No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Frank J. Oteri

I should probably make my point about how a great poem can be made even greater through a sensitive musical setting with something in a language that everyone reading this blogpost can understand, so for that I’ll point you all to a fabulously creepy 1950 poem about a visit to the poet Ezra Pound in an insane asylum by the great American poet by Elizabeth Bishop called “Visits to St. Elizabeth’s.” A mere seven years later it was set to music by one of the most prolific art song composers of all time—Ned Rorem (b. 1923).




 |  Frank J. Oteri

The first song I want to feature here is a performance by a solo performer where music, words, singing, and instrumental accompaniment come together as a unified totality. It’s not quite as old as the Hurrian Hymn or the chivalric serenades of the Troubadours, though it’s from a few generations before the people we immediately call to mind when we think of singer-songwriters. “Sugar Baby,” recorded on March 9, 1927, was one of the earliest recordings of American country music.




 |  Naomi Louisa O'Connell

Listen to how Ann Murray slims that fabulous instrument of hers down to its shining kernel! This is a stunning performance by two fearless, genuine artists. I chose this song because I have learned from my husband that even in the most trying and desperate of times, one must be able to find some small particle of positivity. So, between the screeching of Trump headlines and the next letter to your senator, here’s a little something that is beautiful and timeless.




 |  Naomi Louisa O'Connell

Steve first introduced me to the music of Randy Newman with the song Dayton Ohio, 1903 in the NYFOS ‘Roadtrip’ program and I have been a huge fan ever since. This song, written in the early 70s, is one of favorites. It pulls no punches. At a 2011 concert in London, Randy said about this song: “Funny how people don’t laugh at [it] anymore. We’re not actually that crazy. Not quite.”




 |  Steven Blier

William Bolcom is my musical godfather. I’ve known him since the late 1970s—Alvin Epstein introduced us after one of their Tully Hall concerts. When I met Bill’s wife Joan Morris I said, “Oh you were so wonderful this evening—but I am sure you must be tired of hearing that from everyone.” And she said, “Oh, actually…no. Try me.” We bonded instantly.




 |  Steven Blier

I couldn’t do a week of American song blogs without featuring my friend John Musto. I first heard him at a memorial concert for Paul Jacobs, who had been my piano teacher for a little while. John was playing a duo-piano piece (Schubert, I think) that night. Both guys played beautifully, but there was something special in John’s sound and phrasing that resonated in my soul. I struck up a conversation with him at the party afterwards, and we soon became friends and colleagues. We’re both dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers, and somehow the contrasts in our personalities helped to forge a bond between us.




 |  Steven Blier

Gabriel Kahane is one of my favorite contemporary songwriters. He sprang to prominence with an early piece, “Craigslistlieder,” a brash, hilarious, and sophisticated song cycle based on internet postings. Gabe has a unique way of melding popular and classical styles, cross-breeding German art song and 90s power ballads, Fauré and Beatles, Stravinsky and Radiohead into something uniquely his own.