Revolutionary proto-Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi was baptized in 1567. Why does that matter? If you’ve ever listened to Renaissance music, you probably didn’t like it very much. And no, the music you heard at the Renaissance Faire was almost certainly not Renaissance music. That music is highly modal; it doesn’t have the sense of chord progressions. To me, it sounds almost random, like it doesn’t know where it’s going. It is nice enough but not the kind of thing that holds your attention.
Monteverdi’s most famous piece is the two plus hour long opera L’Orfeo. It isn’t exactly Le Nozze di Figaro, Ossia la Folle Giornata, but it is really good. You can find a few complete performances of it online, but you really owe it to yourself to at least listen to this short excerpt from the beginning. It is worth it, plus it is a chance to hear a kind of music one rarely hears but that is also really good. (A lot of pretentious people listen to Gregorian chants, but it is really only interesting to specialists.) I think after listening to this, a lot of people will want to hear the whole thing:
Romantic modernist painter Viktor Vasnetsov was born on this day in 1848. American actor Joseph Cotten was born in 1905. English actor James Mason was born in 1909. And the great neo-Keynesian economist Paul Samuelson was born in 1915.
The great English playwright Peter Shaffer is 87 today. Painter Jasper Johns is 83. Two 60s icons Wavy Gravy and Ralph Steadman are 77. Madeleine Albright is 76. The evil Roger Ailes is 73. And musician Brian Eno is 65, so we won’t be hearing anything about him in the future.
The day, however, belongs to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz writer, L. Frank Baum who was born in 1856. He wrote a total of 14 Oz books. They are a lot of fun. Of course, in the books, Oz is a real place. I rather like the movie, but the whole “it was only a dream” bit kind of bugs me. In the eighth book, The Emerald City of Oz, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry fall on hard times and Dorothy arranges for them to retire there. Kind of subversive, when you think about it. Of course, people of that time were used to terrible recessions. That’s one of the things that bugs me about the gold standard libertarians who think all would be well if the government just went away. Well, we tried that. And do you know what? Aunt Em and Uncle Henry had to move to Oz where they had a better social safety net.
Happy birthday L. Frank Baum!