled for this year, but I might hit up a performance or two by the Royal Opera Company Ballet, as well as the Met operas.

Eugene Onegin opened the Met season, and I was very happy to see it, because I'd read the Pushkin novel (which is written entirely in verse,) and I'd heard some of the music by Tschaikovsky, but was unfamiliar with it as a performance. And it's so easy for me to love an opera singer (see yesterday's post; you can fairly easily imagine which category they probably land in…) So I put on eye makeup, high heels and a necklace for the event, because so many experiences are more enjoyable when you put a little effort into your appearance for them. We arrived at the theater only about ten minutes early, but no one is there on a Wednesday in October, so I slid my card in the ticket machine and we were in.

I almost never get snacks at a movie theater, except the ones in town which sell nice teas and cinnamon almonds, things like that, but I was so hungry, I thought I'd treat myself to a hot dog. I figured I could eat it before the music began. A long time ago, people regarded going to the opera or a play like going on a picnic, but I want to hear the music without listening to myself chew or other people rustle packages of Sour Patch Kids. First, though, the sweet but honestly somewhat dull-minded young man at the snack counter just could not figure out how to charge me for a hot dog and drink combo. He didn't tell anyone I wanted the hot dog, which had to be made at a different counter, until he and others spent five full minutes determining how to fix what he'd done wrong. I said as carefully as I could, "Please can I just have the hot dog now?" But he couldn't handle thinking about that.

After I finally paid, he called someone over to the Nathan's counter to give me a hot dog. But because they had almost no business, there were no hot dogs waiting. So that young man had to don gloves and put one on a grill for me. It could have been cooking for five minutes while the cash register was sorted out, but instead I stood and waited again, and my companion was annoyed and anxious to get into the theater. I told him to go on while I waited. The hot dog chef seemed alarmed and put off by this, asking, "Did he just walk away? Why did he leave?" I said he wanted to see the opening preparation before the opera began, and the young man kept trying to tell me that he was already too late for this, and would now see ten minutes of previews, so I had plenty of time for my hot dog to cook.

They don't show movie previews at the opera. The preview of future performances is shown at intermission, and we do really enjoy seeing that. Before it begins, though, we see a little of what's going on backstage, and there is an emcee who introduces the opera for us. However, I assumed I'd miss all that and engaged the young man in a discussion of upcoming movies in order to soothe his nerves while I waited. He is very into the Avengers franchise. He turned my hot dog with tongs and talked away.

After awhile, he put on fresh gloves and inserted a thermometer into the end of the hot dog and waited to see if it was up to temperature. I have to say, I did appreciate that, and it was fairly amusing to watch. It was done, so he turned it on the grill a couple times, put it in the bun, and off I went to mustard and ketchup. I had just enough time in the theater to eat it without choking before the overture began. Also, I had soda. As a rule, I don't drink sweetened soda, but I had the dear boy give me Mr. Pibb topped with Cherry Coke, which is about the driest combination you can come up with via the Coca-Cola company. And I drank just enough for enjoyment of the hot dog.

Finally, the music started for me, my companion, and the three other people in attendance. There are usually about fifty people there for the Saturday viewing. One thing I like about Tschaikovsky's opera is that there are several places where music is played and a little action takes place with no singing. But, too, I recommend it and other Russian operas if you think opera is made only of high-pitched arias. There are a couple of arias, but nearly all the singing resides deep in the middle, still full of passion and drama. Eugene Onegin as a novel is set first in Regency England (the figurative 1820s period,) then the Russian countryside, and Pushkin wrote it over an eight-year period, adding experiences and impressions of his own as he traveled and worked in various places. My Pushkin volume contains the Babette Deutsch translation from 1935, but I've read that Nabokov's more literal and less poetic translation is better. Maybe I'll look into it. Strike that. What I want next is to listen to Stephen Fry narrate a 1990 translation of it, instead. 

Tschaikovsky's opera is set much later in the century and takes place wholly in Russia. It focuses more on the female lead, as well. It's a gripping and romantic adaptation.

I love a good screen or play adaptation of a story. I'm always impressed when a writer works out just how to condense the story into a more compact telling, or just which part of the story to focus on. But last night I learned that Pushkin originally began writing material which would show what happened between the two biggest moments, later destroying it because he thought the government would object. It wouldn't fit into the opera very well, yet I think it would add to our understanding of Onegin's state of mind in the final act.

Piotr Beczala played Onegin's doomed friend Lenski, and I enjoyed him shamelessly. He was lots of fun in last year's Rigoletto, but I liked seeing/hearing him in this sensitive earnest role even better. Anna Netrebko was Tatiana, and she is really wonderful. She made the role for me, because I haven't ever felt much affection for the character. If there was any real negative note for me in the production, it's that her love letter scene takes place in the same outdoor room where the action begins. I think, and reviewers insist, that this demanded a scene change to a more intimate setting. But she handled the scope of it beautifully. I do not agree with those who felt the final scene should have taken place in a different kind of space. I think the outdoor palace setting was just right.

Mariusz Kwiecien was Eugene Onegin. It's a role he's well-known for, but he said in the intermission interview that his portrayal in this production is rather different than usual; more subtle, mainly. His immature arrogance in the first two acts is still apparent in the lyric and in his posture and manner, however. And then in the third, he unleashes his passion and regret over his earlier bad choices. It was nicely affecting.

I want to see more of Piotr Beczala. I amused my companion when I said, "Piotr's not Jonas, but I really dig him." Well! What can I say? He pointed out that these are not…tall men. But honestly, when briefly considering imaginary opera singing lovers, who thinks about how many inches he has over you? That's probably better expressed another way, but I think I'll leave it.

The next performance to watch is Dmitri Shostakovich's The Nose, streaming live on October 26. I'm going to take my 16 year-old son to that, partly because I think he'll appreciate the music, but also, it's an absurd bit of sarcasm, and it runs for only a little over two hours.


Mom and Music and Me: first of a four-part series

More than anything else I can name, my family gave me music. Well, they gave me absurdly dry wit, intellectual curiosity, and a tendency toward anachronistic pleasures, but more than anything else, I owe to them my love of music in a number of forms. 

What I discovered wholly on my own: Vivaldi, Squeeze, Dean Martin, um, that's about it, really. The Beat. But each family member contributed their own particular joy toward my development and appreciation of music, of my walking soundtrack, of most of what fills my days and informs my dreams. That just cannot be overstated.

Memories of each family member are entangled with the music they enjoyed and shared with me, so I'm going to consider each one in an individual post. First, Mom, of course, because Mom is Mom. She sang to me, taught me little dances, really expressed herself that way. And she had a beautiful voice. As I sound a bit like her when I speak, she assured me that someday I would sing like her, as well. I do not. I am the Gene Kelly to her Frank Sinatra in that I can charmingly pull off a song, but not every song; the range and strength can be developed only so far beyond the average in most of us. Well, Sinatra fit the metaphor for my Gene Kelly voice, but she was really more Bobby Darin. She had the kind of voice that was naturally sweet and strong, but I mean, with some more training, she coulda been a contender. 

We sang together in the kitchen. She taught me the Stroll, the Hokey-Pokey, the Charleston, and to waltz. And how to twist, of course. When I got older, I'd sing the melody of a song, and she'd harmonize. She taught me to harmonize, but it was so easy for her to just take the song in many directions, I enjoyed carrying along with the tune while she did. We sang most of the songs in a lower register, with my contralto and her mezzo-soprano, but she could hit a fairly high note when necessary. 

(I do have that way with a keyboard, also never properly developed; if I know a tune, I can play it and add jazz to it, without sheet music. One of my sons does this, and actually composes music. Frustratingly, he wants no part of the training I wished I'd had. When I was a child, my grandpa brought us this old organ, and there was music in the bench. I taught myself the hand positions and to read the notes, but it was easier to just play music, once I discovered how to find it in the keys. I guess that's how it was for Mom and singing.)

When I got a little older, Mom discovered discos. She and a couple of friends, and at one point, a couple of my older cousins, would go out to them to dance. Just as with any other genre, quite a lot of the music from that period is vapid and repetitive, but there's some good to be found in it, as well. And then she discovered a fervence for Jesus, and there were praise and worship songs. To be honest, most of my interest in church-type matters was probably due to the fact that I enjoyed singing the songs. Anyway. That was that, and for a long time it wasn't easy to look back and remember so much of the time we spent talking, reading, singing, sharing. But those are the times I like to think about, and can now honestly say form most of my memories of her. Laughter, joy, and tenderness, and lots and lots of singing. Very little else matters. I love to sing because Mom loved to sing. 

 
This song, my mom owned this song. We had a 45 of it, interestingly already marked an "oldie," though I think it was probably only 10 years old when it was purchased. It's one of a few oldies I never tire of.

 
Mom loved the sexy sound of a sax, and so do I. I loved strolling with her along the kitchen floor.

 
By now, probably everyone knows this is a sanitized version of the original song. Big deal. If you haven't worked out how often that goes on, I guess you still think your grandparents never had sex with the lights on. Can you listen to music from the late 30s-late 50s and not want to move your shoulders and hips?

Speaking of which...Mom loved this song. I chose not to post the original video version because it was clearly made in order to offset the groove, and it's just unbearable, anyway...

 
And this brings up something I've been meaning to address. My older brothers have a memory of my mother being less than flattering toward our darker-skinned brethren. It's certainly somewhat likely, considering where and when she grew up, her ethnic background, etc. But it isn't my memory of her, so I figure she either mellowed beyond where they saw her, or else she was, like many people, just sort of vaguely hypocritical, possessed of that casual phraseology once taken for granted, like saying you "Jewed down" the price of a piece of furniture. We all know better by now, and are suitably horrified by it all. Unless we suck, However, when my mother listened to this song (rather often, to my teenaged embarrassment,) it was definitely Marvin Gaye she was grooving on, if you can pick up what I'm laying down. A whole book could be written about Mom and sexual repression and the battle against it; losing so much by winning that pointless war, and her horror at the realization I really wasn't planning to fight that fight, but mainly? Marvin Freaking Gaye. She and her friend went to a concert shortly before he died and were just in raptures over having seen, they thought, his limo leaving the back of the hall, and they tailed it for awhile but lost it. Noobs. 

SWITCHING gears dramatically, here's our song, hers and mine. I taught it to my daughters and expect to be singing it with one of them in a couple weeks when I visit her in New Jersey. My daughter sings like my mom, sigh...

 


Time isn't holding us

Everything about this song is gorgeous, from the original writing of it to every aspect of the Talking Heads' treatment of it.  

I've continued to listen to David Byrne over the years, enjoy his collaborative works and his writing. I feel certain that if events had only played out differently, we were probably meant to be together, even if only for a brief astronomical experience. But oh, alas. It was never to be. 

He turned 61 today! That hardly seems possible because he's just not that much…older than me…and so anyway. This is my favorite recent thing that I've heard him do, from 2010, but I just downloaded the album he recorded with St. Vincent and am looking forward to hearing that and seeing them play live this summer. 

 

One more thing, just because I always always love this song. This is from 1996.  


Aging iPod, aging me

First I had a light blue iPod mini, in 2005. It was stolen. Then I got a black iPod 5th generation, with 80gb. I guess that was in 2006. In late 2008 or so, it met with a peculiar accident, and stopped working. For Mother's Day 2009, the girls and man colluded to buy me a 6th generation silver one, with 120gb of space. I still have it. It is my number one "save from a fire" object. It has all my digital music, of course, but is also an external hard drive in terms of important writing and photographs that have to be trotted around from one computer to another now and then. I share music with the kids with it, and my playlists are a thing to behold, purpose-wise and archive-wise and just fun-wise. 

Later in 2009, the 6th generation Classic iPod was upgraded to 160gb, and it's remained that way ever since. It is still being produced, but hasn't changed since then. The focus has been on the Touch, instead, which makes good sense, of course. But I'm not interested in that, even if it had more space. My Android phone works well with my Apple computer if I need it to, and the Kindle Fire HD covers all the ground I'm interested in online. The fact is that I'm a little old-fashioned at this point; I'm happy with my self-contained music player just as it is. 

But the battery won't last forever. Just recently, it shows signs of reduced charge time, though not by all that much. As "old tech" batteries go, it's still very impressive. However, once they start to go, the decline seems to pick up speed. So I want to be prepared. It would cost $66 dollars to send it in for a new battery. I don't know…maybe it would be the right path to take. It would be good to have a better sense of how long the unit itself will last, to know if it's worth battery replacement.

We have a terabyte external hard drive; everything is saved to it regularly enough, so if the iPod fails, I won't lose music the way I did the first two times, when my computer was so small it couldn't contain my music collection and still run properly. But I kind of want a new-in-the-box Classic waiting for me the day I need it, because how long will Apple continue to produce them? 

This is the kind of thought process you have as you get older and are, frankly, just a little tired of things changing, when the old thing worked perfectly well. I already don't ever want a new car, even though the CX-5 is such a little badass version of my first-year CX-9. But with cars, there are very good reasons to upgrade now and then; they do improve the technology in ways that benefit us. My music player just handily plays music I can't get on records, and does it anywhere I like. And it has enough space for huge files of things that need to sound glorious, like the Jonas Kauffman Wagner album. I'll occasionally buy improved headphone, speaker, and cable to transfer that sound to my ears, of course.  

I don't mind realizing this thought process is occurring more often. It's like when you realized you no longer needed to know every new band that came out, and later when you went back to buying a style of shoes you thought were comfortable twenty or thirty years ago.  It doesn't mean you gave up on whatever the world still has to offer, which is changing faster and faster, almost by the moment. Your view hasn't truly narrowed; it's just shifted focus. I mean, for a couple more decades, anyway. 

Here's my opera boyfriend Jonas talking about his new album. Just because, is all.  


Parsifal: Live from the Met

On Saturday we went to see Parsifal at the movie theater. The Met has been streaming a dozen operas live this season (for the sixth year,) so that they can be seen all over the world. The tickets are $22 each, really well worth it to see great performers and great music. But you do have to be in a theater with good sound. 

Of course, PBS has been airing a number of them each year, and you can see the general schedule here, if you scroll down a bit. Rigoletto, the one we saw two weeks ago, will air in May, and I'd recommend it for something unusual to enjoy. 

Parsifal is not one for the masses, and I don't mean that in any sort of snobbish sense. It's nearly 5 hours long in addition to the intermissions between acts, so that we were at the movie theater for 6 hours total. It's deep and at times very dark, okay, most times, and filled with symbolism and pain. 

So you have to love the music and the hugeness of the thing in order to really enjoy the experience. Wagner created enormous sounds that are quite overpowering at times, and they envelope your insides. 

Instead of just driving down to Newport, the man faithfully followed his GPS instructions, which took us some odd way around and we missed the opening by the host and in fact entered the theater just after the overture began. As there were only about 50 people in the theater, it wasn't difficult to just slip into some good seats without making commotion. The visual presentation of the overture was so gripping, I began thinking about how great it would be to see quite a lot of symphonic work represented visually. 

It's kind of how I like a lot of prog rock until someone starts "singing." I love the voices in this piece but if I could watch a whole symphony unfold on stage as the music played, I'd happily pay for the privilege. The works of Mahler in particular would lend themselves just beautifully to the idea. 

I like to paint jazz. I'd love to see someone act and move to orchestral music; not with dance, but with pantomime and imagery. 

At the first intermission, we got a snack from the concession stand and some beer from the bar. I had a local vanilla porter which was fine with a hot dog, but then kind of thin, finished on its own. And we moved to lesser seats because someone behind us had a knee-jiggling problem, I think, which made our seats vibrate all through the two hours of the first act.

The second act was intimate and absorbing. The third began too slowly for us but we enjoyed the culmination of the story very much. I felt sort of wrung out by the experience, yet very glad to have had it. 

One nice feature of these streaming events is that the host or hostess is an opera star, who introduces the acts, and conducts interviews with singers, the director, people who make it happen, etc., at the end of the first and second act and before the official 20 minute intermission. Also, because we are witnessing the production onscreen, we see varying (but conservative!) camera angles and closeups. Finally, the English words to the songs appear onscreen for those of us less than talented at interpreting German, Italian, and French as it is being sung. 

That is the "appeal to the masses" which some might find takes away from the purity of the event. But they have the wrong end of the stick. These productions were never meant by their composers to be elitist, and the more people they can reach, the better. It's just that you need a rather steely attention span to appreciate this particular offering. Read about it here.