Tuesday, October 9, 2007

78s fRom HeLL: The Alec Wilder Octet (circa 1940)

American composer Alec Wilder (1907 - 1980) wore many hats during his career.

If you'll allow the metaphor to be awkwardly strained, it seems that all those 'hats' which Wilder wore were a bit outlandishly fashioned, and not one of them fit him quite correctly.

In the liner notes to this album set (click link to view) he is correctly pegged as a 'musician's musician'...

In addition to 'chamber jazz' pieces like those featured here, he composed pop songs for many well-known artists, classical pieces for small ensembles and large orchestras, 'art songs' for operatic vocalists, a prodigious amount of music for children, including 'A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra' - - and the list goes on.

Frank Sinatra was among those championing his music early on; In 1945, Sinatra would conduct a recording of his instrumental compositions for woodwind and string orchestra.

But Wilder's music was eccentric (as was Wilder), and though many people in musical circles 'got' him, widespread commercial success eluded him.

A 'musician's musician' held in high regard, but for the general public it seemed he was too lowbrow for the highbrows, and too highbrow for the lowbrows.

See also: Do NOT miss the wilderworld site! (click for link)

Session personnel:

Jimmy Carroll, clarinet
Eddie Powell, flute
Mitchell Miller, oboe
Frank Carroll, bass
Harold Goltzer, bassoon
Reggie Merrill, bass clarinet
Walter Gross,harpsichord
Gary Gillis, drums

(The album cover art below is by the legendary Alex Steinweiss, 'inventor' of artwork on record packaging.
Follow this link for some further info.)

From The Alec Wilder Octet 78 album set,
(Columbia Records, circa 1940)

Listen to:

His First Long Pants
Her Old Man Was Suspicious
Pieces Of Eight
Bull Fiddles In China Shop
Please Do Not Disturb
The House Detective Registers
Dance Man Buys A Farm
Kindergarten Flower Pageant

(click for audio)

- - OR download all 8 tracks in one 25.2 Mb zipfile.

Also see the short Alec Wilder biography page at Classical.Net, which includes the following poem, written by Wilder and later read at his funeral...

Beauty! Art! Wit!
Wonderment! Humility!
Arrogance! Style!
Virtue! Decency!
And all the others,
Gone, trampled by the
Newly-polished jack boots
Of the clog-suited society.

I am a stranger here, from
Another planet;
Not spotted yet, but
Getting peculiar stares.
Forbidden entrance to
All the places where
Air remains,
Where green is true
And water unmolested.

In any other time,
(Excepting Atilla's)
I'd be a hero
Why, they'd even name
An alley after me
And put a blotting-paper
Plaque on all my doors
Not because I was great
But because I insisted on
All the words and was rejected by
Those who wait ferally
In the ancient trees.


maxicats said...

I have this set given to me some years ago by a friend in the U.S.A. I think the music is great,very different and original.
The records are mint and I play them occasionally very carefully with a diamond stylus on a 1953 HMV radiogram

dugs said...

Humble thanks for this. The "Sinatra conducts..." album is pretty readily available, but not this, in my experience anyway. Small-group Wilder is one of those confections I can't do without. Thanks for feeding my mad craving.

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