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We have such an interest in Peter and the Wolf that we produced an hourlong documentary about it for KFAI back in 2013, which we also added to this blog so you can hear it here. For some time one of our interests in record collecting was to find as many different recordings of the work as we could, and by the time we gave up we’d found more than a hundred LPs, 45s, 78s, cassette tapes and CDs of the piece (this is why there are usuually so many different copies in our children’s section here at Hymie’s). And we gave up before we found even a quarter of the known versions, which has been performed in dozens of languages and adapted to a wide variety of styles of music.
Today’s musical selection was written just a year before Prokofiev produced Peter and the Wolf for the Central Children’s Theater in Moscow, but it is rarely recorded. This is in part because it was not written for children to hear, but rather for children to play. Music for Children, published in 1935 as Prokofiev’s Opus 65, features twelve brief vignettes for piano, but he shows respect for the talents of his prospective pupils. The pieces are simple enough for a novice pianist, but also inventive enough to provide their parents with some enjoyable listening.
Music for Children, performed here on a 1977 recording by the Canadian pianist Richard Gresko, reflects the influence of Prokofiev’s time in France through his encounters with the music of composers such as Debussy, Delius and Satie. It also hints at the direction in which his many of his orchestral work would move as he settled back into the Soviet Union the following year. This is especially true in regard to his hugely popular ballet, Cinderella, although not so in regard to many of his works which, for political reasons, were guided by the principle of Soviet realism (notably his film score for Alexander Nevsky and his opera based on War and Peace).
Our favorites from Music for Children include the evocative opening, “Morning,” in which the left hand seems to quietly create a sunrise as the right begins a stretch to start the day, and the cheerful “Grasshopper’s Parade,” which is the seventh down. We hope the grasshoppers do not run into the hungry spider from Albert Roussel’s 1912 ballet suite.
The whole of the twelve pieces are in order below for your enjoyment this morning. If you enjoy them you may find it interesting to hear A Summer’s Day afterwards. That orchestral suite based on the piano pieces was first published, under the same opus, about six years later. You can find the first on Youtube here, and then click through the rest.
We checked this book out of the library last week, and while this space is usually for record reviews, we couldn’t resist sharing our opinion on it after we both finished reading. The title of this book, Record Collecting for Girls, almost assures it some number of sales. Vinyl records are coming back, after all. This book includes some Soundscan statistic to that very effect, but you probably already learned this after an elderly friend of your parents saved you a clipping from the USA Today about the “vinyl resurgence.” Its sweet and sort of funny, but that person probably knows more about why people, male or female, collector records than the author of this shockingly juvenile book.
Most of the widespread criticism of the book is that the author, a former MTV programmer, has more to say about dating than record collecting. There are sections in Record Collecting for Girls on “make-out music,” and songs for a break-up mix, but nothing remotely empowering. The author has more to say about boys (note: boys not men) than why women listen to, make or collect music. You’ll find a long list of well-thought critiques along these lines, nearly all written by women, on Goodreads here. We’ll leave it to one writer, Lesile, who put it pretty succinctly:
Too much energy was dedicated to the intersection of music and “boys,” or “crushes.” Maybe I’d respond to this if I were a moody adolescent, or if music were the only way I could connect with a guy (hey, we like the same bands! let’s make out!). Or if my designs as a music lover were to get indie rock guys to take me home to their dirty apartments and write songs about me in my cute glasses and ugly sweaters. But that hasn’t been my experience, and I was disappointed that “The Guide” would assume I’m more interested in music’s role in my love life than in the music itself.
Actually we have to quote one more one-star review from Goodreads before we offer our own thoughts on the book. Alyx summed the book up perfectly with one word:
The most remarkably stupid thing about Record Collecting for Girls is that it contains basically no information about record collecting, and hardly any about records at all. In one of the most alarming passages of Record Collecting for Girls, author Courtney Smith admits “I’m beginning to doubt that I’ve listened to more than a handful of full albums straight through since 2004.” This comes in the middle of an absurd chapter titled “The Death of the Record Collector” in which the author’s entire research is to listen to three records on a turntable.
Earlier she asks why she keeps ten boxes of CDs and insists its “no joke that her CD collection has been nearly packed in boxes for more than two years.” The author of Record Collecting for Girls apparently has a collection that consists of three albums, one of which is her parent’s warped copy of the “White Album.” If you wanted to learn anything about records — how they’re made, how one pressing may vary from another, or how to care for them — you will be sorely disappointed by this book. When Smith boldly listens to albums on her turntable three quarters of the way through this book, she admits being afraid to use the turntable for the risk of damaging the record or needle — so don’t expect any help on caring for your record player either!
In fact, Smith simply perpetuates the idea that record stores and record collecting are a “boys club,” because it seems as though that’s the only reason she’s even interested. Our own experience, here at a neighborhood record shop which is jointly run by a married couple, is that we see both men and women in our shop all day. And some women are afraid to ask basic questions about their turntable or for help to find the records they’re listening to, in part because of an atmosphere encouraged by the stereotype presented in Smith’s book.
Record collecting can be fun for everyone. We hope someday someone will publish another book with the same title and take the subject seriously. Until then thanks for reading, and for visiting our shop, and never hesitate to ask a question no matter who you are.
In Chris Reimenschneider’s Star Tribune story about the Suicide Commandos new album, out last week, Chris Osgood quipped that the band is “one the one-album-every-39-years-plan. It’s worked well for us so far.” The album’s release also marked a revival of the Twin/Tone label, always a subject of local music lore.
For the Suicide Commandos, who earned more attention for adopting a highway in 2015 than for their reunion recordings on a 10″ split record with the Hold Steady released by the Current a couple years earlier, Time Bomb should merit some much deserved recognition outside of the Twin Cities. Truth is, we might like it even more than that 1978 classic, The Suicide Commandos Make A Record.
The Suicide Commandos were Minnesota’s punk rock pioneers — bands like Hüsker Dü, the Suburbs and the Replacements came in their wake. While the Commandos have said it was the passing of Tommy Erdelyi, the last surviving original Ramone, who inspired their decision to record again, it can’t help but have been influenced by the recent reunions of the ‘Burbs and ‘Mats.
But Time Bomb is everything that Songs for Slim, the hodgepodge Replacements ‘reunion,’ wasn’t. It’s a helluva record you’re proud to put next to those ultra-rare local classics, whereas Songs for Slim is a record you feel stuck with because, well, it was for a good cause. The twelve new Commandos tunes are laden with wry humor and the sort of insight that comes with age, all laid over riffs and hooks most bands would love to add to their repertoire. The trio has been playing occasional shows together for at least a decade, but its still amazing that Time Bomb sounds like the work of a tightly-rehearsed act working a regular gig.
The single was posted on Youtube earlier this year and although it’s not as incendiary as their legendary “Burn it Down” video it sure whet our appetite. And absolutely everything about Time Bomb delivered on the promise.
Any record which cheerfully name-checks the great Dave Ray is going to satisfy us, but its actually the darker descriptions of being in a band (in “Hallelujah Boys” and the small-town bar portrait “Pool Palace Cigar”) which stick to the ribs, if you’ll pardon the expression. The album also offers descriptions of disastrous relationships in Dave Ahl’s brooding “Frogtown,” and the ensemble written “If I Can’t Make You Love Me” (which concludes, naturally, with “I’ll make you hate me”), but its overall impression is sealed by the final two tracks by Steve Almaas and Osgood, respectively.
Time Bomb isn’t an especially political album, but there are unsurprising undertones. Ahl and Osgood performed on the streets during the 2008 R.N.C. protests in St. Paul, after all. The closer, “Late Lost Stolen Mangled Misdirected” is a catchy anthem in the Social Distortion tradition about holding on to some hope even though you may feel all of those things in the title because sometimes “broken things get resurrected.”