Category: irony

  • Composing Irony

    The round tune “Frère Jacques” (Brother John) is known across cultures and languages in Europe. In German, it’s called “Bruder Martin” or “Bruder Jakob.” In the third movement of his Symphony no. 1 in D minor, Gustav Mahler presents us with a sardonic, funeral-march like version of the song in minor. He was inspired by […]

  • Back (and Forth) to Africa

    As Michael Rosenwald observes in the Washington Post, the recent eruption of the disquieting chant “Send her back!” has a long history. Read the article and all the links. In 1972, singer-songwriter Randy Newman wrote an ironic song from the perspective of an eighteenth-century slave merchant trying to convince a little boy on the west […]

  • Love and Theft, redux: “That’s Why Darkies Were Born”

    Content warning: racist language/imagery. In 2019, the Yankees cancelled their tradition of playing Kate Smith’s stentorian recording of “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. Taking their cue from New York, the NHL team the Philadelphia Flyers not only cancelled Kate Smith, but also covered (and later removed) a statue of her outside of the […]

  • Little Wild Rose in the Heather

    (The manuscript of “Heidenröslein.” Schubert’s marking is “lieblich,” i.e. charming or lovely.) Read through the score here: IMSLP09270-SchubertD257_Heidenroslein The song starts almost without starting: the voice and piano begin together, without any introduction. Although the song is a setting of a poem by the great German poet, playwright, novelist, and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, […]