Category Archives: Mass media

“Scrubs” musical fantasies

Despite its hackneyed premise—a group of medical students trying to get ahead in the competitive hospital environment—the television series Scrubs had something special: a judicious selection of accompanying music.

Sometimes the choice was linked to the musical biographies of the prominent figures, and other times the lyrics referred directly or indirectly to the development of the plot, to particular events, or to important characters. The frequent fantasies involving the main character, Dr. John Dorian, are riddled with emblematic musical references to the pop–rock music of the last 60 years, offering a rich and representative sample of what the last three generations were listening to.

This according to “La inserción del número musical en las series de televisión: El papel de la música en Scrubs” by Judith Helvia García Martín (Cuadernos de etnomusicología 3 [marzo 2003] pp. 204–19).

Above and below, a fantasy sequence involving James Brown’s The payback.

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Filed under Humor, Mass media, Popular music

Mallarmé and dance

Mallarmé_(Manet)

Although Stéphane Mallarmé’s writings on dance are few, he has come to be considered an important dance theorist who allied and underscored two aspects of dance that are seldom simultaneously emphasized: its ritual character and its function as a system of signs.

While Mallarmé linked dance with poetry, he noted that—unlike poetry—dance’s symbolism does not develop from a codified semiotic system; rather, dance signifiers are inherently open-ended, and the spectator completes the art work by supplying the signified.

This according to “Ephemeral signs: Apprehending the idea through poetry and dance” by Mary Lewis Shaw (Dance research journal XX/1 [summer 1988] pp. 3–9).

Above, Édouard Manet’s portrait of the poet; below, perhaps the ultimate meeting of Mallarmé and dance, as Rudolf Nureyev performs a reconstruction of Nijinsky’s choreography for Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, a work inspired by Mallarmé’s L’après-midi d’un faune.

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Filed under Dance, Mass media

The day Herrmann’s score stood still

Bernard Herrmann’s score for Robert Wise’s The day the earth stood still (1950) is widely celebrated among film historians, and its use of theremins and other electronic instruments makes it the first large-scale electronic music composition in history.

Three considerations explain the perceived suspension of motion in the film’s opening title sequence: nullification of harmonic progress through polytonality, nullification of rhythmic pulse through polyrhythms, and  nullification of acoustical interaction through the use of electronic instruments and tape manipulations.

This accordting to “Suspended motion in the title scene from The day the earth stood still” by Stephen Husarik, an essay included in Sounds of the future: Essays on music in science fiction film (Jefferson: McFarland, 2010). Below, a colorized version of the sequence in question.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Mass media

Korla Pandit’s universals

The son of an Indian Brahman and a French singer, Korla Pandit (born John Roland Redd, 1921–98) performed on Hammond organ and piano on Los Angeles television three times a week from 1949 to 1951. In every program he wore a suit and tie and a bejewelled turban, and he never spoke.

While he fulfilled, perpetrated, and even helped to form stereotypes of the mystical, exotic, Indian Other, Pandit interpreted and manipulated these notions to assert his ideas and beliefs about the essential union of East and West and the universality of spiritual experience.

This according to “Korla Pandit: Music, exoticism, and mysticism” by Timothy D. Taylor, an essay included in Widening the horizon: Exoticism in post-war popular music (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999). Above, Pandit with Parmahansa Yogananda, a fellow universalist; below, a 1951 performance of one of his trademark pieces, the traditional Greek song Μισιρλού (Misirlou).

BONUS: A classic surf-rock performance of the same piece by Dick Dale & the Del-Tones:

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Filed under Curiosities, Mass media, Popular music