June 29, 2006

You Are an Emissary to the Past...

Hatched by Dafydd

Not too far back in the past; just back to the days of Mozart. In fact, that's who you're meeting... Wolfie himself.

The talk turns to music (oddly enough), and WAM turns out to be fascinated to hear what music sounds like in your era (that is, the latter half of the twentieth century; I don't mean the music of last Thursday). Fortunately, you anticipated this request, and you brought five CDs with you.

(All right, so you know where I'm going with this. Big deal; whaddya think, you need to be a mind reader?)

So the question -- pretend you haven't already guessed -- is this: which five CDs do you bring back in time to the eighteenth century to play for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to give him some understanding of the music of our time?

A few points to bear in mind:

  • I'm not asking you to name your five favorite CDs. I'm asking what you would bring with you to play for a man who never even got to hear Beethoven, let alone Cherry Poppin' Daddies or Rascal Flats. The music you bring must be accessible to one of the greatest musical geniuses who ever lived -- but who died in 1791 at the age of 36 (well, almost).
  • Second, you must of course explain why you brought each CD, how it would add to his understanding. Just as a suggestion, you might consider a progression... something by Beethoven, something by Joplin, something by the Beatles, etc. But you don't have to... freedom of speech, that's what I say!
  • Third, as you probably inferred from the previous point, you are not restricted to music from 1950 on... you just need to end up there. Your CDs can all come from the last 56 years, or some can come from earlier. But the last one must be fairly typical of good contemporary music, where "contemporary" is loosely defined.

So grab your thinking cups and swig away!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 29, 2006, at the time of 2:21 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Mark Olson

Let's see, off the cuff

  1. Beethoven's 9th

  2. Brahm's German Requiem

  3. Stravinski Rite of Spring

  4. Dave Brubeck's Take Five

  5. Queen Greatest Hits volume 1

The above hissed in response by: Mark Olson [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2006 8:27 AM

The following hissed in response by: mbaesq

Interesting question. Reminds me of the one I used to ask friends: if you could invite 10 people from all of history to dinner, who would they be, and what would you serve?

Anywho, my 5 picks and why:

I agree with the premise that it would help to have a 'progression' so that Wolfie could appreciate the general progress and evolution of music. This would have less to do with individual artists (IMO) and more about the changes wrought via new instruments and the emergence of new genres.

Hence, I would pick *compilations* for him to listen to, where I could point out how multiple artists built on or extended the existing music or broke away to found new movements. (I am assuming that these are compilations that one could pick up at the record store, as opposed to downloading and freshly burning CDs.)

1) Mozart stands at the boundary between ‘Classical’ and the ‘Romantic’ period. So disc #1 would be a compilation of Classical Music from the 'Romantic' period onward. Starting with Beethoven’s 7th and 9th, include Brahms and Tchaikovsky, ending with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

2) One disc from the ‘History of the Blues’. Spanning from Muddy Waters through B.B. King. See if you can squeeze in some early Tinpan Alley recordings of early 20th century black artists.

3) One disc from the ‘Best of Swing’ series. Preferably something that has a lot of Cole Porter in it, some early Bing and Frank, Ella Fitzgerald’s version of ‘Mack the Knife’, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Prima. Heck, if you can get one with a more hip lineup, get something from Stan Getz or Dave Brubeck.

4) One of those cheesy K-Tel ‘Best of Rock n’ Roll’ CDs. (Yeah, I know. Let the flaming begin!) Shows the emergence and evolution of Rock n’ Roll to Rock: start with Bill Haley and his Comets (Rock Around The Clock), include entries from Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, et al. If possible, end with something from the Beatles, though it would be hard to find something from Sgt. Pepper’s on the same platter with Great Balls of Fire.

5) Any of the available ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ jams. Ideally, you’d want something that covers the emergence of punk (Nirvana) and rap (Run DMC) but if pressed to stick with what you really could find on the market, one of the early 90’s CDs would probably do the trick, with something from rap/hip-hop, techno, mainstream pop, and heavy metal. (The thought of Mozart turning his brain to Guacamole with 120 decibels of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ brings me a smile.)

** And let’s not forget to include a mini-disc with all the ‘club remix’ versions of 80’s Austrian rock singer Falco’s song: “Rock Me Amadeus”!

The above hissed in response by: mbaesq [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2006 10:30 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I think you're skirting close to cheating here, because those aren't real, extant CDs but more like something you'd burn -- and some seem to have a lot more music that would actually fit on a single CD: Beethoven's 7th and the 9th and Stravinsky? I don't think we can accept music in MP3 format!

I think I take issue with the fact that contemporary music grows out of "serious" music in any but the most superficial way (those disco versions of Beethoven). So I might divide the task in two: a couple of CDs showing the progression of classical music: Beethoven's 9th, then perhaps something like Firebird or maybe some Gershwin... something that includes a performance of Rhapsody in Blue and also some of his pop music.

Then three CDs showing the progression of popular music: a CD of songs from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars (I have one of those); a Johnny Mercer greatest hits CD that includes a couple from the 60s, like Moon River and Summer Wind; but now it's tough, because we only have one CD left.

I think I would skip over early rock and find some fairly complex 70s rock'n'roll... maybe something by Yes or ELP.

The constraint that it must be real, actual, currently existing CDs is deliberately harsh... that's part of the game!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2006 2:04 PM

The following hissed in response by: mbaesq

Maestro D sez: "The constraint that it must be real, actual, currently existing CDs is deliberately harsh... that's part of the game!"

True, some of the entries I suggested are a bit too broad in scope; I didn't verify their specific existence on Amazon. However the concept is sound (pun intended). There are musical collections of Classical, Swing, Blues, Rock, etc which would introduce Wolfgang to a genre as opposed to an artist.

But as part of the thought experiment, in order to bend your rules *ever* so slightly, you could select all the tracks you wanted via MP3. Then, you burn them to a CD and pay a small recording studio to 'publish' them.

That should eliminate your two concerns, there being a 'commercially available CD' and also putting the maximum amount of music on the disc. (I believe that you can cram a great deal more music per disc than is usually found on a commercial CD.) Voila, problem solved!

Yes, it would cost a small amount, but come on, wouldn't you splurge a wee bit upon meeting the great Wolfgang?

Maestro D also sez: "I think I take issue with the fact that contemporary music grows out of "serious" music in any but the most superficial way (those disco versions of Beethoven)."

Ah, you reminded me of yet another way to cram as much music in as per your rules: what about an entire album of 'Hooked on Classics'? That way you'd get a) a nice smorgasbord of classical pieces and b) introduce Wolfgang to the modern wonder of the synthesized beat box.

The above hissed in response by: mbaesq [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2006 3:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Ben Pugh

1. Itzhak Perlman's rendition of Paganini's 24 caprices.

2. Any "Best of" Louis Armstrong

3. "Abbey Road" by the Beatles

4. "...And Justice for All" by Metallica

5. "Fire Garden" by Steve Vai

The above hissed in response by: Ben Pugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2006 5:57 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Come on, guys... when you give a list of CDs, you have to explain why each one!

That's the fun of the game: seeing your reasoning why Abbey Road and not, say, the Who or the Beach Boys or Chuck Berry. Or even another Beatles album, like Revolver, for that matter.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2006 6:27 PM

The following hissed in response by: Hal

Well, if you really want "Wolfie" to get a feel for "classical" music, just pop in a DVD of Fantasia 2000.

The above hissed in response by: Hal [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2006 7:49 PM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

The previous lists assume that Mozart would appreciate modern music. Nope. Most modern music, while fun to listen to, is not even close to the subtlety and complexity of classical. You need to take it slow. So:

1) Beethoven 9th- what came next right after Mozart, easily comprehensible to him.

2) Swan Lake - Mozart's still on board and loving it.

3) Stravinsky - Firebird Suite. Modern, but something he could still understand. Leaps us forward to the present.

4)Rhapsody in Blue - Gerswin The next step beyond classical. Push him a little outside his envelope.

5)Best of Glenn Miller - Inching forward. probably as far as we can get with our one session.

6) Bonus - Talking Heads - Fear of Music - Now that Mozart has left the room, enjoy.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 30, 2006 9:59 AM

The following hissed in response by: diane

Five CDs (since I'm currently ripping my library to my iPod, I feel free to be eclectic).

  1. Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique — for a drive-by on the Romantic era, something with more polish than Beethoven
  2. Ravel Piano Trio — something post-Romantic is necessary as a transition into the 20th century. This trio has the delicacy of Mozart combined with the shimmering wonder of impressionism, and a hint of Ravel's Spanish heritage.
  3. Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire — the 20th century, full monty. The complete breakdown of harmony and melody.
  4. Shostakovich, 10th symphony — the greatest symphonist since Beethoven. Hard to choose which symphony; the 4th or 8th could do, but are just too dark after Schoenberg. The 5th would do if you could find exactly the right performance to carry off the despair, rage, and bitter irony at the end.
  5. Copland, Appalachian Spring — something distinctively American. Bernstein's West Side Story would be a good alternative.

The above hissed in response by: diane [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2006 1:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: marcus

As luck would have it, this has been the subject of much musing on my part for many years. Here are my nominations:

  1. Stars and Stripes Forever When the New York Philharmonic went to China with Nixon, they took a program of Western music. They played number after number to polite applause from the audience. They simply didn't understand it. Then they struck up The Stars and Stripes. The effect was electric.

  2. In the Mood. Is there a number that captures the Big Band sound more than this classic. Can you imagine what Mozart would do with the sound?
  3. Sloop John B. Even though The Beach Boys did not write this, this is one of their greatest pieces.
  4. Eleanor Rigby

The above hissed in response by: marcus [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2006 9:53 PM

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