Sunday, December 27, 2009

One doesn't normally think of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) as a Christmas movie, rather a Halloween movie, but the movie is a great alternative to the classic Christmas movies. The soundtrack was composed and written by Danny Elfman, and Elfman was at his best when he created the soundtrack - the composition is stellar and fits for something that is both Disney and (director) Time Burton in nature . . . one of the FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS for this week.

It's not hyperbole to say that Ástor Piazzolla is the single most important figure in the history of tango, a towering giant whose shadow looms large over everything that preceded and followed him. Piazzolla's place in Argentina's greatest cultural export is roughly equivalent to that of Duke Ellington in jazz -- the genius composer who took an earthy, sensual, even disreputable folk music and elevated it into a sophisticated form of high art. But even more than Ellington, Piazzolla was also a virtuosic performer with a near-unparalleled mastery of his chosen instrument, the bandoneon, a large button accordion noted for its unwieldy size and difficult fingering system. In Piazzolla's hands, tango was no longer strictly a dance music; his compositions borrowed from jazz and classical forms, creating a whole new harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary made for the concert hall more than the ballroom - which was dubbed Nuevo Tango. (Steve Huey, allmusic) Read about Piazzolla's revolution in Ástor Piazzolla: Chronology of a Revolution (Jorge Pessinis & Carlos Kuri, . . . this week's FEATURED THOUGHT & IDEA.

Here' the story behind Angels in the Snow (1998) in the words of composer Tracy Rush: "It was December 3, 1990, and the biggest blizzard of the season hit the Midwest. While Dad was shoveling, Mom was working a jigsaw puzzle in the living room. She watched out the picture window as the neighborhood paperboy did his daily ritual: he would always stop in the middle of my parents' lawn and read the last paper before delivering it next door. This particular day, as he walked past the window, he could not resist the beautiful snow and threw himself on his back and made a snow angel. A short while later, Mom looked out and saw my dad on his back in a snow bank, in the angel position. Only he wasn't moving and 911 could not revive him. We still call him our Snow Angel. The work I composed is a joyous song celebrating the season and is my way of raising a toast to the memory of my father." Hear this beautiful celebration . . . our current PYTHEAS EARFUL, Tracy Rush's Angels in the Snow.

Karel Husa's Divertimento for Brass and Percussion (1958) is intimately connected to the composer's personal life and his Czech heritage, and it has become one of his most frequently performed works. Husa intended the music to be accessible for all levels of musicians and audiences alike, and we feature the work this week

Explore, Listen and Enjoy!
Vinny Fuerst
Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music

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