“Carousel” by Circus Contraption – Amazon Advent Calendar day 14

Album Art

Carousel

Circus Contraption

Grand American Traveling Dime Museum

Genre: Jazz

“Circus music, Roger!”

Circus music, Jeff?”

“Absolutely! For the past twenty years, our label has always been one step behind on every hot new music trend. By the time we get around to trying to sign a Thrash Gospel band, or a group that’s been playing all of the Velcro Cheese clubs, or can play anything danceable involving a steam radiator, we’re left with the dregs. Well, no more, Roger. Not this time.”

“And you think circus music is the next big thing.”

“I have no idea. I just know that nobody’s onto it yet. Okay, yes, it’s a gamble. But if Kanye West ever should go off on an insane rant about how some day, every city will have a big tent shaped like his head, where performers will play ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ 24 hours a day on tubas and calliopes…we’ll already be right there on the ground floor.”

“You know what? I was skeptical about this idea until you brought up Kanye West.”

“That guy might say or do anything at any time for any reason.”

“Indeed. He might be as nutty as a set of linoleum underpants, but I can’t deny that he’s a tastemaker.”

(annnnd…scene.)

So why isn’t circus music a popular genre, with its own category in every music department? Wait, actually…

I’ve just checked iTunes and confirmed that there’s no musical genre for “Circus.” Which surprised me. Have you ever scrolled through that entire popup list? There’s even a genre for “Finance.” Really? What stylistic elements typify a good Finance song?

(I’ll now confirm the thought that’s in all of your heads right now: “Every song every band has made since their third album should be filed under ‘Finance’.”)

I started buying Circus Contraption tracks after watching a marathon Thanksgiving showing of the fantastic PBS multipart documentary about the Big Apple Circus. It’s a tremendously entertaining series…and all six hourlong episodes are online at the PBS website.

“You’re a damned liar, Ihnatko” you say? How sad. Witness:

Watch the full episode. See more Circus.

Guess you feel pretty stupid right now, don’t you?

The show has a cool soundtrack. I do wish that its signature theme (by The Features, a band that I hadn’t heard of before, but who I really, really like) were longer. It runs just a little over a minute. It’s not about the “Beats per measure per dollar,” you understand; it just seems like “Whatever Gets You By” has some real legs to it.

Producers who were looking for music for their circus documentary and who also had access to a search engine were inevitably going to discover a band called “Circus Contraption.” It’s good, classical circus stuff. Strike that: I mean that it’s clearly modern circus music. It doesn’t trip into the cartoony worn-out cliches that come to mind when you think “circus music.”

The important thing is that their music doesn’t swing into that equally boring area of “Ooooo…it’s a circus, but it’s a darrrrrk and scarrrrryyyyy circus. That’s my innovative twist, you see. I’m really quite proud to have come up with that. Oh, sure: I suppose all of those soccer moms out there might not having their heads blown like that but I’m at the mercy of my Muse. I’m an artist; I ride at the gates of dawn and I take no prisoners.”

I’ve had some of these tracks in my music library for a couple of weeks now, though, and I must caution you that they can be dangerous when they come up on shuffle play. You’re culturally-programmed to respond to this kind of music in a specific way. If you’re in the kitchen and a recipe calls for three eggs, then those eggs will be juggled on their way from the fridge to the mixing bowl. If you’re out taking your daily Constitutional and there’s anything narrow and linear on the ground along your path, you will hold out your arms for balance and walk across it like a tightrope.

When you walk your dog at night and he finishes taking a whizz against a streetlamp, you will suddenly point to him there in the spotlight in a broad and flourish-ey sort of way, as though to encourage the audience to applaud his wonderful trick.

It will happen. If this music comes on in your headphones and it doesn’t inspire you to behave as though you’re wearing something colorful and spangly and 300 people are hanging breathlessly on every graceful move you make, then something inside you has definitely gone dead.

Listen to “Carousel” on the Amazon MP3 Store.

As always, I remind you that my music links are embedded with my Amazon Associates code. If you click, any purchase you make during that Amazon session will result in my receiving a small kickback in the form of Amazon gift credits…which I will spend on fun and foolish things.

Amazon Advent Calendar 2010…The Kickoff

Image of a traditional Advent calendar, with the first door open.

I’m single. This means that holiday traditions are tougher to maintain. When you have a spouse and kids, your Sleigh of Life tends to find the familiar ruts of late November and early December on its own. You walk into the house one day and immediately realize that someone has replaced all of the Glade Plug-In Scents cartridges with the kind that smell like gingerbread, and you immediately realize that this is the weekend you need to go out and buy a tree.

It’s different in my house. Last year, I didn’t actually get my Bachelor Tree set up and decorated until a few days before the holiday. And the house only smelled of the usual aroma of vaguely-overstressed electronic components.

But I’m really going to go for it this year: that tree’s going up while the box that my Swanson’s Single-Serve Microwave Thanksgiving Dinner is still in the kitchen recycling bin. And I’m going to start my Amazon Advent Calendar the week of Thanksgiving, instead of the day after.

For those of you who are new to my Beloved Holiday Tradition, it’s a simple concept:

  • Every day between now and Christmas, I’m going to recommend a different song, available from the Amazon MP3 Store.
  • Some of these will be holiday-themed tunes. But for the most part, I’m just going to recommend songs that I like.
  • Every one of these Amazon links will be embedded with my Amazon Associates ID.

So: if you should happen to click the link to listen to a sample of the song I’ve picked for the day, and then you should happen to remember that you were going to order your Aunt Boadicea a Velocity Micro :x775 six-core gaming PC, my Amazon account will be credited for a percentage of $5000 retail price of the PC that you purchased, as well as anything else you might have bought during that same Amazon session.

You have my word of honor that the accumulated Amazon credits will only be used to purchase Fun Things that I wouldn’t normally buy for myself. Recently, I bought a rather nifty Panasonic pancake lens for my Micro Four Thirds camera. It’s an excellent example of how I use my Amazon credits. I love shooting with it, but it’s well above my Automatically-Approved Impulse Buy level. Rational, responsible thoughts would have triggered a mandatory counter argument of “Yes, but you already have a perfectly fine wide-aperture lens for the SLR” and then a cheerless response of “I guess.”

In previous years, I’ve rather defensively explained this concept in every Advent Calendar post, and also included a link to the same song in iTunes. I’ll try to do the latter but will dispense with the former. I agree that Associates links can be slightly tricky for someone in my line of work. I did give it a lot of thought a few years ago and reached a few conclusions:

1) I certainly can’t profit in any way from any Amazon item that’s even remotely tech-related. But when I recommend music and books and movies, I’m doing it as a civilian.

Which is why those two Amazon links I just embedded are just plain-jane store links. If someone were to email me and complain “You only wrote favorably about the iPad because you get an Associates referral kickback from everyone who clicks the link and buys it!” then yes, he’s clearly just a cantankerous pain in the butt. But even CPitB’s can raise a valid point every once in a while. I think I defend my opinions — whether they’re positive or negative ones — in the things I write. Nonetheless, it’s so very easy for me to remove this one source of potential skepticism.

I also concluded that

2) The Associates program allows me to get paid for some of these fun things I write without burdening my readers in any way.

and, admittedly,

3) Damn. It’d be nice to have a MacBook Air, or an ultrawide fixed-aperture zoom for my SLR, or one of those gadgets that can extract the seed from a mango in just one stroke.

So. Do keep these things in mind. If you were planning on doing lots of your holiday shopping at Amazon, and you happen to make those purchases after clicking one of my Amazon Advent Calendar links, then: awesome. Otherwise, enjoy these tracks. Because I sure do.

Another part of the tradition: I start it off on a daily schedule, inevitably lose a day due to the slings and arrows of outrageous deadlines, and wind up making anywhere from ten to two-dozen posts.

I think this is the fifth year I’ve done this. Here are links to previous years’ offerings (at least here are the ones I’ve posted since I switched the CWoB to WordPress a few years ago):

If you never want to be distracted by anything else on the Celestial Waste of Bandwidth, bookmark this link right here. It’ll always take you straight to the 2010 Advent Calendar entries:

I’ll close this intro by pointing you to my BFF John’s Movie Year project. A couple of years ago, I indirectly inspired John to try to see and review a new (to him) movie every day for an entire year. He cruised through the year and then, like Forrest Gump when he reached the edge of Alabama, decided to just keep on running until he runs out of movies.

I’m mentioning this because at some point, maybe it’s going to be really late at night and I’ll have put off the day’s Advent Calendar post until the end and I’m in bed and I just plain will fall asleep in mid-sentence. And then my daily 2010 Advent Calendar streak will end.

I solemnly believe that by inspiring John to post something interesting and well-written every day for nearly two years, I’ve sort of purchased Carbon Credits from him that allow me to claim compliance with the desired standard.

Postscript: I’ve just noticed something on my Advent calendar. Santa seems to be dropping off either copies of Google Chrome, or the Mac OS’ Spinning Beachball Of Death. Ho-ho-ho indeed.