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There are as many as a quarter of a million records in the shop on a good day. It can be hard to choose, which is why there are also why we provide three listening stations where you can sample any of them. We appreciate very much that all of our regular customers put the records back after they listen to them, otherwise we’d have a lot of extra work to do at the end of the day.

Sometimes you get to the listening station, put the album on and realize someone has put the wrong record in the jacket. Sometimes these mismatches create the strangest combinations…

stand by your man

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mas ariba

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PHONE CALL

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Ben Weaver Buffalo LP

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xon the corner

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Can’t get enough? More mismatches here

Four of the remaining nine survivors of the USS Arizona were in Hawaii today to mark the seventy-third anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Nearly 1200 sailors died on the battleship, including twenty-three pairs of brothers and a father and son, Thomas Augusta Free and William Thomas Free.

Those interested in music may mourn the loss of the entire USS Arizona band, US Navy Band Unit 22, who had been on deck to play for the morning flag-raising ceremony. They had previously qualified for the finals in the Navy’s annual “Battle of the Bands,” and were unanimously declared the winners after the attack — the award today is known at the USS Arizona Band Trophy. It is the only such loss of an entire military band in American history.

HITH_pearl_harbor_banner

 

Much of the ships structure and armament were salvaged after the attack, to be reused in the war effort. The remains of the ship, under about forty feet of water, became the final resting place for more than 900 servicemen. Many more survivors have since chosen to have their cremated remains interred in the wreck.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation to create a national monument in 1958, and the construction of the 180-foot, bright white marble structure over the Arizona was funded by private donations. Just after his two-year enlistment in the US Army, Elvis Presley performed a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor’s arena which raised $50,000.

According to its architect, Alfred Preis, “Wherein the structure sags in the center but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expresses initial defeat and ultimate victory….The overall effect is one of serenity. Overtones of sadness have been omitted to permit the individual to contemplate his own personal responses…his innermost feelings.” You can read more about the Memorial on the National Park Service’s official website.

One of the four survivors at Pearl Harbor today is Donald Stratton, 92. He was hospitalized for over a year, with burns over sixty-five percent of his body, but re-enlisted soon after. “The good Lord saved just a few of us,” he told reporters.

ww2 songs

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“Remember Pearl Harbor” by Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra

When Napoleon’s Grande Armée entered Moscow after the bloody Battle of Borodino in September 1812, they expected to settle victoriously into a restful winter. Instead, they found a city of ruins, from which nearly the entire population had fled, taking with them any food and supplies with which to survive the winter. The Russian Army had burned much of it to the ground, and so robbed of victory, the Grande Armée began the disastrous retreat which left it decimated before reaching Poland.

The events are remembered with pride by Russians, who call the French invasion the Patriotic War of 1812. Twenty years later, Tsar Alexander I (he who had once said of Napoleon, “He or I, I or he: We cannot reign together!”) commission the construction of the Cathedral of the Savior to commemorate the triumph over the French. Decades later, its completion coincided with the 25th anniversary of Alexander II’s coronation and the 1862 Moscow Arts and Industry Exhibition — the greatest of all Russian composers, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was asked to compose a work for the festivity. In six short weeks he had completed a score and a most ambitious plan.

550px-Cathedral_of_Christ_the_Saviour_1903Having learned his work would be performed in the open square before the cathedral, and that a brass band would be made available to him, Tchaikovsky approached the opportunity with uncharacteristic flamboyance. He arranged for the cathedral’s bells to accompany his orchestra as well, and for those of every church within earshot to join in his triumphant finale. Most remarkable of all, he arranged for the use of several cannons, which were to be wired to an electrical panel at his conductor’s stand, so that he himself could time their explosive contribution.

Yet as we have learned from Robert Burns, “the best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley.” Why Tchaikovsky’s magnificent plan went unrealized has been described by the New York Time‘s music critic Robert Sherman as “a minor Russian mystery.” It may likely have been the assasination of Alexander II in St. Petersburg, or a collapse of the composer’s enormous house of cards. The cause is lost to the past, and when Tchaikovsky was finally able to debut his Year 1812 Festival Overture in E♭ major, in a tent beside the incomplete Cathedral, it was in a simpler arrangement un-augmented by brass, bells or artillery. He would never hear his original score performed.
Tchaikovsky himself conducted the Overture at the official opening of Carnegie Hall on May 5th, 1881. He attempted to reproduce the original spectacle as planned in Berlin, but was not given permission. The earliest known recordings of the work were made in England two decades after Tchaikovsky’s death in 1893, and follow his second scoring. We are most proud to inform you that it was the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra which created the first faithful production of Tchaikovsky’s original score.

In 1954, Mercury Records’ “Living Presence” imprint recorded the Minneapolis Symphony inside Northrop Auditorium with the accompaniment of the University of Minnesota Brass Band. Upon this recording they added authentic recordings of Napoleonic single muzzle-loading cannons, recorded with the help of the Museum of the US Military Academy of West Point. A stereo version in 1958 added recordings from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon at Riverside Church in Manhattan, which includes the single largest tuned bell in the world (twenty tons!). The album is a classic and one of the finest accomplishments of the Minneapolis Symphony during the Antal Dorati period.

In 1990 the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated the 150th anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s birth by producing the Overture with the live accompaniment of cannons for perhaps the first time. Sentimental readers may be moved to learn the performance was made within earshot of the composer’s grave.

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Tchaikovsky’s Year 1812 Festival Overture in E♭ major, performed by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra with Antal Dorati conducting.

1812 minneapolis

The 1812 Overture, as it is commonly known, rarely exceeds fifteen minutes — and while its production may be complex, the score follows a straightforward narrative using familiar themes. Tchaikovsky chose to use the Russian and French national anthems to represent the opposing armies as he describes the Battle of Borodino and the failed French occupation of Moscow. The celebratory climax is the celebration after the fleeing French must abandon their artillery as it becomes stuck in the freezing soil and the cannons are turned against them. The Russian anthem, “God Save the Tsar,” is played triumphantly with the tolling of the bells.Film fans might recall the moving scene in Casablanca in which Paul Henreid inspires the patrons of Rick’s Cabaret by asking the band to play La Marseillaise in response to a chorus of Nazi officers. The French national anthem became a symbol of the underground resistance during the German occupation, although in Napoleon’s day it had been banned (La Marseillaise had only a few years earlier been re-instated as the national anthem when Tchaikovsky used it in his Overture). Likewise, his use of “God Save the Tsar” falls into the classical composition equivalent of IMDB’s Goofs category. It was the national anthem when Tchaikovsky wrote the Overture in 1881, but it had been chosen in a competition held in 1833.
Another anachronism of Tchaikovsky’s score is the Russian bells themselves, which are different from cathedral bells elsewhere. Until the savage destruction of Churches under Soviet atheism, Russian bells were tolled in a manner known then as zvon. A zvonnar, or bell-toller, would move a mallet within a stationary bell, rather than the moving bells we are familiar with in here the west. The construction of the bells themselves is different: each western bells has an octave range, while each traditional Russian bell has one of a seventh, but greater subtlety in the scales of sounds produced. Most Russian bells in the zvon tradition were destroyed by the Soviets in the early 30s.
destruction-of-christ-the-savior-cathedralIn fact, the Cathedral of the Savior was destroyed by dynamite on December 5th, 1931. It took more than a year to remove the rubble which had been a Cathedral constructed over decades. The Palace of Soviets, proposed to take its place, was never completed. For a period of time the location was the world’s largest swimming pool.A second Cathedral of the Savior was built beginning in 1990, and consecrated in the year 2000. It was where Boris Yeltsin lied in state, and where Pussy Riot performed the “Punk Prayer” protest which led to their arrest and imprisonment in 2012. Theirs are rung simply moving a mallet within a stationary bell,

Krazy Kat

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” -Twyla Tharp

Around this time last year, we wrote about The Nutcracker‘s stifling effect on modern ballet after taking our daughter to see a performance and then spending days discussing what she insisted was pronounced bal-la-let. Since the 50s, Tchaikovsky’s 1892 work has become nearly a required work for all major American ballet companies, today providing nearly half the annual revenue for most.

Dance, of course, has produced some of the most enjoyable music in the classical repertoire, although as record collectors our interaction with it is strangely removed. The Allegro in Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, for instance, is by all accounts a barn dance (“Merry gathering of country folks,” in the maestro’s words) but it is the sublime passing of a summer storm in the following movement (heard here) which most captivates listeners, rather than the lively scherzo to which the country folks dance. Most listeners, ourselves surely included, have no idea what choreography accompanies favorite ballets, from Ravel’s Daphne and Chloe to Igor Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring. It is often hard for those unfamiliar with the art to even imagine.

Frank Zappa famously remarked that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” and yet here we write and here you read. There’s a magical element of human movement in all music, whether ballet or Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass,” which has inexplicably been watched on Youtube three hundred and twenty-five million times but never pressed onto a 12″ single (we’ll wait here while you make it three hundred and twenty-five million and one). Whether the same is true of the written word is hard to say — our favorite books have never really inspired us to dance, but then again neither has Frank Zappa.

kk1

There is a sense of movement in the visual arts, and here at Hymie’s we’ve always harbored a love of comic books. Consider, for instance, George Heriman’s Krazy Kat, often considered the first newspaper comic to attain intellectual regard (making it also the first comic strip for academia to ruin by squeezing out all the joy with overwrought interpretations). If you have never read Krazy Kat, you’re in for a treat one day.

Heriman’s one-sided love affair between Krazy Kat and brick-hurling Ignatz Mouse is beautifully choreographed and set against a surreal landscape that might have come from contemporary theater. The cartoons based on Heriman’s comics produced by Randolph Hearst’s newsreel service (Hearst was also Heriman’s publisher) patterned themselves after the more-famous Felix the Cat shorts, and were stripped of the strange backdrop, although it was later the inspiration for the Roadrunner and Coyote desert southwest. Heriman’s art is not as famous today as other works from the Jazz Age, but Charles M. Schultz, Patrick McDonnell, Will Eisner and Bill Watterson all identify Krazy Kat as an inspiration. Cul de Sac creator Richard Thompson recently wrote on his blog about a Krazy Kat he’d long wanted to “steal.”

kk2

kk3

kk4American composer John Alden Carpenter recognized the innate dance between Krazy Kat and Ignatz and wrote a ballet based on the strip which debuted in 1922. Carpenter’s Krazy Kat incorporates the jazz of his native Chicago, but as David Barker writes it is more “jaunty Jazz Age music than true jazz.” From his notes to a 1977 recording by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which includes quotes from the composer’s score:

kk5

It begins with the awakening of Krazy, for whom there’s an expressive theme, from an afternoon katnap; he sights a grand-ball announcement poster and makes a serendipitous discovery of a ballet skirt hanging on a clothesline and of a conveniently dropped make up kit; he sucumbs to the temptation to make use of them while Ignaz (perky piccolo theme), with his brick at the ready, is frightened off by Offisa Pup; the now warmed-up Krazy does a one-man (or -kat) “zippy but languorous” Spanish dance, complete with castanets’ he receives a bouquet of katnip from a mysterious stranger (betrayed by the piccolo as Ignaz in disguise; the soon stoned Krazy abandons all decorum in a “Katnip Blues” dance, at the conclusion of which Ignaz, throwing off his disguise, finally gets to fling his brick; the exhausted, masochistically ecstatic Krazy toters back to the base of his napping tree as Offisa Pup, swinging his club, passed by again. ‘The moon comes out. Krazy sleeps. Krazy dreams. Indomitable Kat!’

kk6

We love sharing musical works inspired by comics. Already this month we posted Jimmy Bowen’s silly album of music inspired by Sunday morning comics (here) and mentioned the majesty of Krazy Kat. Naturally, we were ecstatic to discover today’s record.

Carpenter’s success inspired the era’s great patron of dance, Sergei Diaghilev, to commission the work which would eclipse Krazy Kat, the composer’s “ballet of modern American life,” Skyscrapers, debuted four years later. Krazy Kat is seldom performed, and was not recorded in its entirety until the work appeared on the 1977 collection of modern, jazz-inspired works seen above and heard below. There is no footage of a performance, so we can only imagine how the joyous hilarity of Adolf Bolm’s choreography.

kk7

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John Alden Carpenter’s Krazy Kat performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Orchestra, conducted by John Powellkk8

 

A re-run for this snowy morning. We first posted Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Symphonia Antartica during a bone-chilling cold spell back in January — hard to believe we were walking to work when it was twenty below!

The Hymie’s computer is out of commission for a short while, so we’ll be re-running some favorite posts this week.


 

Had we lived I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.

–Robert Falcon Scott

sinfonia antartica

Today’s record is fitting for the remarkably cold weather in the Twin Cities this week. Irene the shop dog had to stay home today, since it was (according to the bank sign here on East Lake) twenty-one degrees below zero. While at home we discovered that bubbles freeze at this temperature, and that throwing a pot of boiling water into the cold air is super cool.

And we listened to some awesome records. One of them was this recording of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica, a 1952 work that started as the score to a film about Robert Falcon Scott’s disastrous 1911 expedition to the South Pole.

Early performances included recitations from the Book of Psalms, Shelly’s Prometheus Unbound, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Scott’s journal, discovered by a search party a year after his death during a second expedition.

Williams composed for the distant Antartic continent the same way Holst approached the unfathomable planets in the sky — combining mythology, mystery and magic. His work eschews the controversy that historians have since given the expedition, capturing instead the heroic Scott celebrated throughout England at the time.

It’s also a fine soundtrack for an extreme-cold walk, say ten blocks, to a record shop and back. Irene would agree. We hope, however, that you can enjoy this music in the warm comfort of your home.

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“Prelude–Andante maestoso”

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“Scherzo–Moderato”

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“Landscape–Lento / “Andante–Sostenuto”

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“Epilogue–Alla marcia”

Recently, a somber Saturday quietly signified the end of an era — it was the first Saturday in decades during which no major network aired cartoons. The Washington Post covered the sad story last month.

At least we can still count on the Sunday comics, although our local paper sure has shrunk them — gone are the glorious days of half-page Calvin and Hobbes adventures, let alone Herriman’s full page Krazy Kat comics of the 30s and 40s.

Bandleader and country producer Jimmy Bowen produced this awesome tribute to the funny pages in 1966, styling stories of superheroes after classic radio serials. This strange record also includes a adaptations of Serge Prokofiev’s March from “The Love for Three Oranges” and Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” as well as the questionably tasteful adventures of Jewish superhero Captain Gorgeous.

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sunday morning comics

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The arrangements on Bowen’s strange tribute are all by Ernie Freeman, a keyboardist whose biggest solo hit (a cover of Bill Justis’ “Raunchy”) hardly hints at his extraordinary career as a session musician. Freeman played piano on all kinds of famous tracks, including Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” and the Platters’ “Great Pretender.” He was a founding member of B. Bumble and the Stingers, and played on their first hit, “Bumble Boogie,” and arranged most of Liberty’s hit albums of the early sixties where he worked Julie London, Bobby Vee and Timi Yuro, to name a few. One of his last jobs was to produce the string arrangements for Bridge Over Troubled Water in 1971.

Szits comicpeaking of the Sunday comics, did anybody notice Dr. Duncan’s t-shirts in this morning’s Zits? He’s often representing obscure classic rock bands, but today’s trio were unlikely to have ever made shirts, seeing as they never really made any records.

The Castiles cut an acetate of which only seven were made. A 1967 live recording from a Freehold, NJ bar exists (hear it here).

Several recordings of Steel Mill and Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom can be found from their short run in 1970-1 (you can hear a whole Steel Mill show here). Both toured the upper Atlantic college circuit, and impressed fans and critics, if not record company executives.

These three bands, of course, are the earliest incarnations of what became the Bruce Springsteen Band, ultimately the E Street Band who finally made their debut in 1973 on Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ.

 

Walk On

brownie and sonny

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“Walk On” by Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry

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