Musical Interlude: Two Songs, Two Great Singers, and One Show

August 9th, 2013 at 12:52 pm

First, under the principle that if I post this here, it will get it out of my head, here’s a great song wonderfully performed by a singer—Regina Spektor—who I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know about.

But what you really need to know, if you don’t already, is that this song is the theme to one of the best series I’ve ever watched: Orange is the New Black.  (It’s only on Netflix, as far as I know.)

It’s about an affluent young woman who goes to a minimum security federal prison for a 15-month sentence based on a 10-year-old drug charge (all of which is revealed right out of the box, so I’m not spoiling anything).  The story then follows her travails in prison along with those of many of the other inmates.

My criterion for whether a movie or show like this is good is how much you think about and reflect on it later.  By that measure, and I’d be surprised if you don’t have the same reaction I did, this show scores off the charts.  I really feel quite disoriented now that I’ve watched the first season and I can’t check in on all these people I’ve come to find so interesting and moving.

And then there’s the theme of structural power—the power of the authorities over the inmates, often horrifically abused (decades ago I taught some classes in a minimum security prison—from what I saw, the show seems pretty realistic).  Small anecdote on this: the day after I watched the first few episodes (I worked hard not to binge-watch it, which took great restraint), I got stopped for speeding (just got a warning—I was hardly speeding).  But having just watched the show and feeling the wrenching dynamics of having your autonomy stripped away like that, and having this big cop outside my window, demanding my paper work in the way they do (it’s not: “Hey, could I please take a look at your license and stuff?”—it’s “License and registration” in an imperious tone), I experienced the traffic stop at a much deeper emotional level.

Which is a testament to the show.  I’d love to discuss the fine points in comments but no spoilers.  I’ll only say, “Pipes—I’m really worried about you!”

Second, and here’s an OTE first, the other day I’m crunching numbers, minding my own business, when I get an email from another wonderful singer by the name of Eve Zanni.  Attached was this, a beautiful performance of a song written by yours truly about a zillion years ago called “The Man Who Plays the Upright Bass.”

A slight bit of background.  At the time, I played the bass, studied economics, and lived in NYC with my then girlfriend at, Sue Maskaleris—who unlike me is a real composer, singer, pianist (check her stuff out—super creative, interesting, jazz-Brazilian-funk hybrid).  What’s more, we were living—I kid you not—in George Gershwin’s old brownstone (103rd between West End and Riverside), so let’s just say there was jazz composition in the air.

Anyway, Eve Z beautifully captures the soul of this little tune, and while I of course like to see my economics work enter the echo chamber of the policy debate, hearing someone with her chops so thoroughly nail a song you wrote is even better.

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7 comments in reply to "Musical Interlude: Two Songs, Two Great Singers, and One Show"

  1. SeattleAlex says:

    Thanks Jared! I’ve been looking for a new Summer fix. The socioeconomic diversity is such a refreshing change. Now say goodbye to my productivity for the next few days…


    • Jared Bernstein says:

      Hey, it’s August! What better time to be unproductive. In fact, seasonally adjusted, you’re just as productive as ever!


  2. purple says:

    I was pulled over on an West Texas highway at 2 in the morning and was meticulously searched/groped by two cops as my hands were above my head. They then went through my car and took my musical instruments out of their cases. Going 7 miles over, which is easy since speed limits often vary by county on the state highways in Texas(72 in a 65). Then they gave me a warning, after telling me that speeding wasn’t tolerated in their county – really. If I had made a peep about my rights my career would have been ruined, as they were itching for an arrest.

    Cops can do whatever they want and they know it. You know that nothing will happen to those hooligans down in Miami who tased the artist kid.


  3. Allen says:

    Nice tune Jared — good playing and good recording!


  4. JohnR says:

    We seem to constantly underestimate the effect that artificial experiences have on us. The first time this was driven home to me was after watching the newly-released Lethal Weapon 2 with my wife. It was a fairly cheesy movie, and we thought it was pretty lightweight, but the really interesting bit was that after the movie, we went to eat at a little restaurant, where it just happened that the next table over had several visiting students from South Africa. My deep and visceral reaction to just hearing the accent kind of startled me, and talking with my wife afterwards, I found that she also had a strongly hostile experience to the folks over there with absolutely no interaction of any kind. We neither of us thought the movie was all that compelling, and yet we really disliked people we didn’t know for no other reason than just that they sounded like the bad guys. Sometimes there can be other reasons, but ever since I’ve tried to be aware that my reactions to anything may be due to outside forces as much as to rational ones.


  5. Vaughn Charles DeForest says:

    I’ll never forget your sitting in on upright bass with my uncle, Charles DeForest, at Ted Hook’s Backstage, on Restaurant Row, around 1980. This was some of the most creative and funky bass playing I’ve ever heard-I’d thought in a class with Gary Peacock’s playing on the Bill Evans Trio ’64 album. I’m hoping you still play. I’ve just retired from medicine and have been going back to the trumpet and learning the bass. At any rate, I’m so happy to have read your blog and to know you’re still doing OK. And I’ll certainly be checking out Eve Zanni, Regina Spektor, and Sue Maskeleris. All best wishes to you and your wonderful talent.


    • Jared Bernstein says:

      Thanks for the wonderful memories–I was a HUGE fan of your uncle’s–a wonderful, ebullient talent.


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