Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Top Five Greatest Fugues Ever Written


There is a widespread misconception that fugues are by their nature academic, stodgy, and soulless. Although there certainly are a lot of insipid fugues out there, many fugal masterpieces exist and deserve more attention. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order:


5. “So You Want to Write a Fugue?” – Glenn Gould


Fugues have a (possibly deserved) reputation for being dry, so this fugue is striking from the get-go for its playfulness and humor. But the greatness of this work extends far beyond that; the lyrics themselves are very clever, highlighting contrapuntal techniques that Gould employs and commenting on quotes from other composers. A version in Japanese is available as well!


4. Falstaff: Finale – Verdi



The comedy Falstaff is Verdi’s final opera – and the finale is a very fitting conclusion. Here, the entire cast proclaims the folly of the world, and they do so in the manner of a fugue. Fugues in opera are already uncommon, but a light-hearted ten-voice fugue like this one may be unique to Verdi.

3. Große Fuge B-Dur Op. 133 – Beethoven



Beethoven’s late works are characterized by a few attributes: weird, hodge-podge structure and form; lots of trills; and complicated fugues. This piece was originally the final movement of another string quartet, but it now stands as a testament to Beethoven’s counterpoint-writing skills. It’s a massive, challenging piece, analogous in some respects to his “Hammerklavier” Piano Sonata and even the final movement of his famous Ninth Symphony.

2. Requiem: Kyrie – Mozart




It is truly regrettable that Mozart did not live long enough to finish his Requiem, which contains a lively double fugue in its Kyrie. (There is another amazing fugue in the Domine Jesu movement.) Although it is unlikely that the composer would have reused this fugue, Franz Süssmayr, who completed the work after Mozart’s death, used it as the basis for the concluding movement. Some who may be disparaging of Süssmayr’s talents may suggest that this is because he was unable to write an ending that could be more awesome.

1. Pretty much any fugue J.S. Bach wrote





Obviously cheating, but Bach wrote so many great fugues that it’s impossible to discern which one is the best. What’s your favorite Bach fugue?


Saturday, September 20, 2014

The 10 Most Famous Advertising Jingle Writers


Turns out that writing music that sticks to the folds of your brain like wood glue is easier said than done. These guys, however, are the kings of the gluey, charming pop.

1. Barry Manilow


Manilow's success story is one for the books. The man just excels at everything musical he tries, and his jingles are undoubtedly the catchiest little ditties that exist, including "I am stuck on Band-Aid cuz Band-Aids stick on me," and the still popular "Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is there!"  If you aren't singing along as you read those, stop lying to me. I can tell you are lying. 

2. Randy Newman



Randy Newman's another name that is bound to ring a bell or perhaps "jingle" a bell (I tried), and you've undoubtedly heart his voice from every song that has ever made you feel warm inside. The man has been inducted into the Disney Legends Hall of Fame, because the man has been the one who made Disney so magical. Among the list includes "Toy Story," "Monsters Inc," "The Princess and the Frog," "A Bug's Life," and all those sequels associated with such,  along with a huge slew of non-Disney and non-Pixar films. It is mind-blowing that he also found time to do commission work for advertisers, but he's responsible for "Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?", for Dr. Pepper, used for a striking 8 whole years from 1977 to 1985. 

3. Mitch Leigh


Mitch Leigh just wanted to make a world free of cynicism, and that was evident in his major breakout hit "The Impossible Dream," which has be re-recorded by superstars like Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and Placido Domingo. The Broadway musical that debuted the classic, "Man of la Mancha" (which he also wrote the whole score to), saw the longest run in Broadway history, along with 4 revivals and one box office busting movie.  In the advertising world, Leigh was the man for snappy, upbeat ditties, such as the Sara Lee number "Everybody doesn't like something/ But nobody doesn't like Sara Lee."


4. Jim Brickman


You may not know the name, but his melodies have wound their way through your head so many times you probably know his style better than you know your own garage code. Named "the most charted male adult contemporary artist to date, his hits range from compositions for chart topper such as Lady Antebellum, Donny Osmond, Martina McBride, and Olivia Newton-John, as well as his own work in the Christian music and holiday music sectors. "Jingle Bells?" All this guy. His copywriting career with advertising giant Somerset Ltd. has produced for more than a handful of the titanic-sized Fortune 100, including Costco, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Walmart.

5. Jake Holmes



It's little known that Zeppelin's psychedelic hit "Dazed and Confused" was originally written by Jake Holmes, but then STOLEN by Yardbird's Jimmy Page, who was then credited as writer on the Zeppelin album. It was a drama triangle like no other. In addition to that famous ditty, Holmes has been a big player in jingle forEVER. Some of the his contributions to stuck-in-your-head history include "Gilette-the best a man can get!" and "With Charmin Ultra, less is more (cha cha cha)" and "Be all that you can be" for the U.S. Army. That's right, Dazed and Confused and the Army motto were written BY THE SAME GUY.

6. William Bruce Meeks, Jr.


Meeks has so many jingles under his belt that he has been credited as "the inventor of musical station breaks" by Billboard Magazine. He's the founder of PAMS, or Production Advertising Merchandising Service (you'd think they could come up with a snappier title), which currently resides in the throne with the title of biggest jingle-writing firm in the world. If you've ever heard a radio station jingle, Meeks probably had a hand in it. I like to pretend that their idea session, below, took place entirely in doo wop melody.




7. Joey Levine



Joey Levine has got a knack for bubble-gum pop, and although it never seems to be in the same circumstances, he just keeps gravitating back toward it. He's coined several songs that you know you knew, but just couldn't places, such as "Yummy yummy yummy, I've got love in my tummy," and received even more success as a jingle writer. "Sometimes you feel like a nut" for Mounds and "Come see the softer side of sears" will forever plague my memory with their bouncy melodies. 


8. Steve Karmen



Although most of Steve Karmen's success came in the 60's and 70's, his jingles have become so ingrained  in our culture that we rarely can think there was a time they did not exist. For example, the New York State song, "I love New York," as in the t-shirt and the phrase, was popularized by Karmen. He was well-known as an excellent businessman, and unlike most jingle writers who are paid a flat fee, Karmen was able to receive royalties for each time his jingle was paid. That's suuuuper 
rare and why he is the King of Jingles.

9. Richard Adler



Richard Adler, along with his writing partner Jerry Ross, wrote some of the most popular Broadway hits of the 50's. Adler also saw huge success as a producer - in 1962 he put on the Madison Square Garden fundraiser show famous for Marilyn Monroe's "Happy Birthday Mr. President" number. However, when his partner Ross's life got cut short by lung cancer, Adler decided to move his writing talents to other realms, more specifically to advertising. He had a notable hit with "Let Hertz put you in the driver's seat" and many others.


10. Richard Trentlage


Trentlage rose to success not on the back of his multiple Broadway stints but of a single 4 line jingle he wrote for a contest less than 24 hours before the deadline. That jingle "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, that is what I'd truly like to be, 'cuz if I were an Oscar Meyer wiener, everyone would be in love with me" has stood the test of time as being perhaps the most well-known jingle ever. Trentlage is now asking Guiness to investigate if, in fact, it is also the longest running. Trentlage, working as an advertising assistant at the time, called the jingle "the gem of his writing career"; he was able to put both of his daughters through college with the royalties.