There are two primary occasions when I consciously pay attention to pop music. The first is on long road trips, when I get tired of whatever CDs I dragged along, and I flip to whatever radio station I can pick up and try to catch up on trends (this stuff comes up really often in conversation). The other time is during award shows, which I really like despite hardly ever agreeing with the outcomes. I’m far from an expert on popular trends, but I know what my temporal lobe likes, and it’s not usually what ends up winning.
Anyway, one positive thing I can say about award shows is that it provides some pretty unique musical opportunities. I happened to catch one brief part last night, the only thing I was really interested in hearing, and it was Alicia Keys (stunning as always), performing with Queen Latifah (who’s busy staging a silent comeback this year with a new album release), and soprano Kathleen Battle. They tore up the stage, and the range of talent was impressive. Whoever conceived of it is pretty brilliant in my book.
That Apple MacBook Air commercial. You know, the one with the envelope and the crippled piece of shiny aluminum. All judgments on the value of that machine aside, I do happen to find the song, New Soul by Yael Naïm, incredibly catchy. It surprises me, and I don’t even know what its genre “label” would be, but the marching melody is humoresque, and her voice is sweet. Plus there’s something fun about any song in which part of the lyrics go, “Lala La-La, Lalala La-La, Lala LaLa Lala LaLa LaLa La La Lah.”
Among all of the things in my life, since childhood, one habit has remained pretty much constant: Saturday morning cartoons with a bowl of cereal. While the cereal has changed, the cartoons really haven’t; I still prefer old Looney Tunes shorts to anything else. Perhaps it was cartoons like “Rabbit of Seville,” pictured here, that aided me in my enjoyment of European classical music. This particular short features Bugs Bunny as the Barber of Seville, a Rossini opera, with Elmer Fudd as his customer, as they go through various barber-related gags. Even though this one, like “What’s Opera, Doc?” (a take on Wagner) is overtly focused on the music, more often than not the soundtrack plays second fiddle to the comedy. Anyway, they’re terribly funny (often not so PC, I’m quickly learning in adulthood) and a great gateway into this music.
Fritz Kreisler has two complementary tunes, Liebeslied (Love’s Sorrow) and Liebesfreud (Love’s Joy), which I understand were written as encore pieces. They are absolutely beautiful. I’ve heard versions played by Kreisler, Maxim Vengerov, and Joshua Bell. All are excellent.
Vengerov in this clip gets an exceptionally bold, yet sweet, tone out of his violin. There are some good clips of Bell on that site as well.
One thing about this short piece that’s interesting is the phrasing employed by different interpretations of the song. You can find the audio clips of Kreisler himself playing the piece, and while that may be what was “intended,” I see it as yet another interpretation of the work. The sly improvisational quality of European classical music can be expressed in more subtle ways than in jazz, for instance, and I’m only really beginning to appreciate it now in European classical. (I was never accomplished enough at the violin to achieve that level of individuality, I don’t think.) The genius of the work, along with a great deal of its value, lies in its ability to be adapted and interpreted.