Wainright does Garland in Carnegie Hall (interlude)

June 15, 2006

Martha Wainwright by Daniel Shiplacoff

(The gorgeous) Martha Wainwright: photo by Daniel Shiplacoff

Julia Shiplacoff picked up Daniel and me from the airport and drove us home. We were glad to be back in LA. And what was playing when we got in the car? It was Rufus’s “Greek Song” from POSES. I melted. Forgive me Rufus, but I would take YOUR music to a desert island and not a single one of the songs from the Garland show.

This does not diminish my happiness for this project one iota: I feel the same way about this project as I felt about k d lang’s collaboration with Tony Bennett. They are both invaluable experiences for Rufus and kd. But the material is from a different era and so the response will never be the same as when the songs originally were hot. The audience in 1961 knew most of those songs, so when they heard it, mass biochemical hot flashes took over the audience. Being the optimist that I am, I’m trusting the generation of Rufus lovers in their teens and twenties to get to know, and fall in love with this music.
I was not convinced that the majority of this audience knew much of the music. The chap from Chicago sitting in front of us knew every square inch of the Garland original, and he was my google god for the evening as well as lending us his binoculars.

As a professor of composition and as a fan, I’m thrilled to have Rufus drill this music into his musical core. The melodies, the chord progressions, the singing styles will serve as compost, er, inspiration for his future work. One thing Rufus will never be, I pray, is a James Taylor type-composer who keeps rewriting four or five songs for his whole career, to the approval of his audience. I hope that Rufus follows in the footsteps of songwriters who have said “screw you” to a public that wants them to keep churning out the same predictable product. I salute brave composers like Neil Young, and Stravinsky, and David Byrne, and Madonna, and k d lang, and Joni Mitchell: people who keep exploring, reinventing themselves, taking risks. Many people prefer a more sober and even keel same-ole same-ole output from a singer songwriter: I don’t. Keep taking risks Rufus. I like it.

[continued tomorrow: part 3]

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