Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Superhero Theme Project: Red Tornado and Plastic Man

When last we left the Superhero Theme Project several months ago, things seemed to be winding down. At the time, the Little One was still invested, but there was a definitely the sense that she was losing interest. After the nearly devastating success of the Venom theme, it seemed that she was a little burned out on the playlist. Understandable, since she had been listening to it almost every day for nearly a year a half. To a degree, I was too, and I was starting to run out of material. I wanted to keep high standards, but I admittedly worked harder than intended to dig up the last few themes that I added to the playlist.

I was also disappointed that there was not more traditional repertoire making its way onto the list. A lot of it just seemed too “classical” when sidled up aside more contemporary TV and movie themes, and I felt like I was kind of stylistically repeating myself in this realm. It’s not that I was ignoring chamber music, though. For example, I came across Borodin’s Prince Igor theme in my research and it seemed to be bombastic enough to work if the right hero came up.

At the time, we were still riding out the Batman: Brave and the Bold series, which, coupled with the Super-Pets Encyclopedia, provided a constant stream of characters. When Prince Igor had my attention, she was very interested in the Red Tornado. I was not entirely convinced that the style of the piece fit the character. Objectively, the Red Tornado is an android, and from that perspective, the operatic pretentiousness of Prince Igor does not layer well with the character. The character’s history will show, however, that his robotic body is the host to a “wind elemental,” which might align with Prince Igor’s swirling pomposity. With reservations, I pulled the trigger in the hopes that some new music might reinvigorate her interest.

To this day, I am still a little mixed on this one. The final entry on the playlist, however, ended up being one of my favorites. The Brave and the Bold also got her interested in Plastic Man. This character is relatively marginal in the DC universe, but kids of my generation might remember that he had a brief stint in the 70s Saturday morning cartoon universe. I loved this show back then, so I had a unique investment. I wanted to do him justice, but also make him distinct from the other tracks in the playlist.

I was listening to some George Gershwin back when I was investigating the possibilities for Catwoman’s theme. I was drawn to sections of Rhapsody in Blue that seemed appropriate, but my no-editing policy excluded this 15 minute opus. Looking for alternatives, I discovered Promenade (Walking the Dog). This piece had a running time that fit playlist parameters, but it simply did not fit Catwoman. Due to the old cartoon series, however, my impression of Plastic Man is a little silly. Promenade (Walking the Dog) had a comedic feel that seemed right. Additionally, it was a huge contrast to my other Superhero themes, but was still clearly orchestral in scope. As reticent as I was with the Red Tornado, I thought that this song as Plastic Man’s theme would be my final stroke of genius.

I uploaded these tracks to the playlist, and they were relatively well-received. In an attempt to keep her listening, however, I took another step that seemed to put a decisive end to the Superhero Theme Project.

I uploaded Let it Go to my phone.

I couldn’t get around it. She was exposed to the song through her cousins and peers and, more importantly, she was trying to learn to sing it correctly. This latter development was too important to ignore. In the end, the lure of lyrics and peer pressure was too great.

Once this hit the air, there was zero interest in the Superhero playlist. By her request, I also added a couple of other Disney and pop music hits that, for reasons of dignity, we won’t go into here. The important point is that she seemed to be developing her own tastes, and there was no reason to continue cramming my narrative down her throat. For several months, she would sporadically request to “Listen to Superheroes,” but generally there was very little interest. I thought that I had gotten all that I was going to out of the project. I deemed it successful and, more selfishly, loads of nerdish fun. End of story.

However, just now, as I am writing this nearly six months later, she caught me whistling Promenade (Walking the Dog) and decisively asked “Are you singing Plastic Man?”

This reflects a recently renewed interest in the Superhero Playlist.  She requests it about once every two weeks and listens to the entire thing intently.  Additionally, now that she is nearing four, our attendant discussions are starting to reveal the way in which the seeds that this project planted are starting to take root. This will, along with a few additions to the playlist, undoubtedly be the topic of future posts. For now, consider yourself caught up.

Jump back a few months click HERE.
To see where it all started go HERE.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

How Fragile the Fish: First Steps into Broader Horizons

When the word came of Squire’s leukemia diagnosis, I envisioned that we would have him longer than we did. At the very worst, I thought that his recovery would sideline him for live shows and he would carry on as Yes’ musical director, much like Brian Wilson did for the Beach Boys when his mental health proved too fragile for live performances. Too soon, though, we lost him.

Clearly, I am a Yes fan, but Squire was, and is, a significant influence on my personal musicianship. Squire was the first bassist that I began to explore outside of my rapidly expanding Rush catalog. Once I was able to create what I thought was a reasonable facsimile of Moving Pictures, I felt quite unstoppable. My self-directed research led me to Yes, who I had already connected with through 90125. In the name of delving deeper into progressive rock, which was my newly-adopted genre of choice, I decided to start working my way through their catalog as well. The first step was Fragile.

Fragile was touted as a landmark album, but it ended up being the one in which Chris Squire put me in my place. On 91025, Squire’s bass playing was relatively constrained in deference to Trevor Rabin’s concise compositional approach. Fragile was a different matter entirely. I got lucky on one count: Roundabout was in the same key as Tom Sawyer, so, despite being steadfastly opposed to using a pick (because, you know, Geddy didn’t), I was able to come with a recognizable version of this iconic track.

That was where it stopped. My relatively immature ear and self-developed technique simply could not process the brisk fluidity of Long Distance Runaround. It moved too fast, and the form of the song was too erratic, for me to zero in on all of the details of that bassline. I never really got it. By the time I started to tackle Heart of the Sunrise, I knew that I was in over my head.

In addition to the breakneck speed and ferocity of the song’s opening riffs, Squire’s melodic approach throughout the piece felt freely improvised, and was difficult to pin down. With better transcription skills, I might have fared better against these monstrously complex tunes, but I simply did not have them back then. I eventually cut my losses and gave up.

Regardless, the damage was done. Fragile made me a dedicated Yes fan, and I subsequently began working my way through the catalog. Since then, however, it has not left the shelf much, mainly due to my recollections of the irregular track listing. Fragile boasts four full-group compositions that are arguably some of the best progressive rock tunes ever created. It also includes five “solo” contributions, one from each member of the band. While none of these tracks are particularly bad, I remember feeling a little let down by them, especially when set in contrast to the defiant intensity of the group work.

In revisiting the album upon the announcement of Squire’s passing, however, my perception of Fragile as a holistic statement has changed. Seen as a whole, Fragile plays out like a mansion with many rooms and hallways for the listener to explore. By all accounts, featuring Yes’ individual members in this way arose somewhat out of necessity, but it ended up being a bold statement about progressive music that, regrettably, many contemporary progressive artists ignore.

Progressive rock is most effective when the voices of individual players are allowed to shine through the material.  Fragile featured what was arguably the most virtuosic lineup of Yes, with five distinctive musicians.  The active contributions of each person were absolutely necessary for Fragile to make a coherent statement, which it does.  Squire would employ this mission statement repeatedly during the band's long, continuing career by bringing new voices into the group to keep it alive.

Squire’s contribution on Fragile is The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus). It is an orchestral, multi-track statement in which Squire explored the edges of the bass’s timbral potential. It was not really a bass song that a singular late 80s garage musician on a shoestring budget could learn and perform without the aid of delays, loops, and effects.  It is, however, a powerful example of the kind of broad musical virtuosity that Squire continued to seek throughout the rest of his career.

And so it came to pass that Chris Squire became known as "The Fish" to his fans (not to be confused with Fish, or Phish, for that matter).  He wore this moniker proudly enough to employ it in the title of his singular solo album Fish Out of Water.  Although I think that this album may be the clearest statement of Squire’s distinctive songwriting and performance skills, I won’t revisit it here.  I have posted about this fantastic album elsewhere, and in the big scheme of things, Fragile had a much more profound impact on me. By the time I discovered Fish Out of Water, I had already decided that Squire was in a league of his own. His presence on Fragile shone a very bright light on the limitations of my own musicianship while also pointing towards its horizons. He will be sorely missed, not just by me, but by a vast ocean of fans with discerning ears and open minds.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Yes and The Ladder's Next Rung

Before I launch into the reasoning behind my support of Billy Sherwood playing bass for Yes on their upcoming dual-headline tour with Toto, please don’t misunderstand my intent. I am in no way trying to eclipse Chris Squire or make light of his recent leukemia diagnosis.  He is a historically significant rock bassist, and I have never lost belief in his vision as Yes’ musical director.  I am genuinely concerned for him and wish him the best in his recovery. By naming Sherwood as his stand-in on the tour, however, it is quite safe to assume that Squire believes the show must go on.

This isn't terribly surprising, because this mindset has circumscribed the band since their inception. Musicians have come and gone, but the band has forged ahead. The interwoven contributions of Yes’ various members have enough common threads for an essential “Yes-ness” to emerge that is easy to hear, but tricky to exactly pin down. For example, like many Yes fans, I see last year’s Heaven and Earth as a flawed but ultimately successful work because it evokes this indescribable “Yes-ness,” due in no small part to current lead singer Jon Davison’s persuasive conviction for Yes music.

Propelled by the theory that Yes’ music transcends any specific membership, I have spent an embarrassingly inordinate amount of time daydreaming about who could carry on the Yes name for another ten or fifteen years in the event that the band’s original members were to retire and pass the band on. I have posted a couple of times on this subject, and I still stand by February’s dream-team lineup.

This seemed like the meandering fantasies of a prog-rock nerd at the time, but Squire’s inclusion of Sherwood on this tour as his stand-in sets an interesting precedent. As I said last summer, he is the only artist who could realistically come close to stepping into Squire’s impossibly big shoes. His history with Squire and Yes make him the singular musician that diehard, open-minded fans would allow on stage (which are probably the majority of Yes' audience at this point, anyhow).

I have virtually zero investment in Toto, but I am seriously thinking about traveling to see what Yes looks like with Sherwood on bass. I feel quite sure that, with their limited performance time, Yes will be “playing the hits” once again. In an ideal world, however, their setlist would include some of the excellent music that Sherwood contributed during his time in the band, particularly from The Ladder.

Sherwood had been an official member of Yes for several years when this album was released in 1999. Although the band has had many good releases since, The Ladder stands, in my opinion, as the last really great Yes album. After nearly two decades of exploring various incarnations with sputtering success, this album represented something that the band had been searching for since 1988: a coherent compromise between their exploratory 70s work and the accessibility that they enjoyed in the 80s.  It was convincing enough back then to turn on some of my high school aged students on to Yes music on its own merit, rather than the merit of the band's long history.

Historically, the band has done their best work with a producer that takes an active role, so I think that it is fair to give some of the credit to producer Bruce Fairburn. Like Nick Raskulinecz did for Rush almost a decade later, he brought the objective ears of a longtime Yes fan to the recordings and encouraged the band to look at their own long history as a source of inspiration.

With his oversight, there was a sense that The Ladder recaptured the collaborative atmosphere that generated Yes’ best material. This allowed for the creative inclusion of keyboardist Igor Khoroshev, who managed to channel the best of Wakeman’s characteristics without cloning him outright. Although Sherwood’s performance contributions are much more subtle, his compositional fingerprints are all over The Ladder in terms of songwriting and arrangement.

It would be inspiring to see Yes include a couple of tracks from The Ladder on this tour to acknowledge Sherwood’s presence, but the band just doesn’t work that way these days.  Given the opportunity, they gravitate towards playing full versions of their past music even when they have new material to feature.  There are already rumors of Fragile and Drama features in 2016.  I will gladly accept seeing Davison and Sherwood together onstage, however, in the hopes that they generate some chemistry. With Davison’s melodic strength and Sherwood’s penchant for Yes-like compositions, I hypothesize that these two could one day form the creative core of a totally next-gen Yes.

There will be some who have the opinion that this sort of theoretical play is disrespectful to Squire, and you are entitled to that opinion. I feel, however, that it is the grandest compliment imaginable. To realistically propose that Yes’ music can convincingly transcend the confines of its originators and live on is a testament to Squire’s life work. If it were to happen, it would put Yes's music in the same league as legendary musicians like Count Basie, whose band continues to tour and record even today, nearly thirty years after his passing. No small company.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Secret Chiefs 3 and The Path to "Perichoresis"

As the designated driver on our regularly scheduled hill country wine tours, I retain some modicum of control over the car stereo. Usually, I bring a carefully curated collection of albums, but on one particular trip last Spring, due to lack of planning, I hurriedly grabbed a handful of CDs from my dashboard. After Brendan Benson and Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger had worn out their welcome, I surreptitiously slipped the Secret Chiefs 3 into the CD player. I knew I might be taking a chance on this one, but surprisingly, Book M went over pretty well. The more conservative listeners in the car were in good enough spirits to allow my indulgence without too much criticism. My buddy The Best Man, however, being a fan of the infamously eclectic Mr. Bungle, ended up really liking Book M. A few months later, he let me know that the Secret Chiefs 3 were about to play in Austin. Without hesitation, we packed it up on a school night to go check them out.

We got there early enough to see both opening bands, the first of which was Atomic Ape. Their high-density, exotic style clearly owed quite a bit to the Secret Chiefs 3. I put their album on my list as a compositional reference for Ethnos. The second band was Il Sogno del Marinaio, led by Mike Watt. I saw another Mike Watt project several years ago when he brought LITE on tour throughout the US and they played a free show at SXSW. Judging by the enthusiasm of the audience at both shows, a lot of people seem to like Mike Watt, but, like the last time I saw him, I wasn’t entirely convinced.

As these bands were playing, I discovered that this somewhat low-profile tour was organized in part to support Perichoresis, a new Secret Chiefs 3 recording. I decided that this was to be the take-away item for the show. Towards the end of Il Sogno del Marinaio’s set, we made our way back to find that Trey Spruance himself was manning the swag booth. We were, admittedly, a little starstruck. He greeted us kindly with his eyes, but was unable to exit a conversation he was having with an inebriated fan. The club was very, very loud, so I gestured that I wanted to pick up the new recording. Although Spruance’s body language indicated his desire to do otherwise, he continued to pay patient attention to this enthusiastic fan as he attended to us.

Spruance pointed to a note card by the new CD, which, according to the brief description, was a “folk album” that boasted many “ratio-based time signatures.” It was prominently credited to Ishraqiyun, a sub-group of the Secret Chiefs 3 collective that specializes in ethnic influence.

Undoubtedly, Perichoresis features the same cross-cultural instrumentation and exotic modality that I have come to associate with the Secret Chiefs 3. In some ways, however, pushes the envelope even further, especially in terms of rhythm. It is often clear that there is an intuitive pattern that undergirds its sometimes repetitive structures. The rhythmic complexity of these patterns, however, continually confounds predictability and, by extension, any perception of redundancy.

As a result, Perichoresis is a jarring tapestry of angular, lurching riffs that are simultaneously meditative and disorienting. For this reason, I would be a little more hesitant to slip this one in the player with a van full of people unfamiliar with what the Secret Chiefs 3 are up to. Despite this somewhat challenging exterior, however, there are no wrong notes. There are no missed rhythms. Everything that happens is intended as it sounds, both on Perichoresis and in the Secret Chiefs 3 live show.

Spruance soon disappeared from the merchandise booth only to reappear on stage in the requisite cloak. Having broken his ankle earlier on tour, he performed from a chair, but this did relatively little to dampen the performance. The show was completely mesmerizing. It was, in fact, a musical assault, not just in terms of volume or intensity, but also in terms of concept. Both the Best Man and I were, and still are, at a loss for words when it comes to describing exactly what happened on stage that evening, but we both agree it was a phenomenal experience.

Standing on its Own: Yes' "Time and a Word"

I have owned Time and a Word for quite awhile, but until recently, I have never given it more than a cursory listen. Not that I have harbored a disdain for it, but I have always secretly felt that The Yes Album was the band's first real musical statement.  I have sometimes unjustly dismissed its two predecessors. Considering I have recently defended the authenticity of controversial albums like 90125 and Heaven and Earth, however, this truly original lineup deserves the same consideration as any other. Since the release of this latter album, I have been investigating the margins of Yes’ back catalog, and over the last month, I have finally spent some quality time with Time and a Word. As a seasoned Yes fan of many years, this album is of real interest.

Heaven and Earth received criticism from its conservative fanbase because of its relatively succinct songwriting. Time and a Word, however, shows how close to the foundation of the Yes sound songwriting  actually lies. The large-scale epics that Yes came to be known for are nowhere to be found, but its tuneful psychedelia is the bedrock upon which their more expansive work would eventually be built. I would, however, stop short of calling Yes’ early compositional approach succinct. In form, they predict the approach that Rush would return to in the 80s, embedding extended instrumental excursions within strophic structures.

I would also stop very, very short of declaring that Heaven and Earth is the equal of Time and a Word. Time and a Word is driven by a countercultural fire that, I think, was lost as the band’s musical ambitions began to grow. The egos that pushed Yes into the successes that followed seem to be less pronounced, and the band’s members, although clearly on a path of musical excellence, seemed to be infused with youthful exuberance.

With one exception: Time and a Word was a turning point for original guitarist, the late Peter Banks. Quite famously, he was opposed to working with an orchestra, but clearly, the orchestra plays a significant role on Time and a Word. As a result, Banks’ playing is adequate, but it might be unfair to judge him by his playing on the album by itself.  He may have been pulling away from the group as the orchestra began to play a larger role. By the time most of the promotional materials for Time and a Word were released, Banks’ association with the band had ended. Steve Howe, who would come to be a defining part of the Yes sound, is shown miming his parts in virtually all video footage of the band.

Without a really strong guitar presence, however, the contributions of other members are much more noticeable. For example, although I have always been a fan of Bill Bruford, as Yes evolved into a full-blown progressive act, I think that they needed Alan White's hard-hitting approach to fill the larger arenas. Time and a Word, however, feels a bit more intimate than their later work, and Bruford’s calm, assertive energy is well-suited for this up-close interaction. His distinctively creative style was still in the formative stages of what it would eventually become, but it ripples and drives in a way that only the most relaxed technique can execute.

It is also a shame that, despite having listened to Tony Kaye since I first got into Yes in the early 80s, I am just now beginning to appreciate him.  Granted, the above video shows him to be a pretty lame bass player (comedically trading places with Chris Squire on what looked like a pretty miserable video shoot).  On the heels of getting into Circa: earlier this year, however, Time and a Word further reveals his unique keyboard virtuosity and his important role in the Yes canon. He has had the misfortune of being caught in the shadow of both his successor Rick Wakeman and his future bandmate Trevor Rabin, but on Time and a Word he is a driving melodic force that would continue to define the Yes sound even beyond his own participation in the group.

Thoughout their various incarnations, Yes has always found success in the synergy that exists between any given set of participants. The original lineup was no different. It had its own distinctive energy that was absolutely necessary for the group’s long-term success. Although Time and a Word would be the last time that the band would work with an orchestra for decades, it did hint at the broader palette that Yes was envisioning. On its own, though, it’s an incredibly successful work that stands on its own in terms of songwriting and technical virtuosity.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Remembering Spock: Horner and The Genesis Effect

The passing of Leonard Nimoy affected me, but the truth of the matter is that I really didn’t know him. I knew Spock. By the time I was aware enough to enjoy Star Trek, it had already been cancelled for nearly a decade. Like a lot of kids in the late 70s, however, I became a dedicated fan of the show while it was in syndication. The original run only had three seasons of episodes, but I feel like my father and I watched a lot more than that. I played with the bridge playset that had the spinning transporter, and I climbed in trees with pretend communicators. I liked all the characters on the show, but Spock was the one that I really, really loved.

But Nimoy was not Spock. I still think it’s weird to see pictures of Nimoy out of character, smiling and laughing off-camera while in costume. By his nature, Spock was destined to be wooden and soulless, but Nimoy’s rendering was the exact opposite. It was his belief in the character that brought Spock to life, and the commentary that he made on the human condition in the following decades made Spock more than a fan favorite. It made him a cultural icon.

The original series was where I came to love Spock, and when I think of him I remember him in that black and blue uniform (or was it white and gold.....I can't ever tell). In the decades that followed, however, the Star Trek universe expanded far, far beyond its original late 60s run, starting with its move to the big screen. Even the most dedicated fan of the franchise will admit that the Star Trek movies were uneven, but many will also agree that The Wrath of Khan was one of the best. In fact, The Wrath of Khan was so great that it arguably saved the entire franchise after a rocky cinematic start.

The Wrath of Khan soundtrack was also a breakthrough in James Horner’s career. Any science fiction movie that came out around this time had to size up to John Williams at the height of his thematic powers, and The Wrath of Khan succeeds admirably in this regard.  Last year, I appropriated the music from a memorable scene in the film as Iceman’s theme for the Superhero Theme Project, and it evolved into one of the favorite tracks on the playlist for both of us.

I came to appreciate Enterprise Clears Moorings as a freestanding piece so much that I purchased the full soundtrack in the late fall and have had it in regular rotation for several months. The soundtrack vividly brings moments of the movie back to life, but it also stands very well on its own. Like its attendant movie, it is one of the strongest and most distinctive soundtracks in the franchise’s long history.

The Wrath of Khan also features a defining moment for Spock. To save the ship and its crew, he memorably sacrifices himself in a bath of invisible radiation. On his deathbed, he expresses his love and admiration for Kirk in an inimitable fashion. For those that grew up with the character, this scene is probably the most emotionally gut-wrenching in the entirety of Star Trek’s history. The effectiveness of this scene comes not just from Spock’s imminent death, nor from the viewer’s investment in the character. It comes from the commentary that it provides on two ubiquitous characteristics of humanity – friendship and mortality. This message is brought to life through the passionate eloquence of Nimoy’s performance.

Of course, Spock did not stay dead. His body was reanimated along with the planet that it was laid to rest on, and the sequel, which was directed by Nimoy, only emphasized further the importance of Spock to the Star Trek mythos.  Admittedly, by the early 80s, Nimoy was typecast. He probably could not have been accepted as any other character, and his career would depend on him keeping the character alive. I like to think, however, that he did not continue to play Spock only because it continued to extend his career, but because he continued to see Spock’s relevance.

Certainly, we all believed in Spock, even until the very end. The fans have lost several actors from the original series, but the loss of Nimoy was particularly unsettling. It’s hard to imagine a world without him. For those of us who like to believe, however, there does not have to be an end. An hour before I saw the first announcement of Nimoy’s passing, this clip caught my attention.

People have lots of wild ideas about what these spots on Ceres might be. In reality, I don’t know, either. The timing of their appearance, however, allows me to indulge in the idea that it might be Nimoy, bathed in the glow of the Genesis Effect and waving at the probe as it goes by. Perhaps we should go find him. I think it’s what he would want.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Superhero Theme Project: Blue Beetle and Green Arrow

For the past year and a half, I have been planting seeds in my daughter's artistic aesthetic though the Superhero Theme Project.  This clearly labels me as both a superhero fanboy and a music nerd.  Guilty on both counts.  Since before she was born, I have been eager to introduce my Little One to the characters I found inspiring as a kid, but I have bemoaned the general lack of kid-appropriate superhero media.  Arguably, one of the reasons I began this whole thing was to get her excited about reading, but I started to wonder where the superhero comics are that are actually written for kids - and especially little girls!

Last fall, I was overjoyed to discover the Superman Family Adventures, by Baltazar/Aureliani. DC comics is well-known for its multiple universes, and this series proposes one in which all superheroes are slightly silly, engage in relatively low-key violence, and have pets. The Little One really latched on to this last bit, and wanted to know the name of every animal that came into view. Krypto and Streaky were easy enough, but no amount of online research could keep me informed of all of the super-pets names.

During a browse at the local comic shop, however, I found the holy grail – the Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia. This tome listed an exhaustive set of super-pets and their attendant owners in Baltazar's universe, both hero and villain. There was no plot to the encyclopedia – only images and descriptions. Regardless, at her request, over the course of two months, the Little One and I read the entire thing cover-to-cover three times, and she became surprisingly well-versed in the DC universe.

Despite having no relationship to a storyline or character development, there were some characters that she became very excited about. In particular, she became enamored of the Blue Beetle. When she saw him in the book, she wanted to skip ahead to find out who he was and she immediately insisted that I put his song on my phone.

This was a character I knew absolutely nothing about, however, especially in his current incarnation. From what I could glean, he was like a weird cross between Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Greatest American Hero. I had only the vaguest impressions, so the research in finding a good theme was rather like clutching at straws.

There was an interesting lead I tried out from Elmer Bernstein’s score to Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a b-rate science fiction movie from the 80s.  In some ways, this theme would have been really great, but it ran just a little too long and I felt like there were themes that were similar in style already on the list. Despite my strict “no-edit” rule, I was considering cutting it in half, when she unexpectedly asked me if I had Blue Beetle on my phone. A trial run confirmed my suspicions: at about 2:15, right when the second theme came in, she said “this is a long song.”

Fortunately, I had a back-up. Around the same time I discovered the Grand Canyon Fanfare, which seemed perfect as a general superhero theme. At 2:10, it fit within a very comfortable attention window, and it was clearly distinctive from many of the other themes that I had used. It also covered a lot of thematic ground in its short running time, with a little choral section in the middle that added just a hint of sci-fi.  By the next time she heard Blue Beetle, I had "rewritten" him in the form of James Newton Howard’s theme, this time in the car at full blast with an attendant graphic, much to her delight.  This one was the keeper.

We soon discovered that Blue Beetle plays a recurring role on the animated series Batman: the Brave and the Bold, and for her TV time, she began consistently requesting these watching the four or five episodes in which he appears. She now refers to this series as "Blue Beetle." This Christmas, I gave her a Blue Beetle action figure based on his design from this series, and it was one of her favorite gifts, along with her Anna and Elsa alarm clock.

I also took advantage of this new wave of interest to throw a theme from the Arrow series on the list. She saw Green Arrow in both the Pet Enyclopedia (with his pet porcupine "Quill") and on Brave and the Bold, so it was a pretty easy sell. Although the Arrow theme is not particularly rich in melody, thanks to the show it has come to evoke the character for me. Don’t fret, conservative parents, I recognize that Arrow is way too adult-themed for her. She will not be watching it any time soon. It is a personal favorite, though, so I have to concede that this one is kind of for me as much as it is for her. Still, she likes it enough to be able to recognize it without the graphic.

These last entries came in on what I thought might be my last opportunity to expand the playlist.  At three and a half, her own personal music tastes were beginning to emerge, but I was able to ride her interest in superhero characters just a little further before she began to really assert herself.

To go to the previous post in this series, click HERE.
The next one happened several months later, and you can find it HERE