Opera is one facet of classical music in which I’ve never indulged. I’m a patient man, but I don’t have the endurance for a composer like Wagner, whose Ring Cycle lasts roughly eighteen hours (seriously). And then there are the over-the-top melodramatic beltings, the proverbial fat ladies singing, which seem ridiculous to me. That isn’t to say that opera is trivial; you’ll find many devotees. Like those freaks on NPR’s Opera Quiz who are able to identify an aria by hearing half a note. So, yes, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of opera.
I say “not exactly,” because behind those warblings, you’ll find some great classical music. Take for example, Verdi Without Words, an arrangement of his best-known themes by former Cincinnati Pops conductor Eric Kunzel. Even for the uninitiated, you are likely recognize the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore, which is often parodied in popular culture (just think of Looney Tunes). And then there’s “La donna è mobile,” whose melody has become for many the epitome of Italian opera. My personal favorite piece is the “Egyptian March” from Aïda.
Put on your Viking helmet complete with horns for the Overtures and Preludes from the operas of Richard Wagner (pronounced vahhhg-ner, not wag-ner). Sure, the man’s legacy isn’t exactly without tarnish, but the music is brilliant and you won’t be subjected to eighteen hours of Germanic mythology in song form. Who can’t resist banging their head to The Ride of the Valkyries? A favorite from this album is the Prelude from Act III of Lohengrin, which puts me in the mood to be heroic.
Until next time–may your personal rite of spring not be riotous.
During this Library Lovers’ Month, I’m returning with more on the Classical Music I hold so dear to my heart. I, your savant, and my trusty sidekick Philip Koro, will be coming at you with the rockin’ rambunctious raucous action that you associate with composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and others. At this point, I’m making the internationally-recognized sign for “metal” in the air. YEEEAAAAH.
In earlier blog posts, I had mentioned the library now has a collection of performances on DVD. Although you may think that us librarians live a life of bon-vivant leisure, I haven’t had much a chance to report back my findings–until recently.
If you like baroque music, you already love Johann Sebastian Bach. It’s impossible to miss him. The man was a machine–he composed over 1,100 compositions during his lifetime. He also had twenty children. In one of his last works, The Art of Fugue (Die Kunst der Fuge), Bach showboated his mad crazy compositional skills. I watched a performance of this work by Die Akademie für Alte Musik (which is based in Berlin) through the magic of the digital video disc. The recording, which gives an intimate view of the performance, also gives a sense of the work’s architecture, beginning with a simple theme played on the organ to its complex counterpoint played by strings, woodwind and keyboard.
Sure, The Art of Fugue isn’t exactly easy listening. The reward, however, is a better appreciation for the structures of baroque music and a greater understanding of perhaps the greatest composer ever (the greatest in this gent’s humble opinion). I must admit that The Art of Fugue is not for everyone–in fact, it was intended as a teaching aide for students of composition. This means that at times the music can be rather on the heavy side, like reading a complex multi-layered but well-structured novel–one that Bach never completed. The last piece in the cycle, Contrapuntcus XVIII, abruptly ends with the last note being played by a viola.
Until next time–may your larks always be ascending and your clavier be well-tempered!
Last fall I went to my first college football game. Nothing big like Notre Dame or Ohio State but a Division 1 game featuring The University of Cincinnati Bearcats. Needless to say it, was a fun and great experience hanging out with some buddies and enjoying a Bearcat victory. Then all of the sudden, about midway through the first quarter, one of those dance music songs started playing during a timeout. You know, they do that sometimes to get people off their butts and shaking them in some way. I ignored it like all those other tunes because quite frankly I can’t dance and don’t want to. You will not see me doing the YMCA on the Jumbotron during a TV timeout at any sporting event. I am actually there for the game and not the music and dancing. But then I noticed everybody riding the pony during this song and thought, that’s a new one. I dismissed it and, quite frankly forgot it altogether.
So quietly this song, “Gangnam Style” (which I found out later is what it’s called from a coworker), is taking over my subconscious. It has now permeated through everything – MLB, NFL, Cyclones hockey, the library! – and is taking over my life. I find myself just randomly dancing “Gangnam Style.” If you don’t believe me, ask my family or even my coworkers. The song is stuck in my head forever, just like that classic, timeless Rebecca Black song, “Friday.”
The real question about this Korean music sensation is, is this only a Macarena-type fad, or is it here to stay like the YMCA or the Chicken Dance? It’s hard to say but the YouTube video has over a billion views - that’s ONE BILLION – and if my information is correct, it is the first video to do so. I guess 1 billion people can’t be wrong. I say, long live PSY and “Gangnam Style.” I’m actually doing it right now and I’m terrible at it.
I’m a guy, so I never cry. But, as the title goes sometimes, some things do make me cry. It’s a natural human emotion and I am man enough to admit to it. This, however, is not going to be about all the things that make me cry; you don’t care about that and I certainly have no need to share my sensitivities that only occur when it’s raining. Nonetheless, it’s time we share a tender moment together and delve into our feelings over a nice, freshly brewed cup of tea.
For me, nothing gets me crying more than a good Bruce Willis movie, like the Die Hard movies or Red or even 16 Blocks, in which he sports an outstanding mustache. In the grand scheme of things, a good Bruce Willis tear-jerker keeps it all in perspective for me. When poor John McClain gets sucked into another scenario where he is the only one that can be the hero and save the day, that just hits me right in the tear ducts man. The pain he goes through must really hurt – I mean emotionally, of course. Probably physically as well.
But, even more than that, sitting down next to the fireplace while sipping on some tea and reading a good emotionally gripping-novel with some historically accurate inaccuracies like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. This book is so emotionally gripping that my copy has several tear-stained pages. There is not a doubt in my mind that the library’s copy has some of the same problems…from many other patrons’ leaking eyes.
Then there is Justin Bieber. “I’ll be honest with you, I love his music. I do. I’m a “Justin Bieber” fan. For my money, I don’t know if it gets any better than when he sings “When a Man Loves a Woman”.” Bieber brings on a whole other level of sentimentality. Every song he bellows from his velvety smooth vocal chords brings out emotions in me that I just don’t understand. He sends me to tears with one note. He’s just that good.
As you can plainly see, I’m an emotional fellow. I may not cry at every time a vampire shines like a diamond for me or for every lost love, but I have my moments and that is exactly what they are…my moments. Plus, I kinda lied; this did turn out to be about my times of tenderness.
P.S. I never Cry, never. I don’t care what you say…..never. Plus, I’m more of a Michael Bolton fan. He just gets me.
Well, I guess we made it to another new year and we avoided the apocalypse yet again. I don’t know about you, but I am extremely disappointed with this fact. I mean either I was going to become a zombie (unlikely), or I was going to hunt zombies (probably). Either one would have been great. THANK YOU VERY MUCH MAYANS and your false prophecy of doom! I guess you have now made yourselves completely irrelevant to much of modern society and it is time your ancient society fades into oblivion just like all those other societies that no longer exist and we can no longer remember. As a consequence, like after Y2K, we are left with a pre-apocalyptic world. Thanks for getting our hopes up with your calendar that ends for no reason.
There are, however, a couple of things I liked about 2012, and since the world did not end, you can check them out from the library.
Not necessarily in that order. So if you are frustrated with your pre-apocalyptic world and need something to take your mind off the regular everyday mundane world, those are just a few of the things that you can find at your friendly neighborhood library. It is okay if you don’t like the things I listed above, just stop reading my posts. Right now. I mean it. You are now dead to me…dead I tell you. Really, just find something you do like, that would be great.
Ahhh the flannel shirt….it is the iconic look of the angst ridden youth of the nineties, a time when rebellion meant looking like a lumber jack fresh out of bed. It was easy. It went great with a pair of ripped jeans. Plus, Eddie Vedder wore it and he was in Pearl Jam. It was a time when Miley Cyrus’ dad had a number one hit and big hair bands were still the rage. Underground grunge radio was emerging like Winona Ryder in a Tim Burton film (I’m not sure what that means so don’t ask).
Now that we are a decade into the twenty-first century all the music that inspired our flanneled-filled angst has returned with a vengeance. Many, many artist have returned to try and find the magic they once had back in the day. This seems like the place to list them, but who wants to read that? Plus, that would require me to look up each and every artist that has made said comeback and that is too much like work for me to do.There are at least 30 or more; you can sort through this list to find your favorite and then visit the library to check them out.
With that said, those now iconic flannel shirts need to be dug out of the back of your closet, because they are back and ready for revenge. Just ask George Lucas, he never got rid of his and he just made over $4 billion. So here is what should happen, everyone everywhere needs to grab their dirtiest, grungiest flannel and wear it every day to work until they make $4 billion. Because the flannel shirt is the new power suit. Or….OR just watch The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit; maybe it is the old school power suit. Either way, flannel should be your everyday go-to shirt for everyday things such as meeting with the President or the CEO of your company.
While you are at it, grow some facial hair…mustache, beard, whatever…it will go nicely with your new flannel look. By the way here are some of my favorite nineties artists that released some new tuneage in the last two years…Foo Fighters, Cat Power, Flogging Molly, Radiohead, Ben Folds Five, and Eddie Vedder just to name a few. They all wore flannel and so should you.
With all the hubbub about all things London (they had some kind of sporting event somewhere in that area or something), I thought it appropriate to share a little London music. The band Mumford and Sons may not be known by everyone but they are slowly gaining international notoriety, including here in the states. Their debut album, Sigh No More, even garnered a couple of Grammys. So, in what may be a ploy to gain more fans, the band has decided to release another album called Babel. Both are available or soon to be available at CCPL. Their rootsy approach to music can certainly be compared to Americana even though they are British.
Meanwhile, if you are waiting for the new Justin Bieber CD, Believe, to become available to check out or that other Canadian Carly Rae Jepson and her catchy song “Call Me Maybe” to finally arrive at you local library or heck that Josh Turner guy that sings country music, try Mumford and Sons. They may not be in a constant rotation on your favorite radio station but you may find you just might like them.
If you find yourself liking the awesomeness of Marcus Mumford (that’s the Mumford in Mumford and Sons, but the other guys are not really his sons) and his merry friends, then there may be some other bands you may enjoy that might be at the library. For instance, The Black Keys, who are from Akron, Ohio, which is not England. Maybe try Band of Horses, who are also American. Or something new and not British like the Lumineers. One more non-Brit, you may like who is absolutely fantastic is Ray Lamontagne. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to check out new music at the library; it’s free (as long as you return it on time), so why not try it?
We all like different music and we all have different tastes. There are a ton of different musicians and music you may have never heard before but may come to like. Those were just a few suggestions; go to the library and find your own new favorite artist.
Perhaps your idea of a vibrant start to the day is the ”Sunrise” movement from Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite. If you are rather pensive or just confused, perhaps you think there’s no better accompaniment to your brown study than Elgar’s Enigma Variations. But you need not despair! After the profusion of postmodern work and worry, there’s always Eine Kleine Nachtmusik to round out your day and return equilibrium to your soul.
Sure, classical music isn’t all about tranquility, but the library provides resources for the afficionado in whatever mood they might be in. And if you happen to be both an aficionado and a couch potato, the library offers a new collection of classical music performances on dvd!
Philip Koro, the adult reference librarian at Union Township and I, your humble author, will be reviewing some of our favorite classical works from our collection. Since Philip is the more sedentary of us two, he chose these following gems:
Mozart and the Dolomites- A “beautifully rendered” version of Mozart’s Requiem that uses time-lapse film to match the mood of Philip’s favorite vocal work.
Homage to Claude Debussy- Aldo Ciccolini’s performance for Italian Television, although obviously dated, has both a great interpreter and excellent sound quality. Includes such well known works as Sarabande, Claire de Lune and selections from Children’s Corner.
Ode to Freedom- A historic performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Berlin after the fall of the Wall. Most notable is the replacement of the word ”freude” (“joy”) with “freiheit” (“freedom”) in the final movement.
Join us soon as we take a look at some of your humble author’s picks. Until then, we hope you’ll find the time for a fugue, but not of the sort where you lose your memory.
Find out why left-handed boxers have a strategic advantage in Mathletics and learn 99 other amazing things about the world of sports.
In the Water They Can’t See You Cry, seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard reveals the truth about coming of age in the spotlight and the newfound happiness that has proved to be her greatest victory.
Fans of Michael Phelps, have you read his book No Limits?
Janet Evans isn’t the only swimmer to make an Olympic comeback. Dara Torres recounts her comeback in Age is Just a Number.
Vanessa – I am listening to Full Dark House, by Christopher Fowler. This is the first book following England’s Peculiar Crimes Unit – a must read for any mystery lover.
I am watching the second season of Castle – a show about a mystery author who helps the police solve crimes, which he uses as inspiration for his books. I love the surprise author appearances like James Patterson, Robert Parker, Sue Grafton and more!