Replay: A musical offering
Some fun today, thanks to inspiration from E L James. No, I’m not going to nipple clamp you. (Sorry!) But Ms. James, in addition to her multiple movie deals, sex accessory tie-ins, and probably leather-clad teddy bears for all I know, has also put out a compact disc, in cooperation with EMI, of the music featured or mentioned in her Fifty Shades books. Apparently there’s a lot of classical seduction music in these novels.
So I started thinking of the classical music that could be released on the Entertaining Welsey Shaw CD. For starters, Joseph, my protagonist, used to work at the only hydro-powered radio station in America, WJFF, where he did fill-in shifts, programming such works as Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks by Richard Strauss, Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and Mendelssohn’s Octet. Three of my favorite pieces. The Mendelssohn Octet was a late add. When I started the novel I’d never heard it. Don’t believe I’d even heard of it.
But it’s the Mozart Jupiter that’s the miracle of miracles. His last symphony, it’s simple fun and marvelous complexity. What’s especially noteworthy is near the end—the coda to be precise—where Mozart brings in, two bars at a time and one on top of the other, each of eight ideas he had previously introduced. Now they burst out, one after the other, like fireworks on the 4th of July. And the little tyke from Salzburg makes it all sound effortless:
The magic moment I’m talking about happens at 10:35—but listen to the whole thing first!
The Mendelssohn is another wonderful piece, one that should be better-known even than it is. The work bubbles over with joy and sunlight, and the scoring, similar to the Mozart, has eight lines that come and go and are often heard simultaneously, but always clearly. It all sounds effortless, but like with most good art that’s because you don’t see the sweat behind the work. Here’s a very spirited performance excerpt from the Zagreb International Chamber Music Festival. Who says classical music is dusty and dull?
And here is violinist Gil Shaham discussing some of the intricacies about the work in a very absorbing short lecture:
Later in the story Joseph’s friend and neighbor in Callicoon, NY, Roslyn plays for him at her house. Roz is a virtuoso and eclectic pianist and owns a beautiful 1907 baby grand that (possibly) once belonged to French composer Claude Debussy. One piece that particularly strikes his fancy is called Les Collines D’Anacapri—The Hills of Anacapri. There’s something about this piece…well, there’s something about all of Debussy’s piano pieces, some indescribable alchemy of innocence and lost innocence, of simplicity and complexity, freedom and order, that makes him a grand paradox, in my view. Just listen to this performance of Les Collines and really concentrate on how Debussy carries you off on harmonic whimsy, only to “land” things back to reality at precisely 2:06.
Roslyn is a very important character; she was inspired by a real Callicoon person. Her name is Kazzrie Jaxen. In reality, while very versatile with her artistic talents, she concentrates mainly on jazz. And it’s intense, volcanic jazz. A student of the late, great Lennie Tristano, Kazzrie has personally given me some of the most thrilling musical experiences of my life, and I was overjoyed, after years of letters and phone calls, to finally meet her in person in Callicoon a few years back. Here, then, is a clip of the “real” Roslyn, in performance last year in New York with tenor saxophonist Charley Krachy, bassist Don Messina, and drummer Bill Chattin.
So that would be my soundtrack album, in the spirit of E L James. What do you think?