This is the first in my series of what I’m calling “Art Songs”. Taking a cue from Charles Ives, these are piano and vocal pieces, the text being various pieces of poetry set to music. The text for this piece is an example of “found” poetry which poet Rosemary Waldrop came across in The Joy of Cooking and arranged as verse:
Abalone, like inkfish,
needs prodigious pounding
if it has died in a state
Talk about a movie song that outlasted its source material. Type “Green Dolphin Street” into the YouTube search bard, and you’ll get 140,000+ results. Statisically speaking, approximately one out of every five people born since 1930 will, at some point, record this song.
And yet, not a lot of people remember the 1947 movie starring Lana Turner for which this was the title theme. The New York Times certainly was not impressed at the time, calling it “a glamorized illustration of a turgid adventure yarn.” The plot, in a nutshell: Lana Turner and Donna Reed play sisters in love with the same man; he gets drunks and winds up proposing to the wrong sister. My exhaustive 10 minutes of Google research failed to uncover how the titular boulevard factors into the story line.
To me, it always seemed highly unlikely that a street by that name could actually exist. I could easily imagine a developer with a fondness for aquatic fauna naming a street “Dolphin”, but who ever heard of a green dolphin? Pink dolphins, sure…but green?
None of this, of course, explains why the Real Book copyist thought that D-O-L-P-H-I-N was spelled with an “e”.
Is there such a thing as paying too close attention to the music? Yeah, probably. Some musings and observations from my daughter’s dance recital (she did awesome, by the way).
1. One of the “Pre-Ballet” classes (i.e. real little kids) danced to a string arrangement of Guns ‘n Roses “Sweet Child O’Mine.” And no, it wasn’t a 2Cellos arrangement either – it was a full string orchestra. Perhaps next year one of the jazz dance classes could dance to Pat Boone’s cover of “Enter Sandman”?
2. Contrary to what you might assume, the dance titles are not always simply the title of the musical selection – as evidenced by the fact that the Modern Dance class’s Subway Daydreams is really just Dave Brubeck’s “Three To Get Ready.” Not complaining, mind you. I love seeing Brubeck in a dance program – I just want to see him get credit.
3. I was bracing myself when I saw “Puttin’ on the Ritz” on the program. Not because I thought the dance performance would be bad – the kids always do a great job – but because I was dreading sitting through four minutes of the worst kind of mid-tempo early 80′s drum machine pulse. Fortunately, it was not to be…almost. Somebody whom I’m obviously too old to have heard of apparently did a remix of Taco’s 1983 abomination,sped it up, and spliced in the beginning and end of Fred Astaire’s performance from the 1930 movie musical. There’s three or four layers of irony here, folks – not the least of which being the oldest girls in this group were probably born no earlier than 1997 and as such have probably never even heard of Taco. If we all work together, maybe we can keep it that way…for the children.
4. Each year at the end of the performance, they bring all the kids from all the classes on stage for final bows. Since this can take some time as there are usually over 100 kids, this year they decided to play some “processional” music to accompany them as they filed on stage. The musical selection? Another orchestral arrangement – this time of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage.” Oddly enough, it actually worked pretty well. Maybe schools can start subbing it out in lieu of “Pomp and Circumstance”?
Rooms for Tourists depicts a Cape Cod inn that still stands to this day in Provincetown, Massachusetts near the house the Hoppers summered at in neighboring Truro. Hopper completed at least two sketches in preparation – one depicting the inn during the day, the other at night.
Musically, this is a piece in which my jazz roots are on full display. The first two chords – a Bb Major 7th followed by a Bb Diminished Major 7th – have a very strong WWII-era feel to them, reminiscent of Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade.
What’s especially striking about this piece is the way Hopper handles the multiple light sources: the artificial light from inside the inn, the light illuminating the outdoor sign, the moonlight lighting about the building’s facade, etc. This is probably the “cheeriest” of Hopper’s works to be featured in this suite. Where most of the painting depict moments of contemplative silence and solitude, this seems to imply warm feelings of community. One can imagine the sounds of good food being consumed, laughter and good conversation emanating from within.
The Mansard Roof is slated to be the last movement of “Part I” of This Excellent Desolation. It’s one of my favorite Edward Hopper works (I’m a sucker for Mansard roofs as well…) and this piece will, when completed, attempt to capture the ebb and flow of the summer breezes. This excerpt is from the “calmer” part of the day when the winds have died down a bit. The house depicted in the painting was built by Captain Gardner K Wonson in 1873 on Rocky Neck in Gloucester, MA.
There was a time when I spent a lot of energy trying to convince myself that I liked Weather Report. It seemed as aif you couldn’t call yourself a jazz afficionado if you didn’t. Duuude…Weather Report’s like a jazz supergroup! Joe Zawinul! Wayne Shorter! Frickin’ Jaco, man – JACO!!! My reaction now…
Hey, Boss? I finished copying “Freedom Jazz Dance.” You wanted it transposed for Bb Instruments, right?
Right. What did you draw it on a grand staff for?! No Piano player is gonna be reading this!
Uh, well…the bottom staff has the chord symbols. It’s um…clearer that way?