Educating you so you don’t educate yourself

You are currently browsing the archive for the Educating you so you don’t educate yourself category.

spotlight on percussion

This entertaining program was produced and directed by Ward Botsford for Vox Records in 1955, and appeared as box set even though it is a single LP. Spotlight on Percussion presents the sounds of more than sixty percussion instruments followed by examples of their use by classical composers ranging from Handel to Hindesmith with many stops in between.

The program is narrated by radio personality Al “Jazzbo” Collins (who last appeared on the Hymies blog here), and features Arnold Goldberg and Kenny Clarke as the percussionists. The album also includes an interesting interview with the engineer, Rudy Van Gelder, best known for his work with jazz artists, including on some of the recordings for which Clarke is famous.

Ward Botsford had an extensive career as a record producer with a keen emphasis on obscure or unrecorded classical compositions. He also produced spoken word albums for Caedmon Records, recording writers such as T.S. Elliot and Gertrude Stein reading their own works. Beginning in 1979 he had the opportunity to reissue music from EMI’s catalog through Arabesque Records, a subsidiary of Caedmon until Botsford and a partner purchased it. After Botsford’s retirement the label went further into jazz, but still includes new and reissued classical recordings as well.

Here are two selections from the program of Spotlight on Percussion.

The first offers insight into the role of percussion in several places, such as unprecedented appearance of the tympani in the D minor scherzo in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and the brilliant use in Saint-Saen’s Dance Macabre. This second launching the tradition of dancing skeletons, from Disney’s “Silly Symphony” in 1929 to Michael Jackson’s “Ghosts” seventy years later.

In the second section Kenny Clarke performs a variety of material while Collins introduces the percussionist’s role in a jazz group. He was, even by 1955, one of the most influential performers in jazz, for his role in early bebop recordings by Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and others. Clarke is credited with creating the ride cymbal pattern, which became a foundation of bop rhythm (here’s Tony Williams performing an example of the ride cymbal). You’ll hear this and other familiar bebop innovations in his improvisations on this recording.

nifty chart

The final feature of Spotlight on Percussion is the big book included in the box, which contains an extensive and interesting history of percussion. There is even this nifty chart of instruments and their use, range and history.

distins drum

The history includes fun trivia, like the story of Distin’s Monster Drum, exhibited in England in the nineteenth century. The book also includes more details about the recording and production of the record than you’ll find in any other record (except maybe one recorded for Dave and Sylvia Ray’s Sweet Jane label), and even pictures of Rudy Van Gelder cutting the master to disc.

little red 1little red 2A remarkable relic from China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Songs of the Little Red Guards is a 10″ album from the late 60s with a similar package to the Ella Jenkins and Pete Seeger records American children were putting on their Fisher Price players at the time.

Although sung by a children’s choir, the songs reflect the turmoil of the times, in particular the re-establishment of Mao-ist orthodoxy. Titles such as “Let’s Help Pick Up the Rice Left in the Fields” and “Growing Vegetables for the Armymen’s Families” hint at the legacy of the famine which followed Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Foward while others enforce the Communist Party’s doctrine.

One of the most interesting songs is a tribute to Lei Feng, a relatively unknown soldier whose memoirs were published after his death in 1962 as Lei Feng’s Diary. The book expresses his admiration for Chairman Mao Zedong and the sacrifices he has made for the revolution in the form of selfless acts. The soldier was the subject of a propaganda campaign, and his story became part of the compulsory curriculum in schools.

220px-LeiFeng.poster

An iconic poster of Lei Feng

The Red Guard was a student movement which began in 1966 in the middle school attached to Beijing’s Tsinghua University. After receiving recognition from the CCP the group quickly established itself in nearly every school in China. With the Chairman’s personal endorsement at a rally that summer, the group became an essential part of his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Party leadership in Beijing struggled to control the Red Guard, which became increasingly divided into factions as it grew, potentially out of control. The campaign against Capitalist or bourgeoisie remnants became violent in places, where assaults on Chinese cultural relics quickly became assaults on individuals. The People’s Liberation Army began suppressing the Red Guard’s most radical elements in 1967, and it was entirely eliminated, often with brutal force, by the summer of 1968. The Chairman, whose enormous personality cult was greatly enhanced by the Red Guard, was alleged to have a tear in his eye when he last spoke to Red Guard leaders.

e15-562

A Red Guard poster featuring the watchful Chairman

If you’d like to learn more about the Red Guard or start such an organization in your own school, you will likely enjoy Carma Hinton’s 2003 documentary about the Cultural Revolution, Morning Sun. If you still think it’s a good idea, we have a little red book for you.

In one of his comedy records, Steve Martin uses his mock naïveté to explain to the audience that “it’s like those French have a different word for everything.” This joke came to mind yesterday when we were listening to this instructional record, on which Nazir Ali Jairabhoy delivers a lecture introducing his audience to Indian classical music. You could say that they have a different note for everything.

Jairabhoy’s lecture is accessible and we thought it really added to our understanding of the music, also commonly called Hindustandi classical music.

This post is a re-run of a post which originally appeared in 2014.

Our pal Craig is always bringing in odd finds from his thrift store trips, and he recently found this awesome tape of a 1988 radio documentary about Radio First Termer, a pirate station briefly broadcast in Vietnam.

vietnam radio first termerRadio First Termer broadcast just over sixty hours, for three weeks in January 1971. Its host, Dave Rabbit, is now known to have been US Air Force Sargent Clyde David DeLay. You can hear one of the only surviving recordings of the original broadcasts here.

Last month we posted A Child’s Introduction to Jazz by Captain Kangaroo, and today we’re featuring a similar LP which looks more closely at the unique qualities of the music often called America’s greatest artistic achievement.

For many Leonard Bernstein is primarily known as a conductor, due no doubt to the commercial success of his recordings with the New York Philharmonic during his eleven years as their musical director. He was also an accomplished composer, and many of his works imply the influence of jazz: notably passages from his West Side Story score (a favorite of ours featured in a post here) and in the second part of his Symphony no. 2, The Age of Anxiety.

As a teenager Bernstein formed a jazz orchestra, and he was only twenty-five when he first conducted the New York Philharmonic (hear his debut here). In the 1950s he was an occasional host of a television program called Omnibus, which presented analysis of the arts in accessible terms. In one memorable episode Bernstein proposed how Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony may have sounded different by conducting some of the unused ideas the composer discarded. Over several years, and all three major networks, he also discussed musical comedy and opera, and in what became the basis for this 1956 LP, jazz. The musical samples are derived from Columbia’s extensive catalog.

 

According to National Day Calendar, today is NATIONAL DO A GROUCH A FAVOR DAY. Of course the website, which we assume is authoritative, doesn’t offer any insight into the history of this observation. We imagine it has something to do with the most famous grouch in the world, Oscar.

We learned from Carroll Spinney in the must-see documentary I Am Big Bird that Henson, collaborator Joe Stone and he named Oscar for the tavern in New York and based the character off an exceptionally disdainful waiter. Spinney has performed the character since his first appearance (as an orange grouch!) on Sesame Street in 1969.

Oscar has performed numerous acts of kindness throughout the years, although he would never admit to them. He is known to dote on his pet worm, Slimey, and has always said the only people he can be nice to without ridicule from his fellow Grouches are human children. When Big Bird goes missing during the original Christmas Eve on Sesame Street special, Oscar goes out of his way to help find his friend. And in a more recent Muppet Family Christmas he allows Rizzo the Rat to stay in his trash can for the night. Still, his holiday song is “I Hate Christmas,” which we posted way back here.

Its been nearly a decade since Oscar’s girlfriend Grungetta derided television’s grumpiest grouches with a dig at ‘Pox news’ (“Now there is a trashy news show!”) prompting conservatives to call for a crackdown on the partly publicly-funded program. Sesame Street has long been a focus for those looking for liberal leanings in the media, an argument which hit its fever pitch two years later in Ben Shapiro’s book Primetime Propaganda. The book also broke the *shocking* story that MASH had an anti-war agenda.

If we can learn anything from the ‘Pox News’ crisis, its that we can’t learn Oscar’s politics. He plays his cards close to his chest. Besides, anyone who really understands Grouch lexicon can recognize the bit contrasting CNN (parodied as ‘GNN,’ the Grouch News Network) and Fox cast the latter in kinder light. Grouches love trashy — it’s a compliment in the same way that Michael Jackson’s “Bad” was good — but this sort of nuance is entirely lost on the sort of people who didn’t see that the larger story that day was about expressing your emotions.

By the time Sesame Street‘s 45th anniversary rolled around a few years later, the news network had forgiven the children’s program (maybe they’d been watching all along, after all) and Abby and Grover were guests on “Fox and Friends.” Oscar, always the iconoclast, was no where to be seen. Later that year he was embarrassed when shown a reel of clips showing the various times Oscar had done something to help the environment.

There’s no shortage of mean people in this world, but true Grouches like Oscar are a rare breed. If today is their special day, we hope it rains.

Actually, it’s “Book Sale Day” at our kids’ school, but parachute day was always pretty awesome.

parachute time LP

Bean bag day is fun, too!

bean bag activities

« Older entries

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.