With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for “Perhaps I’ll write something about the great Meredith Willson since it’s his birthday.”

Meredith_Willson_-_1961

It’s easy to lose sight of just how fucking great the musical legacy of America in the 20th century really is. On top of the dudes you’d read about in this space like Copland and Barber, there’s also the giants of jazz like Ellington and Basie, the early rock and roll stars like Little Richard and Chuck Berry, brilliant folk artists like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, hip-hop pioneers like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash, and on and on and on and on and on. And yet, you can make the argument that the greatest collection of musical talent that America produced were the popular songwriters of the ’30’s, ’40’s, and ’50’s. George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers, Sammy Cahn, I mean Jesus of Nazareth that’s a murderer’s row of great songwriting. Continue reading

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Something cool you might have missed: “Praga” by Josef Suk

Adirondack as fuck.

Reverse Adirondack as fuck.

The idea of a piece of music being “derivative” is something I’ve explored a bit in this space previously. Within the sphere of organized sound the possibilities have been virtually exhausted at this point, and if you are composing firmly in the area of tonality, you can remove the “virtually” from that sentence because Tristan and Mahler 7 pretty much won tonality already (I suspect Schoenberg agreed with this………………..).

That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing interesting to be said, though. There are countless works of art that are universally recognized as significant achievements that are extremely derivative. Take the story of the aforementioned Tristan, which predates the awfully similar yet probably more famous tale of Lancelot and Guinevere. Or how about the much-loved-in-these-parts Sibelius 1, which has an incredible Tchaikovsky imprint running throughout it. How about “Brokeback Mountain,” a movie which somehow garnered a reputation for being a world-shattering film even though it’s basically the same “star-crossed lovers who can’t be together because of their families and society and shit” story that’s been around since the same God damns stories that probably inspired Tristan in the first place. It doesn’t make any of those artistic achievements any less deserving of praise. Being able to absorb the essence of a story and repackage it in a manner consistent with your own artistic ideals and beliefs is not as easy as the dismissive term “derivative” implies.  Continue reading