Thursday, February 28, 2008
It's Frank's World (We Just Live in It)
I'm grading my Music 101 class's first exam. In the last question, I asked them to name the piece heard so far this semester that they most enjoyed. For about eighty percent, it was Frank Sinatra's 1955 recording of "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" (some of the music they've heard so far includes Gregorian chant, flamenco, Yiddish ballads, chain-gang songs recorded in Georgia in the 1920's, Benny Goodman playing "Body and Soul," songs from Elizabeth Mitchell's album You Are My Little Bird, and excerpts from Die Zauberflöte). One student, a young man from Ghana, preferred the Kurt Elling version of "In the Wee Small Hours," writing (quite movingly) that Elling's "take on the song is filled with verisimilitude as he uses elements of silence, rubato, and deep emotion to portray the realism that I believe the song calls for . . . . For a moment, I felt as if I were the singer, and that I too was longing for my beloved to come back in the wee small hours." Another student's preferred class selection was "Sylvie" by Leadbelly, because, as he put it, "the blues is the backbone of rock, which is my favorite type of music." He closed his essay with what I took to be instructions to myself: "Rock on."