"Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center": Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007

Artist Song Buy
Otto Luening  Fantasy In Space, for tape recorder
(1952; The Composer-Performer 1994) 
buy on itunes
Conlon Nancarrow  No. 3a from Studies for Player Piano No. 3 (the "Boogie-Woogie Suite")
(1954; Wergo CD 6907-2 1999) 
buy on itunes
Sleepy John Estes  Clean Up At Home
(Newport Folk Festival: Best of the Blues 1959-68) 
buy on itunes
Raymond Scott  The Tobacco Auctioneer
(1939; Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights 1992) 
buy on itunes
John Philip Sousa  Here's To Your Health, Sir!
(The Nonpareil Wind Band, A Grand Sousa Concert 1991)) 
buy on itunes
The Marx Brothers  Fredonia Is Going To War
(Duck Soup 1933; The Marx Brothers Sing & Play 1994) 
buy on itunes
U.S.A.F. Concert Band  Hail to the Chief
(Library of Congress audio download) 
buy on itunes
Carl Stalling  Marching Pink Elephants
(from "Calling Dr. Porky" 1940; The Carl Stalling Project vol. 2 1995) 
buy on itunes
Artie Shaw  Nightmare
(1938; Highlights from Artie Shaw: Self-Portrait 2001) 
buy on itunes
Jimmy Giuffre  Marian the Librarian
(The Music Man, 1958) 
buy on itunes
Benny Goodman  Igor Stravinsky: Ebony Concerto for Clarinet and Big Band, III. Moderato. Con moto.
(Benny Goodman with Columbia Jazz Ensemble, 1961; Stravinsky: Chamber Music & Historical Recordings 1991)  
buy on itunes
Gilbert and Sullivan  Iolanthe: "When all night long a chap remains"
(D'Oyly Carte Opera Company 1951 recording)  
buy on itunes
Franz Schubert  Die Florelle ("The Trout") D. 550
(Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano & Gerald Moore, piano, 1965)  
buy on itunes
Paul Hindemith  Piano Sonata No. 2, II: Lebhaft
(Glenn Gould, piano)  
buy on itunes
Bertolt Brecht and Hans Eisler  On Suicide
(sung by Robyn Archer, Songs For Bad Times vol. 1 1982) 
buy on itunes
Blind Willie Johnson  Dark Was the Night
(1927; The Slide Guitar: Bottles, Knives & Steel 1990)  
buy on itunes
Krzysztof Penderecki  Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima
(composed 1959-61; Penderecki / Polish Radio NSO 1976) 
buy on itunes
Gy÷rgy Ligeti  PoTme Symphonique pour 100 MFtronomes
(composed 1962; Ligeti, un portrait 2000 "Frantoise Terrioux, metronomes") 
buy on itunes
Kurt Vonnegut  A Humanist Requiem
(read by Kurt Vonnegut; Stones, Time and Elements 1994) 
buy on itunes
Morton Feldman  Projection 5
(composed 1951; The Barton Workshop, The Ecstasy of the Moment 1995) 
buy on itunes

Comment:

The title is from Vonnegut's Player Piano (1952). This mix is my attempt at a Kurt Vonnegut portrait in music of sorts, compiled with fond regards for a writer whose books distinctly expanded my adolescent mind, and who in recent years as a clear-eyed eighty-something curmudgeon has helped me get some bearings on what's going on around here. Below are Vonnegut comments that inspired or informed some of my choices on this CD, mainly from interviews and articles he did in the last five or so years. Most are either published by or linked-to at In These Times (www.inthesetimes.com). Here I've omitted citations and in some cases edited for brevity, please let me know if you'd like unedited quotes with citations. "Peculiar travel plans are dancing lessons from God" (Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle).

Vonnegut on playing the Blues: "The Blues can't drive depression clear out of a house, but can drive it into the corners of any room where it's being played. So please remember that. "

Vonnegut on perfect moments, and musicians: "The moment where I was doing everything right, where I was beyond criticism, it was back in World War II. It was snowing, but everything was black. The trucks were rolling in. I was surrounded by my buddies. And my rifle was between my knees, my helmet on my head. I was ready for anything. And I was right where I belonged. That would be the moment. But you know who gets those kinds of moments all the time? A musician. They're doing exactly what they're supposed to do. I look at a symphony orchestra and everybody's doing exactly right. How the fuck do they do that?"

The Tobacco Auctioneer / Here's To Your Health, Sir!: "I am going to sue the Brown and Williamson Company, manufacturers of Pall Mall cigarettes, for a billion bucks! Starting when I was only twelve years old, I have never chain-smoked anything but unfiltered Pall Malls. And for many years now, right on the package, Brown and Williamson have promised to kill me. But I am now eighty-one and a half!"

Hail to the Chief / March of the Pink Elephants: Vonnegut on George W. Bush: "When he was 41, he says, Jesus appeared to him and made him knock off the sauce, stop gargling nose paint. Other drunks have seen pink elephants."

Schubert, Die Florelle ("The Trout"): "Hello, I'm Kilgore Trout and I'm an alcoholic."

Gilbert & Sullivan's "When all night long a chap remains": "Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative. Actually, this same sort of thing happened to the people of England generations ago, and Sir William Gilbert, of the radical team of Gilbert and Sullivan, wrote these words for a song about it back then: 'I often think it's comical, how nature always does contrive / That every boy and every gal that's born into the world alive / Is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative.' Which one are you in this country? It's practically a law of life that you have to be one or the other. If you aren't one or the other, you might as well be a doughnut."

Vonnegut on composers: "Anybody practicing the fine art of composing music, no matter how cynical or greedy or scared, still can't help serving all humanity. Music makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it. Even military bands, although I am a pacifist, always cheer me up."

Vonnegut on music: If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music."

(Comments continued in "Feedback" section.)

image for mix

Feedback:

gravatar
Yaminon
Date: 4/20/2007
(Comments, continued.)

Vonnegut on Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman: "I used to play the clarinet and I thought Artie Shaw was the greatest clarinet player ever. Shaw used a special reed that nobody else used and a special mouthpiece that allowed him to get a full octave above what other people were playing. Christ, he was getting way up there where nobody else was getting. But no, I think probably the greatest clarinet player in history was Benny Goodman. I wound up going home from Mailer's one time in a limo with Goodman and I said to him, 'I used to play a little licorice stick myself.'"

Marian the Librarian: "I LOVE YOU, MADAME LIBRARIAN. I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."

PoTme Symphonique pour 100 MFtronomes: "You know, you go to a party and you hone in on the couple people you know. There are none of those people for me at parties any more. I've lost my sister, my brother, my editor, my publisher. It's a whole generation gone by. Old war buddies of mine, my colleagues, my family. I'd like to see some of these people again. On the other hand, they probably all died because they were sick of my old, familiar stories. [Laughs.]" (Description of the Ligeti's "PoTme Symphonique," from Wikipedia: "Each of the hundred metronomes is set up on the performance platform, and they are all then wound to their maximum extent and set to different speeds. Once they are all fully wound they are all started as simultaneously as possible. As the metronomes wind down one after another and stop, periodicity becomes noticeable in the sound, and individual metronomes can be more clearly made out. The piece typically ends with just one metronome ticking alone for a few beats.")

Vonnegut on The Big Question: "When you get to my age, if you get to my age, and if you have reproduced, you will find yourself asking your own children, who are themselves middle-aged: 'What is life all about?' I have seven kids, three of them orphaned nephews. I put my big question about life to my son the pediatrician. Dr Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: 'Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.' And I've had a hell of a good time. And I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different."

Humanist Requiem / Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima: "Rest eternal grant them, O Cosmos, and let not light disturb their sleep."

gravatar
Saaf
Date: 4/20/2007
R.I.P.
gravatar
siren
Date: 4/20/2007
Not that I ever like to hear about people dying, but his passing was especially sad for me. I love the thought you put into this mix
gravatar
hemizen
Date: 4/20/2007
Well done.
gravatar
2old2matter
Date: 4/20/2007
Wow. Great job. I wish you had included a link to this. If I had a mind to get tatooed, it would be Kurt's answer to the big question. The cemetary probably won't let you have a stone with the word "Fart" on it, but I'll have to give that a try. "I was just here to fart around."
gravatar
Salman1
Date: 4/20/2007
Amazing, amazing work. Fantastic tribute.
gravatar
Luke79
Date: 4/20/2007
Impressive - love to hear it.
gravatar
blasikin
Date: 4/20/2007
Vonnegut was an amazing fart-arounder, wasn't he? This is far and away mix of the week in my opinion, and clearly a labor of love. I love this way of making mixes.
gravatar
Nic Diamond
Date: 4/21/2007
One of the greatest men of his, or any other generation. RIP
gravatar
doowad
Date: 4/21/2007
Nomination for mix of the week, if I weren't such a lazy sod, I'd do it myself, purely out of love for Vonnegut and your balanced summation here.
gravatar
musicgnome
Date: 4/22/2007
Stunning. MoTW.
gravatar
arktical
Date: 4/23/2007
This mix NEEDS to be MoTW. I only wish that it had a link. So it goes.
gravatar
Dead Man
Date: 4/23/2007
This is a great tribute. I haven't read much by Kurt Vonnegut recently but his writings captured my imagination when I was younger.
gravatar
Muzag
Date: 4/24/2007
A wonderful and worthy tribute. Beautiful notes that capture the man. I don't normally solicit for Mix of the Week, but if this doesn't get the vote then there's something wrong in this world - but then Kurt already knew that. So it goes, indeed.

You must be logged in to do this.