Wednesday, December 27, 2006

3 Minute Climaxes - Jungle Bells & Jingle Bulls

I have great difficulty with Christmas music. (Does it sound like my palaver is going to be dull? So skip to the end of the post and just listen to my 2 pieces of music, already, why don't ya?)

My seasonal music problem dates to my minority Jewish childhood in 1950's Iowa - when I was expected by my parents not to sing carols in public school along with my majority Christian classmates. Although I was expected by my teachers to stand there not making a fuss, preferably mouthing the words, holding a flashlight covered with red or green cellophane; a branch of a Christmas tree made entirely of children.

Our family tried to make Christmas as normal a non-holi-day as possible. It was not very possible.

Ceramic Christmas ornaments on sale at my local Vons supermarket
My difficulties are compounded as an adult and a musician because some Christmas music is quite beautiful. Other Christmas tunes stick in your brain. These are insidious ear worms . This is a malady to which musicians are more prone than normal people. A few Christmas tunes are both beautiful and earworms - very dangerous!!

And of course some pieces have religious content - like proclaiming "Remember Christ, our Saviour, was born on Christmas day," which is not a thought I want to have. So I seriously berate myself over just humming the tune to myself.

Yes, I do have massive difficulties with religion. Any religion. Avoiding Christian music in the U.S., where 17 out of 20 people are Christian, is nearly impossible at this time of year. I know what you're saying "Just lighten up and deal with it". And I say you could have skipped ahead to the music.

Up on the rooftop in Old Pasadena - green reindeer on a giant ornamentI was amused to read this article (at an English website The Register) about an effort to protect shop workers from the dangers of repetitive Christmas music listening. I'm still not quite sure it's not a hoax because this could simply never happen in the U.S. Here's the first two paragraphs:
Christmas music in shops is "torture", the "forgotten pollutant" which shop workers must be able to silence for the sake of their sanity, according to activists, trade unions and a peer. The government is being asked to investigate the problem.
Campaigners and trades unions have spoken out about the playing of Christmas music in shops over an ever-extending festive period and the psychological effects that the repetitive tunes can have on staff who have no choice but to listen to it.
Last year I mixed-metered about Christmas music several times both in words and music, including a 30 Second Spot that's still available for listening: And Pretend That It's A Circus Clown. That has a companion spot Until the Alligators Knock Him Down.

It's red and it's green - what more do you want?
This year I decided to pick a familiar Christmas earworm and use it as the basis for an entire 3 Minute Climax. I called it Jungle Bells. When I finished I still had ideas so I wrote a second piece on the same tune - and called that Jingle Bulls. But I'm not going to tell you what the tune is.

My intent was to take something lovable, familiar and pleasant and make ugly new music out of it. When Leslie heard Jingle Bulls she said "That's delightful." - so apparently, once again, I'm a failure as a composer. Next year, after I'm assaulted by Christmas muzak yet again, I'll certainly want to try another assault on Christmas music. Check back then for Jangle Bells and Jingle Balls.

click here to hear Jungle Bells

Jungle Bells: Copyright (c) 2006 by David Ocker - 3 minutes, 29 seconds

click here to hear Jingle Bulls

Jingle Bulls: Copyright (c) 2006 by David Ocker - 3 minutes, 51 seconds

Hannukah (or Hanukah, or Hanukkah or Chanukah) is not really the Jewish Christmas - but it serves as an excellent assimilationist foil during the "holiday season". (I heard someone at the supermarket this year call Thanksgiving & Christmas the "High Holidays".)

Apparently purveyors of foodstuffs think Jews celebrate every holiday by eating matzoh. This picture was taken last week at Bristol Farms in South Pasadena.

Chanukah Matzos and dreidel napkins on sale at Bristol Farms, South Pasadena CA - December 2006

Explanation of 30 second spots

Earworm Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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