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A song rendered obsolete by inflation. Probably should be “Heartache for a Dollar” today.

heartaches for a dime

Here is a post we re-run when the temperature drops well below zero. This first appeared here on the Hymies blog in 2006, and has been revisited at least three times since. We’ve survived those winters and we’ll survive this one — the little thermometer on our porch was at nineteen below when we got the paper and took the reluctant dogs out this morning.

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.

Thirty-five years ago today Paul McCartney was stopped by Japanese officials when the Wings arrived in Tokyo to begin an eleven city tour. The reason? He had nearly a half pound of marijuana in his luggage.

While that’s enough weed to warrant trafficking charges, McCartney was released after nine days in a Tokyo detention center. It was likely not the harrowing prison experience Sir Paul described in interviews, and given that an ordinary citizen caught entering the country with that quantity of marijuana would have faced a potential seven year sentence, he ought to be thankful all it cost him was a million pounds in cancellation fees.

The ever-entitled millionaire hardly learned his lesson. Exactly four years later he was arrested once again while vacationing in Barbados, this time along with Linda. This time the millionaire was fined $200 — more than an average Barbadian made in a week — and sent home, where Linda was promptly arrested again the next day when more weed was found in her handbag.

Insult to injury? A 1991 book by Fred Seaman (the man who stole diaries, letters and photographs from John Lennon after he was murdered) makes the certainly un-true claim that Lennon tipped off Japanese authorities, leading to the first arrest. A much more likely scenario is that the country with some of the most strict drug laws in the world actually searches your luggage at the airport.

We went to see the Minnesota Orchestra last night — this is a special occasion for our family, and we had a fantastic time!

photo 2The Orchestra is currently in the middle of their “Beethoven Marathon” which as them performing all nine symphonies and all five concertos. Russian pianist Yevgeny Subdin has been performing the concerto, and last night he tackled both the 1st and the 2nd with exceptional grace. It was also very exciting to see Osmo Vänskä conducting Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (which is Dave’s favorite).

We wrote about Beethoven’s 7th here on the Hymie’s blog back in August. It’s closing movement, Allegro con brio, was in excellent hands with the Minnesota Orchestra and their animated musical director.


keep an eye on us

No, the first part of the track below is not getaway music from a Muppet movie, it’s a promotional record produced by First Bank Minneapolis. And the second part? Well, we can’t tell you who it is because no one seems to know. But former Doomtree producer Kai Benson praised it as “maybe the best song I’ve ever heard” in an interview with VitaMN.

The building was completed in 1992. You may know it as the Sixth Street Building, or 225 South Sixth Street, or the building with the sweet round halo. Apparently it’s been called Capella Tower for nearly seven years. Who knew?

225 South Sixth Street has over 1.4 million square feet of office space. It may or may not be the tallest building in Minneapolis. We don’t think the halo should count. But then again, neither should the shed on top of the IDS. How did it come to this?


winter dreams

We have been listening Tchaikovsky nearly every day recently, owing in part to the often seasonally-themed motif in his orchestral works. While we’ve written in the past about the plague of The Nutcracker, it is nonetheless something we’re sure to listen to each December. Perhaps simply by association, we’ve always found there to be a winter-y quality to each of Tchaikovsky’s three ballets — we’ve always felt a little proud of the fact that the first recordings of each in their complete form were made by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra during the Dorati era.

Today we listened to a much lesser-known work, his first symphony, which Tchaikovsky gave the subtitle Winter Dreams.

The symphony is partly programmatic in that its first two movements are given titles which reflect the influence of Mendelssohn’s romanticism (his Italian symphony a favorite of Tchaikovsky’s at the time), but the last two movements are untitled and decidedly less evocative. When the twenty-six year old Tchaikovsky first presented the symphony to his former teachers, both offered only negative reactions. We can only imagine the anxiety this caused the notoriously emotional composer.

Portions of the symphony were received poorly at performances in St. Petersburg, where Tchaikovsky had hoped to have the completed work debut. Eventually, it was performed in Moscow instead, a compromise forced on the composer because it proved difficult to find anyone willing to conduct it in the former. Tchaikovsky felt pleased with the response, and in a letter to his brother Anatoly, called it “a great success, particularly the adagio.”

From the beginning, that adagio, the movement to which he gave the title “Land of desolation, land of mist,” has been the held in higher esteem than the rest of the symphony. Still, in spite of any success, the Winter Dreams symphony would wait fully a decade and a half for a second performance, and it remains today one of the least commonly played or recorded of Tchaikovsky’s large orchestral works.

The first movement, Allegro tranquillo, is given the title “Dreams of a Winter Journey.” It is sometimes cited by Tchaikovsky’s admirers to dispel claims the young composer lacked confidence and could not navigate the symphonic form. Still, the movement is deceptively simple, developing a single motif slowly over about eleven minutes. Tchaikovsky’s unique style, neither Russian nor European, is already beginning to form in this early work, particularly in the dynamic string passages and their delicate interplay with the woodwinds.

We imagine a winter journey in nineteenth century Russia was quite different than one in present day Minnesota, but our imagination is still inspired by this movement, which might have offered the perfect soundtrack to our afternoon sledding trip at Matthews Park yesterday.


“Every Day is Christmas” by Sass Dragons — another holiday song stuck in the middle of an album. It was released on this great compilation LP from Johann’s Face Records.

half assed chicago


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