UCLA Seminar: The Music of Rufus Wainwright #9

March 15, 2006

I know, I know, it’s a sad moment: the Rufus seminar is over. We had our last class of the quarter. (We are on quarters at UCLA, which means 10 weeks: the first class was an introduction.)Today the class was “teacher’s choice” meaning I brought in my iPod and played my favorite songs outside the canon (the officially released four CDs). If this were a class of music majors or composers, I would have played:

The Red Thread
Schubert Song
The Bela Song
The Money Song

But these were bright undergraduates NOT in music, and so I picked he following songs:

I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise (G. Gershwin)
Ups and Downs (quotes from Boris Godinov)
What’ll I do? (with Antony and the Johnsons)
Sonnet 29 (a Shakespeare setting)
The Maker Makes (if this were not used in BB Mountain, would is sound cowboy like?)
Some Children See Him (sentimental Xmas song)
Minuet Chretiens (“O Holy Night” in French; different)
I Eat Dinner (by his mom, Kate, sung her with Dido)
He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother) (a cover of a Hollies song)

The students filled out class evaluations at the beginning of class. Paymon bought cookies for all. It was interesting: usually at the end of class, the student leave instantly at 3:50, yesterday, they all lingered, like me, not really wanting it to end. Sigh….


In the “my favorite new instrument” category, I choose the following instrument:


Here is what this instrument sounds like.

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This instrument seems to be a brass/string instrument, analagous to a violin, but with a bell so that it’s sound can be projected, and compete with the brass, saxes, and percussion. But what the hell is this thing called? Anyone know? Rufus performed George Gershwin’s “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” on Conan O’Brien, and this dude was in the orchestra. I don’t own the video, so I don’t know whether this instrument also appears in “The Aviator” which is where this performance originally was heard. If anyone has the video, let me know… Later on in this performance we see a huge brass, or metal string bass analogous to the double bass but made of metal with a kind a pewter patina.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad Wood March 16, 2006 at 1:06 am

I don’t know what it is called, but a member of the rather interesting group Mum, a group out of Iceland, plays one.

See for example: http://www.spikemagazine.com/0103mum.php

Hugo March 16, 2006 at 3:33 am

My friend’s dad collects strange instruments and there’s one of these babies on her living room wall.

I shall investigate…..

Rhapsody March 16, 2006 at 10:45 am

We’ve been calling it a “violumpet,” but there must be a more officious name.

kae March 18, 2006 at 2:48 pm

I believe it’s a Stroh violin. See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroh_violin

Roger Bourland March 20, 2006 at 8:40 am

That’s it kae! Thanks for your help. The wikipedia article was illuminating.

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