(Gimme Some of That) Ol’ Atonal Music – Merle Hazard feat. Alison Brown


So, Merle, we got thirty minutes of studio
time left. Have you got anything that’s ready to go? The, uh, the one on how hyperinflation in
the Weimar Republic led to the rise of fascism is ready to go. Um, the economic bluegrass is just not really where the kids are at these days. Anything besides that? Yeah, I got one on atonal music. Anything else? Nope. Alright, let’s give it a listen. OK guys, let’s go! [music starts] I dedicate this song to my father. My dad was a composer. Modern was his style. His music always made you think. It never made you smile. He wrote for chamber orchestra. Now and then,
for voice. Tonality, in Daddy’s world, was just another choice. Yeah, Poppa’s compositions came in rigid
twelve-tone rows. There was no tonal center to the music he’d
compose. He was a lover of complexity; some have said
pretense. His music wasn’t joyful, it was just abstract
and dense. Gimme some of that ol’ atonal music. It lingers in my ears! Schoenberg and Alban Berg were the genre’s
pioneers. You can keep your Bach and Chopin, they’re
melodic and passe. Gimme some of that ol’ atonal music, like
Daddy used to play. Give ‘em some, Alison! [atonal banjo solo] Aha! That’s right. Since dear ol’ Daddy left us, life has been so hard. There aren’t enough musicians who embrace
the avant-garde. No one plays atonally at their home or on
the stage. I miss Igor Stravinsky, my Dad, and ol’
John Cage. [silence] Gimme some of that ol’ atonal music, like my Daddy used to write. It was hard to sing if you rehearsed, impossible
by sight. Emotion is for simple folk. Art should be
arcane. Some compositions feed the heart; my Daddy’s
fed the brain. Gimme some of that ol’ atonal music. How I love those random hops! I’ve tried to write that way myself, but
I’m not as skilled as Pops. You can keep your Brahms and Chopin, they’re
melodic and passe. Gimme some of that ol’ atonal music, like
Dad…dy…used…to…play. Like Daddy used to play, like Daddy used to
play. I miss you, Daddy! [instrumental music]

100 comments

I don't know where you came from, but I love it. Also, in Germany Merle is a girl's name, so I love that you're rocking it as well!

It took me a second or two after the John Cage name drop, but I totally realized what song they were playing.

It's not every day you see/hear a Derek Bailey reference and don't want to poke your eardrums out. Bravo.

That banjo solo was perfect*. I swear, not a single note fit with *anything else! Even its rhythm was virtually non-existent as well. A true atonal tour-de-force. Bravo!

I was disappointed. I was hoping to hear an atonal country song. Instead, all I got was one atonal banjo solo.

Cage estate tried to sue me for my silent piece. It was bullshit. Mine was an executive silence -not a musical one.

Haven't heard an atonal solo in a pop songwriting framework that jarring since Aladdin Sane's piano freakout.

Being a nerd of the worst possible kind, I belong to a closed Facebook group called “Guess the score” where we post small fragments of scores for people to identify (hmmm … that’s the viola part of the 2nd mvt of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Symphony if I’m not mistaken …) So today I lifted the two tone rows Alison Brown uses (the one for the solo, and the one for the tag near the end), and posted them as quarter notes for the group to id. I admit I had to give a couple of hints, but that quiz lasted only about two hours before they were identified! Not only that, but someone in the group posted a link on my thread pointing to a tweet where some other guy had lifted the whole solo in exact notation to prove it was serial! Someone evidently nerdier than I (although he didn’t lift the tag). This video has brought so much joy to people like me. Every detail is hilarious. Thank you for taking the time to go “full blast” on this and doing it right.

I love Schoenberg and Berg — and whistle Schoenberg's 'Suite fur Klavier' when walking — but well done, I concede.

Love the way that Alison…is quite happy to be part of the background event though she's a major part of the entire concept!

So we have a tightly-structured, effortlessly melodic bluegrass song about atonality. Was the satire intended to call out Punch Brothers, or was Chris Thile just an innocent bystander to the joke?

I love everything about this. The John Cage solo killed me.

Just recently I kind of stumbled onto John Cage and Schoenberg and the like, and soon after, youtube recommends me this video. I can't stop laughing.

Absolutely brilliant! Merle, if you ever wish to tackle some Harry Partch or Ben Johnston songs, please let me know. You would be perfect.

Quite randomly, the pop-up ad that ran right after this was for a vegan burger. It reminded me of the old joke about the veggie burger at the 12-tone cafe: the SchoenBurger, 100% cereal!

This song helped me become an Alison Brown fan. First time ever hearing a 12 tone banjo solo.

As a choral singer I love the line, "hard to sing if you rehearse, impossible by sight". Truer words were never spoken

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