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Humor: May 2008 Archives

Funeral Music


Songs in the key of death

Edward Wickham on how modern tastes in funeral music owe it all to a medieval composer who went out in style
Guardian UK

Even if it is an urban myth, it deserves retelling. A bereaved family requested Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody for their loved one's funeral service. A CD was duly played, but the organist allowed it to run on to the next track: Another One Bites the Dust. This is up there with another, perhaps mythical, occasion when an organist misinterpreted a couple's request for "the theme tune from Robin Hood" and, instead of playing Bryan Adams's (Everything I Do) I Do It for You from the Kevin Costner film, launched into this bracing lyric from another era: "Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen."

Choice of funeral music dates us just as surely as clothes or what children's programmes you remember with affection. One of the UK's current favourites, according to a recent survey, is Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. The well-balanced funeral or memorial service will, of course, provide an opportunity for both celebration and seriousness: there is a place for Monty Python and Monteverdi. And the best composers of funeral music can turn on a sixpence. Purcell's apparently simple Funeral Sentences masterfully moves from melancholy to hope in just a couple of chord changes.

Read more about this at The Guardian website:,,2282432,00.html

Learning To Be An Elitist

Snob Ven Diagram

How to be a classic snob

Learning the tricks behind having a snotty attitude about orchestral music.

By Joel Stein
Los Angeles Times

Afew years ago, I began working toward my retirement goal of being an intolerable old man. I'm way ahead of schedule on knowing enough about wine to bore anyone, but classical music has proved much more difficult, largely because no matter how much you listen, it does not get you drunk.

But because my cultural 401(k) depends on being able to cite conductors, orchestras and recording years, I called David Moore, a bassist for the L.A. Philharmonic, and asked him to get me on the road to insufferability. Moore met me at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and said that, like me, he got into classical music late – in his case at USC, where he started out majoring in jazz, which he discovered by getting into guitar solos in Rush and Iron Maiden songs. New York is the center of high culture because its orchestra members keep these kinds of things secret.

Read more about this at the L.A. Times website:,0,1045111.column

Are Robots the Future of Conducting?

Honda's Asimo Robot

DSO led by robot maestro

Asimo nails waltz with lifelike skill

By Mark Stryker
Detroit Free Press

If this keeps up Leonard Slatkin, the new music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, might be out of a job before he starts his tenure.

Asimo, Honda's humanoid robot, made its conducting debut Tuesday at Orchestra Hall, leading the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in "The Impossible Dream" of Broadway fame.

Let's say right away that the display was a technological marvel and as cool as all get-out. But it was conducting in only the most limited definition. In other words, Slatkin's job is safe, and Asimo shouldn't quit its day gig.

Which is not to pooh-pooh the achievement. Asimo – which stands 4-foot-3, weighs 119 pounds and favors a white jump suit rather than black tie – walked confidently on stage, waved and said in a high chirp, "Hello, everyone!"

An engineer cued Asimo wirelessly. It lifted its arms and gave the downbeat, conducting waltz time with fluid, lifelike gestures. It deliberately slowed down for the big finish, shifting into 6/8 time and ending with a dramatic held note. Bravo!

Read more about this at the Detroit Free Press website: