"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Sounds of Sunday

I'm a romantic when it comes to Sundays. The day of rest, not the 90's jangly pop band. But if you're interested, here's a great song by the Sundays called "Summertime" that pretty much fits the tone I'm aiming for. Sundays should involve lots of fruit.

Sunday. The kids jump on your bed to wake you up. You have orange juice and bacon for breakfast, reading Calvin and Hobbes in the paper. After church, you take the convertible Nash Rambler for a Sunday afternoon drive down the lane where the scent of the ocean meets the fragrance of the forest.

So what music sets the mood for such quixotic reveries?

Classical Sunday
I have an iPod playlist for anything I have labeled classical music. This includes movie soundtracks done in a classical style: from John Williams (Star Wars et.al.) to Tan Dun (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). I can't play this on Sundays, though, because every once in a while the 20th Century Fox Fanfare or battle music from Gladiator interrupts an otherwise tranquil afternoon. Then the wife gets irritated and nobody wants that.

So I might play Vivaldi's ode to the hotel industry (The Four Seasons--get it?) or a Bach violin concerto. Violins go well with a lazy Sunday. For a more modern take on the classical genre, I like Anne Dudley. She founded the genre-bending 80's band The Art of Noise, then in the 90's started doing soundtracks to movies like The Crying Game and American History X. She even won an Academy Award in 1998 for scoring The Full Monty. Her two albums Ancient and Modern and A Different Light are classical compositions, with some revisions of themes from her film scores (but no battle scenes), including an epic retelling of "Moments in Love" back from her Art of Noise days. (Below is the Anne Dudley solo version of the song, which, admittedly, strays from it's haunting classical beginning. Here is the original Art of Noise video.)

Mormon Sunday
Before church, I might need to spiritualize my family up, so we'll listen to some LDS music. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is the obvious go-to team here, but usually I'd rather listen to some Gregorian Chants. Yet, I've found that the MoTab doesn't always sound like they dress (the women still sometimes wear those shapeless seafoam green gowns like they were Lawrence Welk backup dancers; the men mostly stick with the fashionless penguin suit). For instance, the CD Peace Like a River includes joyous traditional spirituals rather than the sometimes dour-sounding hymns. It's uplifting without being too monotonous.

One Mormon composer I like is Kurt Bestor. His album Seasons might seem like sticky, gooey New Age debris, but sometimes you need just that kind of pick-me-up. The Mormon classic Joyspring is nothing but agreeable piano and orchestra versions of LDS hymns. The strings soar and the winds unwind. Below is a song called "The Journey Begins," representative of the Kurt Bestor sound.

Ambient Sunday
I don't listen to ambient music just on Sunday. If it were up to me, I would never hear silence. (Not that John Cage's composition "4'33" isn't brilliant. If you've never heard it, you should.) Give me constructed ambiance instead. Specifically for relaxing Sunday music, two names stand out.

Harold Budd is a minimalist composer of beautiful melodies through piano and treated keyboards. His music washes over you quietly and completely. Robin Guthrie is possibly the greatest producer that ever lived. He was the guitarist for the band Cocteau Twins and was mainly responsible for their ethereally glorious sound. These days he's released several solo works arranged around his shimmering, soothing guitar. They are at once hypnotic and colossal.
Budd and Guthrie have released several works as a duo, combining Guthrie's guitar with Budd's piano for some of the most heavenly music ever recorded. If this doesn't suit the romantic daydream of Sunday, nothing will.

Pop Sunday
All this relaxation and leisure music making you sleepy? Then perhaps you need a shot of pop music to keep you awake and enjoying your wistful Sunday. All kinds of music might fit the bill here, but I have a few suggestions if you'd like to try something new or slightly different.

Air: A French electronica duo with great melodies and hooks that sound like you've known them since childhood.

Cibo Matto: Japanese American trip hop sung in thick accents, but with a prominent, fun loving beat. With a little help from John Lennon's son Sean, they sound both pensive and absentminded. Perfect for Sunday.

Emiliana Torrini: Icelandic singer with a distinctive delicate voice. She has three albums, each of which sounds nothing like the others. One trip hop, two folk guitar, and three indie pop. She also sang "Gollum's Song" over the final credits to The Two Towers.

Lots of links above, some stupid slideshows on YouTube that you can ignore if you just listen to the music while you read all this. Give it a try. I'm curious to know what your favorite Sunday music is. I'm off to enjoy the Sunday afternoon with my family. iTunes is randomizing my Sunday Best playlist as we drive into the sunset on the beach in the mountains of the woods over the waterfall of our lives. With lots of fruit.


  1. Admittedly I've not heard of any of this music; is that bad? I will be looking them up once I'm home...and not at work...not that I'm blogging while at work...

    never mind

  2. Oh, I totally got your joke about the hotel and The Four Seasons! Why did you explain it? I could have gone "OH! I GET IT! THIS IS WHY!" and I would have been all proud of myself.

    I would add Holst's "The Planets" which has seven movements, each named after a planet. There is no Earth for obvious reasons, and there's no Pluto because it wasn't discovered until after Holst died. (Forget you, mean people! Pluto is still a planet and size doesn't matter!) Anyway, I think it would make excellent Sunday music.

  3. Just kidding. Pluto was discovered just before Holst died. Not after. Don't know how I typed the completely wrong word. He didn't add a Pluto movement though. I have no idea why.

    But somebody did a few years later. There IS a Pluto piece. It just doesn't feel the same. You can tell someone else composed it.

  4. @ AP: It's my mission in life to expose people to good music. I hope you take me up on it. Let me know what you think.

    @ Chanel: First, I sometimes feel like I have to cover for my stupid jokes. My sense of humor has a fragile ego.
    I love Holst and "The Planets" but I think most of the composition is too dramatic, too theatrical for Sunday listening. There's a reason why Hans Zimmer stole the theme from Mars as his battle theme for Gladiator.
    I didn't know that about the Pluto composition. I'll have to go listen to that. Thanks for the heads up.
    And, sorry, but Pluto never really counted as a planet.

  5. Pluto was a planet when I was a kid! They taught it to us! And something about a possible Planet X. But who cares about Planet X. Pluto was a planet! It IS a planet! Long live Pluto!

  6. Pluto is a rock that's smaller than many other planetoids since discovered in the Kuiper Belt. See here: http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~mbrown/planetlila/
    Why hang on to a dream, Chanel?

  7. I like Kurt Bestor, but I like the classic EFY albums too.

    Your Sundays sound oh so pleasant. Thanks for sharing.

    PS: I totally agree with you about the MoTab womens' outfits. They're stuck in some sort of bad-fashion time warp somewhere around the 1950's or '60's. I don't get it. But their music is awesome. They're even better live in the Conference Center. Holy crap, it's amazing!

  8. I never liked the EFY stuff. It was way too corny for me. But my friends and I all made fun of it so much, I still remember most of it.
    And "Holy" crap? Good one.