Friday, June 11, 2021

 The Internet, for all its annoyances and horrors, is also a place of fun and wonderment, and it's always nice to see a reminder of that. One example is a person on Twitter who has made it his job to post the same thing, each and every Friday.

It's a video clip of actor Daniel Craig, from an episode of Saturday Night Live that he hosted. It came time for him to introduce the episode's musical guest, a Canadian singer named Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. Tesfaye's stage name, however, is "The Weeknd" (spelling intentional), so what Daniel Craig says is: "Ladies and gentlemen, The Weeknd."

When saying that, Craig does this little shake of his head and a spreading of his arms as if to say that he can't believe he's lucky enough to be introducing this artist...and as the clip has been repurposed, it sounds like Craig is amazed that we made it, that we survived another week: "Oh wow, we got there. We're here, folks. It's OK."

"Ladies and gentlemen, the weekend." Spelling intentional.

It's Friday night. Ladies and gentlemen, the weekend!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Something for Thursday

 Classic rock is often on the playlist at Casa Jaquandor, for many reasons. This is the popular music I grew up with, the "soundtrack of my youth" as it were, though in my case, not as strongly as for others (because the main part of the soundtrack of my youth was John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and their comrades). Nevertheless, I couldn't help hearing a great deal of classic rock as it was new, in restaurants and on car stereos and in bars and camps and generally all over the place. I tend to associate a lot of this music with the road, since the car radio was often the way much of this stuff was consumed, and between moving and road trips a-plenty, we spent a lot of time in the car when I was a kid. (In and out of it...I don't want to convey an idea of endless automobile-related experiences as a kid, but my parents were of a general mindset that if you live within a few hours of something neat, why on Earth wouldn't you drive there and check it out? More than once, if it turned out to be really cool? I have adopted much the same mindset later in life.)

Oddly, though I've heard a great deal of classic rock and many of the songs are familiar or even well-known to me, I am often not very good at all at knowing which band did what song, or even what each song is! The age of Google, with the ability to search for song lyrics and then mobile devices whose search engines are equipped with song identifiers, has been a boon for people like me. Here's one song that shows up a lot on the Pandora classic rock station The Wife plays or on the Sirius XM classic rock station I enjoy sometimes. For years I've known neither the name of the song nor which band it is, but I enjoy its lyrics about failure to commit to a relationship and yet wanting the relationship to endure, and I love the song's opening guitar hooks and the general beat of the song. This isn't just the soundtrack of my youth; in a lot of ways songs like this are the soundtrack of the road trips of my youth.

And to think, I didn't know the name of this song, or who played it, until yesterday. Go figure. Here is "Sister Golden Hair", by America.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Tone Poem Tuesday (and Composer Focus: Sibelius, part 4)

 It's not Tuesday. Sorry about that.

But let's give a listen to something our boy Jean Sibelius wrote in 1908: a tone poem called Night Ride and Sunrise. It's quite an evocative piece, starting with a brief fanfare figure in the brass before settling into a rhythm that suggest hoofbeats along a dark road, the "Night Ride" of our title. It seems as if we're going to be in for a long stretch without a melody, until one arises in the upper woodwinds, playing above the rhythmic pulse; this melody yearns and stretches and yet somehow manages to stay almost in the background. Our rhythm gives way to long scalewise passages in the winds, as our texture becomes colder, stormier, more dramatic.

Eventually, though, our sunrise arrives, and it is exactly what one might expect from a Sibelian sunrise: shot through with clarity and nobility, with simple magnificence. Even here, when the chorales in the winds and brass take over, there is still momentum to spare in the continuing pulsing rhythms. I'm coming to see that for Sibelius, a blend of textures is always afoot.

Here is Night Ride and Sunrise by Jean Sibelius.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Images from the Ridge

 From Chestnut Ridge Park yesterday.

It was a beautiful day. The stream was rather low for this point in the season; the deep pools should be about six inches deeper than they are and there should be more water flowing through there. But there was enough for the water skimmers!

Monday, May 31, 2021

On Memorial Day

Here is my annual reposting of some things that pertain to Memorial Day. This particular year's iteration of this day gives me pause to consider my sense that many of the things for which the men and women we honor today fought and died may be slowly, or quickly, passing into memory. I hope not....

First, a remembrance of a soldier I never knew.

Fifteen years ago I wrote the following on Memorial Day, and I wanted to revisit it. It's about the Vietnam Veteran whose name I remember, despite the fact that I had no relation to him and clearly never knew him, because he was killed four years before I was born.

Memorial Day, for all its solemnity, has for me always been something of a distant holiday, because no one close to me has ever fallen in war, and in fact I have to look pretty far for relatives who have even served in wartime. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War I, but both had been dead for years when I was born. I know that an uncle of mine served during World War II, but I also know that he saw no action (not to belittle his service, but Memorial Day is generally set aside to remember those who paid the "last full price of devotion"). My father-in-law served in Viet Nam, but my own father did not (he had college deferments for the first half of the war, and was above draft age during the second). So there is little in my family history to personalize Memorial Day; for me, it really is a day to remember "all the men and women who have died in service to the United States".

One personal remembrance, though, does creep up for me each Memorial Day. It has nothing at all to do with my family; in fact, I have no connection with the young man in question.

When I was in grade school, during the fall and spring, when the weather was nice, we would have gym class outdoors, at the athletic field. On good days we'd play softball or flag football or soccer; on not-so-good days we'd run around the quarter-mile track. But the walk to the athletic field involved crossing the street in front of the school and walking a tenth of a mile or so down the street, past the town cemetery. I remember that at the corner of the cemetery we passed, behind the wrought-iron fence, the grave of a man named Larry Havers was visible. His stone was decorated with a photograph of him, in military uniform. I don't recall what branch in which he served, nor do I recall his date-of-birth as given on the stone, but I do recall the year of his death: 1967. I even think the stone specified the specific battle in which he was killed in action, but I'm not sure about that, either.

That's what I remember each Memorial Day: the grave of a man I never knew, who died four years before I was born in a place across the world to which I doubt I'll ever go. And in the absence of anyone from my own family, Mr. Havers's name will probably be the one I look for if I ever visit that memorial in Washington. I hope his family wouldn't mind.

I looked online and found these images, first of Mr. Havers's obituary and then of Mr. Havers himself. The things you remember. I wonder what kind of man he was. He has been gone for more than half a century. His name is not forgotten.

Mr. Havers's service information can be found on the Virtual Vietnam Wall here. He was born 14 October 1946 and died 29 October 1967, in Thua Thien.

Next, my annual repost for Memorial Day.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier

Know, all who see these lines,
That this man, by his appetite for honor,
By his steadfastness,
By his love for his country,
By his courage,
Was one of the miracles of the God.

-- Guy Gavriel Kay

"The Green Field of France", by Eric Bogle

Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile 'neath the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that faithful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enshrined then, forever, behind a glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in stand mute in the sand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

And I can't help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did they really believe when they answered the call,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain
The killing and dying, was all done in vain,
For young Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death-march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Friday, May 28, 2021

Scenes from Recent Adventures....

 From our recent trip to the Lilac Festival in Rochester, NY:

Candid: Flower power! #RochesterNY #LilacFestival

Rochester Lilac Festival 2021

Rochester Lilac Festival 2021

Rochester Lilac Festival 2021

Rochester Lilac Festival 2021

Rochester Lilac Festival 2021

Fried chicken. I got the 3-piece knowing that I would temporarily regret it later, but temporary regrets become warm memories. I think I read that in a fortune cookie. Oh yeah babe. #yum #FriedChicken

And these, from a recent mini-trek down to Buffalo's Outer Harbor and Wilkeson Pointe:

Buffalo Outer Harbor, 5/22/2021

Buffalo Outer Harbor, 5/22/2021

Buffalo Outer Harbor, 5/22/2021

Buffalo Outer Harbor, 5/22/2021

Buffalo Outer Harbor, 5/22/2021

I live in a wonderful area.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Something for Thursday

 Sorry to be so late with this! Crazy week here at Casa Jaquandor (nothing bad, just busy). Anyway, here's something cool: the "official video" for Elton John's classic song "Tiny Dancer". The song dates from the 1970s, well before the notion of music videos, so this is a newer development: a short film that tracks several people through their daily lives in Los Angeles.

One of my favorite uses of "Tiny Dancer" comes in the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous, in which an underage teenage kid is using journalist credentials to tour with a rock band called Stillwater. The band isn't good enough to be an A-list band, but they aren't good enough to just peter out, either. This scene comes around halfway through, depicting the point where the initial excitement of being on tour has worn off and all that's left for now is the grind.

Here's that scene:

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Tone Poem Tuesday

 Greek-born composer Nikolas Labrinakos has come to my attention recently. After growing up in Greece, he went to London to study music composition, eventually getting a Ph.D. from the University of Surrey. He is an active composer of both film music and concert music, and what I've heard of his is fascinating and atmospheric, displaying a gift for shimmering, evocative string writing.

The present work, The Last of England, is a pastoral work in the tradition of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth, and Gerald Finzi. The piece is inspired by the seascape of England's southern shore, with its cliffs overlooking the great gray expanses of water. Melodies seem to arise from meditative chords and sink back into them again, often with a soloist in the orchestra singing somewhere not quite in the foreground. This isn't the music of a stormy sea, nor the sad music of the water where all things end, but a singing contemplation of life at the edge of our world's most permanent feature. The Last of England is neither sad music nor happy music. It that is.

Here is The Last of England by Nikolas Labrinakos.