Dear Ms. Klein:
I saw your query posted at the Free Library music
department bulletin board. I’m not sure if my response
will count but I wanted to drop you a line regardless.
I’m an artist manager and concert promoter who just
moved to Philly. I was a journalist (general, not
music writer) before I got involved in the music
community and I also tend to think and try to
articulate concepts about the scene probably more than
is necessary to do my job (scars of a liberal arts
education, I guess). So I was curious about your study
and generally I’m trying to meet music scene people
here (for example, I joined the Philly chapter of The
I don’t really have a song, would be my first
response. I don’t think my girlfriend and I have a
song yet. I don’t think my girlfriend has a favorite
song. I’m a little hesitant to think back on whether
any of my ex’s had songs, or “we” had a song.
I like “Bemsha Swing” by Thelonius Monk. I can whistle
it pretty well and often do so. I was whistling it, a
little self-aware and deliberately, between the
library and here — our Center City apartment — while
pondering a response to your posting. Sometimes I
fantasize that someone will recognize “Bemsha Swing”
and either join me or say “Hey, that’s Monk” or
something. (In general I notice a phenomenon only
slightly less satisfying where people, deliberately or
not, will answer my whistle with their own song). I
think it would be great to meet someone, especially
someone who is of Monk’s generation or is really into
Monk, merely based on the shibboleth of our mutual
recognition of that tune.
I have a similar “survey”/”experiment” going with
“Ghost” by Albert Ayler. I read in some liner notes
that Don Cherry said it should be our national anthem.
I’ve actually mentioned to a few people (with,
admittedly, disappointing responses) that “Ghosts”
should replace “Star Spangled Banner” as the U.S.
national anthem — I’m starting a (admittedly modest
and quixotic) little grassroots campaign for it.
(Australia, I cite as precedent, changed their
national anthem to the populist “Waltzing Mathilda” in
relatively recent history). I think America should
have a national anthem written by a black man.
The closest thing to what I’m guessing you are
researching is that, still, and for 20 years, whenever
I hear “Celebrate” by Kool and Gang I think of my high
school basketball team and how we’d play that at or
after games. (We were a championship team and did
“celebrate” — the song was new then; it was 1981).
Not to rain on your parade or go to far off on a
tangent, but I think that actually and wrongly what
most people think of as songs are more accurately
“performances” meaning a particular recording of a
song drilled repeatedly into their heads by commercial
radio. I think part of someone’s association with a
song is actually more like a Pavlovian response of
recognition. I think its part of a general thesis of
mine bemoaning the pejorative effect the “music
industry” has on music, audience and society. I think
the industry unfortunately and for its own interest
props up the notion of “song” or “a single” because
it’s a convenient and successful way to market new
artists or sell units. (In contrast, for example, I
argue that more attention should be paid to an
artist’s ability to perform live, the iteration of
those skills and abilities, and less should be paid to
how popular a recorded performance becomes. I.e. I
like bands that are “good live.” I believe the key to
artist development is constant touring and not
“getting radio.” etc)
I just googled your name to realize you are a writer
and critic for the Weekly and Inquirer so I’m pleased
to be able to seek and spot now your byline.
Good luck with your phd and research. Respond as you
see fit, or ask a follow up question if you think my
responses can be useful (I’m assuming my response
might be tainted by the fact I work in the business
and am very not-naive about what I listen to and how).
dba Earthwise Productions
PO Box 60786
Palo Alto, CA 94306 & Center City
(650) 322-xxxx (defunct false lead if people are calling that still)
Another song I like is “Fat Lady of Limbourg” by Brian
Eno, as performed by my clients Doug Hilsinger and
Caroleen Beatty (Runt DBK Records, 2003) — I never
heard this song when it was new. I see in the Inquirer
(1/9/05) in a review by Dan DeLuca that a Rounder act
named Shivaree (Ambrosia Parsley) also performs that
I’d love to find a couple somewhere who’s favorite
song is “As Time Goes By” but only because
“Casablanca” is their favorite movie. Somebody should
write a hit song about Marshall McLuhan.
At the top is the Room 208 Jazz band, kindly posted to the masses by its drummer Casey Cronyn. I found three other posts video about MMW Bemsha but they were just the album version.
I guess I heard this at the TJ Kirk show in 1995 at The Cub but didn’t note the song.
And now that I think about it, Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom Light featuring her student Michael Gilbert played this at The Mitch (!) or The Pal (see also: Our Pal Mitch, Pal Joey) on October 18, 2018.
edit to add, minutes later, but still fucking early in the a.m. and annoyance to TMW: 5:55
I am thinking of — and its a red herring — Thomas Chapin the alto sax player who died 20 years ago of leukemia at age 40; he played on the early Accurate MMW set, at least one song — but to answer my own question: it would be more likely Josh Roseman than Russ Gershon playing on Bemsha Swing not on Accurate but not Blue Note either. I looked it up on Allmusic but not before bugging Russ about this; or fixing to.
andand: I also bugged Bethany, maybe. And Mary Armentrout to boot; i’m such a brat.
If I finsih my Erdrich piece, meanwhile, one to three members of my Stegner writing class will read it. I also owe the universe another 9,00o wrods about Kirsten Gillibrand the net female president of the PoTUS.