Monday, November 28, 2005

Strange Inoculation For Small Orchestra

I haven’t seen the Doctor since July, so it was time to pay him a visit and have him reevaluate my bag of tricks, i.e., mood enhancement delivery systems.

As we’re winding down, he throws out “You want a flu shot?”

Now I usually pass on these as I have this persistent memory of a flu shot that left me feeling like I had, well, the flu. I understand that’s how they work, but it still left me a little needle-shy.

Then he goes, “You know…you’re 50.”

Yeah, I know. So is he, as a matter of fact, which is sort of what I like about him: we can discuss the health problems common to middle aged men. And there are few things more exciting than that, let me tell you.

“And how about a pneumonia shot? Get ‘em both done while you’re here.”

Normally this sort of pressure would have chased me out of the office and down the street. Thinking about how miserable I become during my annual winter illness, though, I do something uncharacteristically mature and I agree to the shots.

The nurse comes in with both of these in their paper wrappers and gives me one in each arm, pinching my upper arm to help relieve the discomfort as she hits the plunger.

Well, that wasn’t that bad, I think.

It doesn’t take but a few hours for this familiar warmth to creep through my body. By the next morning I feel totally out of it, my arms throbbing unmercifully. I feel achy and warm throughout, as if I’m sick without actually being sick. It all lasts for three days before I feel like I’m coming out of it.

You know…you’re 50.

These are truly going to be the Golden Years.

Since the wife wanted to go to the Franklin Mills Mall yesterday (this place deserves much more space than I can provide here: stay tuned), I decided to kill time at what was left of the annual Thanksgiving Record Show here in Philadelphia.

It was the usual sort of sad affair but I ran into Shark, who was manning a table, and had him surprise the wife on the cell phone. Although she appreciated my whimsical intention, she had an armful of jeans to try on at the time so she wasn’t as amused as I’d hoped.

One side of the room was dedicated to expensive lithographs by the late Jerry Garcia, while the rest of the space was filled with the usual cardboard longboxes full of product from the Island Of Misfit CD’s, which is to say, discs nobody really wanted.

I got a book of Ramones photos for the wife, while my eye was caught by a fellow who had a box full of Sony’s Essential series, many of which looked appetizing. In the end, and strapped for cash, I settled on the one I really didn’t need, The Essential Igor Stravinsky.

I say didn’t need because one of my most prized possessions is the Complete Stravinsky set that Sony put out a while ago. Still, I enjoy collecting him on CD and vinyl if there’s something rare or noteworthy about the performance. In this case, it seemed like a fun way to have a sort of Stravinsky mix tape for work. I’d been putting off buying it mainly because of the sticker on the front that read:

Liner Notes By Trey Anastasio Of Phish.

Now I’ve got nothing against Mr. Anastasio or Phish per se. I’m sure he’s a very nice man and that Phish has its fair share of fans. But I was reminded of a series of albums that appeared in my youth that desperately attempted to lure the rock audience to classical music. These compilations were given the names Mozart’s Head, Bach’s Head, Handel’s Head, etc. and featured covers festooned with pseudo-psychedelic artwork that suggested a cross between Peter Max and the artwork for Yellow Submarine, if that isn’t redundant.

They simultaneously demeaned both the rock audience and the composer they intended to promote. And so, I found myself shying away from this latest repackaging. But given the cut rate price this guy was offering, I took the plunge.

It turns out to be a pretty neat collection, hitting as many of the high spots of a 60-year composing career as you can over two discs. There's an emphasis on shorter pieces, naturally, but it's a great place to start if you've ever been curious about his work.

And it turns out Anastasio’s contribution consists of about a page of text. The real liner notes are by one Tim Page, a Pulitzer Prize winning critic for The Washington Post who goes mysteriously unidentified on the CD’s sticker.

Which is not to say that Anastasio doesn’t have a thing or two to say on the subject. For instance, we learn that the composer was “an iconoclast,” and that Le Sacre Du Printemps is “just killer,” which I can only assume is one step removed from “awesome.”

Oh, and “Petrushka is another one I listen to a lot.”



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