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Category: Music Life

Poor Old Me

What am I anyway? A hair on the left hindleg of a microscopic mite, a single speck of plankton in an ocean upwelling fifteen miles long. No one, niemand, nada, nichts. Yes folks, welcome to my own private pity party, a regular nobody-likes-me-I-guess-I’ll-go-eat worms affair. Ach Rebeccah, why so glum? Dunno. Maybe it’s the birthday blues 71 days too early. Maybe it’s the eve of a Berlin winter, when it’s already dusk at 4:30 in the afternoon, when sleet and ice and snow are a daily affair, when the sun disappears behind an unmoving blanket of gray and won’t come back…

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Harry Nilsson, Where Have You Been All My Life?

I’m not one of those people who needs silence to concentrate. The opposite is true: I need sound, I need music. As I write this post I’m at Hallesches Haus, digging the commotion around me while I listen to my playlists on Spotify with my red Bowers & Wilkens earphones, a Christmas present from my husband last year and so much better than those cheap earbuds I used for years and years and years. Depending on my mood, the music I listen to ranges from Lou Reed to Pergelosi’s Stabat Mater, Stacey Kent to a Tribe Called Quest, Bill Evans…

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Motherless Child

No song can make me weep as much as the spirtual Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. Why is that? My mother is still alive and well, though she’s always been more of a peer and a pal than someone who fits the bill of the great mother archetype. True, I am a long-time expat—I am and will always be part alien here, an eternal Ausländer—but in many ways I feel more at “home” in Berlin than I ever did in California. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home When I listen to this song it’s like…

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Vladimir, Ya tebya lyublyu

In men, the physical type I’m most attracted to is what they call a Kerl in German. Not too pretty, not too tall; tough and stoic, but emotionally explosive underneath. Harvey Keitel in The Piano; Gabriel Byrne in Miller’s Crossing; Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West. I’ve never actually been involved with this type of man in real life—personality wise, I doubt we’d be compatible—but in movies they still make me weak in the knees. The hottest of the silver screen Kerls? Hands down, the Russian actor and singer Vladimir Vysotsky. Check out this video from 1974, the…

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What I’m listening to today

  These days I have work coming out of my ears, though most of it isn’t particularly interesting. But that’s what I love about being freelance: these crazy rushes where I put in ten hour days, my brain at the end a nearly liquified mass and later weeks of not much else to do other than twiddle my thumbs. Unfortunately this work rush is keeping me from doing the writing I actually want to do, but at least I can freely choose my soundtrack. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve listening to today to get me through what I gotta…

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The Class of Classical

No lie: The first time I really fell in love with a piece of classical music was on an episode of The Twilight Zone. The story had something to do with a couple in 19th century dress living in a doll house and someone watching them from outside—I don’t remember the exact details. But I do remember the music. At the beginning and end of the episode, the woman in the dollhouse sat at the piano and played the song in the video above—Mozart’s sonata KV331, though I didn’t know it at the time—accompanied by Rod Serling’s voiceover. The music…

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What I’m Listening To Today

These days Berlin is proving once again that summer is an optional season: gray skies, wind and rain that won’t let up. I hope summer’s back by the time we head to the Baltic Sea at the end of the week. In the meantime, I have to finish the world’s most boring translation. Here’s what I’m listening to while I concentrate on wooden, academic sentences:

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The Genius of Georg Kreisler

If things had worked out differently, Georg Kreisler might have written the bulk of his satricial songs in English. An Austrian Jew, Kreisler fled Vienna in 1938. He became a US citizen in 1943 and worked on movies with Charlie Chaplin after the war. But he couldn’t find his audience. In 1947, he was rejected by the record labels, his songs  dubbed “un-American.” Listen to this example and you’ll see why his songs might have been a little over the top on the black humor side for a 1940s American audience: In 1955, Kreisler returned to Europe where he spent…

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Music And What It Means To Me: Words

When I’m speaking German, sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a sentence and suddenly I’m lost in the fog. Words disappear, adjectives smash into nouns. When this happens, I’m sure my Gegenüber assumes it’s because I’m not a native speaker. Little do they know the same thing sometimes happens to me in English. It’s like my mind is an ocean and words are fish; sometimes they jump eagerly into the nets. Other times they refuse to come to the surface. When I insist, they thrash about, causing me trouble. That why I love music: it never has to go to…

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