Arachnophonia: John Mayer “Born and Raised”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Elias (class of 2021) and features John Mayer’s 2012 studio album Born and Raised. Thanks, Elias!

John Mayer

Born and Raised

John Mayer - Born and Raised

John Mayer, the egotistical, narcissistic, prodigious, reformed paradox of a musician is by far my favorite artist of all time. When people think of John Mayer, they typically think of him for one of two things: his iconic love songs or TMZ headlines articulating exactly how he broke Katy Perry’s/Taylor Swift’s/Kim Kardashian’s/Jennifer Anniston’s heart. Either way, I rarely see people appreciating his musical talent or his raw songwriting genius. There’s a reason Eric Clapton calls him a “master” guitarist. And for me, there’s no better example of this mastery than on his fifth studio album, Born and Raised.

You wouldn’t guess it at first, Mayer often speaks in interviews about how his favorite type of music to write is blues. You get hints of this on sprinkled across his other hit albums, but Born and Raised is his real tribute to this passion. From first looking at the album art, it becomes apparent that this is no ordinary album from hit-machine John. There’s no photo of Mayer trying to seem like he doesn’t know his picture is being taken, and no angsty black and white filter over the whole image. No, Born and Raised sports old-fashioned text intertwined with clockwork, adorned with phrases such as “Music by John Mayer” and “Stereo Recorded Sound.” No glitz or glam, no profile shots algorithmically calculated to get girls to pick up the tape. Just the title, and a little style to set the tone.

ohn-Mayer-Born-and-Raised

Now, the music. The tracks on this album are slow, gentle folk songs, with a Mayeresque vibe to them. It opens with “Queen of California,” as Mayer immediately flexes his technical muscles with a flowing, articulated, methodical guitar riff cover almost the entire length of the song. It almost sounds like “Why Georgia” at first, but the album’s themes sink in after a spell. A gentle, clean electric guitar accents the track with smooth bends which work alongside Mayer’s voice to keep you interested.

Another highlight of the album comes with the fifth track, “Something Like Olivia.” If you’re still questioning Mayer’s prowess on the guitar, just watch the music video on YouTube. The fact that he can keep this riff going effortlessly whilst singing is beyond me, and the studio version certainly displays his mastery well. The lyrics are repetitive yet meaningful, and the chorus is easy to sing along to. “Something Like Olivia” is about a girl, but it’s not a love song. It’s a jam.

Finally, we have the title track. “Born and Raised” is deservingly named after the album (or… vice versa?), as the simple chord progression leaves Mayer’s voice at the forefront. A harmonica finishes out each chorus in lieu of a guitar solo, an ode to the unique blues/country rock theme of this album. Lyrically, “Born and Raised” is a strong track, telling the story of how he feels that life has passed him by, and how he no longer feels like he has dreams to work towards: “I still have dreams, they’re not the same/They don’t fly as high as they used to/I saw my friend, he’s in my head/And he said, ‘You don’t remember me do you?’”

As a whole, Born and Raised is a break from Mayer’s routine, and it feels like the first album he made more for himself than for the public. It’s not a collection of hits, and it’s not a collection of his best guitar playing. It’s a collection of jams, and though he would continue his adventure into Americana with his next album, Paradise Valley, it was a testament to the kind of music Mayer wanted to make. If nothing else, it’s a collection of good songs, and an album I think everyone should listen to.

Arachnophonia: The Sound of Music

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Emma A. (class of 2021) and features the libretto for the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. Thanks, Emma!

The Sound of Music: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Broadway Musical

I’ve chosen to discuss the libretto for The Sound of Music. Growing up this movie, play, and its music were quintessential to my after-school evenings and my sister’s love for the music. She was Maria in our school’s production of this show which inspired my own love for the drama club years later. We would watch this movie over and over until we knew every word and could sing along perfectly. They are very happy memories that I share with my sister; and the rest of my family and I will always enjoy listening to and watching The Sound of Music no matter how many times we’ve done it before.

I love how some of the songs are so intricate and over-the-top (“The Lonely Goatherd”) and some are so sweetly written and simple (“My Favorite Things”). No matter which song from the show you’re playing, they are all different — no two sound the same. Some Broadway shows can be very repetitive and over the course of three hours song after song can become boring, but that was never the case for me with The Sound of Music. In addition, the talent that you need to sing some of the songs is amazing. That’s not to say anyone can’t sing along, but to sing them well requires some major pipes. My sister had this talent and seeing her perform our favorite show was one of the moments she truly knew that music and singing would be her life’s passion.

I think that watching, or even just listening to, The Sound of Music is a must for everyone, even if you’re not into musicals. The story line is so captivating and the music is beautiful. If you’ve never seen it before give it a try! If you’re feeling so inclined after, take out this book and learn some of the songs too!

Sound of Music banner

Arachnophonia: The Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker AJ (class of 2019) and features a live recording of the Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore East. Thanks, AJ!

The Allman Brothers Band

At Fillmore East

Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East

When I was 12 years old, my mother took me to my first concert. My love for music had become exceedingly apparent to my parents, and they figured that 12 years old was an appropriate age to expose me to live music.

My mother is a huge classic rock fan, so growing up I was fed a strict diet of Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, Beatles, and other such legendary bands. However, my favorite band growing up was The Allman Brothers. Gregg Allman’s lyrics and Duane Allman’s guitar (later Dickey Betts’ guitar) constantly played over our car’s sound system during rides short and long. They were coming to our area around my birthday, so my mother decided to get us tickets. Now, although the members were in their old age, and weren’t in their prime anymore, I still believe that to this day it was one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

allman-brothers-band-1971

The Allman Brothers Band circa 1971 – Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, Berry Oakley, Jaimoe Johanson, & Dickey Betts (L-R)

I wish I had a recording of the night, but unfortunately they weren’t taping this particular concert. The Music Library, however, has The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East on CD. A CD that I believe my mother and I listen to quite frequently on trips. There’s nothing better than live music, and nothing better than The Allman Brothers live; I highly recommend listening to this particular recording because it ends with two of my absolute favorite Allman Brothers songs: “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Whipping Post.”

“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” is the first instrumental track the Allman Brothers Band wrote. It was written by Dickey Betts who dedicated it to a woman with whom he had had an affair with after she had passed away. This woman was actually Boz Scaggs’ girlfriend, but Dickey changed the name to keep their tryst a secret. Fun fact: the woman is buried in the same graveyard where Duane Allman is buried, and Dickey frequently visited to pay his respects and to write songs. He lifted the name “Elizabeth Reed” from a tombstone near where he used to write.

“Whipping Post” is a hard-hitting, in your face rock song about the torment of being in love with a woman who doesn’t love you back, even when you bend over backwards for her. Its powerful lyrics and driving rhythm really foreshadowed the Allman Brothers’ future success, as “Whipping Post” was one of the first songs written by the band. The song itself is actually quite difficult to play because the track is written in 11/4. Gregg Allman, who didn’t know how to read sheet music at first, had to ask Duane how to count it because he thought the rhythm felt wrong (rightfully so).

New CDs added – December 2018

New CDs for December 2018

Concertos, Chamber and Orchestral Music

Ernst Bacon – Remembering Ansel Adams
Halim El-Dabh – Suites & Symphonies
entelechron – The Folk Tune Project: New Works for Piano Trio & the Tunes that Inspired Them
Nico Muhly – Keep In Touch

Nico Muhly - Keep in Touch

Reza Vali – Flute Concerto * Deylaman * Folk Songs (Set No. 10)
Reza Vali – The Ancient Call
Trio Isimsiz – Brahms * Takemitsu * Beeethoven : Piano Trios

Reza Vali - The Ancient Call

Jazz

Jimmy Scott – I Go Back Home: A Story About Hoping and Dreaming
Sungjae Son – Near East Quartet

Jimmy Scott - I Go Back Home

Choral Music

Les Cris de Paris – Melancholia
Missy Mazzoli – Vespers for a New Dark Age

Les Cris de Paris - Melancholia

Nico Muhly – A Good Understanding
Musica Sacra – Messages To Myself: New Music for Chorus A Cappella

Musica Sacra - Messages to Myself

Popular Music

J.P. Harris – Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing
Various Artists – Listen to the Banned!: 20 Risque Songs of the 20s and 30s

World Music

Various Artists – Bye-Bye Berlin

Bye-Bye Berlin

Arachnophonia : Benjamin Britten “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Colin (class of 2021) and features Benjamin Britten‘s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Thanks, Colin!

Benjamin Britten

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

YPG Britten

“I expect you all know the sound of trumpets. And I expect most of you know about a trumpet player’s personality as well…”

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, composed by Benjamin Britten, is an educational piece of music that combines the second movement of the Abdelazer suite, “Rondeau,” with commentary by Eric Crozier describing the instruments within an orchestra. Originally commissioned for a British educational documentary titled Instruments of the Orchestra, this piece is unique for its use of a common theme throughout each instrumental section and the conductor’s description of each section aloud before they play the theme.

Britten - Young Person's Guide

Not only does each section in the orchestra perform its own perception of the theme, every individual instrument is highlighted in multiple variations throughout the 17-minute piece. Variation C is led by the clarinets when the narrator states “clarinets are very agile. They make a beautifully smooth, mellow sound.” In accordance with the description, Variation C is played in a moderato tempo where the clarinets have many slurred sixteenth-note runs to emphasize their smooth sound. The piece continues to highlight each instrument individually and multiple sections in pairs until it culminates in a triumphant ending led by the piccolos and flutes. The brass begins to play in half time, 6/8, compared to the rest of the orchestra playing rapid eighth notes in a 3/4 pattern, creating a dynamic between fast and slow that ends the composition in a glorious fashion.

Benjamin Britten

Portrait of British composer Benjamin Britten circa 1949

Young Person’s Guide was also featured in the coming-of-age film by Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom. The piece is played throughout the film to add to the values of wonder and adventure present in the movie, and synonymously contribute to the performances of the child actors.

Arachnophonia: Come From Away

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Susie (class of 2019) and features the cast recording of the Tony-nominated musical Come From Away. Thanks, Susie!

Come From Away

Come From Away

When I first heard that Broadway was making a musical about the tragic events of 9/11, I was quite confused. Sure, Broadway has capitalized on many historical wars and disasters such as Allegiance (Japanese American internment during World War 2), The Color Purple (the lives of African American women in the early 1900s), and Miss Saigon (Vietnam War). But most people do not know someone directly affected by these events anymore, especially since the most recent was almost 50 years ago. Come From Away started being workshopped only 10 years after 9/11. So naturally, many people questioned the appropriateness of this musical. Then people began to hear about it. The story. The music. A beautiful tribute to the people of Gander, Newfoundland who sheltered 7,000 displaced people during the closing of the American Airspace due to the terrorist attacks. And the talent that came together to put on the show in the Broadway debut in 2017 was incredible. Rightly so, the show received 7 Tony Nominations as well as a Grammy Nomination for this album.

Come From Away Cast

The cast of Come from Away: Kendra Kassebaum, Jenn Colella, Sharon Wheatley, Lee MacDougall, Chad Kimball, Rodney Hicks, Joel Hatch, Petrina Bromley, Q. Smith, Astrid Van Wieren, Geno Carr, and Caesar Samayoa; photographed at the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal, in New York City.
Photohgraph by Mark Seliger. (Vanity Fair, February 2017)

The music on this CD tells a story. You can imagine being there in the audience, and because the music is such a large part of the story, you don’t miss much of the story line without the lines between the musical numbers. It opens with “Welcome to the Rock,” a catchy, full company number introducing the people and the town of Gander. “38 Planes” and “Blankets and Bedding” tell the story of the town preparing to shelter 7,000 people. Then you hear from the distraught passengers and the turmoil of their lives in “Lead Us Out of the Night” and “I Am Here”. Jenn Colella sings as the first American Airlines female pilot and beautifully delivers the story of a woman’s life as a pilot then realizing her favorite thing in the world was used in such a destructive and horrible way. If you only listen to one song on this track, listed to “Me and the Sky“. The passengers bring you through the struggle of returning home and realizing all that has happened in “Something’s Missing”. And finally with “10 Years Later” and “Finale”, the story ends with so much hope and love thanks to the people of Gander who opened their doors, homes, and hearts to thousands of people.

Arachnophonia: Hollywood String Quartet “Kodály, Smetana, Dvořák”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Madeline (class of 2019) and features the Hollywood String Quartet’s 1958 recording of works by Zoltán Kodály, Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák. Thanks, Madeline!

Hollywood String Quartet

Kodály * Smetana * Dvořák

This CD is perfect for those who enjoy string instruments and/or Central European music. Kodály is Hungarian, while both Smetana and Dvořák are Czech. All three of the works have an overall lively and lighthearted sound. It is intricate enough to serve as training for active listening, but also pleasing to listen to in your free time.

Of particular interest is the last piece, String Quartet No. 12, “American” by Dvořák, which was written during his time in the United States. His works during this time were greatly influenced by both Native American folk music and contemporary works of African Americans and other immigrants. His most famous piece, Symphony No. 9, From the New World was written during this period. The musicians of this recording, the Hollywood String Quartet, are considered to be the first American based classical group to have an international reputation. They accompanied pop singers in the mid-1900s, most notably Frank Sinatra. Fans of older movies may also recognize their work in cinema. Before HSQ was formed, many of the members provided the orchestral soundtrack for early 1900s Hollywood movies, hence the name of the group.

Hollywood String Quartet

Arachnophonia: The Who “Tommy”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Gabriela (class of 2020) and features the rock opera Tommy, originally released by the Who in 1969. Thanks, Gabi!

The Who

Tommy

The Who: Tommy

I grew up listening to classic rock. My father played anything from The Beatles, to Led Zeppelin, to The Eagles for me from the moment I was born, and this is something I cherish greatly. Not only did it bring us closer together, but it sparked my interest in music and shaped music taste from a young age. The Who was particularly special to my father and me, and nothing was more special than Tommy.

I remember listening to the Tommy CD in my dad’s old Saturn Vue on the way to school. It was magical, and the first time that the classic rock sound I knew so well sounded like something completely different. Tommy is a rock opera written by The Who’s guitar player, Pete Townshend, and performed by the entirety of the band. It tells the story of a deaf, mute and blind boy who relies on his imagination to get him through his difficult life, and even develops a sense of touch that is strong enough to make him a champion at pinball. Like a musical, Tommy’s fascinating odyssey is told through music, as each song describes a different episode in his life.

In some cases, the detailed nature of Townshend’s songwriting makes the narrative easy enough to follow along with no visual component necessary. For example, the lyrics in the songs “Cousin Kevin,” where the listener learns of Tommy’s abusive relative, and “Go to the Mirror!,” where Tommy’s doctor finally determines the source of his disabilities, are straightforward and descriptive. However, some of the most powerful moments on the album exist within the instrumentals, where the music creates such a strong sense of imagery and emotion that it puts the listener in Tommy’s shoes without even using a lyric. The instrumental “Sparks” represents the “Amazing Journey” described to the listener immediately before it, and takes us along for the ride that is Tommy’s fascinating mind.

The Who - 1969

The Who in July 1969: L-R: Guitarist Pete Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey, drummer Keith Moon (1947-1978), and bassist John Entwistle (1944 – 2002) pose around a table for a feature in Vogue magazine. (Photo by Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I don’t know if I could pick a favorite song today, but I remember my first favorite was “Sally Simpson,” a moment in which the main plot of Tommy is interrupted to tell the story of a young girl. Even the upbeat musical tone of the song itself seems to deviate from what the listener has heard on the album thus far. Here, Townshend further demonstrates his genius through the use of metafiction, or a story within a story. Sally, a young girl, is one of Tommy’s superfans who sneaks out of the house to watch Tommy speak, and is ultimately injured badly when she tries to get on stage to touch him. Although Sally’s life directly connects with Tommy’s, through her separate story, the listener gets an outsider’s perspective on how Tommy’s fame is impacting everyday people.

Listening to Tommy is a musical experience unlike any other. Not only is the story itself unique and full of lessons, but Townshend’s brilliant songwriting pairs so perfectly with the storytelling and singing of Roger Daltrey. Listening to Tommy is reading a novel you just can’t seem to put down; it is watching a movie where you want to catch everything so you try not to blink. The album even inspired a movie of the same name featuring a star-studded cast, and a subsequent Broadway musical. How many albums do you know that fit this description?

Tommy media

Poster for the 1975 movie version of Tommy (l) and for the 1993 Broadway production (r)

Most kids probably can’t sing along to “The Acid Queen,” (maybe for a good reason) but I’m thankful that I knew the words, even if I didn’t understand what it meant. I didn’t have to understand it to know it was something special. Thanks dad, for putting Tommy on in the car and eventually taking me to watch Roger Daltrey himself perform the album live in its entirety.

Arachnophonia: My Chemical Romance “The Black Parade”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Olivia (class of 2019) and features The Black Parade, the third studio album by American rock band My Chemical Romance, aka MCR. Thanks, Olivia!

My Chemical Romance

The Black Parade

If you would care to, imagine a flustered 13 year old girl who cut her own ragged side bangs, refused to wear colors other than red and black, and printed out pages and pages of My Chemical Romance lyrics to memorize before bed each night.

This was my reality in middle school. My parents hated it. I loved it.

MCR group

When I began listening to MCR, they had recently released their 2006 album, The Black Parade, a musical narrative telling the story of ‘The Patient’ who falls ill and dies, experiences the afterlife and reflects on the life he led. With the album came the platinum hair of Gerard Way (he had a different hair color for almost every album) and the peak popularity of the band’s career. The most popular song on the album, “Welcome to the Black Parade,” I played during my 7th grade piano recital, to my parents’ horror (ahh memories). The music video very accurately characterizes the theme, energy, and story continued throughout the album.

One of the things I love most about MCR is how they weave each album’s music into a crazy, creative and awe-inspiring narrative, and continue that narrative through music videos and live performances. It makes listening to their music an active experience. This was also demonstrated through their 2010 album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, which featured a corresponding comic book series published by Dark Horse as well as a full
character costume for each band member – and cherry red hair for Gerard Way.

MCR Danger Days

MCR Danger Days promo photo

You know I have every issue of that comic series in my room at home, by the way.

MCR comic art

The extent to which I immersed myself in The Black Parade, (along with all of MCR’s albums) has made such a lasting impact on me. Twelve years later and I still consistently listen to my favorite band from middle school – those years are impactful and to this day I have not felt the same connection to any artist or group as I felt and still feel to My Chemical Romance.

MCR Killjoys

Arachnophonia: Sam Smith “In The Lonely Hour”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about resources from the Parsons Music Library‘s collection.

All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.
Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Emma A (class of 2021) and features In The Lonely Hour the 2014 debut album by UK singer Sam Smith. Thanks, Emma!

Sam Smith

In The Lonely Hour

Sam Smith - In the Lonely Hour

I have been listening to Sam Smith since my freshman year of high school, which was now five years ago! His talent is so pure and he can convey such strong emotion through his songs. I love how he has a blend of sad, raw songs and upbeat, happy ones. I guess it depends on your mood… Although, the songs are so good that I’ve found myself listening to his slower ballads even on cheery and sunny days!

I love to sing, so I appreciate any artist that goes above and beyond with their music. I like the type of songs you can sing along to and understand the words to. My favorite album of Smith’s is In The Lonely Hour. At times some of the lyrics seem a bit trite and overdone with repetitive melodies, but nonetheless it is still quit enjoyable even for Smith’s voice alone. He reminds me of Adele and Duffy, two other British singers whom I like.

Sam Smith

Stay With Me” became a radio hit, but one that didn’t get as popular (and should have) was the more lively tune “Money On My Mind” which I’ve definitely had stuck in my head on more than one occasion. I like that his music has a pop, yet soul, flare to it and does not need the kind of auto-tuning that many current pop stars use. His voice is so versatile that many other famous artists have featured him, including the electronic duo Disclosure. In addition, I was so happy to hear that he was singing the theme song for the recent James Bond movie Spectre.

Back cover of "In The Lonely Hour"

Back cover of “In The Lonely Hour”

This album‘s focus was on a lost lover, something Smith seems to sing about a lot. I hope his next album will be about something different, but if not, I am content with the talent he exudes singing about past relationships.