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New Amsterdam and The Silver Lake

November 19, 2011

Pink Martini

Recently I got to know Pink Martini’s song “Sympathique”. Well, don’t laugh at my ignorance, since what I listen to is almost all classical music. I liked that song, so I looked up more their songs in YouTube and ended up getting all their albums.

I have lots of things to say about Pink Martini, but here let’s stick with the topic. When I first heard of “New Amsterdam” from “Splendor In the Grass” (2009), I noticed something familiar… I heard similar melody before. What was it? I identified the composer from my mental search and then it only took me a little time to find out that song.

Here is the beginning bit of “New Amsterdam”.

Now compare this “Ich bin eien arme Verwandte” (by Teresa Stratas) and focus on the singing part (the voice comes in at 0:26). Don’t they sound a little bit similar? To me, they do. ;-) (Or, am I dreaming?) That song (Fennimore’s Lied) is from”Der Silbersee” (aka The Silver Lake, a musical by Kurt Weill to a German text by Georg Kaiser). Only that part sounds familiar, which is also the central part of “New Amsterdam”. The rest of  “Ich bin eien arme Verwandte” is quite different..

So, who composed “New Amsterdam”?

New Amsterdam
Written by Louis Hardin, aka Moondog
Moondog was a blind, homeless composer based in New York. He stood at Columbus Circle for 30 years, where he was known as “The Viking of Sixth Avenue,” but very few people knew he was an incredible avant-garde composer. This was a song on one of his last albums, recorded in 1995, and I used it as the leitmotif of the soundtrack I did for Chiara Clemente’s Our City Dreams. The original calls for nine saxophones. I think it’s the most beautiful song ever written about New York City (from Interview Magazine)

You can hear the whole songs here.

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