Amoeblog

(In which we reunite, even as we bid a fond adieu.)

Posted by Job O Brother, January 3, 2010 01:12pm | Post a Comment
Well, it’s the middle of September and there’s nothing novel or interesting about this week.

No, no – of course we’re standing at the precipice of a new decade as a fresh millennium dawns and everything’s fraught with poignancy. I get it. But just for a second, wasn’t it nice to hear otherwise?

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, which is a sure-fire way to get people to forget about me. By now my regular readers have probably been reduced to the Amoeblog staff, my Mom, and myself (and I’m just barely skimming them).

Chalk it up to an action-packed holiday season, kiddies. Since last we met, I shot the footage for an upcoming webisode series with the fantastically rad Elizabeth Keener. Once it’s up and running I’ll let y’all know about it.

Also freelance articles, while hardly pouring in these days, are vying for my time. I just finished writing an article for Gourmet Magazine for their “traditional dishes of Indonesia” series. My piece focused on the Åland crisis and its impact on the League of Nations in the wake of the First World War, and how the Islands’ current Finnish loyalties but Swedish-speaking majority stand as a metaphor for modern Scandinavian policy. What does that have to do with Indonesian food? Nothing. But it’s all in how you spin the article.

Välsmakande mat som du kan äta med din jävla mun!

Also, the boyfriend’s parents were here for a week to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with us. They’re from Texas, so in cooking for them I had to make sure to restrain myself from culinary flourishes. Example: Spaghetti & meatballs are fine, but in lieu of Italian herbs, why not use fresh-roasted cumin seed and Walla Walla sweet onions caramelized in aged balsamic vinegar?

No. Back away. When cooking for Texans, resist the urge to decorate salads with edible flower petals, eschew spices with more than two syllables (“How come no-one’s using the cardamom gravy?”) and for the love of Pete, never never use or try to explain ghee.


It was a lovely holiday, though. The boyfriend, in a gallant effort to halt my developing a stress-hunchback, gifted me an electric foot massager, which now sits here at my desk. Wanna see?


I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-rr-r-r-r-r-r-k-k-k-k-k-k-k-k-k-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-w-w-w-w-w-w-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l!!!! B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s y-y-y-y-y-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u t-t-t-t-o-o-o-o-o s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-d-d-d-d-d-d-d t-t-t-t-t-t-t-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o m-m-m-m-m-m-m-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-e-e-e-e-e-e-e t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-g-g-g-g-g-g t-t-t-t-t-t-o-o-o-o d-d-d-d-d-d-d-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-r-r-r w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-t-t-t-t-t-t-t I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-g!!!!

✦  ✦  ✦  ✦  ✦  ✦  ✦  ✦

On the Amoeba Music Hollywood front, yesterday was the final work day of our beloved Charlie Richards, who for some years has been caretaking our neat-o classical music section. He’s moving to Florida, presumably because he’s a masochist with a fetish for pastels. (I’m pretty sure he said that once, actually.) It is to him that this blog entry is dedicated.


Charlie Richards, circa 2004

Anyone who’s worked with Charlie knows his favorite opera is Les contes d'Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach. Coincidentally, and in spite of Charlie overwhelming us with un-requested lectures of historical minutiae relating to Offenbach’s writing the work…

CHARLIE: Did you know that Offenbach wrote the opera in one night while sitting on the toilet? And it wasn’t until he finished composing it that he realized he was out of toilet paper and had to use his first draft to wipe himself, so what we know today as the opera is actually a second draft he wrote while exercising on his Stairmaster!

CO-WORKER: Charlie, all I asked is if you knew where the tape dispenser was. And what the hell was wrong with Offenbach that he couldn’t just sit at a desk like normal people?!

…the opera is also one of my favorites.

Opera is a hard sell, and I don’t expect any of my readers to go rushing out to ye olde opera-house just because I fancy the genre myself, but one thing I can recommend without reservation is the 1951 film adaptation of said work, The Tales of Hoffmann, directed by masters of motion picture art Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, most famous for their dizzyingly beautiful film The Red Shoes.

Many people know and love The Red Shoes, but I actually like The Tales of Hoffmann more. The opera’s conceit of stories-within-the-story, focused on fantasies of delusional romance and whimsical villainy, allow Powell & Pressburger unrestrained opportunities for the cinematic eye-candy they’re so revered for.


There’s also a lot of badical ballet in the movie, but again, you don’t need to be a fan of either ballet or opera to enjoy this film. It’s rather like the best acid trip you ever took, if that trip took place on an antiquated Disneyland ride.


Fortunately, the good people of Criterion selected the film for release some years back, so it’s available on DVD with their trademark excellence in… menu design and… stuff.


Anyway, in the interest of swell cinema, and for the love of Charlie, I highly recommend you bake yourself a tray of pot* brownies and commit to an evening screening of The Tales of Hoffmann.

And if you find yourself in the Sunshine State, be sure to stop by Charlie’s house to let him know how much you liked the opera. But be prepared to stay a while – he’ll undoubtedly want to explain why Offenbach’s pen always smelled of bacon fat and absinthe.


*Don’t worry – I’m not actually suggesting people use marijuana. “Pot” is just my codeword for crystal meth.

Classical Music Sale: I. Allegro non troppo

Posted by Job O Brother, November 8, 2009 03:12pm | Post a Comment

You... shook me aaaallll night long!

Far more people want to shop the Classical Music section than do. This is because many customers, while having heard classical music and enjoyed it, do not know how to differentiate one album from another. No one wants to look like an ignorant buffoon (except your best friend in 7th grade who you’ve long since lost contact with anyhow), so the idea of browsing aisles of classical music without knowing the difference between a chamber piece or a chamber pot (which is a good thing to know, FYI) is enough to send you scurrying back to the latest post-punk, freak-folk, R&B roots-influenced release from [insert hot young band here].

Well, my fragile little reader, relax. I am here to help. I’m going to teach you some basics – enough to allow you to shop without feeling like you’re Sissy Spacek in the opening shower scene of Carrie.


"I don't know what counterpoint means!!!"

Incidentally, if you’re already educated in classical music, this blog entry isn’t for you. This is for the layman, the curious, the uninitiated. I’m going to be simplifying things and skipping stuff. My main goal is to get people started, and I don’t need you freaking them out with long-winded diatribes about how Stokowski’s transcriptions of Mussorgsky’s works are a bastardization that perverts their core, ethnic vitality in lieu of Westernized concepts of melodic accessibility. [And here’s where I snap my fingers and weave my head back ‘n’ forth like Jackée on 227.]


So, without further ado, here's some basic terminology:


Symphony vs. Concerto vs. Chamber, etc…

A symphony can be two things: A group of professional musicians, such as the Astoria Symphony or the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra or the Orquesta Sinfónica de Yucatán. In this instance, the term “symphony” is synonymous with the term “orchestra.”

But most often, when used on its own, the word symphony denotes a piece of music that is written for a full orchestra. Remember: a symphony is played by a symphony – that’ll be a helpful hint soon.

What constitutes a “full orchestra?" About 100 people who can barely pay their rent! [drum roll] But seriously, a full orchestra is what you think of when you imagine classical music being performed live – a large group of men and women in tuxedos and evening gowns, organized into plots of instruments. When you were forced to go see The Nutcracker as a child, it was a full orchestra that played the music.


Sometimes, certain pieces call for a similar variety of musicians, but much fewer of them, say, about 50 musicians, or even less. We usually call these chamber orchestras. Still a lot of people involved, but not quite as awesome a mass as a full orchestra.

On the other end of the population spectrum we have chamber works. These are compositions meant to be played by small groups of musicians. Here’s a good way to remember: In many European countries, a bedroom is called a chamber, so think of chamber works as being played by a group of people small enough to comfortably fit in a bedroom.

A duo (played by two people), a trio (played by three), a quartet (four), quintet (five), sextet (heh heh… I said sex), septet (seven), and octet (eight) all constitute chamber works. Even more musicians are possible, but the bulk of chamber compositions will use one of the above amounts of peeps.


There’s also solo pieces, that is, works written for a single musician. These aren’t usually referred to as chamber pieces, even though they meet the above criterion. I’m not sure why. I could find out, but that would require doing some research, and I wanna hurry up and finish this so I can go back to knitting myself a new spatula.

Think how awesome this would look in Angora!

“What’s a concerto?!” you scream suddenly at the top of your lungs. Well, if you wanna sit down and use your inside voice, I’ll tell you…

A concerto is a piece of music written for a full orchestra but showcases a particular instrument. Therefore, if something is called a cello concerto, it means the music will be played by that huge group of musicians, but they’ll often take the background while a cello player shows off.


Think of it like Twisted Sister. The group consists of a bunch of dudes, all rockin’, but then Dee Snider takes center-stage and, while he depends on everyone else to make the music work, he becomes the focal point – the star. It’s like that.


D-sharp

So, if you’re looking for something with a big sound – something that will really fill your room and set the atmosphere, a symphony is a good way to go. And if you really like a particular instrument, like the flute, you might try out a flute concerto.


But if you want something easy to read to, or play during dinner parties, a chamber work is a more likely choice. Again, you can seek out chamber works for flute if that’s the instrument you’re gay for.


We’re just barely scratching the surface here, but knowing the above information is going to help a lot when shopping the Classical Section at Amoeba Music, as many albums are categorized using the above terms.

That’s all for this entry, with a promise of more to come. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cookware to craft…