Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mozart vs. McCartney


I was on stage the other night doing my thang before Rain (which is more of a Beatles full immersion experience than a tribute band). I made a joke about how I was pretty familiar with music from the 50's and 60's.....the 1750's and 60's, that is.

I mentioned that it was Mozart's birthday and there was a nice round of applause from the audience, which I have to admit I wasn't really expecting. Kind of caught me off guard actually.
But it got me to thinking. Mozart was a pretty kick ass composer. Classic rock star bad boy.
And a revolutionary. He really took music to completely new places. Then 200 years later, Paul McCartney did the same thing. The two of them are a lot alike, musically, when you stand back about 20 feet and squint your eyes. And I'm going to prove it to you with today's Mozart vs. McCartney playlist.

My husband has warned me that you might disagree with me, and that I might find myself holding heated debates with people I barely know on the sundial bridge about this for a good long time over this  bold statement, but I really believe that Paul McCartney is the Mozart of the 20th century. I know there's a lot of John Lennon lovers out there, and a huge contingency of Rogers & Hammerstein fans, but I'm going to hold fast on this.

McCartney is the dude. The composer of the 20th century.

Nowadays, that is. Or for the second half of the last century, if you really want to get nitpicky.

But if you go a few hundred years back, it's hard to find anyone that eclipses Mozart. Even Papa Haydn, who wrote more than 750 works in his lifetime (but outlasted Mozart by about 40 years) in my opinion, can't match Mozart's genius.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe the things I read about Mozart. But the story goes that he was two when he started goofing off on a keyboard, tagging along at his big sister Nannerl's music lesson, and within three years he had already composed his first work, a short little andante. I took three years of piano lessons as a middle schooler, and there was no way I could've composed anything like young Wolfie did at the age of five. Five! Think about what you were doing at the age of five!

By the age of 8, he had already written a few chamber works (which, for the classical music impaired means a small group of instruments, like 3 or 4).

By nine he had already written entire symphonies. Precocious little bugger, right? Even Paul McCartney didn't start toying around with writing music until he was 14, a short little song (not a whole lot longer than Mozart's very first piece, which clocks in at :38). McCartney played his little ditty on an episode of MTV Unplugged in 1991. Check it out:

By the way, his second composition (another short piece for the piano) later turned into "When I'm 64." Pure genius. He was 16.

By the time Mozart was 16, he'd already traveled all around Europe performing concerts, had written more than 13 symphonies, at least 3 operas, and a crap ton of piano music. But he was still, perplexingly, looking for a full time music gig that paid real money.

I think McCartney was in the same boat until he joined up with Lennon, Ringo and Harrison. The Beatles had their first pop hit in 1963, followed by worldwide Beatlemania the following year. When that happened, McCartney was 22.

Mozart got his big break at 17 when he was hired as a court musician in Salzburg, but he moved on quickly, always looking for a bigger opportunity. By the time Mozart was 22, he'd written all but his last 10 symphonies (so at least 30), 5 violin concertos…and I could go on. But by the time he died at the young age of 36, he'd written over 600 incredible pieces of music. Solo piano pieces, chamber works, concertos for piano, violin, horn, numerous wind instruments and one for flute & harp, lots of operas and scores of symphonies.

McCartney is quickly catching up. A quick check to the Paul McCartney database of compositions claims he's got 527 songwriting credits so far. He has also written pieces for solo piano, small chamber works, orchestral pieces, an opera, an honest-to-gosh oratorio, one of the most beautiful pieces of choral music I have ever heard in my entire life (Ecce Cor Meum), and most recently, a ballet. I bet you didn't even know he was writing ballets and operas!

All I'm saying is….what Mozart was to the 18th century, McCartney was to the 20th century. And he's not done yet. I have to admit that I'm not much of a fan of his recent performances with the remaining members of Nirvana, but I'm really looking forward to his next effort in the classical genre.

Today's playlist is going to be a real treat, I hope. It's Mozart vs. McCartney. Starting with Mozart's first work at the age of 5, moving on to one of McCartney's earliest works, back to Mozart's early variations on a French song that I think you'll be able to sing along to (and I guarantee you'll be at least a teensy bit surprised), and then pitting the two against each other all the way to an amazing finish. I'm sure you'll be surprised at some of the music you never knew came from the creative brain of Paul McCartney, and you might find some newfound love for Mozart as well.  I'm just going to go out on a limb and proclaim that if you don't appreciate today's Mozart vs. McCartney Playlist, I'm not sure if we can be friends any longer. What I really want you to do is take a listen to today's playlist without peeking at who wrote what in advance, and see if you're not fooled just a teensy bit.

Mozart vs McCartney by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Mozart - Andante for piano in G, K. 1a
  2. McCartney - When I'm 64 (Canadian Brass)
  3. Mozart - 12 Variations on the French song, "Ah, vous dirai-je Maman"
  4. McCartney - Midwife (Loma Mar Quartet)
  5. Mozart - Prelude to Piano Concerto No. 23 (Bobby McFerrin & Chick Corea)
  6. McCartney - Maybe I'm Amazed
  7. McCartney - Maybe I'm Amazed (Loma Mar Quartet)
  8. Mozart - Requiem: Lacrimosa
  9. McCartney - Lament from Ecce Cor Meum (Kate Royal & LSO)
  10. Mozart - Sonata No. 11 (Mitsuko Uchida)
  11. McCartney - Tuesday (London Symphony)
  12. McCartney - My Love
  13. McCartney - My Love (Loma Mar Quartet)
  14. Mozart - Violin Concerto No. 3: Adagio (James Ehnes)
  15. McCartney - Golden Earth Girl (Loma Mar Quartet)
  16. Mozart - Divertimento No. 15: Adagio
  17. McCartney - Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End (Phil Collins)
  18. Mozart - Credo from Mass in C minor (Arleen Auger)
  19. McCartney - Gratia from Ecce Cor Meum (Kate Royal & London Symphony Orchestra)
  20. McCartney - Live & Let Die

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Oh, The (Cards Against) Humanity!

Every month, I get together with a group of girlfriends for 'Bunco' night. We've been doing it for several years, to the point where we have finally had to start admitting to our husbands that we don't even play Bunco. When I finally made the confession, he said, "So now we can just start calling it what it really is then? Your Ladies-Wine-Night?"

Back when it all started at Monica's house, we did actually play Bunco. I even hosted a night of Bunco at my house once. But after we'd done it five or six times, we realized that you never got to finish a conversation, because a game can end pretty quickly, and then suddenly you're off to a different table playing with new people, and the whole night is just a series of incomplete, disjointed conversations.

I was so glad when someone suggested that we try something different, and instead of bringing $5 to throw into the hat for the Bunco Grand Champion (which always seemed to be the same exact gal every time), that we all bring a piece of jewelry to exchange. Another time we wrapped up used books, another time it was DVDs, and we've done holiday ornaments a couple of times as well.
I've ended up with some amazing new jewelry (and have been able to slowly relieve myself of a few pieces of jewelry my ex-husband gave me that was too nice to toss, and too awkward to wear), and I look forward to my Ladies-Wine-Night more than anyone will ever know.

I bring up Ladies-Wine-Night because I feel another change is in the air again, although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really interested to see where it takes us. I think it was Carey who suggested that instead of doing a worst-present-you-received-over-the-holidays gift exchange (I'd bring that spotlight my husband gave me "to go zombie hunting in the backyard"), that instead we try playing a new game. Cards Against Humanity.

Have you played that game? It's like an inappropriate version of Apples to Apples. Really inappropriate. It's definitely not the kind of game you want to play if you're either afraid of offending anyone or if you are easily offended. Below is an example of the tamest hand I could find.

So this week, this is what my respectable ladies' drinking club will be doing as our activity (or rather recovering from, as you read this).

And did I mention that I'm hosting?

I've been instructed to send my teenage daughter to another wing of the house (and my husband has decided it might be best for him to pretend he's Howard Hughes for the night and go into seclusion as well).

I feel almost like I'm having one of those ladies' lingerie house parties.

The Lemon Drops will flow.

Some people will blush at the sight of their own hand of cards.

David Bowie will apparently be riding in on a flying tiger made of lightning.

And I'm in charge of the music.

So today's playlist, in honor of the martinis, is one that I've shared before a few years back when I hosted a completely different group of friends for book club. It's fun, respectable, but a little irreverent, and the perfect backdrop for a night with Lemon Drops and Cards Against Humanity.

Enjoy a little Martini Music for today's Mistress of the Mix playlist while I go prepare some delicious morsels and cut a few lemons.
  1. Della Reese - Come On A My House
  2. Tao of Groove - Cha Cha Cha 57
  3. De-Phazz - Jim The Jinn 
  4. De-Phazz featuring Pat Appleton - Mambo Craze
  5. Dimitri from Paris - Une Very Stylish Fille
  6. Rouge Rouge - L'amour
  7. Dimitri from Paris - Toujours L'amore
  8. Rosemary Clooney - Mambo Italiano
  9. Towa Tei with Bebel Gilberto - Batacuda
  10. De-Phazz - Jeunesse Dore
  11. Cesaria Evora - Carnaval de Sao Vicente
  12. Combustible Edison - Vertigogo & Intermission
  13. Martin Denny - Quiet Village
  14. De-Phazz - Dummes Spiel
  15. Funky Lowlives - Latazz
  16. Doris Day - Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps
  17. Jazzelicious - Sambossa
  18. Dimitri From Paris - Sacre Francais
  19. Soul Bossa Trio - Mambo Parisienne
  20. Mr. Scruff - Get A Move On
  21. Nina Simone - Feeling Good
  22. Yma Sumac - Gopher Mambo & Gopher Mambo Re-Mix
  23. Ursula 1000 - Kinda Kinky
  24. Thievery Corporation - Lebanese Blonde
  25. Gotan Project - Whatever Lola Wants
  26. St. Germain - Soul Salsa Soul
  27. Ursula 1000 - Samba 1000
  28. Pink Martini - Sympathique

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tapes Y Tapas

Remember when mix tapes were actually tapes? Back in the day, like 30 years go, before the cd? Before iTunes and iPods and iPhones and iPads and iWhatever else? Those were the days.
I was a first year college student at the time. Still a Psych major at that point, but I was developing an interest in broadcasting, and had just started volunteering at the radio station that I still work at today.

I had a stereo my parents had given me a few years before that allowed me to record from the radio tuner, cassette tape or vinyl records (remember those?) onto another cassette, and I made mix tapes for all occasions. 4th of July party? Christmas party? Backyard kegger? I relished the opportunity to be in charge of the music. Three decades later, I'm still that gal.

At about this same time, I also came up with the kind of creative, innovative birthday present idea for my friends that only someone like me (a poor college student with access to an audio production studio) might think of.

When my friend Caroline (a fellow 'Radio Head' at JPR at the time) turned 19, I wrote a script tailored just for her. It was a fairytale called "Princess Carolina." I spent hours scouring the shelves at the local Goodwill, accumulating items that went with the story, and finally went in to the production studio to record my script.

I wish I could remember the story. I wish I could remember what I'd put in the box to go with the story. I think there was a plastic tiara, a princess wand, and who knows what else. As my brain has filled with more information over the years, those details have sadly, slowly evaporated.

What I do remember is all of her friends gathering in her little apartment on Iowa Street one November evening. She sat in the middle of the floor, with the box in front of her. I plopped the cassette tape into her stereo, pushed play, and the story of Princess Carolina unfolded in her living room. It was a hit. All these decades later, that tape is long gone. Caroline can't find it anywhere. But she and I still refer to each other as Princess Carolina and Princess Valeria.

In the next couple of years after that, I created a number of those specially tailored cassette tapes for friends. There was one for my friend Dawn (I wonder if she still has the 'Les Nessman Press Kit' I put together), one for Dan when he got married (an audio dance lesson 'Lambada Your Way To Love'), and one for Rachel at her going away party full of lures, bobbers and other fishing related items for the instructional 'How To Catch A Man'.

Back to my friend Caroline. She's gone on to get her MBA, have two rambunctious kids and a day job as a corporate jet pilot flying bigwigs around the world. And somehow Princess Carolina has also found time to write a couple of really adorable children's books. First there was 'The Mommy Store,' and on Christmas Eve her newest book 'Sleepy Mommy' was released. It just arrived in the mail yesterday, and features a sweet story about a little girl who just won't let her. mommy get a good night's sleep. There are a lot of little things in the story that only someone who really knows my friend would catch, like the liberal wearing of tiaras by both sleepy mommy and precocious daughter throughout the book.

Six weeks ago, Caroline had another birthday. She invited me to her party, but I was unable to attend. I called her with my regrets, and asked what she was planning for her party, and what she wanted for her birthday. Her birthday party idea was so amazing that I think I'm stealing it somewhere down the road. She hired a chef to come to her home to teach a Spanish cooking class. Each couple would be in charge of creating their own tapas dish for the party under the watchful eye of the chef. Not only did she have a fun activity planned, there was no need to prepare any food ahead of time!

Caroline told me that the one thing missing from her party (besides the Ing clan), was music. She was especially bummed that I wasn't attending, since she was counting on me to get the ambiance going with some flamenco, tango and bossa nova. If only, she said, the Mistress of the Mix could somehow provide the perfect playlist from afar for a Spanish themed birthday party, that would be the perfect birthday present.

Well, I aim to please! And I like to share. So invite over a few friends, get some tapas going, and crack open today's Tapas Party Playlist to set the ambiance for una fiesta sobrosa! Just click on the box below, and get your Charo on!

Tapas Party by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Tango Flamenco - Armik
  2. Voltei Amor - Trio Mocoto
  3. En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor - Jake Shimabukuro
  4. Moliendo Cafe - Paco de Lucia
  5. Amor Gitano - Gypsy Kings
  6. La Lola - Cafe Quijano
  7. Heart Still Beating - Ottmar Liebert
  8. Besame Mucho - Paco de Lucia
  9. La Boda de Luis Alonso - Embrujo Flamenco
  10. Solo Con Verte - Chano Dominguez
  11. Ener Gipsy - Space Flamenco
  12. Barcelona Nights - Ottmar Liebert
  13. Mi Estrella Blanca - Fondo Flamenco
  14. Guitarra Espanola - Flamenco
  15. Sevillanas Billy - Martires del Compas
  16. Tierra de Toros - BMS
  17. Flamenco Flambe - Bruce BecVar
  18. La Taverna del Buddha - Cafe Quijano
  19. Yo Te Queria Maria - Diego Carrasco
  20. Flamenco - Los Brincos
  21. Sueno De Ibiza - Flamenco Chill
  22. Alhambra - Flamenco Chill
  23. Guitar Music - Cafe Del Mar
  24. Desafinado - Gil Costa
  25. Chill Out Brazil Brasilidade - Nana
  26. Agua de Beber - Tom Jobim
  27. Pais Tropical - Sergio Mendes
  28. So Danco Samba - Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto
  29. Bohemian Rhapsody - Jake Shimabukuro
  30. Aguas de Marco - Trio Mocoto
  31. Boombox - Mosquitos
  32. Mas Que Nada - Brasil 66 & Sergio Mendez
  33. Sem Contencao - Bebel Gilberto
  34. Tudo Bem - Trio Mocoto
  35. Flamenco Diablo - Yngwe Malmsteem