One half of Sibling Revelry, and the husband of the other half, loves coffee. That would be the half with the pen at the moment. And by “loves,” I mean that a morning without coffee looks like a black-skied, dust-blown, radioactive post-nuclear apocalyptic hellscape. This magical elixir of the gods is the sine qua non of your wayward, deadbeat blogger.

Recently, I was in blissful attendance at a They Might Be Giants concert. That’s right, sports fans, the normally high-and-mighty Sibs occasionally doff their crushed-velvet pantaloons and change into street garb to blend in with the howling masses and investigate their strange, rhythmic musical traditions. Naturally one must wear a cloak and eyepatch in order to avoid detection.

Kidding aside, I adore They Might Be Giants and have for a very long time (to which the other Sib who used to share a wall with me will attest). I remain deeply inspired by their creativity over the years; well into their third decade of making music together, they have released no less than THREE albums in the last 15 months, each brimming with their usual wonderful weirdness. But I also deeply respect their musicianship and, certainly not least, incredibly deft and inventive ability to write melody. Without those two things, just being weird for weirdness’s sake…that doesn’t have any pull with me. These guys have the ability to get inside music (of truly any genre) and do their own thing with it. It’s quite rare. It’s genius at work, friends: not only in its individual parts, but the partnership at its core. And, to use that abused adjective, unique. I’d also say REM was always true to their own unique north star, yet the fame differential between the two is vast. And REM’s creativity in later years was, I’ll humbly say, nowhere close to the Johns. Those two things are probably related. A topic for a different day. Here is a great example for the uninitiated (one of 1,000 I might have picked):

After the concert, still radioactively aglow (I mean, they played the Fingertips medley, one of my all-time favorites. Oh, you don’t know what that is? Gee, let me see if I can scare up the studio version…….)

…I was reading old interviews, and what do you know, one of the Johns of TMBG (Linnell) happens to be a great admirer of the one, the only, the original melodic genius and prolific baby-maker, Herr Johann Sebastian Bach! A man whose praises have been sung, oh, from time to time here. No surprise, there’s a TMBG connection.

Linnell mentions Bach’s so-called “Coffee Cantata,” a very interesting and famous composition. The great JSB didn’t compose any opera (raising his estimation here yet higher), but the Coffee Cantata comes pretty darn close (coming back down). It’s not rock opera, it’s Bach opera! (cue laugh track)

The complete cantata will last longer than your morning cup, however good its first or last drops, at about half an hour. In keeping with opera’s insistence on over-dramatizing everyday life, the protagonist, Aria (snicker), loves coffee but her overbearing father won’t let her drink it. Causing her to exclaim (this should really be done from a fainting couch) that lack of coffee will cause her to shrivel up like a piece of roasted goat. Neat imagery. Seriously, you couldn’t think of anything else that might shrivel? (Bach didn’t write the libretto, so we are not insulting The Master). Here it is in German, with a translation:


My favorite line is probably, “You may not go to the window and watch anyone passing by!” You people need a hobby. And yes, I did mean, “YOU PEOPLE.”

Also in keeping with opera’s simultaneous insistence on ridiculously implausible solutions to the over-dramatized problems of life and love, Aria is placated when her father has three daily cups written into her marriage contract. No mention of roast goat, sadly.

Obviously our proclivities lay far away from stilted Europeans whining in high register about preposterous, self-created culs-de-sac of puffed-up emotion. BUT. It’s Bach, and all Bach is by definition worthy. Especially on (or around) the Kapellmeister’s birthday! Here it is, in full, sung by people who have clearly practiced facial expression at home in long hours before their mirrors, mirrors, on the wall. Cool set, though.

So let’s see if all the puzzle pieces fit here. We like Bach. We like They Might Be Giants. We love coffee. They Might Be Giants are obsessed with coffee. John Linnell wants to have coffee with Bach. Bach wrote a cantata with a coffee theme. Look, it’s a litter of puppies knitting sweaters for roosters!

Or, in other words, by rocket to the moon, by airplane to the rocket, by taxi to the airport, by front door to the taxi, by throwing back the blankets, hanging down the legs…



The Reveling Sibs & Too Much Birthday

Well, as some of our multitude of followers (“There are dozens of us! DOZENS!”) may or may not know, the half of Sibling Revelry which is approximately 759 days older than the other half recently celebrated a birthday. To which all of her velveteen-pantalooned friends in the classical world gave a hearty and resounding “Huzzah!”


According to our probably infallible source, Sarah of the Janes shares a general birthday time period with such notable classical composers (and part-time professional wrestlers) as:

  • Deodat “I’d Deo Dat” de Severac!
  • Mauro Giuseppe Sergio Pantaleo “Rudy” Giuliani!
  • Andre Georges Louis “The Onslaught” Onslow!
  • And, last but not least…Wolfgang…..Amadeus……MOZART!!!!! (well, Junior. Known to his friends as Indiana or Indy.)

Now, the pipe-wielding thug descendants of the Hill Sisters may descend on us in a rage for this, but here are a couple classical and, yes, classy ways to render “Happy Birthday”! Many happy returns to my partner in unpopular publishing!

First, a moody, stirring version with theme and variation from the Kremlin’s chamber orchestra (their first album was Straight Outta Red Square):

Then Victor Borge doin’ his thing, running through a panoply of composers with impressions and pratfalls:

138 Years Young

I wonder what the weather was like on this day in March when Maurice Ravel (1875) was ushered into this world.  Fortunately there were no Ritalin-deficient meteorologists to stress his mother with tales of impending Snowquesters, treacherous driving conditions and a potential shortage of bread (horreur!) at the local grocery.  I suppose the bearer of the would-be composer simply took it all in stride.  (As we all should…but I digress.)

I very much enjoy Ravel’s music, and on his birthday I extend a sincere merci bien to him for composing “Pavane For A Dead Princess” (Pavane pour une infante defunte) in particular.  A pavane was a slow processional dance done in the royal courts of Europe. Ravel’s Pavane paid homage to his Basque lineage.  I like this violin-piano recording because it’s a touch rough around the edges, which to me enhances the solemn color. Ravel was a meticulous composer and the Pavane is a lovely example.

There’s much more I could say about M. Ravel, but brevity is the soul of blogging, so I will say adieu with these Random Fascinating Facts.  I am a big fan of Random Fascinating Facts.

~Boléro was originally titled Fandango.

~Five years after a head injury, Ravel underwent experimental (!) brain surgery.

~He was influenced by American jazz.

~He and Claude Débussy had an interesting friendship/mentorship.  In 30 Rock terms they could be described as Devon Banks and Jack Donaghy.

Happy 138th birthday, Maurice!