Educating you so you don’t educate yourself

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witches brew

If you’re old enough, you remember when the gym teacher would take out a big Califone turntable and a crate of albums, and the whole class would do activities along with the music. We can’t recall for certain if one of the records we imagined, moved or danced to was a Hap Palmer, but his albums on Educational Activities Records make us feel like kids again.

The last time we posted one of these was a few years ago, but maybe some of you found the activities so enjoyable you’ve gone back and done them again and again. Witches’ Brew is not as awesome an album as Movin’, but its pretty good.


Line “dead leaves, seaweed…”

Movement: Children pretend to throw ingredients in cauldron

Line: “Stir them in my witches’ brew”

Movement: Children do stirring motion

Line: “I got magic, Alakazamakazoo”

Movement: Make any sudden, scary movement

Fill in the blanks: “If you were making a witches’ brew, what would you put in it?”

List on the board the pairs of things that go together from the lyric. Children read and sing each pair along with the record. The singing is simple, since the pairs are all sung on one note.

Fill in the blank: “Can you think of some other things that go together?”

Variation: Think of some body movements that go together, such as swing and sway, wiggle and jiggle, etc. Then use these to fill in the blanks. Movements are performed as they are sung. And two movements the children want to do are fine.

Educational and enjoyable, here is “The Gravity Song.” It was sampled by Man or Astroman? in “F=GmM(moon)/R2” on their classic EP Your Weight on the Moon, but we prefer this OG jam from Ballads For the Age of Science.

singing science sampler

Beethoven started working on what became his 5th Symphony in 1804. If he’d finished it earlier, it would have supplanted the fourth. It was not debuted until December of 1808, and in the long interim he composed many other works: his Violin Concerto, his Appassionata sonata, three string quartets, his Fourth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto, and a first draft for his sole opera, Fidelio.

bernstein beethovenThis entertaining LP explores Beethoven’s composing process. In it, Leonard Bernstein provides insight by performing many of the sketches on the piano, as well as with the New York Philharmonic. Think of this as the “alternate takes.”

We are personally very partial to Bernstein’s recordings of the nine symphonies in New York. We are also well-known to be partial to Beethoven altogether, and own several recordings of each symphony. Bernstein’s study on this album reveals his sincere enthusiasm.

This exploration of a single movement touches on many of the remarkable qualities of Beethoven’s oeuvre, in particular the passion which propels his symphonies forward with unbridled passion.

This particular copy is in pretty poor condition, but we imagine there are many out there who will enjoy hearing it regardless. The second side of the album contains the contemporaneous recording of the symphony conducted by Bruno Walter, which can be easily found in much better condition than this copy.


It’s become rare we pick up a copy of The City Pages on our way out of the record shop at the end of the day (unless we’re going to be carving a pumpkin) but this week we read Bryan Miller’s clever portrait of Mystery Science Theater 3000. One of our favorite parts was Bill Corbett’s description of the fun the crew had finding the short films they’d use to round out an episode when the movie was too short. These were the public service programs on subjects like marriage and juvenile delinquency. “They’re like little archaeological digs into mid-20th-century America, and they are pretty tight-assed.”

In the same spirit we’ve often posted educational records here on the Hymies blog (a click on the tag “Educating you so you don’t educate yourself” will line up a cue of posts for you). Other times its songs which touch on subjects like sex education. Peculiar public service records offer a candid look at the past, and are often one of the best rewards for diligent crate digging.

sex education


sex education 2

Today we offer When Your Child Asks About Sex, a mid-sixties LP produced by the Illinois State Medical Board. Today’s listeners are unlikely to get through this album without cringing. We hesitate to inform you the album also comes with a fully illustrated booklet.

Spring break starts for Minneapolis schools this afternoon, and just in time for your trip to the Aloha State … here’s Conversational Hawaiian, narrated and taught by Benjamin Kalanikula Bright.

In addition to important terms tourists may need, like inu paha kakou (“let us drink”) he’ll teach us to say naughty things like honi kaua wikiwiki (“kiss me quickly”) and welakahao (“making whoopie”). This record is a good fifty years old, so no guarantees it will get you laid* next week.


*Heh heh, see what we did there?

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 drumThe 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.


The Declaration of Independence wasn’t actually signed on July 4th, although the final language was announced by the Continental Congress on this day in 1776.  The vote itself, inside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall (then known as the Pennsylvania State House) took place two days earlier. It made for a suspenseful scene in second episode of the miniseries John Adams — you can learn a lot more from cable television than you ever did in school.

The most remarkable part of the story is that nobody’s certain King George II ever received a copy. There There were about 200 broadsides produced by a Philadelphia printer (you know, keepin’ it local) John Dunlap.  There are 26 known copies today, including one recently found in England’s National Archives in Kew, and another found in a Pennsylvania garage sale. Whether or not an actual Declaration, listing grievances against the King, was ever delivered to his highness is highly uncertain.

This 1961 documentary album by Stan Freberg recreates the conversation between Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as the thirty-one year old member of the Second Continental Congress traveled to Franklin’s home to get his signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Both Jefferson and Franklin were members of the “committee of five,” who were assigned the task of declaring independence from the British crown. The other members were JohnAdams, Roger Sherman and Roger Livingston — you can thank Livingston that you and we, here in Minneapolis, are part of these glorious United States, for it was he who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Adams had nominated Jefferson for the job of creating the Declaration’s first draft. The two became bitter political enemies over the course of their lives, only to reconcile through the encouragement of Dr. Benjamin Rush, who also signed the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd, 1776. The correspondence between Adams and Jefferson, now elder statesmen removed from the political fray, has provided historians with enormous insight into the United States’ formative years.

Adams and Jefferson both passed away on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826. Adams was at home in Quincy, Massachusetts, and Jefferson on his plantation at Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia. They were preceded in death by Franklin (1790) and Rush (1813). The last surviving signer of the Declaration was Charles Carroll, who lived until 1832.

We hope you have a safe fourth of July as you pursue happiness. Your friendly neighborhood record store will be closing early at 5pm.

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