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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?




26 comments:

  1. Oh I"m sorry I missed this BOTB - I'm listening to Moon Over Alabama as I write - I had never heard it before - it's great ... love it. I actually think I prefer the Marilyn Manson version - the pianos are great ... and I never thought I'd hear myself saying I like anything by him LOL See! opening people's minds Lee on a drizzly Wednesday morning. Bowie's version is good of it as well.

    I've always loved the Rite of Spring - maybe because of all the legends about the performance - it's wild to consider that it was a publicity stunt - that would be amazing :)

    Fil at Fil’s Place - Old songs and Memories

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  2. It was an odd song but at least Manson didn't win. The dude is evil.
    Riot at the Rite. Sounds like someone could make a fictional movie about that night.

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  3. I admit that I am very reluctant to listen to something strange. I've tried to listen to the stuff my stepkids like and OMG it's just awful. Give me 60s-80s classics/Top 40 any day. I don't even like cover versions of songs unless they came out in my day. For example, I love Grand Funk's 'Locomotion' cover but I don't like the original by Little Eva. But I don't like cover versions of songs I grew up with that have come out since then (like the terrible cover of Supertramp's 'Give a little bit').

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  4. Actually, most songs that make it onto the Battle of the Bands are ones I've never heard before, so I have no trouble judging them by that standard. :)

    I don't mind some strange stuff, but sound needs to grab me in the beginning, otherwise I skip. Alabama Song has a interesting start, so I'd continue listening.

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  5. BOIDLEE ~

    >>... Do you feel like you can judge a song that you've never heard before?

    Yes, and most of the time I judge it correctly (according to my own tastes) but on very rare occasions something I didn't care for immediately "grows on me".

    At 55 and having had an interest in music for almost my entire life, I have a pretty solid understanding of what I like and WHY I like it.

    In general, I need a few listenings to a song before my mind fully absorbs it. I may "kinda like it" or feel "it's OK" after the first listening. This is an indication that I may learn to like or even love it over time.

    It doesn't happen often, but every once in awhile I hear a song for the first time and I am absolutely in love with it and ready to purchase a copy RIGHT NOW! Here are 3 examples of when that happened:

    One day circa 1977 I heard Brian Auger's 'Bumpin' On Sunset' from the 'Live Oblivion' album played on my car's AM radio. I was practically yelling at the DJ, "Tell me what this is! Tell me who this is!" The DJ did, and within a few days I owned that LP.

    One night in 1986, I was in a Los Angeles 'Tower Records' store looking for a certain album. While in the store I began to notice the music that was playing over the store's sound system. The music grabbed me so much that I went to the desk and inquired about it. It was an instrumental track titled 'Sarah's Crime' by a Japanese composer named Toshi Hinata. I thought it was so beautiful and haunting that I bought the album right then and there.

    I was in a Prescott, Airheadzona, record store in 1993, just browsing, when suddenly I noticed this really fiery Blues/Rock guitar playing on the store's sound system. Went to the desk to axe 'bout it and learned it was the new album by Gary Moore, 'Blues Alive'. They didn't have any in stock so the guy sold me the store's own used copy at a discounted price.

    Rarer still is when I hear a song that I strongly dislike the first time but gradually come to like or even love it.

    As I've said in the past, that happened with Brenda Lee's hit 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree'. I absolutely HATED it the first time I heard it. Strongly disliked it the second time. Felt kind of ambivalent about it the third time. And by the fourth time I heard it I was determined to find out who it was because I HAD TO HAVE A COPY OF IT! (And that's how I turned into a huge Brenda Lee fan.)

    >>... If music sounds different or strange to you do you automatically dismiss it as something you don't like?

    Not at all, but I do have my limits. (And I think Tiny Tim is my limit.)

    For example, I did vote for the Lotte Lenya version of 'Alabama Song' but I can tell you confidently that I would never eventually come to really like that. (That's even beyond Tiny Tim.)

    Probably a good 98.75% of the time I can tell in one listening whether or not there is ANY CHANCE that I might eventually learn to appreciate a certain song or piece of music given enough time. I really do know my tastes pretty well, as I should by this stage in my life.

    I will say though that I enjoy a very WIDE RANGE of music, but I'm still pretty selective within each style. For instance, I love the Blues but not ALL Blues singers. I love nearly every form of Jazz music but not every musician in any one Jazz genre. I love some Rock, but I can't stand synthesizer-drenched Pop, which much of the Top 40 was in the 1980s. I still like select Hard Rock songs (Golden Earring, some very early Van Halen, Deep Purple, etc.) but I find Heavy Metal such as Metallica and stuff like that to be utterly unlistenable - and it wouldn't matter how many times I listened to a particular track.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

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  6. it's amazing how easily people get upset by things and I actually thought this song was quite an excellent choice. Why? It is not mainstream and shows how decadent the 20's were. So many people think that the 60's was the decadent age when the 20's had just as much to say in that area. When anything or any one person is different it brings out either the best or worst in people. Why is there still bullying? Part of the it is due to the people who are bullied are different from the others. They either like different music, art, film or are just different and express it. This is the same with anything out there. People were mortified at the waltz! People were touching the opposite sex inappropriately in their minds. I think the dark alley cabaret of Manson is bang on for the song but I love Lotte's version. I have heard Rite of Spring and have a record of it (yup record) and I love Fantasia. Do I listen to it much? Nope, It is simply not my style but I appreciate it

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  7. Fil-- The Bowie version of "Alabama Song" is one of the best--outstanding. Nothing publicists do really surprises me. Even in 1913 people in the entertainment business were doing outlandish things to gain attention.

    Alex-- Actually the BBC film is a fictional reenactment of the premiere and related events. The dialogue may have been drawn from the accounts of those who lived then, but obviously the writers of the script had to take some liberties.

    JoJo -- I think typically many people are more resistant to new things than the old things they are familiar with. I remember how many negative reactions to the music I used to like from the adults of that era. As far as I know I haven't heard that Supertramp remake.

    Loni-- I have heard songs that didn't grab me so much at first but then captivated me as I continued listening. Then there have been songs that I rather disliked until I had listened to them a few times and they grew on me.

    Lee

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  8. StMC-- I'll address your comment separately since you bring up so many points.

    >>... Do you feel like you can judge a song that you've never heard before?

    I've had many instances similar to what you describe. I've used some of the songs in my BOTB posts and plan to use more in the future.

    There have been other songs--like most of the the songs by Kool and the Gang--which I didn't care for when they were initially released and then came to appreciate on later hearings. Others I have essentially disliked until after really listening closely to them and coming to appreciate what they had to offer. The music of The Incredible String Band or Murray Maclaughlin fits this category.

    Much music--country and bluegrass for example--took some time to grow on me. Once I become acclimated to hearing something then it's becomes easier to enjoy other songs in the same genre that it took me time to get used to.

    >>... If music sounds different or strange to you do you automatically dismiss it as something you don't like?

    I'm not one to absolutely dismiss all music of any genre. After a certain point I decided that I didn't like metal--this would essentially be the 80's when Hair Metal became the rage. But then I listened closely to Iron Maiden and realized that it was very symphonic in nature and not as bad as I had thought. Same with Metallica. I don't feed my head a steady diet of the stuff, but there is much of it I enjoy.

    Not so much speed metal, punk, and rap because I find a lot of it nauseating in the way someone beating me on the head with a hammer might be. But some of the music does have some merit. I even own some rap and hip-hop albums that I enjoy even though I don't listen to them very often.

    I may not become a regular listening fan to certain genres but I can appreciate the work that is put into some of it. Rappers have a certain amount of skill in what they do but I'm not going to listen to it if I can avoid it. Can't stand the language and content of a lot of the lyrics, but the delivery takes a certain kind of talent that I can recognize. Dislike it, but...

    I tend to be attracted to "strange" or novel--I always have. I was never a huge jump on the hit parade sort of music fan, though I always enjoyed a lot of what was popular, but I liked to discover different things that most people were not listening to. I know in general what I like or will probably like if I hear it, but I try not to limit myself on what I subject my ears to. And if the sound doesn't grab me right off the bat then I might look for some other aspect such as lyrics, historical context of the music, or some other factor that might help me appreciate the music more.

    I like what I like or learn to like. There's not a whole lot that I unequivocally despise and find absolutely no merit in its existence.

    Lee

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  9. Manson will be creeping us out for years to come. Music can be interpreted in so many ways. Everyone has their only opinion of how it sounds.

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  10. I first heard the Rite of Spring in a college music apprec. class. It was primal and made my heart beat fast.

    The music is amazing, and I'd love to see the ballet someday.

    I would think it is impossible to judge a piece of music without hearing it first.

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  11. Fascinating discussion, Lee.

    For myself, I can separate an "appreciation" for some music from actually having to "like" it. The version by Lotte Lenya was one that I can appreciate without having to like it. I would never choose to listen to it for enjoyment, but I can appreciate the musicianship and intricate composition.

    In the version by Marylin Manson I can also "appreciate" for what he seemed to be going for -- the imagery, the persona, the visceral 'shock' factor. Again -- not what I like, and truthfully, quite the polar opposite. But as theatrics, I can see the appeal, although I found the piece to be less about the music than the theatrics happening on top of the music.

    So why I'd never listen to either one for enjoyment, I found Lotte Lenya to be more compelling musically, and cast my vote that way.

    Isn't it fun how music can evoke so many opinions and feelings?

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  12. Interesting post Lee, as usual.

    I know what I like and dislike. I admit that there are a few tunes that I have come to like more after repeated listenings, but normally, if I don't like something right off the bat, no amount of immersion will sway my taste.

    I found what Chris Fries said to be spot on. While I can appreciate some performances for their overall value, I might not particularly enjoy the song presented, BUT there are those times when I do normally like a song that is presented in a certain manner or by a particular performer that completely turns me off.

    Music, like most art forms, is completely subjective. BOTB certainly proves that. We each have our own taste and perferances and the presentations reflect that. How boring BOTB, and life in general, would be if we all only chose the same musical selections.

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  13. Do you feel like you can judge a song that you've never heard before?

    Yes, although in your BOTB example, it was a song that I'd listened to for more than four decades in a particular arrangement (The Doors) that was presented in two very different arrangements.

    I think that is a little more complex scenario than your questions poses, as a totally new song would not have carried any preconceived expectations with it.


    If music sounds different or strange to you do you automatically dismiss it as something you don't like?

    Probably, but unless it is offensive to my ears, I will usually give it another listen. As you can imagine, with a collection like I have, there is not much music I cannot find something to like about it, although a lot of jazz (sorry STMcC) just does not resonate with me, and pretty much all rap is distasteful to me, both aurally and lyrically.

    Note that "does not resonate" and "distatesteful" are pretty much opposite ends of a spectrum-I am not lumping jazz in with rap!

    I do often find that things will grow on me with repeated listens (that's how I ended up with my copy of "Jagged Little Pill"), although with radio pretty much a non-factor in my life over the past couple of decades, that does not happen as much.

    Larry

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  14. Birgit-- Thank you! I'm glad you appreciated my BOTB choice.

    Sheena-kay-- I doubt whether I'll be listening to much Manson in the future, but this was an interesting excursion into is talents.

    Susan Kane-- The Joffrey Ballet performed the recreated version of Rite in L.A. last year. I didn't realize it was here then or I might have looked into going. I'd love to see this performed live.

    Chris-- You've expressed pretty much how I see things. I can appreciate and I can like something. That's how the BOTB posts should be taken, although I think I may have been guilty at times of merely expressly my dislike and not pointing out what I appreciated about performances I otherwise didn't care much for.

    FAE-- The differences sure have been coming out in the BOTB posts. I continue to be fascinated by this subject of subjectivity, taste, etc. It's a big world of various interests.

    Lee

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  15. I read this earlier, then went back to your original battle to see what was said. Then popped over to StMc to comment on his blog about a comment here... And totally forgot to come back and comment. Yikes.

    I think I made my feelings pretty clear about this song in my original comment. BUT... I saw that some people really liked it, proving that music is so darn subjective.

    I am looking forward to the next battle:)

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  16. Larry-- I brought up the issue of judging songs new to a listener because I'd seen so many visitors not vote using the excuse that they weren't familiar with the song so they didn't feel qualified to vote on it. They've missed the point of BOTB I think. We're judging our favorite of two different performances so it should matter if we know the song or not. This factor might have an influence on whether or not we want to listen to it, but then again I'd wonder why people wouldn't want to hear new things. I'm like you--I'm a musical explorer in search of the next new musical world.

    The distinction between "does not resonate" and "distasteful" is important I think and is a key part of preference. There are many musical works that just don't do much for me, but I don't mind listening to them while there are other works that I just don't want to hear for one reason or another and I might even feel a sense of belligerence in having to hear them. People have been killed over things like this, re the recent case in Florida.

    Lee


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  17. Robin-- I don't think my next Battle will stir up much debate...

    Lee

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  18. Okay, with me being a classical music idiot, I jotted over to YouTube and watched a performance (abt 4 minutes long) of it by the Cleveland Orchestra. I guess you had to be there as far as the rioting end... I certainly didn't get all enflamed (save briefly by the female lead), and really thought it was pretty good. Funny how perspective changes things.

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  19. Interesting how you can see taste and tendencies of your readers with your BOTB segments. Wonder if your data can be used by someone like Amazon to help with their music section and customers. I digress. Honestly, the song and artist have a lot to do with driving me to vote. Last time I know of and enjoy both versions of It's My Life so I was compelled to vote. Cool, but unexpected find Lee!

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  20. CW-- I'm not sure what video you watched (female lead?) unless it was the one with the image of the naked women with the flamingos. Back in 1913 the music (or choreography, whatever the case may have been) was so different from anything most concert-goers were accustomed to that the event was probably so controversial and conflagrating that it caused a tremendous stir. Now it all seems kind of mild, normal, and old-fashioned. We've seen and heard far more shocking things.

    Buck-- Amazon already has far more sophisticated data measurement methods than what gets shown on my blog. I just have to look at the recommendations they send me to know that I'm being tracked by them and they know a good bit about what my tastes are. I'm sure it's like that for anyone who frequents Amazon.

    Lee

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  21. Yes I have judged a song before I've heard it, but its always been a cover. The minute that I hear an artiste has covered a tune I fill with dread! Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised - other times (Pepsi and Shirl singing All Right Now still makes me head for the drinks cabinet!) my thoughts were spot on!

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  22. Well, it was a good match Lee, and the lyrics (to me anyway) required something out of the usual listening venues.

    Good battle. And controversy is highly underrated. Keeps the masses occupied with generalities while the politicians conduct normal business.

    Keep up the good work Dude.

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  23. It's always fun how your BOTB posts are challenging and entertaining!

    Julie

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  24. If there's a new version of an old song out there, I'll give it a listen to, unless it's from a well know performer who is seriously overkilled on radio and comes out with a tired cover in order to keep their name out there (i.e. Pearl Jam, U2, Five Finger Death Punch), then I immediately switch the dial.

    For what it's worth, bluegrass comes up with some phenomenal covers of rock and pop songs that make you go "What was that?"

    Additionally, Louis Armstrong's version of "Mack The Knife" rock a helluva lot better than Bobby Darin's. Trumpet, snare and a little keyboard.

    Father Nature's Corner

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  25. If I'm to be honest Lee, I admit I find it difficult to judge a song sometimes because of the artist. There is nothing Marilyn Mansion does that I like and I'm certain a lot of my dislike has to do with the his appearance. I did listen to part of his cover and I guess he did okay, but I preferred Lotte Lenya's rendition the best. You're right this is a bit creepy sounding song and would be great for Halloween. Too bad I couldn't cast my vote, but as you know I am taking a blogging break. Today, I'm doing a few visits and catching up with those who stopped by. Thanks for voting. I'll have the results on the 1st.

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  26. Suzanne -- So often we have preconceived feeling about a song that we like a lot that it can be difficult to accept the cover version. The BOTB posts usually prove this with the original version coming out on top.

    Dolorah-- Better to stir things up than stay in a dull simmer.

    Julie -- I try!

    GB-- There have been some great rock covers by bluegrass bands and they've been doing it since the 60's.

    Cathy -- Your vote wouldn't have changed the outcome. It's interesting how we often will judge an artist according to looks. I think about Susan Boyle, the homely lady who appeared on Britain's Got Talent. People snickered on seeing her but then she wowed them with her singing. I suppose a great many artists have been held back with their looks and image. On the other hand, Manson is just plain weird and disturbing. Maybe that's why he caught on with a certain crowd. Remember Alice Cooper?

    Lee

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Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee