Storytime

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In keeping with yesterday’s Irish theme, we present today Molly Bloom’s soliloquy which comprises the final episode of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Our son is fond of using the word “epic” (this must be a thing with kids these days), but it truly applies to the eight sentences that make up this nearly thirty-minute monologue, as read on this LP by Sibohan McKenna.

In all, Molly Bloom’s soliloquy on her relationships with men and ultimately the marriage proposal of her husband is over four thousand words long, containing only two punctuation marks. Joyce’s own wife, Nora, is often remembered for having asked her husband, “Why don’t you write books that people can read?”

Here’s another Star Trek record to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the show’s debut. If you’ve already seen all seventy-nine episodes of the original series too many times and you’re starting to get there with the short-lived animated series (streaming on Netflix!) you can always turn to the records.

You could usually count on Star Trek for a good story, and that’s certainly true for this one, “The Crier in Emptiness,” which was originally released as one of those awesome book-and-record sets as a 7″ single. This Peter Pan LP collects it along with another story, and the album is unfortunately missing the comic.

Listening to “The Crier in Emptiness” again, we recalled that the comic book completely mis-represented two members of the original crew, portraying Sulu as a black man and Uhura as a white, blonde woman. We found proof our our recollection on this blog, which collects classic story records and comics, and is likely to eat up a solid hour of your time if you click on that link.

From our perspective, “The Crier in Emptiness” is a particularly interesting adventure for the Enterprise, in that the crew is saved by music. We also appreciate this exchange between Kirk and McCoy, which was far more insightful than the occasional discussions about music Picard and Riker would have in the next series.

Bones, have you ever listened to any violin concertos?

I’m not much of a classical aficionado, Jim

There are times when that lone violin is up there, against all those other instruments, and they’re quiet, and that one violin is the loneliest sound in the world.


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.

 

five chinese 1

When our kids were young they had a pretty awesome collection of storybooks which have since been given to friends as the books were outgrown. One of these was a story first published in 1938, but not familiar to either of us until we had our own children, called “The Five Chinese Brothers.” It was written by Claire Hutchet Bishop and illustrated by Kurt Wiese in 1938.

Each of the five Chinese brothers has a special attribute — one can swallow the sea, one can stretch his legs to any length, one cannot be burned, etc. The brother who could swallow the sea always captivated our imagination.

five chinese 2

He would sup it up like soup and hold it in his cheeks until they were enormously swollen, “and all of the treasures of the sea lay uncovered.” The image of the seabed revealed is captivating to us.

five chinese 3

This Chinese brother is taken advantage of, and the following four take his place in succession. Some have said Wiese’s art in the children’s book is racist, but we have never really seen the story that way.

When this book was given to us when our children were small, our first thought was of the song “7 Chinese Brothers” on REM’s second album, Reckoning. Like most early REM songs its just another exercise in cryptic absurdism, but apparently at least partly inspired by the storybook.

rem rekoning

“7 Chinese Brothers” is an early example of REM’s ability to captivate us even when we have no idea why we are so compelled to continue listening. What is this song about, and why is it one of our favorites on the album? Reckoning is a remarkable album in this way, for few songs are singularly memorable, but on a re-listening all are essential. And yes, there is a line about swallowing the ocean, or something. It’s so damn difficult to understand any of the words on those first few REM records.

In fact, it was so difficult to understand Michael Stipe, let alone hear and record him, that it was a problem when recording Reckoning. At one point the album’s producer, Don Dixon, gave Stipe an album and asked him to read the liner notes so he could be heard and understood. It was The Joy of Knowing Jesus by the Revelaires. This exercise took place over the backing track of “7 Chinese Brothers.”

rem-revelaires-back

The resulting take was so weirdly successful that it was released as the b-side of the single for “So. Central Rain” as “The Voice of Harold.” It was also included on the band’s b-side compilation (and a favorite album of ours) Dead Letter Office. In the liner notes, Peter Buck describes the alternate lyrics as “extemporaneous,” but the delivery is stunningly predicative.

From this point forward there seems to be a growing confidence in Stipe’s vocals, perhaps inspired by … “The Voice of Harold.” All we know is that it is hard to imagine the Michael Stipe of most songs on Reckoning singing “Everybody Hurts” a decade later, but it somehow makes sense when you hear “The Voice of Harold.” For us, a record store is like “the treasures of the sea lay[ing] uncovered.” There is always something to find.

A couple years ago, we posted a fun ballet about the appetites of an ambitious arachnid: The Spider’s Banquet by Albert Roussel (you can hear it here). It debuted in 1912, and in the story the spider is cheated out of part of his dinner by a praying mantis.

It turns out Roussel’s ballet is not the only classical piece written to celebrate the exploits of a spider. Robert Muczynski, born in Chicago in 1929, wrote many pieces for the piano and one in particular, from about fifty years after The Spider’s Banquet, focused on the life of a fuzzy, eight-legged creature.

the tarantula

Muczynski composed this piece while living in Tucson in the early 60s. This recording of Fuzzette, The Tarantula is performed by Robert Kaksa (narrator), Curtis Webb Coffee (flautist), Roberta Eaton (alto saxophonist) and the composer himself at the piano. It was released on the San Francisco label Music Library Recordings.

The story of Fuzzette has a fairly familiar moral: love yourself for who you are, fur (or lack thereof) and all. It’s a far more romantic story than Roussel’s ballet about insects fighting over a meal.

Turns out its just a dirty story.

love 1

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