Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Music (and non-music) of Doctor Andy

I've often seen people passing around a meme that directs you to set your iPod to random and assign the sequential tracks to a set of random questions. The hope is that things turn up either profound or funny ("What is your philosophy?" Makin' Whoopee). More often than not, they become astrological in obscureness and require a lot of squinting to make out ("What did you think of your first kiss?" Largo from Beethoven's Second Symphony).

I'm not going to do that here, because I find it non-illustrative even when it does line up. It's really just an excuse to show a sampling of what's in your music library. So I'm going to skip the "horoscope destiny" part and just show you the music.

Here is a sampling of tracks, with some commentary where appropriate:

1. "Master of the House" from the complete recording of "Les Miserables".

I was exposed to this musical in my freshman year of high school, when the second concert band I played in did a suite of songs. This one was the most fun because of the trombone sliding around. I remember a boy two years ahead of me was obsessed with musicals and knew ALL about this, assuring me that it was great. He then proceeded to sing several of the songs while I looked to the floor to avoid the eyes pointed in our direction.

2. "Runaway Stage" from the "Maverick" (1994) soundtrack, by Randy Newman

I don't remember when I first saw this movie, but I thought it had a pretty good score for a comedy western. Also, it has a fairly present bass trombone sound, something that you'll find in common with a large fraction of my collection. Randy Newman has gone on to score many of the PIXAR films, so this bears some interesting predecessive similarities to the cowboy aspects of the "Toy Story" films.

3. "Pomp and Circumstance, Marches 1-4.," by Sir Edward Elgar. From the "Fantasia 2000"
soundtrack, performed by the Chicago Symphony.

I saw this film in 2000, in Chicago, with the rest of the DePaul trombone studio at the time. We saw it at the IMAX theater on Navy Pier. As students of Charlie Vernon, we wanted to make sure we supported his endeavors, however indirectly. The IMAX was cheaper and easier to access than the symphony, unfortunately.

4. "Base Theme No. 1" from "Contra" (1988), on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

This track isn't in my collection for musical value as much as nostalgia. There's only so much that music can enrapture the new listener when it comes from an 8-bit microprocessor. However, two notes performed simultaneously were possible at this electronic stage, so that broadens composer's horizons. This one takes me back to sleepovers at friend's houses in elementary school. And, of course, up up down down left right left right B A select start, which is the only way "Contra" was even possible at kid-like skill levels. I once had a girlfriend who didn't care for "Contra", and it was largely to be blamed for the failure of our romantic endeavors.

5. "Ghetto" from "The Merchant of Venice" (2004), by Jocelyn Pook.

A track from the suprisingly weighty score to the film. Scores that go along with Shakespeare films and plays vary wildly in execution. On one hand, music under dialog must be uninteresting, so people will focus on the words. On the other hand, modern storytelling conventions demand extended plot explanation, which comes from sources other than the text, and are thus dialog-free.

6. "Fond Memories" from "Casper" (1995), composed by James Horner.

A sweet track from a score I wasn't prepared to like. The movie was one of those films where I came out thinking I really liked it, but what I *actually* liked was all the concepts it made me think about. The film brushes close to romantic ideas, where we define "romantic" as the quality of freeing the spirit. Over and above the obvious humor of "spirits", the score and film deal with Casper, who is a tragic character. The score brashly (and hilariously) quotes from the Erich Wolfgang Korngold scores of old during a swordfight, but it also quiets down to reflect the underlying sadness.

7. "Carmen Sandiego" from "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?", by Rockapella.

This track never fails to make me smile. Rockapella is an acapella vocal group, and they were an integral part to the PBS children's game show, based on the best-selling educational computer game. Not only did Rockapella perform the opening title, they were also a physical presence during the show, providing a large number of the sound effects of the game in progress. This title track contains a dizzying amount of geographical references and I haven't been able to decipher the whole thing to this day.

8. The second half of Chapter 13 from the unabridged audiobook of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams. Read by Stephen Fry.

I love book readings. This is a particularly good one. Actually hearing Stephen Fry deliver the line '''You know', said Arthur, with a slight cough," provides an extra level of artistry to an already excellent satire. Obviously, the synergy was well-known: Fry also performs the voice of the epynomous book in the recent movie adaptation.

9. "Me Faltas" performed by Andrea Bocelli with Kenny G.

Kenny G doesn't rub me the wrong way like he does a lot of musicians. I'm not a fan and I certainly didn't buy Signior Bocelli's album simply because Kenny G was on there. I can see how his trademark noodling would get on people's nerves, but it just doesn't make my skin crawl.

10. Introitus Dominicae secundae post Natvitatem, performed by the Schola of the Hofburgkapelle, Viena.

One of the chants from the first CD my family ever owned. As a Christmas present one year, we gave to ourselves a boom box with a compact disc player in the top. This was the disc that came with it. Now, I'm the only family member who doesn't have a car with a CD player.

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