Music: 20 + 2 in 2020
“Without music life would be a mistake.” — Freddy Nietzsche
Selecting Favorite Songs
I was a teen in the mid 1960s and my musical tastes were shaped by the radio. As allowance money arrived it was all saved up to buy 45rpms—House of Oldies on Bleecker Street—$5.10 for 10 singles. I still have over 600.
The idea of the Top 10 was something I adopted with my best friend, Alex II, at the time—and at the end of the week, after endless listening to our recent purchases, we presented each other with a list of our favorite songs. Neither one of us had much use for what Billboard had to say.
(My friend was dismayed that amidst the Animals & Kinks & Four Tops lists, which were our standard fare in 1966, Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night” topped my charts—for 8 weeks straight! I loved the song — but admittedly also enjoyed watching my friend cringe at my uncoolness.
Sinatra’s follow up “A Summer Wind” I liked even more and he has remained my favorite singer over the decades.)
Music During COVID-19
Music has been pretty constant in our home through these long pandemic months.
There were days that music seemed the only thing that could elevate my spirit. I am very grateful that we have the technology to hear all this music in our homes.
It was difficult to pick twenty pieces but here they are—ranging from 1828 (well 1610) to 2020.
Fra Angelico (1967)— Alan Hovhaness—Performed by the The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Alan Hovhaness
I recall one particular evening at my computer, as COVID-19 walked the streets, when I stumbled across a amazing high-fidelity version of “Fra Aneglico” by Alan Hovhaness (favorite piece of music by a favorite composer) on YouTube. I turned off the lights, sat back down between the two speakers, closed my eyes and was soon adrift in those amazing celestial harmonies!
Like traveling though the inside of some exquisite jewel.
My Own Version Of You — Bob Dylan (2020)
One of my lifetime’s greatest artists, still spinning magic on his latest album.
Bella Ciao — Goran Bregovic (2012)
If you’re not moving your body better check your temperature!
“Goodbye Beautiful” is an Italian protest folk song that originated in the late 19th century, sung by the workers in protest to the harsh working conditions in the rice paddy fields of North Italy.
Fuck All The Perfect People-Chip Taylor & The New Ukrainians (2012)
My Rajneesh—Sufjan Stevens (2020)
If I had to pick a favorite song of the year this would probably be it. 10 minutes of beautiful song, rising, then roaring.
Illumination, accede my need, my Rajneesh
Hallucination, accede my need, my Rajneesh
No video, just audio.
A great review/analysis of the song by Nicole Almeida here.
Happens To The Heart — Leonard Cohen (2019)
A lifetime of brilliant poetry, songs, music, and singing. Beautiful video.
Pendant 24h — Grand Corps Malade et Suzanne (2020)
Explanation of intro scene: They agree to switch genders and then off we go with a great song and video. Translation of lyrics in English.
Missionary Position— Sparks (2020)
Sparks: creating some of the catchiest and smartest pop music since 1967!
A rebranding effort might just be the thing
But a name’s a name and we’re continuing
Always feeling fine, it ain’t the wine, it’s the missionary position
Winter—Patricia Barber (1998)
i suppose i should sleep till spring /like the grass
The Crack Of Doom —Tiger Lillies (1999)
For we’re all equal in the end / The small and mighty all the same
This life a shallow, facile game / Where every empire turns to dust
And every ego will be crushed
The crack of doom / Is coming soon
Living In A Ghost Town — The Rolling Stones (2020)
Life was so beautiful / Then we all got locked down
Feel a like ghost /Living in a ghost town, yeah
Nocturne in C Minor—Frédéric Chopin (1841)—Performed by Mark Salman
Mournful, stately, and beautiful — in just over six minutes of breathtaking music, Chopin explores the emotional ranges of the piano.
Lost Horse — Asaf Avidan (2020)
One of my favorite singer/songwriters of the last few years.
Time After Time — Frank Sinatra (1949)
From “Bleeding Edge” by Thomas Pynhon:
“How about what they call “marital relations,” is there any fucking going on?
You bet, and what’s it to you?
Music track? Frank Sinatra, if you really need to know.
The most poignant B-flat in all lounge music occurs in Cahn & Styne’s song
“Time after Time, ” beginning the phrase “in the evening when the day is through,” and never more effectively than when Sinatra reaches after it on vinyl that happens to be in the household record library.
At moments like this Horst is helpless, and Maxine long ago has learned to so seize the moment. Allowing Horst to think it’s his idea, of course”
No Flag — Elvis Costello (2020)
No time for this kind of love / No flag waving high above
No sign for the dark place that I live / No God for the damn that I don’t give
I Should Fly —Vermillion Lies (2006)
From up in the sky they’re just people
But from here they’re liars, cheaters and thieves
I’ve been thinking for a while
that I should fly
If U Slip, U Slide (You Could Be Mine) — Shaggy featuring Melissa Musique (2014)
You could be mine for the rest of my life
And I wouldn’t mind , I wouldn’t mind
And I could be yours / For the rest of your life
I know that you wouldn’t mind/ Hey baby! / You wouldn’t mind
The War Racket — Buffy Sainte-Marie (2017)
(Best anti-war song ever.)
Got the world’s greatest power and you team up with thugs
Make a fortune on weapons, destruction and drugs
But your flags and boots and uniforms start to all look the same
When both sides are killing in the patriot game
It’s the war racket
Bongo Bong — Manu Chao (1998)
I’m a king without a crown / Hanging loose in a big town
But I’m the king of bongo, baby / I’m the king of bongo bong
String Quintet in C Major — Franz Schubert (1828)—Performed by The Borodin Quartet With Alexander Buzlov (second cello)
Simply one of the greatest pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
The Lark Ascending (1914)—Ralph Vaughan Williams—Performed by Nicola Benedetti with the London Philharmonic
I love playing this first thing in the morning.
String Quartet #7 in F sharp minor (1960)—Dmitri Shostakovich—Performed by The Jerusalem Quartet
Shostakovich dedicated this quartet to his wife Nina who died in December 1954. This is mirrored in his choice of key for the work, F sharp minor, traditionally associated with pain and suffering.
50/55/60/65 Songs (The Music Compilations 2001–2016…)
As I approached my 50th birthday in 2001, the idea was born. I would put together a collection of 50 favorite songs at that particular time to share with my friends.
The project turned out to be 3 CDs worth and I spent the better part of the year beforehand collecting the music and creating the art for “50 Songs”.
The project continued every five years. “55 Songs”. “60 Songs”. “65 Songs”.
Music has been an integral part of every incarnation in my life’s journey.
I wrote about that long strange trip in some detail last year:
Approaching 70 (Songs)
A Biography in Vinyl, Magnetic Tape, Digital Disc, and mp3
Coming 22 December 2021 — “70 Songs”.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.
For those who scrolled down this far—a 23rd track.
The human voice is my favorite instrument.
When feeling hyperbolic I say that Carlo Gesualdo’s music is what I would take with me—mp3? streaming?—if I were to be stranded on a desert island—because each piece reveals new textures to me with every listening.
EARavishing. Here’s one.
In Monte Oliveto — Carlo Gesualdo(1611)—performed by Ensemble Beatus