I got thinking about this recently when I realized that my new album – my new cd – was conceived of as an album and is probably not going to make much sense on a track-by-track basis.
In the old days we’d put on a cd, then listen to the whole thing. It could have a beginning, a middle, and an end – it could build – it became the sum of its parts. Because a musician could be reasonably confident that the music would be heard in sequence, there could be variety between the songs without the listener going: “Huh?”
Since I’ve been a musician in the Jewish world for decades – I directed the Triangle Jewish Chorale for 14 years and have played klezmer and yiddish theater songs and tunes with my since 1994 – I am very tired of the few Hannukah songs in existence. Some of them are very sweet, but they’re short, simple, and in foreign languages. Hanukkah songs in English tend to be sappy and annoying.
So last Chanukah, when my pianist Aviva and I were hired to do a few shows, I decided to write some songs myself – I set them to swing tunes that I love. It was so much fun it seemed a no-brainer to put out a whole album of tunes I love with new Hanukah words set to them.
And so I did. BUT. One song is an old-fashioned tango, another is a cowboy ballad, one is a re-purposed Gilbert & Sullivan song, some are folk songs and some are pop tunes and it’s all rather like the story about the blind men feeling the different parts of the elephant – depending on which song you encounter randomly out in the world, you’ll get a very different idea about what this must be.
In addition, a lot of my favorite old tunes – ragtime numbers, for instance – start in a leisurely fashion. Music doesn’t do that these days, because it has to make an impression in the first three seconds or impatient consumers will have moved on.
My ex-husband used to say the most successful people were those who make good first impressions. They may not be the best people, but the people whose charm blooms more slowly often never get the chance to reveal it. I think the same thing is happening to music.
Have a listen yourself and see what you think.
Mrs. Maccabee’s Kitchen: New Hanukah Songs by Mappamundi