Nos on Music

What does Nostradamus have to say about music?

Hispanics and Rock 'n' Roll
American Music
Modern Classical Music

Hispanics and Rock 'n' Roll

The Hispanic contribution to good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll is widely underestimated. Witness the following 
Domingo Samudio wrote and sang lead on "Wooly Bully.
Rudy Martinez wrote and sang lead on "96 Tears."
Frankie Garcia sang lead on the hit version of "Land of 1000 Dances."
Of course, now that I have figured all this out, I find that Rhino Records has released a three-CD set called "Brown Eyed Soul: The Sound of East L.A." You should also see Tom Simon's page for more information on  old rockers.

9/13/99 Jay Korman writes: You have missed some very obvious crossovers, to wit: "Watermelon Man" Mongo Santamaria, Beep Beep AHHH Joe Cuba, El Chico (I donít know - it was the one that had the blabbering in Spanish). Stuff by Santana does not count. The Blues Magoos had a hit with "Iíll never go back to Georgia" (I think it was Tito Puente who did the original)

1/10/2000 Deven Black: To augment what Jay wrote, you also forgot the classic "Say Leroy, Your Mama, She Calling You Man" which had a distinctively latin beat if not actual Spanish lyrics. And who could forget all those bossa nova records of  the 50s: "Mama Loves Mambo" is used in a current TV ad, and I cherish my copy of "Lena Goes Latin."

3/8/04 Nos: There's also Danny Flores (Chuck Rio), composer of Tequia and member of the Champs; and Ritchie Valenzuela who brought us La Bamba.

10/6/04 Nos: And Jimmy Torres, lead guitarist of the String-A-Longs and composer of their hit instrumental, "Wheels." Actually, Jimmy was born in Texas of Kickapoo, Choctaw, Spanish, German, Mayan, and Irish heritage.

2/14/05 Nos: And Chris Montez (Christopher Montanez) of "Let's Dance" fame.

American Music

Nos asks 1/9/2000:

Iíve been thinking - If one were to put out a CD of "American Music," what should be on it? My thoughts so far:

Maple Leaf Rag - Joplin
West Side Story - Bernstein
Heartbreak Hotel - Presley
My Way - Sinatra
A blues
Something by Hank Williams

I invite your thoughts.

Nos adds:

I think we need to add Eddie Cantor and Duke Ellington. And make the Presley song "Hound Dog."

Deven says 1/10/2000:

Last year for Chanukah Jill got me the multi-cd set of the Smithsonian collection of American music collected as part of the WPA or some other depression-era program. I havenít listened to it all yet (it is HUGE) but Iíd nominate almost everything on it.

I also think you would have to put some Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Aaron Copeland on it for sure. And that is just taking the cream off the top.

Bill Wollheim contributes 1/10/2000:

Popular only or also classical?

Aaron Copeland: Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, or Billy the Kid
something by Irving Berlin 
Bluegrass (Bill Monroe?)
Prof. Longhair, Fats Domino, or some other New Orleans music
Everley Brothers
Bob Dylan
Louis Armstrong

Nos answers:

Nothing wrong with classical. And I see we already have two votes for Copeland. The question is whether there will be room. For this exercise, we only get about 70 minutes to survey all of American music. I also see two votes for Bob Dylan, but I think he gets beaten out by Woodie Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." As I heard it, Guthrie's song began as a bitter reproach to establishment American politics and was transformed by popular demand (i.e., the folk process) into a sentimental patriotic song. Nothing could be more American.

Bill Wollheim:

. . . not to mention Billie Holiday

Wendy Wolf:

Definitely Copeland óAppalachian Spring, maybe? ó and the Gershwins.

Jay Korman:

an immediate thought - delete "my way" - he didnít write it and it is not one of his best numbers

Bill later added:

George M. Cohan
Yankee Doodle [good example of the American spirit: taking a British taunt and turning it into a patriotic song --Nos]
After the Ball is Over -- or other Victorian song
Louis Armstrong for Jazz [Bill thinks that Armstrong might even displace Ellington on this list because of Armstrong's contribution to the birth of Jazz]
Sousa -- Stars and Stripes Forever

Nos replies:

Bill and I talked about whether to include a sample of Native American music. Tough call: They're surely American, but they've had no impact on American music as a whole.

We discussed whether this collection is "historical." I said, "Not really." The idea actually came from my spending last weekend reading about world music. As I read, I began to wonder what people in THOSE countries should hear in order to get a sense of OUR music.

Other possibilities: Home on the Range and My Old Kentucky Home.

Lori (Kopp) Witzel 1/12/2000:

cool idea!

Bill Monroe (father of bluegrass) 
black spiritual music (I heard a great CD with stuff from the 30s on it at a photo shoot, but the gentleman passed away and I donít recall the name of the collection)
Stephen Foster (for the mid-1800s) 
cowboy songs like "The Strawberry Roan" (for this and other Americana folk, see
Jimi Hendrix
David Alan Coeís song "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" (it has every country-western clichť in the book, very tongue-in-cheek) 
some Navajo music, atonal to my ears, but pretty American
Benny Goodman!! (black jazz meets klez roots meets swing) 
Bob Wills!!! (black jazz meets everything western meets swing
Los Lobos
Billie Holliday
some Hollywood musical show tunes (makes me shudder, but very American)
cartoon music soundtrack


Vicki (Free) Presser 1/12/2000:

I heartily agree with votes for Louis Armstrong, who more or less invented the jazz solo, and is an indisputable icon of American music. I would choose West End Blues, whose opening bars define this new music for all first time.

I am a Billie Holiday fanatic (I wanted to be Billie Holiday when I was 15, despite the obvious discrepancies in ethnic heritage and talent), but I think that Bessie Smith needs to be included too. Iíd use Bessieís recording of "Nobody Knows You When Youíre Down and Out." For Lady Day, Iíd choose ""Tainít Nobodyís Business If I Do." Great recording, of course, but also classic American songs.

Modern Classical Music

1/13/2001 Nos: While listening to Khachaturian's Saber Dance, I started to wonder whether there was other listenable modern "classical" music. I came up with a brief list of composers. Then Bill Wollheim vastly expanded the list. Here's what we have so far. We invite your reactions:

Isaac Albeniz
Malcolm Arnold
Samuel Barber
Jack Beeson
Leonard Bernstein
Marc Blitzstein
Ernest Bloch
Max Bruch
Carlos Chavez
Aaron Copland
Claude Debussy
Frederick Delius
Paul Dukas
Edward Elgar
George Enescu
Manuel de Falla
Gabriel Faure
Gerald Finzi
Alberto Ginastera
Alexander Glazunov
Reinhold Gliere
Percy Grainger
Edvard Grieg

Ferde Grofe

Bernard Hermann

Gustav Holst

Alan Hovhaness

Jacques Ibert

Dmitri Kabelevsky

Aram Il'yich Khachaturian

Zoltan Kodaly

Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Fritz Kreisler
Constant Lambert
Ernesto Lecuona
Franz Lehar
Gian Carlo Menotti
Darius Milhaud
Federico Mompou
Ennio Moricone
Karl Orff
Astor Piazzola
Francis Poulenc
Giacomo Puccini 
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Maurice Ravel
Ottorino Respighi
Joaquin Rodrigo
Nino Rota
Jean Sibelius
Stephen Sondheim 

Max Steiner

Richard Strauss

Igor Stravinsky

Arthur Sullivan
Virgil Thomson
Joachim Turino
Heitor Villa-Lobos
Kurt Weill
Ralph Vaughan Williams

Note: I found [4-5-04: it's no longer available] to be a helpful resource.

We've relegated the following to the "anachronistic" pile: Camille Saint-Sans.

4/21/02 Critique by Stephen Lawrence: 

Your admirable modern classical list is incomplete without Krzysztof Penderecki whose opera Die Teufel Von Loudun (The Devils Of Loudon) is so striking I rushed out to buy it after hearing a short segment on the radio. His instrumental and vocal textures and atonal/melodic writing have been extremely influential. 

I was glad to see the inclusion of Marc Blitzstein, whose Regina occupied my mind exclusively for weeks after I first heard it. And Samuel Barber, same reaction for Vanessa as Blitzstein's Regina. Other listees (I may have just coined that) I love include Menotti, Korngold (certainly one of the great melody writers in any genre, Milhaud (whose La
Creation du Monde I played with the Hofstra Symphony in my college days). He appeared on campus for a week, each day struggling to the stage on his crutches and filling the Hofstra Playhouse with brilliance. (One music
professor said (jokingly I assume) that Milhaud prided himself on being the fastest pen in the west and he supposedly wrote on scrolls of paper, not sheets, and rolled them into a basket, his writing hand never stopping). 

But where is Bartok? An argument could also be made for George Crumb. Also for Schoenberg and Berg (but not by me). Finally, if Kurt Weill makes the list for his theater music (the instrumental music being all but forgotten), then one must consider that Street Scene is certainly a lesser work than Porgy And Bess, thus the case for Gershwin. And if Franz Lehar is included, then his successor on the musical time line, Jerome Kern needs consideration. 

But that starts to open up the entire world of popular theater music (although it's already been opened by Sondheim) and I guess you have to stop somewhere. Anyway, I was glad to see all or most of my personal favorites on the list.

4/22/02 Response by Bill Wollheim:

Penderecki: I would not include him in the category of "listenable" modern classical music.

Bartok: ditto. Arguably one of the 20th century's greatest composers, and some of his works (for instance the "Concerto for Orchestra") are fairly accessible, but much of his work remains abstruse and far from accessible.

I originally included Sondheim and not Gershwin because much of Sondheim's work is intentionally "classical" in its goals and forms. I'd personally take Gershwin's music over Sondheim's any day, but aside from "Porgy and Bess," almost all of his work was in popular forms.

[Later, Bill added:] Grieg's dates are 1843-1907. He probably should not be on the list of modern composers.