“Orinoco Flow” by Enya (1988)

2 08 2009

They say music soothes the savage breast (and it is “breast,” not “beast”). And I agree. It’s one of my few convictions. I use music to soothe my savage breast all the time. And there’s plenty of music to soothe even the most savage, Cheney-esque breast

For a brief but intense time, Enya’s music really helped me out. During the “first” Gulf “War,” and as an airman with little time to himself, Enya’s music gave me some peace. Surrounded by patriotic anthems and pounding rock/country/metal incitements to violence and mindless jingoism, I could retreat to my little compact disc player, and spin some Enya.

Enya’s Celtic and classical pop is truly beautiful. Layers and layers of vocals and strings surround terrific melodies.

If you ever need to soothe something savage, check out Enya.


Beethoven performed by The Muppets

22 04 2009

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is one of the greatest musical works ever created. I’m not even going to try to describe it to you, nor am I going to post some video fraction of dubious quality audio for you here. You simply have to make some time to sit back and really HEAR the Ninth. On a good quality sound system. Or, better yet, a live symphony. Maybe you and I will go someday to see the SF Symphony do it.

The final movement of the Ninth is the one most people recognize, and it’s usually referred to as the “Ode to Joy” (which actually comes from the “lyrics,” a poem written years before by Friedrich Schiller). It is extraordinary. Again, you have to hear it in the right context.

Or a seriously wrong context. Like this version from Jim Henson’s Muppets. Seriously wrong, but seriously funny. And seriously good, too!

Anything by The Marx Brothers

28 11 2008

The Marx Brothers made some of the funniest movies of all time.  Brilliant physical comedy along with some of the most clever wordplay you’ll get to hear (if you can, read anything by S.J. Perelman, one of their collaborators).  You can always count on a Marx Brothers film to cheer you up.

We have to appreciate people like the Marx Brothers.  They honed their skills on the vaudeville circuit before making movies, and let me tell you:  many vaudevillians were true renaissance men (and women).  They could act, sing, dance, play multiple instruments, and make you laugh.  As performers go, vaudeville vets were the best of the best.  These were seriously talented people who deserve the highest praise.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise what accomplished musicians Chico and Harpo Marx were.

Chico could really rip on the piano:

And Harpo was a demon on the harp, an extremely difficult instrument to master:

“Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber (1936)

24 11 2008

This piece is hauntingly beautiful, written by Barber just before World War II.  It has been adopted by some nations as an almost official state elegy.  It was played at the funeral of one of my idols, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example, and the Brits performed a beautiful version for us shortly after September 11th, 2001, in solidarity with the States, until some charlatans shot that solidarity to hell.

I’m not an expert on classical music by any measure, but I do know that this piece is considered a masterwork.  The deceptively simple melody is handed off from section to section, building into crescendos of devastating harmonic bliss.  You don’t have to be an expert to feel this is extraordinary.

I don’t think Barber intended this piece to be one of mourning.  I think it’s a testament to the quiet strength we all possess, as individuals and collectively.

Its popularity is evident not only in how often it is used in solemn events, but also in films like “Platoon,” “The Elephant Man,” and “Amelie.”

I like listening to it with my eyes closed.  When I need to remember what it’s like to be human again.

(Thanks to sellaseat for posting this superb video on YouTube.  Someday, sweetheart, I hope you will be able to recognize all of the people and situations depicted in this video.  I’ve got the DVD of “Gandhi” just waiting for you, when you’re ready, as a start).