Weekend Music Break: Gershwin for an Early-November Sunday Afternoon

Gershwin - signature/inscriptionYou can be forgiven for feeling more than a little stressed out today, especially if you’re in the US and if (as is true for this post, and its author) today is the first Sunday in November, 2016 — or for that matter, if you’re elsewhere and just watching us a bit nervously.

Under the circumstances, without further comment, herewith a bit over an hour’s worth of easy-going music to accompany your newspaper-reading, blogging, airport-lounge-waiting, or what-have-you…

[Like that little signature/inscription over there on the right? You might like to see a brief analysis of it from Suzanne Shapiro, a “court-qualified graphologist whose thirty-five years of experience have led her to some unique cases, from analyzing graffiti for a Los Angeles Charter School to Bernard Madoff’s signature and most recently, Prince William and Catherine’s for ‘The Daily Beast.'” Just click on the image to open the analysis in a new window/tab.]

Gershwin Sunday

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Midweek Music Break: Melodía Pegadiza, Part 1 (1951-52)

For weeks recently, intermittently, I had been musically fixated on a song which I’d known for, well, decades. And I probably hadn’t heard it in decades, either. Even worse: my normal solution to the problem of an earworm is to simply listen to the song several times. Couldn’t do that in this case because… well, I didn’t know the name of the song, or on what album (if any) I might have heard it. I didn’t know who performed it. It was an instrumental, so I couldn’t seize on the lyrics to simply do a search. All I knew, apparently intimately, was the sound.

Which really made me crazy. The melody and rhythm and performance were not unpleasant, by any means; in fact, they swung smoothly, sweet-dreamily, with heavy doses of strings and woodwinds accented here and there by percussion and horn. They felt… Latin.

Yes, I know: whole Web sites and smartphone apps exist to help in cases like this. You hold an iPod or MP3 player up to a microphone, say, and the software analyzes the tune to guess at the song (and sometimes the artist). Or you can play a piano, guitar, or harmonica (or — I guess — a trumpet! even a Mellotron, or a Novachord!) into the mike. In some cases, you can simply sing into the mike, or hum, or even just plain whistle; this would require one of those rare solutions (since I didn’t actually have a copy of the song to play). But I’ve gone the perform-it-yourself route before. Maybe your singing, humming, whistling is up to snuff. Mine? Put it this way: Can you imagine the humiliation of running software which all but stares at you, gimlet-eyed, in disbelief and frank confusion?

So then one Monday night a few weeks ago The Missus and I succumbed to the allure of a PBS pledge drive. We’ve donated before, separately and together, but never at the level required to get one of their premium “gifts”: a DVD, say, or a large-format coffee-table book, or a collection of CDs. On this occasion, what pushed us over the edge was a sort of vicarious nostalgia for music of some other generation: we sprang for a six-CD collection of pop and “easy listening” music of the 1950s. Back then, we were both too young really to know this music. But the gods knew we’d heard plenty of it, coming from the speakers of record player, transistor radio, and hi-fi system…

Think Patti Page and Perry Como, Mantovani and the McGuire Sisters, all the guy-group vocalists (many of them named to identify their number, usually four: the Four Lads, the Four Aces, the Four Coins).

Think, oh, say, Leroy Anderson, and “Blue Tango.”

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