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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Musical signification changes over time (What is your at-bat fanfare music?)

One day at a Mariners' game my dear friend Jake London asked, If you were a major league ball player and had to choose a musical lick to be your fanfare as you stepped to the batter’s box, what would it be?

Most batters get metal or loud pop. Hip hop and salsa suffice for machismo and signify ethnically.

Jake said, for him, “London Calling” – the Clash. Perfect – alludes to his name, and a stentorian electric guitar riff from the punk era. Witty, menacing, and age-appropriate at once.

I had chosen “4 Sticks” – Zep. Stentorian, but in the meter of 5/4. Menacing, but quirky, with the bonus that “stick” means “baseball bat.”

But then I thought, what about something off the beaten path? “Moonlight Serenade”? No, too languid.

And then: “The Blue Danube.” Vigorous, sensual, vulgar, demotic – at least, that’s how people used to think of waltzes. But not any more: now they’re effete and elitist. Musical signification changes with fashion.

To a lot of people, Elvis is pure camp, nothing but. (I love Elvis; he's dated better than most of the '60s rockers, for me.) Bob Dylan working on his “cool” – silly, juvenile stuff. Fashions change. I can imagine how his persona embodied a sense of alienation for millions of middle class white people at the time, but all that's a long time ago now.

I actually like Dylan’s persona nowadays. His brief eulogy for George Harrison in Rolling Stone was genuinely sweet; his live-video acceptance of the best-song Oscar a few years ago was endearing; his memoir puts on lots of charm. He’s beyond “cool,” and good for him.

I think I'll stick with "4 Sticks" for my fanfare, even though Zep's heyday was during my pre-teen years. What would your at-bat baseball fanfare be? Serious or silly, please do tell.

"Battery Brides" (XTC)-- it would have to be the very end of the song where Andy Partridge sings "Bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat bat!"
I'd have to go with "G-Spot Tornado" by Frank Zappa. It would match my spaz-swing with its frenetic energy and a tempo that's so wrong for baseball.
Great fanfares both! (Judging from the descriptions; I must confess, despite having enjoyed XTC and Zappa's work, I've never heard either one.)

I got an email from a male musician who never went to sports events as a kid because his dad wasn't a fan, and hence he isn't a fan; he said his fanfare music would have to be "Nothing" from "A Chorus Line," a song I don't remember though I saw the show as a teenager. Which is my way of saying -- if you don't like sports, that's fine too. I welcome you to choose fanfare music for some other event in that case. Maybe the band could play your fanfare when you show up at a party. Or choose a fanfare to indicate your abhorrence of American sports-mad culture; I can't fault such an abhorrence.

But everyone should have a fanfare! (In a pinch, Wagnerians can choose a leitmotif.)
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