Two Fun Facts from the Society for Ethnomusicology Conference

1. The most played song by the U.S. military to aid in the torture of prisoners is the theme from Barney, "I Love You."

2. This guy's YouTube channel is AMAZING.


My Favorite Pop Song Per Decade: 1950-2000

Here I pick my favorite pop song and runner-up from each decade from 1950-2000. I picked based on two criteria: 1) the song had to chart in the top 40 on the equivalent of today's Billboard Hot 100 and 2) the song should be the best signifier of the entire decade of music in my head. (Off topic question: can one be nostalgic for a time in which they did not live?)

"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" by The Platters (1959, #1)

Runner Up: "Sleep Walk" by Santo and Johnny (1959, #1)

"Elenore" by The Turtles (1968, #6)

Runner Up: "Just One Look" by Doris Troy (1963, #10)

"Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest (1973, #13)

Runner Up: "September" by Earth Wind and Fire (1978, #8)

"Promises, Promises" by Naked Eyes (1983, #11)

Runner Up: "I Can't Go For That" by Hall & Oates (1982, #1)

"Your Woman" by White Town (1997, #23)

Runner Up: "Dreamlover" by Mariah Carey (1993, #1)

Interesting note: Chicago barely missed my list in two generations: "Saturday in the Park" (1972, #3) and "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" (1982, #1)


My Favorite Movies About Music

I've seen a lot of movies. I've seen a lot of movies that deal with music. So, here are my favorites. My only parameter: no documentaries - I might save that idea for a future post.

1) Sweet and Lowdown
Even though this may be some of the worst musical direction considering Sean Penn's playing is terribly off the entire film, the story is great, the music is better (nods to Howard Alden), and even though Emmet Ray is not a real person, the film brought Django Reinhardt into the public eye again.

2) Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus)
This is what you get when you cross contemporary Brazil (in 1959) during Carnaval, Greek legend, and some amazing bossa nova by Jobim and Bonfa (music) and de Moraes (lyrics). At times it is quite far-fetched, as in the prominent role of Death (while not as prominent as Death in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey). Nevertheless, it has some really poignant moments, especially the children who think Orpheus' guitar causes the sun to rise. Beautiful.

3) Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)
The only true musical to make my list! A visual and sonic tour de force, Jacques Demy's jazz musical starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo is entirely sung. A simple story-arc that deals with class differences, young love, and the personal stress caused by war, the film elegantly displays the ebb and flow of the character's emotions. Michel Legrand's music is the key and his tune "I Will Wait For You," possibly my favorite melody of all time, is a good example of how to make an otherwise possibly blase story come to life.

4) Once
Maybe it's because I didn't watch this at a private screening at Dustin Hoffman's house that I don't think this movie blew like some people. For us laypeople, this movie, like the previous one, contains about as simple of a story-arc as possible: a tale of lost love and possible love, of hope and courage, of chance meetings and taking action. The music is not the most mind-blowing music ever made, but that's the point. It's passionate, believable, and quite good! The clip I've included is pretty poor quality but its the best scene in the movie. It really gets at some studio dynamics that are all too real. Also, their Oscar acceptance speech was amazing. See a review of that here.

5) Get Over It
You knew that a teen comedy had to creep in here sooner than later! While technically not "about" music, this movie is basically a musical, and the last 20 or so minutes is basically a movie about a musical about a musical about a play. One of the more underrated teen flicks, this movie is self-aware, WAY over-the-top, and hilarious. Also, you can't go wrong with a cast that includes Martin Short, Kirsten Dunst, Ed Begley Jr., and two people contending for the title of worst actor of all time: Sisqo and Colin Hanks.

Honorable Mentions:
Shine (maybe the movie with the best musical direction ever) and another teen comedy, That Thing You Do.
You'll notice I didn't include any mockumentaries like Spinal Tap or A Mighty Wind. No real reason, they're pretty good. What would you include?


Now, Methodism, You Keep Still For A Few Moments...

This could classify as a favorite moment in life. My grandfather gave me this article a while ago and it is the best newspaper article I've ever read. Its from my hometown newspaper, the Daily News Record, from March the 16th, 1937. However, it is reporting on a story from 1820. I'd say that's about the average rate of turnaround for the DNR.

The article reads:
The first prize fight in Harrisonburg was fought in front of Hollander's Store in 1820. A man walked all the way from Winchester to thrash a local Methodist preacher named William Cravens. The preacher began life as a stone mason, and as such was noted for his great physical powers.
He did not want to fight the bully, but, having come so far, the man would not be pacified. Cravens took off his Methodist coat, his tie and stock, placed them on the ground, put a Methodist hymnal on them to keep the wind from blowing them away, rolled his sleeves above his elbows, and saying to the parcels on the ground; "Now, Methodism, you keep still for a few moments," sailed into the man from Winchester in true Jeffries style. In about thirty minutes the fight was over and the minister was the victor. Gathering up his vestments, he donned them, walked to his home and resumed the writing of a sermon on the "Efficacy of Prayer," as if nothing had interrupted the thread of his essay.


Lotus Festival: Top 5

The Lotus Fest was as awesome as one could have expected. I saw 15 artists/groups that were all excellent but a few shows stood out to me. Here are my top five:

1) Mucca Pazza
This self-proclaimed nerd fest was the surprise of the festival for me. Last year I had seen March Fourth Marching Band and their parade was amazing (which it was again this year). However, Mucca Pazza's stage show was hilarious, high energy, involving, and unique. My friend called it "eye candy:" a great description. Each member was constantly moving around and, while everyone obviously had the same comedic sense, they each found their own way to express it. Excellent show!

2) Little Cow
With a guy looking exactly like Yanni on the bass I was at first skeptical, but with a description of Hungarian Ska/Rock/Gypsy, I was ready. This band was silly, fun, and very danceable. They sang mostly in English, used puppets, and featured an accordion! Great fun!

3) The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
From Indiana's own Brown County, The Reverend Peyton, his wife, Washboard Breezy, and his brother Jayme (who plays a drum set complete with a 10-gallon pickle bucket for a floor tom) brought the tent down with some boot-stomping fun. One of the more committed acts I've ever seen in terms of style and performance, the Big Damn Band was musically interesting (especially the Reverend's good slide/fingerstyle guitaring) and hilarious. My favorite song was based on a true story appropriately titled: "Your Cousin's on COPS." Go see this band live when they come near you, which they probably will.

4) Sogbety Diomande's West African Drum and Dance Company
Members who once were part of the Ivory Coast's national ballet, Sogbety Diomande's West African Drum and Dance Company were amazing musicians and dancers. Doing traditional masked performance, the event was highlighted by an elaborately costumed stilt-walker doing flips, pop-ups, and any other physical thing that I can't do without stilts. The video doesn't show what the group performance was like but gives a glimpse at the drumming abilities and style.

5) Etugen Ensemble
A four-piece ensemble playing traditional Mongolian repertoire on two-stringed horse-head fiddles and a plucked zither plus their amazing overtone throat singing. A friend of mine called their performance "transcendent" and I felt it was quite compelling even though I know nothing about the tradition/music.

Honorable Mentions: James Hill and Anne Davison: A ukulele virtuoso (yes, you read correctly) and a cellist playing bluegrass, jazz, etc. and Pistolera: a Latin-Alt Folkklorico group that rocked the house.


Sometimes When I Feel Blue...

I listen to the high harmony on Mitch Ryder's "Devil With the Blue Dress."