Hickory Dickory Dock, The Mouse Ran Up George Enescu

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syncopated clock
syncopated clock

Source: http://play.tojsiab.com/c3hlWHN6Rkw5OWsz

Being roughly twice the age of the internet, I believe I have the right to render some judgment on this latest flash in the pan.  (I mean, what are today’s tablets if not essentially the equivalent of Kenner’s Close ‘n Play, maybe version 143.2?)

My conclusion: there are no more than five defensible reasons why the internet’s existence does anyone any good (well, actually only two if you remove the topics of sex, our desire to endlessly and pointlessly proclaim our over-self-esteemed opinions, and our irrational need to inform everyone of our infatuation for running, jumping, biting, hanging and sleeping warm sources of litter-box droppings and free-floating, nose-clogging hair).

No, in the 25 years that we’ve been surfing and stalking and spying and searching and engaging in other acts of self-hypnosis, there are only two reasons why the internet is of any productive use (well, ok, come to think of it, there’s actually only one if you exclude EVERYTHING related to sex).

And what is that one thing? To do meaningless spontaneous searches on topics that are suddenly of paramount importance in the middle of the night.

And that’s how we get from Hickory Dickory Dock to George Enescu.

Very recently, I was singing (some might call it destroying) the nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock to my young son, and when we reached “the clock struck one,” I unexpectedly thought of The Late Show, that 1 a.m. movie that would come on after The Tonight Show on CBS-TV (Channel 2) in New York while I was growing up.

Why? Well, read on.

For those of you not of a certain age or location, for at least two generations of New Yorkers (and as I now read, Angelenos also) beginning in 1950, The Late Show on those local CBS stations was a staple (actually THE staple in our household) of late night entertainment. Many nights, it was the only thing on TV past 1 or 2 a.m. And on Friday and Saturdays, it was succeeded by The Late Late Show, which made them very special nights for us insomniacs in that we had company to almost sunrise, or to the religiously related programming that would start at 5:30 or 6 a.m. on Sundays. (Anyone else remember the old Davey & Goliath stop motion cartoons?)

While the movies were generally old and (if memory is correct) generally good, the one thing that is unforgettable is the theme song to the show. Taken from the light concert piece, The Syncopated Clock (get it? Hickory Dickory Dock….the clock struck one?) the 10-20 seconds of repeated percussive melody are indelibly impressed on our memories and (as with anything indelibly impressed on our memories) tends to pop up unexpectedly, like when we sing nursery rhymes or sit for hours waiting to see the doctor.

So I went not just “googling” but also “youtubing” to hear it once more. And there it was. Did you know it was written in 1945 by Leroy Anderson while he was serving at the Pentagon as Chief of the Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence? No, neither did I. And until the other night, I didn’t really care. [Listen to it, here.]

And hey! Look at that! Did you know he also wrote The Typewriter!? One of my other favorites. No, neither did I. [Listen to that, here.]

And holy cow!! Did you know that he ALSO wrote Sleigh Ride!!?? Now there’s a song you WILL actually know. [Listen and sing along, here.]  (Lyrics were added later.) [And for those, click here.]  See how this works?

So I wondered, who is this guy? [Find him on Wikipedia, here.]  Or find his official website , here.]  And yes, indeed, he’s pretty interesting. He wasn’t THE most interesting guy I’ve ever read about, but at least he seems to have had a very good life. That’s nice.

And he was smart as well as musically gifted. Fluent in nine languages, he attended Harvard University and studied with some of the most famous people around at that time. And you know who one of them was? That’s right. While earning his Master’s degree at Harvard in the 1920s, he studied composition with George Enescu. That’s right. THAT George Enescu.  The Romanian.  [For him, go here.]  Unless you’re actually also Romanian.  [In that case, go here.]

So there you go: a Romanian connection I already had in my childhood that never existed until Google was invented. My favorite excuse for watching the sun rise and sleeping through high school and your favorite excuse for a great music festival knew each other.

Now I think I’ll go look up the name of that Lithuanian guy I can never remember who used the recipe of a Romanian friend to introduce pastrami to New York in the 1880s.

(Oh, and just in case you don’t know the nursery rhyme, you can find that here.  Or for those of you who weren’t paying attention in 1967, find Kenner’s Close ‘n Play here.)



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