New CDs for Summer 2019
Concertos and Chamber Music
Phil Kline – John the Revelator: A Mass for Six Voices
New CDs for March and April 2019
Ochestral, Concertos and Chamber Music
Opera, Opera Excerpts and Art Songs
Scott Joplin – Treemonisha: An Opera In Three Acts
Custer LaRue – The True Lover’s Farewell: Appalachian Folk Ballads
Zinka Milanov – Bellini – Verdi – Mascagni – Puccini
Thomas Beveridge – Yizkor Requiem
U.S. Marine Band – To Make Us Proud: A Leonard Bernstein Tribute
Grandma Sparrow – Grandma Sparrow and His Piddletractor Orchestra
Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Molly (class of 2021) and features Jim Croce’s 1972 studio album You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. Thanks, Molly!
The first time I listened to a song on this album was my first time visiting New York, again after moving to Connecticut. Fittingly, I was sitting in a deli enjoying New York’s finest bagels and Jim Croce’s “New York’s Not My Home” came on. Soon I was engulfed by Croce’s lyrics and every sense of nostalgia. I guess you could say, my similar feelings towards New York made me first start listening to Jim Croce.
In 1968, Jim and his wife, Ingrid Croce, were encouraged to move to New York City by a record producer. They recorded their first album in the Bronx and drove around playing in small clubs and colleges. After being disappointed by the music business in New York, the couple sold all of their belongings except for one guitar to pay their rent and moved back to the countryside of Pennsylvania. Here, Croce was forced to pick up jobs like truck driving and construction work to pay the bills while he continued to write songs. What I like most about Croce’s songs is that many of them tell the stories of these odd times in his life that I find very relateable.
This album carries an array of songs that tell stories in a folk style like “New York’s Not My Home”, “Box #10”, and “Walkin’ Back to Georgia”, while others like “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)”, “Time in a Bottle”, and “A Long Time Ago” portray love songs of different sorts. This eclectic mix of songs are very warm and it is an optimistic album I recommend to many.
I also enjoy Croce’s style which I view as a mix of character, humor, and love that creates the most heartfelt and relateable material, especially in this album. In my personal opinion, this album is the best to listen to after a long day to help unwind. The common man feel to this album drops the crypticness of most of today’s folk songs but paves poetic lyrics that tells us a story.
America in the 1950s was one of the greatest growing periods of this nation’s history. The decade marked huge economic growth following the end of World War II, a spiked population rate from the “baby boomers,” and the rise of new forms of technology and music. Rock n’ roll quickly became a well-received genre among the nation’s youth, and this was expedited by the new product known as television and also the “King” of hip-shaking and dance, Elvis Presley. Jazz, which had established itself as a cornerstone of American music, found it was taking a backseat both commercially and artistically against all the attention rock had been receiving.
However, because of Tony Bennett’s trip to Brazil in 1961, the brazilian-jazz genre of bossa nova was introduced to the United States. One of the musicians that became hooked on this type of music was Stan Getz, an American saxophonist. Bossa nova then found its way into the music scene, and after João Gilberto performed a concert in Carnegie Hall centered around bossa nova, a mutual friend introduced Gilberto and Getz to one another, and the album Getz/Gilberto was released in 1963.
What first attracted me to this album was a random jazz playlist I was listening to on Spotify. Through all the eclectic songs I heard, “The Girl from Ipanema” stood out to me as significant. I had listened to the famous song before, but this version of airy, Portuguese vocals immediately drew my attention. From there, I decided to listen to the album and had such a fun and relaxing time vibing with each song. My personal favorite track is “Corcovado (Quiet Night of Quiet Stars).” The song’s lyrics are quite short, simply referring to a quiet evening in which one can enjoy the sound of music while looking upon the beautiful mountain known as Corcovado. However, the melody and performance of the song are really astounding, and this song serves as one of my favorite jazz tunes of all time.
This album was also received critically well, as it won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 1965; the only jazz album to do so up to that point in history, and it maintained that status until 2008. Also, contrary to what was mentioned about jazz earlier, the JazzTimes released an article that stated it “served as proof that it is possible for music to be both artistically and commercially successful.” Getz/Gilberto definitely helped re-establish jazz into the population’s mindset, and it pushed the doors open for foreign influence in American music.
I can’t remember how I first found Bibio, but it seemed like all of a sudden, his songs were all I listened to (69 hours worth in 2018 alone, but who’s counting?). His music, which blends acoustic guitars and mandolins with ambient nature sounds and funky jazz-electronic beats, has had a huge influence on me since the summer of 2014. His music might not be for everyone; a lot of it is instrumental, and it doesn’t follow a lot of the patterns that most modern pop songs do. I really love it though, and I’m so excited that my requests have been heard and we now have two of his albums: The Apple and the Tooth (2009) and Mind Bokeh (2011).
There are tons of great songs on both albums, but The Apple and the Tooth is kind of special because it has 8 remixed songs from his previous album — one of my favorites in the history of all music — Ambivalence Avenue (2009). Mind Bokeh is filled with more great songs; some of my favorites include “Feminine Eye“, “More Excuses“, and “K is for Kelson“.
If you’re looking for music to study to, fall asleep to, cry to, or feel inspired by, chances are that Bibio has at least 20 songs that will fit your mood. He’s a great artist, albeit fairly unknown, so give him a listen if you want to try something new!
Dear Evan Hansen is certainly not your classic musical. For one thing, there are only 8 people in the entire cast, and there are certainly no big dance numbers. But there are many reasons why Dear Evan Hansen cleaned up at the 2017 Tony Awards including winning Best New Musical, and one of those reasons is the cast recording, which also won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album in 2017. The soundtrack captures the rawness of the story by having the “orchestra”, comprised of 5 instruments, on stage with the performers, and it utilizes electronic instrumentation to complement the importance of technology in the story line. And the soundtrack as a whole takes you on the journey of Evan Hansen, shy, bullied, friendless teenager who finds his place in the sun through a fabricated story just to have the truth come crashing in and destroy his new “perfect” life.
The soundtrack opens with “Anybody Have A Map?”, a song any mother wondering “does anybody happen to know how the hell to do this?” while raising teenagers can relate to. Then you hear the heartbreaking tune “Waving Through A Window” from Evan Hansen himself as he sings about always being on the outside and never being seen. Through the next 5 songs, you hear about Evan and his bully Connor, who is now dead, but due to a combination of coincidences, Evan is believed to have been Connor’s only friend. And as Evan leans into the lie, he helps Connor’s family, the school, and the world cope with loss due to teenage suicide through the song “You Will Be Found.” As Evan builds relationships and finds love in a father figure and a girlfriend that he never thought would be possible, everything begins to fall apart in a true Broadway fashion culminating with “Good For You” and “Words Fail.” But, of course, when the whole world seems to hate you, a child can always find support from his mother, and in “So Big/So Small”, Evan’s mother comforts him and the audience with lines like “your mom isn’t going anywhere … no matter what”. And from the rubble, Evan comes back and finds himself by “Stepping Into The Sun”. And in closing, Evan Hansen reminds us that even if you don’t have the life you have dreamed about, “today at least you’re you, and that’s enough”.
Right now, Ariana Grande is at the top of her game. She has been relevant in the pop genre for quite some time, from her early days as a Broadway and Nickelodeon actress, to now, but is currently transforming her career in what I would consider a glorious comeback.
In May 2017, the Manchester Arena suicide bombing took place at one of Ariana Grande’s concerts, and 22 people were killed. This led Ariana to suffer from severe anxiety, and even post traumatic stress disorder, putting a jolting halt to her career. She did not release new music until her mighty comeback single, “No Tears Left to Cry”, which was to be included on Sweetener, almost a year after the attack. It was an anthem of positivity in light of tragedy, which set the tone for the rest of her music that was to come shortly after.
In Sweetener, Ariana finally finds her own, unique sound. While her voice has always been recognizable as powerful, the songs on Sweetener go past her usual made-for-radio pop, providing a personal look into her growth, both as a person and as an artist. As trends in music have shifted, so has her style, going from experimenting with EDM on her previous album, Dangerous Woman, to using trap and hip-hop influences on Sweetener. Pharrell Williams‘s sophisticated and smooth production, combined with features from Missy Elliot and Nicki Minaj, show how hip-hop and trap have only enhanced Ariana’s music.
Ariana’s overall sound to me has matured, and may have even shifted her audience from younger girls to all people around her age, who are able to relate to what she’s saying. On Sweetener, she covers the ups and downs of romantic relationships, singing about love in her dreams on “R.E.M.” and a crush who she just can’t seem to ignore on “Goodnight and go.” On the other side of this, Ariana reminds us of mental health and self-care on the tracks “Breathin” and “Get Well Soon.” “Breathin” is about Ariana’s own experience with anxiety, and reminds listeners who are going through similar situations to keep breathing. Sometimes I listen to “Breathin” when I’m nervous, and it helps me keep calm. “Get Well Soon”, the closing track, is my personal favorite. Described by Ariana as a “musical hug” to her fans, it reminds listeners to take care of their bodies and encourages a discussion about mental health. She tells listeners that she will be there, even in their worst moments, and inspires them to “work their way to the top”.
There is a clear reason for Ariana’s seemingly overwhelming popularity today: her music has never been better.
When Sweetener came out, I woke up, made myself a coffee, and sat in my sunny backyard on a hot August morning to listen to it for the first time. The album made me feel warm and happy, and I don’t think it was just because of the weather. To me, this is a special album that I still listen to, especially when I’m feeling down, and will always remember. It holds a firm spot in my top albums of 2018.
Coppélia is a comic ballet about a woman who rescues her fiancé after he foolishly falls for a mad scientist’s life-like doll. Though the titular character, the true heroine of the ballet is not Coppélia but a village girl named Swanhilda. Unlike the well-known masterpieces Giselle or Swan Lake, the plot of Coppélia spares the audience a tragic romantic ending. As with most ballets, it has the typical elements of grace and technical beauty, however it also includes some unorthodox and interesting character reactions. Far from the docile fairytale princesses, Swanhilda pulls pranks others and (in this production) actually raises her fists to Coppélia when she thinks she’s being snubbed. It has a similar outlandishness to Don Quixote with the happily-ever-after of Sleeping Beauty. Much like Sleeping Beauty, the entire final act is the celebrated wedding between Swanhilda and her gullible fiancé Franz. It includes synchronized acts by the corps de ballet, flirtatious pas de deux of the main couple and other villagers, and two variations meant to showcase the artistic talents and athletic abilities of the heroine and hero.
This copy is the BBC recording of the 2000 Royal Opera House performance in London. The chorographer (Dame) Ninette de Valois, is considered one of Britain’s most influential figures of ballet, and founder of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. She has been referred to as the ‘godmother’ of English and Irish 20th century ballet. Ballets and operas are best seen live, as the sound carries better in the concert hall, and nothing can trump the excitement of seeing the performers in person. However, this film contains good auditory depth when played with a surround sound system. The two advantages of having a recorded copy is being able to rewind to your favorite parts and having a full view of the stage, except when the camera focuses on the duets and soloists. If you are a fan of ballet but (like me) hate sad endings, Coppélia has a funny storyline and talented cast of dancers and musicians.
Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Cole (class of 2021) and features John Mayer’s 2001 debut studio album Room For Squares. Thanks, Cole!
To me, John Mayer stands as one of the most interesting musical icons of my childhood. Originally making his name as a pop-rock singer-songwriter, Mayer garnered attention early in his career for his guitar ability (he attended Berklee College of Music’s guitar program for two semesters). After the success of his 2001 debut Room for Squares (for which he won his first Grammy) and 2003’s Heavier Things, Mayer pivoted when he released Try! (2005), a blues record released under the moniker of the John Mayer Trio. With his most acclaimed album, Continuum (2006), Mayer sought to unite his earlier pop-rock stylings with his recent efforts in blues.
Though for whatever reason, it’s Mayer’s first album, Room for Squares, that I find myself listening to more often than his more acclaimed and successful releases. I fully agree that Continuum is a masterfully executed record that showcases the best of his songwriting ability. And Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles (2008) might be my favorite live album of all time. But there’s something wonderfully innocent about Room for Squares absent in his other works, like the lovable arrogance with which Mayer scoffs at those who doubted his decision to drop out in “No Such Thing”:
“I want to run through the halls of my high school
I want to scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above”
And then immediately doubts himself in “Why Georgia”:
“’Cause I wonder sometimes
About the outcome
Of a still verdictless life
Am I living it right?”
Or maybe it has more to do with the fact that, to me, the album itself is seems distanced from the controversy-plagued, self-proclaimed “ego addict” that Mayer eventually become known as. Contrast this with his 2003 acceptance speech for his first Grammy award (for “Your Body Is a Wonderland” off of Room for Squares), in which Mayer remarked “this is very, very fast and I promise to catch up,” and you might begin to appreciate the sort of unspoiled innocence of Meyer’s debut, and indeed, his early career as a whole. Regardless, Room for Squares remains an often stunning debut (see: guitar part on “Neon”) from a man who would go on to change the landscapes of both pop and blues music.
Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by student worker Olivia (class of 2019) and features a compilation of songs by the Sweedish pop group Abba. Thanks, Olivia!
This 1994 collection of Swedish pop group ABBA’s most popular songs, recorded from 1972 through 1982, is an absolute classic. As the second Mamma Mia movie has recently been released, I felt it was time we looked back and appreciated this fabulous music group for all the music they’ve given us (and for what they WILL be giving us – news is that the group is set to release 3 new songs in 2019!).
ABBA, also known as Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid, banded together in Stockholm in 1972. They can proudly claim to be one of the best selling music acts of all time, as they’ve sold an estimated 300-500 million records worldwide. Bestselling songs include “Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo,” “Fernando,” and my personal favorite, “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).”
When a person thinks of ABBA, they most likely envision a group of four Swedes with voluminous 70’s styled hair, dressed in spectacular costumes, dancing emphatically on stage, having the time of their lives. This is why I appreciate them so much – the energy, positivity, lightness and uplifting emotion the songs bring out in listeners are infectious and inspiring. It feels so good to belt out “Lay All Your Love On Me,” twirl around to “Honey, Honey,” and it is a well known fact that no one stays quiet when “Dancing Queen” comes on over the speakers. It’s no wonder they’ve stayed popular over so many years; the feelings that their songs evoke in listeners are timeless.
While the group isn’t planning on touring (in person) any time soon, there is word that a futuristic “hologram tour” (yes, you read that right) is set to debut in 2019 or 2020. All I know is that I have to be there…