Favorite Music [archived]

  • Classical
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - Partita in D minor for solo violin BWV 1004 (1708)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048 (1721)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 (1722)
  • • Prelude No. 1 in C Major
  • • Prelude No. 3 in C sharp Major
  • • Fugue No. 4 in C sharp Minor
  • • Prelude No. 5 in D Major
  • • Prelude No. 6 in D Minor
  • • Prelude No. 12 in F Minor
  • • Fugue No. 22 in B Flat Minor
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (1727)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - Mass in B minor BWV 232 (1749)
  • Joseph Haydn - The Op. 33 String Quartets (1781)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major (1785)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (1786)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Le nozze di Figaro (1786)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Symphony No. 41 in C major (1788)
  • Joseph Haydn - Symphony No. 101 (1794)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, op.27 no.2 "Quasi una fantasia", Op. 27 (1801)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 (1808)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
  • Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 d-moll op. 125 (1824)
  • Hector Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique (1830)
  • Frédéric Chopin - Nocturnes (1827 - 1846)
  • Frédéric Chopin - Preludes (1839 - 1841)
  • Felix Mendelssohn - A Midsummer Night's Dream (1842)
  • Giuseppe Verdi - Il trovatore (1853)
  • Giuseppe Verdi - La traviata (1853)
  • Richard Wagner - Tristan Und Isolde (1859)
  • Giuseppe Verdi - Aida (1871)
  • Giuseppe Verdi - Otello (1887)
  • Johannes Brahms - Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 (1884)
  • Antonín Dvořák - The Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World", Op. 95, B. 178 (1893)
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - The Nutcracker (1892)
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Pathétique, Op. 74 (1893)
  • Giacomo Puccini - La bohème (1896)
  • Richard Strauss - Don Quixote (1897)
  • Giacomo Puccini - Tosca (1900)
  • Giacomo Puccini - Madame Butterfly (1904)
  • Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 5 (1902)
  • Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 9 in D major (1909)
  • Igor Stravinsky - Le sacre du printemps (1913)

  • Hip-Hop
  • DJ Shadow - Endtroducing... (1996)
  • Jay-Z - The Black Album (2003)
  • Kanye West - The College Dropout (2004)
  • Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (2006)
  • Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III (2008)
  • The Roots - How I Got Over (2010)
  • A$AP Rocky - Live. Love. A$AP (2001)

  • Jazz
  • Duke Ellington - Ellington at Newport (1956)
  • Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners (1957)
  • Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers - Moanin' (1958)
  • Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else (1958)
  • Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959)
  • Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959)
  • John Coltrane - Impressions (1963)
  • Charles Mingus - The Black Saint & the Sinner Lady (1963)
  • Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch! (1964)
  • Albert Ayler - Spiritual Unity (1965)
  • Horace Silver Quintet - Song for my Father (1965)
  • John Coltrane - A Love Supreme (1965)
  • John Coltrane - Ascension (1965)
  • Cecil Taylor - Unit Structures (1966)
  • The Tony Williams Lifetime - Emergency! (1969)
  • Keith Jarret - The Köln Concert (1975)

  • Rock
  • Bob Dylan - Highway 61... Revisited (1965)
  • The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
  • Van Morrison - Astral Weeks (1968)
  • The Beatles - Abbey Road (1969)
  • The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street (1972)
  • Television - Marquee Moon (1977)
  • The Clash - London Calling (1979)

  • Other
  • Elmore James - Blues After Hours (1961)
  • Albert King - Born Under A Bad Sign (1967)
  • Buddy Guy - A Man & the Blues (1968)
  • Sly & the Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' On (1971)
  • Al Green - Call Me (1973)
  • The Indestructible Beat of Soweto (1986)

  • Collections
  • Louis Armstrong - Hot Fives & Seven
  • The Essential Charlie Parker
  • Ken Burns Jazz: Billie Holiday
  • The Very Best of Ray Charles
  • B.B. King - The Ultimate Collection
Author Comments: 

First submitted 6/08/2009
Last updated 5/31/2013

What do you think of Acknowledgment off Love Supreme? I've always felt it's significantly weaker than the other tracks. My favourites are Track 2 & 3, though Psalm is great as well. I think Kind of Blue is my favourite jazz album at this point. Nice to see a list from you Mighty Marquee!

My favorite is hands down Pursuance/Psalm; but I do love Acknowledgement though, a lot. Although I feel that the album improves as it progresses, Acknowledgement is the perfect opening. It lays down a foundation that Coltrane builds upon until he seems to reach the heavens; I guess in ways I feel A Love Supreme is the Tower of Babylon (had it actually succeeded). Without Acknowledgement I think the impact of the three other tracks would be seriously mitigated. That's not to say it isn't spell-binding on it's own, the piece is incredibly profound and beautiful... the album is absolute perfection and my favorite piece of art ever.

Black Saint is probably the most stunning jazz album of all time however, it seems every time I come to Track 3 I hit a wall, my body feels like it's turned to stone and my spirits don't lift again until the closing of Track 4 comes about. Don't get me wrong, the piano playing and spanish guitar are cool, but the album totally loses me there. What do you think?

You realize you're out of your mind, right? I mean I realized that when I read your insights on Taxi Driver (not to mention your techniques on, err, self-pleasuring) but you've gone too far.

I find it difficult to explain my thoughts on music, but I'll give it a shot... like any great piece of music, the Black Saint & the Sinner Lady cannot be reduced to mere words. I feel that Track C is much more restrained than the rest of the album, and this sudden shift in the dynamics echoes his soul. The piece is tragic but never hopeless; the dissonance in particular really strikes a chord with me. I don't feel that he intended for the track to lift your spirits, at least not in a way that would bring happiness. But its richness lifts mine, which more than compensates for the fact that Track C doesn't exhibit the same brand of radiance as the rest of the album. It's utterly beautiful.

I think maybe you're onto something, that Track C makes me feel that way because it's conveying anguish or loneliness or something like that. I'll admit I'm a nut, but that doesn't necessarily discredit my opinion on anything. In any case, good insights. Thanks for the reply.

What do you disagree with specifically about Taxi Driver?

Oh no, absolutely nothing. It's just that despite being generally on point you always seem to throw in some off the wall and humorous remarks. (comparing dating to prostitution, referring to Jack's wifey as the "old sperm bank", etc)

You might be interested in this.

I agree with what you said about off the wall stuff except your examples, because I do think the traditional form of dating is a kind of euphemism for prostitution.

Hey, that was a pretty interesting review. He seems to take the original approach I had to the film: it doesn't really make sense. He made some interesting observations too: Travis treating the women in his life either as Saints or Whores, the darker side of multiculturalism & liberalism (for conservative thinkers anyhow). Thanks for the link.

Well, I listened to it last night and was pretty much blown away. Cranking the volume on that sucker really does help bring out it’s many layers. For me it’s definitely an album that can take some getting used to. Keep in mind I’m relatively new to the wondrous world of jazz, a jazz baby or a jazz virgin you could say (am I making you hot under the collar?) and the more I’m discovering jazz albums that I really dig (ie Giant Steps, Brilliant Corners, Mingus Ah Um) the more I’m starting to appreciate more complex works such as Black Saint & Love Supreme (and realizing how staggeringly emotional they are). I also realized last night that I was indeed way off base with Acknowledgement. By the way, the response you gave regarding Track C was surprisingly poetic "The piece is tragic but never hopeless; the dissonance in particular really strikes a chord with me. I don't feel that he intended for the track to lift your spirits, at least not in a way that would bring happiness. But its richness lifts mine. And you know, I think that was a very poignant comparison between Love Supreme and the Tower of Babel because Coltrane’s masterpiece really is a powerful testament to the unbounded creativity of humans beings. It’s true you know, there’s nothing we can’t achieve. In fact, works of that magnitude inevitably conjure up images of all of Man’s greatest achievements: The Hindenberg (well I mean, assuming it hadn’t crashed in a horrific ball of fire.) Oh, and the H-Bomb. Actually, maybe there’s a more fitting comparison…The Titanic? No. Well, anyways…they’re nonetheless extraordinary works.

Great call on Entroducing.


I'm digging the list. What are your top tracks from Exile?

I think with Exile a lot of the power is mitigated when the tracks are taken on their own. That's not to say they can't stand alone, but the work is constructed so that the songs are much better in the context of the album. With that said I absolutely love Casino Boogie, Tumbling Dice, Loving Cup, Sweet Virginia, All Down the Line, Shine A Light... Torn and Frayed... Shake Your Hips, Rocks Off... it's hard to choose. I even like Turd on the Run, which most people seem not to. It's by far and large their most complete work; while I really enjoy songs from albums like Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers; they just don't come together like Exile.

Let it Loose is a great tune

I also like Turd On The Run and do not understand peoples' problem with it!

Hmm, may have to beg to differ on London Calling. Too much filler on that one, though I love "Death or Glory".

Nice man! I absolutely love Call Me. Such a gorgeous album.

Hey come on, you have one of the very best music lists. No need to archieve you silly fuck. THOUGH, I'd be interested in heearing your suspodesd reason for archieveinb. Really - great music list man.

Too haphazard, in short. I was adding albums I loved a lot, but without much thought, so the order became meaningless. One day I'll sort it all out and bring it back.

Thanks for the props yo. Also: you are a weird drunk. Although drinking in the morning is something I greatly condone.

In any case, I hope you bring it all back home. You have the know-how. And don't be so critical. Remember what Bresson said, it all comes from the unknown. Don't analyize it too much.

Philosophy Of The World is so weirdly sad and endearing. Glad you have it here.

Fun House! Yes! We have found agreement!

Yes at MBDTF!!! It's the best new music I've heard in a long long time. It's pure Kanye in music form. His ego, arrogance & brilliance.

Oh yeah, he really tapped into a new vein, I didn't think he had it in him. He stopped exploiting samples (which I loved), stopped singing (which I hated) and struck gold. What're your favorites tracks? I don't dislike anything on the album, although I think Devil in a New Dress could have been absolutely perfect without Ross. I dug the hell outta Runaway, Dark Fantasy, All of the Lights, Hell of a Life, Gorgeous. So Appalled... alright I'm on the verge of naming them all. I like the Power remix more than the original. And it's too bad Weezy was in jail.

Did you keep up with the G.O.O.D. Friday series? I was at first disappointed by the albums tracklisting because it overlapped with the two overlapped but it worked out just fine. My favorite from it was probably The Joy, but it's probably a good thing the album didn't include it because it wouldn't have been a good fit, sonically or thematically.

Dark Fantasy was the first thing that made me think it was something special (being the first track of the album and all). The updated Power version has been improved so much since the original. What I'm most impressed with, it's that all the little sounds seem to be exactly right. Everything has it's right place. Monster (nicki minaj's whole verse & 'i put the pussy in the sarcophagus'. Runaway, Blame Game, Lost In The World, Gorgeous etc...

Yeezy's rapping has improved greatly his well. Not only his words, but his phrasing & accents. One thing I remember I loved was when he said on Power, 'How's ye doing, I'm suriving. I was drinking earlier, now I'm driving'. The guest spots are particularly sweet as well. Raekwon's on Gorgeous, obviously Nicki on Monster. Chris Rock actually does something worthwhile with his fucking life on Blame Game. And Bon Iver was just a perfect choice by Ye for this album.

And yeah, I've been listening to them every week. I tried to catch up with all of them yesterday to try and hit up my Kanye fix. I really like Lord, Lord, Lord. But I haven't listened to them as religiously as his album yet, except for Monster.

I'm not so great at writing, but I hope I've got my point across that this is a fucking brilliant album.

I agree completely. Nicki came outta nowhere and just destroyed that verse. Unsurprisingly, though, her album was awful. What other hip-hop releases d'you dig from this year? Kanye's is my favorite, undoubtedly, but I also really loved The Roots' How I Got Over and Shad's TSOL... then maybe Kid Cudi's album. A few tiers down would be the Jake One/Freeway and Nas/Marley projects, the Curren$y album, I Am Not A Human Being (Gonorhea and Right Above it are uhmazing)... Big Remo's album was a disappointment, but I really liked Go and Wonderbread from it.

On another note, I like Ke$ha. But don't tell anyone.

The Roots' is a fine album. Odd Future have been putting out some real good stuff. Earl Sweatshirt's 'Earl' & Tyler, The Creator's 'Bastard' albums are seriously exciting stuff. Big Boi's stuff was good. Big K.R.I.T. Shabazz Palaces. Curren$y. Jay Electronica has been putting out some good stuff. And even hip hop inspired stuff like Salem has been good. It's been such a good year for hip hop. It seems like hip hop is entering a new wave.

This also reminds me to listen to Pilot Talk II.

Ke$ha? Hmm, I like Die Young :D I haven't heard much else though.

Pitchfork gave Kanye's new album 10.0/10.

That, in itself, warns me that it is idiotic boring hipster-bait.


Careful, don't let your jazz selections get too Scaruffian! Might want to rectify that with some Lee Morgan - Side Winder. Also what did you think of the new Janelle Monae album? Pretty impressive imo. Not only is she 25; she's also Black, and a woman. I tell ya, it's a crazy world.

Ha, nah dude. My jazz picks are mostly canonical, no Lennie Tristano here. The albums listed are mostly what I grew up with.

Sidewinder is pretty great--energetic as hell--but I think his performance in Moanin' set a standard that he couldn't quite reach again. It's especially amazing when you consider how young he was. They're both albums I like a lot in any case. I've never heard of Janelle Moanae (I don't know modern jazz at all), I'll get to it, thanks.

Well, good. That's the way it should be! I was referring of course to the Carla Bley, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra etc. I find it hard to imagine you grew up with that music, unless your parents were debauched intellectuals partaking in a creepy astro-cult - mine were : (

I dunno, Carla Bley is the only one that I'd say is non-standard. Ayler is highly regarded in most circles, and although opinion seems to be somewhat divisive re: Taylor, he still gets a lot of props. That said, there are some truly debauched individuals who would deny him even the label of jazz. As a side note, I don't know what the hell Scaruffi was talking about when he said Unit Structures is controlled by a "cold intelligence". Sun Ra is undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, although I don't think Atlantis is all that. Good album and all but c'mon, masterpiece? Nah.

So I'm guessing you've come full circle in your opinion on jazz? I remember in between you were saying you didn't really enjoy it.

Well, I don't remember when or why I said that, probably an impulsive, in-the-moment thing, but jazz is something i definitely enjoy and appreciate. I've been a jazz fan since maybe the age of 17, I got a jazz compilation for xmas one year and really liked the sound of it. Got into Time Out & Kind of Blue, and started listening to a jazz radio station often. And maybe 2 years ago I started working thru the canonical picks, using this site especially. In fact, it was listening to those hard bop albums that finally made me realize why A Love Supreme was so good (it's basically a hard bop album with avant-garde leanings). So yeah, it was then I got a better feel for the structure of jazz, but it was Waltz for Debby that really did it for me. Probably the only album since Time Out & Kind of Blue that I really truly loved. Since then, I dabbled in some pretentious Scaruffi-jazz mostly, but Thelonious Monk was a revelation, easily my favorite jazz artist, because he is both catchy and weird (it's like Swing, Bop, & Avant-Garde all rolled into one). And now there are maybe a dozen or so jazz albums that I could honestly call a favorite. I am quite partial to the early stuff, which has led me into the realm of Traditional Pop music (a rich period of American music that Scaruffi completely ignores - oh wait scratch that).

As for Sun Ra, calling him "undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of the 20th century" assumes firstly that he is one of the utmost greatest jazz musicians, and I think that's arguable. He's not exactly Louis Armstrong, is he? Or John Coltrane or Miles Davis or Thelonious Monk. Even in the realm of Avant-Garde I wouldn't rate him as highly as Ornette Coleman or Cecil Taylor or John Coltrane (obviously). To me he is an interesting artist who carved out a weird little niche. 'The greatest artist of 20th century' is some pretty heavy competition no?

Paul's Boutique. Word.

Verdi's Requiem & Shostakovich's 15th. Sentence.

You have such enthusiasm and valuable insights on art, it would be really cool to see you extend (and preferably even make an attempt to rate/rank?) these lists. Maybe this was taken up elsewhere, but have you ever considered it?

Thanks for the kind words.

Honestly, the joy for me is in listening and the idea of taking the time to do precise rankings does not much interest me. I could say with some surety that I prefer Beethoven's Op. 111 to Dvorak's Ninth, but I can't call what's preferred between Aida and Tchaikovsky's Sixth, and going through an exercise of keeping score for the sake of it leaves me a little cold. The list is more of an imprecise log of what strikes me as particularly moving and accomplished than an attempt to carefully organize and understand my feelings about each piece in relation to each other. That said I, of course, enjoy reading other lists, discovering new works, and discussing art.

(My misgivings of the list's imprecision are at least mitigated by my awfully out of date, negligent, juvenile Favorite Paintings list..!)

Verdi's Requiem definitely has a very strong shot at making the list (I can't get enough of his music) and I listened to Shostakovich's 15th for the first time in ages last week, and couldn't figure out why I had been away from his music for so long . Very, very accomplished work. As for extending, pieces that have a shot at making the list include Strauss's Don Quixote, specific Preludes / Nocturnes by Chopin, more string work (Brahms's Op. 77, quartets by Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn, Beethoven's cello sonatas)... Maybe some of Schubert's sonatas and Unfinished Symphony, Turandot, Bach's The Art of Fugue... So much to hear... Such is life!...

Thanks, I can certainly understand where you're coming from.

Thanks for the brief rundown of what could make it on your list if you extended it. Would be great to see Verdi's Requiem and Shostakovich's 15th added. They each deserve to be on a (very) short list in my book. Shostakovich's 15th, while loved by some, is vastly underrated in general, even though (or because) it's among the most radical departures in symphonic history, and possibly the most fully realized, vividly detailed example of introspection in all of classical music. The profound depth and highly personalized, idiosynchratic nature of its evocations, introversion and self-reflection is probably unprecedented in classical music (especially symphonies), and perhaps only approached elsewhere in some of Beethoven's late works. And probably not approached anywhere in rock or jazz aside from Wyatt's Rock Bottom.

I can relate to your experience. There is a clear gap in my appreciation of Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and his 2nd violin concerto, but when I get down to specifics the lines begin to blur. And the more I focus on trying to define those lines the more I feel that I'm degenerating into a mechanical way of thinking, thus ultimately missing the point of the music. This isn't to say that I denounce the practice of ranking music, since I myself engage in it on occasion. Just saying that it isn't for everyone.

Proust, unsurprisingly, wrote beautifully about music, and not just La sonate de Vinteuil. In the following passage he may as well be writing about Toscanini:

"At the Conservatoire concert yesterday, the pianist in the Mozart concerto was Saint-Saëns. Coming away, one met many people who had been disappointed and who, not knowing why this was so, gave different reasons for it; he had played too fast, he had played without expression, the music hadn't suited him. Well, here is the reason: it was because it had been truly beautiful. For true beauty is the only thing that cannot respond to what a romantic imagination anticipates. Everything else lives up to those preconceived ideas: dexterity is amazing, vulgarity, soothing, sensuousness, thrilling, claptrap, dazzling. But beauty which from the beginning of all things has been joined to truth in an eternal friendship has not got all these charms at its disposal.

In Saint-Saëns' playing there were no pianissimos where you feel you'll faint if they go on any longer, and which are cut off just in the nick of time by a forte, no broken chords sending instantaneous shivers down your back, none of those fortissimos which leave you bruised from head to foot, as if you had been surf-bathing, none of those pianist's writhings and tossed back locks of hair, which infect the purity of music with the sensuality of the dance, which appeal to the listener's senses, to her idle fancies, and supply her with an element of pleasure, and a reason for enthusiasm, the framework of what she will remember and the substance of what she will afterwards talk about. There was none of this in Saint-Saëns' playing. But his playing was regal. Now kings do not make their appearance wearing golden crowns and being carried in palanquins on slaves' shoulders. It is by the way they bow, smile, hold out a hand, offer a chair, ask a question, or reply, that great kings, like great actors, can be recognised. It is the parvenu who is stuck up, the charlatan who shows off. But the king's grace and nobility are so natural to him that his nobility is no more astonishing to us than the nobility of an oak-tree nor his grace than the grace of a rose-wand."

What's your opinion of The Velvet Underground's albums besides "& Nico"?

I've never been sold on White Light / White Heat: "The Gift" and "Lady Godiva" strike me as being almost novelty-like, the title track and "I Heard Her Call My Name" are inoffensive but don't move me in any particular way, "Here She Comes Now" is fine, if slight, and "Sister Ray" is a great track, but I'm rarely compelled to listen to it. I think that brings me closer to my issue with the album: replay value. It's just not there for me.

I do, however, like both Loaded and The Velvet Underground a lot, especially the latter. I find them to be very different: Loaded is a heavy dose of rock, while the self-titled is more melodic, fragile and low-key, if that makes much sense. Although neither mean as much to me as & Nico I do think they're very good albums. I also remember liking VU, but I've hardly heard it and can't say much. Given you rank WL/WH as your second favourite album it's safe to say this doesn't quite square with your perspective!

I obviously disagree with you on WL/WH but I can see where you're coming from. I happen to find WL/WH's atmosphere of recklessness quite appealing. It's the most blissfully absurd record ever :D

The self-titled is great: Candy Says ranks with Sunday Morning and I'll Be Your Mirror among their best pop songs. I don't like Loaded that much: it's a good album but there's some filler. The first three tracks plus the last track would've made for a perfect EP. I like VU but I haven't listened to it much either.

Oh, I'd be very interested to know what you think of the other albums among my favourites :P

And another question: what do you think of the Beatles' discography?

I'd say, with some certainty, that the Beatles are one of my favourite rock groups of all time, but they don't mean as much to me as they once did (I hardly listen to the genre these days in any case). My favourite Beatles albums are Abbey Road and A Hard Day's Night... the latter album admittedly has a nostalgic pull, but it's filled with perfect songs. I probably like the title track least (overexposure, perhaps) but love everything that comes after: "Things We Said Today", "I'll Cry Instead", "You Can't Do That", "I Should Have Known Better", etc. Abbey Road is governed by the opposite kind of artistic impulses: more musically ambitious, simultaneously dissatisfied and adherent to normative structures (the closing suite closes with a nod to the great Robert Johnson), etc. Great stuff. I'll head on over to your list now!

A Hard Day's Night is a good one, perhaps the best of their pre-Rubber Soul albums! The movie is good as well :D
I like the self-titled and Abbey Road the most, both of which are among the most interesting pop albums of all time, but their 1966-1967 work is quite enjoyable as well.

"In my opinion, each number in Figaro is a miracle; it is totally beyond me how anyone could create anything so perfect; nothing like it was ever done again, not even by Beethoven." -- Johannes Brahms

I am inclined to agree.

That is a great quote. Makes me long to revisit it. It's been too long, 'ol Amadeus...

Holy smokes, I gotta listen to that!

Let me know what you think when you get around to it; it's the highest flight of genius. I've only heard one version, but I whole heartedly recommend it: John Eliot Gardiner's rendition, with Bryn Terfel, Alison Hagley, et al. Three hours of unflagging brilliance, some of the most ethereal, unshakeable, at times almost liturgical, music ever created. I've posted a portion of B.H. Haggin's celebration of the opera before, and I'll copy it here for convenience's sake (note: it gives away some details about the narrative):

"But wonderful as [Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, and The Magic Flute] are, they are surpassed by what is heard in The Marriage of Figaro: the three-hour outpouring of incandescent invention--miraculous in its varied loveliness, expressiveness, characterization, dramatic point and wit--that is one of the supreme wonders achieved on this earth by human powers. Nor do I mean only the vocal invention: Figaro surpasses the other operas in orchestral writing... with its three-hour running fire of commentary that creates the atmosphere of comedy in which even the serious things happen. And in this connection I will mention Tovey's observation that in the G-minor Symphony Mozart's musical language is, as it is in fact everywhere else, that of operatic comedy--by which Tovey doesn't mean that what is said in this language is humorous: one often, he says, finds the language of comedy the only dignified expression for the deepest feelings. It is in this manner that they are often expressed by Mozart--the result being the ambiguity that is on of his outstanding characteristics...

...Three hours have been filled with the orchestra's running fire of comment, which has continued to the last to create the atmosphere for comedy for even serious happenings: even in the hush of amazement and wonder produced by the Countess's entrance the violins have softly chattered their amusement. But now at last there is an end to all this--a moment's silence; and when the Count begins his Contessa, perdono we hear music which speaks of the sublimity of human forgiveness--music which, after what has come before, is overwhelming. It becomes even more overwhelming when it is taken up by the entire group, and when it is carried to a point of superearthly exaltation. Then, in the silence which follows, solemn octaves of the strings gently ease us down to earth again--and to the bustle and fanfares of the final curtain of the operative comedy. The passage lasts only a few minutes; but those three or four minutes, coming after the three hours, create the most wonderful moment I can recall in opera."

Despite his rhetorical amplitude, words fail to really pull things into focus.

Wow, thanks for that. I'm going to have to add Figaro to my "to revisit" list for sure! So much to do... :)

That's an excellent commentary by B.H. Haggin. Some of the observations made in that second paragraph remind me of my own experiences with Verdi (except that Verdi's music employs a greater dose of terror than comedy). Right now I'm in the midst of sorting through my ipod. I added like 80 albums rated 8/10 by scaruffi to my ipod about a month ago. I gotta pick out the ones I like from the ones I don't. Could take some time. Afterwords I'll be jumping back into classical music with the operas of Mozart & Verdi being the highest priority. Should be fun!

>"Despite his rhetorical amplitude, words fail to really pull things into focus."

To barrow a passage from David Dubal's The Essential Canon of Classical Music:
"Music is by far the most elusive of the arts to write about. Aldous Huxley observed: "Music 'says' things about the world, but in specifically musical terms. Any attempt to reproduce these musical statements in our own words is necessarily doomed to failure. We cannot isolate the truth contained in a piece of music; for it is a beauty-truth and inseparable from its partner. The best we can do is to indicate in the most general terms the nature of the musical beauty-truth under consideration and to refer curious truth-seekers to the original." But writing about music is by no means a fruitless effort, for it can at least spur interest in great music."

I also prefer writing that aims to describe the artistic expression of music (like how B.H. Haggin did in that commentary) as opposed to the tedious program-note style of writing I too often see. I'm kind of on the same page as Peter Gutmann when he notes, "I have no interest in dissecting a piece to see what makes it tick. The few times I tried I only succeeded in ruining the essential mystery, like spoiling a nifty magic trick by learning how it's done. I'm far more interested in exploring the emotional impact of music and admiring the elegance of how great artists work their wonders."

re Gardiner: I'm not too fond of gardiner after listening to his version of Bach's b minor mass. But I'll be fair and give him another chance.

P.S. sorry for the late reply

[span class="gray"] [/span class] <-- this will change your font colour, using the appropriate brackets (<>), of course.

"(except that Verdi's music employs a greater dose of terror than comedy)"

Ahh, that means you've got Falstaff ahead of you! Arguably his masterpiece. I say forget the 8/10's and skip straight to Mozart and Verdi, who produced several 10/10's :). The past couple of days I've been playing lots of Don Giovanni in preparation for a live performance next month; what fun!

Huxley is, unsurprisingly, dead on. I find writing about all art difficult, but music in particular presents a challenge. I agree with Dubal's point about the value in writing about music as well, D.H. Lawrence similarly emphasized the importance of "the struggle for verbal consciousness". On the other side, Shaw rightfully mocked what he called the Mesopotamian manner, the tedious recounting of technical details that musicologists sometimes employ. Spewing technical jargon is easy if one has the prerequisite knowledge, that's why it's all the more amazing when critics manage to coherently articulate their thoughts of music. I like Haggin the most because he doesn't bow to sacred cows (he has no time for Brahms, Horowitz or most 20th century music!) but he's so perceptive and honest that he serves as an invaluable guide to classical recordings. His writing is invariably illuminating, even when I disagree with a particular judgement. Incidentally, I think he's correct about Horotwitz (though not the other two examples). On a similar note, I'm currently reading J.W.N. Sullivan's Beethoven: His Spiritual Development which--provided one skips his boring and unnecessary preamble--is very rewarding. Peter Gutmann's site looks interesting, I'll have to peruse it one of these days.

"Shaw rightfully mocked what he called the Mesopotamian manner"
Oh, wow, in my previous comment I was actually going to quote a passage I found that apparently came directly from that essay, Form and Design in Music. For me that technical style of writing is about as rewarding as reading the owner's manual of my DVD player. That type of writing may be of use to a musician preparing to perform in concert but it's utterly worthless to someone who is merely a passionate listener. I fear that the primacy of such writing has been to the detriment of classical music, since, IMO, it has been a contributing factor toward the isolation of classical music from the rest of the music-listening population.

"Peter Gutmann's site looks interesting, I'll have to peruse it one of these days."

Yeah, his site is a great place to go if you're ever bored. I've been frequenting it for a couple of years now. His articles are often tremendously insightful, providing a great breadth of background history of a given work and a history of notable recordings of that work. He is very historically informed & has no reservations about recommending recordings that date as far back as the 1920's & 1930's. That's a highly admirable aspect of his site & an aspect that is sorely lacking in the ever popular Gramophone & Penguin buying guides. He makes his living as an attorney so he never worries about pondering to popular opinion. He's very opinionated, but I find myself agreeing with him more often than not. So far his site is easily my favorite place online to go to for classical music.

Also, thanks for introducing me to Haggin.

Also, how do you get grey text on Listology?

Ravi Shankar is astonishingly good.

The Weeknd >

How would you rank Kanye's albums?

I've wrestled a bit with this question, but can't come up with a satisfying hierarchy. The bottom two are 808's (unlistenable, though I haven't listened in years), and Cruel Summer (some good tracks). I like Graduation and Watch the Throne a lot, the latter more so, but they're not at the highest level.

That leaves us with five, and I'm not sure how to organize them. Perhaps Pablo is at the bottom-- though it's a very fine, ambitious album, that I have no doubt will age well. I'm slightly inclined to say that Late Registration stands at the top of the heap, but I'm not so sure these days. The College Dropout, My Beautiful and Yeezus are all very great, the latter two in particular being the more inventive works in his canon. But trying to sift through them to determine what gives the most pleasure is a fruitless task.

What's your take?

edit: any thoughts on Views?

I haven't heard Cruel Summer and Watch the Throne actually, apart from a few tracks. As for the others:

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
2. The College Dropout
3. Yeezus
4. Late Registration
5. 808s and Heartbreaks (you definitely need to revisit this)
6. The Life of Pablo
7. Graduation

The top 5 are pretty much all great, the last two are a bit uneven and not as impressive. Pablo has many of the qualities of his most mature work but it lacks focus. Graduation feels a bit lazy. They would be better as an alternate playlist. Which songs do you like on those two?

I'm sorry, I haven't heard anything by Drake apart from a few singles.