Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Name One . . .

I have a particular fondness for memes like this one - the task is to give one very good recommended example, preferably somewhat underappreciated, for each of the categories listed. No fuss no muss. (Taken from Terry Teachout's About Last Night, although I've omitted some categories I have no experience in and added some of my own).

Movie score. I've blogged about it before, but John Williams' score for A.I. manages to seamlessly mesh two styles that by all rights should not play along well at all - Williams' own heroic, fanfare-laden, melody-focused style and Philip Glass' repetitive, hypnotic, churning minimalist style.

TV theme. Taxi. I usually have no stomach for "light jazz," but the wistful flute and the combo of wistful flute and laid-back electronic keyboard on display here works very well. And that primary melody is a wonderfully emotive construction.

Melody. For my money, the best pure melody out there belongs to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." But the best modern entry into the "best pure melody" sweepstakes I can think of is the practically perfect melody line to Adam Guettel's "Migratory V."

Harmonic language. Stephen Sondheim, according to one source (see below) bases his scores not on melodies but on harmonic progressions and settings to which he then assigns melodies. I'm not educated enough to really speak to what this technically means, but it produces a very distinct, rewarding sound.

Rhythmic feel. Again, I don't have the musical education or language to really delve into this one too deeply, but the finale to Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures, "Next," features a percussive break in the middle that always floors me.

Jazz: Terry Trotter did a series of jazz trio treatments of Sondheim scores, and his first one, Passion, features some sparkling stuff.

Classical piece. John Adams Naive and Sentimental Music is a beautiful long-form piece, with a remarkably sinuous, long-lined melody that dominates the first movement that I still can't quite get a handle on.

Smash hit. U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Just listen to some of the notes Bono hits in there.

Book on music. A now out-of-print gem called The Broadway Musical that features spot-on musical analysis of some of musical theater's greatest scores. Technical enough to be truly interesting and yet not so technical that I can't follow any of it (although to be sure I can't follow much of it). A font of illuminating analysis.

Musical theater score. Adam Guettel's Floyd Collins score is an inspired blend of country, bluegrass, and Broadway sound, with a thick and fiddle- and guitar-heavy orchestration that fits it just right.

Musical theater song. "How Glory Goes" off of the aforementioned Floyd Collins score is a gem of a song, an aching plea from a dying man to God. Audra McDonald sings the all-mighty hell out of it on her second album, which takes its title from the song.

Opera. Dead Man Walking is the modern opera score I keep returning to, with its seamless blend of drama, humor, pop sounds, and searing, full-bodied operatic outbursts.

Until Whenever

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