Shostakovich, “String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 122”
So I’m letting iTunes shuffle guide the way through this week’s edition of “What’s on your iPod,” and this is the first thing it came up with. This quartet really packs a punch — I don’t have any expertise in this area but for me the F minor quartet embodies everything that is holy about Shostakovich’s chamber music. I first listened to this during the winter of my junior year when I got a phone call from Jesse Pieper at like 2 a.m. on a Tuesday night because he had just discovered this quartet and it had blown his mind so much that he wanted me to listen to it right then and there.G.F. Handel, “She’s Gone, Disdaining liberty and life,” sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
Okay so this is like 52 seconds long, but it’s from a great album of Handel arias given to me by a totally brilliant art teacher in high school. I had to take a computer credit to graduate and decided on digital imaging and mostly just ended up sitting around and listening to music with this teacher, Mr. Doyle. He burned me this CD one day and it’s been a fixture in the category of “music to listen to on a morning when I need to feel uplifted” ever since.
Tchaikovsky, “Symphony No. 4, Op. 36 I. Andante sostenuto — Moderato con anima,” Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but I’ve been cultivating a little bit of a life-altering relationship with Tchaikovsky’s fourth this fall. And apparently iTunes knows because here it is.
In a letter to a friend, Tchaikovksy wrote about the “Fate Theme” that opens his newly composed fourth symphony, describing fate as, “the fatal power, which prevents one from attaining the goal of happiness … No haven exists … you’re adrift upon the sea until it engulfs and submerges you in its depths.”
I’m not speaking in hyperbole here; this music has in fact brought me to my knees. And if you listen to this and don’t have something like a spiritual awakening you should probably take the time to explore the realm of “active listening” — but perhaps more on that another time. Mostly this music makes me feel certain that there is something truly sublime about the human capacity for musical expression.
Erykah Badu, “Certainly”
Yep, yep, yep — Ms. Badu. This song feels so good. It’s smooth and satisfied but also just edgy enough to keep me enthralled. This music tends to make an appearance after dinner on Friday when I go home to unwind a bit before getting involved with the evening’s activities.
The Beatles, “Rocky Raccoon”
This was my favorite Beatles song when I was young and I had it on a mix tape that someone made me — maybe my aunt? I have memories of rewinding my red Sony tape player to listen to this again and again — I mean why would Gideon leave his Bible behind?
Carl Orff, “Carmina Burana: XXIII. Dulcissime – Solo per soprano”
I was actually just sitting at dinner talking about this moment in the LSO performance of Carmina Burana a couple years ago. Such a delicate, soaring soprano solo and then it comes crashing down. In case you’re wondering, Kyle Traska, who played timpani for this concert, told me that Prof. Richeson suggested that a lot of timpanists double the lowest drum but only use it once in the whole piece so they can do a two-handed hit on that big blowout in the last movement. Kyle took him up on that suggestion and I will forever cherish the memory of him, arms straight up in the air, mallets in each hand, crashing down with both hands so hard he might have actually come off the ground.
Have you guys heard of the ****DownBeat**** Award-winning band, Fatbook? I was going to skip over this so as not to seem like some kind of nerdy superfan, but for the sake of honesty, here it is. Also, it’s my turn to confess that I haven’t actually bought the Fatbook CD but somehow ended up with an earlier demo version in which all the songs are titled things like “boner” and other euphemisms for various anatomical parts and bodily functions. I think in reality this is “Running.” Anyway, listen, this is some serious music. http://fatbookmusicsucks.com/
Ween, “Buenas Tardes Amigo”
I’m no Ween megafan, but during winter break of my sophomore year I decided to memorize the words to this song, for no apparent reason. I’ve only listened to it occasionally since then but I can still pull out most of the lyrics on a good day.
Andrew Bird, “Respiration”
So for a while I objected to Andrew Bird for no apparent reason whatsoever. Just on principle. Then I went on a road trip with the Crabb sisters during Spring Break ’09 and was introduced to early Andrew Bird. And I’m all about it — this tune doesn’t have any vocals, just violin on the melody — gritty, raw violin and it’s oh-so-satisfying.
Beethoven, “Piano Trio in B Flat Major, Archduke, Op. 97 III. Andante cantabile ma pero con moto,” Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline Du Pre and Pinchas Zukerman
I was starting to worry that Beethoven wasn’t going to pop up at all but here he is. This movement is so peaceful, calm, and soothing — I’m running out of enthusiasm but really … this is beautiful. Plus, Jacqueline Du Pre is consistent point of fascination and adoration in my life. I was just trying to decide whether I like this trio or the “Ghost” trio better, but then realized that it doesn’t really matter either way. Anyone want to play this sometime before I graduate?