The Daily Parker

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More annals of eclectic musical interests

Back in May I started listening to every CD I own, in the order that I bought them, starting with Eugen Jochum conducting Mozart's Mass in C-Major, K317 (purchased in May 1988). I'm up to July 1989 now, and as I write this, I'm playing The Mama's and the Papa's [sic] If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1967). This follows The Beatles' With The Beatles (1963) and Paul McCartney's Pipes of Peace (1983).

And then it goes sideways.

Next up: Haydn's Piano Concerto #11 (1781), and Josquin's "Missa L'Homme Armé" (ca. 1500). I bought those five CDs on 7 July 1989.

Three days later I acquired a batch of six, including a collection of English madrigals sung by the King's Singers, Oscar Levant playing Gershwin, and the soundtrack from The Breakfast Club.

There are stretches of classical and stretches of modern throughout this list, but right now I'm in summer break after my first year of college when I was expanding both sides of my collection as fast as I could afford to.

I just did some math: at the rate I'm going, I'll be out of my university years around November 17th, in the 21st Century around the beginning of April, and through all of them in the fall of 2021. (That's a moving target for obvious reasons.)

It's a little trippy. I haven't heard some of these in a long, long time.

Chicago, 41 years ago today

Who could forget?

Rolling Stone explains:

Forty [one] years ago this evening, a doubleheader at Chicago’s Comiskey Park devolved into a fiery riot when crazed fans stormed the field as part of anti-disco promotional event dubbed Disco Demolition Night. The whole thing was the brainchild of disc jockey Steve Dahl, who dressed up like the general of an anti-disco army and called his followers “The Insane Coho Lips.”

Dahl thought the demonstration would consist of simply blowing up some disco records on the field between games. It was a scheme cooked up between the radio personality and White Sox owner Bill Veeck, who was desperate to increase attendance at the ballpark in the middle of a lackluster season.

The game sold out, but thousands of additional ticketless fans showed up to voice their hatred of an entire genre. Many stormed the gates and filled the ballpark way beyond capacity, setting up a dangerous situation when Dahl blew up the disco records. Fans threw firecrackers and bottles onto the field, eventually storming onto it, starting fires and battling with police. The second game was eventually called off amidst the madness.

[F]or minority groups, the incident had highly disturbing undertones given many of the perpetrators were white men and the genre was incredibly popular amongst homosexuals, blacks and women. “It felt to us like Nazi book-burning,” Chic’s Nile Rodgers once said. “This is America, the home of jazz and rock and people were now afraid even to say the word ‘disco.'”

Not Chicago's finest hour, despite the White Sox forfeiting a game because of their own bad management.

Strange juxtapositions in CD library explained

I'm still plowing through all the CDs I bought over the years, now up to #55 which I got in November 1988. It's a 1957 recording of the Robert Shaw Chorale performing various Christmas carols. (Remember, remember, I got it in November.)

This comes between Billy Joel's Piano Man and Glenn Gould performing Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias. Then I'll get Simon & Garfunkel, Mozart, William Byrd, and Haydn.

At least part of this strangeness comes from my experience as a music major during my first year at university, when the music department announced a new requirement for every music major to take a listening exam every year. They published four lists, one for each school year, effectively giving students up to 3½ years to listen to all 100 works. The list drove a lot of my CD purchases while there.

In mid-April, you'd go to the music library and listen to a cassette with 60-second excerpts of music. (I think there were 50 excerpts.) You got one point for naming the composer, a point for naming the work, and if applicable, a point for identifying the movement. To pass the exam, you had to get 80% of the total points available.

Here are some of the works on the 1988-89 list:

  • Bach, Cantata #4, "Christ lag in Todesbanden"
  • Beethoven, Symphony #6
  • Mozart, Requiem K626 (but only the "Introitus," "Kyrie," and "Dies Irae")
  • Varèse, Ionisation
  • Verdi, La Traviata

The lists got progressively more difficult, with the 1991-92 list containing obscurities like Schubert's Der Erlkönig and Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2.

The music faculty believed, quite reasonably, that musicians should have some passing familiarity with these 100 works for the same reason one would expect an English major to know a few Shakespeare plays or a computer-science major could explain the bubble-sort algorithm to a non-major. It's called the canon.

In April 1989, I was the only music major to pass the exam. I didn't take the 1990 exam because I'd switched majors; but in 1991, the music department asked me to take the exam again as a control, because in 1990 no one passed the first time. Once again, I was the only person to pass the first time out.

I just couldn't fathom why. Each list had such variety, just knowing the pieces on them should give you 67% of the right answers without even trying. For example, the 1990 exam included polar opposites Berg's Wozzeck and Brahms' piano quintet in f-minor. You'd think someone could easily distinguish them. If I recall correctly, the department even let people bring in the list after the 1989 debacle. So you could just look at the list and decide whether the thing you're listening to is atonal singing in German with orchestra or a small ensemble with four strings and a piano. Or if it's a choral work instead of a massive symphony. Or if it's something by Bach or something by Ives.

It was about this time that I started worrying for the future of the arts.

If you're interested, here's the 1988-89 list. If you know anything about classical music, you should be able to identify most of these works.

Saturday morning news clearance

I rode the El yesterday for the first time since March 15th, because I had to take my car in for service. (It's 100% fine.) This divided up my day so I had to scramble in the afternoon to finish a work task, while all these news stories piled up:

Finally, author and Ohio resident John Scalzi sums up why he won't rush back to restaurants when they reopen in his state next week:

My plan is to stay home for most of June and let other people run around and see how that works out for them. The best-case scenario is that I’m being overly paranoid for an extra month, in which case we can all laugh about it afterward. The worst case scenario, of course, is death and pain and a lot of people with confused about why ventilator tubes are stuck down their throats, or the throats of their loved ones, when they were assured this was all a liberal hoax, and then all of us back in our houses until September. Once again, I would be delighted to be proved overly paranoid.

I have sympathy for the people who are all, the hell with this, I’ll risk getting sick, just let me out of my fucking apartment. I get where you’re coming from. You probably don’t actually know what you’re asking for. I hope that you never have to learn.

Note to Mr Scalzi: I hope to start The Last Emperox this week. I really do.

Since I have the time...

I bought my first CD on 8 May 1988, a little more than 32 years ago: Mozart's Mass in C Major K.317, performed by the Bavarian Radio Orchestra and Chorus under Eugen Jochum. I've bought a few more since then. And not all of them have gotten the love they deserve.

So, since I'm home anyway, I decided two weeks ago (on the 8th, no surprise) to listen to all of them again. After two weeks I've gotten up to #41, Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto, by the Vienna Philharmonic with director Hans Knappertsbusch and pianist Clifford Curzon. This immediately followed #40, the Beatles' Help!, and begins a string of classical CDs (Beethoven again, Brahms, Dvorak, Mozart, Debussy) before hitting a classic Simon & Garfunkel album (Bookends) at #47.

Listening to all of them in order really brings me back to high school and college. Early on, I concentrated on filling up my CD library with the essentials. So the early CDs bounce around the classical canon (Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart) and the popular canon (The Beatles, Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens), and things really don't branch out until the early 1990s when friends started getting me into more modern stuff.

Keep in mind, I had vinyl and cassettes back home, so some of these purchases and gifts replaced the obsolete formats and also let me listen to them in my dorm, where I had a small CD boom box that could make mix tapes but no turntable or any other decent equipment. I also worked at the campus radio station, where I had access to just about anything I could think of. So the eclectic and somewhat narrow list of titles for my first hundred or so CDs wasn't all I listened to.

Now, 32 years later, I don't buy CDs much. In fact, a lot of the later titles in my "CD" library are actually purchased downloads and have no physical form at all beyond the array of magnetic particles on various hard drives and backup disks. Those are a long way off, however; I'm only up to October 1988.

Updates as the situation warrants.

Fifty days in

Illinois has had a stay-at-home order in effect for over seven weeks now, though last week the state and county opened up forest trails and other outdoor activities that allow for proper distancing and discourage people clumping together in groups. So today I drove up to the northern suburbs to the site of the largest Civilian Conservation Corps project undertaken during the agency's run from 1933 to 1940.

It was good to get outside. Not my fastest-ever pace, but still respectable, and somehow I got over 10,000 steps just on the walk.

And when I got back, this was waiting in my inbox:

Gosh, where to begin?

Happy May Day! Or m'aidez? Hard to know for sure right now. The weather in Chicago is sunny and almost the right temperature, and I have had some remarkable productivity at work this week, so in that respect I'm pretty happy.

But I woke up this morning to the news that Ravinia has cancelled its entire 2020 season, including a performance of Bernstein's White House Cantata that featured my group, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. This is the first time Ravinia has done so since 1935.

If only that were everything.

First, via Josh Marshall, former Obama Administration disaster-preparedness expert Jeremy Konydndyk lays out the facts about our plateau (60,000 excess weekly deaths) and how the Trump Administration continues to do nothing to help us slow Covid-19 deaths.

Next, all of this:

But some good news:

Finally, while alarming in its own right, the record water levels in Lake Michigan (4 months in a row now) have exposed some historic shipwrecks.

It all just keeps coming, you know?

Welcome to day 31 of the Illinois shelter-in-place regime, which also turns out to be day 36 of my own working-from-home regime (or day 43 if you ignore that I had to go into the office on March 16th). So what's new?

Oy:

Finally, via Bruce Schneier, the Dutch intelligence service had an unintentional back door into several other countries' communications. (Scheier says, "It seems to be clever cryptanalysis rather than a backdoor.")

We may be flattening a bit

Illinois' doubling time for Covid-19 cases has increased from 2.1 days to 7.9 days, as of yesterday.

In other news:

And finally, I'll leave you with this touching performance of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" by its composer, Curt Smith, and his daughter Diva:

Is it July yet?

An Andy Borowitz bit from last year is making the rounds again: "Trump Comes Out Strongly Against Intelligence." More evidence of why that's true after these two videos. First, the Ohio Department of Health demonstrates social distancing:

Second, the Lincoln Project, a Republican organization headed by George Conway, has put out this ad:

And now the roundup of horror promised above:

Finally, 50 years ago today, Paul McCartney announced the Beatles had broken up.

Oh wait: here's another cool video.