Monthly Archives: December 2011

List of Acceptable Christmas Music

I’ll probably submit this to Wikipedia.

1. Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas

I don’t think we give Sufjan nearly enough credit in general, but certainly we should all be bowing down on our knees when December 25 comes around.  Simply put: Sufjan saved Christmas music.  All of it.  All of the familiar carols and songs, the trite lyrics, the pat harmonies.  He redeemed them, re-invented, and glorified them.  And all it took was a banjo and some oboes.

He also wrote some great new classics from scratch:

2. Tomás Luis de Victoria, O Magnum Mysterium

3. Gian Carlo Menotti, Amahl and the Night Visitors

This is likely the best thing Menotti ever wrote.  Pieces like The Medium and The Telephone have so many silly melodramatic moments and text-setting gaffs that they just don’t hold together.  Amahl is simple and tunely, contains a musical setting of the line “This is my box. This is my box. I never travel without my box,” and always makes me cry right here:

4. In Dulci Jubilo

I love the tune, and I love the back and forth between Latin and Olde English.  I love how “show” is spelled “shew”.

5. Alfred Schnittke’s “Stille Nacht

6. John Adams’ El Niño

7. “Glory to God” by Yours Truly

You didn’t seriously think I would leave this out, did you?

8. Benjamin Britten, A Ceremony of Carols


– “Silver and Gold” as sung by Burl Ives on the original Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer soundtrack

– The Vince Guaraldi Christmas Album

– The Little Drummer Boy

– “The Eight Days of Christmas” by Destiny’s Child

Specifically unacceptable:

– Morten Lauridson, O Magnum Mysterium

– This:

– And everything it represents.

– Everything else not specifically on one of the above lists.

Am I missing anything?

Accept No Imposters

I just want to clear up any understandable confusion that may have arisen over the following video:

Though lyrically I may be “untouchable” and “uncrushable”, and though I do fancy myself quite the “dapper chap”, I fear to say that “ho-slapper” is NOT in my job description.  Alas folks, the author of this video is a different William White.  And given my homonym’s guarantee to be here “till the end of the age of Pisces and beyond,” I thought it best to clear up the confusion right now.

Many thanks to AG for bringing this to my attention.

In other news, this list is one of the sillier things I’ve come across, well, ever.

Pedro & Filmic Anesthetia

If you happen to have read this blog in the past few months, you know that I’ve been chomping at the bits finally to see The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito), the newest feature by the great Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar.  So did I see it?  Yes, when it FINALLY opened a few weeks ago in ‘my part of the country’ after its May premiere in Europe.  So why have I remained mute about it?  Well, it’s like this: after I saw it, the only thing I could think was, “I need to see that again.”

La piel had a strange effect on me.  Though it runs for 117 minutes, when the credits rolled, I couldn’t believe that I had just finished watching an entire feature film.  I’m hard pressed to say why.  It’s not like the pace of the narrative was dizzying or frantic.  In fact, when it was over, I had the distinct sense that there were many fewer twists and turns than in a lot of Almodóvar’s plots.

But upon further reflection, I don’t think that’s quite right.  The central plot of the film resolves into one stupendous twist so spectacular that it obfuscates many smaller revelations and surprises along the way.  But that largest of revelations comes about late in the game, and it feels slow to arrive.  Maybe the issue is that the film’s tone is so austere that we aren’t as invested emotionally in the plot’s unraveling.

But this is where it gets really tricky, because I would never say that this movie is “cold”.  It’s not.  It’s got plenty of deep, complex emotions (though no humor to speak of, a major departure for Almodóvar.)  And yet, when the movie was over, I felt numb, like I was coming out of a haze.  There’s something about this film that anesthetizes the viewer to its own content, and I can’t pinpoint what it is.  Nor do I think this is a miscalculation.  Much to the contrary, I think this is exactly what Pedro was after.

And now I’m chomping at the bits to see it again, but it only played for one lousy week in Cincinnati.  Jehovah only knows when it’s coming out on DVD.

Thankfully, the score is out on iTunes, and, as we’ve come to expect from Alberto Iglesias, it’s a humdinger.  Iglesias’ talents are simply amazing.  I don’t know how he manages to match Almodóvar tone for tone in all of his movies, though, when I think about it, maybe it’s not that hard — Almodóvar might be the most “musical” of all film directors.  The emotional landscapes he chooses to explore are the very interstitial places that are usually accessible to harmony alone.

But no, Alberto Iglesias is really pretty amazing.

ps. I just found out that Dan Tepfer, who I’m mildly obsessed with because of his exquisite work on the new Bach Goldberg Variations/Variations album (which you should all buy and listen to immediately), wrote his second ever blog post on The Skin I Live In.  It may be time to change that ‘mildly’ to ‘intensely’.  I’ll try to keep it short of ‘unhealthily’.