Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On Christmas Music

There’s something special about Christmas music.  Kind of.  Really I should say that there’s something special about Christmas music for a little while and then it quickly gets old.  Some people start playing it the day after Thanksgiving and keep it going on into February.  Others may turn on the radio on Christmas Eve as they’re cooking, but no more.  Others may only hear it at church when they go to see a Christmas play or cantata.  And still more will eschew Christmas music like it’s the bubonic plague.

Myself, I love Christmas music, but conditionally.  I like it with variety.  If it all sounds crisp, clean, and bubbly, I’m ready to tear my ears off and plug the holes with caulk within a few short minutes.  I like the traditional Dean Martin or Nat King Cole song as much as the next guy, but not only them.  Different arrangements of the music makes all the difference in the world.  Or playing quirky, odd Christmas songs.  Something to break the monotony of familiar Christmas tunes.

As a musician, one thing I really appreciate and like about Christmas music is its complexity.  Christmas songs typically make use of odd chords that aren’t played as often, diminished and augmented things.  And many of them rely on a heavy minor sound, which I find absolutely delightful.  There’s just something moodier when I hear a minor chord, something a bit more mysterious and powerful.

Right along with the actual music is the lyrics behind many Christmas songs.  Many of them deal with the birth of Jesus, of course, and that is well and good.  His birth should be remembered and honored, and by singing carols of Him we are worshipping Him in a way.  But then there’s the secular Christmas songs, like “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” or “The Christmas Song.”  These songs are often fun to sing along with and the wide array of meaning behind them, from sadness of memories gone by to the joys of riding a sleigh through snowy hills.  I enjoy a good mix of meaning with my songs.

A final thing that I really like about Christmas music is that it crosses every genre, but it also is a genre of its own.  You can listen to one artist sing a favorite Christmas song, adding to it their own personal touch.  Or perhaps they leave it alone, stripping it down to its simple form and sing over the easy chords.  Whatever the case may be, each artist will add their own unique flavor to any song, and the variety in this is perfect for curing the normal Christmas music blues.

I’ve written this post chiefly for one reason: Christmas music does not have to be painful to listen to.  No, truly there is hope for the music.  I found it, and now I’ll share it with you.  A plethora of answers to life are available from NPR, and they have the fix for this dilemma, too.  Jingle Jams: A Holiday Mix from NPR Music offers 100 favorite holiday songs, from Bach to the Ramones to Louis Armstrong to Johnny Cash, and they’re all available for free listening here.  The streaming is on a loop, so you don’t get to pick where you start, but you can listen to a great variety of Christmas music.  There are very familiar songs and there are songs I’ve never heard before.  Overall, I’ve enjoyed it, and you can too.  Thank you NPR.  You always come through.

Random Bits and Pieces

  • Writing Wednesdays tomorrow.  Don’t miss it.
  • Amazon’s Deal of the Day is Assassin’s Creed II for $40.  That’s outrageous!
  • Some funny Christmas ads from yesteryear.  I liked the first one best.
  • I still haven’t picked out Keisha’s gift.
  • I’m compiling my data from all the books I’ve read for 2009 and will be posting it the last week of the year.


Crystal said...

There's still 10 days before Christmas. That's plenty of time to pick out a gift for Keisha.

The Christmas ads from yesteryear are funny.

I like Christmas music in moderation. I like to listen to it while decorating the tree or Christmas shopping or while opening presents. If I listen to it anymore than that, it gets annoying to me.

logankstewart said...

Crystal: I had Keisha's gift picked out and then went to the AT&T store and decided that the iPhone + data plan + text plan was going to cost way too much for me to get. Now I've got to look for something else...

Aye, moderation definitely is the key to Christmas music.

David Wagner said...

Thanks for the thoughts on Christmas music, and for the link to the stream. I'm trying to listen to it, but the feed is all choppy... probably something to do with Google Chrome, I don't know. I'll listen on another browser and see...

I look forward to your thoughts on your 2009 reads.

logankstewart said...

@David: Could be a Chrome issue, or it could be that a lot of people are at the NPR site. Yesterday it had a few glitches in it, but it worked fine for me today.