Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Combination of Jingle Bells and The Internationale

Mixed Meters returns to the airwaves with my Jingle Bells-related musical offering for the 2009 holiday season. Listen to A Combination of Jingle Bells and The Internationale by clicking here.  Or keep reading.

It has become a yearly Mixed Meters holiday tradition to compose and post a piece of music based on Jingle Bells.  The previous pieces are

Why Jingle Bells?  Because it's simple, everyone can identify it instantly and it has an unassailable association with our greatest annual holiday of corporate marketing and excess consumption.

Why Christmas?  Because, as a non-Christian, every year Christmas music makes me feel isolated and this is my way of taking a bit of control over it.  If you like traditional Christmas music, seriously, you won't like these pieces.

Why am I posting this in May?  Because here at Mixed Meters time has no meaning and the new piece wasn't finished until the end of January anyway.  Things happen when they happen.

What's with the title? The title  A Combination of Jingle Bells and The Internationale directly reflects the structure of the music.  These two familiar themes are presented prominently (but not lovingly) within the texture of the music, in combination.

Why two themes?  By combining two famous themes, which I chose more for their cultural references  than for their musical content, I hope to create some sort of meaningful dialogue expressed through music.  It's an audacious attempt and not entirely successful except for the occasional listener who cares passionately about the themes themselves.   Most often a composer who wants to convey meaning just adds text or lyrics.

Anything else besides the two themes? Yep. There's plenty of my original material as well.  The most notable being a melodic fragment which reappears several times.  You'll hear that first at 2 minutes 19 seconds.

Previously I did a similarly two-themed piece called Wagner and Schubert Have Intercourse.

What's The Internationale? The Internationale is a musical anthem of socialist and communist movements.  At one time it was the national anthem of the Soviet Union.  It is not as universally recognizable as Jingle Bells unless you happened to grow up in a Communist country.  If you're not familiar with it, I suggest you listen to one or two of the mind-boggling number of recordings found at a website called Russian Anthems Museum.

The Internationale appears first in A Combination of Jingle Bells and The Internationale at one minute and 17 seconds.  All the music up to that point is my own.

Here are a few lines of lyrics, with which no real American could ever agree, from verse 3 of The Internationale:
The state oppresses and the law cheats
The tax bleeds the miserable
No duty is imposed on the rich
'Rights of the poor' is a hollow phrase

What other melody did The Internationale remind you of? As I was composing I couldn't help but notice similarity to a theme by Johannes Brahms.  The Brahms will be familiar to ex-clarinetists everywhere.  What the heck, I put that in too.  (No idea what I'm talking about?  Listen to the first 10 seconds of this and then listen to A Combination of Jingle Bells and The Internationale at 3'38".)

Why The Internationale?  Because, as an anthem of godless communism, it seems like a good opposite to the anthem of godly capitalism, Jingle Bells.  And having it be in the public domain helps me avoid any capitalist guilt.

What does Sergei Kuryokhin have to do with this piece?  Kuryokhin was a Soviet pianist, composer and avant-gardist who passed away in 1996.  Last December, when I was casting about for a theme to pair with Jingle Bells (and also planning to write my post Sergei Kuryokhin - Pianist of Anarchy) I heard The Internationale referenced in two of his large ensemble performances recorded in 1988.  "Perfect," I thought.  The words "A Combination..." in my title are a small homage to Kuryokhin's wonderful solo piano album Some Combinations of Fingers and Passion.

What does Che Guevara have to do with this piece?  Nothing.  But I needed pictures for this post and Che, an icon of communism, has become a potent icon of capitalism.  That duality seems to reflect the two themes in my piece.  I previously discussed Che-based marketing in my MM post Che's Brand.

The Rolex ad shows him wearing a watch that today would cost at least $5,000.  (Anyone want to contribute a translation of the German?)  It came from here.  The Peter Griffin/Che Guevara drawing came from here.  The Mad Magazine cover came from here.  The woman wearing only carrot bandoleros is apparently Che Guevara's granddaughter in an ad for PETA.  Read about it here.  The Photoshopped Che Visa card came from here and the Che Santa from here.

No more delays.  It's now time to listen.  A Combination of Jingle Bells and The Internationale  327 seconds  Copyright © 2010 David Ocker

As an encore here are two non-Jingle holiday related pieces of mine from the first Mixed Meters Christmas season.  They were written in the same Christmas spirit as the others.  (Yes, the first dozen seconds of these two pieces are identical.  The titles are both apocryphal lyrics from the song Winter Wonderland.)
  • And Pretend That It's A Circus Clown (read or listen) 2005, 36 sec.
  • Until The Alligators Knock Him Down (read or listen) 2005, 40 sec.
And then there's this solo bass clarinet arrangement of a piece often heard at Christmas.  The performance is from 20 years before Mixed Meters was born.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I am overtaken with holiday cheer. I think I'll go purchase something.
Thank you for that.