Bite-sized Wisdom: Nash and Weill

Need a tune to hum? Look no further than the songwriter combo of Nash and Weill.

vintage

“Time is so old and love so brief
Love is pure gold and time a thief.”

– “Speak Low” Ogden Nash & Kurt Weill

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Everything is Connected

Discovered this weekend that this soundtrack makes for the best driving music on long trips around the city. The end credits specifically. Take a listen and let your day transform into something extraordinary.

Do You Hear the People Sing? Why the Whole World Is Listening Now

In lieu of offering a full fledged review of the recent movie, I would like to offer this trip around the world with 17 Valjeans from international productions. Because if nothing else, well-done movie musicals offer exposure to the medium. And there’s nothing like getting another person addicted to a show that took over the musical world for the better part of two decades.

There’s a reason why the show has clout – just listen to the ending (4:44).

What Goes Around Comes Around: Here We Go ‘Round the Song Cycle

Song cycle: a group of songs designed to be performed in a sequence as a single entity. As a rule, all of the songs are by the same composer and often use words from the same poet or lyricist.

The song cycle is one of my favorite mediums for witnessing a collection of musical work. A set of story songs is as satisfying as a tapas dinner. You get a taste of everything, you leave feeling like you learned something new. Without a libretto, the song cycle depends on the music to tie the show into a cohesive evening. This unity is often underlined by musical themes that weave their way back into the work.

But perhaps what’s most impressive is how lyrics are now thrust into the spotlight to stand on their own. There is no longer a text surrounding the work, or breaks between songs to help move one from the beginning of a story to its end. Lyrics must carry new weight.

Songs For A New World: abstract musical/theatrical song cycle with the central theme: “the moment of decision.”

Taste of what’s inside:

“God knows it’s easy to hide,
Easy to hide from the things that you feel 
And harder to blindly trust 
What you can’t understand 

God knows it’s easy to run,
Easy to run from the people you love 
And harder to stand and fight 
For the things you believe”
– I’d Give it All For You

Closer Than Ever:  A meditation on urban life through the lens of real individuals’ experiences with security, aging, mid-life crisis, second marriages, working couples, and unrequited love.

Taste of what’s inside:

“If I sing you are the music.
If I love you taught me how.
Every day your heart is beating
in the man that I am now.

If my ears are tuned to wander.
If when I reach the chords are there.
When there is joy in making music,
it’s a joy that we both share.”
– If I Sing

Myths and Hymns: Song cycle by Adam Guettel, based on Greek myth and lyrics found in an antique hymnal. It concerns the relationship of humans to gods, past and present.

Taste of what’s inside:

“I don’t know what I hunger for,
I don’t know why I feel the hunger more
And more with every passing day.
I don’t know from where the hunger springs,
But that it’s there and that it sings of someplace far away.”
– Saturn Returns

Even in these moments, do you notice the repetition? The words ground themselves: “God knows…”, “If…”, “I don’t know…”. These simple phrases reinforce the idea that a song does not need to be verbose to hit home. These song cycles are memorable because they feature honest human stories told simply, an utterly effective means of storytelling.

What’s your favorite way to hear a story?

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30 Things You Can Do in the Next 30 Minutes to Kickstart Your Creativity

Feeling stalled? Creativity juices running low? Time to get yourself back in the game with some of these small things that you can do right. this. second.
Remember, little actions make for big change over time.

If Hemingway can kick it up a notch, you can too

1. Try to write a sentence backwards. Whatever word first pops into your head must be the last word of your sentence. Continue picking words until you have a phrase that makes sense. Force your brain to think in new ways.

2. Reorganize your bookshelves by color. You decide where to start the rainbow.

3. Cut up a photo and rearrange it entirely. Become a Picasso of the modern age.

4. Go read a bit of a book or two. Marvel at how one author’s voice is completely distinct from another’s. No tome nearby? Dive into this free online library of 40,000 titles.

5. Write a letter to someone you haven’t chatted with in a while. Draw pictures in the margins of memories you shared and laughed over once. Perhaps make plans to make more memories soon.

6. Write with your non-dominant hand. Now draw. Which method is more appealing?

7. Learn how to say one phrase in another language. Ngiyajabula ukukwazi! (“Pleased to meet you” in Zulu)

8. Pick an image by a famous photographer or artist that you find particularly stunning and recreate it only using objects you have in the room.

9. Meditate.

10. Ask someone what was the best movie they ever saw. Pick their brain as to why that one still stands out in their mind.

11. Write a haiku that would make your grandmother faint. No holds barred.

12. Go for a walk. Choose a path you’ve never taken before.

13. Reorganize your bookshelves by books you love and books you still need to read.

14. Turn money into art! Instantly!

15. Think up five terrible puns. The more groan-worthy the better.  Despite evidence that they should be, puns will never be a sick bird (ill+eagle = illegal =groaaan).

16. Question a long-held ideal of yours. What makes you stuck in your ways on this subject?

17. Snap pictures of only things that start with the letter “C”. Pick a new letter tomorrow.

18. Use chopsticks to do something other than eat food. 

19. Listen to one of your favorite songs. Mentally choreograph a dance that would match it perfectly.

20. Print out any of these images. Color outside of the lines if you wish.

21. Write yourself a message that you can only read when you hold up it up to a mirror.

22. Invent a character. Decide its name, age, favorite cereal and how it views the world. What kind of person would it befriend?

23. Throw away something that you thought you needed.

24. Reorganize your bookshelves in whatever way that makes you happy. If that means putting the books in the pantry and the canned goods on the bookshelves, give it a go.

25. Journal.

26. Make up new lyrics to a well-loved song. They can be ridiculous, referential, or reverent as long as they are different.

27. Pick a random spot in a distant country on Google Maps and zoom all the way in. You will feel tiny and overwhelmed and inspired.

28. Create a word map. Connect the dots between disparate ideas.

29. List everything in this world that you love. Combine as many of these as you can into your day.

30. Get uncomfortable, get crafty, create. 

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Half Sleep Half Waking

A man awoke with a song in his mouth
He rounded his lips around the sounds
To find the words as they fell out one by one

He gathered them swiftly and laid them out
Saw familiar phrases but gave them new places
So that the pieces of melody might befriend them
And learn the shape of each others’ truth

The man went to sleep with a song in his heart
Humming a tune that pin-pricked his silence
A refrain half-familiar, a reminder of love

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But Susan Sontag’s Dead

“so I guess her cancer wasn’t metaphorical after all. Sorry.”
– “Illness As a Metaphor,” Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson tips its hat to Susan Sontag by alluding to her prolific writings on the practice of describing illness through the use of metaphors. She argues that there is a certain set of contagious vocabulary that we employ when discussing diseases:

“We have to wage a war on this cancer.”
“He’s battling a disease.”
“This threat to life must be stamped out.”

and if someone perishes…

“They lost the fight.”

With many illnesses, we treat the way we speak about them as if the host was invaded or caught by the disease. Whereas with injury, we simply say that we are in the process of healing. There’s no great war, only the path back towards health.

Sontag asserts that much of the reason that we use these terms has to do with the mysterious conditions surrounding disease. With cancer, for example, no definite cure has been established. She suggests that once a cure is discovered, the horror, mystery, and metaphors surrounding cancer will dissipate as well. We use the language to bolster ourselves against that which we do not entirely understand.

And although her book came out in 1978, her wish to challenge the victim mentality is still valid and meaningful today. Her goal with her writing was to “alleviate unnecessary suffering.” She believed that wrapping disease in metaphors discouraged, silenced, and shamed patients.

While argument is still a divisive one, I do agree that using aggressive terms and mindset towards illness can ultimately harbor one’s path back to health. This is not to belabor anyone’s struggle with disease – as I know many of them can be just that – a true daily struggle. But instead of “fighting” these diseases, we need to champion health. Each negative thought we latch onto and play on repeat in our heads manifests itself in our body as stress. Only by accepting and supporting wellness can we hope to heal.

Say it With a Song: One for the Fathers

How was your weekend all? This one was filled with seeing a few friends in shows around town, figuring out how to perfect orange zest scones, and celebrating Father’s Day with the papa.

I’ve always had a special fondness for Father’s (and Mother’s) day. Some kind of nostalgia creeps up each year and brings me back to the mornings my brother and I would rise early to try to create some sort of edible breakfast without parental supervision. (Lots of toast, people). From macaroni cards to Hallmark, each year was marked by us looking for new ways to remind them that that they’ve done a heck of a job.

For me,  nothing says it better than a song. Have you guys heard this tribute to padres before?

Its a rare gem from Closer Than Ever, a show that ran for roughly a minute and a half Off-Broadway in the late eighties. But oh, the male harmony.

Bite-sized Wisdom: Hammerstein

Little Friday inspiration to send you on your way this weekend. Enjoy!

“I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”

– Oscar Hammerstein II

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