Poppin’ and lockin’ and breakin’ and snifflin’

Phil Ford

Hello everyone. This isn’t my real post-AMS post. I’m too damn sick and too buried in backlogged work to write a real post, so you’ll have to make do with drips and drabs.

1. Good news — Phil Gentry has a blog! Phil is a grad student at UCLA and is one of a burgeoning corps of AMS Cold Warriors.

2. More good news: Julian Sanchez, an alarmingly smart and alarmingly young political blogger with a yen for opera, has started blogging again, and has written a post on his ill-fated attempt to insinuate 20th-century classical music into his local trivia tourney. Here’s the “money graf,” as I believe it is called by those who actually get paid to write:

Actually, contemporary indie rock is part of what makes me think [listening to newish classical music] is more likely to happen for the current crop of folks in their 20s and early 30s. There’s no especially easy segue from “Freebird” to Schoenberg—listening to the former doesn’t prepare your ear for the latter. But for a generation raised on the likes of Radiohead’s post–Kid A albums or Battles or Do Make Say Think, it’s not a huge leap to enjoying Terry Riley or Steve Reich.  (Indeed, I see that Pitchfork has reviewed some of Reich’s records.) If that’s right, then the present obscurity of modern classical composers may not be a symptom of the form’s descent into some kind of pernicious obscurantism, but only a temporary hiccup in the traditional symbiotic relationship between pop and “art” music.

3. Despite being nearly comatose (with sleeplessness, a bad cold, and musicology poisoning*) yesterday, I managed to lead a good class on Singin’ in the Rain. (Though it must also be said that I can’t take much credit for it: this is one of the best groups of students I’ve ever had, and plus Singin’ in the Rain pretty much sells itself.) Anyway, one of the students did a presentation on Gene Kelly’s famous number, which you probably don’t need to see again but which I will post anyhow:

So anyway, Lisa showed us a Volkswagen commercial that used a remix of the same song, along with some CGI voodoo applied to Gene Kelly, who’s now poppin’ and lockin’:

And finally here is the video for the remix used in the commercial, this time with poppin’ and lockin’ Kleenex-box robots, plus some sick breaking:

The conjunction of Gene Kelly and hiphop dancing isn’t as arbitrary as it might seem. I knew a guy named Linden Dalecki in Austin who had written a young adult novel about a white B-boy who watches a lot of old Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly movies with his thumb on the fast-forward button, zipping past all the romantic stuff and studying the dance scenes for potential moves. I asked Linden if real-life B-boys do this, and apparently they do. “Singin’ in the Rain” probably isn’t the best example of proto-hiphop moves, but if you look at Kelly’s more aggressive and athletic stuff (for example, in his “Moses Supposes” routines with Donald O’Connor), you can sort of see it.

*my term for the effects of four days of continuous total immersion in musicology

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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9 Responses to Poppin’ and lockin’ and breakin’ and snifflin’

  1. PMG says:

    Thanks for the shoutout! You were at the top of the list of people I was hoping to meet this weekend, but failed to.

  2. Scraps says:

    But Reich and Riley (and Glass, for that matter) came to popularity during the era of “Free Bird”. Progressive rock of that time — especially the less bombastic kinds, like Can or Popul Vuh — probably prepared listeners of that time for popular classical music as well as indie rock does today. And there still isn’t a likely bridge to Schoenberg that I can see, unless it’s the more out-there electronica.

  3. Andy H-D says:

    C’mon guys. The bridge to Schoenberg is obviously Zappa. There’s even a strict twelve-tone part in “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It”. However it seems that even today’s hipsters have trouble with Zappa.
    The indie rock/minimalism thing has been stewing for a long time too. Sonic Youth were the first ones to actually record Reich’s “Pendulum Music” as well as participate in Glenn Branca’s whacky guitarchestras. Reich’s heavy use of mallet percussion was also a big influence on Tortoise and so on and so forth.

  4. Jonathan says:

    I love the idea of B-Boys (whatever they might be, said the drowsing Ancient) getting moves from Astaire and Kelly films, and wherever else they may get them. No Theorizing, no Appropriating, no political statement, just getting the moves and using them and transforming them. The films were originally, I imagine, middlebrow entertainment; through ossification and the cult of the “classic” they’ve become highbrow and niche, but here are practitioners of what was originally a “street” medium merrily learning from them. Low, middle, and highbrow in the blender. I just love this. Somewhere, Cultural Critics are grinding their teeth.

  5. Eric says:

    I think I heard an electronica piece awhile back that had the opening theme to Schoenberg’s String Quartet no. 4 (Maybe it was a dream, however).

  6. eba says:

    Fantastic. This is why I enjoy MMusicology.

  7. ben wolfson says:

    It’s not just CGI—some guy named Elsewhere did it with motion capture.

  8. ben wolfson says:

    (That is, regarding the Gene Kelly.)

  9. Clay says:

    Elsewhere from Detours crew: search for ‘kollaboration 2001’ on youtube and theres an old video of him wearing a rather fetching orange jumper and performing some truly amazing moves.

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