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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Wasn't Very Nice!-- A BOTB Results Post


Poster for 100th anniversary performances of the Joffrey Ballet restaging of
original Rite of  Spring choreography from 1913.  
If you're not a ballet fan you might actually like this one.


        There is some debate as to what riled the audience at the 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring.   Some suggest a furor arose over the musical style which was alien and cacophonous  to most ears, others believe some audience members were offended by the primitive choreography and staging, and still others think it was a combination of both of these things.   There are even some music historians who believe that the events of that night were blown out of proportion by the press and perhaps a publicity stunt to attract larger audiences to the next performances.

         Whatever happened that night is the stuff of music history legend.  Several conflicting reports have been recorded, but alas there is no film of the occasion so we must rely on what has been written.  There is no question that some find the music of Stravinsky's ballet to be strange and maybe even unpleasant listening, but at the same time The Rite of Spring has become a highly regarded and much beloved work even to the point of there being several jazz adaptations recorded by various artists and even an excerpt having been used in the Disney animated feature Fantasia.  

         For some fun reading you might like to check out the Wikipedia article about The Rite of Spring.  That article gives a good account of what eyewitnesses reported from that premiere performance.  There is a BBC movie Riot at the Rite which you can watch on YouTube if you're willing to devote 90 minutes. I haven't watched the film in its entirety, but from what I watched it seems to be a fairly credible interpretation of what might have happened on that premier night.   Also on YouTube you can find the performance recreation of the original choreography and costuming as presented by the Joffrey Ballet in 1989.  The complete 30 minute video can be found at this link as well as several others.  I quite enjoyed the video and I've been a big fan of the Stravinsky musical piece since my college years.

          So what's all this have to do with my most recent Battle of the Bands post?    Well, to say the least, my match of Lotte Lenya versus Marilyn Manson doing their respective versions of the Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht composition "Alabama Song" was not overly appreciated by most of the readers who stopped by to vote.   Most voters were almost reluctant to vote for either version, a few outright refused to vote, and a couple insisted on voting for the Doors version--votes which I threw out in order to keep the contest according to my parameters. 
        
          Why the adverse reactions?  In part it was due to the strange nature of the song.  I think just about any artist who would perform this song would not do a version that would be palpable to many listeners.   Even the Doors version apparently is not overwhelmingly loved.   
        
           I'll concede that it is a somewhat strange song, but those are the kinds of songs Weill and Brecht generally wrote.  Even their biggest hit "Mack the Knife" would not be something many of you would probably like in its original rendering.  Later artists were able to jazz that one up for the modern listening audience, a feat which I'm not sure anyone could do as well with "Alabama Song".
        
          In any case I happen to like the song a great deal and a handful of you enjoy it as well, perhaps not as much as I do, but have an appreciation for nevertheless.  

"Alabama Song" comes from the opera
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

The Outcome of the Voting

          I was surprised by the outcome of the voting.   My expectation was that most of you would have been so taken aback by the Marilyn Manson performance that Lotte Lenya would have swept the contest with an overwhelming victory.   Indeed, there were some of you who detested Manson not only in the way he looked but by the way he sang.  "Evil" was the description suggested by a couple of voters.

          In my opinion Manson delivered a fascinating interpretation.  The sparse staging with the freaky twin piano accompanists gave his performance an appropriately cabaret-like appearance.  He was a bit hard on my ears, but at the same time growled drunkenly like one might expect a singer of this song to sound.  Manson was interesting, but not interesting enough to get my vote.

           My preference for the Lenya version is based on the orchestral accompaniment--especially the muted trumpet, the background singers, and the haunting phrasing in Lenya's vocals.   This version has so much texture and variation.  I could listen to this kind of music all day--well, maybe half the day.   Apparently the majority of you agreed with me to some degree since Lotte Lenya's rendition won this Battle of the Bands edition at Tossing It Out.

Final Tally:

Marilyn Manson      8 votes

Lotte Lenya            12 votes

         Don't miss the next Battle of the Bands coming on Saturday November 1st.   My next BOTB post should be an innocuous matching that hopefully more of you will find appealing.   It's an early 70's minor hit that will be themed for the day on which it will be first appearing.

            Do you feel like you can judge a song that you've never heard before?    If music sounds different or strange to you do you automatically dismiss it as something you don't like?   Do you enjoy Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring?




Monday, October 20, 2014

Survive and Thrive



       Hosted by Stephen Tremp, Michael Di Gesu, Diane Wolfe, and Alex J. CavanaughthIs blogfest is meant to bring awareness of disease prevention and early detection regarding medical conditions that may be averted or treated if caught in the early stages. Our desire is to motivate people to go in for early screening, and if a condition is caught early and treated, then our world just became a little better place to live.

       The topics are wide open. You can post about a particular cause you support. Or you can share a personal or family experience that is near to your heart. What’s great about this Blogfest is you can inspire people to take care of themselves and their loved ones early enough to make a difference in their lives.

Surviving and Thriving?

        I was somewhat reluctant to join in on this blog event, but I decided to jump in at the last minute.  After all, I am not the paragon of fitness and by no means do I set a good example for healthful living.  What could someone like me possibly contribute to an event such as this?   But as I thought upon it further I decided that I must have something going for me that's gotten me this far in life and still able to function somewhat decently and feel well most of the time.

      Often my intentions for healthy living have been good.  Now and then I've set off on some short-lived programs of good eating and some exercise.  Mostly it's been like I am now.  I eat a lot of foods that are not especially good for me and if it weren't for the stairs in my house I'd get hardly any exercise.   Other than hiking and occasional juggling, I am no fan of working out or exercise regimens.   When I was in high school I absolutely abhorred phys ed class.   I don't mind walking long distances, but you'll never see me running--besides my heart arrhythmia prevents me from anything like running or vigorous activity.

       My father and mother were much the same as I have been in my life.  I'm sure I followed in their footsteps.  My father died at age 67 from cancer while my mother who is now 85 is managing to hang on to her life.   There have been family members who have passed early while others have lived a decent number of years with relatively good health.   Is there any rhyme or reason to longevity and good health?

         When I read an obituary of an athlete or some other person who I would have expected to be in very good shape who has died in their 30's or 40's from a heart attack or some other physical affliction, I'm often surprised by my own sustainability of reasonably good health despite my lack of doing anything to be healthy.  Then I'll see an obituary of some person who you might have thought would have never crossed the 50 year threshold living into their 80's, 90's, and beyond.   Sometimes life, death, and good health seems so random.

         I won't deny that good diet and regular exercise can play a huge role in surviving through life with a good quality of living.  Getting regular check-ups in order to screen for developing problems is an excellent strategy that can stave off the onset of dangerous health conditions.   But always?  

       Genetics undoubtedly play a role.  Environment and life circumstances are huge factors that can determine how healthy we are and how long we will live.   However there is one major factor that is the biggest determinant of the outcome of our lives--attitude.

         Happiness, contentment, and goodwill toward others is the most powerful inner force that any of us can possess.   A good attitude will enhance the quality of our lives even if our physical condition is less than optimal.   If we have a sense of direction that moves us forward toward some shining goal that has great meaning to us, then we have more of a will to live.   I'm a strong believer in the power of positive thinking as well as the destructive force of negative thinking.   The mind is a remarkable creative source.    We can will ourselves into feeling well and powerful just as we can cause our bodies to deteriorate and die.

           I'm certainly no scientific expert, but this is what I strongly believe.   I've witnessed this in my own life and in the people with whom I've come into contact.   There is a great deal we can do to enhance the quality of our own lives, but when our time has come then we cannot stop what has be predestined for us. 

        If a fatal disease comes to claim a child or a teenager then it's a sad mystery of life in this world.    A person might live to a ripe old age with perfect health and in an instant be stricken with a death-dealing illness that they never expected.    Death is going to happen, but rarely do we know in advance when, how, or why.  Scheduled health check-ups might provide indications of developing problems and we should by all means take advantage of the medical expertise that is out there to help us.   Advance warnings of those problems can make a huge difference in treatment and healing.    And sometimes the inevitable is going to happen with no miracles to save us.   We should be prepared for the good as well as that we might wish we could delay from happening.

        My inner peace and happiness will help me survive.   The joy of the Lord will give me the strength to thrive.    Without those and without a hope of better things ahead and a reason to live, no amount of healthy living will matter all that much.  I don't want to be like a mere machine that keeps going with proper maintenance.   I am a human with purpose and a desire to flourish.  Sometimes life can be a struggle, but when there is enough good in it then it's worth it.

           Has a positive mindset gotten you through difficult times?     Have you ever made yourself sick with negative thinking?     Can you think of any examples of a person who you thought would have lived far longer than they did or someone who survived through experiences and lifestyles that you would have expected to have done them in at an early age?

           If you have not yet voted on my Battle of the Bands post would you please visit and vote for your favorite artist?    I think I scared off a few people with my selections for this special Halloween edition.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: Alabama Song


       


          It's time for another Battle of the Bands, the event where music loving bloggers offer up two different versions of one song for you to vote on your favorite one.   This popular event which is now in its second year was founded by Stephen T McCarthy and Faraway Eyes.   After you vote on my pairing, please visit their posts and vote on theirs.   More possible participants will be listed at the end of this post.


        Some of my past Battle entries have been reviled and ridiculed.  Believe me, I've liked all of my choices and have felt there was merit in presenting each of them.  The songs I present are songs that I enjoy and I always hope that my visitors to Tossing It Out will enjoy them as well.  But, alas, this is not always the case.   This installment of BOTB is no exception.  "Alabama Song" is a wonderful song in my opinion.  You may not particularly like my choices for the Battle, but I do hope you'll listen with an open mind accepting the song for what it is and appreciating the performances in the context they have been presented.

        The first time I heard "Alabama Song" was on The Doors debut album.   This is one of my favorite songs from that album with its oompah beat, quirky calliope circus organ riffs, and carousing chorus.  About fifteen years later I discovered this was not a song that originated with The Doors, but was composed in the late 1920's by the German songwriting team of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, the same duo that gave us classics like "Mack the Knife".  

           This discovery came to light upon my purchase of a cassette of the Kurt Weill tribute album Lost in the Stars in 1985.   It was then that I discovered that the great song performed by The Doors was actually a feature tune in the political-satirical opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.   It was not long after that discovery when I caught a performance of the opera that appeared on the PBS station in Knoxville, Tennessee.  

          Almost a cabaret style musical, it's an interesting modern opera with some fine music and a peculiar story.  Actually I didn't follow the story so much as focus on the music and the spectacle of the presentation. Mahagonny is probably rarely seen on television, but if you ever run across it you might want to check it out.  There are a few YouTube clips of performances that you can find if you'd like to get an idea of what the opera is like.

           If you are interested in hearing and viewing a performance of  "Alabama Song" by an opera company you can check out this clip.  And if you are not familiar with the version by The Doors or just want to refresh your memory about what it sounds like you can find that here.    Please don't vote on these versions.   If The Doors were in the running this Battle would undoubtedly be a landslide in their favor.

          Here are your candidates up for the vote:    


Lotte Lenya  "Alabama Song"  (1930)

        Lotte Lenya was an Austrian performance artist who was married to the composer of the music for "Alabama Song" Kurt Weill.  She also appeared in several American films including the James Bond film From Russia With Love.   This version of "Alabama Song" holds up pretty well in my opinion despite having been recorded 80-some years ago.   Remember, this is opera so it's not quite the same sound of popular songs of that era.   Maybe we should call this style of music "popera"?  I hope you will enjoy this early version of the song.   It has a kind of eerie sound that might work well for Halloween.




Marilyn Manson "Alabama Song"  (2003)

            And speaking of Halloween...

            I'm not a Manson fan and can't say I know much about his music.   I couldn't resist using his version though.   He's kind of scary--or at least weird.  And I think his version is appropriately done.  Before you set off on a tirade of how out of tune and horrid he sounds, keep in mind what this song is about and who might be singing it.   "Alabama Song" is a boozy anthem of debauchery.   I would fully expect off-key wailing drunks staggering down the street singing this.   Don't you think that Manson kind of pulls this off?





Time to Vote!

           Which do you prefer?  Please vote on your favorite before heading out to search for the next whiskey bar.   Let us know in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the one you chose.  Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around.   And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours.

FAR AWAY SERIES’ 

 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands

 ‘YOUR DAILY DOSE’ 

 DISCCONNECTED’ 

 ‘CREATIVE OUTLET OF STRATPLAYER 


 Alex J. Cavanaugh

           The results of my Battle will be announced on Wednesday October 22nd.  Other stuff might even be happening on this blog from time to time.  I know I've become somewhat unpredictable on Tossing It Out, but I assure you that it's not because I've been carousing in the city of Mahagonny. 

             Was this one of my most horrendous offerings or did you enjoy it?   Are you familiar with the "Mahagonny" opera?   Would you consider the Weill/Brecht work to be opera or something else?       
        

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel and Other Stuff


Is It or Isn't It?

Taken over the wall behind my house.
        When I saw the "NOW OPEN" sign in the window of the Habit Burger last Friday I was excited, but there seemed to be a dueling message.   Was it really open or was it "COMING SOON"?   I walked over to see for myself.  The sign on the front door said they were going to be conducting job interviews from October 13th until the 17th so I guess someone put up the "OPEN" sign too soon.   That same afternoon the "NOW OPEN" sign was replaced by "NOW HIRING".   Maybe they'll be open the following week?



        If you're wondering what this is about then you might have missed my earlier post about Habit Burger which you can find here.   I'll give a report on the establishment once I've tried it.   There is another Habit Burger being constructed a couple miles away from me in Downey.  They must be doing a real push to expand the chain.

New Book Arrival


        The 2014 compilation from Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles is here.  I was fortunate to have been invited by Nutschell Anne Windsor and Alana Garrigues as a special guest to their book release party this past Saturday October 11th.   It was an event royale.  I'll be having more on the event and the book in an upcoming post when CBW-LA does their official book release blog tour.  Some of you will be undoubtedly be contacted to help out with the tour.  

        To buy the book so you can add your review and write about it on your blog, be sure to visit Story Sprouts: Voice at Amazon.   Support this wonderful group--all book proceeds go to help out with their education programs.  The book will be a welcome addition to anyone's library.

Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel

        If you follow my blogs Wrote By Rote or A Few Words you may have read about the recent release on Kindle of the children's book Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel.   The book was originally published in 2008 and has recently been released via Amazon on Kindle.

         Since I'm always willing to help out my writer friends, I've given author and my good friend Dan Holom reviews on the book as well as spreading the word on social media.

Read more about the book in my Goodreads review:

Sleepy Sheepy and DanielSleepy Sheepy and Daniel by Daniel Holom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This charming rendition of the Bible story of Daniel in the lions den is one that will delight children and parents. Illustrated by renown Disney animator Mark Henn, the visuals will captivate all who enter this story. The narrative by author Dan Holom is intelligent, but easy to understand.

"Sleepy Sheepy and Daniel" is the first of what will be a series of Bible stories presented in a similar manner. Sleepy and his animal friends Sifter, a wise old horse, and Coco, a comical camel, are characters that are apt to become classics of children's literature.

Anyone looking for values based stories that interpret the Bible in a way suitable for children will welcome this book and the others to follow. The message is not heavy handed so it should not be particularly offensive to those who are not religious. This is the kind of book that will do kids good without being too serious in doing it.

View all my reviews

          Dan and Mark hope to see a series of books after this, but a lot depends on the market.  If you'd like to support this kind of series I hope you will purchase a copy and then leave a review on Amazon and wherever else you think might help.  Check out the book on Amazon and see what you think.

          And don't forget to help us promote this by sharing this post and all of the other pages on social media as much as you can.    If I can convince Dan of the power of social media I might even be able to talk Dan into starting a blog so you all can communicate with him.

           Do you tend to leave book reviews and the like?    Where do you leave most of your reviews?   Has anybody tried Habit Burger yet?