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  • Michael Krakovskiy 7:35 am on August 3, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 88.3 WBGO, , Billie Holiday, Book:Billie Holiday, , , Diana Krall, Ella Fitzgerald, , iTunes store, Jazz, Lady Day, Lew Brown, Louis Brownstein, , , , , singer, The Jazz Singers, , , velvet-voiced announcer   

    Use and Usability 

    I was in my car today, listening to 88.3 WBGO Newark, the local jazz station. They played a song that I’ve never heard before. I instantly recognized the singer as Billie Holiday, but forgot the name of the album that the velvet-voiced announcer mentioned after the song.

    When I came home, I remembered reading about a website that supposedly allows you to find the name of the song and the album that you’ve heard on the radio. Unfortunately, I could not remember the name of the website, and a Google search of a couple of minutes turned fruitless. The idea of such a service always seems ridiculously useless to me, and even now when I actually had a chance to use it, it proved much simpler to just go to WBGO’s website and look it up there.

    The song turned out to be “Comes Love”, a beautifully formulaic jazz standard. The lyrics tell you about the solvable problems and the one that isn’t.

    Comes a rainstorm, put your rubbers on your feet;
    Comes a snowstorm, you can get a little heat —
    Comes love, nothing can be done.

    Comes a fire, then you know just what to do;
    Blow a tire, you can buy another shoe —
    Comes love, nothing can be done.

    Oh, don’t try hiding, ’cause there isn’t any use
    You’ll start sliding when your heart turns on the juice.

    Comes a headache, you can lose it in a day;
    Comes a toothache, see your dentist right away —
    Comes love, nothing can be done.

    Comes a heat wave, you can hurry to the shore
    Comes a summons, you can hide behind a door —
    Comes love, nothing can be done.

    Comes the measles you can quarantine a room;
    Comes the mousy, you can chase it with a broom —
    Comes love, nothing can be done.

    That’s all brother, if you’ve ever been in love;
    That’s all brother, you know what I’m speaking of.

    Comes nightmare, you can always stay awake;
    Comes depression, you may catch another break —
    Comes love, nothing can be done.

    For some weird reason this reminded me of the horror of learning about computational theory and the Church–Turing thesis. Anyway, the song resonated with me somehow. Maybe it’s because the author of this song was Lew Brown of The Bronx, who turns out to be a former resident of Odessa, Ukraine known then as Louis Brownstein.

    More importantly, the song was performed by one of the three best female jazz singers of all time, Billie Holiday. The the other two are Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, of course. The three of them generally are not considered equal. Fitzgerald is usually considered to be first, Holiday – second and Vaughan – third. Vaughan has the most beautiful and technically powerful voice, spanning from soprano to baritone. Holiday’s voice was not nearly as spectacular, and downright limited compared to Vaughan’s. But it had way, way more emotion and darkness. Ella Fitzgerald’s voice has both the range and technical perfection, as well as the deepness of emotion. She’s like a hybrid of the other two.

    I, personally like Sarah Vaughan the best, followed by Billie Holiday. Vaughan’s voice makes me feel oh so good, and Holiday’s – so bad that it’s actually good. The way Billie Holiday sang “nothing can be done” totally made this song special for me. If there’s one person that knows about things about which “nothing can be done” – it’s Billie.

    But I was wondering what the same song would sound like covered by Fitzgerald and Vaughan. Finally, a reason to buy something on iTunes, I thought, as three 99 cent songs makes more sense than three ten dollar cds, even when faced with the perspective of DRM limitations.

    “An unknown error occurred (5002)” says iTunes store. Google search says – “nothing can be done”.

    Update: iTunes relented and let me buy the songs. The contrast of the three renditions is exactly what I expected. The clarity and cleanliness of Lady Ella’s phrasing, the sexiness and faultless execution by Sassy (although a little spoiled by questionable orchestral arrangement) and the deep, desperate and dark emotional abyss of Lady Day’s voice, the ultimate finality in the words “nothing can be done.” Too bad I could not find a version by Diana Krall or Marilyn Maye.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:04 am on May 10, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Adolf A. Weinman, , , , Audrey Munson, , Civic Fame Municipal Building, Cosmo-Slotnick Building, , , Heads of government of the Soviet Union, Henry Cameron, Henry Cameron's Dana Building, , , , metal girders, , , , , , , Palace of the Soviets, , , singer, , , steel plate, , , ,   

    Civic Fame 

    Municipal Building in Manhattan is said to be the one that directly influenced Soviet architecture because Stalin really liked its look. What was called “City Beautiful” style in America in 1880s, with some alterations became known as Stalin’s Empire, Stalinist Baroque, Socialist Classicism and simply as Mustachioed One’s Wedding Cakes. In fact there are 7 buildings in Moscow that look very much like it.

    These 7 sisters, as the buildings are known are shrouded in legend. I’ve heard that because of the lack of metal girders their walls are tremendously thick at the bottom. I’ve heard that they go down into the ground as far as they go into the sky, that there are old explosive self-destruct charges left over in some of them, that there is a huge monument to Stalin stored in one of the huge cellars. I’ve heard that the super secret “Metro 2”, the secret subway running underneath them.

    It’s very ironic that Stalin picked this very American, capitalist style for his favorite buildings. Even more ironic is the way that the Objectivists lead by Ayn Rand picked an art aestetic art aestetic very similar to socialist realism, maybe with a little more art deco thrown in.

    There is a common theme that runs through Ayn Rand’s life and work – grand ideas and ideals not realized. Rand herself, was so obsessed with capital and investement, yet never invested much of her money. She opposed government monetary control, yet supported Objectivist #2 – Alan Greenspan himself.

    Rand’s work is full of references to things that never came to life. In “Fountainhead”, Roark’s boss, Henry Cameron, has a blueprint of an unbuilt skyscraper on his wall. Also in that book, there’s the statue of “Industry” that never went in to the lobby of the fictional Cosmo-Slotnick Building, described as “.. a slender naked body of a man who looked as if he could break through the steel plate of a battleship …”.

    I am endlessly fascinated with ghostly architecture. There’s a special space in my mind’s eye for ghost structures. The fictional ones, like Henry Cameron’s Dana Building. The destroyed ones – the World Trade Center, the Singer Building, the old Penn Station, the Zeppelin mooring tower on top of the Empire State Building, and many more. And the ones that were never built – like the 8th Stalinist sister, the Palace of the Soviets, with a gigantic statue of Lenin so big and so high up top, that it needs shortened legs and torso to preserve the perspective.

    The very real Municipal Building also has a giant statue on its top. While not as huge as the Lenin one, still, in New York it’s only second to the Statue of Liberty in size. The statue by Adolf A. Weinman is called “Civic Fame”. She battled wind, rain, snow and smog for almost a hundred years now. Her hand dropped through a skylight in a cafeteria on 26th floor in ’36 and had to be repaired, and in ’91 she took a helicopter ride up and down for cleaning and further restorations.

    The model for “Civic Fame”, Audrey Munson, had an even harder and more intense life. At the turn of the century she was a supermodel for sculptors and painters. In some sense that yielded a much more permanent record of her than most of today’s supermodels will enjoy as there are literally dozens of important sculptures of her in New York City and around the world bearing her likeness. When the movies came about, she became an actress and entered history books as the first known woman to star in a movie naked. Well, tastefully, as an artist’s model.

    There’s a book about her life, the Wikipedia article, this woman had the most unusual and tragic life. From the height of fame, through the court case involving a doctor who killed his wife to be with her, to financial destitution and into the mental asylum at 39 where she died at the age of 104 (!).

    I wonder what she felt like standing in front of the Municipal building, knowing that it was her at the very top, with a shield and a crown.

    The city website says that the crown has some dolphins on it, but even with this magnification I can’t see them.

    All I know is, now I just have to find as many instances of Audrey Munson in New York City’s buildings and museums. That will be an interesting photographic project. I wonder if it’s her on the Eastern Airlines Building mural.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 2:51 am on August 23, 2002 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Pure Jazz, Satellite radio, singer, Sirius, ,   

    Marilyn Maye 

    You know what provides perfect music for coding? Sirius satellite radio. Just click on “play now” – and bam – 100 commercial free streaming radio stations. The “Pure Jazz” station is awesome! It’s all free for now and Sirius seems to have financial difficulties.. I hope they survive. I am even considering subscribing.

    Just heard an absolutely amazing singer I didn’t know about, Marilyn Maye. Just for the song “Washington Square” I am going to buy a whole cd of her music, “Meet Marvelous Marilyn Maye”. Mmmm.

    By the way, at least two of my coworkers did not know what “Sirius” meant and why their logo is a dog. Strange..

    Ok, break over, back to coding.

     
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