The balloons are not red, and there is no toy shop. The narrator doesn’t dream of red balloons either. But, like its English-language counterpart (“99 Red Balloons”) Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (1983) is about an accidental, apocalyptic war triggered by 99 balloons. Luft means air, and ballon means balloon. So, literally, a luftballon is an air
1 There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. – John Cage, “Experimental Music” (1957), in Silence: 50th Anniversary Edition (Wesleyan UP, 2011), p. 8 Philip Nel, guitar and vocal, Manhattan, Kansas, 26 July 2020. 2 John Cage’s 4’33” was first performed
How do you translate children’s colloquial speech – with its flexible syntax, unusual diction – into another language? In celebration of Ruth Krauss’ 119th birthday (or what she would have called her 109th birthday), I’ll sketch two possible answers to that question by looking at A Hole Is to Dig in the language her grandmother spoke: German!
Only five chords – in fact, the same I-IV-V chords played in two different keys (E and F#). Two and a half minutes. In sum, classic Ramones. I chose the song because it combines boredom and urgency: “Nothing to do, nowhere to go” and “Hurry, hurry, hurry before I go insane.” I think many of us
This hopeful, aspirational song is the first musical number in The Muppet Movie (1979), the first and best of the Muppet films. I chose it because I figure we could all use a little hope. Written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, “Rainbow Connection,” is one of two songs most closely associated with Kermit the
Yesterday, 98 distinguished professors from four Kansas universities called for an immediate end to the Trump administration’s cruel and reckless decision to revoke the visas of any international students attending a college that goes fully on-line this fall. The full text is on Kansas State University’s news pages, and Kansas State University’s English Department’s blog.
When I started assembling my COVID-19 Spotify mix (at Boston’s Logan airport, 13 March 2020), R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” led the playlist. It still does. At that time, I didn’t think I would actually try to learn it. The music isn’t difficult, but what
This week’s #PlagueSong is more uptempo than last week’s, and not written for the acoustic guitar. Yes, it’s… the Bee Gees’ disco classic, “Stayin’ Alive.” This is one of the earlier songs I remember. As a child, I checked the Saturday Night Fever record album out of the library, and then made a cassette of
Back by (not especially) popular demand! It’s the fifth and final episode, in which I share five things keeping me going during the pandemic. As noted previously, what works for me may not work for you, and indeed may not be available to you. If you feel so moved, do share what’s keeping you going!
You’ll know Everything But the Girl’s Amplified Heart (1994) for its hit single “Missing.” But take a listen to a deeper cut from that record: “We Walk the Same Line” (Really, do listen to the original: Tracey Thorn’s alto is far more pleasing than my tenor.) The lyrics’ evocation of love and worry resonate in