Panda’s at Rest

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Have you ever pictured your own funeral? It’s only natural, I think. I’ve been there, and one thing I know: the music’s going to be great. Why? Because I’ve already picked it out. That’s right – just like Mozart writing his own Requiem, I’ve put together a mix of music I want played at my funeral. And I listen to it all of the time.

So what makes for a good soundtrack for your own funeral? It’s got to be music that represents you. For me, that’s a pretty eclectic mix, but it starts with the classics, from both the Classical and Romantic periods.

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Mozart’s Requiem. Ever since the movie Amadeus, I’ve loved the story of this piece. Even if it’s not historically accurate, it makes for a great story, and fits my story, since I’m also writing my own death mass, so to speak!

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Dvorák’s 9th Symphony. My favorite classical composer. Ever. Maybe it’s my Slavic roots, or the melding of Old World and American melodies in Dvorák’s music. I’ve chosen the 4th movement, because the opening always reminds me of the theme from the movie Jaws. Very dramatic.

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Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Again a movie reference, this time from my favorite movie of all-time, Excalibur. There’s something about the haunting refrain from Wagner’s Siegfried’s Funeral Music and Final Scene that gets to me, every time I watch King Arthur dying in battle and being carried off on a boat into the sunset of Avalon. Perfect way to end it all!

Lest I come off as too pretentious, I’ve also mixed in a bunch of 20th century music. Less dramatic, but more reflective. Songs like The Beatles’ In My Life, The Rolling Stones’ No Expectations, Frank Sinatra’s It Was A Very Good Year. The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith round out my high school years, while I also threw in some of my more recent favorites by Cake, Chris Isaak, Liz Phair and Nirvana. Plus a few other surprises.

All of these songs speak to me, and speak from my heart. I hope that when you hear them, you’ll think of me. Even before I’m dead. Mahalo!

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Guitars, Cadillacs, Bachelor Pad Music

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With all apologies to Dwight Yoakam. Oops, now to Nirvana as well. Sorry, just some musical humor. Speaking of music, I’m really enjoying the infusion of electric guitar into genres that don’t usually feature it. Big band. Exotica. Lounge. I guess you can call it worlds colliding. At least that’s what I call it, since I’m from the Seinfeld generation. Kids today call it mash-up. Whatever you call it, I’m really into it, when two or more seemingly unrelated things come together. It happens to me a lot, as I’ve rambled about previously in my musings about karma. Anyway, here are three examples of electric guitar boldly going where few had gone before.

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Brian Setzer Orchestra.
Brian Setzer. You may remember him from such bands as The Stray Cats. They were pretty big back in the day, when MTV was king. Then, just when you thought he had fallen off of the face of the earth, Brian Setzer reinvented himself. With a big band. As the front man. Leading with his guitar in hand! It was 1990, and I was really starting to get into the swing and jump blues stylings of Harry Connick Jr. and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Then along comes BSO with something completely different: a guitar-driven big band. I was blown away! Not only did they do an amazing cover of Louis Prima’s Jump, Jive and Wail, but Brian Setzer also dared to do a big-band version of The Clash’s Brand New Cadillac. Only in their version, the bridge is a rocking version of Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn Theme with a kick-ass Brian Setzer guitar solo to bring it home. Brilliant! Keep on rocking the swing world, Stray Cat!

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Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods.
Hey, wait a minute – wasn’t Elliot Easton the lead guitarist for that 80s band, The Cars? He was, and still is, as The Cars released a nice comeback album in 2011. But he also has a little side project, Tiki Gods, and put out an album last year called Easton Island. I first heard about this album from Sven Kirsten, the godfather of all things Tiki. Easton Island is a collection of Tiki-inspired songs with an electric guitar flair, something not typically found in Tiki music. Elliot Easton doesn’t just cover songs; he wrote original music, ranging from lounge, exotica, surf and other genres from the Mid-Century Modern era. My favorite tune is Ballad of Cowboyardee, a clever homage to the melodramatic music of Spaghetti Westerns. Well played, Elliot Easton!

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Five-Eaux.
Five-Eaux is the brainchild of my new Facebook friend John Bartley, a/k/a Jon Tiki. Based in St. Louis MO, this band has cranked out a half dozen tunes so far, and what an eclectic mix! The Pink Panther Theme. Taboo. Apache. Quiet Village. Telstar. And of course, a cool version of Hawaii Five-O. What sets John’s work apart for me is his reliance on the electric guitar to re-energize these old chestnuts. You expect that in the surf tunes, but not in the Pink Panther Theme, where John’s tremolo guitar replaces brass and sax as the driving instrument. And in Taboo, he channels Carlos Santana in a haunting, guitar-driven version of this classic Arthur Lyman exotica tune. Thank you, Jon Tiki, we look forward to hearing more of your music!

Now you can listen to this playlist here: