A Short Best Songs of 2016 List That Not Coincidentally Also Makes for Pretty Good Protest Music

Humor me in stretching for a silver lining. One good thing about the entirely dystopic, almost (I reserve the right to delete the word almost without notice from this sentence should it become necessary) apocalyptically bad, rise of Donald Trump and the fake news neo-Nazi brigade is that it makes me want to live. It makes me want to drink all the delicious wine I was saving for old age right now, just in case the seas swallow my old age. (Or my wine! Pathetic seas! Terrible!) It makes me want to go for bike rides in a park before Exxon starts fracking there. It makes me realize how much I like my life. And it has rejuvenated music for me from wilted shades of pale pastel to bright fucking red.

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Here, then, a short list of my favorite music of 2016, with a heavy focus on protest music as I head off to the Women’s March. Am I listening to this music with 20-20 regrets, or is it prophetic? Continue reading

Bartok Would Be Appalled

Bartok. Concerto for Orchestra. Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. Hungarian Sketches. Fritz Reiner. Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

At some point in the last month, horrified by the destabilization of Eastern Europe and, I don’t know, the continuing idiocy of mankind, I began casting around for a Ukrainian composer in dad’s collection to write about. This proved easier said than done, as the closest I could get was Prokofiev, who was born to Muscovite parents in Donetsk, which at that time was part of the Russian empire and as of this writing remains a fitful part of Ukraine. So is he Ukrainian? Um…It’s complicated, just like Ukraine itself.

But then I realized that in fact I had already landed, in my slow letter-by-letter progress through dad’s collection, on the perfect composer to express some of what I’ve been feeling: Bela Bartok. Continue reading

Tips From Bach On Building An Eternal Legacy

I have hurt my right foot, I dunno how. I went for a run several Thursdays ago, the first run on a treadmill in some months, and recall thinking as I ran that I should be careful not to hurt myself. But I don’t recall it hurting the next day. I do recall a little pain on Saturday, when I went to see “Argo” and get theme Persian food with my friend Lisa. It hurt worse on Sunday, but not so much so that I couldn’t walk at a roughly normal pace for the half-mile round trip for a cone of “Gather ‘Round the Campfire” ice cream at Ample Hills in my ‘hood.

The pain built Monday, enough so that I decided not to go into work, although if we’re honest this may have been one part “My foot hurts! Wah!” and one part “Hey, a legitimate reason to work from home!” Tuesday I convinced myself it hurt less, though if we again shine the light of truth on the innermost-ish workings of my brain, it was because I desperately wanted to leave the house to buy the new Justin Cronin book, available for the first time that day. Walking the eight or nine blocks from the train, to the Barnes and Noble, to the office, was a mistake, and by time to go home, the foot hurt PROFOUNDLY.

Wednesday, again, work from home. Thursday, my hatred of doctors overcame the pain in my foot, and I told myself that if it was good enough to go to work, then it was good enough not to see a doctor. So I went to work. Or, should I say, shuffled to work? What do you call the motion of snails? Friday, the same thing, although it did feel better. I swear, mom, it did. Enough so that I took too many flights of stairs, and we were back to pain. More of the same the following week, and now I’m propping up my foot again with the added excuse of a hurricane to keep me indoors.

The good thing is, that, trapped in my apartment on a weekend, I can progress on these last two Bach posts. Thusly: 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