Music appreciation week: Danse Macabre

Camille Saint-Saens, Danse Macabre.

My daughter is learning this on the piano. (I think it’s this one? Something like it.) I spend her piano practices thinking of waltzing skeletons.

Music appreciation week: Pictures at an Exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition, by Mussorgsky.

I have a deep fondness for The Great Gate of Kiev, but the whole thing is marvelous.

Music appreciation week: Mendelsson concerto for violin, piano, and strings in D minor

Mendelsson concerto for violin, piano, and strings in D minor. This is just the allegro, YouTube clips being what they are.

Music appreciation week: Tschaikovsky Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36.

Tschaikovsky Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36.

I think the last movement might be my favorite, but I do love the entire thing.

Paddy’s Not at Work Today

This weekend we found out that K is going to enter her Unicycle act on a trapezee suspended between two older students riding extremely tall (“giraffe”) unicycles. K will do various tricks as they unicycle around the floor, then dismount and move to join her class on her unicycle.

This is, frankly, kinda awesome.

However …

However, should one of the bases fall or slip or drop the trapeze bar, the flyer — my daughter, for instance — will go skidding to the ground. Whereupon the trapeze falls on her. Whereupon the bar falls on her.

If any of you have not heard the song “The Sick Note,” I urge you to listen to the following:



January 15 2013

1. Because I attended Worldcon last year, I can nominate things for the Hugo Awards this year. I perused my blog and Goodreads and Kindle purchases, and concluded that I read:

* Cookbooks
* fitness books
* mysteries and crime novels
* historical novels
* history books

I also read some books and short stories by People I’ve Met Whose Work I Like. This is fine, and I enjoyed the reading I did, but now I feel UNPREPARED for the responsibility of Hugo Nominations.


2. I finally got around to listening to the BBC’s Sound of 2013, an annual music post looking ahead at up-and-coming artists. My conclusion is, I really want CHVRCHES to come out with an album that I can buy. Legally. Pay them.

3. In related news, the way international media rights are parceled out is terribly inconvenient for me. When I try three different ways to pay an artist for their work, and am prevented from doing so … I find this frustrating. It sometimes leads to poor behavior.

This is, however, why I am a member of Twin Cities Public Television AND I own all of Downton Abbey and Sherlock on dvd. Because when, at last, I am allowed to pay for work I love, I do so.

4. My kids are at the stage of illness in which they are actually getting better, but they have wracking coughs that sound consumptive. This alarms other people, let me tell you.


The Year in Music 2012

This past year was very pop-music heavy for me. I don’t have much of a theme, beyond that. I picked up a lot of songs from playlists I found on the internet, or music my friends shared with me, or, honestly, from what was being played on Glee.

That said, the first song of 2012 that I listened to on endless repeat with “Marstorm,” by Uh Huh Her.

That’s them performing for Jimmy Kimmel Live.

I don’t have a huge amount to say about this. The lyrics are hard for me to understand. I looked them up — it’s a, a relationship song? Okay, sure, that’s fine. But there’s an interplay between the inflection of the singer’s voice and the instrumental parts that … soars. This is a song I end up dancing along to in my chair.

Florence and the Machine, “Seven Devils”.

This song is the perfect soundtrack to any story about a young woman in danger from the people she thinks will protect her. It’s a song about being surrounded, about being lie to and deceived, about being in peril. I love it. It’s ZOMG DRAMATIC, sure. But sometimes that is just the thing that’s called for, all thundering drums and falling melody and ominous repetition.

Rihanna, “We Found Love”.

It’s the video that made me like this song. There’s a recklessness in the narrative that feels real. It feels, in conjunction with the climbing synth-and-bass breaks, like those moments when you know perfectly well that this is a terrible idea. Yet you also know with equal certainty that this is right and good and that nothing bad will happen to you.

You’re wrong, of course, about that second thing. maybe you get away with it this time, maybe the next. But not forever.

M.I.A., “Bad Girls”.

I wrote about this a great deal, here.

The only thing I have to add it that, months later, my daughter still asks to listen to this song in the car.


Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”.

There is a moment, near the end of the song, when you can hear with perfect clarity that Ms. Jepsen is smiling, nearly laughing, as she sings the lyric. I love that moment. It’s a moment of joy in a song of delight and strength and hope.

Gotye, “Somebody That I Used to Know”.

I didn’t care for this song much, but it grew on me. And then I realized that I didn’t care for it much because the emotional message of the song isn’t a horribly dramatic one for me. It’s just business as usual. I mean, my ability to completely forget why I wanted to date someone two weeks after I break up with them is … appalling. And hurtful. And I should really listen to this song a bit more and try to understand it better.

Skrillex, “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites”.

Oh dear sweet crickets. I love the bass drop in this song. Love it. To pieces. Love.

What this sounds like to me is the soundtrack for the non-existent live-action mini-series remake of Macross, as done for Showtime or HBO by David Milch, with SFX by WETA Workshop, starring Columbus Short as Roy, Georgina Haig as Minmay, and Daniel Craig as Bruno Global.

Somebody get on that, hmm?

Fun, “We Are Young”.

I was watchign clips from some awards show this summer, and this song was being performed live when the camera cut to Emma Watson, Kristen Stewart, and Scout Taylor-Compton in the audience. They were singing along. And I thought, oh dear heavens. Yeah, you guys are so young.

Natalia Kills, “Wonderland”.

I like songs about fairytales. And Wonderland.

The Wanted, “Glad You Came,” Avengers fanvid.

I first encountered this song, that I noticed, in this fanvid. The image quality is poor, probably because the source of the footage was not legal. But the gist of the narrative is clear. The world needs heroes, however we find them. I loved the Avengers movie. This vid is a very well-edited depiction of what there is to love.

David Guetta ft. Sia, “Titanium,” Game of Thrones Daenerys and Arya fanvid.

I first encountered this song in a fanvid as well! “Titanium” is a great score for the narrative arcs of both Arya and Dany in the Game of Thrones tv series. I developed an attachment to the song, which only grew when it was used in the shower scene in Pitch Perfect.

The Corin Tucker Band, “Neskowin”.


“Darling I know I don’t go like the other girls
It’s just I enjoy other toys other faculties”


Nicki Minaj, “Starships”.

This is the catchiest, hookiest song ever. And my kids both adore it.


The past Year in Music posts are:

2009 in Music.
Year in Music 2010.
2011 Year in Music.


Premiere Cast Recording of Carrie: The Musical

Why, yes, I am one of the people who bought the Premiere Cast Recording of Carrie: The Musical.

This post is going to presume a familiarity with Stephen King’s novel, Carrie, and a familiarity with the conventions of musical theater. Spoilers, for a book published in 1974 and a musical that almost no-one has seen, follow.

1. Yes, I liked the soundtrack.

2. When Molly Ranson lets loose in the massive finale, she can seriously sing.

3. My favorite musical numbers, as I said, are the complicated ones in which six characters are singing at or across each other about different topics and it all comes together at the end. Carrie has a couple of those.

4. I laughed at the name change of the gym teacher from Miss Desjardin to Miss Gardner. Because, well, desjardin means gardner. One of the things that completely grounds King’s work in New England is the prevalence of French-derived names. I appreciate that.

5. I remember reading this book as a teenager and … sort of missing all the rage-empowerment parts. I mean, I read them, they were there. (This isn’t like the Nazis in The Sound of Music)

(Okay, let me explain. As a kid I had to go to bed at the intermission of the television broadcasts of The Sound of Music, so for the LONGEST time I thought it was a movie about a family of kids getting a mother. I didn’t realize there were Nazis in the movie until I was a teenager.)


I read the end of Carrie, I did. But my adolescent take-away from the novel was that one’s peers really were evil, and that hoping otherwise was a fool’s game to be avoided at all costs.

Flee the planet like a Heinlein hero; don’t fight for real change on earth.

6. Having been listening to the soundtrack, I re-read the novel for the first time in years. I had hoped to get a better handle on Tommy as a character. I never understood him much when I was younger. He seemed very …. milquetoast. On re-reading, I am still a bit unclear on his internal workings. But, then, he dies and can’t write a tell-all book.

7. Re-reading the novel, I was struck, as I always was, by the hurtling train-wreck feeling of this book. It’s a feeling I love in fiction.

Well, when I’m up for it. Sometimes it’s too depressing.

The best/worst train wrecks are the ones in which, for a moment, it could go differently. (Arthur could forgive Jenny and Lance, is my eternal example.) Carrie actually doesn’t have this, really. At the moment that Carrie thinks it might go okay, the bucket is already waiting for her. But the effect in the writing is such that it feels like things might turn out okay. And then, well, blood and fire and vengeance raineth down.

8. My son tells me from time to time that he’s working on gaining super-powers. I just hug him when he says this. I hug him and tell him I once spent years of my life trying for the same.

When I was in seventh and eighth grade I was picked on from time to time. In retrospect it’s … it’s hard to judge how serious the problem was. By modern educational institution standards, it was a problem, certainly. Was I bothered by it at the time?

I think I was. Not because I remember the details super-well, but because I remember the ferocious concentration I devoted to developing telekinesis. Or, really, pyrokinesis would have been hella better. I remember trying my absolute utmost to set him on fucking fire.

9. Margaret White is a fantastically awful creation of a character. I think that, having met her in fiction when I was eleven or twelve, I have never once since been surprised by real-life reports of hideous parents. Appalled, yes. But never surprised.

10. Did I mention I love the train-wreck hurtling of this story? I do. I particularly like how the narration in the book is carried — inexorably — forward by the news articles and book excerpts. I am pretty sure that King’s writing was the place I first encountered that.

11. The tl;dr? If you love this book, you’ll like the soundtrack. If you love all musical theater, you’ll like this soundtrack.

If you love musical theater when it is fantastic, but are meh on it the rest of the time, I advise caution. The singing is good, yes, and the score is fine, but I found the book to be merely adequate. I could guess the final words in most lyric lines, which indicates a certain lack of creativity. If that’s not a problem for you, then, great! The Premiere Cast Recording is available on Amazon, certainly. That’s where I downloaded it.

12. The point where Carrie is making her dress is the point where I falter in my reading, every time. I don’t want to see it end the same way, again. I wish a better future for her. But I read it anyway.

I read it anyway because … because I feel like I have to honor the path she made on her way out. Sometimes people get out of horrible things with dignity and honor. Sometimes people get out of horrible things and are scarred and flinchy and battered. Sometimes people get out of horrible things by countering rage with rage, fear with fear, terror with terror. (Or, all of these at once.)

It’s not a path I want to experience or be around, certainly. But there’s an emotional truth there that I feel deserves recognition. Out is out, blood and fire notwithstanding. Carrie used the best tools she had available to her at the time. I can wish her life different, but I can’t really be upset with the choices she made.


October 2 2012

1. The kids and J all have colds. I am really hoping that I do not, and am merely tired. Or allergy-ridden. Or something similar, not sick.

2. I’ve been listening to the recently-released soundtrack for the revival of the musical Carrie. Yes, based on the Stephen King novel. I do love a big ensemble production number! I don’t know what it’s called, when everyone is singing over and against each other at cross-purposes and then it all coheres into a BIG THING?

That. I love that.

3. Today is my dad’s birthday. The family intervention was just over four years ago. I haven’t spoken to him since. I wish him all the best, and hope he’s finding some sort of peace in his life. As far as family gossip informs me, he’s not. But I wish it for him.

4. The Fantastic Fangirls website that I help run has re-launched! We have new writers, a broader mandate, and a new look! Go on over and join the conversation!


Brief pop music round-up

1. In a personal stand to keep the “D” away from my “O” and “C”, I am on a personal campaign to adjust the volume settings on the tv, my mp3 player and my laptop in increments other than solely those divisible by two or five. Thirteen is a perfectly acceptable volume number. So’s eleven. Nothing wrong with eleven.

It is right and meet that the volume should go to eleven.


2. When the bass drops in, finally, in Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex, I always think to myself “Earth. Shattering. Kaboom.” Therefore, I want a vid to this song of planets exploding and explosions in space and enormous spaceships crashing and exploding.

3. Speaking of music, All We Are We Are, by P!nk, seems to me to be a song about … Occupy Wall Street, the 99%, and the upcoming election?

Even if she didn’t intend it that way, that’s how my brain is parsing it.

4. I like the new Ke$ha single, Die Young. I just like Ke$ha. As this interview in the Guardian from 2009 points out, the woman is terrifically smart, knows her principles, has a steady and loving family, and is going to take the pop world for all it can give her.

This seems like a perfectly sane approach to pop stardom.



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