Happy Birthday, Very Quietly, To You

Today is my mom’s birthday.

Mom has been super-helpful to me throughout this blog-ject so far. She helped me pack up CDs upon CDs upon CDs. She dredged her memory for random factoids. She hasn’t yet thrown out the complete scores to Mahler’s symphonies – yes, all of Mahler’s symphonies – in a fit of cleaning rage. And she has supported and encouraged this blog even when she feels I might be over-sharing.

I had in mind to say happy birthday by writing a history of classical music composers who have somehow incorporated the happy birthday song into their work. This list, it turns out, is shorter than I envisioned, for two reasons. Continue reading

The ‘Noble Density’ and ‘Mellow Puffs’ of Vyacheslav Artyomov

Vyacheslav Artyomov. Hymns. Melodiya.

This is a CD I bought dad as a gift while I was living in Russia. This was something I did from time to time, bringing him music from whatever odd place I had been, in an attempt to confound him by finding something he didn’t already know about that he might like.

I bought this CD knowing nothing about its contents. This was the mid-90s, when the Internet was only just getting started – not even, really, in Russia – which hindered, ahem, research. And many of Moscow’s stores were still holding onto their actively anti-consumer past, making it hard for someone whose Russian was sketchy to solicit help. Such was the case with the place where I bought this CD, the exceedingly Soviet Dom Knigi (House of Books), located on the even more Soviet Noviy Arbat street. Continue reading

Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, DMX, Al Capone, and My Grandma

Addinsell, Richard. Music of Richard Addinsell including Warsaw Concerto. Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Kenneth Alwyn. Martin Jones Piano. White Line MOR Classics, 1996.

I was like, “Who?” when I stuck this CD in. But only until about five seconds into “Warsaw Concerto,” at which point I was like, “Oh.” The opening notes to this  [Warsaw opening] are so familiar, I felt like Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode IV when he looks confused – and he does look remarkably confused for  someone wearing a helmet on his head, doesn’t he? — and says, “I sense something…a presence I haven’t felt since…” Continue reading

John Adams: Gnarly Buttons

John Adams. Gnarly Buttons (London Sinfonietta, John Adams conductor and Michael Collins clarinet) and John’s Book of Alleged Danges (Kronos Quartet). Nonesuch Records, 1998.

I am starting with John Adams. In one way, this is a terrible place to start, since Adams is complicated, modern music, with permutations and a knowledge of musical history well beyond my amateurish abilities. Otherwise, it is perfect. Continue reading