Ordinary Sunday Brunch: Culture Links

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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  1. Mu2: When I was a grad student the first time, doing fairly heavy math, I had what my roommate called “the math tapes.” 4/4 time, good solid beat, nothing tricky in the way of solos. The way it seemed to work for me was that I could focus enough for that to sort of fade away, leaving nothing but me and the math.

    Mu3: I agree with the theory in part of the article about getting the worrying part of your mind to shut down. I’ve been working on a science fiction novel and/or screen play in my head for decades. Revisiting the old bits or working up the imagery for the next step seems to do the job. Although I’ve sometimes thought that it works because of expectations: if I do this thing mentally, I know I’ll fall asleep.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I dare people to defend Christmas music. Especially that damned Mariah Carey song.Report

  3. Avatar fillyjonk says:

    Mu2: No mention of classical? I listen to Baroque/Classical at work, it helps me stay focused AND helps me block out the dude down the hall who has loud speakerphone calls (I have pointed out to him I can hear them but he doesn’t seem to care) or who listens to NPR news. Has to be wordless, though, or at least in a language I do not speak, or I listen to the words and don’t pay attention to my own work.

    Most of the pieces that come up in rotation are familiar to me but even those that aren’t, I’m familiar enough with the composing “conventions” of the era that there’s nothing unexpected. Unexpected things throw me off.

    As for Christmas music, I tend to prefer the LITERALLY ABOUT CHRISTMAS, as in Birth of Jesus Christ music – a lot of the old choral stuff or the things from partitas and such, I do enjoy. In the right mood I enjoy the Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole versions of some things. But a lot of the modern stuff is over-sweetened with strings and stuff, and recently, over Autotuned.

    Am not a fan of most modern Christmas music, but I like the old stuff. That said, I hit total saturation on “The Nutcracker” a couple days after Thanksgiving (which is when I start listening to Christmas music)

    Most country Christmas music is appallingly bad, as is most pop Christmas music of today. Once in a while you get a more “roots” band that can do a decent version of Silent Night but I would argue there’s been little to no good Christmas music written in the past 50 to 60 years.

    Okay. I will exempt the soundtrack from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” but that draws heavily on traditional music and is also largely wordless and played by a small jazz group. I like that one, and it’s, what, 55 years old?Report

    • Charlie Brown’s jazz undertones are wonderful. As to work music, it really depends on the type of work I am doing. I really do tend towards mood specific music.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to fillyjonk says:

      I’m right there with you about Christmas hymns versus songs.

      My first thought is, during the 1940’s they wrote some songs that I have sentimental attachment to, with some great recordings around. Big band instrumentation, crooner voices. Maybe some reference to Christmas in them as a holiday rather than a holy day. In the past 20 years or so, there have been a lot of pop stars (country pop included) who have made poor recordings of much fluffier songs. Mariah Carey’s mess obviously being a good example.

      Now, I do question my narrative though. I’m not enough of a musical historian to know the answer to this, but there may have always been secularish Christmas songs that had shelf lives of 80 years or so. We may be seeing the WW2 era songs fading away now, being replaced by the new generation’s fluff. Or maybe the cycle has always happened, but recording technology has stopped the decay-rate process, or prolonged it. I don’t know.Report

      • Avatar fillyjonk in reply to Pinky says:

        I think a big reason why I like Bing Crosby (And also Gene Autry! We had “Here Comes Santa Claus” by him on a record) is that that’s what I heard as a kid, because it’s what my parents – members of the so-called Silent Generation – had listened to in their younger years. For me, they have a certain nostalgic quality. I haven’t heard Autry’s version of “Here Comes Santa Claus” so many times yet as an adult that I have overwritten those childhood memories: I can still remember the big cheap Sears “stereo unit” we had with the record player in the living room of my childhood home, and the excitement of writing letters to Santa, and the endless anticipation (The days to Christmas seemed to go SO SLOWLY when I was a kid; they go so fast now).

        I’m sure that’s as much why I like that music as any of its own merits.

        I will say I kinda like the Sufjan Stevens versions of some of the old Christmas hymns. Yes, there’s that twee element there, and some of the singers he uses are….not that great, by objective standards….but there’s a stripped-down quality to some of the versions he does that I like; one of my big problems with “modern Christmas songs” is similar to my problem with how some singers do national anthems: they make it all about them and what they can do with their voice (or what technology can do) and less about the words and the meaning of “why are we singing this right now?”Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Nothing captures the true meaning of Christmas like Bon Jovi’s “I’m Your Backdoor Santa”.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Mu2: Classic rock because you’ve heard all of the songs so often you don’t have to pay any attention?Report

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