This “Spring” semester, my Songbook is movin’ like a tortoise, full of rigor mortis, but hey, I can at least throw you a few tidbits at you until the next post:
1) In California recently, gave my True Grit paper to favorable reaction, was delighted to meet pomocon commenter CJ Wolfe, and drove around Hollywood and San Diego with the retro-surf band Los Straightjackets blasting out of the sun-roof. Basic is good. Like waves, and the sun.
2) I also finally learned the name of this good Michael-Jackson-like song I’d been hearing at the ice-skating rink, “Suit and Tie,” and thus learned that, apparently, at least for this, I am a Justin Timberlake fan. I feel a bit like the Eddie Murphy character Kit Ramsey in Bowfinger, when he says “I’m Keith!” My students say the song’s already been overplayed, though.
3) Biggest musical highlight of the Cali trip was seeing Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra live. So it was like the cancelled APSA trip to NOLA happened! For me, at least. This band plays symphony halls, and has the goods.
4) Most compelling classical music heard recently—it was all Estonian, contemporary, and none of it has been recorded!!! Maybe when I can find the program notes I’ll shoot you a few names. The key to classical is to experience it live. The opposite is probably true with Mr. Timberlake–for him I recommend skating rinks.
5) Over at the suckers-for- 60s-ish-pop-rock site Everybody Taste, heard the new Mikal Cronin yesterday. Limited, whiny too, but the man has a certain somethin’, sound-wise especially. Cali vibe.
6) A post like this is a good excuse to link to something put together by some international friends of mine: a Japanese pianist plays Indian Bollywood songs. A way to highlight melodic excellence that might be otherwise overlooked. Basic is very good.
7) I finally have a class, “American Studies 200,” where I’ve gotten to assign my pop-music Bible, Martha Bayles’s Hole in Our Soul. Reactions mixed so far—a sympathetic response to her main arguments, enthusiastic embrace by one jazz-playing student and another hard-rock lovin’ one, but a few students overwhelmed by encountering someone with so much pop-cultural and art-history knowledge, and a couple of the more bookish ones feeling somewhat at sea as the class takes them away from the more usual political/institutional topics of American Studies. “You mean to say we can have informed liberal education about taste?” Well, yes.