Archive for the ‘Non-musical context’ Category

The Globe and Mail has an article about a Canadian TV show called Battle of the Blades, which I gather is like one of those silly dance-competition reality shows, but, with skating. Who cares? Well, I only know about it because of this:

On a recent show, one duo performed a routine to the music of the White Stripes’ version of St. James Infirmary . It was devastatingly good – a remarkable dance dramatization of the great blues song. “I went down to St. James Infirmary/ Saw my baby there/ Set down on a long white table/ So sweet, so cold, so fair.” The performance was chilling.

Sadly, there is no video.

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I went down to St. James Infirmary
60 people were waiting there
It was 8 AM in the morning
And we barely had the cab fare

First they handed me a pile of papers
The first page was easy to do
It said who is your health insurer
I wrote ‘none’ and turned to page two

All the same old questions
I answered 20 times before
Did they ever hear of computers?
This is what they were invented for ..

Full lyrics and the actual song — which has a good sound, too — are here, at the site of Polarity/1, the musicians responsible.

I think this is a fantastic development. Truly inspired. Via Danny Schechter News Dissector.

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This blog has a curious entry consisting of two quotes, one from Philip Roth, and one from Jean Birnbaum, dealing with mortality; and a video of Louis Armstrong performing “SJI.” Interesting juxtaposition. Rather than reproduce the entire entry, I’ll just link to it, and let you draw your own conclusions.

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One place I tend not to expect to come across references to “SJI” is on the Freakonomics blog — particularly when they are making a point about something on the public-radio show Marketplace.

But here’s the deal. Marketplace recently changed the background music it plays when summarizing the day’s stock-market figures: They switched to a different version of “We’re In The Money” (aka “The Gold Diggers Song”)  a piece actually written during the Great Depression. Previously, the version they used was upbeat. Now it’s slow and bluesy, a change that apparently is meant to  be more in-step with our economic times.

Freakonomics, setting aside its usual focus on, economics, money, and psychology, pivots to music critic mode and opines that the new rendition is “eerily reminiscent of ‘St. James Infirmary.'”

Decide for yourself if they have a point by listening a clip of the new version, performed by Joe Mattzie, here. You’ll also find clips of the prior version, as well as tunes the show plays on days when the market is down. (And: Here is the Marketplace piece explaining the switch, and that song’s history.)

As for what it might say about the economic zeitgeist if a business show is playing a tune “eerily reminiscent” of “SJI” while sharing news that the Dow is up … well, I’ll let you decide that for yourself, too.

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This past December somebody wrote to me about an in-the-works new animation of “SJI,” to serve as a video for a performance of the tune by the present lineup of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I haven’t heard anything about that since, but this appears to be a frame from that project, which I guess is still in the works. Looking forward to seeing it some day!

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From the site of Willamette Radio Workshop:

Willamette Radio Workshop is looking for original scripts for the 2009 Halloween show …  The show will be 2 one-hour programs made up of about 8 original scripts all in some way inspired by the blues/jazz classic “St. James Infirmary Blues.”

No script should be longer than 15 minutes. .. WRW is looking for pieces that are scary, suspenseful, eerie, haunting or otherwise Halloween appropriate. ER meets the X-Files meets EC Comics is how Sam sees the format. We would like first-draft scripts submitted by June 30, 2009.

More details here.

Sounds cool to me, and I hope at the very least to find a way to hear it, come Halloween. I wish I had more time in the interim, maybe I’d take a shot at a script myself. Well, probably I’d just think about it. But perhaps you’re less lazy than me. Give it a shot, or tell a friend to, and let me know if you end up getting involved.

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Way back in June 2007, I mentioned having heard of a play called “St. James Infirmary,” written by Brian Tucker and due to be produced in Chicago. I was so curious about this I actually tried to attempt Mr. Tucker, but to no avail.

In any event, the play has now made its debut.

Here is what I believe to be the site of a Chicago TV station, describing the play:

Welcome to the St. James Infirmary, a nightclub world inhabited by gamblers, prizefighters and femme fatales. The music is hot, the drinks are cold, and the stakes are high. And when a mysterious stranger comes to call, all bets are off. It’s a mythic world created by playwright Brian Tucker

And here is a somewhat more extended plot summation folded into a not-very-positive review, from the Chicago Tribune.

Based on these bits, I would guess that the relationship between the play and the song is fairly tentative — atmospheric inspiration, would be my guess, for what the tune provided the author. But I don’t think this sounds like any attempt to  dramatize the “SJI” story, or even its themes.

As before: Anybody in Chicago who sees this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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