Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Musical winterlude

While my feelings on this time of the year might not go as far at to list Top Ten Things I hate about Christmas like my friend and blogging idol Laura on We move to Canada, I completely concur with her #2 hated item. One of the seasonal hazards of this time of year is the ghastly “festive” muzak which is piped into all sorts of public places, especially where people are supposed to be shopping. I think it must even offend a lot of people who (sometimes) believe in or celebrate (at least some) aspects of Christmas. I suspect if serious market research were done, malls would discover that people would be happier to go and shop to almost any other soundtrack, and that a significant portion of the the shopping public actively stays away from stores at this time of year specifically because of the schlocky muzak.

This auditory drek is particularly insidious for anyone susceptible to ear worms. Even though I avoid malls and other muzak-infested spaces at this time of the year (and am very careful when I turn on the radio), even a short exposure can leave me involuntarily humming or whistling one of those goddam tunes for hours afterwards.

or many years my personal antidote to "festive" muzak has been Tom Lehrer's Christmas Carol -- his attempt to capture the true, commercial spirit of Christmas, as celebrated in North America: buy buy buy! Decades old, but like a lot of Lehrer's material, it never seems to go out of style (alas). His songs like Send the Marines and Pollution could’ve been written this year: he is reputed to have abandoned writing when they gave Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize (because “satire had become obsolete”). That story may be apocryphal, but it must’ve been depressing to have joked in the 1960s about Ronald Reagan going into politics (to huge laughter from his audience) only to live to see the bad B actor become POTUS.

Lehrer’s twisted rhymes and even more twisted humour were what I like to call a deformative influence on my childhood: many happy hours were spend listening to his albums. I even sang his Masochism Tango at a school concert at Kensington Community School, with my teacher and friend David Chong at the piano (considering the lyrics, it is difficult to imagine an elementary student or teacher getting away with such a performance today). His parodic Christmas carol also has catchy tune that was set down in my impressionable young memory as a child, so it is always effective in obliterating whatever schlocky ear-worms manage to creep in (though repeated applications are sometimes necessary by late December).

In a similar vein (though I have yet to learn the song), the incomparable 
David Rovics (who has many great songs which I recommend, on topics from Bradley Manning to the Mavi Marmara, and much more) recently sent his most new seasonal offering If I hear another Chrismas Song I think I'm gonna puke (with the note "this is not a children's song and it is not radio-friendly" but based on my personal history, I would say, 
depnds on the kids...)

(This post was originally a comment on Laura`s blog, which I then realised was worth working up into a post of my own...). I will return to other topics soon, but meanwhile let me leave you with a link to a classic Tom Lehrer playlist on Youtube -- good for what ails us at this time of year (and others).

1 comment:

  1. (This post was originally a comment on Laura blog, which I then realised was worth working up into a post of my own...)

    That's one of the great things about blogging, the ready-made soapbox. Thanks for the link. (I'm an idol!)