Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are Bike Horns Musical Instruments?

On a rainy Thursday at the end of April, a little humor brightens up the day. A friend shared the video of "bike horn guy" with me. It's definitely entertainment. Is it music? That's up to each listener/viewer to decide. Don't worry if your French is rusty. Just listen and watch the amazing performance.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


It's Arbor Day, on Friday, April 24, 2009. A day to plant trees here in Nebraska and other places the day is celebrated. Lincoln, Nebraska, has been a participant in the Tree City USA program for many years, and trees are important to the quality of city life here.

Joyce Kilmer's poem, Trees, has been set to music by many composers. The best known version is the 1922 setting by Oscar Rasbach (1888-1975), a composer of art songs. The poem begins:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

Here's a lovely version by Julian Lloyd Webber for cello, and another for girls choir.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bein' Green

In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog (and composer/lyricist Joe Raposo), "It's not that easy bein' green." Musicians use lots of electricity in performing, from plugging in electronic instruments, to stage lighting and sound systems. Even acoustic instruments are frequently "plugged in" these days. Instruments are made of all sorts of materials, from wood and metal to plastic and glass. But musicians can "recycle" their instruments by making sure the instruments go to someone who will use them when the musicians no longer need them. Trade ins or trade ups for other instruments, handing them down in the family, and selling them are all ways of "recycling". And in Lincoln, the Lincoln Music Teachers Association accepts donations of instruments for use by participants in their Outreach Program, bringing the joy of making music to children who might not otherwise be able to participate. Musical instruments can last a long long time with proper care and maintenance. Happy Earth Day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Voice

I couldn't let the "instant" success of Susan Boyle go without comment. Susan Boyle, 47 year old contestant on the TV show Britain's Got Talent, captured the hearts of the judges and the audience with her rendition of I dreamed a dream (from Les Mis). The snickers stopped as soon as she began to sing. One YouTube video clip of the performance has had 19 million hits as of the writing of this post. Susan Boyle wants to be a professional singer, and judging from the world's response, she will fulfill her dream.

A recent book, The Voice, by Thomas Quasthoff, relates experiences that are in some respects similar to those of Susan Boyle. Thomas Quasthoff is a German bass-baritone who has described himself as "1.3 meters tall, short arms, seven fingers -- four right, three left -- large relatively formed head, brown eyes, distinctive lips; profession: singer." In his initial professional appearance, the snickers stopped as soon as he started singing, just as they did for Susan Boyle. Quasthoff is an international reknowned classical singer who has broken many barriers for people with disabilities -- his a result of the thalidomide his mother took during her pregnancy.

Musical talent is not dependent on a beautiful appearance, youth, or any of the other ways people are stereotyped. One of the competition's judges called Susan Boyle's performance "a wake up call."

If anything can be learned from Susan Boyle, it is to develop your talents, use them, and go for your dreams.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

All You Need is a Quarter

As I was cataloging a June Christy CD, I came across a song title that intrigued me, All you need is a quarter -- this being tax day and all. It's not a song from the depression, but rather from the 1960 musical Do Re Mi. The lyrics are by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Jule Styne. And it's not particularly philosophical; it's about needing a quarter for the slot machine.

Off the top of my head, I haven't been able to think of very many songs about money today. There's We're in the money (The gold digger's song). There's The money song (Money, money) from Cabaret. But with a little research, lots of songs appear from rock, country, musicals, blues...

And about taxes, the only one I could think of is George Harrison's Taxman, but I'm sure there are others to hunt down on this tax day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Foolin'

April 1st is April Fool's Day, with a tradition of practical jokes. Instead, here's a nice collection of Musical Instrument Jokes to lighten your day.

For some light reading, try Victor Borge's My Favorite Comedies in Music or other books of musical anecdotes. You'll find them at the Polley Music Library.

Or, how about some novelty songs. We may have no bananas, but we do have a lovely bunch of coconuts along with some shoo-fly pie and, of course, the ice cream we all scream for in Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellen Bogen by the Sea. The Polley Library has several novelty songbooks.

Have a wonderful light-hearted day.