It’s Monday morning! Energetic music is needed. When I was in high school, I chose to study Russia in my World History class. For the next six years, I would read Russian novels and nonfiction, sit in the front row to hear Yevgeny Yevtushenko recite his poetry, and listen to Russian music. I was fascinated. One of my great loves from that time is Sergei Prokofiev’s March from “Love for Three Oranges.” Here it is played by the San Francisco Symphony at the 2000 Proms, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. Happy Monday!
Did you read album liner notes? (I know, what’s an album?) Many of my album covers are worn out because I read through those notes over and over, especially those that had lyrics for all of the songs. I appreciated knowing who the musicians were for each song. I used to imagine their studio sessions and how they interacted. If you look up “liner notes” online, you’ll find articles mourning how liner notes placed the album in a specific time and place. They were recording history for the future. I even dreamed of writing liner notes when I grew up. I’m grateful for the people who did write them … and the artists who made them beautiful. CDs often included liner notes (in miniature) but now, with streaming music, we need a website that has readable images of all of those liner notes of decades past … and going forward.
It’s Monday morning and, as is often the case, I need a kickstart into the week. What better than one of the soundtracks of my life, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien Opus 45? Composed while he was in Rome in 1880, he wrote, “I have already completed the sketches for an Italian fantasia on folk tunes for which I believe a good fortune may be predicted. It will be effective, thanks to the delightful tunes which I have succeeded in assembling partly from anthologies, partly from my own ears in the streets.” I love knowing that he was listening to folk music to inspire his creativity.
Here’s a version conducted by Herbert von Karajan, with the Berlin Philharmonic:
In this persistent winter, I have finally applied my best antidote: Joni Mitchell. Constant companion, genius, master musician, songwriter, innovator … I am grateful for her presence in this world, in our house. We are listening to The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Here, Graham Nash sings “Our House” at Joni Mitchell’s 75th Birthday Celebration. Catch the special on PBS, if you can.
Aren’t school music teachers wonderful? They help us explore talents that might otherwise go undiscovered. They introduce us to music that will remain with us for the rest of our lives. They give us a vocabulary and a way to appreciate music that would remain mysterious otherwise. “Pictures at an Exhibition,” “Peter and the Wolf,” and “Carmina Burana” (are memories stirring?) stay with us because we remember them musically and visually. They tell us stories. My Flutophone led to a clarinet and the knowledge of what a musician in an orchestra or band experiences. I am confident many of us share the gratitude I feel for music teachers. For me, I am grateful for my elementary school teacher, Mr. Sundt in junior high, and Mr. Griebenow in high school. How else would I know about musical notation, John Cage, timpani, or Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s version of Mussorgsky’s piano suite? How else would I have learned enough to feel so blessed by music?
I am grateful for my friend Heidi Grosch who is one of the most ebullient, determined, warm-hearted, and talented people that I know. After moving from the US to Norway for love, she learned Norwegian, earned a master’s degree in education, raises Christmas trees, and, oh yes, teaches education at Nord University. Her current excellent idea is CyberBridge, short, daily videos inspiring ESL teachers in grades 1 through 7. Today’s video, singing “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music, is suggested for your classroom (done in sing-along style). Other videos talk about grammar, books to share, and learning activities. And remember, these are done by Norwegians for whom English is a second language. Heidi, you are simply amazing.
Do you have access to internet radio? Do you enjoy music of the 30s, 40s, and 50s as much as we do? I am grateful for WKHR out of Cleveland. It’s in regular rotation among our streamed radio channels. The DJs are volunteers, many of them people who participated in that music firsthand so we hear fascinating stories. We have to remind ourselves we’re listening to an Ohio station when they report the weather!
This woman has been a lighthouse for me, casting her beacon on the craggy rocks of our challenging world by speaking to truth, social action, and persistence. Her music, particularly the albums “The Joan Baez Ballad Book” and “Blessed Are,” are well loved and known by heart in this house. Heart. She has given hers to all of us for many decades. “Music can move people to do things.” I am grateful to Joan Baez for her many gifts. Read “Joan Baez: Music Can Move People to Do Things,” in The Guardian.
Good friends treated us to a night with Rio Nido at Crooner’s Lounge and Supper Club. It’s my favorite music venue, cozy and intimate. The songs were innovative, funny, romantic, smooth, heart-tingling, with exceptional guitars and ukelele played by the trio of musicians who are back together again after their heyday in the ’70s. A perfect winter night, warmth supplied by music and friendship. Watch for their upcoming gigs.
Some books have a vivid place in my thoughts. When I read Dream Lucky, I time-traveled to 1936, meeting the Big Band leaders who are a part of my personal soundtrack. The subtitle for the book is “When FDR was in the White House, Count Basie was on the radio, and everyone wore a hat…”
Here’s the official blurb: The time: 1936-1938. The mood: Hopeful. It wasn’t wartime, not yet. The music: The incomparable Count Basie and Benny Goodman, among others. The setting: Living rooms across America and, most of all, New York City.
Dream Lucky covers politics, race, religion, arts, and sports, but the central focus is the period’s soundtrack—specifically big band jazz—and the big-hearted piano player William “Count” Basie. His ascent is the narrative thread of the book—how he made it and what made his music different from the rest. But many other stories weave in and out: Amelia Earhart pursues her dream of flying “around the world at its waistline.” Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., stages a boycott on 125th Street. And Mae West shocks radio listeners as a naked Eve tempting the snake.
I admire Roxane Orgill as a writer, researcher, and weaver of history. This book is storytelling magic, and it’s all true! Her picture book, Jazz Day, is astounding as a melding of verbal poetry, visual poetry, and real people. Her writing is so evocative that I feel certain I lived alongside those people, stood in their locations, and had that awareness of what was happening around me. I am grateful for Roxane’s skill in crafting books that aid my understanding of the world. I’m going to read Dream Lucky again this weekend.