Friday, December 3, 2010

Dorothy in Concord

You know that thing where you turn off the sound on The Wizard of Oz and play Dark Side of the Moon as the soundtrack?  And if you start it at the right place, it matches up in all kinds of cool ways and makes the movie like totally more psychedelic than it already is?  Well, it doesn't work so well with Charles Ives' Concord Sonata.  I noticed that The Wizard was on one night last weekend, but I also felt like listening to Marc-André Hamelin's Charles Ives/Samuel Barber disc, so I thought, let's try this and see what happens.  And what happened was, my focus alternated between the music and the movie without the former ever becoming anything like a "soundtrack" to the latter.  Not that I really expected it to work, but I thought maybe something cool would happen.  Maybe it would work better with this version.

In any case, I can certainly recommend Hamelin doing Ives when listened to on its own.  My appreciation of both of them is still in its early stages, and I know there are hours and hours of music I've yet to hear, but one particular area of Ives' work that I want to explore further is his large collection of songs, many based on pre-existing texts by others (poems, lyrics to other songs).  I've heard only a small selection so far, initially drawn in when I found out that there was an Ives-ized version of "Abide With Me".  Setting these words to new music is perhaps not a terribly radical idea, but it's one that struck me as bold and even inspiring, having grown up with the hymn as an immutable fact of life (in comparison to the Ives version, Thelonious Monk's wonderful and slightly skewed arrangement of the original tune sounds quite traditional).  The titles of Ives' songs alone (including one called "Slugging a Vampire"!!!) make me want to hear more.

One last, rather remarkable, thing I just learned from Wikipedia re: the Concord Sonata:

In 1986, Bruce Hornsby borrowed the opening phrase of "The Alcotts" movement as the introduction to his hit "Every Little Kiss" (as heard on the album The Way It Is).

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