I encountered Milton Babbitt’s music before I ever met the man. Given the uncompromising intellectual rigor of his music (a nice way of saying that it made my brain hurt), I expected Mr. Babbitt to be some kind of monster. Instead, the first time I met him, he looked at me and determined, correctly, that I had a cold, and said, “hello, would you like some Vitamin C?” Now, I didn’t particularly believe that a Vitamin C pill would do much for me, but I took one, mostly out of relief that Babbitt hadn’t yelled at me (I’d already published some things which championed the emerging “downtown” composers who were pushing back at the academic nature of Babbitt’s music).
Music writer and British radio personality Gary Burton joins us today joins us today for a Soundcheck Smackdown on a British holiday tradition: the race for a "Christmas No. 1" on the country's pop charts. Here's a list of his top-five UK Christmas songs:
5. Kate Bush, "December Will Be Magic Again"
4. Paul McCartney, "Wonderful Christmastime"
3. Jona Lewie, "Stop The Cavalry"
2. Slade, "Merry Xmas Everybody"
1. Greg Lake, "I Believe in Father Christmas"
Music critic Sophie Harris of Time Out New York joins us today for a Soundcheck Smackdown on a British holiday tradition: the race for a "Christmas No. 1" on the country's pop charts. Here's her list of her top-five UK Christmas songs:
5. Shakin' Stevens, "Merry Christmas Everyone" / Frankie Goes to Hollywood "The Power of Love" (not strictly a Christmas song, but a memorable Christmas No. 1)
4. Jona Lewie, "Stop the Cavalry"
3. Band Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
2. Wham!, "Last Christmas"
1. John and Yoko, "Happy Xmas (War is Over)"
Click through for Anne Midgette's top classical and opera releases...
Ray Davies of the Kinks has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, right under the piece by Yoko Ono. Yoko’s article is nice, but Ray’s article is a brave and honest reaction to John Lennon’s music. “He had become a hit-and-miss solo performer,” he writes; and he recalls his reaction to Double Fantasy, the last album Lennon would live to release: “I had heard some of the album on the radio and had not been particularly struck by anything so far…”
Click through to see the playlist!
Fred Plotkin's Playlist
•Perfect music for stirring, especially turkey gravy:
Mozart Rondo alla Turca, the 3rd movement of piano sonata #11 K. 331 [Amazon]
•Music that evokes gratitude (even if you don’t understand German):
Zueignung (Dedication): music by Richard Strauss; poem by Hermann von Gilm zu Rosenegg [Amazon]
•Music to Play During the Meal (at least for one course):
Native American flute music such as performances by Timothy Archambault and Joseph Firecrow [Youtube]
•Music that evokes the true spirit of this holiday (to play as the main course comes to the table):
Simple Gifts: words by Elder Joseph, Music by Joseph Brackett (1848) [I like the version sung by Marilyn Horne] [Amazon]
•To Play as Dessert is Being Served (mindful that times are very hard for millions of Americans, but that at the root of our national character is optimism and resiliency):
Let's Have Aanother Cup of Coffee: Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians - 1932 [Amazon]
•Post-Meal Viewing Instead of the Usual Football Game:
I Puritani (by Vincenzo Bellini). DVD of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera performances conducted by Patrick Summers and starring Anna Netrebko, Eric Cutler, Franco Vassallo, and John Relyea. [DG 073 4421]. --Unlike every other bel canto opera with a mad scene, this one ends HAPPILY as the heroine regains her senses. [Amazon]