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Video Week: But wait… who won?

notmondayvideoThis video promises so much, and yet it under-delivers to such a tremendous degree that it is almost more beautiful in its simplicity. Or at least I’m telling myself that. This concludes video week, anyway, so you won’t have to dwell on it very long. Fun weekend project idea: add captions!

I think I hear a ghost

My grandmother doesn’t see very well, and as such one of her favorite pastimes when we’re together is to request that I look things up one my iPhone. During my visits we’ll watch old movies, and she’ll say “Look up when this person died” or “I wonder if he was ever in anything else; look that up.” So I fire up the browser app, head over to Wikipedia, and find out.

Our most recent sojourn was through The Sound of Music, and as the first nuns appeared I remembered that Marni Nixon got some actual screen time in the film, as Sister Sophia. You know about Marni Nixon, right? She was the ghost singer to the stars, working for Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, and Marilyn Monroe, among others.

Curious about her current whereabouts I looked her up of my own accord, and was fascinated to discover that she recorded vocals for such great composers as Schoenberg, Webern, Copland, and Bernstein. I had no idea! Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to locate any real footage of these performances, but I did find this fascinating interview, wherein she talks about how she just dubbed as a means of paying for her singing classes, and more. Find out what it was like for classically trained singer back in the day, where if they found it you dubbed, you were finished!

Is it possible to kill an entire musical genre?

Because I WANT TO DO IT.

Man, it feels like forever since I last did an opinion post! And in honor of the occasion, let me lay some disdain on ya. (Well, no. Not on YOU. I really like YOU. But you know what I mean.)

Part of my job involves standing at a concierge desk before concerts, giving out press tickets, directing people to the closest bathroom, etc. There is a bit of overlap, in deference to stragglers and people who got stuck on the beltway, where I’m doing this about ten minutes into the concert itself. The music is piped into the lobby during this time, which is why I am always sure to beg off the smooth jazz concerts, because seriously, what is up with smooth jazz?!

Really, I’m asking. Because I’m worried – why do I find this particular genre so distasteful? Is it something about my ear? My right brain? The musicians are perfectly talented individuals, and my GOD to people flock to their performances, but for some reason the instant I hear that mellow saxophone I’m in full on MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP mode.

Okay, I’m trying to articulate exactly what bothers me about it. It’s so… even-keeled. And calm. And peaceful. Soft and lulling. Which is to say nothing ever really happens. I feel like splicing a bunch of late-era Schoenberg into all the records just to liven things up (and come on, that would be pretty funny, don’t you think?).

I’m sorry, smooth jazz fans. I don’t mean to rag on you – okay, I did mean to rag on you, a little. I hope you can move past that, though, because now I’m opening the floor to you, or at the very least the people who understand you. What is it I don’t get about smooth jazz? Why do you love it so much? You can tell me. This is a safe space, I swear.

And while we’re on the subject: is there any genre of music or even era of classical that you can. Not. STAND?

Music gifts: A music box by YOU

We interrupt your regularly scheduled LOL Friday/Monday Video/Tuesday Whatever The Hell I Want to bring you three more music gifts while there’s still time to get them delivered by Christmas. After that I will resume posting my usual ridiculousness, as opposed to this unusual ridiculousness.

Calling all composers and people who are part of a couple that have Our Song! This music gift is for you:


I know, it looks like a boring ol’ make-your-own-music-box kit. And if you want to just slap the included “Happy Birthday” sheet inside and call it a day, you can do that. BUT! It also comes with three blank sheets and a hole punch, so you can punch your own music!

Got your own personal composition? Include it. Want a music box that plays some of the more twelve-tone-y Schoenberg? You can have that too! Your giftee can hear any work your little heart desires; or leave it blank and let them create their own. And you even have the option to purchase a refill pack if you want to punch more pieces. The kit itself runs you $14.99 at ThinkGeek, with $4.99 for the refill packs.

Looking for something a little less labor-intensive? Why not investigate the Ain’t Baroque store? Trust me, you’ve never seen so many music-related puns and insults to violists in your entire life.

Composer Cagematch!: THE WINNER

Oh, guys. It’s been such a fun journey. Thirty-two composers (edited to add: +2 play-ins) stepped into the ring, and over the year we have slowly whittled it down to two. Before we crown our winner, let’s take a look back over composers past, shall we?

* denotes the winner of the match


  1. Prokofiev vs. Stravinsky*
  2. Debussy* vs. Ravel
  3. Dvorak vs. Copland*
  4. Britten* vs. Holst
  5. Rimsky-Korsakov* vs. Mussourgsky
  6. Grieg* vs. Sibelius
  7. Schumann vs. Brahms*
  8. Tchaikovsky* vs. Rachmaninoff
  9. Mahler* vs. Wagner
  10. Monteverdi vs. Verdi*
  11. Schoenberg* vs. Berg
  12. Bernstein vs. Gershwin*
  13. Handel* vs. Haydn
  14. Chopin* vs. Liszt
  15. Bartok* vs. Shostakovich
  16. Saint-Saens* vs. Khachaturian


  1. Stravinsky* vs. Debussy
  2. Copland* vs. Britten
  3. Tchaikovsky* vs. Rimsky-Korsakov
  4. Bartok* vs. Schoenberg
  5. Saint-Saens vs. Grieg*
  6. Brahms* vs. Mahler
  7. Verdi* vs. Handel
  8. Gershwin* vs. Chopin


  1. Stravinsky* vs. Bartok
  2. Copland vs. Tchaikovsky*
  3. Verdi vs. Gershwin*
  4. Grieg vs. Brahms*


  1. Brahms* vs. Stravinsky
  2. Gershwin vs. Tchaikovsky*


  1. Tchaikovsky vs. Mozart*
  2. Beethoven* vs. Brahms


Mozart vs. Beethoven

And so we arrive here, at the end. I think we all know whose t-shirt I was wearing, but it wasn’t a question of my sartorial decisions; it all came down to the best man taking the Composer Cagematch! crown. Are you ready? And the winner is…

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Composer Cagematch! Round 3: Stravinsky vs. Bartok

AHA! Finally I get a win!

In the last match of the second round, you chose Gershwin over Chopin to advance. Handshakes all ’round, guys. Good show.

And that brings us to round three, everybody — we’re less than ten matches away from crowning a winner. But before we can get started, I’d like to tell you a story.

A few weeks ago I stayed for a bit after ballet class to practice a dance we’re learning set to Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta; absolutely amazing, amazing stuff.* After I had run through it a few times, a lady from class came up to me and said, “So does this music just drive you crazy?”


“This music. It’s so… out there. Like Stravinsky just drives me nuts.”

I made some gentle protest in a nod-and-smile, nod-and-smile sort of way because anyone who doesn’t like Bartok OR Stravinsky should be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats, but whatevs. The point is… well, the point is that… the point is…

…that in this corner, he La Mer-dered Debussy! (All right, hot shot, YOU think of one.) It’s


And in this corner, he wrote Schoenberg a whole new set of compositional rules! It’s


So tell me… how would you like to be driven mad?

*In the interest of fairness I should note that Stravinsky also wrote amazing, amazing stuff. Petrouchka, for example.

Composer Cagematch! Round 2: Bartok vs. Schoenberg

Well, that was scarcely a contest.

Which is not to say Rimsky-Korsakov should feel bad; at least he wasn’t a one-vote wonder. But PIOTR! ILYICH! Tchaikovsky took that round pretty handily. He may now dance himself back to the locker room and await his next opponent.

Now, please welcome some of the twentieth century’s finest, because in this corner, his scathing review was too much for Shostakovich! It’s


And in this corner, he invented the game, and Berg never stood a chance! It’s


Well, what’ll it be? Ethnomusicology FTW again? Or will Schoenberg be transfigured once more?

Chess alternatives and microwave homicide

I lost power last night, and when it came back the microwave keypad shorted and is now blasting me with a high pitched alert to this fact every two minutes or so and the office doesn’t open for another half hour so I can’t tell anyone to fix it yet and there is a very real possibility I may kill some one so take your video without intro and watch it and like it or you could be my chosen victim, comprendes?

Composer Cagematch!: Bernstein vs. Gershwin

I’m not surprised that Schoenberg won his bout. I mean, he’s kind of a big deal. I had a fantastic time touring the Schoenberg museum, with its little music clips and interviews with Schoenberg’s kids and of course a video demonstration of his chess alternatives (oh, man, I should so make that my Monday video!).

I must say, though, I’m a little disappointed that we won’t be seeing Berg again, because now I have to drop my looks-just-like bomb at his goodbye-party instead of preceding his triumphant return. Ah well. He looks just like Dan Stevens as Matthew from Downton Abbey plus ten years. Twenty years? An older version. Cool. Thanks for playing, Berg.

Okay. And now I’m just gonna do it. They told me not to; they tried to dissuade me with other, more “appropriate” matches, but I don’t care. In style they may not be a perfect setup, but in time and place and Americana they are both quintessential. So:

In this corner, he’s a Jet, and a Jet all the way! It’s


And in this corner, he dressed up Jazz and took her to the concert hall! It’s


Yeah I went there.

* Interesting fact: neither one used their birth name.

Composer Cagematch!: Schoenberg vs. Berg

Let it not be said I am not a blogger of the people — last Cagematch! pitted Monteverdi vs. (Just) Verdi against each other at a reader request. I was skeptical, but I really needed some Italians, so I went with it and was pleasantly surprised: although Verdi did, as I predicted, win by a tidy margin, Monteverdi garnered a respectable number of votes. Well done all ’round.

Their names, however, caused a bit of a stir; one Twitter follow asked, what’s next? Schoenberg vs. Berg*? And I said, hold on, that’s just crazy enough to work! And so things just got frosty in the Second Viennese School, because in this corner, adamant that not just anyone can compose because it’s twelve-tone and there are rules, dammit, it’s


And in this corner, getting a late start with music but not with the ladies, it’s


I’ve heard from those who have considered this potential match-up that this will be a really hard decision. So it should be fun! Consider: Transfigured Night. But remember: Wozzeck. Emancipate the dissonance! Without scissors!

* Also suggested: Offenbach vs. Bach. I’m not doing this one because it would be mean.

** Did anyone else just get the urge to scream “ALLLLLBAAAAAAN!” chipmunks-style?