Thursday, March 19, 2020


ADMINISTRIVIA: Sorry for the hiatus. I am back.

I am sick with what is almost certainly a cold. Cough, sore throat, but no fever. I want to stress that. No fever. Nevetheless, we can't be too safe. I came home from work yesterday and I'm on a 14 day leave of absence. There's a lot of stress that comes with this, and since I'm sure all of you are feeling the same or worse, I won't expound on that.
My Facebook feed is stuffed with Covid-19 memes and updates. I'm sure yours is, too. I figure I can provide a public service by continuing these blogs: at the very least, they might keep your mind (and mine) off what's happening for a little while.

I am skipping "doubt". This is a scary time we're living through, and quite frankly, I don't feel like contributing to the negativity.

So, Music.

I have done several of these blogs already, of course. Music is tremendously important to my life.  It (almost) doesn't matter what the genre is, what the song is. If it has a melody, I will give it a listen. If it has sung (not spoken, not screamed, and not whisper-shouted) lyrics, I'll listen, even if they aren't English. If I love the music enough, I will look up the words. That's how songs in


 Scots Gaelic,



and several other languages ended up on my "Songs From a Life" playlist,

*Those last two have English versions--Time To Say Goodbye and Whenever, Wherever, respectively--but I think they sound better in their original languages.

I would say I have three loves above all, musically.  The first is classical...but not classical. I will explain that.

I have always loved which is commonly called "classical" music, to differentiate it from "pop" or "country" or "jazz" or what have you. Classical music is its own universe--there is no other genre of music spanning a century, let alone a millennium. Within that universe, there are eras: the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Classical, the Romantic, and the Modern (when everything fragmented). I can find pieces to appreciate in each era, viz:

Renaissance - Spem in Alium ("Hope In Any Other") Thomas Tallis (1570)

Many of you may have heard this on the Fifty Shades of How To Do BDSM All Wrong soundtrack. It's worth a listen on its own, preferably in a dark room. Composed for eight choirs of five voices each, it is widely considered to be the crowning achievement of its era, and it's a timeless masterpiece.

Barque - Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041, J.S. Bach

My friend Jason played the first movement of this. There are a host of Bach pieces I could use here. He's not my favourite composer, Bach, but there are times when only he will do.

Classical - Trumpet Concerto, Hob: Vlle/1, Joseph Haydn

Lean pickings here for my taste. I find the actual "classical" era's music to be drier than sawdust as a rule. But I have performed the first movement of this for my grade 13 music class. There's a run up to a very high note that I didn't hit, and I cringe every time I remember.

Romantic - Symphony #2, "Resurrection", Gustav Mahler

I could pick any of a hundred compositions from this era as my favourite, but this...this is the apotheosis of music. Mahler went on to write one even bigger (the 8th), but for my money this is pure, unadulterated Romanticism. There is a world in this symphony.

Modern - Become Ocean, John Luther Adams

This is another piece, like Spem in Alium, that is best listened to in the dark. Just let it wash over you. There's no immediately discernible melody...this is simply a soundscape, and a stunning one.

My second love is brass band music. My friend Craig planted this in me, and it has DEEP roots. I played baritone (think a smaller tuba) in high school band, and hearing what a top band full of top players could do captivated me. It still does, 30 years later.
This genre is virtually unheard of on this side of the Atlantic, but in Europe, especially the British Isles, it's hugely popular. There are thousands of bands at varying levels, and they compete. The best in the world, for many years running now, is the Cory Band.

Here's Cory performing Peter Graham's "Dynasty"
(which won them the British Championships last year)

...and "Audivi Media Nocte" (I Heard In the Middle of the Night"), Oliver Waespi
(inspired, incidentally, by a piece from...Thomas Tallis)

And here we have the Black Dyke band performing "Immortal" by Paul Lovatt-Cooper
...which is still, probably, my favourite overall. This has everything: drama, gorgeous slow lyrical sections, and a driving, furiously paced section just after the intro that will wake you the heck up in a hurry.
The third genre of music I love...Broadway. There's something about a song-story in the service of a larger story that enraptures.

"Anthem", from CHESS. I have heard close to ten different performances. Tommy Korberg here is definitive. The sheer passion in this is soul-stirring.

"Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)", Hamilton: An American Musical

I could have picked any song. This musical is my current obsession and has been for almost a year now. If you had told me that I would develop this level of love for a hip-hop musical about early American politics, I'd have told you you were nuts. You can tell me I am nuts all you want. The movie's coming out in October of next year and I will be first in line.

"Welcome To The Rock". COME FROM AWAY

This entire musical ought to be required listening right now. It's about resilience and the human spirit in the wake of 9/11. After HAMILTON, this is the musical I most want to see live.

"For the love of God, stop bringing toilet paper to the Lions Club!"

"WOMAN (spoken)
What's happening?

Somewhere in between

DIANE (spoken)
Your life

NICK (spoken)
And your work

When the world may be falling apart
And you think

I'm alone

I'm alone

And I'm so damn helpless

There's nothing left to do but drink

We open the airplane doors
Flash all the cars
I've never done that before

Enjoy some music, folks. It connects us to ourselves and each other.

1 comment:

pamala palz said...
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